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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Those Amazin’ Red State Dems

With all the attention being paid to the presidential race, something remarkable is happening down-ballot that should cheer Democrats.
There are, according to all the experts, eight highly competitive Senate races underway.
Every single one is in a state (AK, CO, SD, OK, LA, FL, SC and NC) that cast its electoral votes for George W. Bush in 2000. Several are in states Bush carried by landslides.
Yet Democratic candidates are currently ahead or statistically tied in every damn one of them (In LA, nobody knows who’s ahead until the December runoff begins). And a grand total of one of those candidates (Tom Daschle of SD) is an incumbent.
In an off-year for gubernatorial races, Dems are heavily favored to win in WV and NC; favored in MT; and even bets in NH, IN, MO and UT.
Even if the presidential election map winds up looking a lot like 2000, Democrats are showing they can remain competitive in tough territory, with the right candidates and message. This should give pause to those who believe Democrats should give up on such territory and simply become the loud ‘n’ proud Blue State party. So long as we have fifty governors and state legislators (who in turn control U.S. House redistricting), and each state has two senators, such a strategy will consign Democrats to minority status for the foreseeable future.
Moreover, nearly all of the Democratic Senate and gubernatorial candidates we’re talking about –along with most of the Democrats running in competitive House districts–are by any measure centrist, New Demish candidates. This should give pause to those who believe that the party can or should turn hard left to build a majority.
The Democratic Party is and will probably continue to be a broad progressive coalition, not a narrow ideological cult like the GOP is becoming (despite the illusion of inclusiveness it cultivates at its national conventions). But winning a majority will always require a serious effort to compete everywhere, and a determination to command the high, center ground of American politics.

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