Many around the blogosphere are tossing around ideas for Democrats to adopt. Here is my contribution.
1. Most people don't realize the extent to which biblical language permeates Bush's speech. While Bush rarely cites chapter and verse, he regularly co-opts often quoted verses to make points. A couple of examples...
i. Arguing that his policies have been good for the environment, Bush said in the second debate "I guess you could say I've been a good steward of the land." Did that strike you at the time as a bit of an awkward formulation? Its a biblical term: the parable of the good steward is Luke 12:41-48 and the parable of the unjust steward is Luke 16:1-13. Paul also bandied the term around in his epistles. Its extremely widely used among evangelicals.
ii. Arguing for lack of American involvement overseas in the 2000 Presidential debates, Bush argued that "the United States cannot be all things to all people." This, of course, is straight from Paul's rant in 1 Cor 19:20-22.
My point is that commonly used evangelical language pervades Bush's speech, and the church-going crowd recognizes this.
I am not, however, saying that Bush is good at this. He is not. His feel-good wishy-washy adaptation of Christianity is something that is routinely mocked and denigrated among evangelical audiences( see here for example).
Democrats should use this language. It would take very little effort and it would make the party's appeal to the church going crowd - that economic justice and fairness is something they should vote for - so much more natural.
2. Message consistency.
George W. Bush said very little about what his second term would look like. He put forth no new plans. He made no policy proposals. But every day, he said, over and over again, that John Kerry is a flip flopper.
I don't want to second guess Kerry here, but I would have ran the campaign differently. Every challenger needs to present plans & proposals to show how his administration would be different, but I would never have invested as much time and energy in it as Kerry did.
Rather, I would have based the campaign around a single theme: Bush lied. Every day, I would have had Kerry say something that revolved around Bush lying. Where are the weapons of mass destruction? Where is the connection to Al Qaeda? Where is the balanced budget Bush promised? Where is the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem? Where are the carbon controls Bush promised in 2000? And so on.
In Kissingers words, this charge "has the added advantage of being true." There are lots of Bush lies out there that would have made for great material. And given the WMD flap, this is a very believable charge. It would have been a good strategy - no?
In the future, Democrats should try to organize their campaign around a single, simple well-understood point this way.