Editor's note: In 12 days, voters will cast ballots in the hotly contested midterm elections. In this special feature, CNN's political contributors share their quick thoughts on what's making news.
Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist, was a political consultant for Bill Clinton's presidential campaign in 1992 and counselor to Clinton in the White House.
William Bennett, a Republican strategist and radio talk show host, is a former education secretary and federal drug czar.
Begala: Hope and Change, Meet Fear and Loathing
In the closing days of this campaign, there is much discussion of the so-called enthusiasm gap. Right-wing voters, it seems, are far more motivated than progressives. Why? Because in this election cycle, Republican strategists understand that they can't make voters love Republicans -- so they have focused on making them hate Democrats. They have spent millions demonizing President Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Democrats should return fire. Too many Dems bemoan the faded magic of 2008. They need to stop worrying and start attacking. Sun Tzu knew this. "In order to kill the enemy," he wrote in the sixth century B.C., "our men must be roused to anger."
Set aside the sexist language (it was 2,600 years ago). Focus on the strategic insight. A depressed force is more effectively motivated by anger at the enemy than love of its leader. Democrats should stop trying to rekindle the hope and change of 2008 and ride the wave of 2010: fear and loathing.
How? Democrats don't need to hype the threat the GOP poses to the middle class. They need only quote the Wall Street Journal (hardly a socialist rag), which reported this week that among GOP senate candidates:
"Eighteen have expressed some support for either a single, flat-rate income tax or a national sales tax that would replace an income tax.
"Sixteen have expressed a willingness to allow some Social Security taxes to be diverted to private investment accounts. Eleven have expressed interest in turning Medicare into a voucher program that young people can elect to join upon retirement.
"Ten have broached eliminating or scaling back the Department of Education.
"Four have talked of eliminating or lowering the federal minimum wage."
Across America there are GOP candidates who are hostile to the middle class. Republicans, Democrats should say, lie awake at night, fearful that somebody, somewhere, is living the American Dream. The threat of an assault on Social Security, Medicare, the Department of Education and the minimum wage will fire up core Democrats while also bringing middle-class independents back to the Democrat fold.
Bennett: NAACP report on Tea Party a sign of desperation
One can tell things are desperate for the left in America when, less than a week before a major election, one of the largest civil rights organizations issues a report such as the NAACP did this week, alleging racism and anti-Semitism in the Tea Party movement.
The headlines and take-away will be that the Tea Party movement is suffused with racism. Ignored will be the NAACP's president's foreword that states "We know the majority of Tea Party supporters are sincere, principled people of good will." My question then: If the president of the NAACP believes this, then why do a report?
But this is not the first time the NAACP has entered into electoral politics alleging racism about a major movement or party in America it disagrees with. One recalls the 2000 NAACP ad showing a truck dragging a chain, and James Byrd's daughter saying, "So when Gov. George W. Bush refused to sign hate crimes legislation, it was like my father was killed all over again." This ugly ad came to us despite the fact that, for the vicious murder of James Byrd in 1998, the state of Texas gave the three perpetrators life imprisonment and death sentences.
As someone who's been on the campaign trail a lot this season and takes calls daily from Tea Party activists and candidates, I can attest I have not heard the bigotry that has been alleged again this year. What I have heard is excitement over several candidates running on the GOP ticket who show a new era and face of the GOP -- candidates from racial minority groups such as Tim Scott and Nikki Haley in South Carolina to Allen West in Florida to Susana Martinez in New Mexico to Brian Sandoval in Nevada.
I despise identifying people by race, but as a member of a party that has long been told it needed more racial minorities, this year is proving a new beginning with candidates such as these, and more. And it is getting no credit from the NAACP and like organizations for such candidates after years of being told it needed more just like them.
And when these candidates win their offices, I can guarantee they will be among the most prominent spokesmen and women for the GOP, not because of their race or ethnicity but because of their quality as individuals, their abilities, and their talent in articulating conservative values. They are the true face of the Tea Parties -- not a few wingnuts here and there that every movement, left to right, has in America. In the end, it is important to judge a movement by its mean, not by its extreme.
And right now, when I see the NAACP doing reports like this in the midst of a highly charged political season, when I see the California chapter of the NAACP endorsing the legalization of marijuana, that is the group that worries me even more.
The opinions expressed in these commentaries are solely those of the authors.