Budowsky: Dems' secret 2018 weapon

Budowsky: Dems' secret 2018 weapon
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The secret weapon for Democrats in the 2018 elections, if they make the most of it, is that there will be races for governor in 36 states, 26 of which are now run by Republican governors.

Democrats should begin — today — the largest early stage recruitment and fundraising operation in modern political history to find first-rate candidates to run for governor and seats in Congress.

Democrats can stage a dramatic comeback in the 2018 midterm elections by starting — now — to compete aggressively for and win many of the governorships that are currently held by Republicans and to effectively coordinate this campaign with House and Senate Democrats to create a rising tide that lifts all Democratic boats.

States now governed by Republicans that will hold elections in 2018 include Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Florida, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, Georgia and Texas.

Most of these states are definitely winnable for Democrats. In other states a strong long-shot candidate for governor would help defend Democratic senators running for reelection and elect new Democratic House members.

President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Republicans push Mulvaney, Trump to rescind Gateway funds Pruitt spent K flying aides to Australia to prep for later-canceled visit: report Rosenstein told Trump he is not a target of Mueller probe: report MORE, like most new presidents, could face difficult midterm elections in 2018. This creates the possibility of Senate Democrats successfully defending their large number of incumbents running for reelection, House Democrats gaining a substantial number of new seats, and Democrats winning blockbuster victories in gubernatorial elections that would set the stage for the 2020 campaign and the next reapportionment.

Democrats choosing a strong new chairman of the Democratic National Committee is crucial and likely. The DNC could become a political hubcap working in concert with the Democratic Governors Association, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for large-scale fundraising and aggressive candidate recruitment.

A brief word about issues. The progressive populist platform that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonJustice to provide access to Comey memos to GOP lawmakers Justice Dept inspector asks US attorney to consider criminal charges for McCabe: reports 'Homeland' to drop Trump allegories in next season MORE and Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSanders, Warren, O’Rourke inspire patriotic small donor waves Bill Press reflects on Clinton, Sanders and a life in politics Overnight Health Care: GOP pushes stiff work requirements for food stamps | Johnny Isakson opens up about family's tragic loss to opioids | Republicans refuse to back vulnerable Dem's opioids bill | Dems offer new public option plan MORE agreed to at the Democratic National Convention should have been the basis for much stronger support throughout the Rust Belt and from female, Hispanic and black voters whose support fell short for Democrats on election day.

What went wrong was that Clinton, guided by many of the same consultants who guided Obama when Democrats lost control of the Senate and House, never offered a cogent and exciting message to voters. Hope was not offered against hate, only competing negativity.

Clinton’s campaign was thoroughly dominated — to the virtual exclusion of everything else — by negative attacks against Trump by her personally and through costly and ineffective negative campaign ads. There was no vision, no inspiration, no idealism, no expression of hope, no promise of change, no spirit of mission that would persuade undecided voters or inspire base voters.

Second, there was ignorance and arrogance from consultants to both Obama and Clinton who believed that in a “new America” there was a “new coalition” that excluded many Americans. Amy Chozick in The New York Times recently wrote about how Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonFamily, friends mourn death of Barbara Bush Dems press for hearings after Libby pardon The Hill's Morning Report: Hannity drawn into Cohen legal fight MORE pleaded with Hillary’s Brooklyn campaign managers to appeal to white working-class and rural voters. They refused.

I repeatedly wrote that Clinton should quote Pope Francis and appeal to Catholic voters, many of whom live in Rust Belt and heavily Hispanic states. Team Clinton refused.

Going forward, opposing Trump, there is a powerful new sense of mission among Democrats, who will support aggressive fundraising that will help drive high quality candidate recruiting.

Democrats should create — beginning today — a massive 2018 victory fund at the DNC. Clinton and Obama donors, with strong support from the Clintons and Obamas, and the Sanders army of small donors, with strong support from Sanders, can create a huge war chest ready for battle.

This war chest would empower an unprecedented recruitment drive for first-rate candidates for governor and Congress who would know, while deciding whether to run, that they would receive huge financial support, if they run.

Mission, focus, organization, determination — from the Rust Belt to states with fast-growing Hispanic populations — this is the secret weapon for Democrats, if they wield it. 

Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Contributors blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.