One the greatest remaining frustrations from the past six years in Democratic politics has been that after the blowout losses in 2010 and 2014, the party did no real self-reflection or analysis of what went wrong. It seems we’ll finally get that effort, at least in Iowa, after the 2016 defeat. Congressman Dave Loebsack announced at the Iowa Democratic Party’s State Central Committee meeting yesterday that he is launching and funding a post-mortem analysis of the 2016 election.
“We just have to be straight about this – we have to admit that we’re not doing particularly well as a party in the state of Iowa right now,” Loebsack told the crowd of about 100 SCC members and activists. “We’re not going to give up. We’re going to pick ourselves up, we’re going to make ourselves better.”
The IDP and Loebsack plans on creating a special committee to review campaign tactics and messaging in order to figure out improvements for future campaign cycles. The group will consist of Loebsack as the honorary chair, his campaign manager, four SCC members, three campaign professionals, a member from the Iowa House and Senate and members of the IDP staff. The members will be selected by January 3 and go to work after a final budget and outline of the program is decided upon by the end of January. It will make a final report to the SCC on April 15.
The committee will conduct a listening tour of activists, volunteers and party stakeholders to gauge their opinions on how to go forward. They’ll also hold a professional focus group to figure out what went wrong with our messaging with voters, and conduct research into voting trends.
“We’re going to have opportunities in 2018,” Loebsack said. “With the Governor taking this ambassadorship, I think it’s going to provide an opportunity for us that we didn’t have perhaps before.”
Democrats will have plenty of chances, both in 2017 and 2018, to revitalize and reenergize the party. They could focus on mayoral, city council and school board races in 2017 to pick up some important municipal seats, start getting younger people elected in order to build a bigger bench, and provide a morale boost by winning something. The gubernatorial campaign in 2018 will be pivotal to the future of the party, providing a chance for activists to all rally around one large campaign and for the party to present a new message to Iowa voters.
“It’s going to cost some money, and I’m more than happy to put some money into this from my campaign,” Loebsack said of the post-mortem project. “And I’m more than happy to go out and raise money for this myself too.”
Loebsack ended the campaign with just under one million dollars cash-on-hand, so that ought to be a good place to start.
Several attendees at the SCC mentioned to Starting Line their appreciation or Loebsack’s leadership during the past two years. Many wondered if Loebsack, the last remaining federal Democrat in Iowa following 2014, would step up into a larger leadership role – so far, he has. At the meeting he mentioned his efforts this past year to help fund state legislative races and how he travelled the state to raise money for other candidates. With Democrats’ losses in the Statehouse, Loebsack will continue on as the defacto leader of Iowa Democrats heading into 2018. Many Democrats will hope the results of this committee he’s heading will help other Democrats around the state replicate his ability to win, even in tough years.
by Pat Rynard