Democrats need a powerful message in Arizona and across the country in this year elections to counter the historical political headwinds that challenge the party that wins the White House in the previous cycle.
In modern history, only twice has the party in the White House performed better than expectations in midterm elections: 1998 when the populace was annoyed with the Republicans for spending too much time on the Monica Lewinsky scandal and 2002 when the George W. Bush Administration, the ones at the helm when 9/11 occurred, was able to fool the American People that the Democrats were soft on terrorism.
To help turn the tide of history in Arizona for the third time in the modern era, Matters of State Strategies has partnered with noted political scientist Rachel Bitecofer on devising the political messaging that will assist Democrats in defying expectations in the November elections by formulating a coalitional message that will persuade Democrats that turning out and voting in this election is vitally important.
Dr. Bitecofer is a political scientist/analyst who earned her Doctorate in Political Science and International Affairs from the University of Georgia. She has offered her views on CNN, MSNBC, and other outlets. She has authored several works and is credited with accurately predicting the 2018 and 2020 election results. She is also the head of Strike Pac, a pro Democrat super pac.
In a statement announcing the partnership, Matter of State Strategies Vice President Matt Grodsky wrote:
“We are excited to be working with Rachel on a brand offensive for our Democratic candidates in Arizona. We felt it was important to engage Rachel to help bolster a traditionally asymmetrical communications approach by Democrats, specifically in midterm election years.”
In the same statement, Dr. Bitecofer relayed:
“I am eager to join the team at Matters of State Strategies to ensure every Arizonan knows the high stakes of showing up and voting for Democrats up and down the ballot this fall.”
Dr. Bitecofer speaks with Blog for Arizona.
After the announcement last week from Matters of State Strategies, Dr. Bitecofer graciously took some time to discuss her reasons for working in Arizona this cycle and her thoughts on what needs to be done to help Democrats beat expectations in 2022 and beyond.
The questions and her responses are below.
- What are at least two features of your brand new offensive for democratic candidates in Arizona this cycle?
“To Arizona, we bring a strategy that is really applicable everywhere. It is a strategical leap because what I’m trying to get people to understand is the Republican party system does not do electoral politics the same way that we do. We try to appeal to people based on policy, congruence and we support this, this, this, and this, you support it too and get them over. What Republicans do is they disqualify the opposition. Right now, everything, even their primary ads are very focused on us on protecting the constituents from Democrats. So, teaching people, it sounds simple, but it’s not simplistic at all. Taking this orbit that has never really been conditioned for that kind of conversation and re tooling it to put forth a referendum message on the GOP is my main thing. So that in 2022, in particular, you’re dealing with a change electorate. That’s what the midterm effect is about. The midterm effect is set by the national scene by the White House, not by in party power, within a state. Right? So, it’s set by that national tone and it favors by its fundamentals, the out party in Washington.”
“What we really need in Arizona and other swing races is to disqualify change. I mean, that’s what midterm voting is really about. It’s about the rejection of the status quo or just unhappiness with the status quo and voters don’t really know what change is. They just know they don’t like what’s happening so they go with change. “
Then our job is to define what that change will be for people living under Republican government and not in an abstract way, but in a very personal way.
“So that’s the second thing is teaching Democrats how to make motive ads that hit at the gut and are geared towards voter’s self-interest.
Advertising tends to focus on, you know, hey, this thing’s happening and it’s going to affect those people. Or we need to do this for the greater good. And the Republican advertising is very self-focused. This is going to hurt you personally. Take your money, take your guns, whatever. So, getting Democrats to personalize, what I call from going from a we to a me frame in their messaging is really critical.
When I go for like careers that I work on now, or messaging for other groups, like what I do is transition it away from we and they, and us to me and you. So, it’s not just that they want to indoctrinate kids. They want to indoctrinate your kids. You see how that is? It’s hard for Democrats. Like in the ideological distribution, there are, is about 10%. Of the overall distribution that is very liberal, very informed, very educated, and no one else is like that.
So, if you think about 90% of other people are not like us and therefore our advertising cannot be aimed at us.”
- What are two reasons you decided to partner with Matters of State Strategies?
“The first reason is that leading Strike Pac, my super pac, so that I could work in as many swing states and as many swing contests as possible.
Arizona is a no brainer.
This is a state that has to defend for the first time in a long time a Democratic Senator and has suffered pretty mightily under Republican rule under Ducey. But it is really facing an existential crisis under this Kari Lake candidacy. I mean, Lake is not pretending what her agenda is. It is a rather radical fringe agenda. Arizona also has a couple of swing house races. It’s just really, really any way that you get to 51 seats in the Senate and 218 in the House, which is what my strategy is.
There’s no strategy/scenario that gets us to 51 and 218, which my operating hypothesis is if you don’t hold Congress in this cycle, when the fundamentals tell you it’s all but impossible to do, right. If you don’t hold both chambers, then you are going to have serious democratic strain going into this next presidential election.
What I care about when I’m looking nationwide is how do you hit 218 and 51?
