This morning, the Politico reported on a strategy memo from DSCC Chairman Bob Menendez, urging Democrats to define their opponents early by asking a series of questions designed to pit Republican moderates and Tea Party activists against each other:
“Do you believe that Barack Obama is a U.S. citizen? Do you think the 10th Amendment bars Congress from issuing regulations like minimum health care coverage standards? Do you think programs like Social Security and Medicare represent socialism and should never have been created in the first place? Do you think President Obama is a socialist? Do you think America should return to a gold standard?”
If a Republican candidate says no to any of the questions, the memo says Democrats should “make their primary opponent or conservative activists know it. This will cause them to take heat from their primary opponents and could likely provoke a flip-flop, as it already has several times with Mark Kirk in Illinois.”
The NRSC strikes back this afternoon by calling the DSCC questions a distraction (how Obama-esque) and offering some questions of its own:
Do you believe the $787 billion "stimulus" bill worked? Would you support a second so-called "stimulus" bill, even though the first failed to create much-needed jobs? Or do you believe the unspent money should be returned to the taxpayers?
Are you willing to hold open discussions to reach an agreement on bipartisan health care reform, or will you continue to support backroom deals - such as the Cornhusker Kickback - in order to ram an unpopular and costly government-run health care bill through Congress?...
Do you support the almost half-trillion dollars in new taxes contained in the Democrats’ health care bill?
Given how the electorate feels about spending right now, the NRSC's questions may indeed have more impact than birther questions.
At any rate, it's a forecast of what's to come from the parties on the trail this year. It's interesting that, even when the media and White House seem to be acknowledging the validity of Tea Party grievances, the DSCC's strategy is to rely on the fact that the movement is entirely made up of kooks. There are certainly fringe elements, and Democrats may land a gotcha every now and then, but this memo reads rather like notes from the Think Progress daily editorial meeting.
It indicates an inclination to treat populist anger as mere fringey Obama hatred when Massachusetts proved that is not all it is.