2017 Results & The Year Ahead

MEMO: 2017 Results & The Year Ahead
FROM: Justin Barasky, Campaign Manager
TO: Interested Parties & Allies
DATE: November 12, 2017

Democrats have much to celebrate about last Tuesday’s results. In Ohio, we retained the mayorships in Cleveland, Cincinnati, Toledo and Youngstown. Beyond traditional blue areas, Democrats won in ruby-red areas like Wilmington and Warren county.

These elections mirrored results nationally. Democrats won up and down the ballot in Virginia, flipped the governorship in New Jersey, took control of the Washington state senate, and expanded Medicaid in Maine — among many more victories throughout the country. There is a lot to learn from these successes — particularly the importance of campaigning outside deep-blue strongholds and how to translate progressive, grassroots energy into electoral advantage. We’ll be studying these campaigns and, where applicable, adopt proven practices and tactics.

But, when it comes to our job of reelecting Senator Sherrod Brown, it’s important to separate the results of 2017 from the work ahead of us in 2018.

The marquee race of Tuesday night happened in Virginia. It was a tremendous win for Governor-elect Ralph Northam, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who breathed a sigh of relief when his victory was called early in the night. Yet, I’d caution anyone against assuming that our jobs have become easier because of the results in Virginia.

  • Virginia has been trending blue over the past several election cycles, while Ohio has done the opposite.

  • Democrats swept Virginia’s statewide elections both on Tuesday and in 2013. Besides Sherrod in 2012, an Ohio Democrat hasn’t won a statewide election since 2006.

  • Virginia’s congressional delegation is 6 Democrats and 7 Republicans. Ohio’s is only 5 Democrats to 13 Republicans.

  • Democratic victories in Virginia in 2013 were followed by a Republican landslide in 2014, when the GOP gained 9 Senate seats and that chamber’s majority.

When you burrow into the data from Northam’s win, you’ll find his path to victory was paved by running up the margins in the Northern Virginia suburbs, in the college town of Charlottesville, and in media markets encompassing Virginia’s largest cities (Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake and Richmond). But Northam didn’t do appreciably better than the 2016 Clinton campaign in rural parts of the state. While Ed Gillespie’s attacks were considered a failure in D.C. circles, they held Northam to Clinton-like numbers with Virginia’s rural voters.

The bottom line is Sherrod won’t win Ohio in 2018 with that type of performance. Sherrod’s reelection rests on our ability to make a unique and compelling case about his values and record — showcasing why he is the strongest voice for every Ohioan in the U.S. Senate. I’m confident that if we execute our strategy and have enough resources, we’ll win. But while we deservedly celebrate the great victories for our Party last week, let’s not allow those results to give us false confidence about the hard work that must be done in the year ahead.