One declared and one possible candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination warned liberal colleagues Saturday the party can't win the White House if it continues to drive away moderates and business interests.
Former Sen. Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts said Democrats must look beyond President Bush's postwar popularity to find the trouble."The problem in 1992 is not the Persian Gulf. We lost five out of six (campaigns) before then," said Tsongas, who is considered a long shot. "The problem is the American people do not trust us to run the economy."
Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, who has formed a committee to explore the potential of making the race, said Democrats must be seen as a party that doesn't cave in to special interest groups.
"The question is whether we can speak to those issues that a majority of the America people identify with," Wilder said.
"Not as the party of tax and spend, not as the party of soft on crime, not as the party of special-interest groups to the extent that you cater to, or are captive to, or held hostage by," he said.
The two commented during a meeting of the Coalition for Democratic Values, which was formed by the party's liberal wing. Coalition members worry that electoral disasters in past presidential races will force the party to a more conservative stance.
With such a goal in mind, the Democratic Leadership Council, made up mainly of southern Democrats, meets Monday in Ohio. Wilder also will speak to that group.
The message of Tsongas and Wilder to party liberals was that it's time for a change.
Tsongas said he was worried about forces in the party that "would take us into emulating the British Labor Party, that would be purist, purist, purist - and lose.
"I have no interest in that," said Tsongas. "Winning is better than losing."
Wilder, making his first swing through Iowa since forming his committee, said "fiscal discipline and common sense" should be the basis for a Democratic campaign.
Tsongas said economics would be the major message of his campaign and changing voters' feelings about Democrats his biggest challenge.
"The Democratic Party has to put forward ideas and concepts and realities to convince the American people we can run the economy," Tsongas said. "If we don't do that, they'll never trust us with the White House, they will never trust the Democratic Party with running the country."