With Republicans hiding from constituents over Trumpcare during the summer recess, Democrats in Congress are rolling out a positive message based on economics. Sort of, anyway.
Democratic leaders are zeroing in on a new mantra for their long-promised economic agenda: a “Better Deal.”
The rebranding attempt comes as Democrats acknowledge that simply running against President Donald Trump wasn’t a winning strategy in 2016 and probably won’t work in 2018 either. The slogan, which is still being polled in battleground House districts, aims to convince voters that Democrats have more to offer than the GOP and the self-proclaimed deal-maker in the White House.
But even as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi prepare a jobs package centered on infrastructure, trade and the minimum wage, some of their most vulnerable members are making other plans.
Several moderate Democrats facing reelection next year told POLITICO that no matter what leadership does, they’re preparing to craft their own pitch to voters. The ideological and political divides that gripped the party during the Hillary Clinton-Bernie Sanders primary wars are far from healed, and leadership may not find universal support for the left-leaning platform, particularly from those trying to defend seats in Trump-friendly states.
“Message has always been a challenge for Democrats, because it tends to get too convoluted and not very simple,” Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said in a recent interview.
“We ought to have a message already,” added Tester, a former chief of Senate Democrats’ campaign arm who is up for reelection in 2018. “I’m not sure we have a cohesive message. But we’ve certainly got one for Montana.”
Freshman Rep. Lou Correa (D-Calif.), who beat a progressive challenger to win his Orange County seat, which includes Disneyland, also declared his independence from leadership: “If the left and the right are going to have a certain message, I’m going to have my own message,” Correa said.
He isn’t alone.
Several lawmakers interviewed by POLITICO said the overarching lesson they learned from the 2016 election is not that Democrats need a more cohesive economic message. Instead, they say, they need to be able to run a strong campaign in spite of the national Democratic platform.
That’s not to say they won’t accept a new party plank if it materializes and fits their districts. But they’re not counting on it either.
“It would be helpful if there was a good national message, but the Blue Dogs do not count on that or rely on that,” said Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), chairwoman of the moderate Blue Dog super PAC. “If you have the right candidate, who’s a good fit for his or her district, that is what matters the most.”
But I was told that a unified, solidly progressive and left-leaning economic message would win across the country, including winning over Rust Belt, Midwest, Mountain West and Southwest voters in Trump states. I guess that's why Bernie won all the primaries outside of California and New York.
Instead, I see multiple Democrats announcing now that they are running on their own message. Why, it's almost as if Dems in conservative areas understand that bold liberalism doesn't work in places like Montana, Orange County, California or southern Arizona.
A one-size-fits-all economic approach doesn't work in every state, rather you need to smartly contest all 50 states with people who can win? That's crazy talk.