By Michael A. Memoli
2:28 PM EDT, November 3, 2011
Occupy Wall Street is not likely to have the kind of effect on Democratic politics that the "tea party" movement has had in the GOP, a leading Democratic strategist said Thursday.
Still, you can expect to hear Democrats focusing on some of the issues that have driven the nationwide gatherings, at least in Senate races in 2012.
"Part of the reason I think the Occupy Wall Street movement is popular is because there is a general frustration with the growing income disparity in this country," Guy Cecil, the executive director of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, told reporters at a breakfast gathering hosted by the centrist think tank Third Way.
"This frustration exists far beyond just the folks that come out ... for Occupy Wall Street. So I do think that our candidates will talk about income disparity, talk about the level playing field."
Cecil, who is tasked with helping the party hold its narrow 53-47 majority in the Senate, pointed to the initial strength of Elizabeth Warren's campaign in Massachusetts as an example of the potency of the Occupy message, calling her the "right candidate at the right time."
Warren, who set up the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and is now running against Republican Sen. Scott Brown, has said that she "created much of the intellectual foundation for what they do."
"Whether they go to an Occupy Wall Street rally, that'll be up to them," Cecil said of Democratic candidates. "But I think the message of income disparity, of how do we make sure that working families and middle class families have a chance ... is going to resonate in almost every state."
The tea party movement had a profound effect on the 2010 midterm elections, most notably in Republican Senate primaries where candidates such as Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell scored upset wins.
Cecil said the dynamic is still alive in 2012.
"I'm not going to call anybody a witch -- except Christine O'Donnell. But I do think that the tea party in Republican primaries have moved their party so far to the right," he said.
The Occupy movement, meanwhile, has initially made the point that it does not want "to be co-opted or organized" in political races, Cecil said.
A new Quinnipiac survey released Thursday showed neither movement had wide support among voters nationwide. Occupy Wall Street is viewed unfavorably by 39% of voters, compared with 45% who view the tea party movement unfavorably.