Democrat playbook opened to criticism
Leaked page reveals push to use tactic of 'pre-emptive strike'
By Peggy Lowe, Rocky Mountain News
October 15, 2004
Democrats got caught with their election playbook open Thursday when a leaked page was published urging operatives to lodge a "pre-emptive strike" of claiming voter intimidation, whether it's true or not.
Gleeful Republicans quickly called a press conference after the page from The Drudge Report went online, in which they denounced "a new low in gutter politics" that "played the race card."
"They want to rile up the minorities to denounce tactics that do not exist," said Ted Halaby, chairman of the Colorado GOP.
Halaby said it was "a criminal act to falsely allege something that does not exist." He called on the state Democrats to "denounce and renounce" the manual's teachings.
But Democrats, who verified as authentic the page from a playbook called "Colorado Election Day Manual: A detailed guide to voting in Colorado," said they must be pro-active to assure that minorities and all others are not scared away from the polls.
Sue Casey, head of the Kerry-Edwards Colorado campaign, said the Republicans are also happy to plant a negative story to detract from what reporters should be writing about.
"Look what we're talking about today instead of the fact that George Bush lost three debates and is fading, instead of not having health care, instead of having a disaster in Iraq," she said.
The manual, at http://www.drudgereport.com
, instructs operatives to hunt for Republican scare tactics that could keep voters from the polls. Democrats have claimed for decades that the GOP does that because low voter turnouts generally help Republican candidates.
"If no signs of intimidation techniques have emerged yet, launch a pre-emptive strike," rule No. 2 says.
Then, the manual says the operatives should issue a press release "reviewing Republican tactics used in your area or state." They should also quote "party/minority/civil rights leadership as denouncing tactics that discourage people from voting."
Indeed, a press release from the Colorado Democrats on Wednesday looked straight out of the playbook.
After Secretary of State Donetta Davidson and Gov. Bill Owens, both Republicans, said anyone caught defrauding the voter registration process would be prosecuted, the Democrats shot out a statement decrying Davidson's and Owens' remarks as "voter intimidation."
The release also quoted two minority elected officials: Rick Garcia and Michael Hancock, both city councilmen. But Casey said she first saw the playbook on Thursday morning, the day after they had issued the press release.
"The first time I saw it was today after reporters called. We sort of looked at each other and said 'Gee, we did all the right things,' " she said.
But Casey also defended what she had said in the Wednesday statement, saying Owens and Davidson sent a message to voters that said, "be careful . . . If you are found ineligible you won't vote."
The Democrats message is much different, Casey said.
"We believe in democracy," she said. "We believe every person who is eligible should be able to vote. We think we should send the message: be confident. If you're eligible, go vote."
Late Thursday, Owens dismissed Casey's charge, telling a group of President Bush backers at a gathering at the Denver Diner that Casey was simply playing by the Democratic playbook. He said he's highly concerned about news reports about people registering to vote dozens of times.
"We're not trying to intimidate anybody," Owens said. "I'm encouraging Coloradoans to go to the polls. I want it to be a fair and honest vote, not skewed by somebody who registered 35 times."
What the document says
A page from the Democrats' "Colorado Election Day Manual: A detailed guide to voting in Colorado" appeared on the Drudge Report.
• Chapter 2 says: "If no signs of intimidation techniques have emerged yet, launch a pre-emptive strike."
• Operatives are directed to issue a news release "reviewing Republican tactics used in your area or state."
• They should also quote "party/minority/ civil rights leadership as denouncing tactics that discourage people from voting."