Meet the Powers Behind the Democrats’ Strategy

The LA Times writes…

Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the hyperactive Democrat from Illinois charged with winning control of the House for his party in the 2006 elections, was trying to goad a colleague to move into attack mode. And so he phoned. And phoned. And phoned again.

For days, Rep. John M. Spratt Jr. (D-S.C.) received about three calls daily from Emanuel, urging him to run a political advertisement criticizing the Bush administration’s decision to let an Arab company manage U.S. ports, an issue sparking nationwide outrage at the time. With Vice President Dick Cheney heading south to campaign for Spratt’s GOP opponent, Emanuel thought the best response was to run an attack ad in the local newspaper — quickly.

“Rahm smelled blood,” said Chuck Fant, Spratt’s press secretary. “He latched on like a pit bull and never let go.”

Spratt finally agreed to put out a news release, one that was less in-your-face than Emanuel wanted. But the fact that the lawmaker was prompted to act at all was a tribute to the intensity, persistence and abrasiveness that Emanuel has brought to his job as field marshal of the Democrats’ battle for the House.

Those edgy traits are shared by Emanuel’s counterpart in the party’s fight to gain Senate seats — Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York. It is a convergence that has gladdened the hearts of many Democrats; both men are credited with having boosted the party’s chances for a strong showing in November. But, in the bottom-line world of politics, both will share the blame if those expectations are not met.

Emanuel, 46, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Schumer, 55, head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, have deployed tactics reminiscent of the smoke-filled rooms of yore.

Emanuel and Schumer have brought an aggressive intensity to the 2006 campaign that is akin to the famed treatment used by Lyndon B. Johnson, former president and Senate majority leader, to sway lawmakers.

Those who have received the Emanuel treatment include Heath Shuler, a retired NFL quarterback trying to topple a House Republican in North Carolina. When he was deciding whether to run, Schuler told Emanuel he was worried that serving in Congress would cut into time with his children. In response, Emanuel peppered Shuler with dozens of phone calls over two weeks to report what he was doing with his own three kids.

“He calls one Monday morning: ‘Heath, I’m taking my kids to school,’ then he just hangs up,” Shuler recalled. “At 11:30, he calls and says, ‘I’m leaving my office to eat lunch with my kids.’ Then, ‘Heath, it’s 3:30, and I’m walking into school.’ ”

Shuler got the message and signed up for the campaign…


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