February 13, 2017
By Alex Seitz-Wald
A major Democratic super PAC embarking on perhaps the party’s only comprehensive public effort to assess what went wrong in 2016 released their first findings Monday, assessing missed opportunities among what it has determined are two key voting groups.
Priorities USA, which spent nearly $200 million supporting Hillary Clinton last year, commissioned two Democratic pollsters to the two blocs. The first is a group they’ve identified as “swing voters,” who went from voting for President Obama to President Trump. The second is “turnout voters,” who lean Democratic but stayed home on Election Day last year, such as millennials and African-Americans.
“Our initial research clearly shows that there are real opportunities to increase turnout and to reach swing voters who are already finding out that Donald Trump and the Republican Party will consistently turn their backs on the American people,” said Priorities USA Chairman Guy Cecil.
The Democratic National Committee has so far not established any formal “autopsy” process, like the one the Republican National Committee famously created after their loss in the 2012 presidential election.
Some Democrats were frustrated by the lack of follow through on a similar postmortem report issued by the DNC in response to losses in the 2014 midterm elections. And after watching the RNC’s 2012 report be used against Republicans who did not follow its recommendations, especially on immigration reform, they wonder if it’s worth the trouble and money for Democrats to commission a public autopsy report now.
That decision will likely be made by whomever emerges as the new party chairman, set to be elected next week.
For now, Democrats can turn to Priorities USA, which as a super PAC depending on major donors, has a more pressing need to justify its existence than the official party apparatus.
Cecil will formally unveil findings of what they’re calling “Project Blueprint” at a conference later this week. Later, he plans to travel the country to share the research with Democratic officials.
The research, based on surveys of Obama-Trump voters and three sets of focus groups in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Florida, argued swing voters are already having some buyer’s remorse about Trump.
They were drawn to Trump by his businessman persona and the perception that he’s not a typical politician, according to the group, so Priorities USA suggests Democrats work to undercut that image, especially among non-college educated women.
And their research found that congressional Republicans are far less popular than Trump with Obama-Trump voters, creating another potential avenue of attack.
Meanwhile, among “turnout voters,” like African-Americans and millennials, disillusionment kept many of them home, but Trump may get them back out, according to the group.
“They were surprised about the 2016 outcome and are distraught about the prospect of four years under Trump,” according to the Priorities USA memo, which was prepared in conjunction with the Global Strategy Group and Garin Hart Yang Research.
To target both sets of voters, the pollsters argue, Democrats should argue that Trump, despite his campaign rhetoric, is helping the rich at the expense of the middle class.
“Both groups are concerned about Trump and the Republicans putting the interests of wealthy Americans and corporate executives first,” the memo continues.
It sees an opportunity for Democrats in defending Medicare, a perennial party messaging tactic, but also in sticking up for Obamacare.
“Democrats should not shy away from talking about the situation the Republicans have put themselves in regarding the Affordable Care Act: repeal with no replacement is a real concern,” the memo states.