A topic of abiding interest:
Strategists differ over offering a detailed agenda versus relying on voters' unhappiness with Republicans.
WASHINGTON — Are the Democrats ready for their close-up?
With President Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress facing bleak approval ratings, many Democrats are increasingly confident that the public is ready to hear the party's alternative policy ideas as the 2006 campaign heats up.
The question is whether the Democrats have an alternative ready to present.
Party leaders have provided some specifics about how they would deal with national security, energy issues and ethics reform if they recapture one or both chambers of Congress in November. But on many topics, they have provided only broad hints about their direction.
This cautious strategy is generating intensifying debate within the party.
We know which side of the debate TNH readers are at, but there's this:
On the other side are strategists who fear that offering too many specifics could allow Republicans to shift focus away from public discontent with how they have governed. Those sentiments appear especially strong among Senate Democrats.
"If you start to [discuss] big government programs … you open yourself up to criticism in all directions, and there's no reason for Democrats to do that now," said one senior Democratic Senate aide, who asked not to be identified when discussing internal party deliberations.
But attempts to minimize the target for Republicans could leave Democrats vulnerable in a different respect. A continued reluctance to detail an agenda, some party strategists say, could allow the Republicans room to define for voters what the priorities of the Democrats are.