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How Democrats who lost in deep red places could have helped Biden

Ebony Carter faced a tough climb when she decided to run for the Georgia State Senate last year. His deeply Republican district south of Atlanta had not elected a Democrat since 2001, and a Democrat hadn’t even bothered to campaign for the seat since 2014. State party officials told him that ‘They no longer tried to run for the seat because they didn’t think a Democrat could win it. This turned out to be correct. Carter lost with 40% of the vote, the most for a Liberal in years. But his run may have helped another candidate: Joe Biden. Sign up for The Morning New York Times newsletter The president, who won a 12,000-vote victory in Georgia, received a small but potentially significant boost from conservative areas of the state if at least one local Democrat stands up. exhibited downward. race, according to a new study from Run for Something, an organization dedicated to recruiting and supporting liberal candidates. This finding spread even to the reddest districts of the state. The phenomenon seems to be continuing at the national level. Biden scored 0.3% to 1.5% better last year in legislative districts in conservative states where Democrats presented challengers than in districts where Republicans ran unopposed, according to the study. The analysis was performed using data available at the district level in eight states – Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Arizona, Georgia, Texas, Kansas and New York – and controlling for factors such as education to create a comparison between contested and uncontested districts. The study showed a reverse coattail effect: It was lower-level candidates showing up in almost hopeless situations – red districts that Democrats had traditionally viewed as no gain, low, or no investment territories – who helped national or state figures in the lead, instead of downward candidates benefiting from a popular national candidate from the same party. “The whole theory behind it is that these contestants are supercharged organizers,” said Ross Morales Rocketto, co-founder of Run for Something. “These are people in their community having one-on-one conversations with voters in a way that statewide campaigns cannot.” The idea is not new, but this is the first time that an in-depth study has been carried out on the possibility of such a reverse effect, and it comes as the Democratic Party steps up its strategy for the mid-elections. term next year. In 2005, when Howard Dean became chairman of the Democratic National Committee, he attempted to institute a “50 state strategy” to develop the party infrastructure and recruit candidates at all levels and in all states – even in strongly republican districts. The hope was that if there was at least one Democrat in each county, it would help the party build a larger base for future elections. Dean was greeted with skepticism from national strategists who believed in a more conventional method of focusing limited campaign resources on rotating districts. After his tenure, the strategy fell out of favor. What tends to derail such a strategy of 50 states and all districts are the limited resources available to both parties in an election and the realpolitik considerations that inevitably lead them to pay disproportionate sums into certain races considered. as particularly important and winnable. “If you have dedicated ground game candidates then that might be useful, but generally the lower end campaigns don’t have that kind of money, and it’s certainly not done by the parties anymore,” Ed Goeas said. , a Republican pollster. He said one of the reasons for this could be that it is difficult to control messages on the ballot when campaigns at the top of the list have different approaches to the issues compared to those of local candidates. In recent cycles, Democrats’ top priorities have been to win back the House, Senate and Presidency. Now, with the party in charge of the three, the organizers of the down vote want the party to focus on state legislative races. Morales Rocketto expressed hope that the study would start a conversation among Democrats about how they invest in state and local races. During the 2020 election cycle, Democratic campaigns for the Senate, like those of Amy McGrath in Kentucky and Jaime Harrison in South Carolina, raised huge sums of money, in some cases exceeding $ 90 million. dollars for a single campaign. By comparison, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee said it had raised $ 51 million for legislative races in 86 chambers across 44 states. “Now that we’ve finished the 2020 election, we really need to make sure that’s what we’re focusing on,” Morales Rocketto said. “We elected Joe Biden, but Trump and Trumpism and the things he said and stood for didn’t go away, and we could lose it all again. And what those losses look like is already known, argued Jessica Post, chair of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. “When Republicans took control of 21 state legislative chambers in 2010, we lost control for almost a decade to win the United States Congress,” she said. “We now have a challenge to keep the United States Senate, and Republicans are eroding our voting rights in these legislatures. Since the presidential election, Republican-led legislatures across the country have drafted bills aimed at restricting access to the vote, prompting Democrats to call for additional local infrastructure for parties. The way to get this investment and the attention of the Democratic National Committee, Morales Rocketto said, is to highlight how a bottom-up approach can also help the party at the national level. Post echoed this sentiment. “A lot of the building blocks of American democracy are really built in the state,” she said. Republicans have stoned Democrats in their legislative infrastructure for years, said Jim Hobart, a Republican pollster. “Democrats are open enough at the legislative level to catch up,” he said. “For one reason or another, Democrats are getting more and more excited about federal races.” Hobart said both parties should want strong candidates to run for office because parties never know which districts will become competitive. For Republicans in 2020, some of those surprise districts were along the southern Texas border, which was previously a relatively blue region. “It was a shock to everyone that the Republicans were as strong as they were in these districts,” Hobart said. “But if you have candidates on the ballot for everything, that means you’re ready to take advantage of this infrastructure in a good year.” The new study will only be a consideration as the DNC examines its strategy for legislative and other mid-term elections. The committee is committed to increasing investment in such races, both to help win traditional battlefield states and to become more competitive in red-tinted states that tend to blue. DNC officials, who declined to speak officially about the study, pointed to Kansas, which has a Democratic governor but voted for former President Donald Trump by 15 percentage points, as an example of a state where they would like to put the results of the study into action. State Democrats are preparing to try to re-elect Governor Laura Kelly, and Ben Meers, the executive director of the Kansas Democratic Party, has said he hopes to test the theory. He said the Democrats’ campaign in the deep red districts required a different kind of organization on the ground. “There are counties where if the state party can’t find a Democrat, we can’t have an organized county party, because the region is so red,” he said. “But if we can lead even one Democrat, we can find out and get a few of those votes – you know the analogy: A rising tide lifts all Democratic ships. Some Kansas Democratic strategists have noted that telephone bank canvassers have more success with voters in general elections when they focus on congressional and local candidates, rather than headlining their calls with Biden. They hope that establishing local connections in the state will help Kelly’s campaign. In Georgia, Run for Something believes that Carter’s presence on the ballot has significantly helped Biden’s performance in his area of ​​the state. While the group said district-level data alone could be misleading and should be combined with other factors considered in its analysis, Biden garnered an average of 47% of the vote in the three counties – Newton , Butts and Henry – in which Carter’s district, the 110th, sits. It was 5 percentage points better than Hillary Clinton’s performance in 2016. Carter said she tried to build grassroots momentum in the district. “For me, running for office has never been an ambition,” she said. “It was more of the need for where I live.” Carter District has grown exponentially over the past decade, resulting in changing demographics and different approaches to politics. She knew from the previous political organization and her own campaign that many people in her district, including friends and family, did not know when local elections were taking place, why they were important, or what the elections might look like. liberal or conservative positions at the local level. Carter said she spent a lot of time during her campaign trying to educate people about the importance of voting, especially in local races which often have more of an impact on daily life, such as fundraising. schools and police. “I thought that was a big part of the job that people didn’t want to do or felt it wouldn’t benefit them,” she said. “We’re not going to win every race, but we could win if we just did the legwork.” This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company

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