Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Georgia 6th Proves Old Rules But Not The Future

An Opening Note, a happy one: The Democrats still have a decent shot at taking over the House in 2018 in spite of having botched the GA 6th. See the link to Nate Silver's "538" that I've included below in the discussion of Rule Three. The consensus across the board is that the Democrats performance in the four special House elections this year indicate the Democrats will take back the House in 2018. Nevertheless, there's lessons to be learned.

So let's look at how the Democrats broke some key rules of politics and lost a special election Tuesday. Here's what happened:

Rule One of politics:   Republicans always vote Republican.

Rule Two: All politics is local.

Rule Three: You gotta know the territory.

Rule Four: Democrats need a shove out the door. 

In the Georgia 6th Congressional District the Democrats yesterday   ignored these four old rules and blew millions and millions losing a race they could have won.  

Re Rule One: The Democratic party didn't give the GOP voters a reason to vote Democratic. Obviously the Democrats were counting on disgust with Trump and hate for the GOP health care bill to move enough GOP voters. Except they forgot to remind GOP voters that these were at stake. Absent such powerful motives, the GOP voters reverted to form and stayed with the Republican candidate.

The Democrats also ignored Rule One by waving the Democratic banner, pouring in party money, publicly balleyhooing the party's involvement. The last thing you should do is remind a GOP voter that the candidate you're pushing is a Democrat.  Moderate or not, "Democrat" is anathema! The Democrat in GA 6 did fine raising his own money. There was no need for party money!

Maybe the Democrat in the SC 5th race did so well in part because the national party stayed out of it!
Re Rule Two: The Democrats looked at the GA 6th just as numbers. That approach suits the computer geeks who misjudged Clinton's chances in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan last year. But a district is more than numbers. It is people. Why wasn't the Democratic candidate talking to the people of the 6th District about things like: "How many of you or members of your family have pre-existing conditions that will bar you from health insurance under Trump's proposal?" That's hitting at the two things the Democrats were hoping would sway GOP voters. 

Re Rule Three: The Democratic leadership made no study of the election history in the SC 5th and GA 6th. As a consequence, they didn't know the territory. But Nate Silver, the guru of analysts, has looked at that history and points out:
"[T]he results aren’t all that surprising if you zoom out and take a wider view. In 2012, Barack Obama came considerably closer to Mitt Romney in South Carolina 5 than he did in Georgia 6. And Republican incumbents were re-elected to the House by wider margins in Georgia 6 than in South Carolina 5 in both 2014 and 2016. South Carolina 5 has also much more recently elected a Democrat to Congress; John Spratt served there until the 2010 midterms, while Republicans have held Georgia 6 since Newt Gingrich’s win there in 1978.
Silver continues: "To some extent, Montana — where Democrat Rob Quist lost to Republican Greg Gianforte by 6 points last month — also fits the South Carolina 5 pattern. It went strongly for Trump in 2016, but less so for Romney in 2012 — and Obama nearly won there in 2008. It has also been reasonably competitive in past Congressional races." Where Can Democrats Win?
Complicated but key! GA 6 was not as good a bet for a Dem win as other places this year unless you do as the Democratic leadership did and look only at Trump's narrow win in the 6th. 

Re Rule Four: If more Democrats had voted, the Democrat might have won the 6th. But why should working class Democrats get out and vote Democratic? Unless you have a "give 'em hell" candidate like Bernie Sanders, these overworked, desperately busy people are not going to be bothered. Even anti-Trump feelings aren't enough. Just as Washington types are out of touch with these voters, these should-be voters are out of touch with D.C. and Trumps antics. But look at this: in the SC 5th the Democratic candidate, even though a bank-type, was a Bernie Sanders populist, and he did damn well in spite of less resources and worse registration, losing by about the same as the Democrat in GA.
A ClosingNote: Wednesday morning analyst Nate Silver wrote in essential agreement with me as to how the Democrats botched the GA 6th. Not to worry. Silver and I didn't copy each other! But if we both think the same on this one, it's gotta be right! 

Says Silver:" 
"One lesson for Democrats would therefore seem to be to look at a mix of indicators for the competitiveness and partisanship of a district, rather than focusing on the 2016 presidential result alone. Trump’s popularity will be a key factor, but so could the long term partisan lean of the district and how it has voted for Congress in the past. Local issues, particularly how the new health care bill might affect the district, could also play a role."  Where Can Democrats Win?

Are ya listening, Democrats?

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