As the Democratic Party continues its inexorable march to the Left, its strategists are laying the groundwork for an action plan to defeat President Trump in 2020. To the surprise of many, a leading Democratic super PAC is writing off Ohio in its early calculations for the coming campaign. But given the party’s intoxication with identity politics and other increasingly strident progressive hues, it’s quite understandable that Dems would feel their best opportunities would lie beyond a heartland battleground state – especially one that is trending away from their leftist drift.
Not Putting Up a Fight
Powerful Democratic super PAC Priorities USA has released a “Battleground Briefing” report that raised eyebrows by listing Ohio as a “GOP Watch” state. The group announced that the Buckeye State would not be included among its core priority states for the 2020 presidential election. “It’s not in our initial spending plans,” Josh Schwerin, spokesman for Priorities USA, told cleveland.com. “It is in the states to watch and see if an investment is worth making.”
The super PAC’s report listed six states as “core” targets for 2020 – Florida, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Nevada. It also cited three other states – Arizona, North Carolina, and Georgia – as “expansion” states that merited further attention. A good portion of the strategies mentioned in the report would seem to invite engagement in working class Ohio, yet Priorities USA is choosing not to take up the struggle there.
The super PAC’s battleplan includes the following recommendation, “Refocus conversation towards economic issues, and who will build a stable future.” As for focus groups, under its “new polling” section, “White working-class persuasion voters” are listed. Both suggestions would find fertile ground in a state like Ohio, and yet the Dems are choosing not to engage there.
Perhaps it is more telling that “Latinx persuasion targets” in Miami and “African-American turnout targets” in Milwaukee are also listed as focus-group stratagems. This section appears to outline demographic groups the super PAC intends to target with its campaign efforts. By keying on racial minorities in two of its “core” 2020 states, the super PAC is more likely to be in harmony with the talking points of whatever progressive candidate emerges as the party nominee than it would by actively appealing to the interests of blue-collar workers in Ohio.
Wrong Lessons From 2018?
Emphasizing Florida and Georgia also highlights just how emboldened a party committed to identity politics has become since the formidable 2018 gubernatorial campaigns of Stacey Abrams in the Peach State and Andrew Gillum in the Sunshine State. The two young Democrats who many on the right consider radicals narrowly lost their races but gave progressive Dems reason to hope that changing demographics brought on by massive immigration were moving two formerly rock-solid red states into play.
“We’re building a new coalition that hasn’t been built for a Democrat in Georgia in the current era,” Abrams campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo told Time in July 2018. “That’s what it’s going to take. Communities of color plus progressive-leaning whites are a majority of the population.”
Priorities USA was all in on Gillum, funding a multi-million dollar digital ad campaign that Florida Politics reports focused on mustering black, Hispanic and young voters. In mapping out Florida and Georgia as winnable in 2020 and Ohio as not, Dems who want to win the Electoral College should be concerned that its leading super PAC appears intent on repeating the previous folly of the Hillary Clinton campaign.
“For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.” These were the hapless words of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) ahead of the 2016 election. It was the language of an urbanite liberal refusing to demean himself by expressing solidarity with the rural working class. Hillary went on to lose three of the four states Schumer mentioned in his disastrous quote.
Priorities USA is signaling that it wants to promote economic issues but will be directing its most significant effort at targeting minority groups that they consider comfortably secured in the party’s ranks. But by writing off Ohio, are they sending a message that Democrats believe they can ignore the heartland working class once again in 2020? If so, that might be a dangerous and perhaps even politically disastrous assumption.