Democratic autopsy report concludes shy Trump voters and 'defund the police' hurt them in 2020

AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

After the results of the 2020 election, particularly the disappointing results in the House, Democrats commissioned an autopsy to determine why they had lost 11 seats when they expected to gain as many as 15. Last night Rep. Sean Maloney revealed the findings of that effort in the form of a 52-page Power Point presentation. The bottom line focused on two issues. First, the polling was very bad, leading Dems to think they were going to gain seats in the House when in fact they would come close to losing their majority.


In one of three very competitive Iowa races, a final poll predicted that Democrats who were not frequent voters would make up 5 percent of the total electorate, while similarly low-turnout Republicans would account for just 4 percent of voters.

In reality, 5.9 percent of voters were low-propensity Republicans and just 4.7 percent were infrequent Democratic voters, providing the narrow margin of victory for the GOP candidate.

So infrequent Democratic voters slightly underperformed expectations but infrequent Republican voters vastly exceeded expectations. The exact reason why apparently comes down to the “shy voter” theory, i.e. the idea that Trump voters are less likely to respond to pollsters and therefore pollsters underestimate their numbers.

But according to Rep. Maloney the polling errors led to a misallocation of resources. Because instead of trying to protect freshmen Democrats who polls showed were safe, Democrats spent a lot of money trying to unseat Republicans who polls showed were vulnerable.

“If you had a crystal ball, you would have surged resources around incumbents that we now know were in more danger than the polling suggested, and you would have felt less enthusiastic about some red-to-blue opportunities,” he said.

In short, Democrats should have spent less time daydreaming about turning Texas blue and more time worrying about Democrats in purple districts. Rep. Mahoney concluded that might have mitigated the losses which is the best they could have done. Picking up a dozen or more seats just wasn’t in the cards. And that brings us to the other reason Democrats struggled in 2020. The attacks on their left flank worked.

“We spent a bunch of time understanding how to respond more effectively, knowing that they’re going to do it again,” Maloney said, looking ahead to 2022. “So we take that very seriously and I really want to be clear. I am not saying that those false attacks about defunding the police or socialism did not carry a punch.”

Of course Mahoney is going to spin these as “false” attacks. It’s true that many of the Democrats who lost seats were more moderate freshmen and not members of the Squad. That said, there’s no doubt that handing Dems the majority also empowers the leftists in their ranks.

As for 2022, I’m sure Republicans are going to run a similar campaign. Put AOC in the minority is a winning message because AOC genuinely does want to defund the police, advance socialism and all the other things Republicans are warning about.

Finally, there’s one more thing mentioned in the autopsy report that I’ve written about before. Democrats had a tough time reaching out to minorities in 2020. In particular, Trump did better with Latinos than expected. He got 36% of the Latino vote in 2020, better than the 32% he got in 2016. That’s a trend that worries Democrats because the black percentage of the population isn’t growing but the Latino percentage is. And if Latinos start voting Republican at even slightly higher rates then the whole demographic destiny argument many Dems have been counting on to win future elections is going down in flames.

Considering that they won the White House and control of the Senate in 2020, Democrats still have a lot of things to keep them awake at night as we head into the 2022 midterms.


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