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Bad Polling, GOP Attacks on ‘Socialists,’ ‘Defund the Police’ Movement Hurt House Dems in 2020

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Bad polling and Republicans’ attacks focused on the “defund the police” movement led to poor results for House Democrats in the 2020 election, Rep. Patrick Maloney, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told The Washington Post on Tuesday.

Republicans gained 15 seats in the House in November and Democrats just three, though Democrats retained control of the lower chamber by just four seats. Still, the party suffered a loss of 13 seats in the House, reducing their margin from 36 to just 10. Republicans need a net gain of five seats in 2022 to regain control.

Maloney told the Post, though, that there’s “no evidence that Republicans’ current message, which is divisive and reckless, will be able to re-create the turnout Republicans saw in 2020, and it might in fact hurt them.”

The New York congressman oversaw a “deep dive” of the 2020 election and shared his results with House Democrats on a call Tuesday evening. His 52-page PowerPoint presentation included interviews with candidates, campaign officials, consultants, and staff, as well as a breakdown of over 600 polls from House races.

Key takeaways from the report suggested national polling underestimated the turnout of Trump voters, including in three competitive Iowa races, and GOP attacks against the “defund the police” movement that surged amid the civil unrest in 2020 following the police killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and other unarmed Black people proved to be effective.

Republicans’ labels of Democrats as “socialists” was also crucial.

“We spent a bunch of time understanding how to respond more effectively, knowing that they’re going to do it again,” Maloney said.

“So, we take that very seriously and I really want to be clear. I am not saying that those false attacks about defunding the police or socialism did not carry a punch.” 

The presentation called for better outreach to minority voters, among other changes.

“This is about acknowledging Democrats have work to do when it comes to communicating with communities of color, especially as we learn to better differentiate between the needs and concerns of the diversity that exists within our communities,” said Georgia Rep. Nikema Williams, who also assisted on the report. 

“We’re doubling down on the investments we made in 2020 to hear from communities of color by ensuring we reach the breadth and depth of the Democratic coalition.”

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