Somewhere when John Kerry was in the middle of a run-on sentence, psychologist Drew Westen wrote Message Handbook for Progressives From Left to Center, a how-to guide to change liberal rhetoric to make in sound appealing to people in the center of the country. With Republicans perched on wedge issues like gay marriage and abortion more than ever, the book redefines how to con people into having dinner with Bill Ayers. Westen's strategies might be making a difference in close races across the country.Emory University professor Westen crafted Message Handbook for Progressives From Left to Center because, he says, he wanted "to rebrand progressives using language that's as evocative as the language of the other side, and stop using phrases that just turn people off." If the resulting document — which the Times reports is a must-read for all Democratic operatives — makes you think of Karl Rove's taint, that's probably a good thing:

To think this whole time we were half-stepping left when we should have been pivoting. Damn! Like Rove's brilliant way of framing fringe issues, Westen's book is a must-read in how not to let the right convince voters to vote Republican based on any of those pesky constitutional amendments. The Obama campaign doesn't officially use Westen's book, but he's made an impact in other areas:

Bill Jones, a moderate Democrat in a conservative, wealthy section of suburban Atlanta, said talking to Dr. Westen had helped him make the decision to run for Congress against the Republican incumbent, Representative Tom Price. Among other recommendations, Dr. Westen encouraged Jones to make his background as an Air Force veteran a prominent part of his biography. "It wasn't a contrived approach like 'how can we create a persona?' " Jones recalled. "It's 'be the person you are.' "

You can see how Jones uses the approach in this campaign commercial. A Psychologist Helps Repackage the Democrats' Message [NYT]