Kevin DeWine, the affable chairman of the Republican Party in Ohio, has a transparent board behind his desk at state headquarters where he scribbles reminders to himself. A permanent fixture is this list of words: "Spending, taxes, jobs, economy, deficit, debt."
DeWine says he keeps the issues inventory as a reminder to all of his party's candidates. "If they are not talking about these things," he says, "they are off-message."
And his candidates seem to listen. Republican Steve Stivers is in a rematch with Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy, one of those endangered-but-still-gutsy Democrats who won't back down from her support for the new health-care law, financial reform or the stimulus. Among the first words out of Stivers's mouth when I chatted with him over the phone were "the debt and jobs," followed quickly by "unemployment" and "big spending."
Thus the key question as the 2010 campaign enters its final days: Is there anything Democrats can do to shake the GOP off its relentlessly effective focus on a handful of themes? These seem to resonate with voters without actually solving any problems. So far, Republicans have not even been forced to explain how their promises add up. Will they get away with offering tax cuts and a reduction in the deficit without specifying before Nov. 2 what spending they would eliminate or trim?
In the meantime, Democrats have left loyalists such as Kilroy, who deserve better, without the support of a driving national message. There is no Democratic counterpart to Kevin DeWine's handy list. MORE...
Friday, October 22, 2010
"What Obama owes loyalists"
E. J. Dionne: