Yesterday I blogged about races to watch for in 2018 and mentioned how the Democrats really think they can take control of the House. The party faces a major problem: Money.

We’ve been documenting the Democrats failure at bringing in the dough and it looks like it’s not getting better, which means their hopes and dreams could fail miserably.

A Party in Shambles

A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found that 50% of the people who responded want the Democrats to take control of Congress in 2018. But is it all hot air? From The Wall Street Journal:

The Democratic National Committee had $6.3 million in the bank on Dec. 1, while the Republican National Committee had six times as much, at $40 million, according to documents the parties filed with the Federal Election Commission. In November, the DNC posted its worst fundraising amount for the month in a decade.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a former DNC chairman who hosted a party fundraiser at his home Dec. 14, is among the party stalwarts stepping in to try to reverse the course. “I have heard a lot of donors say they need to take a break,” said Mr. McAuliffe. “The party’s job is to convince them they can’t.”

The party’s political committees for the House and Senate have done a little better, but still trail the Republicans. The Democratic Congressional Committee had $34.2 million at the end of November while the National Republican Campaign Committee had $42.3 million.

Bombshells from Donna Brazile about the party have pushed away people. She accused the party of showing favoritism to failed Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and detailed how the party was broke with Hillary coming to the rescue. Former DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz tore the party apart with her mismanagement and poor financial skills.

The problems also go back to President Barack Obama’s eight years in office when he “built his own fundraising and data operation apart from the DNC.”

All of these messes have made big time donors lose faith in those in charge at the DNC. WSJ continued:

“The parties mean less and less every year,” said John Morgan, a Florida Democrat who contributed $30,000 to DNC for Mr. Obama’s 2012 reelection, $5,000 during the 2016 race and said he has no plans to give again.

The personal injury attorney is considering running for governor in Florida but said he isn’t even sure he would run as a Democrat, despite having hosted Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton in his home for fundraisers.

“At this point, there’s not really anyone at the DNC who I would trust with my money,” he said. “Why would I write big checks to them when I can do my own thing?”

Small-Dollar Donors

Losing big time donors can devastate a party, but those small-dollar donors mean much more. Back in August, Michael Whitney, who led fundraising for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in the primaries, explained in Politico why the small amount donations mean so much:

This isn’t just about money. Small-dollar donors are an important measure of how much grass-roots enthusiasm a campaign or organization has. They are the supporters who will show up to knock on doors, make phone calls and get out the vote. And since they don’t donate enough to reach campaigns’ individual contribution limits, you can return to ask them for money time and again—which frees campaigns from continually being on the hunt for new, deep-pocketed donors who can max out. The lack of their support threatens to prevent major gains by the party in 2018 and beyond.

To bring them back in, the Democrats have to concentrate on messaging:

You can set your watch to the worst of the DCCC’s fundraising tactics. In the early afternoon of the last day of every month, the committee sends a fundraising email to its list that screams “FINAL NOTICE” in its subject line and content. The effect is to shock people into opening the message out of fear that they’ve missed a payment or that they might have their power shut off.

Other DCCC emails cause messaging whiplash. In the week before the June special election in Georgia featuring Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff, the DCCC sent a fundraising email with the subject line “JON OSSOFF LOSES!” … followed by another email four hours later with the subject line “Ossoff DOMINATES!” Ossoff’s campaign used nearly identical tactics itself. Just two days before the election, it sent a fundraising email to supporters with the subject line, “Accept defeat. Jon Ossoff lost. It’s over.”

Maybe the DNC has listened because it “added to its digital team Robin Curram” from Sanders’ campaign. Whitney told WSJ that the messaging has changed and “appears to be appealing to small donors by telling them they are part of a bigger movement.”

50-State Strategy

DNC Chairman Tom Perez, national finance chairman Henry Muñoz, and chief executive officer Jess O’Connell have used 2017 to explain the party’s 50-state strategy, similar to the strategy the party used under Howard Dean’s leadership. Perez decided on this approach back in February after he became chairman. From NPR:

On whether a 50-state strategy has a realistic way of competing in red states

Well, absolutely. You look at what happened in Kansas. Donald Trump won by 14 points, and [Democrats] picked up 14 seats in the state legislature because there’s radical social engineering going on by Gov. Brownback. [Editor’s note: Democrats in Kansas netted 12, not 14 seats in the Legislature.] In Alaska, for instance, the House of Representatives flipped Democratic. When we invest in these states and when we have an “every ZIP code strategy,” we can succeed because our values and our message, I think, it resonates with the American people. We are the party that fights for Medicare. We’re the party that fights for Social Security. We’re the party that fights for good wages and we have to communicate that.

Basically the strategy is to concentrate on down-ballot races and give equal attention to all races, not just those states they view as winnable. O’Connell said the party is rebuilding and they need resources. They plan to do this by replicating “the voter data modeling and turnout system former RNC Chairman Reince Priebus built.”

Will it work or will the party abandon it? In September, Michael Sainato wrote at Observer that the party has shown signs of abandoning the strategy due to its lack of attention to the Alabama special election for the Senate:

In Alabama, the Democratic candidate to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ vacant Senate seat is receiving little help from the national party. Politico reported on September 1, “While Jones would seem to be a perfect candidate for the post-Charlottesville moment—he’s a 63-year-old former U.S. attorney who prosecuted the pair behind the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham—national Democrats have largely ignored him.” The article cited that several Democrat-leaning organizations, like Daily Kos and the End Citizens United PAC, that supported special election congressional candidate Jon Ossoff in June 2017 have refrained from supporting Jones.

That all changed once Jones’s competitor Republican Roy Moore faced numerous allegations of sexual misconduct. The females claimed he came onto them when he was in his 30s and they were only teenagers.

Sainato also noted that the Democrats largely ignored a “Florida special election for State Assembly in a district that Hillary Clinton won” while the Republicans used a lot of assets to four candidates. The Democrats had one candidate:

The Orlando Sentinel reported, “This, my friends, is why Democrats are chronic losers in this state… because they don’t compete.” Democrats haven’t won a statewide election in Florida since Sen. Bill Nelson won his 2012 election, and in 2018 he faces a tough re-election battle—even though Florida has more registered Democrats than Republicans.


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