Democrats increasingly view championing the pay of hourly workers as a can’t-lose issue that revs up their base of liberal, black, and Hispanic voters. Perhaps more importantly, it also resonates with the white, blue-collar workers who overwhelmingly side with Republicans.
Since minority participation tapers off in mid-term elections, assailing Republican opposition to hiking the minimum wage could be a more potent Democratic wedge than immigration reform, particularly in red states with competitive U.S. Senate campaigns, such as West Virginia, Kentucky, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Louisiana. Critically, it also allows them a chance to shift away from talking about Obamacare.
But it won’t be easy. In fact, in the races that will decide control of the Senate, it might be near impossible to get people focused on wages instead of the health care law.
“It’s a tried and tested part of the liberal playbook to use the politics of class warfare, and we don’t anticipate it to be successful,” said Jesse Benton, a top adviser to McConnell, the Republican leader of the Senate who’s in a tough reelection fight in Kentucky. “It’s divisive and not productive.”
Certainly, political operatives might easily dismiss the Democratic attempt. But talking about the minimum wage with workers scraping to get by in the eastern slice of West Virginia – where support for President Obama is scarce – shows both the challenge and the opportunity Democrats face in taking up the issue.