Monitor Breakfast: Carville, Shrum, and Greenberg

Selected quotations from a Monitor Breakfast with Democratic political consultants James Carville and Bob Shrum, and pollster Stanley Greenberg.

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On what their Feb. 26 - Mar. 3 poll showed:

(Greenberg) "There is no reason to be intimidated because the president's numbers are falling: the Republican numbers are falling as you would anticipate. And on basic voting issues - congressional, generic, the budget, and taxes - he is in a very normal realm with very modest level of support in the country... This is a moment of opportunity. We are putting up the flags, it is time to go."

On the need for Democrats to stand for something:

(Carville) "The public in this poll and other polls shows an appetite, they want to address other problems. The danger is, if they see Democrats absent from this discussion, then they will assume the party is not really for something. The danger is not so much that you risk being against Bush. The danger is you run the risk of not being for something. That is the real danger. We are saying be positive, be for something... And it is fine to be for something different than Bush is for."

On the Republican response to the current climate:

(Shrum) "I think the Republicans read this data. I think they understand the Democratic opportunity. And the reason why whenever a Democrat starts to do it they go into a full court attack mode is because they want to deter Democrats from doing this. Their whole strategy is to have a kind of quiescent Democratic Party. That is what they want to run against in this election."

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On likely areas for attack:

(Greenberg) "One of the strongest possible attacks this fall is that the president has cut his own (prescription drug) proposal by 37 percent and leaves 60 percent of seniors with no coverage at all. It is virtually the strongest attack against Republicans and the president and I think Democrats will pursue it."

On the president's recent decision imposing tariffs on steel imports:

(Shrum) "I am not sure, by the way, that under these circumstances Clinton wouldn't have done this. But he would have been attacked like crazy by the Republicans."

(Carville) "All those speeches about free trade... the point is it does not matter that he is not true to his ideological position. It does not matter that it is a reversal. It doesn't matter that the decision was ultimately political. The only thing that matters is whether it is going to work or not. If it works, fine. If it doesn't, they will pay a hell of a price."

On the political appeal of taxes and other big issues:

(Shrum) "There is an incredible opportunity right now for Democrats to emerge as the alternative if Democrats will take up big ideas. The beginning of that, in my view, is this fundamental choice on Social Security. That Social Security has been raided. The deficit is up because of this tax cut. The best way for us to start talking about the tax cut is in terms of its impact on Social Security and secondarily the deficit. There are enormous opportunities here on big issues..."

On the political impact of Social Security:

(Carville) "Listen to what I am saying. Over 75 years, the amount the new tax cuts (those not yet in force) will cost exceeds the projected Social Security deficit. I don't know how I can say it any clearer."

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