Last month, Democratic pollster Brian Stryker conducted focus groups to determine how Republican Glenn Youngkin defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe in Virginia, which President Biden won by 10 points. He wasn’t involved in the governor’s race, but was consulted to help Democrats understand why they lost.
Stryker picked up on some important points in that memo, which according to The New York Times, has circulated widely among Democrats.
From having a weak national brand, to focusing too much on social issues rather than the economy, which they believe is in bad shape, to feeling Democrats are out of touch in addressing serious issues, the memo clearly was a wake-up call. When looking specifically at the governor’s race, Stryker found that the strategy of trying to tie Youngkin to Trump was a mistake—and he doesn’t sugarcoat it.
“[I]f we are running 2022 on ‘Republican candidate = Trump,’ we’re getting killed,” he wrote.
Education was also a top concern for voters, but more on the fact that Democrats shut down schools and on the parental rights front than critical race theory. McAuliffe also wasn’t an impressive candidate and Stryker said not a single person “could remember anything he did as Governor.”
In an interview with The New York Times, Stryker expanded on what he learned from the focus groups.
When asked how he’d advise a Democrat client running in 2022, Stryker was blunt.
“I would tell them that we have a problem,” he said. “We’ve got a national branding problem that is probably deeper than a lot of people suspect. Our party thinks maybe some things we’re saying aren’t cutting through, but I think it’s much deeper than that.”
Stryker also found that women, black voters, and Hispanic voters all want Democrats to address economic issues.
“I’m not advocating for us ignoring social issues, but when we think broadly about voters, they actually all want us talking about the economy and doing things to help them out economically,” he said.