The speakers at Tuesday's breakfast were Celinda Lake, president of Lake Snell Perry & Associates, a Democratic strategy firm, and Ed Goeas, president and CEO of the Tarrance Group, a Republican consulting firm.
(Goeas) "You are looking at a president with over 80 percent saying he is a strong leader.... There is no question that a big part of the president's image is September 11 and the war on terrorism. We have to watch Iraq very closely. I don't think anyone can predict what the impact of Iraq is going to have if there is a drip, drip, drip of casualties over a long period of time....
The one thing that we are seeing in our data and we are seeing in our focus groups...is a firm belief of the American public that you have to get the terrorists before they get you..."
(Lake) There is " a kind of growing restiveness with the foreign policy and the way that we are implementing the foreign policy. And the cost that it has for domestic policy ... one of the stronger messages for Democrats is we are planning to rebuild 25,000 schools in Iraq but we cut the school construction money in the budget for the United States. That linkage of foreign policy to the domestic policy ... was really hard to do before."
(Goeas) "I just don't know if he can build on that much of what he is right now and be able to pivot to those (independent) voters. The one that I am watching very closely is [Senator John] Kerry. Potentially, for a variety of reasons, he will have the money. He is showing that he can raise it ... I also think he is probably doing more of the right thing for a long-range strategy which he is trying to move a little more to the center in terms of the things he is talking about."
(Lake) [What other campaigns] "are underestimating is the number of times he has been in Iowa and New Hampshire. Being the second place finish in both of those states and then being able to go somewhere else is a strong strategy, kind of an insurgent strategy. The thing for Dean is, he has to pick some place else to go and where is he going to have his post Iowa/New Hampshire victory. ...There are number of places he could go and have that strong third finish.
He is also a very interesting combination of - he taps a lot of the fed-up vote."
(Goeas) The Bush team "are going to keep the pipeline full on every issue they can. So that the one thing they are not weak on for the Democrats is for them to accuse you of not dealing with an issue, of sitting on your lead, of not paying attention to the economy, of not paying attention to healthcare."
(Lake) "One of the sea changes in Republican strategy has been that you used to be able to debate the ends and now you have to debate the means and it is a much tougher debate.
We used to be able to accuse them of not caring about education because they wanted to eliminate the department of education. Now they have put a little red school front on it even as they cut the budget. So that has made it more difficult.
With an incumbent president what we have the opportunity to say is look at these solutions, are these policies working for you and your family? ...When we ask that right now, it is a show stopper. People in focus groups sit back and say not yet, not really, nope not for me, for the wealthy - not for me. ...It is our job to engage that dynamic. People are not ready to draw the complete conclusion but they will draw it by next November and it is our job to push that."