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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

DLC Urges Dems to Fight for Center

by EDM Staff
Supported by recent public opinion polls, a growing chorus of Democratic leaders is calling for an accelerated timetable for withdrawing American troops from Iraq. But the centrist Democratic Leadership Council’s president Al From and pollster Mark Penn have warned Dem leaders that a hasty withdrawall from Iraq could be a “trap,” according to a report in the Sunday WaPo. As John Harris and Chris Cillizza note in their article,

While a poll taken by Penn for the DLC showed voters opposing the Iraq war 54 to 44 percent, they warned that “Democratic leaders could be playing with political dynamite if they call for an immediate pullout of American troops…
From and Penn said the most defensible ground for Democrats is a middle path: rejecting deadlines for troop withdrawal but endorsing “clear benchmarks” to measure progress and hold Bush accountable for the results.

Penn and From argue that it is important for Dems to consider public opinion about Iraq in light of Americans’ views about the Democratic Party in general.

In Penn’s survey, 13 percent of voters said they would favor a “liberal Democrat” for president, and 43 percent of independent voters said they regard the party as “too liberal.” Forty-two percent of these unaligned voters also said they perceive the party as becoming more liberal.
While the problems of Bush and Republicans have “opened the door” for Democrats, Penn and From wrote, to take advantage of this “Democrats need to capture the vital center and bring an abrupt halt to what voters see as the party’s drift to the left.”

Other poll analysts have argued that it’s not so much that the Democratic Party has drifted to the left on the issue of withdrawall from Iraq, but a very real shift of the “vital center” of public opinion. (See, for example, Ruy Teixeira’s Dec. 15 post.) Either way, the stakes are huge, and Dems must get it right to win the center in ’06 and ’08.