Party leaders instead said their candidates had trouble getting airtime on local news coverage and that Republicans benefitted from a strong president and voter worries about a war with Iraq. The chairman of the Republican National Committee, however, suggested the Democratic message was getting through -- it just wasn't believable.
Not aggressive enough
U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said she had heard that the Democrats weren't aggressive enough in making clear how they differed from Republicans. She said those complaints were invalid.
"No matter where I went the candidates were talking and their commercials were about the economy, prescription drugs and Social Security privatization," she said. "There were national themes, but the president just took all the air out of them in almost every district."
At appearances in Washington today, Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe said Democrats had "tactical," not ideological problems.
Mr. McAuliffe said that while the Democratic Party didn't really have a national message, themes tailored to local races strongly pushed economic issues and several other themes including prescription drugs.
"We were very aggressive in putting out an economic message," he said. "The problem is it was hard to break through. It was hard to break through after Sept. 11. It was hard to break through in September of this year when we had the issues of Iraq. It was difficult to get our message out."
Montana Gov. Marc Racicot, chairman of the Republican National Committee, meanwhile, said the problem for the Democrats was that American people didn't believe the Democrats had the answers to issue from Enron and the economy to Social Security.
"I don't think they [the public] blame either the Republicans or Democrats because they place these things in the right context," he said. "They know there are seasons to the economy. There are cycles. They know the recession began before this president. They know there are special circumstances brought about by the war on terrorism. What they do want is something done, and even though there is some critique, I believe the American people understand that there is a good faith effort to do something, rather than cursing the darkness and simply doing nothing."
Mr. McAuliffe said he expected national issues to play much more of a role in the 2004 race.