Democratic power players split on Virginia blame game, midterm strategy

US President Joe Biden speaks during the “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act” signing ceremony, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, November 15, 2021.

Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

Democratic Party officials and donors are divided over who is responsible for losses in several statewide races this month — and they are also divided over how the party will recover in the 2022 midterm congressional elections.

The biggest losses came in Virginia, including the victory of Republican Glenn Youngkin over former Governor Terry McAuliffe in the state’s gubernatorial election. In New Jersey, several Democrats lost in local races while Governor Phil Murphy overcame a tougher-than-expected challenge from Republican Jack Ciatarelli.

Several wealthy donors have indicated that they have raised funds and contribute to the Democratic National Committee, the political arm of the White House when a Democrat is president, and help campaigns across the country.

Those donors believe the DNC has not done enough to help their favorite candidates, especially McAuliffe, according to people familiar with the matter. Some of the people who commented on this story declined to be named for fear of seeing retaliation from the party leaders.

John Morgan, a Florida-based businessman who has raised and contributed to Democrats for years, was among a group of donors who told CNBC earlier this month that they had finished donating to the DNC and might back down on funding for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. If House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, decides to retire. The DCCC is the campaign arm of House Democrats, who are fighting to maintain their majority.

“I wouldn’t give another penny to the DNC. If Pelosi didn’t nominate, I wouldn’t give another penny to the DCCC. I didn’t register to be a socialist,” Morgan, who has hosted McAuliffe at previous fundraising events, said in an email. After the last election losses. “I never see myself having a fundraiser again.”

Data from the Nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics shows that Morgan contributed $35,500 to the DNC in August 2020. He was one of Biden’s during the 2020 election cycle. Pelosi did not say whether she would retire before next year’s midterm elections, when Republicans are expected to regain House Representatives.

Invest Millions in the Virginia Campaign

The DNC said it invested nearly $6 million in the Virginia election, which the committee said was its largest ever investment in the state. The DNC also said it invested an additional $500,000 to get McAuliffe and Democrats voting up and down the ticket in the final weeks of the campaign.

A spokesperson for the commission told CNBC in an email Tuesday that it has invested $1 million in the battle for New Jersey. The representative also explained that so far this year, the committee has raised more than $127 million through September, the largest campaign cash it says has ever been raised in a non-presidential year.

McAuliffe, a former Virginia governor, has ties to the heads of institutional parties such as Clinton, and to influential financiers. His campaign raised more than $57 million on Election Day earlier this month.

Data from the Virginia Public Access Project shows that top individual donors to his campaign this year included billionaire George Soros, billionaire philanthropist Pat Stryker, Chicago businessman Fred Eichner and Wall Street veteran John Griffin.

Several donors said they were concerned that Gene O’Malley Dillon, President Joe Biden’s deputy chief of staff at the White House and his previous campaign manager for 2020, might prevent DNC ​​President Jamie Harrison from hiring the staff he wants. Some of those people said they were also concerned that it could have too much influence over how the commission spends the money.

One of the president’s advisers told CNBC that O’Malley Dillon does not make hiring decisions for the DNC. This year the DNC brought in Roger Lau, who was Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts campaign manager, as well as fellow Warren campaigner Kristen Ortman.

Harrison, the president of the DNC, recently told The Associated Press that he meets two to three times a month with O’Malley Dillon and that they are building a friendship. “I’ll keep pushing, I’ll keep creating,” he said, “but I and I are working hand in hand to try to make this business a success.”

In a statement to CNBC, Harrison denied any tension between him and the White House.

“As I’ve said on the record many times, the White House and I and the entire DNC staff have a close working relationship and anything to suggest otherwise is absolutely untrue. Anyone who knows me knows that I treat the people I work with like family – and that’s exactly what we mean to every other employee, Harrison said in an email statement on Tuesday. “While many people do not seem to understand the role the NDP has historically played when our party is in control of the White House, our focus remains on furthering President Biden’s agenda and continuing to provide assistance to the American people.”

Concerns about the Democratic National Convention have convinced some Democratic lawmakers in trusted blue New York state to stay away from asking for her help in next year’s election, according to a person familiar with the matter.

A White House spokesman did not respond to questions seeking comment.

But other key figures in the party invoke other potential causes for the Democrats’ issues. They believe that this latest election saw an unexpected Republican turnout. They also say Democratic campaigns need stronger messaging to promote their party’s midterm achievements. These officials said that neither the White House, nor the Democratic National Council, nor state parties were to blame.

“It’s a circular execution squad,” said a prominent fundraiser and campaign advisor.

Bradley Beachock, co-founder of PAC American Bridge, told CNBC that the attacks on the DNC were “misleading.”

“Democrats need to come together, stop pointing fingers, pass a bill, and sell it mid-term. It’s more complicated than that,” Peschuk said. Biden on Monday signed off on the $1 trillion infrastructure bill, and Democrats are likely to campaign on that legislation in the upcoming elections. Democrats have not yet approved the $1.8 trillion social spending proposal, but Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, of New York, said the Senate would approve the plan before Christmas.

The head of another influential Democratic outside group, said the blame for the loss in Virginia rested in large part on McAuliffe’s campaign and the fact that Congress was struggling to pass key legislation.

Ed Rendell, the former governor of Pennsylvania, hosted a virtual DNC fundraising event featuring Biden himself shortly after the last election. Rendell told CNBC that the event raised more than $375,000 with more than a dozen people contributing to the gathering.

Rendel said that party leaders cannot recognize the Democratic National Convention because it works closely with the White House.

“When your party has the White House, you can’t recognize the DNC and say, ‘How did they run it?'” “They run it with the political arm of the White House. They made some mistakes. But they did some decent things, too,” Rendell told CNBC.

‘take a deep breath’

Rendell and other leaders such as New York State Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs believe that the party’s messaging and efforts to pass legislation on Capitol Hill should improve in the midterm elections.

Rendell and Jacobs told CNBC that the reason the party saw losses in local races was the struggle that lawmakers were passing key legislation at the time, such as the infrastructure bill now signed, and how Democrats failed to address it. Some narratives pushed by Republicans.

Jacobs said the election should show that if Democrats don’t shift their messages away from the party’s progressive side, they will see huge losses in the midterm elections.

“If the Democrats view the left as too far, I think we’re taking too much risk. And then we’re missing the electorate in the middle,” Jacobs said. He added that if the economy improves, the infrastructure bill kicks in, and the country begins to transform, Democrats may see gains in the midterm elections.

Rendell wants the panicked donors to calm down a bit.

“Take a deep breath,” Rendell said. “Wait and see how things develop. If they pass the bills and people get a clear understanding of what these two bills are doing, wait and see what the temperature is on St. Patrick’s Day.” .

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