“They got what they ordered, didn’t they?” : Democrats seek midterm message at party meetings
By Eric Bradner, CNN
At rallies in Washington and Philadelphia this week, President Joe Biden sought to rally Democrats around a midterm message that the party delivered on its national promises. What Democrats need to do, he and other senior party officials say, is make sure Americans know what they’ve accomplished.
But he also admitted at the House Democratic retreat in Philadelphia on Friday that making that point to voters is no easy task.
“The American people who are just trying to stay above water don’t understand that,” Biden said. “You tell them about the US bailout, and they say, ‘What the hell are you talking about?'”
Biden’s candid remark offered a window into why Democrats, who already face economic and historical headwinds heading into November’s midterms, have struggled to unite around a message to make the case for maintaining their narrow majorities in the House and Senate.
With their Build Back Better agenda on ice, a war in Europe commanding the White House’s attention, and rising inflation and gas prices emerging as the dominant economic concerns of Americans, the Democrats find themselves with little momentum and limited ability to steer the national political conversation towards more favorable conditions. ground.
Party leaders are frustrated with how little credit they are getting for embracing a massive economic stimulus and infrastructure package, overseeing the distribution of coronavirus vaccines to hundreds of millions, and delivering on Biden’s promise to appoint the first black woman to the Supreme Court.
They argue that Democrats’ record in the first 14 months of Biden’s administration stands in stark contrast to Republicans, who have so far built their midterm message around opposing Biden rather than a vision of what the GOP would do if it won control of Congress in November. Republicans need a net of five seats to win back the House and one seat to retake the Senate this fall.
“Our job is to show people that in many ways they got what they ordered, right?” Vice President Kamala Harris said Saturday at the Democratic National Committee’s winter meeting in Washington. “They said it was what they wanted. They were in line. They took time to work. It was tough. And a lot of what they asked for, they got.
Momentary in neutral
Any momentum from Biden’s early economic successes was siphoned off when the Democratic-led Congress spent months unsuccessfully trying to reach a compromise on Biden’s Build Back Better plan that would have included much of his policy agenda. climate and social. The White House has since dropped the Build Back Better brand — it was absent from Biden’s State of the Union address and nowhere to be found at the retreat in Philadelphia or the DNC rally in Washington.
Democratic efforts in Congress to pass suffrage legislation in response to a series of restrictive new election laws passed in GOP-controlled states have stalled amid disagreement over at least partial elimination of the obstruction of the Senate.
And rising inflation and rising gasoline prices — problems Biden blamed on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — have taken precedence over other voters’ economic concerns.
“The overarching message of, yes, Biden has moved the country forward — shots in the arm, money in the pocket, improved unemployment numbers — it’s all true,” said Jane Kleeb, president of the Nebraska Democratic Party. “What’s also true is that people like concrete things that they can get their hands on nationally as well as locally.”
She pointed to the expiration of the $300-a-month child tax credit and rising gas prices being more tangible for voters.
Kleeb said she urged White House aides to take an ‘offensive message, not a defensive message’ on gas prices, and in particular defending Biden’s decision to revoke the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. . Republicans, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, have used Biden’s decision to claim he is responsible for rising gas prices. Kleeb said Democrats need to make the case that Biden’s Keystone XL decision protected property rights and that building it wouldn’t have changed gas prices.
“What’s on the shoulders of President Biden and the DNC enhances the overall brand of Democrats,” she said.
Other DNC members also pointed to rising gas prices as a major impediment to selling the party’s economic achievements.
“We need to clear up this assumption that President Biden is the reason the gas is going through the roof,” said Felesia Martin, Wisconsin Democratic Party Vice Chair and Milwaukee County Supervisor.
“There is so much going on. Two years of Covid, extending into a third year, multiple variations, and it’s impacting everyone economically and on the home front with education. They won’t take the time to assimilate all the great things Democrats have done and are doing,” she said. “That’s the major challenge for all of us.”
Focus on the GOP
In Washington this week, Democrats attempted a 2022 messaging plan by pointing to recent actions by two GOP senators — Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Rick Scott of Florida — in an attempt to open up old campaign playbooks against the Republicans on personality, taxes and health care. The 2018 Democratic midterm wave was driven by a relentless focus on President Donald Trump’s unpopularity, the GOP’s failed efforts to overturn the Affordable Care Act, and the 2017 tax cuts backed by the Republicans.
On a call with reporters, DNC Chairman Jaime Harrison pointed to Johnson’s comment in a recent Breitbart interview that Republicans should continue to seek to repeal Obamacare if they take control of Congress in November. and the White House in 2024.
Harrison also pointed to the recent 11-point plan released by Scott, who chairs the Republican National Senate Committee, the campaign arm of the Senate GOP. His plan included a proposal that said, “All Americans should pay income tax to get their hands on the game, even if it’s a small amount.”
“Republicans have finally made their agenda crystal clear,” Harrison said. “Thanks to Senator and NRSC Chairman Rick Scott and Senator Ron Johnson, we know exactly what the Republican economic agenda is. It’s for higher taxes, higher health insurance premiums. And they have absolutely no plan to reduce prescription drug costs or anything else in this country.
Johnson has since backtracked and Scott’s plan drew a stern rebuke from Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who said Scott’s plan “wouldn’t be part of our agenda.”
Still, Michigan Senator Gary Peters, chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, said, “Without a doubt, this is going to be a big deal, given that this is part of their platform. And each candidate will be asked about their position on this as we move forward.
“I think people don’t want to go back to the days when Republicans were focused on the wealthiest people in this country and the very profitable corporations that are continuing to raise prices right now,” Peters said.
Kleeb said Democrats should contrast Republicans’ focus on cultural issues at the state level. Florida state lawmakers have passed a bill that would ban certain instructions about sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom, which critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. . In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott has ordered that gender-affirming surgical treatments and hormone therapy given to transgender youth be investigated as “child abuse.” And a number of Republican-led states have advanced measures that would ban transgender youth from participating in school sports teams that match their gender identity.
Democrats have also planned an effort to lock in Republican midterm candidates to more controversial GOP figures, including Trump, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Abbott and Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida.
However, similar efforts to tie entire parties to their least popular figures in the opposing party have failed in recent elections. In 2018, the GOP tried to tie Democratic candidates to Nancy Pelosi — but still lost control of the House. In Virginia’s gubernatorial race last year, Democrats tried to cast Republican Glenn Youngkin as a version of Trump with what Biden called “a smile and a fleece vest” – but Youngkin won anyway .
Still, Biden told DNC members Thursday night that the party needed to find a way to recoup its energy from the 2018 and 2020 election cycles that were pro-Democrats.
If the party loses control of Congress in November, the president said “it will be two sad, sad years” until the 2024 election.
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