Monday, November 16, 2009

The Numbers Show Democrats Need To Engage The Base

In a post on the Public Policy Polling blog last week, Tom Jensen wrote about some of the polling results from Democracy Corps. The polling took a detailed look into the elections in Virginia and New Jersey and seemed to reiterate many of the points that have been made by progressive bloggers here in Virginia. The Democratic candidates lost because the Party’s base simply wasn’t inspired to get out and vote.
In both New Jersey and Virginia people who didn't vote were much more likely to think the country is heading in the right direction than those who did. Those who think things are fine were less likely to get out and vote.

Similar story when it comes to whether people think Obama has things going the right way- 49% of those who didn't vote in Virginia think he does while only 43% of those who did vote do. In New Jersey 63% of nonvoters thought Obama had the country going in the right direction while only 51% of voters shared that sentiment.
Now the Obama campaign was great about reaching out to new voters and making sure that they got out to vote. Many of them were inspired enough by the campaign to make it out to a few events and volunteer for his candidacy. At the same time, however, something clearly went wrong this year as the candidates were simply not able to inspire Obama supporters to get out to the polls.

Based upon the poll results and conversations I had with voters and other activists while canvassing for local candidates, the answer to what went wrong is painfully obvious. The public wasn’t given a reason to vote, much less volunteer, for the Deeds campaign. If the Democratic base couldn’t even get excited about his campaign, how could we possibly expect Independents and newly engaged voters to support his candidacy? This, however, has already been discussed repeatedly so I won’t harp on it any longer.

What Tom’s post and the poll numbers suggest is that we need to remind voters that we still have work to be done and that they must get out and vote. In my opinion, we do that by nominating candidates who have a strong progressive message and aren’t afraid to promote it on the trail. This will remind the Democratic base what they are fighting for and potentially inspire them to volunteer for the Democratic candidate. We then need to make that the candidates have a good campaign team that will engage these volunteers and use their time wisely what contacting potential supporters.

These steps might sound like basic steps that any campaign should take, but they weren’t done in Virginia during 2009 and these poll results clearly show that the Democratic base clearly didn’t show up. Furthermore, without following these steps, Creigh lost by 18 points and we had a net loss of 6 seats in the House of Delegates. The Obama campaign, however, mastered these steps and Virginia went blue in the presidential race for the first time in 44 years while we were able to pick up 4 seats in Virginia’s Congressional delegation (3 in the House and 1 in the Senate).

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