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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Democratic Brand Needs Focus

NPR political blogger Danielle Kurtzleben has a post up which will make Democrats wince and and Republicans cringe: “Democrats’ Brand Is Bad, But Republicans’ Is Way Worse.”
Kurtzleben explains that the Democratic Party’s “net favorability rating has fallen off steeply in the last few years, and it’s been negative or near-negative since 2010, according to multiple polls.” However,

The Republican Party is viewed more negatively than at any time in a generation. According to the Pew Research Center, the GOP currently has its lowest net-favorability rating since 1992, the farthest back that Pew has data on this question. (Net favorability is the share who see the party favorably minus the share who see it unfavorably.)
It’s not just Pew. CBS News in March also found the GOP’s unfavorability rating at 66 percent — the highest since the first time they asked that question, in 1984. Right now in that poll, the GOP is at negative-38 net favorability compared to Democrats’ negative-2.
NBC News has Republicans at negative-24 (27 percent positive, 51 percent negative) to Democrats’ negative-3 (38-41). (The GOP score is only a few points off from the party’s all-time low of 22-53 in the poll.)
Gallup likewise finds a similar pattern — plummeting GOP favorability which, while not at record lows, is currently mostly sticking below the Democrats’ numbers.

Kurtzleblen adds that the low favorability/approval figures cling to the candidates, as well. It’s difficult to determine whether the candidates or their parties are the collateral damage here, but it is an inextricable relationship.
On a positive note, one key difference is that Democrats are having a healthy internal debate, which holds the potential for improving the ‘brand.’ Sen. Sanders has elevated key issues, including Wall. St. reform, restoring unions and reducing the role of money in politics, as Democratic policy priorities.
Despite the GOP’s more severe image meltdown, Democratic Party leaders are understandably frustrated by their inability to sustain positive favorability and approval ratings for the party — even though they are the only party which has provided majority support for reforms that actually serve the needs of middle-class and low-income families.
Might one reason be that Democrats don’t really toot their own horn? Dems are pretty good at blasting the Republicans and their candidates in social media forums, but less effective on television, where the GOP seems to have more impact.
Having an entire network helps the Republicans, no doubt. As more and more Americans cut the cord, however, isn’t there an opportunity for Dems to create a heavilly-publicized streaming network that tells their story and explains, not just the historical achievements, but also the more recent accomplishments of Democratic leadership? These include private sector job-creation, deficit management, expansion of health care coverage, environmental protection and other needed reforms.
Dems might also benefit from a national ad campaign, not promoting candidates directly, but rolling out the legislative accomplishments — and proposals — of the party. Republicans, with their roots sunk deep in the advertising industry, have long understood that you have to assertively sell the product, regardless of its quality. It’s time for Dems to get that clue.
Dems don’t have to worry much about an improvement in the GOP’s bickering image, at least in 2016. But Dems do need a robust messaging program to improve their image, if the victories of 2016 are not rendered inconsequential by the next midterm elections.

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