To: Interested Parties
From: DNC, DSCC, DCCC, DGA, DLCC
Date: November 6, 2013
Re: What last night meant
The 2013 election cycle is now behind us, and two undisputable facts emerged: it was a great year to run as a Democrat, and it was an even worse year to run as a Republican.
- Virginia: Virginians elected Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe and Lt. Governor-elect Ralph Northam, and once all votes are counted, we believe Democrats will have swept all three statewide offices for the first time since 1989. As of this morning, Democrats have picked up a net of two seats in the state House of Delegates, eliminating the GOP’s veto-proof majority, with several other races undergoing canvasses.
- New Jersey: Senator Cory Booker was elected a few weeks ago by a double-digit margin over a Tea Party candidate who supported the government shutdown. Voters passed an increase in the minimum wage that Christie had vetoed, and maintained Democratic control of both houses of the state legislature – losing no seats in the Senate – despite a massive investment of resources by Republicans and the Governor on the other side.
- New York: Mayor-elect Bill DeBlasio won by a historic margin, becoming the first Democrat to win the seat since 1989.
- Mayors: Democrats saw big wins across the country, from St. Petersburg where the incumbent Republican was unseated toCharlotte, Boston, Houston and Atlanta where Democrats were elected and reelected by wide margins.
- Florida: Democrat Amanda Murphy won a special election for a state House seat in Pasco County that had been held by Republicans for nearly twenty years.
So what happened, and what does it mean moving forward?
With yet another major election defeat, Republicans continue to play the blame game, as they struggle to figure out why they keep losing.
Democrats nominated better candidates with better messages that resonated with voters.
In this election, Terry McAuliffe claimed the bipartisan middle ground early and ran a disciplined, focused campaign that engaged key stakeholders and earned support from many unlikely corners. Voters trust him to work with both parties and focus on the right issues. Ken Cuccinelli lost because he underestimated Terry McAuliffe and assumed that he would not be held accountable for his own record of pursuing a divisive social agenda. At the end of the night, exit polls show a majority of Virginians found Cuccinelli simply too conservative for the state.
And in New York, the New York Times recently reported that Bill de Blasio enjoyed approval ratings “any elected official would envy, with 62 percent of likely voters viewing him favorably, and only 22 percent unfavorably. Nearly half of likely voters said Mr. de Blasio’s greatest strength was his ability to understand the needs and problems of people like them.”
The Republican Brand IS the Tea Party Brand – and People Dislike Both!
People really don’t like the Republican Party.
As the Associated Press wrote in a recent must-read analysis, “A year after losing a presidential race many Republicans thought was winnable, the party arguably is in worse shape than before.”
In Virginia, recent polling showed just how dangerous that could be for Republican candidates in swing states – 57% of Virginia voters had an unfavorable view of the state GOP, and 65% had an unfavorable view of the national Republican Party.
In New York, Joe Lhota (a self-described Goldwater conservative) spent the general election unsuccessfully trying to distance himself from his own party. And for good reason – recent polling showed that 75% of likely voters (including 40% of Republican voters) had an unfavorable view of the GOP.
For most people, there is no longer any distinction between the Tea Party and the Republican Party as a whole.
According to the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, for the first time this year, the public sees the Tea Party Movement (23%) more favorably than the Republican Party (22%) by a narrow one-point margin. Another poll out this week found that Republicans in Congress are actually less popular than the Tea Party by a 32% - 27% margin.
It’s not necessarily that the Tea Party is more popular than the GOP, it’s that their identities have merged and voters by and large view them as one and the same.
In fact, not only do people view the Tea Party in a slightly more positive light than the Republican Party, but more people have a negative view of the Republican Party (53%) than the Tea Party (47%). Ouch.
The enthusiasm gap favors Democrats
The Tea Party takeover of the Republican Party, has also helped create an enthusiasm gap that favors Democrats – as polling suggests the Democratic Party is not only more popular than the Republican Party overall (by a 15 point margin in the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll), but that Democrats are far more enthusiastic about our candidates than Republicans are about the GOP. According to the poll, more than a quarter (26%) of Republicans disapprove of the GOP – only 7% of Democrats disapprove of their own party.
- Exit polls in Virginia showed an electorate whose composition mirrored the 2012 electorate much more than the 2009 electorate. That signals that the Democratic coalition is excited to turnout in off-year elections.
- In Virginia, there is a nearly 20-point enthusiasm gap: 92% of Democrats approve of the national Democratic Party. Only 73% of Republicans approve of the national Republican Party. According to exit polls, nearly four in 10 voters identified themselves as Democrats while just three in 10 voters said they were Republicans or independents.
- In New York, 41% of Republican voters disapprove of the GOP – only 16% of Democrats see their party unfavorably.
- According to exit polls, the 2013 electorate mirrored the 2012 electorate, not the 2009 electorate. Not only is the Democratic coalition alive and well – it’s thriving.
As NBC’s Chuck Todd put it on Monday, “Bottom line, no matter how much Republicans try to dress up their party these days, they’re struggling to get their own supporters to buy their packaged dog food.”
And it’s not just showing up in the polls.
- In Iowa, one day after Ted Cruz headlined a 600-person GOP dinner, Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley had a grassroots event with twice as many people.
