Monitor Breakfast: Terry McAuliffe

Selected quotations from a Monitor breakfast with Terry McAuliffe, the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. The Monitor invited his Republican counterpart to attend but the invitation was declined.

On the message of last Tuesday's elections:

"We won the 2 major governorships. We won the rural vote; we won the suburban vote. For the first time in six years, we now control more state legislative chambers than the Republicans. We won 32 of the 34 targeted mayors' races.... So I think the message that comes out of the election is that the people support the president 90 percent as he fights terrorism around the world - however they support the Democratic Party on our domestic agenda.

"We won all the elections we targeted. We did not win New York City, we did not win Virginia attorney general but besides that we swept the country.

"It was an historic win for us and it bodes well for us going into '02. Lets cut to the chase here - we won and we won all over America and much as the Republicans will try to deny any implications, we won. ... The big message coming out is that the people support the Democrats on their domestic agenda, their economic message, fiscal management, jobs, health care, education, public safety."

On why Republicans lost key races:

"I think for the Republican National Committee last Tuesday was one of the worst nights they have ever had. Somebody has to take responsibility but I am not going to blame it on (Republican Party Chairman) Gov. Gilmore. I am going to blame it on a lack of vision, a lack of ideas, bad candidates. Listen, they put up conservative candidates who are outside the mainstream of where America is."

On the political impact of the war on terrorism:

"There is no criticism and you can't [criticize the president on the war effort.] George Bush is the flag; you have got to remember it. We all support the commander in chief in these times. But there was zero impact; there were no coattails from the president. Lets go back to 2000 when he had 50 percent [approval ratings]. There were no coattails then. As you will remember we won 10 of 14 governorships, we knocked off 5 incumbent Republican senators ... In '01, he was at 90 percent [approval]. It didn't help any candidate out there. As we go to '02, I think he will be of no benefit to any Republican candidate in the country."

On the airport security battle:

"Listen, we are two weeks away from the biggest travel period. And bookings are 17 percent down - people feel reassured seeing the National Guard members standing there with their rifles - it helps them, it gives them some confidence. I don't think today they feel that same sense of confidence when they have their bags go through that screener. You just heard about the stun gun and what happened in Chicago. That terrifies people. Here you have [Attorney General] John Ashcroft telling us he has an immediate threat, there is something else that is going to occur in the nation and at the same time you here about people getting through our bagging screening with stun guns and other things. That scares people.

"Until they feel safe about getting back on planes again, our economy is never going to improve because our economy is built on people traveling and meetings and conventions. Until that is fixed, [House Majority Whip] Tom Delay - who just doesn't want union workers - is holding up and holding hostage America's safety - and we are going to let everyone know that. That is a big issue for us, this is a big issue for America. This is not a Democratic issue - that is the reason it was passed 100 to zero in the US Senate."

On whether Democratic support for the war effort gives the administration a pass on civil liberties measures:

"Yes, it does give them a pass. We have got to support the president as he fights terrorism around the world. And what encompasses that is going to be a lot of the domestic civil liberties issues. We have got to monitor him, we've got to make sure that we don't go so far out there ... The reason we are the greatest democracy in the world is the rights we have, civil liberties we have here in the country. It is a delicate balance and we have to continue to stay on top of that. We have to make sure that what makes our country great is not taken up, swept up in this fight against terrorism. So it is a very close balancing act. But today, and where we are, you have got to give the president the tools he needs to do the job."

On predictions for the 2004 election:

"When we go to the polls in 2004, the economy will be a very big piece. Because what every American is wondering is do they have a job, do they feel secure they will continue to have a job, are they putting money away for retirement, are they educating their kids, are they feeding their kids?

"Those sort of basic issues are what Bill Clinton ran on against President Bush 41 in 1992, and we will be back again. So I think the American public will say who is going to be best leading the economy along as well as if we are still involved in the war, can this Democrat do an effective job of fighting the war and how will this Democrat handle the economy. Those are going to go on in the voters' minds. We don't know the answer to that today. But I can tell you... I speak to many people I think will be possible candidates and I don't think anyone has changed their minds. It has not changed the mentality of our presidential candidates."

On whether Michael Bloomberg, who ran as a Republican, will be a good mayor of New York City:

"Yes, he is a great Democrat!"

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