updated 7/24/2006 10:28:28 AM ET 2006-07-24T14:28:28

Moderate Democrats think they have the key to winning back power in Washington and across the country - a package of economic proposals aimed at giving every American a shot at reaching the middle class.

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"We thought it was important and necessary to rekindle the American dream," said Gov. Tom Vilsack of Iowa, a potential 2008 presidential candidate and the chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, a centrist think tank.

Sadly, Vilsack said, many of America's children nowadays don't have faith in the idea of an American dream.

"They don't believe in the notion that somehow they're going to have a great life, and many adults are just hoping that their kids have it as good as they have it. Deep down in America's psyche that troubles a lot of us," he said.

American Dream Initiative
"I don't want to be part of the generation, the first generation in this country's history, to basically look my kids in the eye and say: 'Sorry. Hopefully you'll have it as good as we have it.' And, I don't think too many American parents want to have that conversation with their kids either," Vilsack said.

Additionally, the Iowa Democrat said: "We are a competitive nation. We don't like losing and if we're going to compete in the global economy, we're going to have to do things differently."

The centrist organization, best known for helping Bill Clinton secure the White House in 1992, was to unveil Monday its "American Dream Initiative," which lays out policies on education, health care, retirement and income.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, who led the yearlong effort and also may run for president, will outline the specific proposals in a speech to nearly 400 local elected Democratic officials from more than 40 states attending the organization's annual meeting in Republican-leaning Colorado.

The site underscores the organization's contention that the party must broaden its appeal and reach out to voters in rapidly growing areas of the country if it wants to win control of Congress this fall and the White House in 2008.

Mid-terms seen as first step
With congressional midterm elections little more than three months away, Democrats see an opportunity to reclaim the House and Senate from Republicans who have been in power for the past dozen years. By double-digit margins, a recent AP-Ipsos poll showed Americans more inclined to vote for Democrats than Republicans at a time of rampant federal spending, soaring gas prices and continued bloodshed in Iraq.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada, his counterpart in the House, Nancy Pelosi of California, and Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean say voters have a clear choice - more of the same under Republicans or a new direction with Democrats in charge.

But some critics within the party have criticized those leaders in Washington, saying they have failed to articulate a clear and detailed policy platform heading into the midterm elections. Some question whether Democrats need a document like the "Contract with America," which was credited with helping Republicans seize power in 1994.

The DLC's effort to create an economic agenda began a year ago, when Vilsack asked Clinton to lead the charge and solicit ideas from political, business, labor, civic and intellectual leaders across the country.

The result is what Al From, the founder of the organization, called "a set of ideas around which Democrats of all stripes can rally as we head into the fall election."

Still, he and other moderates are under no illusions that every part of the party, liberals in particular, will embrace the agenda. Said From, "My guess is that there are some people who will not be happy with the ideas."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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