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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Sargent: How Dems Can Leverage Economic Policy Concerns

Greg Sargent’s “Will the ‘Trump economy’ save the GOP? Here’s the Democratic strategy to prevent that” at The Plum Line offers some insights Democratic campaigns should consider. He cites two major challenges Dems face:

The first is the difficulty of puncturing their message about the economy through the din of press coverage of other matters, especially child separations and the Russia probe and Trump’s reaction to it. This isn’t to say that Democrats are at a disadvantage on those issues — the opposite is very likely the case — but rather that in addition to winning the argument about those things, it is also a crucial ingredient that their message about the economy get heard. “Unlike Russia and immigration, voters won’t hear about this as much in the press,” the memo concludes, “meaning Democrats must continue to carry the message in paid media and on the campaign trail.”

The second big challenge Democrats face is that it isn’t clear voters will necessarily base their choices on personal perceptions of the economy, rather than on general perceptions of it. A recent Post-Schar School poll found that 57 percent of voters rate the economy as good or excellent, including 58 percent in battleground districts.

Thus, the imperative for Democrats is to get voters to base their choice instead on their personal experience of the economy, as well as on specific Republican policies that would slash the safety net, particularly on health care (an area where Democrats are stronger). Of course, many Democrats are already trying to do this. As Margot Sanger-Katz reports, Democratic candidates around the country are stressing health care, crucially by asking audiences how many of them suffer from preexisting conditions, thus personalizing the issue, which is essential.

So when you see Democratic candidates trying to stress voters’ personal experience of the economy and the health-care system, and highlighting specific Trump/GOP policies on both fronts, this memo helps shed light on the thinking behind it.

Sargent makes an excellent point that health security is a central economic concern of millions of voters, who are understandably very nervous about the GOP’s lack of a coherent alternative, as well as Republican opposition to coverage for preexisting conditions. Democrats have been given a potent gift in the GOP’s total failure to improve the ACA, despite their House and Senate majorities and the presidency, and they should work it to brand the Republicans as incompetent, as well as elitist. Do read the rest of Sargent’s article for a thoughtful perspective on Democratic strategy in the months ahead.

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