Last week I wrote a column on this website assessing Republican over-ebullience in advance of the 2014 midterm elections. I based my analysis on Market Research Foundation (MRF) research done in Virginia during the 2013 gubernatorial election – another race which portended high GOP and independent turnout and depressed Democratic intensity.
That’s not what happened, though.
In Virginia, Democrats engaged in a concerted effort to boost African-American turnout above 2009 levels – when the black vote represented 16 percent of the electorate. They succeeded – matching the 2012 presidential election mark of 20 percent. Black voters comprised 37 percent of Democrat Terry McAuliffe’s vote total – choosing him by a 9-to-1 margin, according to exit polling.
MRF’s research showed how the black vote was boosted dramatically in Richmond City, Norfolk, Newport News, Petersburg and other Democratic strongholds – giving McAuliffe his margin of victory. This research also unearthed equally effective Democratic techniques (usually involving negative attacks) which successfully suppressed GOP turnout in reliably Republican regions. Additionally, the GOP missed many opportunities to effectively capitalize on local issues with potential ideological symmetry – an increasingly fertile ground for picking up new votes.
I concluded that these same tactics – mass African-American mobilization combined with suppression of the GOP vote via negative attacks – will be employed in 2014 on a much broader scale. And possibly with similar perception-defying results.
This contention was lent fresh expression in a New Republic piece published this week. Written by Sasha Issenberg – author of The Victory Lab – the article is entitled “How The Democrats Can Avoid Going Down This November.”
Issenberg’s sprawling piece delves into the scientific advances Democrats have made on the turnout front, including detailed lists of their voters who turn out for presidential races but not midterms. According to Issenberg, party strategists not only have these voters’ names but also “guidance on where, how, and when they can be reached,” which evidently includes “predictive models to anticipate which voters are most likely to actually open and read their mail.”
“The midterm imperative is clear: Raise the dollars and secure the volunteer commitments,” Issenberg writes. “Then go and turn out those who are already on your side but won’t show up without a friendly nudge.”
Issenberg also delves into how Democratic agenda items are being used to blunt GOP turnout – not drive up its own numbers, as the legacy media have led us to believe. Take the minimum wage – an issue MRF has written about previously.
“Obama and his party’s candidates talk about the minimum wage in the hope that working-class whites skeptical of Democrats on other matters will become more ambivalent about voting Republican,” Issenberg notes.
A renewed focus on women’s issues falls under the same category: It’s not about turning out Democratic voters, it’s about keeping GOP voters at home.
No matter what the legacy media says, Issenberg’s reveal of the Democrats’ 2014 game plan – combined with MRF’s 2013 work in Virginia – should give Republican strategists pause as they assess their midterm prospects.