Democrats seek to 'sell' accomplishments ahead of tough midterms
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While key priorities of Biden's domestic agenda have died in Congress – namely the Build Back Better social spending plan and voting rights reforms – members of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) are taking stock of what Biden has gotten done and pushing a message of monumental accomplishment.
"We have a record — a record to be proud of, an agenda that addresses the biggest concerns here in America, in people’s lives, the message that resonates," President Biden told the DNC faithful Thursday. "And now — now what we have to do is we have to sell it with confidence, clarity, conviction and repetition."
President Biden delivers remarks at the House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference in Philadelphia March 11, 2022. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
More than 400 members of the DNC huddled in Washington, D.C., this week for their first in-person meeting since the coronavirus pandemic, though masks and vaccinations were required to attend. The mood was upbeat at the chance to reconnect and solidify messaging on how best to lead Democrats into the November elections.
"It's just wonderful to get back and make those connections again and to see people you haven't seen for a while and get motivated again," said Deb Knecht, a DNC national committee member from South Dakota, "because Democrats getting together motivate each other. … I feel like we really needed this."
While Democrats didn't get Biden's agenda fully passed due to opposition in his own party in the 50-50 split Senate, they sought to reframe the conversation by not looking back at what wasn't done, but by embracing and running on the priorities that made it through.
At the top of the list are the American Rescue Plan, the major coronavirus relief and spending bill that passed a year ago with just Democratic support and the bipartisan infrastructure act that will help communities rebuild roads and bridges and deliver broadband access.
Despite the pressures of inflation and high gas prices, which Democrats hope will improve before November, they've honed an economic message of record job growth and low employment.
"It's a matter of us taking ownership of the good work that we're doing," said Rion Ramirez, a Seattle area member of the DNC. "We've really accomplished a lot of stuff in terms of the American Rescue Plan. The economy is really strong. We're turning the corner (on) COVID. I think there's a tremendous amount of opportunity for us to get out and really pound the drum on the good work that's gone on."
If history is any indication, Democrats are poised for a difficult midterm election season when control of the U.S. House and Senate are at stake. The party in power in the White House traditionally loses seats in Congress during the first midterm election.
Former President Obama famously suffered a self-described "shellacking" in 2010 after Republicans won in a landslide midterm election and retook the House. In 2018, Republicans lost control of the House of Representatives during former President Trump's midterm elections when a new wave of Democrats were elected, many of them women, and re-elected Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., as the House speaker.
Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison during his run for U.S. Senate at a drive-in campaign rally at Wilson High School in Florence, S.C., Oct. 24, 2020.
Biden is also bogged down by low approval ratings, inflation and an ongoing war in Ukraine.
Democrats acknowledged voters back home are grappling with price spikes on everything from gas to groceries but sought to distance Biden from causing inflation. Party faithful echoed the White House message that the pain at the pump is the result of Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, and the higher prices are a necessary sacrifice to stand with the people of Ukraine.
"I do think that from the Republican side there is going to be blame," Georgia Democrat Lydia Glaize, a candidate for the state House of Representatives, said of the GOP blaming Biden for high gas prices. "But I can tell you from an American point of view that it's not our fault. We know for sure that this lies in the hands of Russia."
Floyd McKissick, Jr., a former state senator who is active in the North Carolina Democratic Party, said it's "imperative" that Democrats tie the origin of inflation to the start of the pandemic and global supply chain issues that happened on former President Trump's watch.
"What Biden inherited was a ship that was adrift at sea that he's had to sail on a corrective course to get things back in place," McKissick said. "And I think he's done an excellent job in doing so."
McKissick said the gas price hike may not be as adverse on Democrats as long as people identify Putin as the cause.
"It’s a perception issue," he said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki speaks during a press briefing at the White House March 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Democrats are also stressing that Biden has the right policies to tackle higher prices.
"The president has a plan," DNC Chair Jaime Harrison told Fox News Digital when asked about inflation. "Republicans don’t."
Another message the DNC is pushing is to remind Democrats that what Biden has accomplished is far better than the GOP alternative.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki spoke to the women's caucus at the DNC and stressed the gains females have made under Biden's presidency, including the historic nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court.
"I don’t need to tell a single person in this room that after the four years that preceded President Biden and Vice President Harris the women in this country needed a lot of healing and a lot of repair," Psaki said.