A Small Victory For the DSCC

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The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has not gotten a lot of good press recently. The stinging loss of Ted Kennedy’s seat to Scott Brown, the failure to recruit promising prospects such as Beau Biden and the spate of high-profile retirements from the upper chamber have all taken a toll on the group’s image. The legacy of Chuck Schumer and the 2006 Democratic groundswell was hard enough to live up to already, and a tough environment combined with a string of bad luck has Senator Bob Menendez in an unenviable position atop the organization. But Marc Ambinder has uncovered a memo that makes the DSCC look pretty smart and might have saved the Democrats a lot of grief if they had heeded its words when they were written.

The gist of the memorandum written by DSCC communications chief Eric Schultz is not so remarkable on its face: It lays out the argument that Republicans who voted against the Recovery Act can be called out if and when they take credit for stimulus dollars doled out in their districts. This line of attack has been used by many Democrats in recent days and was even the subject of a lengthy ThinkProgress dossier entitled “Stimulating Hypocrisy: 111 Lawmakers Block Recovery While Taking Credit For Its Success,” complete with photos of a few GOPers wielding smiles as big as the novelty checks in their hands.

What’s interesting about the memo is that it was written in February of 2009, just after the ARRA was signed into law. The strategy it lays out was designed to rebut attacks on the stimulus and sell Americans on the legislation’s success, before criticism or public opinion could get out of control. In case you haven’t been paying attention, the Republicans have been largely successful at attacking the Recovery Act and a huge portion of Americans don’t think it worked. If the “hypocrisy” charge is as effective as Ambinder suggests and Democrats had hammered it from the get-go, public opinion might be in very different place today.

That being said, I would disagree with Ambinder that it is too late. The arbitrary one-year anniversary may have come and gone, and Democrats have certainly squandered many opportunities to sell their signature piece of legislation of 2009 or effectively counterpunch its critics. But there’s a lot of stimulus cash still to be distributed, a lot of campaigning to be done and lot of economic growth possible in the 255 days between now and election day.

Regardless of what could be or what might have been, the memo does offer some small vindication for the folks at the DSCC. And they could use a little pat on the back right now.