Democrats blame messaging for their political problems
Democrats say they’ve done a lousy job at highlighting their accomplishments in a year plus of unified power in Washington, and are blaming this on the possibility they will suffer major losses in November’s midterm elections.
“Look, I’m not going to BS. We’ve done a f—ing horrible job and sometimes I think we deserve to lose big in November,” said one Democratic strategist. “Democrats can say whatever they want but it’s not honest.
“The narrative here doesn’t exist,” the strategist added. “We need to wake up fast.”
Strategists aren’t the only ones giving Democrats poor marks. Earlier this month, Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, said Democrats need to do a better job touting their achievements.
“I’m not quite sure what the disconnect is between the accomplishments of the administration, and this Congress, and the understanding of what’s been done, and the impact it will have on the American public, and some of the polling and the ongoing hand-wringing,” Clinton said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
She said the party has “a good case to make if we get our focus in the right place to do it,” arguing Democrats have “a lot of good accomplishments to be putting up on the board. And the Democrats in office and out need to be doing a better job of making the case.”
At a White House event last week marking the 12th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, former President Obama offered similar advice when asked by a reporter for his message to Democrats worried about the midterms.
“We got a story to tell, just got to tell it,” Obama said as he left the East Room.
President Biden’s approval ratings have hit a new low in polling. A CBS News-YouGov poll out on Monday showed Biden’s approval dropping to 42 percent, with 58 percent of those surveyed saying they disapprove of Biden’s job as president.
It’s quite a fall from March 2021, when Biden had a 62 percent approval rating despite the polarization of the 2020 campaign.
Some Democrats are baffled at Biden’s low numbers given what they think is a list of robust accomplishments. They list the coronavirus relief bill passed in March, a bipartisan infrastructure bill and the recent confirmation of Ketanji Brown Jackson, who will be the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.
They also highlight an economy that continues to create jobs, and the improving state of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Such successes have been drowned out by other issues: Inflation, including a negative report showing prices rising 8.5 percent on Tuesday; the withdrawal from Afghanistan, when Taliban troops took over Kabul while the U.S. was exiting; and the sour public mood from the pandemic.
Biden’s ability to tout a domestic agenda is now challenged by his administration being consumed by Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Since the start of the year, he’s only done one sit-down interview, a stunning fact for some White House observers.
The president picked up his domestic travel this week, appearing in Iowa on Tuesday to discuss his administration’s efforts to address inflated gas prices.
On Thursday he’ll head to North Carolina to discuss his domestic economic agenda, which the White House argues would help lower costs for families.
The administration is making an effort to put other officials on the road as part of a “rural infrastructure tour” during the month of April.
Biden and other Democrats have tried to drive home the number of jobs being added to the economy, with another 431,000 added in March and unemployment at 3.6 percent.
But inflation concerns have won the headlines.
“The problem is that voters would rather feel that the economy is improving than read about it. And in this hyperpartisan environment even if the statistics tell you you’re doing better, you’re not going to give Joe Biden credit for that,” said former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Steve Israel. “Which means Democrats have a message marathon, not a sprint. They’ll be forcing votes on core economic issues that force a contrast and that contrast will be drawn in potent thirty second ads in the midterm election this fall.”
Polling released Tuesday from the left-leaning Navigator Research found that 58 percent of voters say the Democratic Party is paying too little attention to economic issues, while 44 percent said the same of Republicans.
Democrats are hoping to get a boost from Jackson’s confirmation, in which Biden fulfilled a key 2020 campaign promise.
The question is whether even Democrats excited about Jackson will feel excited about Biden’s role. “Saturday Night Live” jabbed at the president’s accomplishment over the weekend in its cold open.
“So that’s one campaign promise down and only 74 to go,” said SNL’s James Austin Johnson as Biden in the Oval Office.
Ben LaBolt, the Democratic strategist and former Obama White House aide who helped shepherd Jackson through her hearings last month, acknowledged that with the pandemic and supply chain causing a surge in prices, “it’s a challenging time for leaders around the world.”
“Their approval ratings have been impacted,” LaBolt said. “At the same time, President Biden has taken many significant actions to curb the pandemic, boost the economy, put Americans back to work at a historic pace, while keeping core campaign commitments, like confirming the first Black woman to the Supreme Court in history.”
“While the president continues to take action to pass policies that will bring down the cost of living for Americans, the time is now for Democrats to communicate every day, through earned and paid media, the major accomplishments of the first 15 months of this administration and the more catastrophic crisis that was averted,” he added.
Democratic strategist Rodell Mollineau, who served as a spokesman for the late Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), said many consultants think it’s “tone deaf” to boast about accomplishments at times of crises.
Still, he recalled Reid traveling back to Nevada every week to talk about his accomplishments. “And he won his race,” in 2010, when he was in the marquee Senate race against Sharron Angle. “So say what you want.”
Mollineau said Democrats need to stop complaining that they haven’t been able to check off everything on their to-do list “and start talking about what has been done.”
He said they also need to “start rallying around the president because if his numbers are soft, then that’s going to affect the midterms as well.”
“And for once, row in the same direction,” he added.