One week ago, the DLCC’s target list included flipping seats in critical states: the Michigan House, the North Carolina House, the Pennsylvania House, the Florida Senate, both the Senate and House assemblies of Ohio, as well as Wisconsin’s State Assembly and Senate.
But on November 8, all of these states—Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, Wisconsin—ended up being the ones that ultimately destroyed Clinton’s chances of winning the presidency. The DLCC’s attempts to make Democratic inroads met with a similar end.
Of the 32 seats the organization had targeted in those states, Democrats won only eight. Ohio’s targeted seats remained solidly red, as did those in Wisconsin. In Michigan—once a reliably blue state—just one seat was turned. In Pennsylvania and Florida, both states that Clinton had been projected to win, two out of the four targeted senate district seats turned blue. In the end, it was only in North Carolina, a newly purple state that had been showered with significant attention, thanks to Clinton’s campaign, where the DLCC made real inroads: Three of its four House seats turned blue.
Post pointed out that the DLCC had also managed to flip three other state chambers into Democratic control—the Nevada Assembly, the Nevada Senate, and New Mexico House—both in states, not coincidentally, that Clinton won, whether because the state was reliably blue (New Mexico) or because of an extraordinary amount of resources directed there to target a changing electorate (Nevada).
I asked Post what happened in the midwest. She conceded that the DLCC had seen “the race tightening,” but “certainly didn’t expect bloodbath that happened … We have a lot of learning to do about how to go back to our roots.”
This, she explained, included better messaging about economic pain, a focus on solutions, and the use of what she termed “language that real voters speak in.”
Yet Post remained optimistic. “The good thing about Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio is they have always had strong party organizations. [Those organizations] are thinking about, What we do next to fight back and get back into power?”
I asked Post whether the infrastructure that the DLCC had invested in—that grassroots victory project—would survive until the next election cycle, given the fact that most of the candidates had lost. “There were things in the state that were positive and long-lasting,” she told me. “People are more fired up to be engaged.”
On that count, there may be reason for Democratic optimism. Given the Republican party’s coming grip on all three branches of government—the executive, legislative, and judicial—Democrats will be looking for any available levers of power that might keep the GOP in check. Statehouses will prove critical in this landscape, both in terms of the legislature they issue, and their role in determining the balance of power in the U.S. House. “I think Democrats are in for a long period of introspection,” said Post, “and one of the drums we’ve been beating for a long time is that the focus has not been on the legislative end of ballot.”