What do generic liberal policies, establishment support, and an overflowing war-chest have in common? Those are the three cards that Hillary Clinton and Jon Ossoff had in spades.
Yet, what was once a winning trifecta has now failed repeatedly at the ballot box. Despite this, the Democratic Party at large hasn’t picked up on the emerging trend and seems to believe the strategy will work for them in the upcoming 2018 midterms. Look no further than Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri who is banking on those three same factors to see her through a tough reelection.
Her campaign recently reported that they finished the quarter with more than $5 million in cash. Nearly three-fifths of that was raised in the last quarter alone: That’s close to a million dollars a month.
That puts Claire McCaskill well ahead of other Democratic politicians up for reelection in states that President Trump won. Democrats are overjoyed by the news and seem complacently optimistic about the race as a result.
The Democrats’ strategy: Campaign money über alles
Although, the Democrats’ reliance on money über alles has left them devoid of a convincing message twice in the past year. Hillary Clinton raised a billion dollars but it did nothing to excite inner-city Democrats. Nor were working-class Democrats motivated by the slick digital ads that multi-million dollar consultants churned out. The Midwestern “blue wall” collapsed in front of their eyes.
The same story played out all over again in Georgia eight months later. Jon Ossoff was young, handsome, and well-funded. Wealthy California liberals were looking for a political victory against President Trump. But, as with Hillary Clinton, Ossoff’s copy and paste platform was as bland as could be. Textbook Democratic Party policy planks weren’t relevant to the voters of Georgia’s 6th district. Not living in the Congressional district only added to his out-of-touch image.
With that said, there are notable differences between those two campaigns and Senator McCaskill’s. The most significant distinction is that McCaskill has actually won election to the office she’s running for. She won her first victory in 2006 by a 49 to 47 percent margin. Her second victory was by default: Opponent Todd Akin’s rape comments saw to that. Neither of her two victories was convincing.
That leaves the Missouri Senator in almost the same position as Hillary Clinton and Jon Ossoff. Even though she has the establishment’s backing, and major fundraising ability, McCaskill still suffers from all of the modern Democratic flaws. Her cautiously Democratic platform fails to differentiate her from the Washington Democrats that voters have come to distrust. She is campaigning hard against President Trump with no underlying positive message.
President Trump won Missouri by 19 points because he sold his message to voters. Claire McCaskill can’t. She’s been trying to win by default, for a third time, and it won’t work.
Running against Donald Trump didn’t win Hillary Clinton the presidency, and campaigning against President Trump didn’t win Jon Ossoff a seat in Congress. Being seen as the “lesser of two evils” will also not win Claire McCaskill re-election. Unless Democrats offer voters something more, electoral victories will continue elude their money-grubbing ways.
(Photo of Sen. Claire McCaskill testifying during a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee in July 2015, with a focus on combating campus sexual assault, by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images)