Senate Democrats’ Plan For The Summer: It’s The Economy, Stupid

2021-08-05 16:29:51

Democrats in Congress have a plan for their summer vacation: talk about President Joe Biden’s economic agenda, and then talk about it again and again and again.

The latest sign of this strategy, which Democratic and progressive groups are backing with tens of millions of dollars in television ads, is a new memo the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee sent to campaigns this week in which it outlined preferred messaging for the party’s candidates over the next month.

“Research shows that Democrats have an effective message regarding their legislative agenda and accomplishments, including: cutting taxes, growing jobs through investments in infrastructure and lowering health care costs,” pollsters at the Democratic data firm OpenLabs wrote in the memo, which was obtained by HuffPost. “Additionally, it’s particularly effective to highlight the contrast between Democrats and Republicans, who oppose these proposals while looking out for corporations and wealthy special interests.”

Democrats, who have thin majorities in both chambers of Congress, view the popularity of their economic agenda ― which spans everything from a child tax credit worth up to $300 a month to investments in broadband to corporate tax hikes — as key to staving off or limiting the gains parties out of power typically make during midterm election years.

Republicans, meanwhile, are focusing their rhetorical energy on social and cultural issues, including crime and the large number of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Democrats control the 50-50 Senate thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’ ability to break tie votes. Four of their incumbents — Sens. Mark Kelly (Ariz.), Raphael Warnock (Ga.), Maggie Hassan (N.H.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (Nev.) — are seen as potentially vulnerable. Democrats are also targeting GOP-held seats in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

Mark Kelly, who was a Democratic Senate candidate at the time, speaks to supporters during an election night event in 2020. His seat is potentially vulnerable in the next election cycle.

For women, Black voters, people who supported Donald Trump and white voters without college degrees, the memo recommends a message focused on cutting health care costs and improving health care for seniors — references to Democratic proposals to increase Obamacare subsidies and provide dental and vision coverage through Medicare.

When it comes to persuading Trump voters, the memo recommends a China-focused message built around promising that Democrats will “bring jobs back from overseas, and will help us compete with countries like China that threaten our economy.” 

For white voters with a college degree and Biden voters, the memo suggests “making big corporations and the wealthy special interests who rig the rules pay their fair share” as a compelling message.

Echoing other Democratic research, the memo argues senators should explicitly note how Democrats’ plans would be paid for. “Discussing how Democrats’ proposals are paid for is not simply a technical detail, but a core part of our plan’s popularity,” the memo’s authors write.

The memo is based on a survey of 4,894 voters in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. 

Biden’s agenda is split between a piece of legislation supported by members of both parties, which is expected to pass the Senate this week, and legislation crafted exclusively by Democrats that the party will work on over the coming months. 

Groups allied with Biden, including the White House-sanctioned political nonprofit Building Back Together, plan to spend $100 million on television and digital ads with similar messages. The goal is to both build support for the plan and to improve the public’s perception of Biden’s handling of the economy.

A Quinnipiac University poll released this week found that just 43% of voters supported Biden’s handling of the economy, with 48% disapproving. But the same survey found just under two-thirds of Americans support both the bipartisan and Democrat-only legislation implementing Biden’s agenda.

GOP groups, meanwhile, are launching their own ad campaigns to test anti-Biden messaging. Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC controlled by House Republican leadership, is running digital ads on two social issues — rising crime and the use of “critical race theory” in schools — and on inflation, an economic issue Republicans have increasingly focused on.

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