In the past, we've watched from the sidelines as Democratic campaigns chase after "independent" voters to try and win elections. We've long had a base advantage over the GOP, but the likes of the DLC and Third Way were obsessed with those independents (which were actually either apathetic or tea party voters). So, campaigns were geared less toward base mobilization, and more towards being Republican-lite.
And we lost a lot.
Recently, we've seen a party moving away from that approach. President Barack Obama won with a pure base mobilization strategy. Even more dramatically, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe did so as well in Virginia—a southern border state. There are simply more of us than there are conservatives, and as long as we turn out, happy things will happen. But, of course, our voters are the least likely to turn out, and that disadvantage is amplified in off-year non-presidential elections.
But again, Democrats are definitely learning:
The [Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee] is taking lessons from 2010 — when, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that prohibited government restrictions on political spending by corporations, individuals and labor unions, it poured the majority of its financial resources into trying to match Republicans in television ads. And it is using as models successful 2012 efforts in Montana and North Dakota, two states that were not presidential battlegrounds but which elected Democratic senators (Senators Jon Tester and Heidi Heitkamp) through the committee’s robust field effort that helped increase the turnout.To summarize, putting all their money into ads to try and keep up with the Kochs and friends was a loser. Putting that money into a robust field operation that identified core Democratic supporters and made sure they turned out, was successful.
“Television is a fundamentally persuasive medium, and by transferring those resources to targeted mobilization, you see a party whose path to victory goes through changing the electorate, not through winning over the opinion of typical off-year voters,” Mr. Issenberg said. “Campaigns are realizing that the smartest way to win the next vote is by mobilizing a nonvoter than by trying to win over a voter.”
And this matters. In Georgia, Democrats estimate that there are nearly 600,000 unregistered African Americans. Romney won the state by 300,000 in 2012. Compounding the problem, Democrats also estimate that about 600,000 Georgians who voted for Obama won't turn out in 2014 on their own initiative to vote for Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn.
But you don't hear Democrats talking about appealing to southern rednecks with Confederate flags anymore. There are more base Democrats in Georgia than conservatives. If we get them to vote, we win. It won't be easy, but sure beats trying to win over mythical independents and Republicans.