Politics Byron York's Daily Memo: Democrats' deepest fears

17:17  24 november  2021
17:17  24 november  2021 Source:   washingtonexaminer.com

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DEMOCRATS' DEEPEST FEARS. Democratic strategists are still trying to figure out why a top party figure, Terry McAuliffe, lost the race for governor of Virginia. McAuliffe did all the right things from the 2021 Democratic playbook. He tried to portray his opponent, Republican Glenn Youngkin, as a far-right anti-vaxxer. He tried to portray Youngkin as a racist. And most of all, he tried to portray Youngkin as the living, breathing incarnation of Donald Trump.

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But it didn't work. So now, Democratic pollsters are doing some basic research. Why did voters reject McAuliffe? What, specifically, did he do wrong? Recently, a Democratic firm, ALG Research, which served as the top pollster for President Joe Biden's campaign, asked those questions in focus groups in the Northern Virginia suburbs and in Richmond. Some of the answers they found are deeply troubling for Democrats all across the country. Two lessons stand out:

The first is that Democrats lost the education issue, long a party strength. And they did not lose it, as much of the press coverage implied, because of critical race theory. They lost it because of the party's support — dictated by teachers unions — of shutting down schools during the COVID pandemic.

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In a new report, ALG's Brian Stryker and Oren Savir write that, while critical race theory was an issue, and voters did not approve of its use in schools, the issue "wasn't as salient as the fact that [voters] felt Democrats closed their schools and didn't feel bad about it." Voters saw Democrats as "putting government and closures before parents on schools," the report says.

When the researchers discussed critical race theory, they noticed that the voters in the focus group "were more animated talking about their dissatisfaction with their local school districts' handling of Covid." Participants felt that officials had closed the schools and kept them closed without regard to science. One woman who voted for Biden for president and then Youngkin for governor said her vote was "against the party that closed the schools for so long last year."

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McAuliffe, of course, made things worse when he said, "I don't think parents should be telling schools what they should teach." It was the classic nongaffe gaffe in which the candidate said what he really thought. The Youngkin campaign made good use of it. But the biggest problem with McAuliffe's statement, the researchers found, "was that it played into an existing narrative that Democrats didn't listen to parents when they kept the schools closed past any point of reason and that they'd close the schools again over parents' objections." Voters "broadly don't feel heard right now when it comes to schools, and they blame liberals and Democrats."

The second most troubling finding for Democrats was that their emphasis on Trump did not work. McAuliffe gave it all he had without success. "We're not saying this was a mistake, or that Terry had a better message he left on the table," the somewhat baffled pollsters report. "We don't know. But we do know that if our most effective message in 2022 is that Republicans = Trump, we're going to get creamed."

By obsessing on Trump, McAuliffe gave voters the impression that he was focused on the past, not the future. "They saw Youngkin's campaign as being positive and forward-looking ..." the report says, "while from McAuliffe's campaign they only remembered negative campaigning and bringing up Trump." Then, just for emphasis, the pollsters said it again: "If we are running 2022 on 'Republican candidate = Trump,' we're getting killed."

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The pollsters found other problems. "Voters couldn't name anything Democrats had done," they write. They are unhappy with the general direction of the country. They see Democrats as "only focused on equality and fairness" and not on helping people like them. And perhaps most of all, the researchers found that "Biden is hurting, even among supporters." "They were reluctant to say [Biden] is not up to the job, but they don't feel like he's getting it done right now."

Put together, the findings are grim news for Democrats. First, they point to voter unhappiness with the party's policies and performance — with its handling of the most significant crisis in recent history. And second, they point to weaknesses in what some Democrats believe is their ace in the hole — Trump. After Virginia, even Democrats who want to pretend everything is going well know there is a problem.

For a deeper dive into many of the topics covered in the Daily Memo, please listen to my podcast, The Byron York Show — available on the Ricochet Audio Network and everywhere else podcasts can be found. You can use this link to subscribe.

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Tags: Daily Memo, Byron York, Democratic Party, Virginia, Glenn Youngkin, Terry McAuliffe, Donald Trump

Original Author: Byron York

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