Democrats scramble to take defensive stance in final stretch of midterm elections


On Wednesday, Democrats poured at least $6.3 million in advertising dollars into three congressional districts in New York and New Jersey, where President Biden won by at least 8 percentage points.

First Lady Jill Biden spent an afternoon in Rhode Island trying to help save a Democrat running in a district where her husband has a nearly 14-point lead. The president will travel to the dark blue Empire state on Thursday, where Democratic governors are trying to avoid a setback in a closer-than-expected race that puts Democrats at greater risk on the ballot.

In Pennsylvania, Democrats are trying to shake off John Feitman, who is recovering from a stroke, after a poor performance in Tuesday’s debate. A former party official relayed the hearing to people who wondered why Feltman agreed to debate during his recovery. The U.S. Senate nominee’s once-comfortable polling lead has shrunk in a race the party’s leaders have long seen as their best chance to turn around a red Senate seat and get closer to keeping their narrow House majority. .

With the midterms less than two weeks away, Democrats are already on the defensive, scrambling to support their party’s candidates as Republicans push deeper into their ranks. The scope of their challenge has grown more prominent in the past 48 hours, when much of the party’s attention was focused on protecting large swaths of the country where Democrats have long gained more support.

Late-summer Democratic rhetoric about an offensive by fighting for abortion rights and Biden’s rising approval ratings have mired in the harsh reality that Republicans have the power to reap potentially huge gains on Nov. 11. On Aug. 8, some Democratic strategists said by bashing them on crime and inflation — and seizing fatigue on Democratic leadership in government.

“Some of what’s going on is a return to normalcy. After all the hustle and rage, the election is back to fundamentals,” said Craig Varro, a Democratic strategist who has worked on presidential, gubernatorial and Senate campaigns. Craig Varoga said.

Like other Democratic strategists, Varroga said he was concerned that his party had overemphasized abortion over the summer and should have made it more active as part of the GOP’s broader argument against individual liberties. “Politics is hard work. It’s like personal health – you can’t rely on one thing for everything,” he said.

Fear of losing abortion rights has proven to be a less motivating factor in blue states, multiple Democratic strategists said, as voters believe their access to the procedure will be protected by existing laws and Democrats’ control of state government.

Other factors have exacerbated the situation, some said. An unnamed Democratic strategist described the “blue state depression” of the House race more candidly, noting that minorities in New York, Oregon and California are “closer than normal.”

The House Majority PAC, a well-funded group aimed at supporting House Democrats, launched Wednesday in New Jersey’s 5th Congressional District, New York’s 3rd Congressional District and New York’s 18th Congressional District, according to AdImpact, which tracks such spending. new ad. According to AdImpact, Biden’s winning precinct buys were mostly in the New York City media market.

The new spending comes after the Congressional Leadership Fund, a major Republican House outside group, announced it had committed $11 million to new or expanded ad buys in 16 congressional districts. The group noted that Biden has won seven of them by double-digit margins in 2020. That includes Rhode Island’s 2nd Congressional District, where Jill Biden is running for Democrat Seth Magaziner, the party’s nominee for state treasurer and House seats.

“I think they’re swinging. They’ve never really had a plan. They don’t seem to have any focus,” said Rep. Tom Emer (R-Minn.), speaking of Democrats. “If we look across the country, we have a lot of opportunities.”

Some Democrats have pointed to blue areas being tired from pandemic restrictions, one-party dominance and concerns about violent crime and quality of life in big cities like Portland, Oregon, New York City and San Francisco.

“In many ways, crime is the thread that ties these people together,” said Dan Senna, the former executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

In New York, Biden will be joined by Democratic governors on Thursday. Kathy Hochul, who is struggling to fend off attacks from the House of Representatives. Republican candidate Li Zeldin. Hochul has a good chance of winning, but Zeldin’s focus on the state’s rising crime rate has made the race far more competitive than most expected.

Zelding called for a more urgent response to crime during Tuesday’s debate, saying Hocher should call a special session of the legislature to address the issue. Fears about crime are a big issue in New York and have led to a tighter-than-expected race for governor, as well as a race for the House of Representatives.

Democratic strategists in the state say as many as four Democratic-held seats could slip away — one of which is held by the DCCC chairman, the House of Representatives. Sean Patrick Maloney. Republicans need just five House seats to regain the majority.

