Is #DemsDeliver a Winning Message?
Democrats want to run on their accomplishments, but its more complicated than it seems.
During an interview with Politico last month, Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer laid out what he thought was the optimal midterm strategy for the party:
I want every Democrat to run as ‘Democrats who deliver.’ Point to the record. Point to what was done.”
This is a sentiment you hear from a lot of Democrats. It’s why Democratic activists work so hard to make hashtags like #DemsDeliver trend on Twitter. It is a very understandable impulse. President Biden and Congressional Democrats accomplished more legislatively and turned the economy around faster than most expected just a year ago. Polling also shows that voters either don’t know or are unpersuaded by what Democrats have delivered.
Getting insufficient credit for significant accomplishments is the perennial frustration for Democratic politicians. In response, there is a tendency to double down and try to retroactively re-educate the electorate about what happened. But is that a good strategy? Is it possible to run as “Democrats who deliver?”
The Support Gap
There have been innumerable parallels drawn between now and the early years of the Obama Presidency. In some ways, those parallels make sense — both periods featured unified Democratic control with Joe Biden in the White House. But the political circumstances are quite different. Obama had a brutally tough economy. The Biden economy is complex but features historic job growth. Obama’s major legislative accomplishments were polarizing and relatively unpopular. Biden’s legislative accomplishments are neither.
Many months later, the American Rescue Plan remains incredibly popular. A December Data for Progress poll demonstrated 66 percent of voters — including nearly half of Republicans — support the plan.
Similarly, a Washington Post-ABC News poll from November found that 63 percent of Americans supported the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. Even the provisions of the unpassed Build Back Better bill consistently poll well above 50 percent with significant support from Republicans.
Yet, these popular legislative accomplishments are not translating into political support. There is a 20-point gap between support for what Biden has done or wants to do and the President’s approval rating. The question is why aren’t Democrats getting more credit (and what can they do about it)?
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