Top Dem strategists claim White House was 'out of touch' during 2010 campaign

Democratic strategists James Carville and Stan Greenberg said the party's massive election losses earlier this month are attributable to poor messaging that made Democrats and the White House look "out of touch." 

Greenberg, who was former President Clinton's top pollster during the 1992 presidential race, criticized President Obama's repeated use of the "car in the ditch" metaphor on the campaign trail, suggesting that it contributed to the impression that Democrats in Washington are tone deaf. 

ADVERTISEMENT
"A metaphor about a car in the ditch when people are in trouble and angry about the abuse of Wall Street, it's just out of touch with what's going on," said Greenberg.  

Speaking to reporters at a breakfast sponsored by The Christian Science Monitor, both Greenberg and Carville slammed the party's election messaging, calling it a mistake to argue that Democratic policies were contributing to economic growth while the unemployment rate remained near 10 percent. 

Carville said that while most messaging tends to just "go in one ear and out the other," the Democratic message this past fall "went in one ear and right to the brain. What were they thinking?"   

Greenberg likened the Democratic approach to the one employed by former President George H.W. Bush in 1992 when he tried to argue that three quarters of economic growth meant Republican policies were on the right track. Greenberg said he and Carville knew that message didn't work and, despite signs that the economy was turning around, they hammered Bush successfully with "It's the economy, stupid."  

Asked if Obama appears weak by not drawing a line in the sand with Republicans on certain issues now, Carville, a former campaign adviser to Hillary Clinton, responded, "Well, I don't know, because I'm the guy that during the campaign said if Hillary gave him one of her balls, they'd both have two."

Carville actually phrased his comment a bit more artfully during the 2008 presidential race, telling Newsweek in May of 2008, "If she gave him one of her cojones, they'd both have two."  

Despite both strategists lambasting the Democratic approach in 2010, Carville said the presidential outlook for Obama in 2012 is a positive one. 

"The deck he's going to be playing with in 2012 is going to be fundamentally more favorable than the one he played with in 2010," said Carville, arguing that young voters and minorities will come out in large numbers two years from now, making the face of the electorate significantly more Democratic.

"Republicans are forced to double down on older whites," Carville said. "And longterm, that's not a very productive place to be."