The $30 million lOssoff

Erick Erickson on Tuesday’s Georgia Congressional special election:

In 2016, Rodney Stooksbury got 38.3% of the vote in Georgia’s sixth congressional district after spending only around $1000.00. Less than a year later, Democrats spent $30million to get only ten percent more of the vote and still lose.

There are some real issues here that the cheering and moralizing will overlook. Democrats will say it should not have been so close, but Republicans can counter than outspending the GOP and still losing is a big deal. It is. The Democrats can note that the GOP was winning this district by twenty points regularly and now are barely winning. That is true too.

But there are some fundamental problems for Democrats that they are going to overlook as they declare moral victory.

First, the national netroots rallied to Jon Ossoff, who was completely unknown to the sixth congressional district. There was a state senator from within the district who had a built in constituency that crossed party lines. But that guy got rejected for this unknown who lived out of the district.

Second, Ossoff did live out of the district and that cost him a number of votes. Democrats want you to believe this race was about healthcare and a referendum on Trump. The reality is more voters talked about Ossoff being a carpetbagger than they talked about where either candidate stood on the issues.

Third, Democrats got cocky. In the last two weeks of the race they started knocking on Republican doors to try to turn out the vote. Yes, they needed to persuade persuadable Republicans to vote Ossoff, but they did not just target those voters. They blanketed the district, knocking on the doors of Trump voters. They saturated the district with robocalls. They overbought television advertisements. They overexposed their candidate.

Fourth, Ossoff never defined himself. He went negative on Handel, who had won this district in three elections and who was known by 90% of the district. He could not define a woman who everyone already knew and mostly liked. But no one knew Ossoff and he got defined as a Pelosi loving carpetbagger.

That leads me to the fifth point, Nancy Pelosi is as much an anchor on the Democrats as Trump is on the GOP, if not more so. If Democrats want to win GOP seats, Pelosi needs to stay in the shadows.

Sixth, Ossoff was way overexposed. People got tired of his ads. They were on constantly. They never changed. People tuned them out over time. He never shook up the advertisements or rolled out new attacks or positive messages. Democrats saying this was about healthcare want to focus on his literally last two days where he talked about healthcare. He otherwise did not go deep on policy on the campaign trail.

Seventh, this was a Republican district that was won by a well known and liked Republican who was able to offset poor fundraising with high name ID and likability. Trump voters turned out for her and got her across the finish line.

Eighth, and this is the most important point, Ossoff ran as a moderate Republican. He never attacked the President and opposed universal healthcare. But the national noise about this campaign filtered in. Local voters and local news coverage knew the national progressive activists viewed an Ossoff win as another step towards the impeachment of President Trump. By being so vocal about the implications of this race, the Democrats fired up the GOP voters to defend Trump. It is a poor strategy moving forward for them. This is a district they need and they lost it.

Ninth, despite the rhetoric, you should know that this was one of the most civil races I have witnessed. Yes, there were crazies and bad things happened to both sides, but largely the candidates and campaigns were very civil to each other and the attacks were relatively mild.

Tenth, expect Karen Handel to be her own person in Congress. She will stand up to both sides and she will not be a yes woman for anyone. Jon Ossoff too will come out of this with an enhanced reputation among Democrats. He is going to be a force to contend with in the future. His political career is just starting.

Ossoff’s political career may or may not be starting, but even though the Democratic Party isn’t going to go away, it’s not going to win anything anytime soon either based on Stephen Miller‘s observations:

The only thing Democrats won recently was the congressional baseball game, while the only way Democrat voters can seem to get Republicans out of Congress is by shooting them. And they can’t even do that right.

Jon Ossoff’s loss-off, and the three prior to it, has left the party messaging fractured and split along two primary lines of thinking; abandon the moderate center (which Ossoff attempted to cater to), by going further left (the Bernie/Warren activist wing), or moderate the message by attempting to peel away disenfranchised Trump voters, along with independents who have come to believe the White House reality show is a failure.

Two glaring examples of these fault lines have emerged on Twitter.

“Maybe instead of trying to convince hateful white people, Dems should convince our base—ppl of color, women to turn out. Cater to them,” Tweeted noted far-left feminist and author Jill Filipovic. Filipovic went on to rail against bigoted voters in proceeding tweets. “At what point is this not a failure of Democrats but toxic, vindictive voters willing to elected hateful bigots.”

Herein lies the Democrats’ problem, just as it was a problem when Hillary Clinton bellowed about a basket full of deplorables during the 2016 campaign. The Democrats and their base (Hollywood) think the key to winning elections is to insult voters. “They don’t vote for us because they are bigots” is not a strategy I would employ as a campaign manager but they are welcome to keep trying this, and they are welcome to keep losing.

