On Thursday, New York Times congressional reporter Carl Hulse, long a reliable mouthpiece for Democrats, spelled out some handy tips for the Democrats as they struggle to retain seats in the Republican-held House of Representatives, under the headline "Democrats Seek Issues to Lure Midterm Votes After Races Buoy G.O.P.," a headline considerably more balanced than Hulse's actual story, which simply regurgitated the Democrats's simplistic, unflattering, poll-tested descriptions of the Republican Party.
With Tuesday’s primaries reinforcing the strength of the Republican establishment, House Democrats are reassessing their electoral strategy based on a major internal research project that shows their candidates stand a better chance when they portray Republicans as uncaring toward working-class Americans while they continue to back policies favoring the wealthy and corporate America.
Democrats could build on this distrust, the research showed, by emphasizing support for policies such as equal pay for men and women, ensuring that corporations pay a fair share of taxes, and increased job opportunities in the United States.
The research also found that an effort to increase the minimum wage -- a recent top priority of congressional Democrats and the White House -- is not by itself enough to motivate swing voters to go to the polls and back Democrats in the fall.
Democrats say the most heartening finding was that economic themes that rally committed Democratic voters also serve to encourage unaffiliated voters and the so-called drop-off Democrats, those who voted in the presidential election but might not vote this year. In contrast, the research suggested to Democrats that the conservative issues that stir committed Republican voters tend to turn off centrist voters both parties are fighting over.
“We are fortunate that we can use messages to both universes of people,” said Jefrey Pollock, the president of the Global Strategy Group, a Democratic pollster who worked on the project, noting that Republicans “can’t talk to their right wing” without alienating independent voters.
Republicans say that they believe they have the upper hand in the overall battle for the House and that Democrats remain on the defensive over the Affordable Care Act and the continuing slow recovery of the employment market.
After reporting that the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee set an "ambitious" goal of gaining 12 seats in 2014, Hulse quoted Democrats to suggest it was a gaffe.
Democrats expressed surprise that he would put down such a definitive marker months before the election and said that their new data helped them formulate a game plan that should keep them competitive, given some advantages at the field organizing level and in party fund-raising. Democrats this week reported again that they had outraised House Republicans and that they retain an edge of more than $11 million in available cash.
The only ideological labeling in the story was on the Republican side (3 conservative mentions and two "right" labels), without a "liberal" or "left" in a story dominated by the Democratic perspective. Hulse dug deep for detail for precisely which anecdotes might infuriate Democrats into coming out to vote in November:
Republicans have their own research programs, and on Thursday, a group of conservative scholars and writers are to present a manifesto in Washington in an effort to prod the party into offering policies that are more attractive to middle-class voters.
Democratic consultants, in their research, tested several advertisements with voters and found that the most effective one featured a fictitious Republican congressman who backed the government shutdown but continued to collect his check while the House gym remained open. It accused the make-believe House member of being more interested in the perquisites of office than representing his constituents.
Democrats said the advertising response showed that while the shutdown seems like history in current political terms, it remains a powerful negative for Republicans when it is linked to the benefits of office.