Leaderless and lacking a strategy, top party officials worry they’re not ready for Trump’s first 100 days.

By Gabriel Debenedetti
12/12/16 – 05:06 AM EST

As Donald Trump’s inauguration draws near, Democrats fear they remain woefully unprepared to fight the new president’s agenda.

The party loses its standard-bearer once President Barack Obama leaves office, and the Democratic National Committee won’t get a permanent chairman and staff until March, two months into the presidency. That Democratic power vacuum has raised concerns about the party’s ability to provide a united message — or even to stand up a centralized rapid response operation — for the president’s first 100 days in office.

Their worst nightmare is that Trump, ever the showman, will define his opening act with little unified resistance.

“It’s a very serious concern. I just went on TV twice today on Fox and MSNBC on the Cabinet appointments and I winged it,” said Bill Richardson, the former New Mexico governor and 2008 presidential candidate. “You need something right now. Trump every day is doing something outrageous. What do we do? Criticize everything he does? Hold back a bit? I know we need to develop an economic message but that’s long term. We need something now. Most of the Democrats I talk to are down, and they’re asking who’s in charge.”

Individual elected officials, led by Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Sherrod Brown, have already signaled their intention to put loud and sustained pressure on the president-elect through a series of speeches, statements, TV appearances, op-eds, and on social media. But they are doing so without the benefit of any party-wide communication about a coordinated message behind their Trump barbs — the kind of guidance and direction so recently provided by Obama or Hillary Clinton and her campaign surrogate operation. In some corners of Capitol Hill, senior senators have even taken to blindly calling advocacy groups in town, asking where they can find relevant opposition research against Trump’s cabinet picks.
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“The importance of these first few weeks is illustrated by my memory of the first few months of the Reagan administration, where radical change came so fast that it was difficult for opponents to know where to fight, which battles to pick,” said Rybak. “There’s a need to affect these issues immediately, and there’s also the related issue of how to re-position, how to be the party we need to be.”

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