Of course, Mark Kelly is critical to that in Arizona and so working with Matters of State, there is a no brainer, a great organization crew that gets it, that understands that you’re not going to win in an environment where the other side is running, basically lies and propaganda about you. You’re trying to have a reasonable debate because we just don’t have an informed, engaged electorate here in America. We have to work with the clay, even if it’s a little rough.”
- What would be your duties to further this new offensive?
“So, with Matters of State, I will be optimizing content and retooling content into this brand offenses. Referendum style, average advertising, and that could be direct mail. It could be a digital ad to be a television ad. It could be in many different formats, but the idea is to make sure every message is doing two things simultaneously.
This is how Republicans have excelled so much, given that, I mean, in Arizona, they’re kind of equal in population, but they over-perform there. They tend to over-perform any way Democratic participation. And then the reason why is their system is designed in such a way that their messaging does double dip. It is motivating to their coalition, which includes right-leaning independents. When we think about independents, political scientists, like myself, know that most independents are right leaning. Their messaging is designed to up the stakes for the base, for that coalition and make them kind of afraid not to vote against Democrats.
That’s very negative partisanship oriented, but that same negative partisanship, that same stuff that’s inflaming passion on the base is also very handy within that conversion tool with that segment of the pure independent with the part of the electoral conversion part by disqualifying the brand that you’re running against.
That’s really what they do. Their advertising is about making conversion voters dislike the Democratic brand. That’s why it doesn’t matter for an individual candidate whether they’re moderate or if they’re more progressive. They’ll get painted under the same broad brush. The GOP doesn’t make distinctions between this candidate says they don’t want to defund the police so we won’t run them. They run those same ads against everybody from the state local level down all the way up. What I’m trying to get Democrats to understand is we have to be doing the same thing and we have to be building up from the base of these House district races, layering that message from the House and State Legislative Level to all the statewide offices, to the Senate and into these individual house races. The reason I’m so keen to Include my client list or all the swings is that if you do that layering, it causes a cacophony.
So, like how do you make CRT a buzzword? Well, yes, it’s helpful if you have your own media ecosystem that you can start the fire from, but ultimately where the fire catches is that replication. It’s repeated, replicated, and amplified through the system.
Our system runs exactly the opposite. Everything is what we call candidate centered. The race in CD One will have ads about that particular incumbent and his record, right? It won’t just say this guy’s a Republican. Fear the Republican party! That’s what my effort is going to bring to Arizona.”
- Is there anything not covered in the first three questions you’d like to read us to know about the preparations for the 2022 elections?
“These elections are going to come down to whoever wants it more.
“One side is going is being told that there’s an existential crisis, that the other party is dismantling democratic institutions and norms that the other party is sending America into a totalitarian hellhole. Guess what? It ain’t us. That’s the message that the Republican base hears every day and has heard every day for months and months and the reason that they’re willing to dismantle democracy and do all of these anti-democratic things is because they think, or they’re being told, and this is psychological warfare that gets deployed against them. I’m not saying they’re innocent or hapless, but they are intentionally programmed with this information.
That part of the electorate is going into 2022 convinced that Democrats stole the election, convinced that if they don’t show up to those that they’re going to be living, living under socialist hell holes, where you can’t have a statute to Lincoln. If we don’t meet our side and tell them, hey, there is an actual democratic crisis and these people are using state government to, really enact a very broad, very radical conservative agenda that we’re really, really screwing up because we’re not going to have. That’s how you deal with that enthusiasm deficit that we’re facing right now.”
“People need to know it can be done by the way. The Republican Party did it for their midterm with Trump.
My forecast was really bullish in the House. It predicted 40 seats at the time that other people were thinking, can they flip 23 and gain the House
But in the Senate, it was a rough map and my write-up on the Senate made that very clear.
You have two things. You have a realignment process going on, even with the midterm effect, negative partisanship. But in these Senate races that are up, these are almost all the aligners, not realign. These their deal lining states like North Dakota and Missouri. Right. We should expect them to struggle in the Senate. Instead, what they do is they dropped all of those Senate races and the Florida race to down with that one guy (Rick Scott) who ended up being a hot mess afterwards (with his tax hiking proposals for the middle and working class coupled with his call to end Social Security and Medicare.) The reason is because instead of going down like every other midterm and certainly like us in 2010 and 2014 Republicans actually increased their turnout.
The reason that they didn’t clean it up is because we also increased and we increased much more. But like the fact of the matter remains, they were in power. They control all three branches of Government and they increased their turnout. The reason for that is because they hit with this coalitional brand centric, referendum, style messaging, and really juiced coalitional turnout.
It’s more than the message. You have to carry it through the voter targeting too, but it is a formidable machine.”
- What’s your prediction for November Arizona election results?
“I’ll tell anyone the truth.
This is a five-alarm fire with all hands-on deck.
This is an all or nothing moment.
It is wonderful that Arizona flipped two Senate seeds to Democrats, but I’m here to tell you that electorate will not exist unless we remake it.
It will not happen organically. That energy like we feel, we know all this horrible stuff that’s going on. No one else knows it. No one else knows it. So, our job is to tell the electorate, this is an emergency. This is what’s happening. Your vote is really contingent on it right now.
My goal is to come into the state and kind of infect it with this strategy and if I’m successful, I will feel better about Arizona’s prospects.”
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