U.S. elections | House Democrats take stock after losses

2 weeks ago 5

They cast blame on their election message, ground game and the left after their majority shrank

Their majority shrunk, House Democrats cast blame on Thursday on their election message, ground game and leadership under Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s team after expectations for big wins came crashing down by a stark reversal in Trump country.

They focused too narrowly on health care, when voters were also worried about the economy.

They failed to fight back when Republicans labelled them “socialists” aligned with the party’s most liberal firebrands.

They didn’t knock on doors to meet voters, focusing instead on phone calls, digital outreach and TV ads, due to the health risks of campaigning during the pandemic. They lost Latino voters in some places, and white, working class men in others. They did not pass more COVID aid through Congress when Americans needed help most.

And perhaps most importantly, Democrats are coming to grips with the fact that whether President Donald Trump is e-elected or defeated by rival Joe Biden, they still have a problem winning over Trump voters.

Campaign failure

Lawmakers unloaded during a caucus call on Thursday — Democratic freshman Rep. Abigail Spanberger, in a so-tight race in Virginia, spoke with “passion” about the party’s campaign failures, according to a person familiar with the private call and granted anonymity to discuss it.

The marathon call ran three hours, with some 30 members adding their views.

No one spoke against Ms. Pelosi, who tried to remind them, they did, in fact, win — Mr. Biden is on the verge of replacing Mr. Trump, and House Democrats are on track to keep their majority, according to another person familiar with the call and granted anonymity to discuss it. “We did not win every battle but we did win the war,” Ms. Pelosi said.

But there were plenty of complaints to go around — over faulty polling, Republican attack ads — as expectations had been raised sky high for election night gains and that made the setbacks all the more disorienting.

Rather than bolstering their majority, as planned, Democrats lost a handful of freshman lawmakers who had just won in a 2018 midterm election backlash against the President. They also failed to add to their ranks as Republicans defeated one Democratic challenger after another. Asked what went wrong, one Democratic strategist said- “All of the above.”

Money was the one thing on their side. But money alone was not enough.

Key Democrats said the GOP attacks against them as wild-eyed “socialists” are damaging. They cited the “defund the police” movement that calls for shifting law enforcement resources to social workers and other ways of revolving conflicts. It gained prominence last summer after the police killing of Black people, including George Floyd, sparked a nationwide reckoning on racial injustice. Democrats also were criticised this year as insufficiently supporting Israel because of a liberal proposals helping Palestinians.

Socialist label

“I think that the Democratic party needs to clearly push that we are not supportive of ideas like socialism or defunding the police or anti-Semitism,” said Rep. Stephanie Murphy.

Several Democrats said the “socialist” label particularly harmed lawmakers who lost seats in Florida.

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