Key voters are still up for grabs — Democrats have two months to take them

Key voters are still up for grabs — Democrats have two months to take them

As Democrats prepare for the full engagement of the campaign season to begin after the conventions and Labor Day weekend, the political landscape seems so incredibly consistent; Joe BidenJoe BidenChina eyes military base on Africa's Atlantic coast: report Biden orders flags be flown at half-staff through Dec. 9 to honor Dole Biden heading to Kansas City to promote infrastructure package MORE has held an average lead of nearly 8 percent, and his lead hasn’t dropped below 5 percent since mid-May. It may even appear like complacency is setting in.

It’s not. In fact, 2016’s results were a catalytic moment for organized Democratic campaigns to revise their approaches, their methodology, their messaging and critically analyze all of their tactics in the crucial final months. These essential changes were applied in the Midterm and off-year elections over the past three years in anticipation of being ready for November 3. 

So, what’s changed as Joe Biden and Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBiden cannot allow his domestic fumbles to transfer to the world stage Joe Manchin should embrace paid leave — now The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden defends disappointing jobs report MORE prepare for the final push?


The perennial false choice between persuading undecided voters and increasing Democratic turnout has been obliterated — with the underlying assumptions that grouped voters into turnout and persuasion universes based on racial or ethnic subgroups being rightfully discarded. Democrats are acutely focused on every target voter as a persuasion target, avoiding a narrower segmentation which over communicated with too few voters.

And there is absolutely no sense that the Biden campaign is losing sight of maintaining multiple paths to 270 electoral votes or taking any states for granted. Unlike the Trump campaign, they have dedicated their paid media resources on six essential states that need to flip — the three close states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and the three Sun Belt states of Florida, Arizona and North Carolina. And they’re keeping their eyes on states they may need to shore up support in, such as Minnesota and Nevada, which were also tight four years ago.

Conversely, the Trump campaign squandered their money across the playing field for most of the summer — spending eye-popping sums in states like Ohio, Iowa and Georgia where they may have needed bolstering but which were far from tipping point states where those investments would be most impactful. 

Grassroots operations have been transformed in a remarkably short time from one focused on canvassing — once an essential strategy of door-knocking — to preparing for a voting climate where the vast majority of Democratic votes might not be in-person on Election Day. Less efficient paid operations have been superseded by engaged community groups who have built long term relationships outside of campaign months in the communities where they work, and relational organizing has been elevated to maximize the contact among people’s networks first and foremost.

And on a strategic level, Democrats have revamped their polling methodology to more accurately account for the electorate’s education, reach voters in different ways (using multi-modal polling) and consistently use polling alongside analytics to make efficient decisions through November. The argument made on The Hill here last week that certain Trump-supporting moderates are being brushed aside is just political posturing and is not grounded on data or supported by the past three years of electoral results.

All of that still leaves little room for error, however — and plenty of key objectives over the coming two-month sprint:

-Continue building a campaign that communicates to the diversity of the competitive states. There is no monolithic target voter. From the diversity of Arab voters in Southeast Michigan, to the panoply of Latino and Black voters in Florida, to the wide array of AAPI voters in Minnesota and Nevada, Democrats have invested in unprecedented outreach that is culturally appropriate to the diverse communities in the swing states they are targeting. This communication needs to continue to be central to Democrats’ strategy and should ramp up as voting methods and deadlines remain in flux.

-Maintain an atypical lead with seniors who Trump is directly threatening with outlandish attacks on the “far-left”. In almost all swing states, but in particular in Florida and Arizona, Biden has pulled into competitive territory because of how much he has gained with voters over 65 (an almost 20 percent swing since 2016).

-Build capacity to engage the communities whose support they’ve been cultivating since 2016 and before the pandemic. While the three Midwestern target states don’t have as much dynamic change as the rest of the country, the Sun Belt targets are states where the electorate is rapidly being born anew. While Florida has always featured a razor-edge margin, its electorate is completely different — with the vote increasing by 3 million since 2000. The Miami and Orlando, Fla., Raleigh and Charlotte, N.C., and Phoenix metro areas are some of the top-growing metro regions in the country, and even over the past four years the potential electorate has completely changed in these cities. 

-Expand on gains realized in 2018 in the suburbs and with college-educated voters. Trump’s potential to reshape the suburbs and the voting patterns of college-educated voters was clear in the winter after his election — a trend that has become mainstream since I and many others have highlighted. With Trump’s failures on the coronavirus crisis, and his continued extremism, the ceiling has yet to be reached with these key voters.

At the end of the day, the path is clear—but there’s plenty left to do. And fear of a repeat of 2016 will only heighten the resolve to run a disciplined, efficient campaign until every ballot is counted.

Matthew Rey is a partner at Red Horse Strategies, a political consulting firm based in New York, California and Washington, and has worked on state and national political, union and issue campaigns.