One of the critical axioms of political campaigns is always run scared. Candidates should never assume that they will win. Most advisers constantly remind candidates to ignore polls and assume that the margin of error will fall against them. The best campaigners fight for every vote until election day.
It is in this light that there are serious rumbles moving through Democratic circles. There are predictions of a huge Democratic victory in the House, a take-over of a significant governorships especially in the Mid-West, and the flipping of a number of large state legislatures. Only with respect to Democratic prospects in the Senate is the chatter weaker and less sure. The long awaited mid-year elections are only two weeks with more and more people suggesting that this election could be another 2006 for the Democrats.
At this point no one should write off any type of Trumpian surprises. His announced—now perhaps withdrawn–announcement of a further tax cut in 2019 is only the first of many ideas that the President could feed to his base as the momentum of the campaign in key states accelerates.
Democratic surrogates as well as candidates themselves ought not to be resting on their laurels or transitory rosy polls but should be spending every minute insuring a strong, off-year election turnout. The Dems need a much higher than traditional turnout among Black, Latinos, and young voters. This is the message that Obama and Biden have been preaching. The Party must assume that the GOP will be pulling out all the stops to win and will sustain voter suppression efforts wherever they can be exerted.
Certainly, Senator Bernie Sanders understood this matter when he spoke in Ann Arbor, Michigan this weekend on behalf of the Democratic candidate against whom he had campaigned in the earlier Democratic primary. Sanders told an audience of college students that campaigns were about winning and not feeling good.
This is precisely what makes Senator Elizabeth Warren’s actions over the past weeks so off-putting. In proceeding with setting the stage for her own run in 2020 she turned the public’s attention on her not the mid-terms. Simultaneously, Warren gave the President another opportunity to create a further round of nonsensical, distracting remarks to gin up his base about Warren’s Native American parentage. The 2020 face-off must wait.
Races and polls always tighten down the stretch. Unforeseen events can always shift voter preferences. Candidates need to stay on message. Their supporters must feel an even greater reason to stay focused. The candidates must intensify their supporters’ faith in them. The last weeks are about avoiding slippage and GOTV.
If the Dems get cocky and lose control of details now, they may well succeed in snatching defeat out of the jaws of what should be a huge victory.