Party chairman tries to rally wary Democrats


WASHINGTON -- It is trendy to say that America's swift war victory means the 1992 campaign is already over and President Bush has won re-election.

But that conclusion, argues national Democratic Chairman Ronald H. Brown, is sheer "foolishness" and "stupidity."

Mr. Brown was working overtime yesterday to try to boost his party's battered spirit at the Democratic National Committee's winter meeting here.

"I want us to hold our heads high," he said three times in advising Democratic state chairmen to look beyond the bleak numbers in recent polls.

Although the Democratic presidential campaign has yet to begin, the party's strategy for challenging Mr. Bush seems clear, if not especially original. It amounts to hoping that public excitement over the U.S. triumph in the gulf will be replaced over time by increased concern about bread-and-butter issues at home.

"Frankly, I think there's been much too much attention to polls taken in February and March of 1991 and then extrapolating them to November of 1992," Mr. Brown told members of the party's executive committee.

National opinion surveys, taken in the aftermath of the gulf triumph, show Mr. Bush and his party at record heights of popularity.

Mr. Brown downplayed the significance of polls taken 19 months before Election Day, while using those same surveys to point out that public disapproval with Mr. Bush's handling of the economy remained high.

"This administration has no domestic agenda. Zero. None," Mr. Brown said.

One index of the Democrats' desperation is how often party leaders are looking to past political miracles to bolster their claim that all is not lost for 1992.

One of their favorite examples, cited again yesterday by Mr. Brown, is the way President Harry S. Truman's poll ratings

nose-dived following World War II. From a record high in the weeks after Nazi Germany surrendered, Mr. Truman's approval rating fell 50 points in 18 months; the year before the 1948 election, which he won, his popularity was at a near-record low.

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