Several Democratic National Committee members have a message to their organization’s top leadership: President Trump is crushing us.
After pledging to compete everywhere ahead of the next election, multiple DNC members told The Daily Beast they have privately sounded alarms about the organization’s strategy heading into 2020, emphasizing what they view as Chairman Tom Perez’s inability to reach swing voters in Midwestern battleground states who voted for the president. A handful of Midwestern targets were critical to Trump’s general election success in 2016.
Jim Zogby, who co-chairs the DNC’s ethnic counsel, a group that represents people across different ethnic, racial, national origin, and religious identities, says he has been pushing Perez and other party leaders to expand its outreach to voters in the same areas that Trump successfully captured: Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and—a Democratic sore spot in post-2016 politics—Wisconsin.
But that outreach to the committee has fallen on deaf ears.
“In Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, if we do events in those states that focuses on everyone else but them, that breeds resentment,” Zogby said. “That’s why [former Vice President Joe] Biden and [Sen.] Bernie [Sanders I-VT] do well, because they talk to those folks.”
Zogby was specifically referencing voters from Irish, Italian, Polish, Eastern Central European, Arab, and Armenian-American communities highly concentrated in the Midwest.
“I am frustrated beyond belief at the sheer neglect of the constituencies I represent,” he added.
Zogby’s chief concern—raised by several other current DNC members who spoke with The Daily Beast—is that the Trump campaign is already reaching swing voters while the Democratic Party is overwhelmingly focused on expanding their existing base.
“There’s a general unease right now among operatives and others who believe the DNC is not doing enough to build out the infrastructure before the next election,” one DNC member said, who requested to speak anonymously about internal party conversations.
“There’s a deep concern that while we’re turned inwards, the Trump campaign is already out there talking to general election voters.”
In 2016, Trump swept much of the Midwest by razor-thin margins, winning Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania by less than 2 percent. Pennsylvania and Michigan had not voted for a Republican president since 1988, while Wisconsin had not gone for the GOP since 1984. In Ohio, he successfully flipped areas that previously went for Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012.
Now, less than six months away from the Iowa caucuses, the DNC has managed to escape the kind of public criticism that split progressives and moderates into two groups after the 2016 primary. But that veil of optimism could be shifting as new battles pop up, now centering more around some concerns that they are not effectively reaching voters who preferred the president last time around.