Carville and Greenberg Bury the Lede! (Hint: It's Iraq)

The latest strategy memo and poll [PDFs] from Democracy Corps founders James Carville and Stan Greenberg just landed in my e-mail inbox -- and it's a decidedly mixed bag.

On the upside, it's encouraging to see them acknowledge that the war in Iraq is "the largest contributor to the public's mood for change" and that "voters supporting a Democratic candidate for Congress are mainly motivated by the Iraq war."

The problem is that this information isn't offered until pages 5 and 6 of the ten-page memo. Talk about burying the lede.

Instead, Carville and Greenberg's grabber advice, delivered in the memo's opening graph (and the e-mail tease), is that Democrats should "run as outsiders." Huh? That's the elevator message that's going to carry Democrats to victory in 2006?

Even more troubling is the way they frame their muddled message. On the third page of the memo, which is described as "a kind of manual for running the tough campaign that can make the most of the current mood," the duo offer a list of eight "mutually re-enforcing actions" that will allow Democrats to "maximize their change vote." "Address Iraq" (which they lump together with the economy as the "dominant issues for voters who want change") is the fifth item on the list. Fifth... coming in after suggestions to run "as an outsider seeking change" and to "show your agenda for America -- on energy, health care prices, American jobs and congressional pay raises." Yep, in the Carville/Greenberg pecking order, congressional pay raises trump the war in Iraq.

These two are clearly rehab-ready "domestic-issue-laundry-list-aholics." They know they've gotta stay off the stuff (if the last three elections isn't bottoming out, what is?), but they just can't help themselves. Old addictions die hard (remember, these are the same guys who pushed John Kerry to focus on domestic issues, ceding national security -- the dominant issue of the 2004 campaign -- to Bush and the GOP).

Carville and Greenberg conclude their memo by saying, "The good news is that the tea leaves are pretty easy to read, once free of the bubble in Washington, D.C." Yes, they are! Unfortunately, these tea leaves -- and the meaning being divined from them -- are being read by those most definitely still trapped inside that Beltway bubble.

P.S. I have no doubt all this will be thoroughly discussed at the YearlyKos convention, which runs today through Sunday in Las Vegas. If your favorite bloggers are posting a little lightly today, it's probably because they (and a thousand of their fellow bloggers and activists) are on their way to the Riviera Hotel for a full slate of workshops, panels, speeches, and roundtable discussions. I'll be taking part in a panel Saturday morning on how U.S. foreign policy is being influenced by the netroots -- and how this will, in turn, influence the 2006 and 2008 elections. A sign of how increasingly influential the netroots are becoming is the number of party heavy-hitters descending on Las Vegas for the event, including Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean, Mark Warner, Barbara Boxer, Tom Vilsack and Wes Clark. It should be a lively and productive weekend. This is one time when what happens in Vegas will definitely not stay in Vegas.