But, with Trump no longer in the White House and Biden’s approval ratings underwater, the electability message is falling flat in Democratic primaries. In 2018, Democratic candidates prevailed in GOP-leaning CDs by leaning into a message of bipartisanship. Today, however, a restive Democratic base, discouraged by a lack of action on many of their key issues (like climate and student loan debt), and frustrated by GOP attacks on issues like abortion and election integrity, want fighters, not unifiers as their candidates.
There’s no greater example of this shift in priorities for Democratic voters than Rep. Conor Lamb’s struggling campaign in the Democratic primary for the Pennsylvania Senate. Lamb was easily 2018’s “Electability” poster-child. As a moderate outsider who distanced himself from the party’s more divisive positions, his profile helped him win a Trump-leaning CD in a special election. Lamb raised more than $3M in small donations for that contest, an unheard-of sum for a candidate who doesn’t have a national profile or a progressive platform. Donors were less interested in his policy positions than they were in his role of denying Trump a GOP majority in Congress.
This year, however, Lamb’s attacks on front runner Lt. Gov. John Fetterman as too liberal to win in this swing state in November haven’t worked. And, both Lamb, and the SuperPAC set up to help him, have struggled to raise money.
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