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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Should Democratic Messaging Toughen Up for the Midterms?

At Gallup, Jeffrey M. Jones reports, “In Gallup polling throughout the first quarter of 2021, an average of 49% of U.S. adults identified with the Democratic Party or said they are independents who lean toward the Democratic Party. That compares with 40% who identified as Republicans or Republican leaners. The nine-percentage-point Democratic advantage is the largest Gallup has measured since the fourth quarter of 2012. In recent years, Democratic advantages have typically been between four and six percentage points.” Further,

Gallup routinely measures U.S. adults’ party identification and the political leanings of independents. In the first quarter, 30% of Americans identified as Democrats and 19% were Democratic-leaning independents, while 25% were Republican identifiers and 15% Republican-leaning independents. The vast majority of the remaining 11% were independents with no partisan leanings.

The latest figures were measured as President Joe Biden was inaugurated despite rioters’ attempts on Jan. 6 to disrupt the certification of his victory in the 2020 election. The first quarter also saw a steady decline in U.S. coronavirus deaths and infections from its early January peak, a great expansion of COVID-19 vaccinations, and the passage of a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

Jones notes that Democrats have enjoyed an even larger advantage during the Bush II and Clinton presidencies. Jones adds that “The 44% of Americans who identify as political independents, whether they subsequently express a party leaning or not, is up from 38% in the fourth quarter of 2020 and is above 40% for the first time since 2019.”

In light of the Democratic edge in party identification, Republicans did very well in U.S. House elections, as well as state legislatures. A new study “Way to Win” found that “Republicans spent a lot more money on casting Democrats as extremists than Democrats did in making the case against Republican extremism, as Greg Sargent reports. “Republicans spent more than 10 times more on ads with the words “extremist” and “radical” than Democrats did. Republicans spent $51 million on such ads, while Democrats spent $3.4 million….Overall, Republicans spent more than $87 million on ads with one or more of the following words in it: “AOC,” “Ocasio,” “Pelosi,” “socialism,” “socialist,” “defund,” “radical,” “extremist,” “extreme.”….GOP ads were more likely to use words with “emotional punch,” such as “taxes,” “radical” and “jobs,” while Democratic ads featured words like “insurance,” “voted” and “work.”

Talking up bipartisanship may have served Democrats well in electing Biden, and possibly Biden’s coattails helped Democratic senate candidates Ossoff and Warnock in GA. But the softer tone may be a liability for Dems in 2022 House and Senate races.

In his article “GOP Image Slides Giving Democrats Strong Advantage” back in February, Jones reported on an earlier Gallup poll and observed that “The tumultuous end to the Trump presidency appears to have harmed the image of the Republican Party. The GOP now faces a double-digit deficit in favorable ratings compared with the Democratic Party.”

Clearly, Democrats are on the right track in pressing the case for a thorough investigation of the January 6th riot, which Trump encouraged and all but a few Republican leaders refuse to condemn. Democrats have a wealth of video showing Trump supporters committing violence, destroying taxpayer-owned property, and leveraging it to remind midterm voters about the GOP’s grotesque hypocrisy regarding law, the Constitution and democracy should give Dems a big edge in branding their adversries.

2 comments on “Should Democratic Messaging Toughen Up for the Midterms?

  1. Anthony F Greco on

    For decades during the Cold War Republicans with some effectiveness hammered Democrats and the left with the mostly false charge of softness on communism. I’d like to see the Democrats take a page from that playbook and make softness on right-wing extremism a major political issue. This time the charge of abetting extremism, aimed at the opposing party, would be more than fair.

  2. Michael Brennan on

    Couldn’t we Democrats win more often if we share the story of a fellow American who’s suffering or dead for lack of health care — and we assure this will never happen again? Shouldn’t we act as President Biden spoke — assuring health care is a ‘”right for all”?
    We pledge allegiance to a nation “with liberty and justice for all.”
    Imagine how good we’ll feel if we prevent more suffering and death for lack of health care!


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