- Republican donors are increasingly expressing a reluctance to give. In Virginia, Terry McAuliffe received unprecedented support from traditional GOP donors, including a former RNC Finance Chair. And in Georgia, Democratic candidate Michelle Nunn is picking up significant financial support from former Romney donors.
- The Republican Party’s recent actions have even “put a strain on one of its most valuable partners: the business community.”
Obamacare v. Tea Party Extremism & Shutdown.
The voters made their choice.
Even while the Republican Party shut down the government trying to gut Obamacare, and have spent most of their time since it reopened railing against the law, people’s opinions of the law have been remarkably consistent. Since July, support for the law has ticked up 3%.
The Rebrand Failed
In its “autopsy report,” the RNC correctly identified a legitimate need to broaden its base and appeal. But among several key groups, they continue to struggle.
- Women: Recent polls indicate that the GOP’s problem with women voters are actually getting worse since last year. By a margin of more than two-to-one, women believe that the Republican Party is drifting further away from their perspective as opposed to moving towards it. Women view the Republican Party more unfavorably today (63%) than they did one year ago after the last election (53%) – a 10 percent decrease in popularity. According to the New York Times exit poll, McAuliffe won women voters by 10% as well as the support of 7 in 10 unmarried women.
- Hispanics: Again, recent polls show that the GOP is moving in the wrong direction with one of its top targets. Hispanics are three times more likely to identify as affiliated with the Democratic Party than with the Republican Party. Half of Hispanics identify with the Democratic Party (50%), compared to 15% who identify with the Republican Party. 43% of Hispanics say the phrase “cares about people like you” better describes the Democratic Party, compared to 12% who say it better describes the Republican Party. And, the GOP has seen a dramatic decrease in the number of Hispanics who view the party favorably. After the 2004 election, nearly half of Hispanics had a favorable view. In 2013, that number is only 24%, with 65% saying they have an unfavorable view.
Republicans Haven’t Learned Their Lesson
Despite all this data, and the many, many warning signs, Republicans don’t appear to have learned their lesson, as the problems of the Cuccinelli campaign appear poised to plague the party across the country next year. Even in off-year elections, you can’t win in swing states by speaking only to the base – but that’s exactly what their candidates are doing.
- Republicans have ceded control of the party today to Senator Ted Cruz, as GOP candidates across the country rush to emulate the Tea Party favorite.
- Even today, the Republican National Committee continues to stand behind Ted Cruz and his shutdown strategy.
- Tea Party groups have opened up a full-scale war on the GOP establishment, forcing many of their candidates to run scared and further to the right.
- Despite clear public sentiment, Republicans continue to ignore the will of overwhelming majority of Americans by promoting an agenda designed to placate the Tea Party (strict restrictions on women’s health care, refusal to even hold a vote on comprehensive immigration reform, etc.)
- According to recent polls, Virginia Republicans still prefer Cuccinelli as their party’s nominee over a more moderate Republican.
- And in Iowa, the GOP civil war is no longer between the Tea Party and the establishment, and has instead shifted to whether Rand Paul or Ted Cruz is the right Tea Party leader.
In short, Democratic candidates are well-positioned heading into 2014. Voters make no distinction between the Republican Party and the Tea Party, and appear likely to make next year a referendum on the their social extremism and government shutdown. Strong Democratic candidates and incumbents will provide a stark contrast to the Tea Party recklessness.
- Throughout the campaign in Virginia, Democrats communicated that Ken Cuccinelli spent his entire public career focused on a radical social agenda that alienates women, immigrants, young people, and gay Americans. And when he did pay lip service to jobs, he proposed an economic scheme that rewarded the wealthiest and big corporations at the expense of the middle class and critical investments in education. That agenda is precisely what Republican governors have been implementing across the country over the last three years.
- That should be a cause of substantial concern for Republicans headed into the 2014 election, particularly given that many of those governors pursuing those policies were elected in states that – like Virginia – President Obama won twice, including Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Maine, and Wisconsin. Of equal or greater concern for Republicans is that the Virginia election provides significant evidence that Democrats can drive up turnout and win in battleground states, even in years when President Obama is not on the ballot.
- The Tea Party ship has sailed in Senate races and it’s clear that Republican Senate candidates, even candidates favored by Washington insiders, are following the Ken Cuccinelli’s playbook, pandering to the far right and embracing positions that will prove costly in a general election.
- Senate candidates in North Carolina, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alaska, Georgia, Kentucky, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, West Virginia and elsewhere are on the side of Ted Cruz and Ken Cuccinelli, and that will be a big problem for Republicans even in conservative leaning states next November.
- Democrats are likely to maintain control of the Senate thanks to strong incumbents, and great recruits while the GOP continues to be its own worst enemy.
- Republicans are likely to lose seats in the House after pursuing an agenda identical to Ken Cuccinelli’s and engineering a government shutdown that infuriated Americans across all political stripes.
- Democrats are in a strong position to gain legislative majorities as voters turn against Republicans’ extreme agenda of attacking voting rights, limiting women’s health care, and cutting funding to education while denying access to affordable healthcare to millions of working Americans. Voters have had enough of the Tea Party agenda, and they are ready for Democrats who are committed to solving problems.