Politics: Congress

Raw Video: Protesters Interrupt House Debate on Debt Deal

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Aug. 1, 2011, 11:29 a.m.

A WMUR-TV Gran­ite State Poll; con­duc­ted 9/23-29 by the UNH Sur­vey Cen­ter; sur­veyed 515 adults; mar­gin of er­ror +/- 4.3% (re­leases, 10/1-6). Party ID break­down: 40%D, 39%R, 20%I.

Obama Hand­ling For­eign Af­fairs

- All Dem GOP Ind Men Wom 7/27 4/21 2/4 10/2 7/09 Ap­prove 49% 87% 13% 46% 44% 53% 50% 52% 53% 52% 63% Dis­ap­prove 45 10 76 48 49 41 44 42 40 40 29

Obama Hand­ling Situ­ation With Ir­aq

- All Dem GOP Ind Men Wom 7/27 4/21 2/4 10/2 7/09 Ap­prove 60% 83% 37% 59% 62% 57% 52% 56% 61% 56% 65% Dis­ap­prove 33 13 51 34 30 36 35 27 29 25 24

Do You Sup­port/Op­pose The U.S. Hav­ing Gone To War With Ir­aq?

- All Dem GOP Ind Men Wom 7/27 4/21 2/4 10/2 7/09 Sup­port 38% 13% 67% 32% 45% 32% 38% 42% 40% 41% 40% Op­pose 57 84 28 61 51 62 57 53 54 51 54

Can The U.S. Win The War In Ir­aq?

- All Dem GOP Ind Men Wom 7/27 4/21 2/4 10/2 7/09 Can win 35% 17% 54% 29% 43% 26% 35% 44% 37% 44% 40% Can­not win 48 62 33 52 40 56 48 39 49 43 46

Obama Hand­ling Situ­ation With Afgh­anistan

- All Dem GOP Ind Men Wom 7/27 Ap­prove 48% 72% 30% 37% 48% 48% 47% Dis­ap­prove 45% 24 59 56 48 41 45

How Is The War In Afgh­anistan Go­ing For The U.S.?

- All Dem GOP Ind Men Wom 7/27 4/21 2/4 10/2 7/09 Well 37% 38% 39% 31% 39% 35% 29% 50% 34% 22% 36% Badly 58 57 56 68 59 58 65 45 59 70 53

A funny thing happened in Char­lotte this week: The Demo­crat­ic Party, the party that has spent every day since Ron­ald Re­agan be­came pres­id­ent run­ning from the word “lib­er­al” and its polit­ic­ally los­ing con­nota­tions, has — fi­nally — firmly em­braced its left flank.

From Tues­day night’s fo­cus on so­cial is­sues such as abor­tion and gay mar­riage to Wed­nes­day’s fo­cus on the eco­nom­ic con­trast between the two parties — crit­ics would dub it class war­fare — Demo­crats have offered ar­gu­ably the most lib­er­al con­ven­tion lineup since 1972. Demo­crats are show­cas­ing rising stars of the left: Mas­sachu­setts Sen­ate can­did­ate Eliza­beth War­ren, Mary­land Gov. Mar­tin O’Mal­ley, and a host of lib­er­al mem­bers of the Con­gres­sion­al Black Caucus and Con­gres­sion­al His­pan­ic Caucus.

The fact that Demo­crats have de­cided to show­case their left flank stands at odds with re­cent his­tory, when the party has high­lighted cent­rists with close ties to the busi­ness com­munity, con­ser­vat­ives from the South, or rebranded New Demo­crats. In pre­vi­ous years, the party would sched­ule all its lib­er­al lions on one night, or be­fore the prime-time cam­er­as tuned in. In 2008, Ted Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi shared the prime-time hour on the first day of the con­ven­tion. The oth­er three nights were ded­ic­ated to pro­mot­ing the Obama-Biden tick­et.

Even San Ant­o­nio May­or Ju­li­an Castro’s key­note speech signaled a de­par­ture from con­ven­tions past. Key­noters have typ­ic­ally hailed from the mod­er­ate side of the party, such as Sen. Evan Bayh in 1996, Rep. Har­old Ford in 2000, and Sen. Mark Warner in 2008. (Even Barack Obama’s 2004 key­note speech avoided pae­ans to the lib­er­al agenda). Castro’s ad­dress was full of the eco­nom­ic pop­u­lism that Bayh, Ford, Warner, and even Obama skipped.

