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Democrats launch 'Six for '06' agenda

Party unveils campaign themes, says elections will be about Bush

From Dana Bash and Ted Barrett
CNN Washington Bureau
Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the two top Democrats in Congress, introduce the party's '06 agenda.


Charles Schumer
Harry Reid
Rahm Emanuel

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Senate's top Democrat says 1994's "Contract with America," the Republican campaign agenda the year the GOP regained control of Congress -- was an "urban myth."

"The 'Contract with America' didn't accomplish anything," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada. "(It) didn't change the election at all."

Republicans signed the 10-point plan with fanfare on the steps of the Capitol before they took control of the House for the first time in 40 years.

Yet, even as Reid dismissed the "Contract with America," he and other Democrats were promoting their own election-year document of six broad legislative goals, called "Six for '06."

Democrats insist most of this year's campaigns -- 75 percent -- will be a referendum on President Bush.

But they also realize they have to give voters a reason to vote for them, not just against Republicans.

"It's closing the deal," said New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

The document, which carries the title "A New Direction for America," is a brief compilation of six themes Democrats have been pushing in various ways all year:

  • National security
  • Jobs and wages
  • Energy independence
  • Affordable health care
  • Retirement security
  • College access for all
  • "This 100 days is about drilling in the different direction we as Democrats will take this country," said Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

    Republicans: Democrats are 'flailing'

    Brian Nick, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Campaign, said Democrats are "flailing in their desperate attempt to demonstrate that they have a plan and are unified."

    "Their plan is really to raise taxes, increase spending and weaken important tools that protect Americans in the war against terror," he said.

    Absent from the Democratic proposal is the catchphrase "culture of corruption," which Democrats constantly used against Republicans after the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. It became less prominent after some Democratic lawmakers' legal troubles made headlines.

    But Schumer insisted it will be "woven through" their overall push for change in Washington.

    After having a joint lunch to discuss campaign strategy during the August congressional recess, House and Senate Democrats rallied in a park across the street from the Capitol and tried to portray an air of confidence and momentum.

    "We don't see anything down the road that is really in our way in terms of doing well," Schumer said. "The wind is at our back."

    15 seats

    Emanuel said that their polls show 12 Democratic candidates currently ahead of Republican incumbents.

    However, neither he nor Schumer would predict how many seats Democrats will pick up. They need 15 seats to take control of the House.

    At a meeting with reporters at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee headquarters, Democratic leaders unveiled a Web video with clips of the president saying "stay the course" interspersed with graphics such as "gas prices at an all time high."

    They played the video on a small laptop in the front of the room full of reporters because, they said, they couldn't find a screen projector.

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