Well, as Democrats blame the Russians, FBI Director James Comey, Wikileaks, racism, misogyny, and sexism, for their 2016 election loss, one super PAC is looking into why Hillary Clinton lost one of the most winnable elections in recent memory. Priorities USA, the PAC that began to help with President Obama’s 2012 re-election, conducted focus groups in Wisconsin and Michigan with drop off voters (folks who voted in 2012, but not ’16) and Obama-Trump voters. They also did a general survey of drop off voters and Obama-Trump voters nationwide, with a sample size of around 800 for both groups. This deep dive was conducted back in January.
Besides Donald Trump beating Clinton, the other shocker of the 2016 election was the number of voters (it soared into the millions) who voted for Obama, some of them twice, and then flipped for Trump. Was it racism that drove Trump’s rise? No. Even Lefty Michael Moore said what undercuts that argument is the fact that these folks voted for a man named Barack Hussein Obama twice before flipping. What was it? Well, left-leaning blogger Greg Sargent peered through Priorities USA’s autopsy and found that a shocking number of Obama-Trump voters found the Democratic Party’s economic agenda as favoring the wealthy. For 30 percent of this Obama-Trump bracket, they just couldn't stand Lady MacBeth [Emphasis mine]:
One finding from the polling stands out: A shockingly large percentage of these Obama-Trump voters said Democrats’ economic policies will favor the wealthy — twice the percentage that said the same about Trump. I was also permitted to view video of some focus group activity, which showed Obama-Trump voters offering sharp criticism of Democrats on the economy.
The poll found that Obama-Trump voters, many of whom are working-class whites and were pivotal to Trump’s victory, are economically losing ground and are skeptical of Democratic solutions to their problems. Among the findings:
50 percent of Obama-Trump voters said their incomes are falling behind the cost of living, and another 31 percent said their incomes are merely keeping pace with the cost of living.
A sizable chunk of Obama-Trump voters — 30 percent — said their vote for Trump was more a vote against Clinton than a vote for Trump. Remember, these voters backed Obama four years earlier.
42 percent of Obama-Trump voters said congressional Democrats’ economic policies will favor the wealthy, vs. only 21 percent of them who said the same about Trump. (Forty percent say that about congressional Republicans.) A total of 77 percent of Obama-
Trump voters said Trump’s policies will favor some mix of all other classes (middle class, poor, all equally), while a total of 58 percent said that about congressional Democrats.
Over at McClatchy, Alex Roarty said these strategists said these Obama-Trump defections account for why Clinton couldn’t reach Obama’s turnout levels. At the same time, Democrats are now beginning to realize that solely focusing on the base is a recipe for disaster. David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report aptly noted that in Pennsylvania, the base did turn out, with more voting in 2016 than 2012 in Philadelphia. Democrats love to talk about demographics, so here’s a rehashed fact. The voter share in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and it’s surrounding counties are depreciating, with Wasserman adding that 55 percent of the 2016 vote tallies came from outside the state’s six most populous counties:
PA Dems can't blame Philly turnout for Clinton loss:— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) December 1, 2016
2012 votes cast: 690,327
2016 votes cast: 706,562
Fact: 55% of PA's votes were cast *outside* of largest 6 counties (Pitt/Philly & collar). Clinton campaign thought they could whistle past.— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) December 7, 2016
Those Obama-Trump voters, in fact, effectively accounted for more than two-thirds of the reason Clinton lost, according to Matt Canter, a senior vice president of the Democratic political firm Global Strategy Group. In his group’s analysis, about 70 percent of Clinton’s failure to reach Obama’s vote total in 2012 was because she lost these voters.
In recent months, Canter and other members of Global Strategy Group have delivered a detailed report of their findings to senators, congressmen, fellow operatives and think tank wonks – all part of an ongoing effort to educate party leaders about what the data says really happened in last year’s election.
The findings are significant for a Democratic Party, at a historic low point, that’s trying to figure out how it can win back power. Much of the debate over how to move forward has centered on whether the party should try to win back working-class white voters – who make up the bulk of Obama-Trump voters – or focus instead on mobilizing its base.
Turning out the base, the data suggests, is simply not good enough.
“I really do believe that we should reject this idea that if we just focus on turnout and the Democratic base that that will be enough,” he said. “If that really is our approach, we’re going to lose six or seven Senate seats in this election.”
“But,” Cecil added, “I also believe that just talking about persuasion means we are not capitalizing on an enormous opportunity.”
Still Sargent, who was present for one focus group, added that the answers given describe what Democrats stand for today should also be alarming when it comes to finding those windows of opportunity.
“The one percent, the status quo, and they’re for the party. Themselves and the party” seemed to be the predominate answers. The road is going to be a hard one; some thing I bet many didn’t think would be a possibility in the era of Obama. Remember in 2009, fresh off of Obama’s landslide win over John McCain how the Republican Party was dead and that the entire electoral map had shifted. Yes, it did—but nothing is permanent. The GOP made the same mistake during the Bush years, thinking that a national security block would give the GOP the voter advantage.
Sargent added that Guy Cecil, Priorities USA chairman, noted that his party will need to get going hard on finding ways to reach drop off voters and Obama-Trump voters. In that context, there is a racial divide, with Sargent adding that drop off voters are usually in communities of color, while Obama-Trumpers are white working class. One area they plan to latch on like a barnacle is social programs and health care.
“Both groups [persuadable Trump voters and Democratic drop off] identify cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and other healthcare programs as policies that would have a very bad effect on them personally,” the report noted. Also, the hope that Trump won’t honor his promises is another thing Democrats need to keep tabs on, reeling back to The New York Times’ Nick Confessore and Nate Cohn’s piece after the 2016 election, where they quoted one Trump voter in Florida telling them, “Let’s put him [Trump] in. And if he doesn’t do what he says, I’ll help you vote him out.”
These people are a shiftable base and not die-hard Republicans. Remember millions of them are Democrats, with many first-time voters thrown in to the mix. If Democrats talk jobs, job creation, infrastructure, protecting pensions, and move away from transgender bathrooms, safe spaces, and political correctness—they might be surprised with the results. Then again, the survey also pointed that “persuadable voters” believe that Trump will help the middle class, though they don’t feel the same way about Congressional Republicans. Trump has already vowed to not touch Social Security, Medicare, and other welfare programs, so a huge chunk of public policy of off the table. With heath care, let’s see how this second round turn out, but it looks as if the moderate wing of the GOP could sink what’s on the table. Yet, for now, the fact remains is that the Democratic Party, which is heavily fractured, needs to stop with the Russia talk and the buffet of hot takes regarding sexism, racism, and misogyny. The data doesn’t lie. Millions of people who voted for Obama thought Clinton sucked and the party paid dearly for it.