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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Vets Boost Dems ’06 Chances

by Pete Ross
Swing State Project has an interesting article on the bumper crop of Dem candidates, who are veterans of the armed forces and a soon-to-be-launched PAC, “Band of Brothers” designed to give them some leverage. Swing State’s David NYC notes that vets bring some built-in advantages to a campaign, including:

Veterans’ views on matters of war and national security are often accorded greater respect in the public sphere (whether fairly or unfairly). These issues are going to matter a whole hell of a lot in 2006, and we need candidates willing to engage – not avoid – this debate.
The media typically adores veterans, especially the straight-talking kind. (Think Hackett & McCain.) Moreover, our lazy media has bought into the GOP’s smear of the Dems as “weak on security” wholesale. It doesn’t matter how sophisticated our think-tank-produced plans on foreign policy are – the media just doesn’t care. But if you’ve worn a dogtag around your neck or have had ribbons pinned to your chest – now that is something the media can understand.
The American people love our armed forces. The military always ranks at the very top when pollsters ask people how much confidence they have in various public institutions.
Strength in numbers: It’s a lot easier to Swift Boat a lone vet in isolation. While I put nothing past today’s GOP, it’s much harder to slander your opponents when you’re talking about dozens and dozens of men and women across the country. And these guys, I can assure you, will fight back when attacked.

All good points. Candidates should be careful, however, about overplaying the vet card, as Kerry may have done at the ’04 convention, and Bush certainly did on the aircraft carrier. Vet status works best in combination with a little humility. Make it known, but as much as possible, let others praise the candidate for her/his service. GOP Senator McCain seems to work this technique effectively.
Band of Brothers already has a new website, featuring a list of Democratic vets running for office. Presumably, the group will also support women candidates. The PAC will provide money, expertise and training to vets running as Democratic candidates and is now accepting contributions.