Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, head of the Democratic reelection effort in the House, is warning his colleagues that if Dems don't start hitting back hard against the GOP on schools, abortion, race and immigration and other "culture war" issues, they are going to get wiped off the map in nine months.
Democrats’ own research shows that some battleground voters think the party is “preachy,” “judgmental” and “focused on culture wars,” according to documents obtained by POLITICO.
And the party’s House campaign arm had a stark warning for Democrats: Unless they more forcefully confront the GOP’s “alarmingly potent” culture war attacks, from critical race theory to defunding the police, they risk losing significant ground to Republicans in the midterms.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is recommending a new strategy to endangered members and their teams, hoping to blunt the kinds of GOP attacks that nearly erased their majority last election and remain a huge risk ahead of November. In presentations over the past two weeks, party officials and operatives used polling and focus group findings to argue Democrats can’t simply ignore the attacks, particularly when they’re playing at a disadvantage. A generic ballot of swing districts from late January showed Democrats trailing Republicans by 4 points, according to the polling.
It wasn’t all bleak, though: The data showed that Democrats could mostly regain the ground lost to Republicans if they offered a strong rebuttal to the political hits. When faced with a “defund the police” attack, for instance, the presenters encouraged Democrats to reiterate their support for police. And on immigration, they said Democrats should deny support for “open borders or amnesty,” and talk about their efforts to keep the border safe.
If Democrats don’t answer Republican hits, the party operatives warned, the GOP’s lead on the generic ballot balloons to 14 points from 4 points — a dismal prediction for Democrats when the GOP only needs to win five seats to seize back the majority. But when voters heard a Democratic response to that hit, Republicans’ edge narrowed back down to 6 points, giving candidates more of a fighting chance, especially since those numbers don’t factor in Democrats going on the offensive.
Many Democrats, led by DCCC chief Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), have pushed to more forcefully counter the GOP’s attacks since the last election. But that message has picked up new urgency as President Joe Biden’s approval has tanked in recent weeks, stoking more party anxiety.
The internal presentation underscored some of those anxieties: The GOP hits are most effective with center-left voters, independents and Hispanic voters, demographic groups that Democrats have struggled to attract in recent years.
The solution does not lie in policy proposals, the pollsters found, because voters are not generally opposed to Democratic policies. “Rather, Democrats need to demonstrate they fully understand and care about stressors in people’s lives” and focus on the issues “without stoking divisive cultural debates,” one of the slides said.
Summarizing the party’s midterm problems bluntly, the presentation notes that voters think Democrats “are not making good use of their majority.”