washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Stopping Rove’s ‘Slime Machine’

Jonathan Alter’s MSNBC/Newsweek column “How to Beat Cut and Run,” provides some penetrating insights into Karl Rove’s battle plan:

For more than a quarter century, Karl Rove has employed a simple, brilliant, counterintuitive campaign tactic: instead of attacking his opponents at their weakest point, the conventional approach, he attacks their strength. He neutralizes that strength to the point that it begins to look like weakness. When John McCain was winning in 2000 because of his character, Rove attacked his character. When John Kerry was nominated in 2004 because of his Vietnam combat experience, the Republicans Swift-Boated him. This year’s midterm elections will turn on whether Rove can somehow transform the Democrats’ greatest political asset—the Iraq fiasco—into a liability.

Sounds about right. Rove is clearly a master at exploiting timidity in political adversaries. Alter explains further:

After escaping indictment, Rove is focused again on what he does best: ginning up the slime machine. Anyone who dares criticize President Bush’s Iraq policy is a “cut-and-run” Democrat….The object is instead to either get the Democrats tangled up in Kerryesque complexities on Iraq—or intimidate them into changing the subject to other, less-potent issues for fear of looking like unpatriotic pansies…Rove’s notion is that strong and wrong beats meek and weak.

Alter’s take on the Dems’ best ’06 campaign message may be a little simplistic for some:

Unless things improve dramatically on the ground in Iraq, Democrats have a powerful argument: If you believe the Iraq war is a success, vote Republican. If you believe it is a failure, vote Democratic.

It’s a message that will have more resonance in Senate races, where foreign policy issues always hover at center stage. House candidates will have to address in considerably more detail issues like health care, education and other leading concerns of voters in their districts. But all issues are affected by the squandering of billions of dollars on the unpopular war in Iraq, and Alter is surely right that the worst mistake Dems can make is to try and hide from the issue.

One comment on “Stopping Rove’s ‘Slime Machine’

  1. Tymbrimi on

    I believe one of the weaknesses of the Democrats that we Repulicans love to exploit is that Democrats are backward-looking. You guys always run on complaining, with no solutions. And we will point that out, as we always do. A few of you will run on cut and run, and whether you win or not will depend on whether the minority of the nation that supports that position represent the majority of your voters in your area. But the rest of you will have the same basic position as the President, and will be forced to explain why you are seeking to undercut him.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.