Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Democrats in the Bible Belt --
Via washingtonpost.com:

Rep. Mike Ross, a former state legislator from Texarkana, beat a four-term Republican in 2000 to win his seat, and this year is advising House candidates who are running in the upper South. He believes that the area's lower-income, high-school-educated, mostly white voters are more in sync than they realize with Democratic goals, such as raising the minimum wage and expanding health coverage.

The problem is on the social front. 'In conservative to moderate districts, swing voters first want to know where you are on their values,' Ross said. 'Once they get past that, they will listen to you on everything else.'

As a supporter of abortion rights, McCaskill fits into her party's mainstream on the biggest of all lightning rods for cultural conservatives. She responds by mostly not talking about it, and is attempting to define her values more broadly.

At Emily's List, an abortion-rights group that is supporting McCaskill, the candidate's silence is viewed not as a retreat but as shrewd politics. Chris Esposito, an Emily's List political operative who helped Rep. Dennis Moore get elected eight years ago in a GOP-leaning House district in Kansas, said McCaskill should talk about the issues that Missouri voters say they care about -- such as health coverage and national security.

The point, he said, is winning. 'It's not exclusive to wedge issues,' Esposito said. 'It's fundamental to every campaign.'

Another approach is the Heath Shuler model. The former Redskins quarterback and local real estate developer is challenging GOP Rep. Charles H. Taylor in Western North Carolina.

Shuler touts his antiabortion stand on the 'faith and family values' page of his Web site, where he announces, 'I am a pro-life Democrat.' But he puts a Democratic spin on his stance: 'I also believe that a commitment to life extends beyond the womb and means ensuring that all people have adequate health care, receive a strong education, and be given proper care in their later years.'

I've been a fairly emphatic about the Democratic Party as a coalition of social liberals and social conservatives who coalesce on progressive economic issues. Wedge issues are wedge issues only if you let them come to the forefront.
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