Pollsters Stan Greenberg and James Carville have sent out a memo advising Democratic candidates to run on fair trade as one of the party's best chances to avoid losses in the November elections.
Based on polling from last week, they are suggesting two messages for candidates to take up:
My passion is "made in America," working to support small businesses, American companies and new American industries. (REPUBLICAN HOUSE CANDIDATE) has pledged to support the free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea and protect the loophole for companies outsourcing American jobs. I have a different approach to give tax breaks for small businesses that hire workers and give tax subsidies for companies that create jobs right here in America.
The other message is:
We have to change Washington. That means eliminating the special deals and tax breaks won by corporate lobbyists for the oil companies and Wall Street. (REPUBLICAN HOUSE CANDIDATE) has pledged to protect the tax cuts for the top two percent and the big tax breaks for companies who export American jobs. I'll take a differ-ent approach with new middle class tax cuts to help small businesses and new American industries create jobs. Let's make our country work for the middle class.
Both messages have a strong fair trade tone. As does the runner-up, third-best message:
My priority is to cut middle class taxes, extend unemployment and health insurance for the unemployed, support new industries that create jobs and end tax breaks for exporting jobs. The economy shows signs of improving. But (REPUBLICAN HOUSE CANDIDATE) wants to go back to the Bush policies that crushed the middle class. They want to give tax breaks to the wealthy and big corporations. We must rebuild the middle class, not go back to the same old policies for Wall Street that cost us 8 million jobs.
Returning to the top two messages, the intensity of the appeal of the first message (which is the most specific about branding Bush's FTAs with Korea, Panama and Colombia by name and in a negative light) is particularly noteworthy.
Among those independents and white seniors surveyed, the first message was more likely than the second to make the voter more likely to vote for the Democrat. Among these demographic groups, plus the "white older women" surveyed, the first message was more likely than the second to make them "much more likely" to vote for the Democrat. Greenberg and Carville identified these groups as the ones Democrats need to reach if they are to survive.
And... all three of the messages were energizing of the Democrats' core base.
Finally, when these messages were turned on their head, i.e. when the hypothetical Democrat was accusing the hypothetical GOP candidate of supporting unfair trade, the tactic was successful in raising doubts about the GOP candidate.
From my initial research, many GOP candidates are also running on fair trade - in a number of races, candidates from both parties are trying to "out fair trade" one another.
It looks like we're poised for a third election where fair trade themes play a key role in who wins and who loses.
(Disclosure: Public Citizen has no preference among the candidates for office.)