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Republicans' Amazing Achievement in Walker Recall Provides Object Lesson for Obama and Democrats

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JERRY: So you just did the opposite of everything?
GEORGE: Yes, yes... A job with the New York Yankees! This has been the dream of my life... and it's all happening because I'm completely ignoring every urge towards common sense and good judgment I have ever had.

(Seinfeld, "The Opposite", 1994).

When it comes to campaigning and messaging -- as opposed to governing and solving real-life problems -- Republicans almost always surpass expectations.

They did it again with the Scott Walker recall, forging new political territory. If Democrats "get it," they could use the same strategy to their great advantage up and down the ticket in November.

Seventeen percent of voters who plan to vote for President Obama voted for Walker. And, 34 percent of union households voted for the man who wants to break unions using a divide-and-conquer strategy that he himself articulated.

How could that be? Is this just another example of Thomas Franks' observation (What's the Matter with Kansas?) of people deliberately voting against their own interests?

It does not seem so. Rather, the Walker forces achieved an extraordinary result, convincing enough people that a recall was just fundamentally wrong. And, enough voted for Walker deliberately, fully recognizing their self-interest was being trampled upon, so that Walker won handily.

Granted the Walker forces had oodles of cash, two-thirds from out of state, to hammer this message home. But, the Democrats likely did not take that message seriously -- certainly, not seriously enough to use it as an open invitation to ask voters whether the unfairness was to Walker or to the people of Wisconsin who never bargained for the Walker agenda. Walker even got away with repealing equal pay for equal work for women.

I would never have thought such a tactic would work against the animus Walker triggered with his high-handed, dictatorial methods. But, I was wrong.

Consider, now, the president and national Democrats. Their attempts to help the economy have been sabotaged by Republicans -- openly. Republicans are now campaigning on the state of joblessness that they themselves have deliberately made worse. (Remember the classic definition of chutzpah: "a boy kills his parents and then asks for mercy from the court because he is an orphan".)

The president and the Congressional Democrats need to make the point explicitly and repeatedly that Republicans have deliberately sabotaged the economy, most particularly the rate of joblessness. Sabotage is a good and accurate word.

But, actions speak much louder than words. There is something the Democrats can do. They still control the gavel in the Senate. They should use it to bring up the president's jobs bill, and include in it the fair pay provisions for women, every single day. Every day. The president can go to the podium three days a week, and urge Republicans to stop sabotaging workers and women.

Boring? Yes. But, who cares? It drives home the point as even $400 million in ads could not.

Let Mitch McConnell (R-KY) moan and groan about how it is not going to pass, and that the Democrats are wasting time. Wasting time? On peoples' jobs! I cannot wait for that sound-bite.

And, let the Democrats respond that it is the Republicans who are laying waste to our economy in the hopes that the misery they create will get them elected, and if they want to get onto other business, all they need to do is stop delaying jobs to the American people.

When McConnell uses the word "spending", the Democrats have the perfect opening to remind people that spending under President Obama has grown more slowly than any other president since World War II.

And, the Democratic Party's ads can take up this theme, letting the "person-on-the-street" declare it morally wrong to vote for someone who is deliberately causing you pain, suffering, uncertainty and hardship, remarking that such people cannot be trusted to look out for them.

It would be incredibly potent. But, only if repeated over-and-over-and-over-and-over-and-over again. It is the only way for the electorate as a whole to know, more importantly, to feel, that the president and the Democrats are fighting for their jobs and Republicans are sabotaging them.

Do Republicans need to worry that their Wisconsin success has taught the Democrats how to campaign effectively?

Of course not.

Dollars-to-doughnuts, one could call Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), propose this strategy, and he would say that they have "already done that", and the Obama campaign would say exactly the same thing.

When a Democratic campaign says "we have done", or "we are doing" something, one can smell looming defeat in the air. They believe, you see, that they have made their point.

And, they have. They have won the debate on the merits.

But, they will lose the election.

Because they have not triggered the necessary moral and emotional response in the electorate that a coordinated strategy, repeated throughout the summer and autumn, and picked up in their ads, could accomplish.

And, that is what is required to win elections. Just ask Scott Walker.

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