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AFL-CIO Now

Six Points You Need to Remember as We Head to Election Day

Labor 2012 gets out the vote.

AFL-CIO Political Director Michael Podhorzer sends us this. 

As we head into the final stretch of the election season, these are six overarching points to keep in mind.  

 1. Working-class rejection of Bush-Romney-Ryan economics is the defining issue of this year.

A year ago, all the talk was that President Obama could never win with high unemployment. And even more to the point, the early conventional wisdom went further, writing off working-class voters, asserting that the only path available to Obama was upscale voters in states like North Carolina. Yet what we see is that middle-class families are not voting automatically on the basis of the current economic statistics. They are comparing alternative approaches—and rejecting the reverse Robin Hood, union-busting, extreme economic positions of the right.

  • For example, public polls consistently show strong opposition to continuing tax cuts for the wealthy and to cuts in Social Security and Medicare benefits. We’ve seen that in our program, too, where union members, their families and their neighborhoods have been very receptive to hearing our economic vision and rejected the core principles of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. 
  • Working women, despite the extreme obstacles they face, still reject the Romney-Ryan vision.
  • We have expanded our outreach to all working families, not just union households—and have found that this issue provides a very substantial and measurable lift to progressives. 
    • Between Working America (our community affiliate) and Workers’ Voice (the labor movement's super PAC), we have reached millions of voters in Ohio, Wisconsin and Nevada.
  • While we will not have precise estimates of the impact of these efforts until we can compare treatment and control groups after the election, we currently estimate (using fairly conservative assumptions) that these contacts will generate substantial gains among those contacted and lift progressive candidates’ overall vote by at least 2 points in our core target states.

 2. Our ground game has been designed and executed with a focus on winning working-class voters by focusing on economics and engagement in key states.

  • Our registration, early vote and turnout programs were designed with this approach in mind.
    • To date, we have registered a record number of union voters.
    • More than 2 million union voters have voted through early voting.
    • Our carefully tested programs demonstrate the power of economic issues with all our constituencies. The AFL-CIO is extremely data driven.  We have been monitoring which issues resonate with working people. We have seen consistency across states and tests: working people reject Romney-Ryan economics. For example, when we tested a variety of packages informing voters about Senate candidate Josh Mandel’s positions, his support of Republican Medicare policies moved voters strongly our way, as did his support of Republican tax policies.
    • Old and new networking approaches show the benefits of trusted messengers keeping the focus on the economic future. The labor movement has always been known for its ground program. This cycle we have deepened, expanded and innovated.
      • Deepening—we now have coordinators at more than 20,000 worksites who have communicated with more than 50% of all working people in the worksite.
      • Expanding—we have added new tools, such as “Friends and Neighbors,” that enable and empower working people to communicate with their social networks.
      • Innovating—Workers’ Voice’s rePurpose program is the only one that allows volunteers to leverage their activities into more activities for the things that they care most about. When someone makes 100 calls for Sen. Sherrod Brown, they can decide how some of Workers’ Voice’s resources will be used. Workers’ Voice combines old-fashioned energy with cutting-edge technology. It’s guided by the people who built it. 

3. Senate candidates Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Tammy Baldwin (Wis.) and Sherrod Brown (incumbent U.S. senator for Ohio) reject Bush-Romney-Ryan economics are leading for the same reason.  If elected, they will be able to keep the focus on middle-class economics, not the upper-class protection racket called austerity.

  • In August, Warren was trailing incumbent Scott Brown by five points because of his support from blue-collar voters. Since then, the labor movement has been going door to door to show that Warren, not Brown, is the true friend of working people, and that Brown would support the Romney-Ryan agenda.  Our internal polling in August showed union voters favoring Brown as well. (They had voted for him in the special election). But after two months of aggressive education, our polling shows Warren with a 15-point lead among union voters, which has contributed to her turnaround—she now leads by five points.
  • The extreme rightward shift among the Republican Party has turned previously unwinnable Senate races into competitive races:
    • Richard Mourdock comparing the auto bailout to slavery.
    • Todd Akin on health care.

 4. Where we still face challenges or losses, look to the Republican spending advantage—especially in the House.

  • Outside Republican groups have unleashed a cash tsunami in the House: Overall Republican candidates have $669 million compared to $481 million for Democrats.
  • More importantly, in the 34 districts that Republicans hold but have Democratic PVI’s, Republican candidates are outspending Democrats $103 million to $87 million.
  • And in the nine most extreme cases, Republicans are outspending their Democratic opponents by $55 million to $ 21 million—more than 2-1.
  • Thus, while most indicators would point to another wave election, we expect this gross financial advantage to minimize Republican losses.  The Republican Congress has several times hit historic lows in approval, and the Gallup time series on whether most members of Congress deserve re-election, is at the same level as it was in other wave years.

5. State legislative races show again the rejection of right-wing economics and radical governors and their overreach.

  • The 2010 election gave Republicans control of 20 state governments. They had campaigned to create jobs. Instead, they launched ferocious attacks on the labor unions and the right to vote—their political adversaries. Look for Democratic gains in state legislatures and perhaps even change of control in some.

6. Latino political strength is growing. Their overwhelming vote against Romney will be a product of both his immigration policies and a rejection of his economics. 

  • For example, in the ImpreMedia-Latino Decisions national tracking poll of Latino voters, when it comes to the economy, 73% say they trust Obama and the Democrats to fix the economy, compared with 18% who trust Romney and the GOP.
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