At The Daily 202 James Hohmann explains why “Even sweeping the suburbs would not be enough for Democrats to win the House majority“:
To win the House majority in the midterms, Democrats will need to make big gains with suburban voters, defend incumbents in rural districts where President Trump remains popular, topple a handful of Republicans in the Sun Belt and probably win a handful of seats that still aren’t on anyone’s radar.
That’s a formidable challenge for Democrats, almost as difficult as Trump’s upsets in rust belt states last year. What makes it even possible is Trump’s increasingly unhinged behavior that, sooner or later, will cause at least some of his supporters to conclude that, maybe it’s time to check his power, and Republicans don’t seem to be up for the job.
Hohmann goes on to note that Republicans now hold 23 House seats in districts Clinton won. “But some of the incumbents are very popular, with brands that are distinct from Trump’s, and they are unlikely to lose no matter how bad the headwinds become.” In addition, writes Hohmann, “Democrats must defend 12 seats in districts that Trump carried in 2016.”
Hohmann cites a Third Way study of 65 potential ‘swing districts’ that fell into four basic categories, including “Thriving Suburban Communities, Left Behind Areas, Diverse/Fast-Growing Regions, and Non-Conformist Districts.” The study underscored the demographic complexity of the districts and concludes that there are simply not enough suburban districts where Democrats have credible chance to win, “even if they could get every single 2016 Clinton voter who backed a Republican House candidate to turn out again in 2018 and cross over.“
The study concludes, further, that Democrats simply have to convert some Trump voters, which is a challenging goal, considering other studies which indicate that most Trump voters still support him, despite mounting evidence that he is being manipulated by Putin, almost daily revelations of his lies and blundering comments that alientate U.S. allies abroad.
“There is palpable concern among moderate Democrats that the party will squander precious pick-up opportunities in the midterms,” notes Hoihmann, “and even allow Trump to get reelected in 2020, by nominating unelectable liberals.” The key to Democratic victories next year, according to Third Way is “ideological diversity to take back legislative seats that were lost during the Obama era at the federal and state level” — the exact opposite of the robust populism many progressive Democrats are advocating.
The argument about whether a populist or centrist messaging strategy is better for Democrats in the 2018 midterms is not going to be decided by Democratic Party leaders. Instead, it will be decided mostly by two basic factors, the beliefs, determination and skills of the individual Democratic candidates who run and what the voters do on election day. Campaign consultants and strategists can help candidates get elected. But the candidates themselves have to provide the passion and commitment that can inspire voters.
It will be interesting to see if the winning Democratic candidates of 2018 are more in the progressive or centrist tradition, or perhaps somewhere in between, or even sprinkled across the ideological spectrum. The morning after the election is when the debate about whether a left or centrist message is better for Democratic candidates in 2018 can be credibly evaluated.