WASHINGTON – In some quarters of American politics, liberals stand accused of having no ideas — but that hasn't stopped those on the left from plotting to shift the balance of power.
In Washington on Wednesday, the most liberal wing of the Democratic Party salivated over the prospect that President Bush is in deep trouble and Democrats have a prospect of winning back ground lost in the last two elections.
"They have a big problem. America is not buying what they're peddling," said Robert Borosage, co-director of Campaign for America's Future, which is hosting the Take Back America 2005 conference. "Americans aren't buying what they're selling because they're being mugged by reality. The policies of Bush, (Senate Majority Leader Bill) Frist and (House Majority Leader Tom) DeLay are failing this country; they're weakening America."
The three-day meeting is part of a brainstorming strategy for developing the plan to throw out Republicans. In extensive polling for the conference, Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg (search) said he found deep disenchantment with the war in Iraq and President Bush's proposals on Social Security as well as uneasiness over his economic policies.
By a margin of 55 to 37 percent, poll respondents said they believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. In a separate question, 55 percent said they want the country to go in a significantly different direction than it is now.
"Only 41 percent of the American people today say they want to continue the direction George Bush is going," Greenberg said.
But responses about the direction of the country measure far more than the president's policies. The most recent numbers were essentially the same as for the year preceding the 2004 election.
The president's approval rating — at 49 percent in this poll — is also about where it was on Election Day 2004, say Republican backers of Bush.
"These are the same folks that said the president's approval rating was too low to get re-elected; that the right track, wrong track was going to make Kerry win," said Republican pollster Matthew Dowd (search), referring to the president's opponent, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry.
Instead, Bush won by 3 million votes, 51-48 percent.
"He won Republicans, won independents and won some Democrats," Dowd said.
Even if the president were in as much trouble as Democrats hope, they readily acknowledge voters have doubts about Democratic candidates.
"In 2004, voters came away from the election without a clue for what John Kerry stood for," Greenberg said.
Democratic polling shows that one thing voters do like about Bush is the clarity of his ideas, something they do not see in Democratic candidates.
"They don't know their policy direction, they don't know their underlying values, they don't know who they fight for. And there is a reason. It's not because of bad communication, it's because they have not in fact run with conviction," Greenberg said.
Dowd agreed with the assessment.
"If you saw this as a football team, they need a new playbook and they need a new quarterback. They don't have either," he said.
The activists gathered in Washington said Democrats need a bold agenda of new initiatives, and most of all, need to fight the president and his allies in Congress on every front.
One speaker said the Democratic base will not come around if Democrats compromise, suggesting the partisan divide in Washington may get even deeper.
Click in the video box near the top of the story to watch a report by Fox News' Jim Angle.