WASHINGTON – While political coattails don't always apply in mid-term election years, GOP Chairman Marc Racicot this week said Republicans plan to emphasize the successes of President George W. Bush as their own.
While embracing the president — both on foreign and domestic fronts — the GOP also plans to paint the Democratic majority in the Senate as an inactive, partisan abyss during a campaign trail that could eventually take a turn for the nasty.
Bush and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives "have passed more than 50 pieces of legislation, and they have merely languished between the House and Senate," Racicot told Fox News. Democrats, on the other hand, "have had their chance and they have not led in the Senate," Racicot said. "I believe this will be a measuring stick for the American people."
Democrats note that Bush is not on the ballot, and say Republican incumbents will have to stand on their own come November. They plan to attack the GOP on Social Security, health care, tax-cuts for the wealthy and the environment. They will also argue the Democratic majority in the Senate prevented bad bills passed in the House from moving forward.
"Our view is he (Bush) doesn’t have the strong coattails they think he has, and it’s certainly not our biggest worry," said Tovah Ravitz, a spokesperson for the Democratic National Party.
Racicot, a former governor of Montana who came on board to head the RNC in January, said Republicans will continue the "compassionate conservative" mantra set by Bush, while emphasizing that important domestic initiatives like the economic stimulus package, pension reform, permanent tax cuts, faith-based funding and a Patients' Bill of Rights have been stalled in the Senate.
Rich Galen, a Republican strategist and editor of Mullings.com, said Senate Democrats, led most visibly by Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, are an easy target.
"The business about being an obstructionist is driving Daschle nuts," he said. "It’s an easy claim because the Republicans said they sent 50 bills over and they’re sitting somewhere – I do think that inactivity, though maybe too general a phrase, is most likely to be a factor in this campaign," he added.
A briefing conducted in April for Capitol Hill Republicans warned members that Democrats were likely to conduct a "mean, nasty and negative" campaign. Republicans were counseled to be aggressive, if need be, to get the GOP message across.
"Don’t kid yourself – there is no new tone in politics," said the report, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies in Alexandria, Va.
Democrats see domestic issues like Social Security and healthcare their home turf. And though Bush and Republicans have enjoyed growing confidence from voters in this areas, Democratic representatives are already touting polls that say Americans trust them more.
"The Republican Party, and the president, time and time again, have come down on the side of special interests. And their tax cut? It was for the wealthiest one percent," said DNC Spokeswoman Maria Cardona, adding that the GOP wants to take away Social Security through privatization and "destroy pristine" American lands for oil drilling.
"That’s an effort to try and paint a picture that doesn’t exist," Racicot said on the Social Security question. There has been no proposal that would cut benefits, only one that would allow beneficiaries to voluntarily put aside a small percentage of the tax they pay on Social Security into protected markets. That’s a far cry from "destroying" Social Security, he argued.
"Anyone who suggests that has to know that it is not true and they are trying opportunistically to frighten people, and that is critically inappropriate," said Racicot. "They are just masking the fact that they don’t have their own plan."
Racicot said he is also unwilling to concede other issues to the Democrats.
"The President has put forward a number of positive steps to address a number of domestic issues facing the nation," he said. "He is providing a governing philosophy that every candidate can embrace."