Democrats’ Best Recruitment Tool? President Trump

April 6, 2018

New York Times: Democrats’ Best Recruitment Tool? President Trump

By Jonathan Martin and Denise Lu

President Trump’s surprise victory and divisive governing style have galvanized Democrats in ways the party could have only dreamed of in the Obama years, when enthusiasm for its candidates sagged whenever Barack Obama was not on the ballot.

There is perhaps no better illustration of Mr. Trump’s impact on the midterm campaign than in the soaring number of Democratic House candidates running for their party’s nomination in the primaries.

The filing period has not even ended in some states, and there are far more Democratic hopefuls than at any time in the last quarter-century, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political donations.

Notably, there are even more Democrats running for the House this year than there were Republican hopefuls in 2010, when the Tea Party uprising against Mr. Obama helped sweep in 63 new House Republicans.

Stephanie Schriock, the head of Emily’s List, which backs female Democrats who support abortion rights, called this year’s election a “huge empowerment moment” for those eager to thwart Mr. Trump.

“There’s this complete desire to stop what’s happening with the Trump Republican Party, and a feeling that they have to take control or this country will move back decades,” Ms. Schriock said.

Female candidates are driving the surge in Democratic candidates.

Beginning with the Women’s March on the day after Mr. Trump’s inauguration, women have been at the forefront of the opposition to his presidency. And that activism is reflected in the historic number of female candidates on the ballot.

“Women took a good look at the leadership in Washington, D.C., and decided our country could do better, and they want to be a part of that change,” said Alixandria Lapp, a longtime Democratic strategist who runs a House-focused super PAC.

This year, 30 percent of Democratic House candidates are women. In the last two congressional elections, their share was 24 percent.

Ms. Schriock said the groundswell can be traced to Election Day 2016. That was when the first female presidential nominee from a major party not only lost but was defeated by a man many Democratic women consider repugnant.

“There are women across this country that were certain Hillary Clinton was going to be president,” she recalled, saying that Mrs. Clinton’s loss created “an awakening.”

The number of Republican women running for the House has risen slightly, though it remains lower than a high in 2010.

Matt Gorman, a spokesman for the House Republican campaign arm, noted that his party had aggressively sought out female candidates and that in a handful of open House seats, Republicans have recruited women of color to run.

“We have more diverse women in competitive seats than we’ve ever had,” Mr. Gorman said.

But the challenge for Republicans is that the Democratic surge is not limited to women.

While the number of Republican men running for House seats has decreased this year, the number of Democratic men running is the highest since 1990.

Such a flood of candidates can, of course, create headaches. Expensive and contentious primaries often weaken a party’s chances to flip a seat. Several nominating contests are bound to reveal tensions in the Democratic coalition.

But a surfeit of candidates can be a good problem: It reflects partisan intensity, which usually drives midterm election results.

The last time Democrats had such an advantage over Republicans in House candidate recruitment was 2006. There were times that year when primaries grew heated and Washington-based officials saw someone other than their preferred candidate win the nomination.

But that energy was ultimately a net plus: Democrats claimed a majority in both chambers of Congress in 2006 for the first time in over a decade.