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Democrats, don't insult the voters

By Ed Rollins, CNN Senior Political Contributor
  • Ed Rollins says top Democrats are saying unkind things about voters
  • He says they've been called whiners and described as irresponsible
  • The voter enthusiasm is on the Republican side this year, Rollins says
  • Rollins: My advice to Democrats is, whatever you do, don't insult the voters

Editor's note: Ed Rollins, a senior political contributor for CNN, is senior presidential fellow at the Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency at Hofstra University. He is a principal with the Dilenschneider Group, a global public relations firm. He was White House political director for President Ronald Reagan and chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.

New York (CNN) -- I have seen many campaigns in my four decades in politics, but this one is the strangest. With a little more than a month to go and many races still very close, the Democratic message to their faithful is mind-boggling.

Voters want to know what's going on, and Democrats in particular are unhappy and unenthusiastic. So what does the national leadership of the party say about the voters?

They have been called whiners by the vice president. President Obama, who led them to victory two short years ago with record turnouts, is calling them "irresponsible." They have even been called stupid by the party's former presidential nominee John Kerry.

Just last week, Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate, implied the voters were too stupid to know what they are doing. "We have an electorate that doesn't always pay that much attention to what's going on, so people are influenced by a simple slogan rather than the facts or the truth or what's happening."

Video: Obama tries to rally young voters
Video: McMahon hopes to wrestle win

Of course, this is the same John Kerry who lamented to a staffer on election night in 2004, as reported by Newsweek, "I can't believe I'm losing to this idiot"

Must have been Bush's great slogan, "Yes America can!" As opposed to the Kerry campaign's great slogan, "Let America be America again" in 2004. " Huh? Where were the "Mad Men"? Drunk or sober these old advertising icons, now depicted in a hit television series, knew how to develop ad campaigns and generate interesting slogans.

The biggest whiner I know in politics just called his political base (actually Obama's political base) a "bunch of whiners!" How many times over the years have we watched Joe Biden on television badmouthing someone or something? I've yelled at the television set, "Quit whining, you whiner!"

The president then jumped in and said the voters just need to "buck up."

"Those who don't get ... everything they wanted, it's time to just buck up here." He went on to say: "The idea that we've got a lack of enthusiasm in the Democratic base, that people are sitting on their hands complaining is just irresponsible."

But the president got a taste of grass roots reality when he traveled to the University of Wisconsin this week to try to rev up enthusiasm for Sen. Russ Feingold, who is fighting for his political life and trailing in his Senate re-election effort. The Democratic candidate for governor is also behind. Feingold chose to stay in Washington and do whatever rather than appear with the president.

Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus said trying to recapture the same enthusiasm as Obama had two years ago will be like "trying to raise the living dead in Wisconsin. He's got a depressed base and an enthusiastic group of Republicans and conservatives ready to make a change," Priebus said.

Perhaps most importantly, the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate haS decided to abandon Washington and go home to campaign. It's probably a wise move since polls indicate both Senate and House Democrats are looking at a drubbing on Election Day.

The strategy to not make vulnerable incumbents vote on unpopular issues before Election Day can be viewed as the smartest thing they can do. But before these incumbents go back home, they want campaign cash (or checks).

In the last two weeks before Friday's adjournment, according to Politico, more than 400 fundraisers have been held or will be held within walking distance of our nation's capitol. I am sure a good many of these are Republican events, too. Everybody wants money. But if you're a DC lobbyist you're going to exhaust both your bankroll and your body before they all go home. The article calls it: "the Great Cash Dash of 2010."

For many of the members, going home may be too late. A large number of members find themselves in tough races and haven't had this experience in years. Going home will be an important chance to talk to their very unhappy constituents and explain what they have been doing with the taxpayers' money.

Much of the communication that goes on between political figures and voters these days is yelling back and forth between the elected officials pontificating on cable television with their voters watching back home, often in disbelief.

For those voters not closely following the elections, there are a lot of distractions: The baseball playoffs and the World Series, the NFL and the college football season. But I promise you the real rough and tumble is going to be on the political turf, and the outcome will have real consequences for us all.

Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Sen. Kerry, the unsolicited advice from this old Republican who has been in the trenches for many a battle is: Be nice to your voters. Encourage them, don't insult them. Because they now hold your futures in their hands or in their votes. My side is ready for change. Yours right now doesn't care!

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Ed Rollins.