Dem Playbook: Wedge Issues For 2010

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The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has issued a memo to 2010 Democratic Senate candidates--in the wake of the DSCC's disastrous loss in Massachusetts--with a basic playbook for defeating Republican candidates in 2010.

The message: get your opponent on-record on a host of issues that divide conservatives from the mainstream.

The idea is that Republican candidates will be forced to support things like eliminating the Department of Education in order to pander to libertarian-minded conservative activists, who could be more influential in 2010 than at any point in recent history--or at least that not supporting those things will cost them conservative support. If Democrats get their opponents to go on the record on a host of sensitive issues, the DSCC postulates, Republican candidates will have to choose what to forfeit: general-election viability, or primary backing of the increasingly mobilized conservative wing of the GOP.

It's the basic concept of a wedge issue: using a divisive topic to sow discord in your opponents' ranks and peel support away from them.

The memo is a more elaborate articulation of what the national Democratic message machine has done, seeking to pressure candidates, for instance, on whether or not they align themselves with Sarah Palin. It also continues a line of Democratic thinking on 2010 forwarded by senior White House adviser David Axelrod: that Democrats will have to tell voters that they have a choice between two alternatives--what the Democratic and Republican parties offer, respectively--and not allow the election to be a referendum on what the administration has managed to achieve in its first two years.

The issues listed by the DSCC may or may not accomplish this. Some of them are more sensitive to the mainstream than they are to conservative activists (for instance, it's hard to imagine a GOP Senate candidate being forced by conservatives to advocate a return to the gold standard; then again, one of the DSCC's points is that GOP candidates will make mistakes). And there are many commonplaces between mainstream voters and conservatives, like opposing TARP and the health care bills being discussed in Congress before Scott Brown's victory.

The full memo is posted here by The Plum Line's Greg Sargent. Here are the issues the DSCC lists:

II POLICIES THAT CAN DEFINE YOUR OPPONENT IN THE MINDS OF VOTERS
Economic Policies
Bush tax cuts: Did you support the Bush tax cuts passed in 2001 and 2003? Do you
support extending the tax cuts for the wealthiest that received them, which are currently
set to expire after 2010?
Flat Tax: Do you support a national flat tax, or the fair tax?
Corporate Taxes: Do you support closing corporate tax loopholes such as tax benefits for
corporations that send U.S. jobs overseas?

Labor
Minimum Wage Increase:Do you support an increase in the minimum wage?
Wages: Did you support passage of the Fair Pay Act of 2009?

Health Care
Health Care: Do you believe that health care reform should be repealed?Which parts of
the bill would you throw out?
  • The closing of the donut hole in Medicare part D
  • The elimination of preexisting conditions
  • Minimum coverage standards
  • Subsidies for families to buy insurance
  • Tax credits for small businesses

Education
Department of Education: Do you believe the U.S. Department of Education should be
eliminated?

National Security
Iran: Do you support a military invasion of Iran?
Torture: Do you believe that the U.S. military and intelligence agencies should employ
torture tactics during interrogations?

Seniors
Social Security: Do you believe social security should be privatized?

Extremism
Do you believe that Barack Obama is a U.S. citizen?
Do you think the Tenth Amendment bars Congress from issuing regulations like
minimum healthcare coverage standards?
Do you think programs like Social Security and Medicare represent socialism, and
should never have been created in the first place?
Do you think President Obama is a socialist?
Do you think America should return to a gold standard?

Corporate and Special Interests
Do you support the recent Supreme Court decision affirming runaway corporate
spending in elections?
Do you support the President's proposal to tax Wall Street banks to recoup taxpayer
funds?
Do you support the Democratic congressional proposals to hold financial institutions
accountable with meaningful financial regulatory reform?
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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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