COLUMBUS, Ohio – If the Democratic Leadership Council has anything to say about it, the Democratic Party will reach out more to voters in the center of political America.
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"We've got to be for something, and it is pretty clear that America is waiting for us. They are desperate to know what we are for," Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (search) told those attending the group's conference on Monday. "It worked in 1992 for Bill Clinton, who was chairman of the DLC before he ran for president. It worked in 1996 for Bill Clinton."
Since then, Democrats have lost 10 seats in Congress and another presidential campaign. DLCers believe it's time to get back to centrist politics and to win the critical swing vote.
Click on the video box to the right to watch a report by FOX News' Steve Brown.
In the bellwether state of Ohio Monday, Sen. Hillary Clinton (search) of New York, who observers note has moved her own politics decidedly toward the middle, was preaching the virtues of appealing to the political center.
"We Democrats have not yet succeeded in isolating and defeating the far right in part because all too often we have allowed ourselves to be split between left, right and center," she said.
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To appeal both to the traditional Democratic liberal base and moderate voters, the DLC is pushing for a shift on some key issues: for example, an expanded American military, adding 100,000 troops, because of the likelihood the United States may fight more wars like the one in Iraq.
Outgoing DLC Chairman Evan Bayh (search), a senator from Indiana, says some Americans need to be convinced about the Democratic Party's commitment to protecting the nation.
"Too many of our fellow countrymen and women out here in the heartland have concluded — inappropriately, but they've concluded nonetheless — that we don't have the spine or the backbone to use force even in the face of the most compelling of circumstances, and that must change," Bayh told the group.
Bayh turned over the reins of the organization to Vilsack. Add to the three — Vilsack, Bayh and Clinton — the name of Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (search), and a total of four potential 2008 presidential candidates were on hand. Lately, Warner has been vocal about pulling his party toward the center.
"How many times do we have to forward, where we launch a national campaign that goes after 16 states and then hope that we can hit a triple bank shot to get to that 17th state?" Warner said.
When it comes to that next presidential campaign, DLC Founder Al From and his group believe candidates will listen very closely to their centrist message.
"I think anybody that's going to run for president in 2008 needs us to develop a good, solid, positive agenda as a foundation for that run," From said.
One prominent Democrat who may also want his voice to be heard during the next presidential campaign is Howard Dean (search). The Democratic National Committee chairman's personal politics, however, are frequently more liberal than those of the DLC.