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Tipsheet

Panic! At the DCCC: The Democrats' House Campaign Arm Is Descending Into Mayhem

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Two dozen House Democrats have decided to file their retirement papers. They're not going to go through being bloodied and beaten in what could be an absolute bruiser for the Democratic Party as the 2022 midterms begin. For starters, they got a taste of how far they've fallen with voters in the 2021 elections. Virginia booted all the Democrats that occupied statewide offices. The GOP retook the governor's mansion and the House of Delegates. In New Jersey, Republican Jack Ciattarelli came within inches of clipping incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy. State Sen. Stephen Sweeney, a top Democrat in southern New Jersey, was defeated for re-election. That's something I thought I'd never see. You can't do much without Sweeney's blessing as he was the president of the NJ State Senate. 

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Now, with Build Back Better in the toilet and being flushed down the drain, moderate House Democrats are saddled with defending a vote for this massive left-wing spending package. They threw their lot in with Pelosi and got screwed—royally. To make matters worse, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) appears to be totally out of touch and adrift on what to do. With Biden's sinking approval ratings, there are no life jackets unless the DCCC can conjure some messaging magic. It hasn't. 

As one member noted, "This is a real f**king problem." Politico had a lengthy piece in one of their recent newsletters (via Politico): 

THIS IS A REAL F---ING PROBLEM’ — That’s how one vulnerable House Democrat summarized growing discord between members in battleground districts and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. That member and five others Playbook spoke with in the past week alleged that the Democratic organization whose purpose is to help the party keep the House next year is instead hurting their chances of reelection.

We granted the members and their staff anonymity to speak freely about their frustrations with the strategy DCCC Chair SEAN PATRICK MALONEY (N.Y.) has adopted in dozens of competitive districts. The complaints fall roughly into three categories.

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.”

[…]

3) FRUSTRATIONS WITH THE DCCC CHIEF — Maloney often says he understands the travails of front-liners firsthand: Trump barely won his district in 2016 — though Biden carried it by 5 points in 2020. But several of the members he’s charged with protecting don’t see it that way, and argue that his more left-leaning views are coloring the work of the committee.

“What’s problematic is not only is he pushing the wrong strategy. … The biggest problem is that he’s attacking front-line members for taking a different perspective,” the first lawmaker said. “If you want to win purple and red seats, you have to distance yourself from other Democrats. He is a part of this ‘party purity’ march that is just going to ensure that we are DEEP in the minority.”

Several of the members suspect Maloney is trying to use his DCCC perch to climb the leadership ladder — essentially raising his own profile at the expense of their political fortunes. Doing the job right, these members say, means sometimes having to back them over progressive members in safer districts.

“I think Sean Patrick’s ‘leadership’ — and please use air quotes on that — at the DCCC is the reason why we should not have elected colleagues running that organization,” said the first member. “Because it’s not about protecting the majority; it’s about Sean Patrick Maloney. … We’ve got a vanity project.”

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There's a lot of time to get things straight—but do you see wholesale changes happening here? I'm not complaining. I hope we absolutely wreck the Democrats come next November, but given the hostage situation they're in with the far left and members of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Squad, nothing is going to change. They're going to double down on the very policies that no one likes. 

Watch the COVID gamesmanship here. They're going to try and use the fall-winter spike of 2022 because we all know this is going to be the new norm to call for special voting methods like they did in 2020. It's all they have, especially with a Democratic president who might have approval ratings settle and solidify in the low 30s. 

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