Democratic Messaging, Financial Reform and the Midterms

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The Democratic National Committee is going up on national cable and in the D.C. market with the above ad hitting Republicans for blocking debate on financial reform. There’s a clear nod to the midterms at the end of the spot and DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan says it’s just the beginning:  “Any Republican who continues to stand with Wall Street instead of our families should expect that we’ll make sure that their constituents hear about it from now till November.”

Democrats are trying to establish a narrative for the campaign season: Republicans stood by while the financial crisis caused the Great Recession, then stood in the way as Dem reformers swooped in to clean up the mess. This jibes with the larger strategy DNC chair Tim Kaine is expected to unveil at a Christian Science Monitor luncheon today. The message banks on three things: Selling the electorate on the the big-ticket agenda items they have passed, deflecting anti-incumbent angst onto Republicans by highlighting obstructionism, and either a) seeing robust economic recovery or b) convincing voters it’s the Republican policies of 2000-2008 that are to blame (we’ll likely see a bit of both.)

One more quick note about the ad: Democrats, in response to the GOP mischaracterization that the financial reform bill institutionalizes bailouts, have started saying the legislation “prevents” (this ad) or “outlaws” (White House adviser Austan Goolsbee) future bailouts. By trying to address systemic risk, setting capital requirements and establishing a more watchful regulatory regime, the bill is designed to make the conditions that led to TARP less likely. By establishing a resolution authority for shutting down the largest banks in the event of disaster, the legislation seeks to provide an alternative to government rescue. But the notion that any future Congress couldn’t use taxpayer money to bailout financial institutions if they voted to is complete hogwash.