Democrats must not only rely on an unpopular Republican president to do well in midterm elections, but also must present voters with an attractive agenda, and find candidates who are a good fit for specific districts, according to Bruce Reed and Rahm Emanuel, who helped orchestrate the party's effort the last time Democrats won back the House in 2006.
Writing in The Atlantic, the two stressed Democrats need to formulate a strategy to convince voters the party is worthy of controlling the House again, because just saying no to President Donald Trump won't be enough.
Reed and Emanuel point out that although House control has only changed hands on three occasions in the last 60 years, each time (1994, 2006, 2010) was in midterm elections, with the president's party losing control.
Another natural advantage the Democrats have for 2018 is that the odds are with the opposition party, because in the last 20 midterm elections the president's party has gained seats only twice (1998 and 2002), a study by The American Presidency Project shows.
Adding to this historical trend, Reed and Emanuel say Trump's low popularity figures, and his liability due to self-inflicted wounds, will give the Democratic base plenty of reasons for motivation even without a pep talk from the party leadership.
But they warn this will not be enough to secure victory, because "Democrats must channel their anger, not be defined by it," they explained and Dems "don't have to make 2018 a referendum on Trump's impeachment [as the GOP did with Bill Clinton in 1998, which then backfired].
"If they want to win the majority they need in order to hold Trump accountable, they'll do much better making the election a referendum on Trump's record."
The authors cite 23 Republican incumbents are from mainstream, metropolitan-area districts that Hillary Clinton won and whose voters are unlikely to look favorably at a Trump agenda of cutting student aid, denying climate change, and getting rid of protections for pre-existing conditions in healthcare.
But Reed and Emanuel emphasize these factors will not be enough unless Democratic candidates are found to appeal to specific winnable districts, even if those candidates are not necessarily popular with the national party's activist base.
This matching up of candidates to places where they could win is something the authors said they meticulously did in the successful 2006 effort and should be repeated for next year's election.
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