Democracy Corps Says Let The Populist Flag Fly

Democracy Corps has released a new analysis (pdf) of their recent polling which suggests that the environment is shifting a bit and the Democrats have a chance to stop the bleeding if they make certain changes in their message. It’s happened before:

This is not a fool’s errand. In the 1998 election, we conducted national polls starting in September to see if Democrats could push back against the Republican overreach on Ken Starr and impeachment, as Democrats faced the prospect of historic losses in both the House and Sen-ate. Only two weeks before the election did the plates shift and a Democratic counter-message on impeachment became effective in our polls. In the end, Democrats lost no net seats in Senate, gained five House seats and Newt Gingrich resigned.

Take it for what it’s worth, but it turns out that what they believe works is the strong populist message the whining, half-empty DFHs have been pushing for the past year:

The strongest message is set out in the box below. The Democrat is the one who wants to change Washington so it is not run by corporate lobbyists and Wall Street, but works for the middle class. He or she supports tax cuts for middle class and small business and new American industries, while the Republican has pledged to maintain tax cuts for the top 2 percent and protect the right to export American jobs.

We have to change Washington. That means eliminating the special deals and tax breaks won by corporate lobbyists for the oil companies and Wall Street. (REPUBLICAN HOUSE CANDIDATE) has pledged to protect the tax cuts for the top two per-cent and the big tax breaks for companies who export American jobs. I’ll take a different approach with new middle class tax cuts to help small businesses and new American industries create jobs. Let’s make our country work for the middle class.

This message is quite powerful with the ‘winnable’ voters Democrats need to get to expand their support; also with white unmarried women and whites under 40 years. These last two groups were critical to the new Democratic base of 2006 and 2008 – but support has lagged. But they seem ready to move.

Please note that this message is weaker if it fails to begin with a ‘change Washington’ message. That straight middle class/corporate message is much weaker with these groups. Democratic candidates must be talking about change – with a populist tinge – to get heard this year.

There is a second message that centers on made in America, creating American jobs and opposing the Republicans who supports trade agreements and tax breaks for companies that ex-port American jobs. The message is strongest with older women and seniors and with independents. These can be used in a targeted way, while working in our next poll and focus groups to bring these two messages together.

My passion is "made in America," working to support small businesses, American companies and new American industries. (REPUBLICAN HOUSE CANDIDATE) has pledged to support the free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, and South Korea and protect the loophole for companies outsourcing American jobs. I have a different approach to give tax breaks for small businesses that hire workers and give tax subsidies for companies that create jobs right here in America.

This message framework for the election is helped by an attack on the Republican candidate for supporting trade agreements and tax breaks that lead to lost American jobs. Those attacks are very strong with white older women and seniors.

We did test a robust form of the message that the president is using. It is painfully weaker than these messages. We made the message very populist and focused on continuing efforts to help unemployed, new industries that create jobs, and ending tax breaks for exporting jobs. It says that the economy shows signs of life, but the Republican candidate wants to go back to Bush and the old policies for Wall Street that cost us 8 million jobs. It is very strong with core Democrats and African-American voters, but compared to the other messages, it falls very short: 25 points weaker with ‘winnable voters’ and whites under 40 years, 20 points weaker with white unmarried women, and 9 points weaker with white older women. That message framework can-not extend the Democratic vote.

The strongest attack on the Republicans centers on Social Security and Medicare – that have re-emerged as issues as Republican candidates, the Tea Party and House Republican leaders decided this is not a third rail. It is the strongest attack here.

(REPUBLICAN HOUSE CANDIDATE) has pledged to make sweeping cuts, in-cluding cuts to off-limit programs for the middle class, like Social Security and Medicare. The Republicans plan to privatize Social Security by shifting those sav-ings to the stock market, and ending guaranteed benefit levels. Medicare as we know it will end, as seniors will have to purchase private insurance using a voucher that will cover some of the costs.

This attack raises serious doubts with almost 60 percent of the ‘winnable’ voters and white older women.

And FYI, that’s why Paul Ryan is currently sulking on the sidelines (while whispering in the ears of his fans in the chattering classes that he plans to indoctrinate the new members of the GOP congress as soon as they take the oath). The move against Social Security and Medicare may be the thing that undoes the GOPs gains among the senior population. They may enjoy a little tea, but they like their checks more.

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