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The real lessons of 2022 and what it means for 2024

President Biden
Greg Nash
President Biden speaks during a rally for Maryland Democratic candidate for Governor Wes Moore at Bowie State University in Bowie, Md., on Monday, November 7, 2022.

Sen. Raphael Warnock’s (D-Ga.) monumental win in the Georgia runoff was a fitting capstone to a historic midterm election cycle where Democrats outperformed all expectations. It seems analysts and pollsters missed a surge of voters who were motivated to protect democracy and abortion rights — which saved the Senate and limited Democratic losses in the House.

So, what next? If Democrats build on the success of 2022 and make a few crucial message changes, we can end 2024 with control of Washington again.

First, we must unify behind our president and make sure he both runs and wins reelection. Let’s be clear: Joe Biden beat Donald Trump once, and he is the best candidate positioned to win again. Biden has presided over a historic list of progressive accomplishments. He steered the country through the pandemic and passed legislation with far-reaching impacts on the economy, such as the largest infrastructure deal in a generation, cutting child poverty by half and making a massive down payment to combat climate change.

Let’s shift to sheer politics: incumbents are hard to beat. Since 1932, it’s happened only a few times. As the campaign manager for President Obama’s reelection, I know firsthand the power of incumbency. To those inside the party who’ve talked of a Democratic primary challenge in 2024, consider this: in the past 50 years, the two incumbent presidents who had meaningful primary challenges went on to lose the general election. Don’t want Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis or whoever else the Republicans nominate? Then line up behind our successful president.

Next, let’s stop the celebration and look at the bad news: 

  1. Data indicates that the issue of crime contributed to several Democratic losses, especially in New York. This topic isn’t going away, in large part because Republicans overhype it as a dog whistle. That said, we cannot ignore the fact that voters want to feel safe in their communities. Democrats have been branded as anti-police and oblivious to our voters’ concerns. As leaders like Rev. Al Sharpton say, we can be for police reform — and for the police. Democrats must clearly and decisively communicate how we will address voters’ concerns and keep them safe.
  • Voters didn’t trust Democrats to lead on the most important issue: the economy. A majority said the economy was their top concern, ahead of abortion and crime – and those voters favored Republicans by a 12-to-14 point margin. We must regain Americans’ trust here — and fortunately, the facts are on our side. The economy improved more during Biden’s first year in office than any other president in the last five decades. Biden’s economic policies have added millions of jobs, and wages are up, but voters don’t believe it. That’s not Biden’s fault. He has walked the walk. But Democratic leadership and economic wins are drowned out by the Republican narrative that Democrats are too focused on social issues.

We must go on offense with our economic message. Our country has always been at the forefront of innovation, manufacturing, and exporting. Democrats’ recent legislative wins prove we have a long view of growing our economy and maintaining our global position. The Republicans have no plan for transitioning to a clean economy. No plan for addressing inequality and bringing down the cost of things like prescription drugs and childcare. No plan for dealing with the economic impact of their decision to overturn Roe.

Democrats have a historic opportunity. Republicans pushed themselves off the edge of American politics. Abortion rights will likely be a defining issue in 2024, an issue where Democrats hold a stark advantage in supporting abortion rights. But we need more. If our party can win on the economy, be clearer on crime and shore up our coalition, sustainable majorities are achievable. It’s up to us. Carpe Diem.

Jim Messina is a political and corporate advisor and CEO of The Messina Group. He previously served as the White House deputy chief of staff for Operations under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2011, as well as the campaign manager for Obama’s successful 2012 reelection campaign.

Tags 2022 midterm elections 2024 presidential election Barack Obama Biden Donald Trump Jim Messina Joe Biden Politics Raphael Warnock trump White House

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