“It’s very clear that the Democratic Party hasn’t had a cohesive story to tell about the Republican Party and what happened to it,” says Anita Dunn, one of Biden’s top advisers who participated in the research. and who will soon join the White House staff. “I don’t think we were looking for that particular message, but it found us.”
The question was what kind of contrast to draw.
Traditionally, Democrats have used issues like tax and spending priorities to attack Republicans as the party of the wealthy. It helped President Barack Obama
win re-election in 2012 against Mitt Romney, the former private equity executive who now represents Utah in the Senate.
In 2018 and 2020, Democrats successfully ran against Trump’s unpopular personality and agenda. But he’s neither president
nor on the ballot now, facts that undermined Democratic attempts to use him as a foil in Virginia’s gubernatorial race last fall.
It was then that the liberal Center for American Progress began to explore different approaches. Beyond the ex-president, his poll tested broader themes involving Trump-accelerated changes in the GOP that survived his tenure.
“It’s so much bigger than him,” says Navin Nayak, president of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. “They have become radicalized.
Looking at the bigger picture, the Center for American Progress didn’t measure attitudes toward low-key topics like climate change or abortion. With Americans voting less on political positions than on the party they personally identify with, he explored defining a reshaped GOP to steer potential supporters toward the Democrats.
In separate polls, Hart Research and Global Strategy Group polled Americans who don’t align strongly with Trump on the evolution of the GOP. Their research suggested that many have seen significant changes over the past five to 10 years within the Republican Party and in key sectors of the electorate — independents, non-whites, whites without a college degree — substantial shares said that these changes had been for the worse.
In districts and states with battleground races for the House, Senate and governorships, pollsters found that tackling “an extreme new MAGA agenda” moved voters more than hitting the Quest of the GOP to “cut taxes on the rich”. Pollsters also found there was broad agreement that Republicans were “willing to do anything for power.”
These findings anchor the new argument that Biden and his fellow Democrats have begun to make. It seeks to frame the Republican quest for power as a threat not only to voters’ economic interests, but also to American values, personal rights, and democracy itself.
Their prime example came on Jan. 6, 2021. Next month, public hearings by the House committee investigating the deadly insurgency will drive home the point by highlighting the role of Trump and his Republican allies.
Now, the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion on abortion has unexpectedly provided what Nayak calls a “powerful point of evidence.” As Biden demonstrated from the White House last week, Democrats will use the potential rollback of a half-century-old constitutional right to rally voters against extremism.
Highlighting how Republicans wielded power to create a conservative majority on the Supreme Court also fits the strategy. In 2016, Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky fabricated an election-year excuse to block consideration of an Obama court nominee, then rejected it in 2020 to push through. a choice of Trump. Since the leak, Republican Senator Susan Collins has suggested that two Trump-appointed judges misled her about their views on Roe v. Wade during the confirmation process.
The extremism framework encompasses veteran Democratic strategist James Carville’s call to highlight “utterly bizarre” Republicans such as Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina. Dunn says Democrats intend to “make them known even better than they’ve already made themselves known.”
By directing attacks against “MAGA Republicans,” Biden leaves room for cooperation with more traditional GOP lawmakers. One of them, retired Ohio senator Rob Portman, joined the president at a metals factory here as he touted a pending bill investing billions in manufacturing semi- drivers. But raising the partisan temperature could complicate the negotiations.
The odds that Democrats won’t hold Congress remain long as most voters continue to disapprove of the president’s performance. What Biden’s advisers are hoping is that the “Republican MAGA” theme gives them a fighting chance.
“There is no magic formula for the ruling party to win a midterm,” Dunn concludes. “Making it a choice, not a referendum, is a first step.”