Dem Pollster Says Party Loses Due to Lack of 'Conviction'

By Marc Morano | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

Washington ( - A prominent Democratic Party pollster Thursday said the reason members of his party have lost major elections in recent years is because they have not "run with conviction."

Stanley Greenberg, who currently heads his own research firm, previously conducted polling and offered advice to then-President Bill Clinton, then-Vice President Al Gore, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and South African President Nelson Mandela.

Greenberg conceded that the biggest current weakness among Democratic candidates is that they "do not know what they stand for, they don't know their policy direction, they don't know their underlying values, they don't know who they fight for."

Greenberg said those failings are not rooted in "bad communication," but in the fact that Democratic candidates "have not in fact run with conviction in election after election.

"Who can handle terrorism is nothing compared to who has clarity of ideas," Greenberg said. He was speaking at a press conference sponsored by the liberal group Campaign for America's Future.

However, Greenberg said there is reason for Democrats to be optimistic because Republicans, he said, are out of touch with the current mood of the country. The GOP does not understand "the reality of people's lives, the priorities that they want," he said.

Greenberg cited his recent polling which indicated that President Bush and the GOP have lost much of their support since the November election because of such issues as the Iraq War, the economy and Bush's Social Security reform proposal.

"So we are watching a period in which the president is falling personally, the conservative revolution has trouble on every front," Greenberg said. "The county is waiting for the Democrats."

Democrats are on the verge of a major political comeback if they can borrow a page from the Republican Party, Greenberg asserted.

"I believe if an election were held tomorrow, this would produce an election of significant Democratic gains. But they (the Democrats) will only get half the gains that are possible until they also advance their values and their ideas as part of this battle," Greenberg said.

He also said Democrats have the potential of executing the kind of political victory that Republicans enjoyed in the 1990s.

"To me the model is 1993-94. The Republicans had run against the Congress in previous elections, they had run as outsiders, [for] term limits. They were identified as bringing down the arrogant Democratic Congress," Greenberg said. The 1994 Republican landslide ushered in the first GOP-controlled U.S. House in 40 years. Republicans also took over the Senate at the mid-way point of Clinton's first term.

According to Greenberg, the 1994 GOP had a "reform agenda" that was "anti-Washington" and "opposed Clinton initiatives.

"People understood the beliefs behind [the Republican Party]," Greenberg said.

But if Democrats are to pull off such a feat, they will have to work on their image, Greenberg cautioned.

"The Democrats are not seen as reformers. They are not trying to stop lobbying. They are not the ones leading campaign finance reform. The Democrats need to be reformers and they need to be clear about their ideas and battling the special interests and corporate interests that control Washington," Greenberg said.

He added that Democrats suffered at the polls during the 2002 mid-term elections because they offered only a "minimalist agenda" and were "not unified to oppose Bush's agenda."

The 2004 presidential race came down to a "personal choice between George Bush and John Kerry, [in] which [Republicans] were able to portray [Kerry] as irresolute, weak, flip-flopper, not able to stand up for America, lacking principles," Greenberg said.

Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway praised Greenberg's analysis regarding the Democrats' lack of conviction.

"He's right, I second that emotion," Conway told Cybercast News Service. "Rather than trying to inflict revisionist history, Greenberg is reading the election results most cogently," Conway said.

"They (the Democrats) got beat, and they got beat because the other team had a more clear message and a more well-stocked arsenal of messengers," she added.

Conway, president and CEO of The Polling Company, predicted that the Democrats will not have much success at the polls until they realize that "the feminist movement is a relic of the 70s and the environmentalists are seen as fringe lunatics by and large."

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