Democrat confusion: American voters like the issues they talk about, but not always the party itself
Conversations with top Democrats at the retreat also suggested they are better at naming popular issues than devising a coherent strategy for shaping them into winning campaign strategies.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters that most Americans support her party's agenda for women. It includes better childhood education, affordable childcare and "equal pay for equal work." But Pelosi demurred when asked to explain why, in light of that, Democrats aren't on a stronger track in midterm elections.
"This is about policy, this is about people," she said. "We'll leave the third P, politics, to another day."
Democrats disagree on how to discuss the growing divide between high-income earners and middle-class workers whose wages have largely stayed flat for many years. One top Democratic lawmaker, who would discuss the sensitive issue only on condition of anonymity, said he is incensed when his party's candidates denounce "income equality," because many voters see it as contrary to the American dream of advancing and benefiting from hard work.
Yet Biden jumped right in Friday. "They talk about the fact that we shouldn't be talking about income inequality," he told House Democrats. "I think it would be a sin if we didn't talk about income inequality."
When he was elected to the Senate in 1972, Biden said, "a CEO made about 25 times more than the lowest-paid employee." Now, he said, it's 240 times greater.
Democrats also showed divisions on which GOP-blocked initiatives to highlight later this month. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., called on Democrats to start a "discharge petition" to try to force House Republican leaders to bring a Senate-passed immigration bill to a House vote.
But Pelosi announced this week the Democrats' discharge effort will focus on a bid to raise the minimum wage instead.
Any successful discharge petition would require Democrats — who hold 200 of the House's 435 seats — to stay united and to gain nearly two dozen Republican signatures, to reach a majority.
That's a tough goal in a chamber controlled by Republicans, who say they are confident about November's elections, no matter how often Democrats say the public is on their side.
Associated Press Director of Polling Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report. Follow Charles Babington on Twitter: https://twitter.com/cbabington.
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