Wasserman: Dems need to focus on rural message
February 9, 2017
BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. — Democrats need to focus more on their message in rural America than on reducing gerrymandering if they want to win more congressional seats, a well-known political analyst told the crop insurance industry convention here on Wednesday.
Democrats have complained bitterly that the redrawing of House district boundaries after the 2000 Census cost their party seats because Republicans controlled so many governorships and state legislatures that oversaw the redistricting.
The House is now composed of 240 Republicans and 193 Democrats, following the resignations of Republican Mike Pompeo of Kansas to become director of the Central Intelligence Agency and Democrat Xavier Becerra to become attorney general of California.
But David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report said, "Democrats can gain some from redistricting but doesn't solve problems that their voters are concentrated in cities. They have to move beyond complaining about gerrymandering and have to elevate the rural and working class voices within the party that have been drowned out by the coastal elites that are dominating the party."
Wasserman, who speaks frequently to farm groups, said that Democrats would probably hold 10 more House seats if the last redistricting had gone more in their favor, but that would not be enough for them to gain control of the House.
He made the speech shortly after the Republican and Democratic congressional campaign committees had announced their targeted districts for the 2018 elections. The Republican list once again included House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn. (See following story.)
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The 2016 election was a "white working class revolution," Wasserman said, but the Democrats cannot blame racism for what happened. Many Americans voted twice for President Barack Obama, an African American, and then for now-President Donald Trump.
Hillary Clinton campaigned only in big cities and "forgot the mid market cities," Wasserman said. Clinton "lacked a pocketbook message. Democrats were so outraged by what Trump said they forgot what voters in the middle of the country vote on," he added.
Clinton also spent a lot of time at fundraisers raising money for carefully crafted ads when voters wanted "an unfiltered view" of candidates, he said.
"Clinton's focus on Latino voters did not work because most Latinos live in California, Texas and New York, which were not competitive states," he said. "The strategy of focusing on Latinos did not work in Florida either because their turnout did not overtake white working class turnout."
Wasserman also noted that in many rural areas that voted for Trump, Democrats had voted for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., rather than Clinton in the Democratic primary.
"Trump was doing poorly in areas of areas of high rates of church attendance until he picked then-Indiana Republican Gov. Mike Pence, who is well known for his strong religious views, as his running mate.
"It gave Republicans who were reluctant to vote for the Republican ticket a rationale to vote for Trump," Wasserman said.
Polls close to Election Day showed that voters wanted change in Washington even if they were not sure what would happen, he added.
With a Republican Congress, Trump has more of a chance to achieve goals such as an infrastructure bill or immigration reform than Clinton would have had, Wasserman said.
But he said Trump also "presents unique risks" such as relying on questionable information and the possibility that he could take potentially unpopular actions such as deporting young undocumented immigrants who have been studying in the United States and previously protected from deportation.
Wasserman has said for several years that people who live closest to Cracker Barrel restaurants are more likely to vote for Republicans, and those who live closest to a Whole Foods grocery store are more likely to vote Democratic.
That cultural gap was even bigger in this election with Trump winning 76 percent of counties near Cracker Barrel restaurants.
"The two Americas are on the brink of being culturally irreconcilable. This is dangerous," Wasserman said, concluding that it sometimes seems like "people may not even want to live in the same country."
–The Hagstrom Report