Democratic Party Chief Unveils a 2010 Battle Plan with a 2012 Focus

ABC News’ David Chalian reports: Democrats will be facing a restive and disgruntled electorate in six months as they attempt to hang on to their House and Senate majorities on Capitol Hill, but that isn’t stopping Barack Obama’s DNC and his hand-picked party chairman from keeping their ultimate goal, the president’s 2012 reelection effort, in sight as they roll out the party’s 2010 battle plan.

President Obama released a video to his 13 million-member strong email list of political supporters earlier this week announcing his intentions to focus on the 15 million first-time voters who showed up at the polls in 2008 to vote for him and getting them to the polls again in November.

It is this focus on those 2008 surge voters that will be the cornerstone of the DNC midterm electoral strategy that party chairman Tim Kaine described in detail today to reporters in Washington, D.C.

“We know some things about people who were first-time voters in 2008. They registered because they wanted participate in a historic election. They supported President Obama and still do and that support and enthusiasm is very very high,” Kaine said at a lunch sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “But we also know this: first-time presidential voters from 2008 would likely have a low turnout in midterm elections. There is always a fall-off in a midterm election from a presidential election. That’s always the case. But these first-time voters would be more likely to have reduced turnout than the norm,” he added.

“Our goal is taking advantage of the fact that these voters have such loyalty to the president to work very directly with them to help them make a match with our candidates and to increase the turnout of these voters by significant percentages. If we are able to increase their turnout from the norm even by 10 percent, that’s a million and a half more votes that we could get,” Kaine said.

Many Democrats on Capitol Hill have privately expressed concern about this strategy because it is not centered on turning out the tried-and-true midterm election voters the party will need at the polls in November to significantly mitigate the anticipated large number of losses in key congressional races around the country.

Chairman Kaine claimed that the campaigns are already positioned to reach those voters and that the DNC will assist in that effort, but that is not where the committee sees itself adding most value. The previously announced $50 million investment in the midterm races will be greatly focused on cultivating these first-time voters from 2008 who are more likely to be engaged in the next presidential election with Barack Obama’s name expected to be on the ballot than they are to be in this year’s midterm contests.

“There are also the regular midterm voters. The voters who will turn out very reliably in midterm elections. And we’re going to work with them as well. But, we basically know this, our candidates across the country do a pretty good job in finding the reliable midterm voters. They know who they are. All the state voter files are strong and they know they are reliable midterm voters. So we will work with them in a variety of ways, from technical expertise to voter modeling to communications strategies that will enable them to create energy and do well among reliable midterm voters,” Kaine said.

“But in terms of what we at the DNC can do, a particular added value that we can bring to campaigns, we do believe that the communication energizing and turnout of these presidential first-time voters from 2008 is a particular expertise we have that can add significant value,” he added.

The former Virginia governor said that half of these first-time voters are young voters and minority voters, mostly African American and Latino voters. And he went on to describe what the president’s midterm pitch would be to these voters.

“I think the president’s strategy in interacting with these voters is: ‘You backed me for a reason, you wanted to see change, and guess what? You’re seeing it. Now is not the time to stop. Now that we’re climbing back up the ladder, now’s not the time to change direction or turn the keys over to the other guys. We’ve got to keep climbing,’” Kaine said.

The DNC plans to spend roughly $30 million on the overall strategy to motivate the 2008 first-time voters and $20 million in direct investments into state parties, high priority House and Senate races, and the national congressional campaign committees.

It is lost on no party operative that the DNC-funded projects such as voter modeling in key states, social networking and voter registration will not only help candidates in 2010, but also likely pay dividends for the president’s reelection campaign in 2012.

White House officials are expected to meet with Democratic congressional leadership Thursday on Capitol Hill, where the DNC’s 2010 campaign strategy may come up for discussion.

Despite the dual-track nature of the DNC’s investment, Kaine expressed confidence that Democrats will retain their majorities in both chambers after the votes are tabulated in November.

“We are going to perform in the midterms in such a way that the president will have strong majorities in both houses going into the second half of his first term. Exactly what those majorities will be and what the numbers will be, you know, it’s a long way between now and November, but that’s the goal. We’re going to hold on to both houses and be sure he has the majorities he needs to work with,” Kaine said.

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