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Democrats sending digital mobilization help to key districts

DCCC staff in 30 districts will focus on energizing volunteers

IllinoisRep. Cheri Bustos chairs the DCCC, which is sending digital mobilization staffers to key districts.
IllinoisRep. Cheri Bustos chairs the DCCC, which is sending digital mobilization staffers to key districts. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Thirty House campaigns around the country will get help from Washington designing digital organizing programs under an initiative being launched by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to deal with the difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic in reaching voters face to face.

The “campaign mobilization directors” hired by the DCCC will work with campaign field directors and help troubleshoot digital platforms, according to a committee strategy memo shared first with CQ Roll Call.

The effort comes after Democrats lost a House seat in a special election on May 12 that Republicans touted as a sign they could take back the chamber. In California’s 25th District, Republican Navy veteran Mike Garcia defeated Democratic state Assemblywoman Christy Smith in a seat Hillary Clinton carried by 7 points in 2016. Garcia and Smith will face each other again in November, when Democrats contend their base voters are more likely to turn out.

DCCC Chairwoman Cheri Bustos and executive director Lucinda Guinn referenced the contest in their memo, noting that the special election allowed the committee to test turnout strategies and online mobilization tools.

“Already, the DCCC is putting those lessons into practice: reconfiguring our field investments to cater to each district’s unique COVID-19 needs, hiring field directors in over 40 districts, and, for the first time, hiring mobilization directors in individual districts,” they wrote. “This pilot program is launching in over 30 districts, with the ability to scale further to meet the needs of the battlefield.”

The initiative underscores how campaigns and party committees see a need to adjust tactics because traditional methods to identify and energize supportive voters, such as having volunteers canvass districts door to door, are no longer options.

“Reflecting the need to adapt our tactics to campaigning during COVID-19, the DCCC has expanded its online mobilization footprint, hiring additional staff and launching the Virtual Action Center to engage newly energized volunteers in the digital space,” Bustos and Guinn wrote, referring to a new online portal to mobilize volunteers.

With Garcia’s win, Republicans need a net gain of 17 seats to flip the House, but Bustos and Guinn argued Democrats are in a strong position to not just defend, but expand, their majority. Their “greatest weapon,” they wrote, is the strength of their candidates, especially their impressive fundraising.

According to the memo, the 42 Democrats in the committee’s Frontline program for vulnerable incumbents ended the first fundraising quarter of 2020 with a combined $99 million on hand, compared with $23 million for their GOP challengers. Also in the first quarter, 11 of the 13 candidates in the committee’s Red to Blue program for strong challengers outraised the GOP incumbent or the top GOP candidate.

Bustos and Guinn also noted that Democrats remain focused on health care as a top campaign issue. Earlier this week, the DCCC and other party committees, including the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, issued a joint memo declaring, “Voters know that Democrats are the party of health care. We’re going to keep reminding them of that through November.”

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