Steve Grossman, a former chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and a possible candidate for Massachusetts governor in 2002, last night urged Harvard Democrats to emphasize big themes but concrete ideas for the 2000 cycle and beyond.
Grossman, a longtime supporter of and aide to Vice President Al Gore '69, said the presidential race between Gore and Texas Governor George W. Bush would likely be a "bloodbath."
"This election will be incredibly ugly," he told the Harvard College Democrats during an informal discussion in the Adams House Junior Common Room. Grossman predicted that Gore would win the election.
He said the Democratic Party will likely devote most of its fundraising dollars toward campaigns in the House of Representatives this year. Democrats need a net gain of five seats to take control of the body, which has traditionally functioned without cross-party coalitions.
Young voters, he said, may prove the key to victory in tight races.
"Virtually every close election in Massachusetts has been decided by College Democrats or young Democrats," he said.
Referring to Jesse Ventura's capture of the Minnesota governorship and John S. McCain's campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, Grossman said successful candidates would be those who make themselves accessible to voters.
Their campaigns "proved that a lot of people will come out and vote for a candidate who is authentic," he said.
But Grossman, who took over the DNC amid historically low voter participation, a sea of campaign finance scandals and deep debt, said that the key to higher turnout is cleaner politics.
Last night, he elaborated on several proposals he supports, most of which are standard fare for Democratic politicians.
They include public financing of national elections, voting on Saturday and Sunday, elections conducted entirely by mail and Internet voting.
"We need to look at voting as if it was a consumer product," he said.
Putting him somewhat at odds with party officials in the Commonwealth, Grossman said the scheduling of so many primaries so early in the election season has harmed the process.
"These presidential primaries bunching up all the delegates don't give the American people a chance to look at the candidates for a long period of time," he said.
Still, he said, Bill Bradley's challenge to Gore has made the vice president a stronger candidate for the general election.
In order to win big this year, Grossman said that Gore has to do more than just gain the support of minorities and other traditional Democratic constituencies.
"Bill Clinton and Al Gore were elected by American women. [Gore's] challenge is to do far better with woman that he has done to date," he said.
Discussing Bush, Grossman predicted that the Democratic Party would emphasize the governor's staunch opposition to gun control legislation.
"We need to take those issues and wrap them around George W. Bush the next seven and a half months," he said.
Grossman has been rumored as a candidate for the 2002 Massachusetts gubernatorial election in recent weeks. A profile this week in the Boston Phoenix quoted senior state Democrats as saying he was an attractive option.
Grossman did not address the article, though he did refer to himself as a "potential candidate for office in 2002."
If he does decide to run, he will likely face opposition from one of a number of Democratic officials--including State Senate President Thomas F. Birmingham '72 and State House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran.
Though Grossman has not held elected office, he does have an impressive array of connections within the Democratic Party, said Marc Stad '01, president of the Harvard College Democrats.