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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Democratic Leaders Huddle for 2014

When the only two Democratic Presidents to get re-elected since FDR huddle with fellow Democrats on 2014 campaign strategy, it’s a good idea for those who would rather not see a Republican takeover of congress to start paying attention. Begin with Marshall Cohen’s CBS News post “Obama, Bill Clinton huddle with Democrats to plot 2014 strategy,” which sets the stage for the meeting, which begins today at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.
Cohen touches on some key concerns about the current political moment, including:

Democrats are in a precarious position right now: Mr. Obama’s approval ratings are sagging, and Democrats are fighting to hold onto the Senate. Some insiders have already given up on winning back the House.
Senate Democrats currently have a 55-45 majority, but they could lose that edge in November.
Top Republican targets include Sens. Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mark Begich of Alaska, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina. Democratic retirements in West Virginia, South Dakota, Montana and Iowa haven’t made the map any friendlier for the party as it tries to cling on to control.
“Republicans have no equivalently vulnerable incumbents up in blue states,” CBS News elections director Anthony Salvanto recently wrote. “In fact, none of the Republican seats (up for re-election), except Maine, are in states carried by President Obama.”

Holding the Senate, let alone cutting into the Republicans’ House majority, is a daunting challenge. Cohen’s emphasis on the negative political fallout of the Affordable Care Act seems a little overstated, since there are some very encouraging trends which could offset GOP messaging on the issue (see here, here and here, for example). On the other hand, he doesn’t discuss what may be the GOP’s biggest asset, the Koch brothers early money-bombing, which is well underway and has been cited in turning polls against Dem incumbents like Sen. Kay Hagan.
But Cohen does note what will likely be the Democrats’ strongest messaging point: “Meanwhile, top Democrats hope their new message of income inequality will strike a chord with voters this election cycle.” But Jackie Calmes has noted in the New York Times:

To Republicans, talk of income inequality smacks of class warfare and redistribution of wealth, of taxing the rich to give to the poor. They prefer to emphasize opportunity and upward mobility, and Democrats, too, have come to see that frame as more appealing to middle-class voters in this midterm election year.

Opportunity and upward mobility for the middle class is a solid aspirational theme for Democrats. But it shouldn’t distract Dems from the compelling need to call out the Republicans, loud and clear, for their all-out assault on the economic well-being of the middle class. Indeed, runaway economic inequality has become so grotesque that Democrats must make it a central theme of campaign 2014 until a critical mass of swing voters get it that today’s Republicans are united around one key goal — screwing working people to enrich the wealthy even more.

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