Breaking: Democrat Blame Game in Full Swing as GOP Poised for Midterm Gains

Before voters even had a chance to head to the polls on Election Day, Democratic strategists and lawmakers had already begun placing blame for the party's predicted losses.

Polling repeatedly suggested Democrats' hyper-focus on abortion, “saving democracy,” and January 6 was ill-advised, but the party plugged along while Republicans campaigned on crime and inflation — both of which consistently appeared as top issues for voters in polls. 

FiveThirtyEight has Republicans favored to take control of the House, where the party has an estimated 80 percent chance of holding between 214 and 246 seats. The race for the Senate, meanwhile, is a “dead heat” and will come down to close races in nine battleground states: Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Now, an intraparty feud has erupted over what has brought the party to this point, just months after election forecasters began to suggest the predicted "red wave" may be more of a trickle.

Pundits and lawmakers are asking why the party ignored public safety and the worst inflation in 40 years.

In no place is the impact of crime as a campaign issue more obvious than in New York, where incumbent Democratic governor Kathy Hochul is facing a much tighter than expected race against Representative Lee Zeldin (R., N.Y.), even if Zeldin remains the underdog in that race. Hochul has consistently made dismissive comments about crime in the state, including accusing Zeldin of “hyperventilating” about crime and "trying to scare people," the day before Election Day.

Four U.S. House districts in the New York suburbs are also up for grabs in a surprising development for the deep blue state’s confident Democratic Party, including in the 17th congressional district, where state assemblyman Michael Lawler is putting up a stronger fight than they expected against Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Sean Patrick Maloney.

Maloney has been hard hit by an ad highlighting his past claim, made in 2018 while running for state attorney general, that he "absolutely" backs ending the cash-bail system and that he'd "make it a top priority." If Lawler defeats Maloney, it would be the first time a Republican has defeated the chair of the DCCC in 40 years. 

Multiple Democrats who spoke to CNN called out New York City's Democratic mayor Eric Adams for daring to go against the party line by acknowledging rising crime. Several sources blamed Adams for "overhyping the issue and playing into right-wing narratives in ways that may have helped set the party up for disaster on Tuesday." 

"He was an essential validator in the city to make their attacks seem more legit and less partisan," one unnamed Democratic operative working on campaigns in New York told the outlet.

Yet some Democrats acknowledged to the outlet that candidates "would be in better shape if they had followed Adams's lead in speaking to the fear and frustration that voters feel."

Manhattan borough president Mark Levine, a Democrat, told the outlet: "It's both true that crime is down from the 1990s and that it has been increasing and that people feel uncomfortable. Democrats have to be able to talk about that and offer real solutions." 

Democratic political strategist Stanley B. Greenberg recently detailed how Democrats “mishandled” crime for the American Prospect.

"The 2022 midterms will be remembered as a toxic campaign, but an effective one in labeling Democrats as 'pro-crime,'" he wrote, citing a poll conducted by his firm that found 56 percent of voters fear "crime and homelessness out of control in cities and police coming under attack" if Democrats win full control of the government.

To fully understand how they got here, Greenberg says, Democrats must return to the choices they made in 2020 — "moral, ideological, and strategic choices that I believe branded the Democrats in ways that alienated them from key parts of their own base."

"When Trump put the spotlight on high crime rates in Democratic-run cities, we retorted with the high crime rates in Republican-led cities. But where was the worry about community safety? Where were our plans to address crime? We were stymied by our rightful outrage over the repeated examples of police abuse and need to bring reforms," he wrote. "Yet if you ask our own voters, as I did after the election, they think our plan was 'defund the police.'"

He noted the Democrats' base "hated the idea of defunding the police" and called out Democratic leaders for showing "no interest as far as voters could tell in addressing crime or making communities safer" from early 2020 onward.

Other Democrats note that the party has done a less-than-stellar job addressing voter concerns about the economy and inflation. 

"The truth is, Democrats have done a poor job of communicating our approach to the economy," Representative Elissa Slotkin (D., Mich.) told the New York Times. "I have no idea if I'm going to win my election — it's going to be a nail biter. But if you can't speak directly to people's pocketbook and talk about our vision for the economy, you're just having half a conversation."

Longtime Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen said during an appearance on CNN on Sunday that Democrats should have listened to voters' concerns about the economy rather than constantly warning that "democracy is at stake."

Four Democratic strategists wrote in the American Prospect that the party must find a new message that acknowledges voter concern about the rising cost of living. The group — Greenberg, Center for American Politics president Patrick Gaspard, pollster Celinda Lake, and former senior Clinton White House aide Mike Lux — suggested Democrats should be discussing their legislative successes while blaming Republicans and corporations for rising prices.

"A lot of candidates aren't really clear about what the economic message is," Lake told the New York Times. "What we need to do is set up a more vivid contrast. People are getting more pessimistic about the economy."

Meanwhile, Senator Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) said last month he is concerned about the level of turnout among young voters and working-class voters who vote for Democrats.

"Is the abortion issue important? Yes," Sanders said. "But we have also got to focus on the struggles of working people to put food on their table."

Representative Ro Khanna (D., Calif.) said former president Barack Obama, who has been on the campaign trail on behalf of several Democratic candidates, "shouldn't be the only one delivering the basic economic message."

"We should have 20, 30 people capable of doing that and doing that around the country," he told the New York Times.

He also suggested political consultants had not understood how important economic issues would be among voters. Khanna said that while abortion and protecting democracy are important, prioritizing those issues should not come at the expense of focusing on the economy. 

"Consultants, they looked at it, said, 'Well, we're down on the economy, well, maybe we shouldn't talk about it,'" he said. "That's a mistake! No, we need to press our case."

While Democrats have spent nearly $320 million on ads focused on abortion, they have spent just $31 million on ads about inflation, per AdImpact.

"There was a narrative at one point that this was a Roe v. Wade election," Representative Tom Malinowski (D., N.J.) told the New York Times"I never thought it was going to be that simple."

Longtime Sanders adviser Faiz Shakir told the outlet that a campaign built around abortion and former president Donald Trump is "political malpractice."

As Democrats have struggled to settle on a winning message, the party has also taken for granted its support among Latino and African-American voters, support which may be eroding.

John Anzalone, who served as Biden’s lead pollster in 2020, suggested the midterms “could be a paradigm-shift election, where Republicans are not only making inroads with the Latino vote, but they're now making inroads with the African-American vote."

The Atlantic's Tim Alberta recently wrote that “the left has alienated America's fastest-growing group of voters just when they were supposed to give the party a foolproof majority.”

Mary Rose Wilcox, a longtime Democratic political organizer in Phoenix, Ariz., told Alberta, "The party doesn't care about us. They pretend to care every two years."

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Democrat Blame Game in Full Swing as GOP Poised for Midterm Gains

Strategists, pundits, and lawmakers argue the party focused too heavily on abortion and the alleged threat to ... READ MORE


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