The Daily 202: DNC chair candidates say Clinton lost because she talked too much about Trump


BALTIMORE — Every leading contender to take over the Democratic National Committee believes Hillary Clinton focused too much on attacking Donald Trump at the expense of articulating an affirmative case for holding the White House. During their final showdown before the chairman’s election in Atlanta on Feb. 25, there was consensus that the party’s problems derive mainly from subpar organization and communication — not anything fundamental.

“We forgot to talk to people,” said Tom Perez, who was secretary of labor until last month and a finalist to be Clinton’s running mate last summer. “I’m a big believer in data analytics, but data analytics cannot supplant good old fashioned door knocking. … We didn’t communicate our values to people. When Donald Trump says, ‘I’m going to bring the coal jobs back,’ we know that’s a lie. But people understand that he feels their pain. And our response was: ‘Vote for us because he’s crazy.’ I’ll stipulate to that, but that’s not a message.”

Many Democratic leaders remain in a state of denial about the lessons of the election. They have been in the wilderness for only a few weeks now, and Clinton won the popular vote. The mass protests of the past four weekends and Trump’s sagging popularity have added to their overconfidence that they’ll easily win again in 2020.

It was striking during a two-hour forum here in Charm City that not one of the 10 candidates for chairman suggested the party should moderate in response to last year’s losses. Indeed, there was no substantive discussion about policy at all during the Saturday evening event. It was taken as a given that all the aspirants are committed liberals. This is a stark contrast to the ideological debates that enveloped the party following similar setbacks in 2004, 1988 or 1972. It reflects the degree to which the Bernie Sanders wing is ascendant, and Blue Dogs have left the party.

Perez is seen as the front-runner, but he still does not have the votes locked up. With backing from key figures in Barack Obama’s orbit (Joe Biden) and the Clinton machine (Terry McAuliffe), he is the establishment favorite. But his progressive bona fides are sterling, from his tenure as a Montgomery County councilman to helming the Justice Department’s civil rights division. That makes it harder for Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who jumped in first and won an early endorsement from Sanders and Chuck Schumer, to get too far to Perez’s left. That is part of the explanation for why the chairman’s race lacks much ideological tension.

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Chris Alexakisgovernment