Democrats, Republicans Aim for the Grass Roots

FIVE months after the Democrats took over the White House, the party is working to get back on the beam to sell its programs to the American people - and to get ready for the 1994 elections.

David Wilhelm, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told a Monitor breakfast June 22: "There's always a legislative process that takes place, but the key goes back to doing everything we can such that the American people understand what the president's initiatives are all about.

"I have absolute confidence that if the American people understood the elements of the [budget] plan, that they would back it, they would view it as fair, they would see it as deficit reduction, and they would put the pressure on their congresspeople to pass this thing, and ultimately congresspeople will respond."

The White House launched a public relations offensive June 21 on its deficit-reduction package, with President Clinton doing six interviews with radio talk-show hosts around the country and Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentsen making the case to reporters at the White House. Administration officials presented documents they say show that the president's package cuts spending as much as it raises taxes.

"Because people view this party as the vehicle for change," says Mr. Wilhelm, "I fundamentally believe that six to nine months from now, if we can make the case that these things have in fact occurred, we will have a very strong message to take into 1994 - if we have broken gridlock, if we have moved this country along, if we have delivered deficit reduction."

Wilhelm says party fund-raising is ahead of target for the '94 elections, and he's not worried about the Democratic Party's ability to compete, even against multimillionaire Congressman Michael Huffington (R) of California, who may run against Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

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