Tuesday, May 10, 2005

UK Election: 6

One final look at the phenomenon of American political reporters going to Britain to cover the UK election by interviewing American strategists and pollsters. This time it's Dan Balz of the Washington Post doing the post-election roundup, who quickly gets in the "to be sure" qualifications about how the two systems are really nothing alike but nonetheless sweeping lessons can be drawn for the Democrats -- some of them retroactive. For instance

In 2000, Democrats surrendered their advantage on the economy when Al Gore decided not to make the economic record of the Clinton administration the central theme of his campaign for president.

One might argue, as Daily Howler has repeatedly, that the real problem was that the New York Times and Washington Post and the rest of the "liberal media" decided on their own "central themes" of Al Gore's campaign for president: that he invented the Internet, that he had initiated the clean up to the contaminated Love Canal site, that he misstated the cost of his mother-in-law's medication compared to his dog's, and that it was Gore, not Bush, who was practicing "fuzzy math."

And then there's those Democratic strategists and pollsters that we've written about before:

"Democrats can take a lesson from [the campaign run by Conservative leader Michael] Howard -- not to isolate yourself and not just motivate your base," said Mark Penn, a Democratic pollster who was an adviser to Blair during the campaign here.

This is exactly the opposite of what the New York Times' Adam Nagourney told us that Labour had learned from the Democratic pollsters. And it's also different from what we're repeatedly told about Dubya's electoral success -- his ability to play to the moral values voters. And (as Private Eye might say), is the Dan Balz who reports this pearl of wisdom about the lack of importance of the base any relation to the Dan Balz who said in a recent interview about Karl Rove:

They [white house] never want to get too far away from the base on any of those [moral] issues. It doesn't mean, I don't think, that in this term Bush is going to push hard for that, but the moderates are certainly right that this administration caters to its base, and its social conservative base. Doesn't mean it does everything that pro-life Republicans would like to see, but they are always mindful of that because they know that that coalition has sustained them through a very tough primary fight in 1999 and 2000, through a very tough election in 2000 and through an even tougher re-election in 2004. Without the unity of that base, this president would not have had the success he's had.

Our view is that the best advice to the Democrats is to study closely what the strategists and reporters say they should do -- and then do the opposite.

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