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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Charlie Cook takes a gander at the upcoming midterm elections and makes the case that “Idiosyncrasies of Senate Races Could Play to Dems’ Advantage.”  As Cook writes, “With only a third of the chamber’s seats up in any election, the Senate is a different ball game, its dynamics far more idiosyncratic than those in the House….Fewer races overall (and fewer still of the competitive variety) also means that unique circumstances and events in a single state can have a huge effect on which party is gaining or losing Senate seats, or for that matter, capturing, losing, or holding a majority. That is how Presidents Nixon and Reagan could win 49-state reelection victories while their party had a net loss of two Senate seats the same night, and how Democrats could score a net gain of 40 seats in the House in 2018 while suffering a net loss of one Senate seat that same night. A year ago, Democrats lost 11 seats in the House while gaining three Senate seats….With the likely matchups determined in only three of those nine states at the moment, neither side has a natural advantage. Who will face whom in those other six, which party will nominate strong candidates or more-problematic ones, matters a huge amount….So Democrats’ hopes in the Senate remain alive, but they could use some help from former President Trump and his party faithful. Trump could split the party badly in his efforts to purge the GOP of any elected officials who have not pledged and exhibited sufficient fealty to him. GOP primary voters could also nominate exotic candidates who can’t win swing districts and states, much as they did during the tea-party movement in 2010 and 2012.”

Although Democrats certainly need a project to rebuild their ‘brand,’ there is probably not enough time to do much of it for the midterm elections. That may be more of a two, or three-cycle project. It is a hell of a lot harder to ‘rebuild’ a brand than it is to trash one, and Republicans got the jump on Democrats in mining that insight. But that doesn’t mean the Democrats can’t return the favor with an all-out campaign to discredit the GOP, as well as their candidates. It’s not like the Republican brand is all that beloved among the white working-class (non-college) voters who are about 44 percent of the national electorate (and more in key swing states and districts); it’s that a great many of these voters see Democrats as condescending elitists who talk big, but rarely deliver. Part of that perception comes from the Democratic failure to persuasively claim very real legislative accomplishments. But a lot of it comes from snobbery by some Democrats who still think of their political adversaries as “deplorables,” and it shows. Nonetheles, many Republican office-holders have serious weaknesses, including corruption (insider trading, financial mismanagement, nepotism, cronyism etc.), extremely weak track records as sponsors of enacted legislation, and few Republican senators or House members are endowed with impressive personal appeal. Their party’s image is ripe for a well-executed takedown — regardless of the President’s approval ratings or public attitudes towards the Democrats.

But the data thus far suggests that Democrats may not get much traction from increased anger toward Trump and his supporters because of their involvement in the January 6th failed coup attempt. As Kyle Kondik esplains at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, “What the numbers suggest to us is that….the political effect appears to be fleeting….Trump’s overall standing with the public, though not strong, is roughly the same now as it was right before Jan. 6, 2021. Trump remains a force within the Republican Party, probably the favorite for the party’s 2024 presidential nomination if he decides to seek it, and the Republican members of Congress who backed his impeachment are vulnerable within their own party. Retaking the House and the Senate are very much on the table for Republicans later this year, and indicators such as 2021’s election results and voter registration trends are broadly positive for them….Now, it may be that the electoral environment for Republicans would be even better had Jan. 6 not happened — although it is also possible that the outrage over the 2020 election that Trump has manufactured is actually helping Republican motivation. We also do not know what new revelations about Trump, either through the House’s investigation of Jan. 6 or otherwise, may emerge, and whether those revelations will be the thing that fatally undermines Trump’s position in a way that previous revelations have not….But as of now, it does not appear as though there have been lasting, negative political consequences for Trump and Republicans because of Jan. 6.” By all means, Dems should leverage public anger about January 6th. But the other Republican failures may provide a better target for Democratic ads and messaging.

If anyone needs a fact-studded refresher briefing esplaining “How we know the 2020 election results were legitimate, not ‘rigged’ as Donald Trump claims” for your crazy uncle, Daniel Funke has a good one at USA Today. Some excerpts: “The November 3rd election was the most secure in American history,” the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and its partners said in a November 2020 statement. “There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes or was in any way compromised.”….Trump’s own attorney general, William Barr, said in early December 2020 that the Justice Department had “not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election.” Biden won the presidency with 306 electoral votes, which Congress certified in January 2021 after the Capitol riot….”Nothing before us proves illegality anywhere near the massive scale, the massive scale that would have tipped the entire election – nor can public doubt alone justify a radical break when the doubt itself was incited without any evidence,”  Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate’s top Republican said in his address to the chamberbefore it was evacuated during the Jan. 6 insurrection….Dozens of lawsuits by Trump and his allies aimed at overturning the election, some of which inspired misinformation about results in contested states like Nevada, failed. The Supreme Court refused to take up several cases challenging results in battleground states that played a key role in the outcome of the election….In those battleground states, numerous audits and recounts have affirmed Biden’s win:

Funke provides detailed sources for all of the bebuttal points.


3 comments on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. J. P. Green on

    Begin with an in-depth poll of five thousand voters, plus some focus groups, who say they dislike the Democratic Party. Ask them a series of questions to find out: why they feel that way; when they started to dislike the Party; the intensity of their dislike; openness to changing their opinion; if they have any Democratic friends; how much of their opinion is influenced by friends, family and media; which media they get most of their news from; which issues influence their opinions; which future initiatives would improve the Party’s image; and what, if anything, is better about the Republican Party. Once the data is collected and assessed, then design a campaign using influential media and including short ads, videos and a half-hour documentary targeting those who dislike the Democratic Party and focusing on the party image, not particular candidates. Ask the DNC to support it. But, if they won’t, get other sources to finance the project.

    • Martin Lawford on

      Your design for the proposed research would be an ideal guide to the rebranding effort you say the Democratic Party needs. Yet, if the DNC will not support it financially, that is because they feel no need for the rebranding project. Therefore, I predict they would ignore the study’s conclusions if funded from other sources. “Not invented here.”

  2. Martin Lawford on

    J.P. Green, if the Democratic Party needs a project to rebuild their brand, what would that project look like and how would you get the DNC to support it? After the party lost the Senate in 2014, Chairman Wasserman-Schultz led the Democratic Victory Task Force to plan how to remedy the party’s electoral weaknesses but from all I can tell the party’s leaders ignored their report.


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