CBS's Erica Hill: GOP 'Extreme Right;' Dems Just Need to Alter Message 'A Little Bit'

Erica Hill, CBS During a discussion of the upcoming midterm elections on Monday's CBS Early Show, co-host Erica Hill asked Republican strategist Kevin Madden: "...when you look at this from the Republican perspective...there is some competition from the Tea Party, from those perhaps to the extreme right...is this race Republicans to lose, and if so, what do they have to do to hold on to it?"

Hill picked up the "extreme right" label from her other guest, Democratic strategist Tanya Acker, who had just ranted: "I think that it's very evident that we're running against a group of Republican candidates, in large part, who've really positioned themselves at an extreme end of the right – of the right wing, which is really where not most of the country is....what Democrats have to do is talk about what it is they're standing for and why it is the country doesn't want to go back to a time when, frankly, a lot of us were much worse off."

Madden responded to Hill by pointing to the left-wing agenda of the Democrats: "...independent voters...they've abandoned Democrats, in large part because of the spending, because of the deficits, because of a very left of center agenda....it is a very good place to be right now when you're the alternative to a Democrat agenda."

Instead of challenging Acker on the Democrats "very left of center agenda," Hill gently wondered: "What about the President? He's doing a lot of fundraising, does he need to, though, work on a little bit different message or is he doing the right thing?" Acker reasserted her previous point: "...the real competition here is for the moderates, is for independents. And in order for Democrats to successfully get them back on board, they're going to have to explain why the alternatives are far too extreme."

Hill moved on, pressing Madden on Republican policy proposals: "Kevin, in terms of a message from your end, from the Republican side, there's been a lot of criticism, and we heard it from the President...that Republicans aren't presenting new ideas....are they presenting their ideas, though, at this point, solidly enough?" Madden replied: "...the Democrats want to spend more, they want to grow the size of the government. We presented alternatives....we're for smaller government, we're for lower taxes, and we're for less spending; and that we are the better party to lead the country in the right direction."

Here is a full transcript of the August 9 discussion:
7:08AM ET

ERICA HILL: Joining us now is Republican strategist Kevin Madden, also in Washington this morning, and from Los Angeles, Democratic strategist Tanya Acker. We're going to get a closer look at what both sides need to do in these upcoming elections from the both of you this morning. Tanya, I want to start with you. as we just heard this two-point message here, don't go back and things would be even worse were the Democrats not in charge. Is that enough for voters at this point or does there need to be a little alteration, perhaps, of the message?

TANYA ACKER: Well, I think the Democrats have to focus on getting that message out very clearly in the first instance. Because look, I think that it's very evident that we're running against a group of Republican candidates, in large part, who've really positioned themselves at an extreme end of the right – of the right wing, which is really where not most of the country is. I mean, you're talking about candidates who want to do things like take the country back to a time before Social Security, who want to really overturn a lot of the things that – reforms that the country's really behind. So I think the Repub – what Democrats have to do is talk about what it is they're standing for and why it is the country doesn't want to go back to a time when, frankly, a lot of us were much worse off.

HILL: Kevin, when you – when you look at this from the Republican perspective-

KEVIN MADDEN: Mm-Hm.

HILL: -there are some of those messages, there is some competition from the Tea Party, from those perhaps to the extreme right, as Tanya mentioned, but essentially is this – is this race Republicans to lose and if so what do they have to do to hold on to it?

MADDEN: Well, look, to Tanya's point and to your question, I think that this race is really going to be won – I think this – these elections, these midterm elections are really going to be decided in the middle. And right now those independent voters that were a big part of the Democrats' successful coalition by – of winning in 2008, they've abandoned the – the White House, and they've abandoned Democrats, in large part because of the spending, because of the deficits, because of a very left of center agenda. So I think where Republicans feel we have an opportunity is talking to those voters and persuading them that the Democrats have taken the country in the wrong direction. The country's on the wrong track. That we're spending too much money, deficits are going too high, and that we can do a better job. And right now we – we have to go out there and talk about a proactive agenda, but it is a very good place to be right now when you're the alternative to a Democrat agenda.

HILL: It's interesting because in some ways it sounds like 2008 all over again. You talk about the moderates, there was so much talk about moderates and independents, of course, during the 2008 elections, which worked out well for the Democrats, Tanya. This time around, I know you said they need to alter the message perhaps a little bit, but what about the President? He's doing a lot of fundraising, does he need to, though, work on a little bit different message or is he doing the right thing?

ACKER: I think that right now – I mean, look we're seeing that the President is not – is having some troubles in the polls. He's certainly polling lower than he has at any time during his presidency, and which is not unusual for any President at this point in his term. But I think that where we're really seeing President Obama be effective is in – is in fundraising. And in order for Democrats to get the message out there, there's no question that they're going to need a lot of money. Because again, as Kevin pointed out, and as you pointed out, the real competition here is for the moderates, is for independents. And in order for Democrats to successfully get them back on board, they're going to have to explain why the alternatives are far too extreme.
                
HILL: Kevin, in terms of a message from your end, from the Republican side, there's been a lot of criticism, and we heard it from the President in Bill's package, that Republicans aren't presenting new ideas. I know that you – you disagree with that.

MADDEN: I disagree with that, yes.

HILL: But are they presenting – are they presenting their ideas, though, at this point, solidly enough?

MADDEN: Yes, I – I do believe so. Look, when John Boehner handed the – the gavel to Nancy Pelosi in 2008, he said – 2006 – he said, look, we are going to be an opposition party but we are going to disagree with you on substance. And if you look at the health care debate, you look at the stimulus debate. Republicans presented the American public alternatives. They presented a vision for what they would do, where they would take the country in a different direction. And I think in large part that's going to be where you can win in the arguments in 2010. Is that we can say, look, the Democrats want to spend more, they want to grow the size of the government. We presented alternatives. The entire – during this entire debate, that said we're for smaller government, we're for lower taxes, and we're for less spending; and that we are the better party to lead the country in the right direction.

HILL: Well, everyone will be trying to get their messages out, especially as we ramp up with three months to go. Tanya Acker, Kevin Madden, always good to have your insight with us.

MADDEN: Great to be with you.

ACKER: Good to see you.

CHRIS WRAGGE: Safe to say it's going to be an interesting November.

HILL: I think we can say that, yes.
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC