House Democrats Blame Losses on Ground Game

Their majority shrank after campaign failures
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 6, 2020 3:35 AM CST
House Democrats Blame Losses on Ground Game
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi arrives to talk to reporters about Election Day results in races for the House of Representatives, at Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, Pool)

Their majority shrunk, House Democrats cast blame Thursday on their election message, ground game, and leadership under Speaker Nancy Pelosi's team after expectations for big wins came crashing down by a stark reversal in Trump country. Lawmakers unloaded during a caucus call Thursday—Democratic freshman Rep. Abigail Spanberger, in a so-tight race in Virginia, spoke with "passion" about the party's campaign failures, according to a person familiar with the private call who spoke to the AP. The marathon call ran three hours, with some 30 members adding their views. No one spoke against Pelosi, who tried to remind them, they did, in fact, win, with House Democrats on track to keep their majority. "We did not win every battle but we did win the war," Pelosi said.

But there were plenty of complaints to go around—over faulty polling, Republican attack ads, and more—as expectations had been raised sky high for election night gains and that made the setbacks all the more disorienting. Rather than bolstering their majority, as planned, Democrats lost a handful of freshman lawmakers who had just won in a 2018 midterm election backlash against the president. Among the shortcomings lawmakers complained about in the Thursday call:

  • They focused too narrowly on health care, when voters were also worried about the economy.
  • They failed to fight back when Republicans labeled them “socialists” aligned with the party's most liberal firebrands.
  • They didn't knock on doors to meet voters, focusing instead on phone calls, digital outreach, and TV ads, due to the health risks of campaigning during the pandemic.
  • They lost Latino voters in some places, and white, working class men in others.
  • They did not pass more COVID aid through Congress when Americans needed help most.

Other Democrats argued it was always going to be difficult to defend the House majority. It was won in 2018 with more women and minority candidates in history, reaching into districts Trump had won in 2016. Holding onto those seats would be tougher once the president was back on the ballot. Democratic freshman Rep. Elissa Slotkin, who won re-election in Michigan, did so with a more narrow margin than she did in 2018. "With President Trump on the ballot, it just drove enormous turnout that was almost impossible to surmount" in some areas, she said.

(More Election 2020 stories.)

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