Democratic congressional election review finds party lacked economic, pandemic recovery message in 2020

A group of Democratic advocacy groups that conducted a postmortem analysis of 2020 congressional elections concluded that the party’s lack of a core economic and pandemic recovery argument contributed to its losses in the House.

Democrats expected to expand their majority in the House, but the party only flipped three seats compared to the Republicans' 15. 

The findings, which were obtained by The New York Times, concluded that Republican efforts to brand Democrats as "radicals" were successful and that the party's "hopes for 2020 were just too high." It also found that the pandemic "affected everything," including campaign strategy.

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Campaigns that were not able to rely on virtual campaigning to speak to voters, for example, found that lack of canvassing due to the pandemic was a "critical factor in their loss of righter-than-expected margin," according to the study.

It also found that Democrats lacked the ability to reach voters of color and that polling remained a "huge issue" despite adjustments made after 2016, when the party lost the White House and both chambers of Congress.

“Win or lose, self-described progressive or moderate, Democrats consistently raised a lack of strong Democratic Party brand as a significant concern in 2020,” the report states. “In the absence of strong party branding, the opposition latched on to G.O.P. talking points, suggesting our candidates would ‘burn down your house and take away the police.’”
 
The groups who conducted the election review include Third Way, the Collective PAC and Latino Victory. 

On the party’s economic message, the group concluded that Democrats “leaned too heavily” on anti-Trump rhetoric instead of “harnessing a strong economic frame.”

A former member of Congress told the groups that Democrats focused too much on why former President TrumpDonald TrumpCheney says a lot of GOP lawmakers have privately encouraged her fight against Trump Republicans criticizing Afghan refugees face risks DeVos says 'principles have been overtaken by personalities' in GOP MORE was bad and not enough on why a Democratic majority would benefit voters.

“It was the lack of an economic plan that really hurt,” the groups wrote.

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Some campaign teams told the groups that the party did not have a message beyond "Donald Trump sucks," which may have led to split-ticket voting for Joe BidenJoe BidenPelosi sets Thursday vote on bipartisan infrastructure bill Pressure grows to cut diplomatic red tape for Afghans left behind President Biden is making the world a more dangerous place MORE as president and Republicans for down-ballot races.

When it came to the pandemic, they noted that a number of candidates, when discussing COVID-19, continued focusing on access to personal protective equipment, wearing masks and trusting science “without further connecting those issues to the critical necessity of re-opening the economy.”

Additionally, the study found that Republicans were at times successful in branding Democrats as “out of touch on the economy” because they prioritized messages about staying at home, while most working-class jobs cannot be performed remotely.

“People aren’t worried about health insurance when they don’t have jobs,” a former national Party official told the study.