Dems Hurting, Clinton 'Has Stolen Their Soul,' Says GOP Strategist

By Christine Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:29 PM EDT

( - If Democrats want to point fingers for their dismal showing in the 2002 elections, they should start with former President Bill Clinton, according to Republican consultant Alex Castellanos.

Despite Clinton's fundraising prowess, Democrats are reeling because the former president has "stolen their soul," attempting to be on both sides of every issue, Castellanos said. Democrats are currently lurching left, he added, evidenced by Al Gore's surprise advocacy for universal health care.

Castellanos spoke at a Washington, D.C. conference hosted by the University of Virginia's Center for Politics and the National Journal publication, The Hotline .

Andy Grossman, political director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, warned that Republicans will have many campaign promises to fulfill before they can count on future victories.

Republicans succeeded by making themselves, "less harmful" in the past election, campaigning in favor of Medicare prescription drugs and against Social Security privatization, said Grossman.

Michael Matthews, political director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Democrats were placed at a disadvantage by superior GOP fundraising (outspending Democrats by $10 million) and by issues surrounding national defense and homeland security in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Ken Mehlman, White House director of political affairs, credited the statewide appeal of Republican candidates, demographic shifts, GOP issue positions, grassroots efforts and the president's popularity for the outcome of the "incredibly historic" mid-term election.

Forty percent of the electorate this year was conservative, the highest percentage since the Republican sweep in 1994, said Mehlman, quoting a Democracy Corps study. And swing voters like senior citizens, women and union workers were more favorable towards the GOP this year.

Mehlman noted that 2002 marked the first time the president's party has won back the Senate in a mid-term and only the second time the party in charge of the White House has gained seats in the House in the middle of a term. Republicans also gained almost 300 seats in state legislatures, rather than losing the usual average of 360 seats, Mehlman said.

He added that congressional redistricting after the 2000 census helped Republican candidates. And Mehlman marveled at the large number of "Bush Democrats" during the just concluded election campaign - candidates, he said, who portrayed themselves as supporters of the president but who didn't campaign in concert with Democratic leaders like Al Gore, Dick Gephardt or Tom Daschle.

That's "particularly unusual for an off-year election," said Mehlman.

E-mail a news tip to Christine Hall.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.