A Peek Into One of Democrats’ Best Brains

Democratic Perspective had the privilege of interviewing Celinda Lake, one of the Democratic Party’s leading political strategists and pollsters. Celinda and her firm are known for cutting-edge research on issues including the economy, health care, the environment and education. The Montana native currently serves as tactician and senior advisor to the national party committees, as well as dozens of Democratic incumbents and challengers at all levels of the electoral process. Her clients include the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Democratic Governor’s Association (DGA), The White House Project, AFL-CIO, Human Rights Campaign, EMILY’s List and the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In addition, Celinda and Republican pollster, Kellyanne Conway, co-authored What Women Really Want, a book that examines the way women are changing the political landscape in America.

We began our interview with a look back at the “death panel” attacks that took place during health care debate of 2009 and 2010. “It’s easier to tear things down than build them up,” she said. “It’s always easier to attack. We allowed the charges to stand too long. Republicans are much better at characterizing and they’re aided by having more media outlets.”

“The process was also a huge mistake,” she continued. It took too long and the bill was too big. We were not aggressive enough in defending it.”

When asked to define what she calls “wave elections” Celinda pointed to 2010. “A wave election,” she said, “is one in which bigger issues and forces prevail over individual candidates.” She said that she does not expect 2012 to fit that definition. “2012 will be about jobs and the economy, especially for blue collar workers. Voters will also be voting on the Republican budget, Medicare and taxes on the wealthy. Immigration is likely to be big only in Arizona. And, of course, the issue of guns will always be important in the West,” she concluded.

Finally, we asked Celinda what the polls are currently telling her. “In the last election, people voted for change agents,” she replied. “But they didn’t vote for the candidates’ policies. As a result, many voters are feeling a type of ‘buyer’s remorse’.” Given those sentiments, she said that she believes that, “Many of the conservative governors in the Midwest would be recalled today if it were possible.”

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