Politico’s Morning Score: Dems sound alarm bells on Covid messaging
Politico’s Morning Score – December 7, 2021
By Holly Otterbein
FIRST IN SCORE — MESSAGING MATTERS — The midterms are almost here, and Way to Win — a clearinghouse for major liberal donors and outside groups — is warning Democrats about their pandemic messaging. In a memo, shared first with Morning Score, the group argues that Democrats need to build a strong counter-message to Republican attacks on the party’s agenda, particularly from well-funded, GOP-connected groups like the American Action Network.
“We’re trying to sort of raise some alarms around what we’re seeing,” Jenifer Fernandez Ancona, Way to Win’s vice president and chief strategy officer, said in an interview. “You’ve got a concentration on the other side, where it’s like one group that has $20 million in spending that has one message that’s hitting all these congressional districts. And on our side, we have 15 different groups … it’s not the same message. They’re saying a lot of different things.”
The group’s messaging breaks into three broad buckets of recommendations: Democrats need to sell the party’s job creation record and major legislative victories like the Covid stimulus bill enacted in March for a “cross racial” majority, Democrats need to talk more about what they’ve done to fight the pandemic, and liberals need to “run against MAGA not just Trump.”
Way to Win’s memo argues that the party has a serious messaging problem so far. “We learned that anxiety around the COVID pandemic and local economies are being viewed as one in the same,” the memo read. “Respondents seem less afraid of COVID and more afraid Democrats will shut down local businesses and cause job loss.” Way to Win argues that Democrats need to pitch a proactive, positive vision to counter that. An accompanying polling memo from Data for Progress argued that many of the provisions within Democrats’ pandemic package, like small business relief and the child tax credit, were popular, and Democrats need to focus on it to win back voters.
The party also can’t just dismiss voters’ concerns about the economy, Ancona told Score, and are risking getting swamped by a coordinated GOP message. “It’s true that people are really bogged down by increasing prices and … COVID and inflation. Like, it’s real. It’s real,” she said. “And there’s been asymmetric warfare out there in terms of how, at least on the paid media side … the Republicans have been extremely effective and have spent over $20 million just in the last month and a half just hammering the airwaves.”
The group also argues that Democrats can go on offense. That includes both on the pandemic — Way to Win says voters respond to saying Republicans are causing damage with “anti-science, anti-mask, and anti-vaccination sabotage” — and by trying to link the party to extremism, and not just former President Donald Trump, citing the recent Virginia losses in particular. “By far the strongest contrast, attack, and opportunity to go on offense came from tying the Jan. 6 attack on our Capitol to Republican extremism on issues like COVID vaccines and reproductive freedom.”