Democrats’ Efforts to Court Disgruntled Republicans Could Reshape Electoral Map
After officially naming Hillary Clinton as their presidential candidate at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia earlier this week, the Democratic Party is gearing up for the general election and looking to clear a path to electoral victory in November.
The Democrats have an electoral map advantage going into the general election stretch, but the race is still tighter than party officials would like. With that in mind, their aiming to court new voters. One unlikely source of these new voters may be from among the rank-and-file of the very party the Democrats hope to beat.
Democrats Sieze On Republican Discomfort With Donald Trump
At this point it’s not news that many Republicans are uneasy with the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency. There have even been anti-Trump grumblings among members the far-right Tea Party movement. Even though many Democrats and liberals associate the Republican Party with dog-whistle racism, homophobia, xenophobia, Islamaphobia, and a wild and imaginative array of various other phobias, Donald Trump’s particular bland of overt, in-your-face bigotry is just too extreme for many of his own constituents of his conservative party.
Democratic strategists are well aware of this unrest and intend to seize on it, hoping to pick off some of the fractured Republican Party’s #NeverTrump contingent and bring them into the Democratic fold. These efforts were in full effect at the Democratic convention.
Writing about the speakers at the convention, the New York Times noted:
They saluted the valor and vigor of the American armed forces. They quoted Ronald Reagan and Theodore Roosevelt, iconic Republican presidents of the 20th century, as well as a beloved Republican former first lady. They talked plainly about faith, about instilling good family values, about the uniqueness of the American experiment.
Supporting the troops, family values, and an emphasis on faith are talking points more often associated with Republicans than Democrats. The Democrats have always spoke to these issues in one form or another, but they’re usually more subtle about it. Discussing these issues so openly is often an uncomfortable prospect for party officials and candidates because doing so can make the progressive wing of the party queasy.
The Times wasn’t the only publication to pick up on this. As the convention wound down, Vox ran a story headlined, “Democrats have stolen the GOP’s best rhetoric — and Republicans have noticed.” They cited Michelle Obama’s appeal to family values, Joe Biden’s “forceful, patriotic, nationalistic” comments, Michael Bloomberg’s attempt to make “the business case for Clinton,” and several speakers’ discussion of veterans’ issues and invocation of 9/11 as indicators that the Democratic Party is clearly making a concerted effort to appeal to Republican voters who may be on the fence.
Vox credited President Obama with stealing the Republican Party’s “favorite rhetorical flourishes”:
Meanwhile, Obama’s speech was shot through with Republican-sounding themes — approving references to Ronald Reagan and the “city on a hill,” reminders about the importance of the founding documents, a paean to American democracy. (And it wasn’t just Obama — partly because the convention is in Philadelphia, speaker after speaker has included a quick nod to the writing of the Declaration of Independence there.)
Plan To Win Over Disgruntled Republicans Could Bring New States Into Play Come Election Day
Trying to snag a few traditionally red states isn’t a new strategy for the Democrats. In 2005 the party launched a “50-State Strategy” described as “an ambitious effort to build the Democratic Party from the ground up in every single precinct, city, and state in the country.” Those efforts could pay off big this year, especially with Trump unwittingly chasing moderate Republicans away in droves.
Of course it’s difficult to predict how many of these disgruntled Republicans the Democrats will be able to pick up, but even siphoning off just a few percentage points of Republican voters could swing some states from red to purple, or from purple to blue.
This year’s electoral map, as it stands based on the Real Clear Politics “Battle for White House” page, isn’t what we’re used to seeing as election day approaches (it’s still early). For instance, Georgia, which Republicans have been able to count on since Bill Clinton’s victory there in 1992, is still considered a toss-up right now, with Trump leading Clinton by an average of only 4.5 percent in polls. Missouri, North Carolina, and Virginia are all currently listed as toss ups as well.
Here is perhaps the biggest surprise: Mississippi and South Carolina, two of the reddest states in the land, are listed as “Leans Trump” rather than the more definitive “Likely Trump.” Trump leads by only 3 percent and 5 percent, respectively, in the latest polls in those states.
It’s never good to count your chickens before they hatch, but if the Democratic Party can pull off a few upsets with its 50-State Strategy, then Clinton should be in good shape come November. And the party might have a toehold in some new territories for future elections.
Featured image by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images