Another problem with Filipovic’s theory: Trump won educated white women over the first major party female nominee in history. ”

The otherization and dehumanization of large swaths of the voting public is a primary reason operatives like Filipovic have been reduced to tweeting from the havens of their Upper West and East Coast cities. These urban islands are where the party is forced to mine for talent to send into strange flyover districts. As Heat Street reported, Ossoff had nine times as many donors in California, as his home state of Georgia.

The key to winning, according to Filipovic, is to act contemptibly toward voters and put up candidates in districts where they don’t live, while simultaneously marching through their streets and blocking highways. Bold strategy.

On the other end of the spectrum, is former Obama administration advisor Dan Pfieffer, who between CNN gigs basically wanders around acting like he had nothing to do with the past eight years or the rise of Donald Trump.

In a series of tweets, Pfieffer argued that the key to Democrats’ getting back on their feet is to go after swing voters, specifically those voters that flipped from Barack Obama to Trump in the 2016 election. Those voters handed Trump narrow victories in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Florida and that other weird state that starts with a W that Team Hillary seems to have completely wiped off the electoral map.

“To take back the House, we need lean GOP voters who disapprove of Trump to vote for a Dem. This is hard, but very doable over 18 months.” Pfeiffer believes that Democrats should highlight the unpopular Obamacare replacement and hammer nothing else until 2018.

Pfieffer’s peel away strategy has immediately met with resistance from Mike Casca, a former communications director for both Rep. Keith Ellison and Sen. Bernie Sanders. “What if we proposed things our voters like? that seems easier and more honest,” Casca tweeted in response to Pfeiffer, and then ended his night with “i think a simple thing democrats could do to help in the midterms is to be more openly hostile to capitalism.”

The far left wing of the party has a problem however because Pfeiffer is for the most part correct. If Democrats can’t win back the white working class vote that Clinton ignored in 2016, and to whom Filipovic is openly hostile, they aren’t going to win another election for the next 30 years, until that demographic dies off. Long time to wait.

The problem with Pfieffer’s direction are two-fold. While there are Republican voters disenchanted with Trump, they may not be disenchanted enough to close their eyes and pull the lever for Democrats. That’s an awfully big gamble for a party that just threw $30 million down the toilet.

The second, as evidenced by Casca, is the far-left base, still enamored with Obama’s cultural justice campaigns and falling head over heels for Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who have no intention of modifying or moderating their message.

This is the rudderless, sinking ship the Democrats are faced with as they attempt to find their identity after Obama.

Democrats either want to be a party that offers a more sane and measured alternative to Trump’s chaotic, unpredictable craziness, or they want to keep putting together symbolic marches while attempting to explain why some of their more extreme supporters are staging campus riots, talking about blowing up the White House and stabbing people on trains or shooting up baseball fields. Maybe they’ll figure it out post 2018, or a couple of years into Trump’s second term.

Democrats are, suffice to say, not happy. The New York Times reports:

Among Democrats in Washington, the setback in Georgia revived or deepened a host of existing grievances about the party, accentuating tensions between moderate lawmakers and liberal activists and prompting some Democrats to question the leadership and political strategy of Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader.

A small group of Democrats who have been critical of Ms. Pelosi in the past again pressed her to step down on Wednesday. And in a private meeting of Democratic lawmakers, Representative Tony Cárdenas of California, Ms. Pelosi’s home state, suggested the party should have a more open conversation about her effect on its political fortunes.

But the most acute and widely expressed concerns were economic. Speaking after a meeting of the Democratic caucus on Wednesday morning, Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York said the party was preparing to be “aggressively focused on job creation and economic growth.” And Representative Jim Himes of Connecticut, who represents an affluent district near New York City, said Democrats must do more to compete with what he described as expansive and unrealistic promises by President Trump.

“It’s not enough to say, ‘I want jobs,’” Mr. Himes said. “You need more than that, particularly when you’re competing with a guy who is telling fantasies.”

Representative Debbie Dingell of Michigan called for Democrats to go “on offense” and attack the president’s perceived strength on economic matters with working-class voters.

“We need to show working men and women we understand their anxieties and fears,” she said, “and show that Trump is treating them like just another politician.” …

Representative Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, an open critic of Ms. Pelosi, called the Georgia result “frustrating” and urged a shake-up at the top of the party.

That “toxic brand” includes immigration and environmentalist extremists, along with whatever freak show discharges from such Democratic strongholds as the People’s Republic of Madison. (How many genders are we up to now?)
University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato told CNN:

For Democrats obviously, it’s pretty depressing. That’s the word I’ve seen on Twitter more than any other from Democrats about the result. I think if Democrats learn a lesson from this election, it’s that the euphoria that they felt for the last several months as Donald Trump has fallen in the polls and they began to believe that this would be not easy but doable to take over the House of Representatives and eventually replace Donald Trump, that euphoria is gone and it’s replaced with reality. And the reality is, it’s going to be a long twilight struggle. Day in and day out if they’re going to be able to retake the House and eventually defeat Donald Trump. iI won’t be easy. It may not be possible but it certainly won’t be easy.


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