Cultural fits matter in elections – winnable races being blown

As Election Day approaches, we need to examine successes and failures, and adopt accordingly. Now, looking at national trends and trying to make them work in Florida is not always a good idea, but it’s a useful exercise nonetheless. Two weeks out it’s impossible to know the results, but I think we can see definite patterns. 

As Republicans are attempting to blow 5 very winnable Senate seats (PA, OH, NV, AZ and GA) and Democrats are set to give away multiple House districts the President won by 10 plus percent. Both parties need to think about recruiting, not just prolific fundraisers, but cultural fits for their electorates. 

On paper, Ohio is a layup for Republicans. President Trump won the State by 8%, Republicans are seeing the once Democratic working class stronghold, the Mahoning Valley, shift red and there aren’t very many voters with college degrees, shifting the state left. So, why are Republicans struggling to lock down the seat? 

I think Republican JD Vance’s fake working class shtick juxtaposed against Tim Ryan’s actual working class appeal, has kept the race close. Vance, who will gladly tell you he was born in Middletown Ohio, is a venture capitalist who made his fortune in San Francisco, even referred to Donald Trump as “American Hilter” is running the kind of campaign you’d expect an outsider to run. Vance held a rally during an Ohio State football game, has actively not talked about manufacturing jobs and hasn’t actually campaigned very much in person. Compared to Ryan, a Trumbull County native who played football at Youngstown State, has actively campaigned and highlighted Vance shipping jobs out of Ohio, the cultural fit isn’t a contest. 

Now, Vance still will likely win, but the National GOP had to commit $28 million dollars to him. Money which needed to go to Herschel Walker, Adam Laxalt and Mehmet Oz. 

A similar pattern has emerged in other tight Senate contests. John Fetterman’s working class appeal has put him in a contested race, with the wealthy, tv star Muslim, Dr. Oz. Catherine Cortez Masto, a Latina, is performing considerably stronger with Nevada’s heavily Latino population in Las Vegas than Republican challenger Adam Laxalt. Raphael Warnock, a pastor, is favored in the heart of the bible belt. 

 Now, I can’t let Democrats off the hook. They have nominated some of the worst House Candidates in extremely winnable seats, I have ever seen. (Republicans did this too, but less so.) 

Christy Smith – from Ballotpedia

The best example, I think, is Christy Smith in California, who is poised to lose a seat which the President won by 12%. Smith initially lost the seat in a 2019 special election, followed it up by losing in 2020 and the race in 2022 is effectively over. 

The electorate is composed of suburban and working class White voters, and working class Hispanic voters. Traditionally, white suburbanites favored Republicans, while working class Hispanics favored Democrats. Though these trends have shifted recently, Smith manages to appeal to none of these voters, narrowly winning her former suburban state assembly seat in the blue wave of 2018, yet managing to significantly run behind Hillary Clinton. Smith then parlayed (Margaret Good style) her victory into running in a seat she fit terribly in. The upper middle class, blonde and uncharismatic white woman was destined to struggle in this district, and she has. In fact, just this week, the DCCC signaled a vote of no confidence in her, triaging, or canceling an ad $2.2 million dollar ad buy for the LA market. 

The Democrats need to nominate a Hispanic from a working class background, or someone who can appeal to multiple groups of people. Smith isn’t that. 

In Florida, we’ve seen this issue too. Recently, Donna Shalala’s struggles in the primarily Hispanic FL-27 races exemplify this. But, as a Democrat, we have no margin for error and can’t screw around with aloof candidates. 

As we approach another shellacking in 2022, let’s look to 2023 and seek to recruit and nominate the best fits we can.

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