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David Plouffe: 2010 Election Won't be Like 1994


David Plouffe, Obama's 2008 campaign manager and top Democrat strategist, said today that the 2010 election will be tough for Democrats.

But, he added, it won't be like 1994, when Republicans won back control of the House of Representatives.

"By this point in 1994, voters were not open for discussion, they had largely decided," he said, speaking to reporters. "That's not what's going on here at all."

"Undecided voters, voters who are soft Republican right now, they are very open to arguments about the Republican opponents and I think our candidates are doing a very good job of drawing contrasts and I do think the deeper we are getting into this election the more we are seeing voters look at this as choice," he added.

Plouffe, who runs the Obama grassroots organization Organizing for America, said that many of those voters, like suburban women, are turned off by some of the extreme views of Tea Party-backed candidates who won Republican primaries for Senate seats around the country. Further, he said the media attention on some candidates, like Christine O'Donnell in Delaware, is one reason why Democrat voters seem to be more likely to come to the polls.

"We are seeing signs of progress out there" in the last month, he said. "We are seeing more inclination for Democrats to vote."

Plouffe said that the Republican Party is suffering because of the ideological extremism that is taking root and that it is only going to get worse.

"This is the absolute tip of the iceberg. If you are moderate Republican thinking about running for office in 2011, 2012 - you need to have your head examined," he said. "They are not going to do it, because this dynamic is only going to increase."

Plouffe predicted that extreme views will win out and will hurt the GOP's chances to unseat President Obama.

"They are going to nominate candidates who I think are far out of the mainstream, particularly in a presidential year electorate, which is going to be larger and more moderate," he said.

Plouffe also talked about the role that the president, as well as Vice President Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama, will play on the campaign trail in the last month before the election.

"We're going to go where we think it can be helpful and where candidates think it will be helpful," he said.

Disputing the notion that the president's unpopularity will turn off voters, Plouffe said that anyone who will base their vote on a candidate being a Democrat or having ties to Mr. Obama or Pelosi has already made up their mind. The president, he said, can help rally Democrats to vote and increase the enthusiasm among base voters.

Like other top officials, including the president, Plouffe said outside spending reflects the "hijacking of our democracy." He said outside groups, which are predominately Republican-leaning, are not bit players in the election, but that "they are becoming the central financial actors in the 2010 election."

As for the chances of keeping the House and Senate in November, Plouffe said that the Democrats are making progress but need to continue that trajectory. He doesn't see another surge by the GOP in the last few weeks, though he admits Republicans are in a better position with independent voters than they were in either of the last elections.

Still, by the GOP's own standards there is a high bar for success, he said.

"By their definition, success is winning back the House, winning back the Senate and winning every major governor's race," Plouffe said. "When you've got winds this strong in your favor, that's the kind of election you need to have - or it should be considered a colossal failure."

Robert Hendin
Robert Hendin is a CBS News senior political producer. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter here.
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