Dems' new midterm strategy: Hey, let's run against Bush

Via JWF. Actually, this strategy isn’t new — remember this post at TPM four months ago? — but I can’t tell if it’s a pet idea of DCCC chief Chris Van Hollen or if the whole party’s lining up behind it. Van Hollen’s the focus of both stories and he’ll surely exert considerable influence over party strategy, but even so: With voters screaming at them about unemployment, O-Care, and trillion-dollar deficits, Democratic candidates are going to look them in the eye and tremulously whisper … “Bush”?

Basically, they’re going to try to make the election a referendum on that “Miss Me Yet?” billboard. Frankly, at this point, I can live with that.

Van Hollen, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, on Tuesday signaled House Democrats will try to repeat their success in the last two election cycles by once again running under a change banner.

“This time we will make the case that supporting a Republican is simply turning back the clock to Bush economic policies, the same policies that got us into this mess to begin with,” he told reporters gathered at the downtown offices of Third Way, a centrist Democratic think thank. Republicans, Van Hollen added, “will I think put themselves clearly in the position where they represent the status quo and that the Democrats, while we have the White House and both houses of Congress, remain the party of change and reform.”…

And Democrats plan to force Republicans to defend their votes against the health care bill and the subsequent calls by some in their ranks to repeal it. The party has been “monitoring very closely all the Republicans who have signed on for repeal,” he said, with the aim of highlighting the most popular new consumer protections that would be revoked if the law is rolled back. For Republicans who back a so-called repeal-and-replace strategy, Van Hollen said Democrats have a ready answer: “The problem with that argument is they had eight years under President Bush to do something.”

For all the media blather about tea partiers being a liability to the GOP, either because of their alleged extremism or their potential to split and go third-party, this is a case in which they’re an asset. The more the press pushes the idea that small-government fiscal cons have captured the party, the harder it is for Democrats to push the Bush angle. Which is not to say that’ll stop them: Prepare yourself for a two-pronged DNC campaign theme that simultaneously claims (a) these are the same old Republicans you hate and (b) these are newly radicalized Republicans you’ll hate even more. But they’ve overplayed their hand on the latter point and, per the “Miss Me Yet?” meme, the former point isn’t exactly a home run these days (especially with Americans well disposed to the idea of divided government), so even your friendly neighborhood eeyore isn’t sweating this one.

It’ll be fun watching them try to frame a rehash of an election strategy from two years ago as a “change” campaign, though, won’t it? Exit question: Didn’t they try this already, with predictable results?