An extensive analysis of what went right and wrong for Democrats in the 2020 elections warns that the party could see support drop with Black, Hispanic and Asian American voters in future contests unless Democrats do a more effective job countering Republican attacks.
While Democrats won the White House and narrowly captured the Senate majority in the 2020 cycle, in the battle for the House the GOP defied expectations and took a big bite out of the Democrats’ majority in the House and Republicans currently only need a net gain of five seats in the 2022 midterms to regain control of the chamber.
A 73-page autopsy of the 2020 contests compiled by three pro-Democratic groups – the Third Way, a centrist think tank; the Collective PAC, which supports Black candidates; and the Latino Victory Fund, which promotes Hispanic candidates – spotlights that many House and some Senate Democrats underperformed at the ballot box because they failed to match now-President Biden's support with voters of color, who despised then-President Trump but who also had reservations about the Democratic Party.
"The 2020 election was a mixed bag for Democrats. While thrilled with the Biden win and the new Senate majority, expected victories in many contested races failed to materialize, and the Party lost significant ground in the House," reads an introduction to the report by the Third Way.
The introduction spotlights that "the purpose of this project was to determine what worked well for Democrats in these campaigns and, in particular, what challenges they faced, so that the Party can be best prepared to compete in 2022 and beyond."
The analysis – which was first reported by The New York Times – points to specific electoral setbacks with Spanish speaking voters in Florida and Texas, Black voters in North Carolina, and Asian American voters in California, as it argues that Democrats failed to convey a consistent core message on the economy last year and "leaned too heavily on ‘anti-Trump’ rhetoric."
And then concludes that unless the party does a better job pushing back against GOP attacks comparing Democrats to socialists, they could see further erosion of support among minority voters.
The report was conducted over the past six months by veteran Democratic operatives and communicators Lynda Tran and Marlon Marshall. The analysis included nearly 150 interviews with candidates, staff, consultants, and pro-Democratic outside groups and organizations, as well as a in-depth look at polling and turnout data, and ad campaigns.
Among their findings – "voters of color are persuasion voters who need to be convinced," "Republican attempts to brand Democrats as ‘radicals’ worked," "Polling was a huge problem – even after 2016 adjustments," "COVID-19 affected everything," and "Our hopes for 2020 were just too high."
At the end of their report, the authors stress that Democrats need "to be unapologetic about race. And we need to explain to all Americans why doing so is beneficial to everyone."
Tran and Marshall also call for officials to "reimagine our Democratic Party message and narrative," and for the party to "commit to early investment and year-round organizing."
The new study is being shared with top Democratic National Committee officials as well as other party leaders. It comes on the heels of a "deep dive" of the 2020 election compiled by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the reelection arm of House Democrats.
That report blamed bad polling that underestimated voter turnout by Trump supporters, as well as effective messaging by House Republicans that focused on the far left’s "defund the police" movement, for the party’s underwhelming performance in congressional elections last November.