The Democratic National Committee has spent the past year trying to rebuild its sagging party out of the hole left by Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s mismanagement, Barack Obama’s indifference, Russian hacking and accusations that Hillary Clinton rigged the presidential primary elections against Bernie Sanders.
Going into the 2018 midterm elections, Politico put out a new report on Tuesday detailing chairman Tom Perez’ efforts to make his party relevant again.
“I knew it was a turnaround job when I ran, but I undeniably underestimated the depth of the turnaround job. We had to rebuild almost every facet of the organization, and equally importantly, we had to rebuild trust,” Perez said in a recent interview at party headquarters. “Not just people who had invested in the DNC, but others, they just felt the party had let them down.”
Acknowledging that the DNC has become “a symbol of everything that went wrong in 2016,” the piece began describing a new issue in which Sanders is being commanded to hand over his massive voter list to the committee that apparently knifed him in the back when they “bestowed” the presidential nomination on Clinton.
There’s also a rivalry between Perez and deputy chair Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) that won’t end, but the report was optimistic:
Most of the DNC’s officers and members have coalesced behind Perez. Fundraising, while still trailing far behind the Republican National Committee, is on the uptick, boosted by a major donor program Perez has nurtured and checks that picked up after Democrats won high-profile races last fall in Virginia and Alabama. State party chairs say they’re being listened to again. And a tech operation that had atrophied to the point of near collapse under the previous leadership is being rebuilt.
“People understandably, because of Trump and what’s going on, want things to be moving quickly,” said Michael Blake, a DNC vice chair. “But because it’s not moving fast, that does not mean it’s not moving well.”
The DNC in 2018 is expected to adapt its 2017 strategy of “targeted, under-the-radar field and infrastructure investments to a much bigger map of races and a much smaller pool of money than it would like to have. Officials say it’ll stay off TV — in part because it won’t have the money — but will fund staff on the ground, new voter turnout initiatives driven by new technology, and constituency-specific mailers and outreach by phone and text message,” according to the report.
Other strategies include:
- The committee will make some donations to campaigns and the committees for House and Senate races, as well as $10,000 per month to each state party. And it’s rushing to bank money for a promised $10 million “innovation fund” that state parties will compete for.
- Perez has spent the past year reaching out to disaffected outside allies, both committee officers that he’s been trying to keep united and key players in the Sanders axis. He has focused on fundraising, introducing himself to donors who didn’t know him or didn’t see the point in giving to the DNC.
- Ellison continues to push the committee to do more to tap into grass-roots anti-Trump energy, championing “Resistance Summer” activist events last year and proposing to expand Facebook Live events with DNC leaders talking directly to supporters.
“You can win a race here and there. You can get a wave. You can get a backlash election to a particularly bad candidate,” Ellison said. “But if you want to replicate long-term success, you have got to have a wide-awake, well-trained, well-connected Democratic base. That’s the DNC’s job.”