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CT-04's Democratic challenger, Diane Farrell, took the national stage this morning when she gave the Democratic response to Bush's National Radio Address.

A couple of things really stand out for me in Farrell's statement today.

More over the flip.

First is Farrell's style. The Hartford Courant in their endorsement of her, called her "bright," "articulate," and "knowledgeable." Well, yes, of course she is all of those things, but perhaps even more important a quality in a politician is yet another adjective they used to describe her: "personable." This quality is on display not only in her speaking style, the way in which she speaks as though she knows you well, but also in the words she uses, the way in which she relates issues to things from her own life. She did this in her October 4th debate with Shays when she explained how she related to the Foley scandal because her daughter, at 16, had been a page, and did it again today.

In her address, she opened with the following:

This week, things got so bad in Iraq that George Bush compared it to the Tet Offensive - the battle that helped turn U.S. public opinion firmly against the Vietnam War.

In 1968, with the Vietnam War at its height, I was a teenager in Westport, Connecticut. We all remember the horrors of Vietnam. I also remember that because of failed policies in Vietnam, Americans rallied to change the leadership that took us down that wrong path.

And later, as she continued to hammer Bush and Shays on the war, she said:

When families here in Connecticut ask me about the billion dollars we spend every week in Iraq, I can't help but share their dismay. In fact, when my cousin was deployed to Iraq, I wrote him a check so he could buy better body armor. Families are doing everything they can to protect their loved ones because our government isn't.

Sure, it may be Politics 101 to tell personal stories to relate to the audience and make the issues resonate, but Farrell does it so effortlessly and without even the hint that she's being patronizing, the importance of this quality  can not be underestimated. We all know that people vote more with their hearts than their heads and in a district in which people may vote for Shays merely because they just really like him, Farrell's likeability may help put her over the top.

The second thing that stands out for me is that, well, Diane Farrell just gets it.

Back in August, The Courage Campaign and MyDD collaborated on a candidate memo for Democratic challengers to take what we learned from our polling in the CA-50th and apply it nationally.

Some of the recommendations:

Iraq must be central in your campaign and you must blame Republicans for it.

Oversight beats withdrawal

Pick a fight, any fight

And if there was one phrase that summed up the conclusions of the candidates memo, it would be as follows:

It's the accountability, stupid

So either Diane Farrell got the memo, or her instincts are just right, because her radio address this morning accomplished all of these things.

For Farrell, taking on the Iraq war head on makes perfect sense, of course, considering she is running against Chris Shays, Iraq war cheerleader and self-proclaimed Iraq expert having been there 14 times. She didn't need a nudge from us. What she does so smartly is not get boggeed down in "withdrawal" messaging, which we concluded was weak when confronted with "cut and run" meassaging. What  Farrell does instead is simply use "stay the course" against Bush and by extension, Shays.

We will be dishonoring the service men and women on the frontlines as well as their families here at home if we simply stay the course. We need a new direction in Iraq.

To be blunt, the president and the Republican Congress have been wrong on Iraq and wrong to keep their failed strategy. Even leading Republicans like James Baker and Colin Powell say it's time for a new policy.

My opponent has made 14 trips to Iraq and yet he too stubbornly supports the president's stay the course approach.

Unfortunately for our troops, "stay the course" is a slogan, not a strategy.

And what will the Democrats do?

Democrats will change the course in Iraq and we will focus our efforts on defeating the terrorists with policies that are both tough and strategic.

Now, in all fairness to Chris Shays, he has never used the term "cut and run" that I know of. In many ways, he remains above the shameful Republican attack politics fray. But Farrell smartly avoids using terms such as "phased withdrawal" or "redeployment" because they are murky and tend to make people nervous. Instead, this is how she puts her plan for success in Iraq:

we must turn Iraq back over to the Iraqis. My plan calls for benchmarks of success as Iraqis work to take care of their own country.

An arbitrary departure date could be dangerous but real goals for the new Iraqi government and its army are necessary. Iraqis need a system that reflects the vast cultural and religious differences among them.

The best thing about this message? She has been consistent on these points for as long as she's been running this race, something that can not be said for her opponent or, sadly, most Democrats.

Seriously, the national Democratic message machine could take some lessons from Farrell on this.

Another element of her message that she has consistently hammered away has been her call for Congress to exercise oversight and hold Bush accountable. Again, this was central to the conclusions of the candidate memo. Accountability language is central to Farrell's plan for what should be done in Iraq.

Democrats will do what Congress has failed to do - hold the president accountable. We will ask the tough questions and demand solutions that do right by our troops.

I have laid out a plan for Iraq. First, fire Donald Rumsfeld - he implemented a flawed policy, failed our troops and he must be replaced.

Second, Congress must finally do its duty of oversight so that we can provide our troops a strategy that reduces our role in Iraq and begins to bring service men and women home.

Interestingly, something else Farrell does is embrace establishment Democratic language, specifically, the slogan "new direction," something our memo had warned Democrats against. But Farrell makes it work because she puts it in context, specifically equating that "new direction" with "changing course," relating it first to the war and then more widely to the power structure in Washington.

Our troops deserve from their leaders in Washington, nothing short of a commitment equal to the dedication the troops bring to their duty every day. Instead they get a flat denial of the horrible reality. That is why we need a new direction in Iraq.

She continues the theme as she nears the end:

If we re-elect stay-the-course Republicans, the message we will be sending will be one of support for our current policies in Iraq.

If we replace them with Democrats who use realism to get results, the message we will be sending will be loud and clear: it is time for a new direction in Iraq.

And hits it out of the park in her closing paragraphs:

On November 7, you can send a message that it is time for accountability. On Nov 7 you can send a message that it is time for a congress that asks the tough questions, demands the honest answers. On Nov 7, you can send a message that it is time to honor our troops.

Changing direction in Iraq starts with changing the people we send to Washington.

Hell yeah!

Give Diane Farrell some love and help send her to Washington.

Originally posted to Todd Beeton on Sat Oct 21, 2006 at 07:17 PM PDT.

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