Yes, It’s Time to Think About 2018

Yeah, I know, the only thing that annoys some people more than talking about early 2016 polls (repeat after me: All Data Has Some Value) is talking about elections after 2016. But what the hell, we’ve already broken the seal on the 2020 races that will determine the power to influence the next round of redistricting, so what’s the harm of talking about the election before that?

More to the point, Greg Sargent’s thinking about 2018 as a test of whether Democrats can begin to reverse a big GOP advantage in the states, and he’s published an interview with incoming Democratic Governors Association chair Daniel Malloy of Connecticut, a guy who survived both 2010 and 2014.

Malloy isn’t spinning when he notes the 2018 landscape looks pretty good, mentioning term limits and deeply exposed blue-state Republicans as positive factors. I did my own checking, and get this: there are three Democratic and fourteen Republican governors who will be term-limited in 2018. Six of those fourteen are serving in states carried twice by Obama. If Democrats cannot pick of most of these six open blue-state seats, they’re not trying hard enough.

But the big question is posed directly by Greg to Malloy:

PLUM LINE: Isn’t the problem that Democrats still don’t know how to deal with the midterm dropoff among their voters? What will stop that from happening in 2018, when all these big governors’ races are at stake?

MALLOY: I don’t think Democrats in most cases have come up with a strategy for that drop-off. We did in Connecticut. That’s why I’m still standing. We had a 56 percent participation rate. We contacted voters over an 18-month period of time. Republicans have done an exceptionally good job of making their voters feel like they’re part of a team. We need to replicate that. We need to make our voters feel like they are part of a team, that this is a continuing process, that every year there’s an election of importance. We need to retrain our voters.

So is that the answer? Better voter contact over a longer period of time? I dunno. It would be helpful, though, if Democrats also spent some time figuring out how to up their game with voters who do show up in midterms, like old folks, among whom the Silent Generation is being rapidly replaced by us Baby Boomers, who are a bit more open to voting Democratic.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.