Democratic Party leaders, conceding that complacency caused them to lose touch with the American people, Saturday launched an election-year organizing campaign designed to revitalize the party at the grass roots and offset gains that Republicans made with the help of such groups as the National Rifle Association and the Christian Coalition.
Democratic National Committee chairman Don Fowler, unveiling the plan during a meeting of state party officials here, set a goal of identifying leaders in 50,000 precincts in 20 targeted states this fall. Those leaders would use all the tools of political communication - from phone trees and faxes to the Internet - to deliver the message of the Clinton administration's accomplishments.Minyon Moore, the DNC's political director, told the state party officials, "It is my hope that we will be comparable to the NRA and the Christian Coalition to get all of our Democratic allies on the ground marching for the president to reelect him."
The announcement of the new program came during an upbeat meeting of the Democratic leaders, who spent two days sizing up the city that will host the Democratic National Convention in late August and discussing ways to maintain the advantage President Clinton enjoys over presumptive Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole in most of the nation's major states.
Fowler called the fall campaign "the most important election since 1932," adding that "not just the next four years, but literally the next four decades are at stake" in the outcome.
House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri predicted Clinton will easily be reelected and said voters are beginning to think about whether they want to return Democrats to power in the House and Senate. "They're looking hard at us in Congress (and) they're not sure."
But Gephardt, describing the congressional Democrats' new "Families First" agenda, said the party learned from its losses. "We got thrashed in 1994," he said. "We heard it and we understood it. We have listened. We have heard people's concerns and they're deep."