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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Tomasky: Dems Should Make 2014 the Vampire-Slayer Election

From Michael Tomasky’s “Democrats’ Best Weapon for Midterms: Fear of a Red Senate Control of the Senate depends on turnout in November. Democrats need to tap what scares their base most: fear of an unrestrained GOP.”:

You’ll read a lot about Obamacare and the minimum wage and the War on Women and everything else, and all those things will matter. But only one thing really, really, really matters: turnout. You know the lament: The most loyal Democratic groups–young people, black people, single women, etc.–don’t come out to vote in midterms in big numbers. You may dismiss this as lazy stereotyping, but sometimes lazy stereotyping is true, and this is one of those times.
So how to get these groups energized? Because if core Democratic voting groups turn out to vote in decent numbers, the Democrats will hold the Senate. Two or three of the six will hold on, the Democrats will prevail in the end in Michigan and Iowa, and either Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky or Michelle Nunn in Georgia will eke out a win. Or maybe both–if Democratic voters vote. And if not? Republicans could net seven, eight.
The other side will be motivated: They’re older, white, angry that Obama continues to have the temerity to stand up there and be president, as if somebody elected him. This will be their last chance to push the rage button (well, the Obama-rage button; soon they’ll just start pushing the Hillary-rage button). But what will motivate the liberal side?
I call this the vampire-slayer election…

Tomasky explains that Democratic strategists are embracing Michael Bennett’s 2010 victory in Colorado, along with the wins of Heidi Heitkamp in ND and John Tester in MT in 2012 as a rough template for beating tea party surges in tough states. He adds that every voter in 10 targeted states “will be given two scores on a scale of 1 to 100: a support score and a turnout score. So if Molly Jones in Paducah is a 58 likely to support the Democrat and 38 likely to turnout, she can expect a lot of contacts from field operatives this fall.”
Tomasky applauds the strategy and the impressive investment in money and manpower Dems are planning for those ten states. But he argues that the time is ripe for a fear-driven campaign — one that reminds potential Democratic voters of how bad the Supreme Court could get if Republicans take over the senate and force Obama or the next president to nominate timid moderates or worse for upcoming vacancies. Ditto for other federal judgeships.
If that doesn’t shiver your timbers,

Picture the mad Darrell Issa having a counterpart in the Senate to launch baseless investigations. It’s one thing for the House to be banging on about phony IRS and Benghazi scandals, but the Senate doing it is another matter entirely–far more serious. You really think a Republican Senate won’t? And I haven’t even gotten to regular policy. You think a GOP House and Senate combined won’t try every trick in the book to pressure Obama to fold on Social Security and Medicare?

It is a scary scenario. some pundits have commented that a GOP senate takeover wouldn’t be so bad because Obama and/or the next Democratic president would still have the veto, and the Republicans are not going to get enough wins to override. But the Supreme Court is a pivotal factor for any Democratic strategy, especially checking the power of a highly-politicized conservative court majority. Letting it get worse would be a prescription for disaster, especially for African Americans, Latinos, women, unions and low-income workers.
Sure, Democratic candidates need a positive message. But the vampires smell blood, and their funders are already spending lavishly in support of the GOP senate campaign. Dems should have zero tolerance for the argument that a Republican senate takeover wouldn’t be so bad. As Tomasky concludes, “Democrats need to make their base voters see vividly the potential consequences of a GOP Senate majority and live in mortal fear of it. That and $60 million just may stem the tide.”

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