Midwestern Dems Frustrated by Party’s Focus on Russia Investigation

One Democratic strategist: The DNC lawsuit is a 'nice stunt'

Sen. Claire McCaskill / Getty Images

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The Democratic National Committee filed a lawsuit last week against President Donald Trump alleging a conspiracy with Russia, and many Democrats in swing states are displeased with the move.

In the Midwest particularly, Democrats find it unhelpful the party is focusing its national message on the Russia investigation when people in their states and districts do not care, BuzzFeed News reported. Midwestern Democrats consider this an effective strategy to whip up votes in liberal strongholds but a counterproductive strategy in the middle of the country.

"The DNC is doing a good job of winning New York and California," said David Betras, the Democratic county party chairman in Mahoning County, Ohio. "I’m not saying it’s not important — of course it’s important — but do they honestly think that people that we just laid off another shift at the car plant in my home county give a s*** about Russia when they don’t have a frickin’ job?"

Betras added that the party has obsessed over Russia since 2016 while Trump "keeps talking about jobs and the economy."

A spokesperson for Sen. Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) called the DNC’s lawsuit a "silly distraction" last week and other Democrats called it "ill-conceived" and a "stunt."

DNC Chairman Tom Perez said it would be "irresponsible" not to sue, however.

"It's hard to put a price tag on preserving democracy," Perez said.

But Midwestern Democrats have continued to question the lawsuit's necessity. One campaign strategist said it only serves to satisfy the party's largely coastal donor base.

"I’m going to be honest; I don’t understand why they’re doing it," the strategist said about the DNC’s suit. "My sense was it was a move meant to gin up the donor base, not our voters. But it was the biggest news they’ve made in a while."

Another party strategist in the Midwest said there’s no indication Democratic voters want to relitigate the 2016 election.

"I haven’t seen a single piece of data that says voters want Democrats to relitigate 2016," the strategist said. "The only ones who want to do this are Democratic activists who are already voting Democratic."

Trump performed unusually well for a Republican in the Midwest, and even in states he did not win, the Democratic Party is finding it does not help them to center their message on Trump. Democratic strategists in Minnesota say messaging on Trump doesn’t have any notable effect on voters.

Betras also made the point that Democrats’ emphasis on Russia is backfiring and making voters more sympathetic to Trump.

"Somehow we’ve made him into a blue-collar underdog billionaire," Betras said. "And people are rooting for him because he’s the underdog."

David Pepper, the chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party, said the focus on Russia doesn’t hurt but candidates in the fall should still focus on other issues.

"I wouldn’t have our candidates spending the fall talking about Russia or the suit or anything like that," Pepper said. "They should be focused on health care, education, student debt. We shouldn’t divert the message from those topics to talk about Russia."

Another strategist agreed the suit would not matter much, putting it in blunter terms.

"I would say it’s a nice stunt — should raise a lot of money," the strategist said. "Doesn't do much to change the calculus in the heartland."

Paul Crookston

Paul Crookston   Email Paul | Full Bio | RSS
Paul Crookston is a media analyst with the Washington Free Beacon. He was previously a Collegiate Network fellow at National Review. A 2016 graduate of Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., he served as the managing editor of the Tartan campus newspaper. He is originally from Tampa, Fla., but he still roots for Dad’s Ohio teams. His Twitter handle is @P_Crookston. He can be reached at crookston@freebeacon.com.

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