Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Return Of The 50-State Strategy

DNC Chair Tom Perez makes the strong argument that in the Trump Era, all GOP seats should be considered "in-play" and that Democrats should leave no federal or state seat uncontested.

"Democrats can compete and win everywhere," Perez told "This Week" co-anchor Martha Raddatzin an interview Sunday. "That's what we showed last week not just in New Jersey and Virginia, but in mayor's races and state senate races."

Democrats won governorships in Virginia, with the victory of Ralph Northam, and New Jersey, where Phil Murphy came out on top.

Perez said it is the first time since 2005 that Democrats won the governor's office in both states.

It's about time, too. Dems can and should fight on the issues, and if they do, they win.

Raddatz asked the DNC chair about a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll showing that 61 percent of Americans say Democratic leaders are mainly criticizing Trump, not presenting alternatives.

Perez countered that the party's candidates led with "our values" in the 2017 elections.

"We were leading with our values in Virginia and elsewhere. We talked about health care a lot because health care is a right for all, not a privilege," he said. "The number one issue for voters in Virginia was health care. They understand that the Republicans are trying to take their health care away.”

We already know what the Democratic alternative to Trump is, we saw eight years of it and Trump is doing his dead-level best to eliminate it.   For Democrats to take back the House and Senate, that means candidates who can win in redder districts, and that means backing military veterans.

"There's no doubt that veterans have unique qualifications and experiences that give them important credibility with Democrats, independents and Republican voters alike," Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman Tyler Law told ABC News.

Party officials acknowledge that when they were looking for strong recruits to replenish the Democratic party bench this year, their teams often sought candidates with military experience. But, they argue, veterans have also stepped up in droves and decided to run on their own since the presidential election last year.

The DCCC expects 30 or 40 of its candidates next year will be veterans, a major uptick from recent cycles.

VoteVets, an organization that supports Democratic candidates, told ABC News they recently hired additional staff to handle the increased number of calls from veterans who are thinking about running for office. The group’s co-founder, Jon Soltz, said the DCCC reached out to his group early on, despite the fact that the two organizations have not always seen eye to eye. In 2014, VoteVets backed Rep. Seth Moulton’s, D-Mass., campaign against a sitting Democratic incumbent. This year, though, the two teams are meeting monthly to review the status of veteran candidates’ campaigns.

“This was an equation that worked for Democrats in 2006,” Soltz told ABC News, referring to the last time the Democrats won back the majority in the House. “People trust a veteran as a messenger. They are running because they want to continue to serve their country. They can talk to working class Americans where the Democratic party is struggling.”

You have only to see how Donald Trump treats the US military -- as his personal plaything -- to see why veterans are stepping up to run against the GOP.  Here in Kentucky that means folks like Lt. Col. Amy McGrath.

McGrath offers a pretty standard Democratic response to GOP tax cuts (“fiscally irresponsible and in my opinion just morally wrong”) and attacks on the Affordable Care Act (from which Kentucky has benefitedimmensely). But she packs some surprises, too.

The most important may be McGrath’s unusually positive message on American government. As a Marine, she toured the world (“except for the nice places”), living in tents in Afghanistan, Kuwait and Kyrgyzstan. After looking around, she thinks American democracy isn’t as swampy, dysfunctional and broken as it's advertised to be.

“The concern I have is this constant bashing of our institutions, of our principles, bashing the government itself,” she said. “Trust me, I’ve been to countries where there’s no government. And our government’s pretty damned good.”

We can make American governing institutions better, she said, "but we can’t make them better if nobody wants to go into them because we’re bashing them.”

She’s similarly concerned that core American principles are being undermined by attacks and indifference. “Our constitutional principles, which you can say, ‘Well, they’re on a paper and they’ll never be taken away.’ Folks, we have to fight for those every day. Freedom of the press -- you think that can’t go away? OK. Maybe.”

McGrath is mounting her first campaign systematically, pragmatically, balancing fundraising against other concerns. She has kept her distance from Emily's List, the financial engine that powers the campaigns of many Democratic pro-choice women. I thought that might suggest unorthodox Democratic views on abortion; I was wrong.

“I’m one-hundred percent pro-choice. I align with everything Emily's List aligns with,” she told me.

Then why isn’t she raking in the pro-choice dough?

“I don’t want to be tied to a litmus test,” McGrath said. “I don’t want to be tied to any national interest like that, where people can say, you’re just a puppet.”

I wish she was running here in KY-4 against Thomas Massie, but I'll take her winning KY-6 back. Like it or not, being the Emily's List candidate in Kentucky isn't a good thing.  We have to have Dems that can win so we can get the majority in order to make policy if we're going to have any hope of redeeming the government after Trump.

We need more of this.  A lot more.  And I'm glad we're getting it.

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