Senator-elect Barack Obama appeared on Meet the Press with Tim Russert (emphasis added):
MR. RUSSERT: Senator-elect, why do you think John Kerry lost the race for the White House?
SEN.-ELECT OBAMA: Well, he was running against a very popular wartime president. And I think that that would have been a difficult circumstance for any candidate to run in, and I think that your previous guest, Karl Rove, had a lot to do with it. They've got one of the best political teams that we've ever seen in America, and I think that they deserve enormous credit for their win.
MR. RUSSERT: The Democratic Leadership Council, which has been a voice for more centrist views, if you will, in the Democratic Party issued the following statement: "What happened? ...we have to face facts. We got our clocks cleaned up and down the ballot. ... We didn't effectively make the case for firing the incumbents and replacing them with Democrats. ... The dynamics of this campaign have confirmed beyond a shadow of a doubt that Democrats suffer from three persistent `trust gaps' in our message. The first...was on national security. ... [Kerry] could not overcome the party's reputation for being weaker. ... The second...was a `reform gap.' ... We never conveyed a positive agenda for reform. The third...was...values and culture. ... The problem is that many millions of voters simply do not believe that Democrats take their cultural fears and resentments seriously, and that Republicans do."
What do you think of that analysis?
SEN.-ELECT OBAMA: Well, I think that there's some important insights there. I absolutely think that when we talk about family, faith, community, I think it's important for Democrats to be able to connect with folks where they live. And I think that the Republicans have been more successful in some cases than we have in talking about values and morality with respect to our agenda and our program and our broader world view. I think that certainly with respect to national security, that as Karl Rove mentioned, they were interested in collapsing the issue of the war on terror with Iraq, and they did so successfully. And I think that we were less successful in making clear that we were as unified and as focused on the war on terror as anyone, but that the war in Iraq was a misguided strategy, at least in terms of how it was implemented.
And I think that what is always true when you run against an incumbent president is, is that you end up talking more about that president's record than your vision for the future, and I think that the Democrats do have to present a proactive agenda and vision for the country and not simply run against something if they're going to be successful.
MR. RUSSERT: When I asked Karl Rove about the meaning of moral values, he talked about the coarsening of our culture. Is it possible for Democrats to speak to that feeling within the American people, particularly with the close relationship Democrats have with the Hollywood community?
SEN.-ELECT OBAMA: Well, you know, I think I spoke about it in Illinois, and, you know, one of the reasons that I got 70 percent of the vote and that, in fact, I shared a million voters with George Bush is that from a Democratic perspective, I think I was able to talk to people about values in ways that people-- in ways that resonated with folks.
Look, the Democrats are as concerned about raising our kids and making sure that the values of empathy and hard work and discipline and self-respect are instilled in our children, and I've got a six-year-old daughter and a three-year-old daughter, and I'm not afraid to talk about how I want to provide them with the sort of cultural framework that's going to allow them to be successful, happy people.
And I think that Democrats can, in fact, and have successfully talked about it. I think that sometimes the Democrats have to run upstream or swim upstream because we've got the Republicans making it out as if we don't care about these things, and we should be able to engage and be willing to engage in the discussion about morality and values. Of course, part of our message has to be that moral values includes the immorality of 45 million uninsured or the immorality of working people who are having trouble raising a family despite working full-time. That has to be part of the moral equation. And if we are able to frame things in that fashion, then I think we can be successful.
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