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Democrats begin to do some soul searching

The Morning Line

Today in the Morning Line:

  • Democrats meet for their retreat
  • Their numbers and message problem
  • Romney leads in South Carolina
  • Obama AG nominee Lynch defends immigration executive orders

House Democrats huddle: House Democrats begin their annual issues retreat Thursday in Philadelphia. President Obama speaks at 7:10 p.m. EST. With all the focus on Republicans, their newfound governing majorities in Congress, and the divisions within their ranks between establishment and tea party members, it’s worth pointing out that Democrats are dealing with their own simmering issues. As Politico noted Sunday, “Nancy Pelosi has big problems in her ranks. The California lawmaker is facing some of the most serious unrest she’s ever seen in her dozen years as the leader of the House Democrats: Members complain that the party has no message and no clear plan to retake the majority, despite good news on the economy that should have brought rewards at the polls.”

No path back to the majority in sight for Democrats: It’s easy for Democrats to paper over some of their midterm electoral issues, given that they control the White House, they feel they have a presidential demographic and electoral advantage, and that Hillary Clinton leads in the 2016 polls. But unless the party can figure out how to appeal to voters in right-leaning districts, drawn in many cases by Republicans, they are going to be out of power in the House until at least 2022, after the next round of redistricting. And there’s no indication they will be able to control the maps after next Census, given that Republicans expanded their majority of governors in 2014 to 31, and they now fully control 30 state legislatures. Democrats fully control just 11, while eight chambers are split.

More than numbers, it’s message: The numbers and structures are what they are. But what do they do about it? As one Democrat said in the above-mentioned piece about trying to make Democrats appeal to the suburbs: “[T]he economic message for the suburbs has to be broader than unemployment insurance and minimum wage, although both are important. They don’t resonate in the suburbs.” Nothing crystallized that more than the White House misstep on trying to do away with 529 plans, the college-savings tax credit plan. After swift blowback from leaders in both parties, the White House pulled the proposal. While better-off families benefit most from the savings plan, given they have enough money to set aside, where do those families live? They dominate the suburbs of America.

In addition to all of this, the kindling is there for a major Democratic internal fire. The only reason it’s not full blown at this point is because they have the White House. But imagine a scenario in which Hillary Clinton doesn’t run, can’t run, or she loses. Crazier things have happened. When voters are looking for “change,” is she the best one to embody that? There’s so much focus on the tea party-establishment rift within the GOP, but if Republicans win the White House in 2016, a version of the Warren Wing Populist-Democratic Realist split will become very real.

Daily Presidential Trivia:
On this day in 2002, President George W. Bush branded the term “axis of evil” during his first State of the Union address. What countries were included in the “axis of evil”? Be the first to tweet us the correct answer using #PoliticsTrivia and you’ll get a Morning Line shout-out. Congratulations to Joni Johnson ‏(@celeste1958) for guessing Wednesday’s trivia: How many current Supreme Court justices are Jewish? The answer: 3- Justices Kagan, Breyer and Ginsburg.

2016

-The New Hampshire Republican Party will host a presidential forum April 16 and 17, Paul Steinhauser reports.

  • Mike Huckabee is headed down to the Carolinas Thursday and Friday to promote his book: “God, Guns, Grits and Gravy.”
  • Is the right regretting Sarah Palin? Especially after her speech in Iowa last weekend, Karen Tumulty reports that conservative pundits are repenting “their own role in stoking the Palin phenomenon.” Sen. John McCain, meanwhile, thinks she’d “do great” if she were to run in 2016.

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