Democratic Boot Camp: Party Steps Up Local Tactics Ahead of Midterms | Democrats

DDemocrats knew going into this midterm campaign season that they had their work cut out for them. History shows that the president’s party often loses House seats in midterm elections and Joe Biden’s approval rating has been underwater for almost a year.

But that doesn’t mean Democrats are giving up. In spite of the gloomy predictions of a republican blitz in the midterms, Democratic caucuses have doubled down on training candidates to run up and down the ballot in November. Party leaders have expressed hope that teaching these candidates how to tailor a campaign message to the concerns of their communities and run a successful voter turnout operation could help Democrats limit their losses this fall.

One of the groups leading those efforts is the National Democratic Training Committee (NDTC), which trains candidates and their staff on the best strategies for managing successful campaigns. The NDTC has conducted more than 150 trainings this year, both virtual and in-person, with 8,000 participants joining the sessions.

“This all goes back to our core mission, which is to lower the barrier to entry for anyone who wants to get involved in Democratic politics, and our belief that Democrats they need to be preparing and building for long-term power,” said Kelly Dietrich, CEO and founder of NDTC.

NDTC’s bootcamp training sessions instruct candidates and their staff on everything from making personal connections with voters to executing a successful “getting out the vote” strategy. Ebony Lofton, who is running for mayor of Dumfries, Virginia, has attended several NDTC trainings and said the advice she has received has already paid off on the campaign trail.

“It’s important for me, as someone who doesn’t have a huge staff, to get a sense of the direction I’m going,” Lofton said. “There are so many other people from all over the country who are providing nuggets, as someone told me about [getting] cheap signs, from the chat at one of the trainings I had, and I’ve been using them, so it’s been great overall.”

While much of the national conversation about the midterms has focused on control of Congress, Dietrich said Democrats need to pay as much attention to state and local races like Lofton’s.

“We all focus on these big, cool races of running for Congress, but it’s only a couple dozen competitive races,” Dietrich said. “There are literally hundreds of thousands of states [representatives]city ​​hall, school board [candidates] who are running.”

Dietrich advises participants running in these local races to carefully consider the issues affecting their communities and then craft a campaign message around those concerns. For many candidates, that strategy means addressing how rising prices have strained family budgets in recent months.

In July, the annual rate of inflation hit 8.5%which was slightly down from the previous month but still close to a 40-year high for the US. CNN poll conducted last month found that 75% of Americans consider inflation and the cost of living to be the most important economic problem facing their family.

“When you run in those local communities, the national mood and the national environment can affect your race. But you need to talk about what matters in your community,” Dietrich said. “If inflation is the most important thing, how does that affect your community?”

James Reavis, an NDTC trainee running for a Montana House seat, said voters have told him their top concerns are rising housing costs and high state property taxes.

“I’ll be dealing with tax issues all day because that’s what voters are talking about,” Reavis said. “So I keep listening to constituents, and that’s my number one driver.”

During the NDTC trainings Reavis attended this year, he was able to speak with other Democrats in traditionally Republican states about the best tactics for reaching reluctant voters.

“There were a lot of people on that phone call who were like me, who were people running in red states, and we were talking about the challenges that we have,” Reavis said. “We really have an uphill battle in places like Montana. If you have an R next to your name, you’re doing pretty well. You are already one step ahead of the game. But if you have a D next to your name, you have to work really hard.”

The importance of helping state legislative candidates like Reavis has been brought into sharp focus for Democrats in recent months. After the supreme court overturned Roe v Wade in June, individual states were able to ban abortion access, and several Republican-led states have already done so.

The end of Roe has changed the conversation among voters about the upcoming election, said Donna Dill, an NDTC trainee and campaign staffer for a Democratic candidate seeking a Texas House seat. After the supreme court struck down Roe, abortion became illegal in Texas under a 1925 law.

“We’re in Texas and we’re on fire,” Dill said. “What we are trying to do is reach young women because they are the ones who are going to suffer the consequences of the law.”

Dill and his team pointed to the Texas abortion ban as a devastating example of the importance of electing Democrats to the state legislature, saying the NDTC trainings helped guide their efforts to reach right-wing voters who may have concerns about the law.

“There are a lot of Republicans in Texas who understand that the way our state government is moving is not going in a good direction for the state,” Dill said. “We are trying to make progress with them.”

Reavis agreed that abortion has become a more prominent issue in his career, but stressed that tabletop issues like price gouging still dominated voters’ attention.

“The consistent message here in Montana has been rising house prices, property taxes [and] public safety,” Reavis said. “Those are still the two or three main problems. Those haven’t changed.

With that in mind, the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act by Congress has provided a boon to the Reavis campaign. The spending package, which Biden signed into law Tuesday, includes provisions to cap prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries and invest in renewable energy to reduce America’s planet-warming emissions.

“President Biden gets a lot of complaints here in Montana. After the news about the Inflation Reduction Act came out, those complaints really subsided,” Reavis said. “When they provide solutions at the national level, it makes it easier for us to work here on those state problems.”

The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act was one of several recent victories for Biden and his party. On Wednesday, Biden signed the Law of the Covenant to expand health care benefits to millions of veterans. A week before that, Biden announced the death of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiriwho helped coordinate the 9/11 attacks.

Those achievements, combined with concerns about Roe’s end, appear to have bolstered Democrats’ midterm prospects. Earlier this month, Democrats outperformed Republicans on the generic congressional ticket for the first time this election cycle. according to FiveThirtyEight.

Although there are still three months to go before Election Day, recent events in Washington have made Reavis and other NDTC trainees more optimistic.

“In the last couple of weeks, I felt some wind pick up in the sails,” Reavis said. “Because we’re doing things at the federal level and we’re working very hard at the state level, I’m very excited about the midterms.”

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