It's now a little more than five months until the November elections. President Bush continues to take it on the chin in the polls, as does Congress. The number of competitive seats in the House continues to rise, according to the Rothenberg Political Report, and the Democrats are leading Republicans on every major issue, including terrorism.
The environment for the Democrats couldn't get much better. So why is it that when we asked people on the street yesterday what the Democrats' plan for America was we encountered responses such as "I have no clue -- to be honest, I have no clue what they're doing"?
It could be because the Democrats have yet to articulate anything that resembles a substantive plan. Oh sure, there have been bits and bites, but there's yet to be a clear election-year agenda. Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean says "there's plenty of time for specifics - the election is a long way off."
But if they hope to prevail in those exceedingly tight Congressional races, how long can Democrats continue to get by solely on rhetoric like Senator Harry Reid's declaration that "We as Democrats are declaring our commitment to change"?
For a while longer, according to Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel, whom many Democrats say is the guy driving the bus this year. Emanuel hears the calls from inside the party to lay out -- as quickly as possible -- a Democratic version of the Republicans' famous 1994 "Contract With America."
But he's keeping his powder dry for now, recalling that the Contract was released just six weeks before the '94 election. To do it now, he fears, would leave an agenda open to dissection and scrutiny, Republican attacks and inter-party fighting for a long time. Plus, what would be left to do in the fall?
The danger for Democrats, however, is that Republicans have been pretty effective at labeling them as the "party with no ideas, failing to articulate any core principles or governing philosophy."
Of course, that's merely a strategy to draw them into the debate. But as we saw in August of 2004, when John Kerry's campaign sank amid a barrage of unanswered attacks by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, sometimes you need to put some meat on the bones if you hope to have a chance of fighting back.