Ground zero mosque flap: how Obama and Democrats can recover
Time to change the subject from the ground zero mosque controversy to something else, like jobs and the economy, say Democratic strategists. But the issue continues to draw comments from Democratic candidates.
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“When the Democrats were making the argument that it was a local issue, they were in good shape,” says Jillson. “The Republicans then seemed to be mean-spirited and anti-immigrant, and made the Democrats look like they were supporting not just minorities but also constitutional rights and liberties for all Americans.”Skip to next paragraph
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One Republican who has jumped in with particularly pungent comments against the mosque is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who may be gearing up for a presidential run. Mr. Gingrich called the organizers “radical Islamists” and compared them to Nazis. He said: “Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust museum in Washington.”
But when Obama jumped into the fray, and the dynamic of the debate shifted dramatically.
Obama initially weighed in Friday evening, at an Islamic dinner at the White House, asserting the Muslims’ right to build a place of worship on private property in lower Manhattan in accordance with local laws. The next day, he clarified his comment to say that he was not passing judgment on the “wisdom” of the mosque’s location, just asserting the American commitment to religious freedom.
Now the president is on a three-day, five-state campaign swing around the country, in support of Democratic candidates, particularly in the fundraising department – but the mosque is still Topic A on cable TV. Two incumbent Democrats in particular need help, Sens. Barbara Boxer of California and Patty Murray of Washington, both of whom are in trouble mainly because it’s a tough cycle for Democrats. They also drew top-tier challengers.
Washington State holds its primary today, and the result could be telling. It is a “jungle” primary, which means all the Senate candidates run against each other on the same ballot. The top two finishers face each other in November. Senator Murray is expected to come in first, but if she scores much below 50 percent, that could signal trouble in the general election.
On Thursday, Obama and his family head off to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts for 10 days of vacation. When they get back, August will nearly be over, and, Democrats hope, the furor over the mosque will have died down.