DNC shares oppo game plan with Netroots
By: Roger Simon
August 3, 2007 06:19 AM EST
CHICAGO -- It is not true that Democrats dont listen
to Republicans. They do.
The Democrats are listening to every word the
Republican presidential candidates say, writing it
down and even videotaping them whenever possible.
Once upon a time, this used to be called oppo (for
opposition) research and was rarely talked about
Today, it is such standard procedure it is just called
research. And two top Democratic practitioners of that
research came here to the YearlyKos convention to tell
liberal online activists exactly what they were doing.
The Democratic National Committee is openly courting
the Netroots community, and Mike Gehrke, the DNC
research director, and Parag Mehta, the DNC director
of training, were only too happy to pull back the
curtain a little and tell these activists how they
intended to help destroy the Republicans next year.
Gehrke went through the Republican top tier with a
PowerPoint presentation, and here is my summary of the
DNC game plan for each:
What he thinks he has going for him: Competence and
his record as mayor of New York City. Also, he
contrasts well with President Bush and with the
He will sell his electability and the fact that if he
is the nominee he can win Florida and Ohio. Final
point he will stress: Sept. 11, Sept. 11, Sept. 11.
What the Democrats will say about him: His
accomplishments in New York are exaggerated. He can
get nominated only by abandoning his centrist image.
He has flip-flopped on choice, immigration and
bipartisanship. Firefighters and survivor families
have a different story to tell about Giuliani and
There is also the question of how well he had prepared
the city for a major disaster. Further, his
post-mayoral record is open to attack regarding his
lobbying, his advancement of Bernie Kerik and his
What he thinks he has going for him: competence,
success in business, the Olympics and the fact that he
was governor of a blue state, Massachusetts.
He will stress his conservatism, his "pro-life" views
and that he is a Mormon who believes in strong family
values. He, too, will stress electability. He has
demonstrated a good ground game so far and is showing
strength in early-primary states. He is also wealthy
enough to contribute millions to his own campaign.
(At this point, an audience member raised her hand and
said: You have to put down also that he looks
presidential. People murmured their assent from
around the room.)
What the Democrats will say about him: He is a recent
convert to conservatism with many flip-flops and has
made some weird statements. Everything he does looks
political. He is still largely unknown after running
What he thinks he has going for him: He is still
breathing. His campaign has time to smooth rough
waters. He has been in tough times before: In 2000, he
was lower in the polls with less money than he has
What the Democrats will say about him: He is no longer
a maverick. His base -- i.e., the media -- no longer
loves him. His money situation is very bad.
What he thinks he has going for him: Gehrke put up a
big question mark on the screen next to Thompsons
picture. Can somebody tell me why this guy is
running? Gehrke asked the group.
And though it was a rhetorical question, people began
shouting out: Hes an actor. He has a great voice
and great gravitas. Hes tall.
What the Democrats will say about him: He passed only
five bills in the Senate while he was there, and four
were ceremonial. His non-campaign/campaign so far has
been a train wreck. He was a corporate lobbyist and
Washington insider. He has a thin record of public
Gehrke assured the group that the DNC was also
gathering information on the other Republicans,
including Michael Bloomberg and Newt Gingrich.
Were going to New Hampshire, South Carolina and Iowa
and getting them all on videotape, he said.
Afterward, I asked Gehrke about the Netroots. These
guys have changed what I do, he said. Blogs are much
more sophisticated and much more based in research and
facts today. A lot of stuff that is discovered is
discovered by people in their world.
Not that there arent limits.
After Gehrke and Mehta were finished, a man raised his
hand and said that John McCain was a POW but that he
never had psychological counseling to deal with
post-traumatic stress syndrome, and this could be used
The people in the room reacted to this with silence.
Some shook their heads.
Lets be very, very careful, Mehta said. Some
people say, Romney is a Mormon and McCain was a POW.
But lets remember that [Senate Majority Leader] Harry
Reid is a Mormon, too. We are the party of religious
tolerance. Other people say, Rudy Giuliani lived with
a gay couple. Great, but we dont think there is
anything wrong with that. So lets use things in the