Democratic ‘Battleground’ Playbook Calls for Focus on Economy Not Health Care

Pollsters recommend portraying GOP as ‘out of touch’ on economic issues

To win battleground states like Wisconsin, Democrats need to focus on economic issues, a new Democratic report finds. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
To win battleground states like Wisconsin, Democrats need to focus on economic issues, a new Democratic report finds. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Posted September 27, 2018 at 5:00am

Democratic House and Senate candidates in battleground states can win key races if they focus on corruption and economic issues, rather than social issues such as health care that have recently dominated dozens of campaigns, according to a Democratic report released Wednesday.

“There is no doubt that we’re seeing signs of a Democratic wave election in battleground states,” said Page Gardner, founder of Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund, which commissioned the report from polling group Democracy Corps. “The question is what will Democrats do to maximize it. … It’s clearly up to them to take advantage of the mood that is out there.”

The phone and web-based surveys of minority voters, millennials, unmarried women and white non-college-educated women in battleground states found untapped potential for Democrats who can capitalize on fissures that President Donald Trump has created among Republicans, according to the pollsters.

“Right now, we’re on the edge of a wave,” said Stan Greenberg, co-founder of Democracy Corps. “But there is so much more going on that could make this much bluer, and really produce the kind of down-ballot and across the board winds that Democrats need to bring the kind of changes they want to bring.”

The pollsters asked open-ended questions and tested the resonance of various message with respondents. They found that Democratic candidates should concentrate on “decrying leaders who only get things done for corporate donors,” “mentioning the GOP’s tax scam for the rich threatening health care and education funding,” and attacking Republicans for “being out of touch on jobs, wages and taxes,” the report said.

Such messages could be particularly successful because so many Republican campaigns are touting GOP tax cuts and economic growth during the Trump administration, Greenberg said. Survey participants, however, said they had not felt the benefits.

The number of respondents who said the Republican Party is for “themselves” jumped 11 points since June, the pollsters found. Two-thirds said Trump is “self-dealing and looking out for himself” while 60 percent said he is “out of touch with working people.”

Greenberg said such sentiments are driven in part by voters, particularly women and minorities, who said the economy and the GOP tax cuts benefit the wealthy at the expense of families like theirs.

“It is not a booming economy for people whose incomes are not going up and cannot keep up with costs, and that can make them angry,” he said.

Messages that focused on health care did not do as well, he said.

The findings were based on the third of three phone surveys with accompanying web surveys done in late August and early September of 1,000 registered voters in 12 states considered battlegrounds for gubernatorial races.

Watch: 12 House Ratings Changes — Democrats Are More Likely Than Not to Win Majority

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