David Plouffe, who managed President Obama's 2008 campaign and is now an adviser with the Democratic National Committee for the midterm elections, said Thursday the intense media focus on "extreme" GOP candidates such as Tea Party favorites Christine O'Donnell, Sharron Angle and Rand Paul will boost Democratic turnout nationally.
"It's had an effect. It's one of the reasons Democrats are saying they are more likely to vote," Plouffe said.
His examples: More Democrats -- 84 percent in October compared to 75 percent in September -- say they will vote for Rep. Tom Perriello, a Virginia Democrat in a tough re-election battle. And with Angle challenging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada, more Democrats -- 82 percent now up from 75 percent last summer -- said they were now going to vote, Plouffe said.
With less than a month before the Nov. 2 midterms, and with early balloting kicking in, Plouffe painted an optimistic picture for Democrats during an afternoon session with political reporters at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington.
Why the optimism? Plouffe said there is enough time for Democrats to extract more support from their base and engage "persuadable" independents to vote Democratic.
"We understand we have some headwinds here," he said, adding, Republicans "have an easier task than we do. They are going to get turnout, no matter what they do or don't do."
Plouffe sidestepped a question about whether he will join the Obama administration next year to replace Senior Adviser David Axelrod, who intends to return to Chicago by Memorial Day.
Here are highlights from the meeting with Plouffe:
Setting the bar high for the GOP
Plouffe, in a pre-emptive move, set expectations very high for Republicans to claim victory on Nov. 2.
"By their definition, success is winning back the House, winning back the Senate and winning every major governor's race," Plouffe said."When you've got winds this strong in your favor, that's the kind of election you know you need to have -- or it should be considered a colossal failure. So that's their standard."
He was asked what the Democratic standard for success should be. Hold on to the House and Senate, he said.
"And there is a pathway to do that."
Tea Party pushing GOP to the right
The success of O'Donnell, running for Senate in Delaware, and others will impact the 2012 contests, Plouffe said. "This is the absolute tip of the iceberg." He added, "if you are a moderate Republican thinking of running for office in 2011 or 2012, you need to have your head examined. They are not going to do it because this dynamic is only going to increase." Republican moderates such as Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana or Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine could face conservative challenges. "You are probably going to see many Christine O'Donnells all over the country," he said. "And this goes from their presidential nominee all the way down to the local level."
Rove group, other GOP interests, 'hijacking' democracy
Plouffe condemned the influence of GOP-allied special interest groups bankrolling Republican contests, targeting the Karl Rove-backed American Crossroads and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
"These are not just bit players in the election. They are becoming the central financial actors in the 2010 elections. One example: Colorado. The outside spending is double that (if you look from August 10 to now, so the last two months), double that what the Democratic and Republican nominees for Senate have spent. Colorado's not the only place, and it's only going to increase.
"So what's really happening out there is really a hijacking of our democracy. And this deserves an enormous amount of scrutiny. Why won't they disclose? Is there foreign money? Who are the wealthy individuals, who are the corporate interests, and why are they giving?
"I think our candidates have been spending a lot of time on this, the president's talked about this, we're going to continue to raise this. We think this deserves a lot more scrutiny."
Jobless rate won't impact midterm outcomes
Asked about new jobs numbers to be released on Friday, Plouffe said the high unemployment rate will not have a major impact on the midterm results with undecided "up for grabs" voters.