WASHINGTON – Democrats say they will have a rapid and simple response to the Republican National Convention (search) that starts next week: Mission not accomplished.
It's a play on President Bush's flight in May 2003 to the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (search), where he addressed U.S. troops standing beneath a banner that said "Mission Accomplished" and declared an end to major combat in Iraq. The banner has been criticized as the fighting in Iraq continues and the U.S. death toll approaches 1,000.
Matt Bennett, a spokesman for the Democratic "rapid response" effort, said Bush has forgotten about the middle class and has pursued a narrow agenda benefiting powerful special interests.
"We're sending the message that George Bush simply hasn't accomplished the mission," he said.
Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for the Bush re-election campaign, said Democrats are trying to obscure John Kerry's record of indecision on the Iraq war and support for tax increases.
"There will be a very stark contrast between the president's positive vision for the future and the Democratic agenda," Schmidt said. The convention takes place at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The Democratic response operation will be run by party chief Terry McAuliffe (search) and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (search), who will conduct daily briefings with other Kerry supporters. Vilsack will offer a viewpoint from the nation's heartland, Democrats say, and some events may take place around the city.
Gen. Merrill McPeak (search), a former Air Force chief of staff also will appear. McPeak is featured in a Democratic campaign ad in which he says he switched his support to Kerry from Bush.
Democrats will also bring in voters from key states, including some who will discuss why they switched from Bush.
Republicans set up a similar "rapid response" operation during last month's Democratic convention in Boston, a block away from the FleetCenter, the convention site.