According to AdImpact, Republicans spent about $5 million in his district to crack down on Maloney and invested heavily. Earlier this summer, top Democrats privately expressed concern about their campaign chief losing his own election, but that confidence has waned.

The DCCC recently spent about $600,000 to save his seat — a sign that Democrats are taking the threats seriously.

“All these races in New York are too close for the Democrats to feel comfortable with,” said former congressman and DCCC chairman Steve Israel.

Israel has expressed a belief that moderate voters are not driven by social problems. “The judgment made by pro-choice independent voters in the blue states is Dobbs It won’t affect them because they live in the blue state,” he said, referring to the Supreme Court’s decision to end the constitutional right to abortion.

In some of the redder-colored parts of the country, Democrats appeared less concerned. Congressman. Sharice Davids, who represents a Kansas district that Biden won by just 4 points, was less worrisome, some said. The same goes for the House of Representatives. Jared Golden of Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, Donald Trump won by 7 percentage points.

Democratic candidates have been trying to maintain an optimistic tone. “I feel exactly how we felt before the August special election, and every pundit and pundit said we’re not going to win,” said Rep. Pat Ryan (DN.Y.), who won big on abortion rights A complete victory, now in the newly drawn 18th Congressional District.

“we won [in August] Because we stand for freedom, democracy and choice,” Ryan said in an interview with The Washington Post. “The same message definitely resonates more. “

In Pennsylvania on Wednesday, some Democrats were less optimistic, hoping to turn the page in the only debate between Feltman and Republican Mohamed Oz. The two clashed over policy in an hour-long showdown on Tuesday, with Feltman often stumbling over his words and struggling with a quick question-and-answer format.

“It’s going to be difficult for him in any situation,” said Larry Ceisler, public affairs director for the Philadelphia Democratic Party. “He’s like a boxer who can’t beat a smooth boxing veteran. Stand up for yourself in front of you. It’s an unfair fight.”

Feltman’s campaign announced in a statement Wednesday that it had raised $2 million in less than 24 hours after his debate, which it attributed to “great grassroots enthusiasm.”

The movement also slammed Oz for speaking about abortion in the debate, “I don’t want the federal government to be involved at all. I want women, doctors, local political leaders to lead democracy so our country can thrive and come up with the best ideas so that States can decide for themselves.” A new ad specifically mentions the “local political leaders” section of his comments.

TJ Rooney, the former chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, said he was shocked to hear that Feltman’s team agreed to debate the candidate’s health. Feitman and his doctors say he has shown symptoms of auditory processing disturbances, and the candidate is open to the fact that he sometimes had trouble speaking after a stroke in May. He relied on closed captioning during Tuesday’s debate. Feltman’s doctor said he was fit to serve in the Senate.

“There are people who have had a brief interest in politics, and they watch this debate and they reach out and say, ‘I sympathize with this guy’,” Rooney said. “The overarching theme is a feeling of sadness, and I don’t know how that translates into that. For politics. It used to be the death knell. Now people are more tolerant.”

Democrats’ concerns about the Senate extend beyond Pennsylvania, where Republicans only need a pickup truck to win control of the Senate.

The National Republican Senate Committee this week announced a roughly $1 million ad buy to boost New Hampshire Senate nominee Don Bolduc, said the group’s chairman, senator. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) will appear at a rally in Bolduc this weekend — both developments that show a potential to regain confidence after another GOP group pulled out of the race.

Some Democrats said the individual moves by Republicans didn’t add up to much. “There may be so-called signs, but no trend,” said JB Poersch, chairman of the Senate Majority PAC, the main outside group supporting Senate Democrats.

Republicans have more confidence in Wisconsin, where the senator takes office. In the summer with his Democratic challenger Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes. Both parties acknowledge tight races in Nevada and Georgia, where Republicans are trying to flip seats, and Arizona, another option for the GOP.

Some gubernatorial races have also caught the attention of Republicans, including in blue-leaning Oregon. A three-man race is raising the odds that Democrats will lose here for the first time in 40 years — hurting candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives, Democratic strategists say. Republicans are trying to take advantage of the outgoing Democratic governor’s unpopularity. Kate Brown, some have put her image in the adverts they run in the state in the heat of the competition.

Colby Itkowitz, Liz Goodwin, and Toluse Olorunnipa in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, contributed to this report.

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