Our new book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. Among other things, it discusses state and congressional elections.
1) BOTCHED MESSAGING — Universally, we heard that there’s been too much Trump talk, not enough focus on pocketbook issues. TERRY MCAULIFFE banged the anti-Trump drum constantly on his way to losing the race for Virginia governor. But at-risk members we spoke with worry that Maloney is still embracing the Trump-as-boogeyman strategy, blasting Republicans as extreme for seeking his blessing or otherwise supporting him.
“This is crazy to me that the DCCC is rolling out a playbook that they know doesn’t work and that they encouraged people in 2018 not to use,” said the member who dropped the f-bomb to describe the situation. The person argued that in 2018, the committee gave the opposite advice — focus relentlessly on pocketbook issues and let Trump’s antics speak for themselves — and Democrats flipped more than 40 seats to take the chamber.
The messaging issues extend beyond Trump. As cases challenging Roe v. Wade have reached the Supreme Court, the DCCC has sent dozens of press releases attacking Republican candidates and lawmakers for opposing abortion rights. But one front-liner called abortion “a lightning rod” in their district — and said the DCCC should steer clear of it as a campaign issue.
“We should leave it up to Planned Parenthood and all the reproductive organizations to get in there and support candidates that are pro-choice and leave it at that,” the member, who like other vulnerable Democrats supports abortion rights, told us. “I’m not going to go out there and start bashing people for being pro-life. It would be a big mistake in my district.”
2) JAMMING THEM ON POLICY — Previous DCCC Chair CHERI BUSTOS (Ill.), who represented a Trump district, was known for pushing back on leadership in private in order to protect vulnerable members from tough votes. But Maloney has taken the opposite tack: In August, as Speaker NANCY PELOSI was trying to corral moderates to vote for a $3.5 trillion budget, the DCCC infuriated members by threatening to withhold campaign money from them if they opposed the resolution. (The DCCC denied this.)
Then this fall, Maloney routinely sided with leadership over at-risk members who wanted Pelosi to allow a stand-alone vote on the infrastructure bill. He attacked one of the members, JOSH GOTTHEIMER, on Twitter after the New Jersey Democrat criticized Pelosi for “breach[ing] her firm, public commitment” to do so.
One member relayed another anecdote to Playbook: During the fall, liberal outside groups spent millions on TV ads pressuring vulnerable House Democrats to back Build Back Better. The members pleaded with the DCCC to get the groups to back off, but committee officials refused. (The DCCC says it’s illegal for the committee to tell an outside group how to spend money.)