DNC looks to re­brand af­ter losses in ’14 midterms

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY KELLY RIDDELL

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.

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