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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Dems’ Midterm Prospects: ‘You Dont Agonize, You Organize’

The headline of John Harwood’s New York Times article, “Democrats Scramble to Stave Off Midterm Disaster,” may be more New York Post than Grey Lady, but his post does provide some interesting observations, including:

With its sophisticated voter identification and mobilization programs, the 2012 Obama presidential campaign produced a more Democratic-leaning electorate than many Republicans had thought possible. In 2014 battlegrounds like North Carolina and Colorado, vulnerable Senate Democratic incumbents hope to capitalize on the results of those efforts the way Terry McAuliffe did in winning the Virginia governorship last year.

Articles are appearing every day emphasizing what a difficult terrain Dems face 2014. the cumulative effect adds up to a discouraging “we’re really screwed this year” meme. In addition to Dems’ GOTV advances, however, there are also significant demographic trends and issue advantages that argue for the possibility of a precedent-breaking opportunity, as Harwood concedes:

Democrats have some offsetting assets. One is continued growth among the nonwhite population; exit polls from the 2010 midterm election showed that the white share of the electorate declined to 77 percent from 79 percent in 2006, even amid a House Republican landslide.
Mr. Obama’s party can try to motivate Hispanics by blaming Republicans for blocking immigration legislation, and women by blaming Republicans for blocking equal-pay and early childhood education legislation. While Republicans attack the new health care law to motivate their base, Democrats can warn young voters that repealing it would kick young adults under 26 off their parents’ insurance plans.
More broadly, Democrats can try to alarm supporters by exploiting the Republican Party’s long-running image of being out of touch on economic problems and intolerant on issues like same-sex marriage. Those perceptions only increased during the government shutdown last fall. “The Republicans have given us a bunch of things to work with,” said Geoffrey Garin, a Democratic pollster…Democrats see their biggest opportunity to stem the turnout decline among unmarried women. Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to help by campaigning this fall.

Harwood concludes with marching orders for Dems from DCCC chair Rep. Steve Israel: “When you’re looking at historic trends, you don’t agonize, you organize.”

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