DNC looks to rebrand after losses in ’14 midterms
Reeling from its midterm losses last year, the Democratic National Committee is planning a multiyear strategy to recapture Democratic seats downballot by reworking its messaging, easing ballot-access restrictions in several states and by playing an active role in redistricting.
During the Obama administration, the Democrats have lost 11 governorships, 13 U.S. Senate seats, 69 House seats and 910 state legislative seats. A Gallup poll measuring trends in party affiliation since 2004 found 29 percent of Americans identified as Democrats in October, compared to 38 percent in March 2009 after Mr. Obama first took office.
Members of the DNC group that put together the report, dubbed the Democratic Victory Task Force, deflected any criticism of the president’s policy or agenda as the reason for the losses, placing an emphasis on voter turnout instead.
“Democrats are like cicadas: They only come out every four years,” said strategist Donna Brazile, a member of the task force. “We need them to come out every year like it’s the World Series.”
Indeed, 2014 midterm election turnout was the lowest in 70 years, when 36.5 percent of eligible voters went to cast their ballot. The plan aims to better support local parties as they are the ones that get out the vote, said Debbie Wasserman Schultz, DNC chairwoman.
To help drive turnout, the DNC has bolstered its funding to its state organizations by 50 percent, Amy Dacey, the DNC’s CEO, said. It’s also sending tactical teams to help local groups expand their infrastructure, with a focus on helping them develop voter expansion programs to educate individuals about how, when and where to vote, and by encouraging online voter registration initiatives.
Redistricting is also going to be a major focus of the task force. The report recommends the DNC work with organizations like the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) to win state governor’s races so the party can influence redistricting measures, making them more favorable to Democrats.
The redistricting efforts will be focused on at least 18 states where governors can play an outsize role in influencing the redistricting process. The effort could net Democrats an extra 44 seats in the House if all goes according to plan, according to the DGA.
Messaging is also a key focus of the DNC’s report — delving into what it means to be a Democrat, with clear wording that cuts through an opponent’s rhetoric.
“The narrative project that we’re in the middle of at the moment, we can in relatively few words tell people exactly what it means to be a Democrat and effectively communicate that to people,” said outgoing Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, who led the task force. The goal is to make it so strong, it won’t be “drowned out by the static that Republicans have been successful in creating, that tends to get people voting against their own interests.”
Kentucky may have fallen victim to that “static” this year, when Republican outsider Matt Bevin shocked his Democratic opponent to become the next governor of the state.