Conventional wisdom in the form of my own commentary and writing has been that the Democratic Party would have found themselves more content with the way the stimulus package played had they made the argument that Republicans were hypocrites for bashing the package but basking in the glow of their local projects -- early on.
I've obtained an internal memo sent by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to state party communication directors. Here's the key line, written by DSCC communications director Eric Schultz:
Given the significant investments in this bill dedicated to state projects across the country, members will likely claim credit for federal dollars to coming into your state, including funding for roads, bridges, dams, new classrooms, health care technology, additional teachers, mass transit, and high speedrail. Please look for any press releases, news conferences, or other signs from members who voted no on the legislation now seeking publicity for what is in it.
Some state parties followed this advice, but the general Dem message at the time was that the stimulus package would instantly turn the economy around -- or that it would rapidly ameliorate the economic duress. That argument didn't work. Opinions hardened. Republicans found their way on television; the bill broke down on party line votes.
The stimulus package became known as a boondoggle, a down-payment on Democratic priorities; it became linked in the public mind with bailouts and TARP. And now, it's campaign fodder. Recently, the Democrats have revived the hypocrisy argument -- and it IS a devastating argument -- but it's probably too late. Read the full memo here. memodems.rtf