Democrats see minefield in Occupy protests

By BETH FOUHY | November 17, 2011 | 3:10 AM EST

NEW YORK (AP) — The Republican Party and the tea party seemed to be a natural political pairing. Democrats and the Occupy Wall Street protesters have a more complicated relationship.

They're holding each other at arm's length.

There's little benefit to Democrats to opening their arms wide to a scruffy group that has erupted in violence, defied police and shown evidence of drug use while camping in public parks across the country — much as the prospect of such a pairing delights Republicans.

Many protesters, in turn, are contemptuous of Democrats.

Both sides may be missing an opportunity. Polling shows the public supports the message of the Occupy Wall Street movement even if people have reservations about the encampments themselves. And political observers say Democrats may be missing an opportunity to reinvigorate their base.