Democrats planning multi-year strategy to recapture seats

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at the Central Iowa Democrats Fall Barbecue Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats need to map out a multi-year election strategy to maintain the White House, recapture seats in Congress and in state legislatures and rebuild their bench of candidates, according to a task force formed after the party’s dismal 2014 election.

Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz was releasing a 19-page report Tuesday that describes the party’s work to rebuild after massive losses in the midterm elections during Barack Obama’s presidency.

The report, provided to The Associated Press, says the party needs to develop and deploy a “clear, values-based message,” strengthen state parties, protect the right to vote, prepare for redistricting after the 2020 elections and recruit a new generation of leaders.

“We needed to do a deep dive about what structural changes we could make at the national party to address a broad range of things,” said Wasserman Schultz, a Florida congresswoman, in an interview.

Called the Democratic Victory Task Force, the working group released interim findings last February and the DNC has begun implementing several steps to improve. Some of the changes include renegotiating contracts to help state parties, spending more money on the party’s data infrastructure and bolstering its training programs.

Implementing these recommendations can be difficult. The Republican National Committee produced an autopsy in the aftermath of the 2012 elections and the party has struggled to address one of its policy recommendations on immigration.

The DNC report, led by outgoing Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, shows the extent to which Democrats have stumbled during Obama’s presidency. Since 2008, the party has lost 69 House seats, 13 Senate seats, more than 900 state legislative seats, 30 state legislative chambers and 12 governorships.

Across the nation, Democrats hold 3,172 of the 7,383 seats in state legislatures, or 43 percent. Of the 99 legislative chambers, Democrats only have a majority in 30.

The report delves into the next round of redistricting after the 2020 elections, a major concern for Democrats given GOP clout in state legislatures. In most states, the new boundaries for congressional districts are redrawn following the next census.

The report recommends the DNC work with state parties and organizations like the Democratic Governors Association, which has a new website and fund led by Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe aimed at winning targeted governors races that will influence redistricting.

The report said the “2020 Redistricting Fund” will work in at least 18 states where governors can play an active role in the redistricting process. It said the DGA estimates the changes could give Democrats the opportunity to net 44 extra U.S. House seats.

The findings were based on feedback from more than 100,000 people, dozens of listening sessions and more than 200 individual interviews, the DNC said.

“This document is a roadmap for how the DNC will implement these recommendations, strengthen its operations and better define its role in helping all Democrats engage and win elections,” Beshear said in the report.

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