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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

At Politico, Ally Mutnick and Sarah Farris report that “House Democrats retrench as GOP money floods the map: The party isn’t airing ads in six of the 14 GOP districts Joe Biden carried in 2020, as it directs money to help incumbents under threat“, and write: “House Democrats’ panic has escalated this month as GOP outside groups continued to smash fundraising records. Despite high candidate fundraising, Democrats have been unable to respond with the same volume of money, and the party has struggled to free up the resources to attack potentially endangered Republican incumbents — a crucial part of their strategy, since they need to offset expected losses in more conservative Democratic-held districts….Democrats currently have just a 5-seat majority and already seem to be abandoning some tough seats that their incumbents currently hold in Arizona, Wisconsin, Texas and Michigan….“The No. 1 factor here is money,” said Tim Persico, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee….Altogether, national Democratic groups aren’t airing TV ads in six of the 14 Republican-held districts that went for Biden in 2020 — seats that are among the most important to contest. That includes the district represented by Garcia, who won in 2020 by 333 votes….On top of that, Republican outside spending is forcing Democrats to divert precious resources to what should be safe blue districts. Democrats’ top super PAC this week slashed a planned TV blitz in Los Angeles, which could have targeted Garcia, and Tucson, where Engel is running, to redeploy the money elsewhere….An infusion of about $20 million, according to one senior Democrat, could hold the House.”

Maddowblog’s Steve Benen rolls out a powerful rebuttal to the Republican’s attempt to blame the Democrats for rising crime. Here’s the first three nuggets from Benen’s 7-point rebuttal: “1. The evidence of soaring crime rates is dubious. The latest data from the FBI actually showed a decline in violent crime, and while there are legitimate concerns about the figures being incomplete, there are other recent reports pointing in similar directions….2. Republicans may need to take a long look in the mirror. As Dana Milbank explained in his latest column:

Earlier this year, the centrist Democratic group Third Way crunched the 2020 homicide figures and found that per capita homicide rates were on average 40 percent higher in states won by Trump than by Joe Biden. Eight of the 10 states with the highest homicide rates have been reliably red states for the past two decades. Republican-led cities weren’t any safer than Democratic-led cities. Among the 10 states with the highest per capita homicide rates — Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky, Alabama, Missouri, South Carolina, New Mexico, Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee — most were in the South and relatively rural. The findings were broadly consistent with other rankings of states (and counties) by violent crime.

3. The GOP seems awfully selective about its crime-related interests. Many of the Republicans trying to leverage crime as a campaign issue are the same Republicans who appear wholly indifferent to serious crimes such as the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and Donald Trump’s alleged felonies. Take Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, for example.” Read Benen’s post for more rebuttal points.

Is “Democracy itself is on the ballot” a good pitch for Democrats in the closing weeks of the midterm campaigns? At Randomlengthsnews.com,  Paul Rosenberg explains it like this: “Democracy itself is on the ballot this November: 299 election deniers are on the ballot—more than half of all Republicans running for congressional and state offices, according to an exhaustive investigation by the Washington Post. Some, like Jim Marchant of Nevada, are running to be Secretary of State, where they could block the will of the voters in 2024, just as Trump wanted in 2020.” I agree with Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. that “democracy’s future” is “the overarching question.”  But polls indicate that it may not be as powerful an issue for Democrats as abortion rights, and most polls indicate that inflation and related economic concerns remain the top priority for most voters. But those are national polls and the midterms are not one, but, hundreds of elections all across America. Perhaps the better question is, in which campaigns is “Democracy itself is on the ballot” a good messaging point.  Bear in mind that most voters who really care about election integrity are already more likely to vote Democratic, since Republicans have produced no credible evidence that Trump or any Republicans have lost votes to theft. There is value in making the GOP own its disrespect for democracy.  In particular states and congressional districts where Republican candidates are making election denial a big theme, the pitch may resonate well with some swing voters. And sure, Biden, Harris and other Democratic leaders should include it in talking points., but maybe not as the central theme in places where more voters are worried about inflation and abortion rights.

In his article, “Democrats Need to Make the January 6 Attack an Election Issue,” however, John Nichols writes at The Nation that “Democrats seem to be wrestling with whether to focus on what happened on January 6, 2021, as a 2022 election issue. Throughout this challenging midterms season, we’ve seen reports that, as an August Politico headline put it, “There’s a Huge Divide Among Democrats Over How Hard to Campaign for Democracy.” The article explained that “Democrats competing in elections this year have not been pressing the issue anywhere near as hard as other concerns.” In fact, political ads mentioning the insurrection accounted for less than 4 percent of all Democratic spending at the time, according to Politico….That’s a misguided strategy that needs to be rethought as midterm voting begins….Of course, there are other issues candidates must address—abortion rights, price gouging and inflation, the lingering effects of the coronavirus pandemic, and an increasingly unstable international circumstance. But to neglect the role that Trump-aligned Republicans have already played in assaulting democracy is political malpractice. Even if viewership of the January 6 committee hearings has waned since they began in June, the threat to democracy that they have illustrated remains very real—and very potent as a political issue with the voters Democrats need to mobilize in advance of the November 8 election….It’s the right thing to do. It’s smart politics. And a few Democrats have provided a template for how to get it right, by recognizing that, at a time when Republicans are pouring millions of dollars into TV ads that falsely paint Democrats as soft on crime and anti-police, Republican insurrectionists and their allies are vulnerable on these issues….In a midterm election where mobilizing the base is essential, January 6 is an issue that can move voters—if Democratic candidates are prepared to talk about it.”

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