“If we want to win elec­tions in Novem­ber and keep our coun­try mov­ing for­ward, if we want to earn the priv­ilege to lead, it’s time for Demo­crats to stiffen our back­bone and stand up for what we be­lieve,” Mas­sachu­setts Gov. Dev­al Patrick said on Tues­day.

The spine-stiff­en­ing has come largely be­cause it fits with the Obama cam­paign’s cent­ral strategy. That strategy as­sumes a smal­ler uni­verse of per­suad­able voters; they see the elec­tion as an ex­er­cise in base mo­bil­iz­a­tion, rather than per­sua­sion. Few­er Amer­ic­ans are tun­ing in to con­ven­tions this year, mean­ing the audi­ence is more likely to be those already pre­dis­posed to­ward vot­ing for the party they’re watch­ing. And while they say pub­licly they’re not wor­ried about an en­thu­si­asm gap, polls show the Demo­crat­ic base is in fact less ex­cited to turn out and vote than Re­pub­lic­ans.

That en­thu­si­asm gap, Demo­crats are wager­ing, is noth­ing a little rhet­or­ic­al red meat can’t close.

“The rhet­or­ic is a bit more lib­er­al or pro­gress­ive than the last couple of con­ven­tions,” said Jim Man­ley, a vet­er­an Demo­crat­ic op­er­at­ive. “This is in part an ef­fort to play to the base and the chan­ging makeup of the Demo­crat­ic Party.”

Of course, Demo­crats are still shy about us­ing the words Man­ley used. “Lib­er­al” has been uttered just six times, ac­cord­ing to tran­scripts com­piled by the New York Times. Rep. Emanuel Cleav­er, chair­man of the Con­gres­sion­al Black Caucus, ac­coun­ted for four of those oc­ca­sions; an­oth­er time it was used, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn was talk­ing about the “lib­er­al de­duc­tions” Rom­ney took on his tax re­turns (Cleav­er is also the only speak­er to have used the word “pro­gress­ive” so far).

The ten­or, though, is un­mis­tak­able. For once, Demo­crats are see­ing polling that tells them that the lib­er­al po­s­i­tions are pop­u­lar. The middle-class mes­saging that dom­in­ated War­ren’s ad­dress and former Pres­id­ent Bill Clin­ton’s speech has been a corner­stone of Obama’s stump speech.

The em­phas­is on eco­nom­ic pro­gressiv­ism could pose a chal­lenge for some Demo­crats seek­ing reelec­tion in more-con­ser­vat­ive states. Can­did­ates such as Sen. Jon Test­er in Montana, Sen. Claire Mc­Caskill in Mis­souri, and Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota already have in­ves­ted heav­ily in es­tab­lish­ing them­selves as in­de­pend­ent fig­ures by put­ting dis­tance between them­selves and the ad­min­is­tra­tion. The Key­stone XL pipeline has been one way all three of those Demo­crats have dif­fer­en­ti­ated them­selves from the na­tion­al party; no speak­er at the Demo­crat­ic Con­ven­tion has ref­er­enced the pro­ject, while it came up three times at the Re­pub­lic­an gath­er­ing in Tampa.

But those Demo­crats have largely avoided the con­ven­tion it­self. Of the party’s prom­in­ent Sen­ate can­did­ates, only War­ren and Rep. Tammy Bald­win of Wis­con­sin, both of whom will try to ride Obama’s coat­tails in Novem­ber, and Vir­gin­ia’s Tim Kaine, the former party chair­man, are on the speak­er’s roster. None of the four lead­ers of the Blue Dog Co­ali­tion and only one of the five mem­bers of New Demo­crat Co­ali­tion lead­er­ship — Rep. Allyson Schwartz  — spoke.

But the party on dis­play in Char­lotte is a far cry from the party that down­played its lib­er­al flank in pre­vi­ous con­ven­tions. It’s Obama’s best op­por­tun­ity to get his base fired up and ready to go.

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