Byline: Donald Lambro, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Democrats want the final five weeks of the elections to be about the economy, Social Security and other domestic concerns, but debate about war with Iraq threatens to effectively mute those issues and undercut their prospects in November.
With the Democratic Party divided over what to do about Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and its leadership under growing internal criticism for not forging a clear foreign policy alternative to President Bush's war plans, Democrats head into the final month of the midterm elections without a unified national security agenda of their own.
"The Democrats are a party of bystanders, a party without a position on the issue that matters most," the liberal New Republic magazine said yesterday in a blistering critique of the Democrats' handling of the debate over Iraq's military regime.
"Today's polls may show the Democrats with an advantage on the domestic issues the public supposedly cares about most, but ultimately that advantage will not matter if the party is timid and irresponsible on questions of war and peace," the Democratic-leaning journal said.
The Democrats' political strategy from the beginning of the election cycle has been to run on the bread-and-butter domestic issues that appeal to their political base - women, the elderly and minorities. There is no indication thus far, even with the rise of the war issue, that they intend to abandon that basic strategy at this late date in the election.
However, Democratic officials say they are spending more money on at least four Senate races in New Jersey, Missouri, Minnesota and South Dakota that they are in danger of losing. The AFL-CIO and other Democratic allies are providing added manpower for phone banks, voter canvassing and get-out-the vote drives. Spending on TV ads by the party and other outside groups also is being accelerated.
Throughout the summer, the Democratic National Committee, organized labor and Democratic candidates have been running TV ads against Republicans in their states on the economy and other domestic issues that score strong responses from voters. Many of the ads have attacked Mr. Bush's plan to let workers invest a small part of their payroll taxes in the stock market, the failure to pass a plan for prescription-drug benefits and the economy's anemia, which has triggered a sharp decline in the stock market, flattening 401(k) and other retirement plans. …