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Centrist Democrats Fret About National Security

Donald Lambro reports on concerns among “centrist Democrats” that the party’s attack on the Patriot Act and on the administration’s legal surveillance programs will hurt it at the polls in 2006:

These Democrats say attacks on anti-terrorist intelligence programs will deepen mistrust of their ability to protect the nation’s security, a weakness that led in part to the defeat of Sen. John Kerry, the Democratic presidential nominee, last year.

“The Republicans still hold the advantage on every national-security issue we tested,” said Mark Penn, a Democratic pollster and former adviser to President Clinton, who co-authored a Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) memo on the party’s national-security weaknesses.

Nervousness among Democrats intensified earlier this month after Democrats led a filibuster against the Patriot Act that threatened to block the measure, followed by a victory cry from Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, who declared at a party rally, “We killed the Patriot Act.”

Current polls show the Republicans with a ten-point lead on “which party can be trusted more to fight terrorism.”

One basic question is how many centrist Democrats still exist. My guess is that most of those who could legitimately be termed centrist, especially on foreign policy, have left the Democratic Party, or at least stopped voting for its candidates. The party’s leadership team of Howard Dean, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi must be the most extreme in modern American history. But I’ve seen no indication that their extremism hurts them with the party’s rank and file. So I don’t see much prospect that the Democrats’ leftward march will be halted; the question, I think, is whether they are marching off a cliff.

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