Labor's Role in the Election, Lessons and Perspectives;
Working Families Turn from Election to Protecting the Social
Labor's Role in the Election, Lessons and Perspectives
by Michael Podhorzer, AFL-CIO Political Director
November 8, 2012
AFL-CIO Memo to Interested Parties
2012 RESULTS: KEY TAKEAWAYS
President Obama's reelection is a great victory, and we are
glad to have played a role. The detailed polling data we are
releasing this morning provide much information, but it is
important to remember several key overarching points about the
1. Working class rejection of Bush/Romney/Ryan economics
drove victories in Ohio and across the country. Labor's
ground game delivered, winning working class voters by
focusing on economics and engagement, particularly in the
* The victory in Ohio reflects the failure of Republican
economics and the strength of our collective effort to make
this case to union households and their non-union neighbors.
In Ohio we won the union vote and lost non-union vote.
* We see this same broad dynamic across the country. Barack
Obama won with the support of working people. President
Obama won union members. We in the labor movement were also
now able to reach out to the neighbors of our members
through all of our programs. Working America households
voted 66% for Obama. Our Repurpose program built new tools
and created a new forum for progressive cooperation.
* Americans have no patience for Ryan's austerity approach.
Even Romney Ryan voters opposed cutting Social Security and
Medicare to reduce the deficit by a 2 to 1 margin.
* We engaged with OH union members like never before - half
of the members received a live telephone call from a
volunteer, and nearly half were contacted at work. Union
support ended up increasing compared to 2008 (we will have
full analysis of the impact once the voter files are loaded
* Our most focused Working America targets - "canvas plus"
members - ended up voting for Obama 74-23.
* We won Ryan's home state of Wisconsin - the political
overreach of the Walker attack on unions backfired. Obama's
support among union members went up compared to 2008 -
support matched by Senator-elect Baldwin.
* A good example of our program can be seen in a tested,
effective set of mail packages used to challenge Josh
Mandel. When we ran careful control group tests on this
message that directly challenged the Republican attacks on
Medicare and Social Security, we found a 9% lift on our best
targets - an extremely effective piece.
Let's be clear. This is the message that won. This was a
mandate to preserve needed programs, paid for by fair taxes.
Austerity candidates lose. Floridians stood against
2. Senate candidates Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin, and
Sherrod Brown won because they rejected Bush/Romney/Ryan
economics. Defining Republican economics as the upper class
protection racket allowed them to rally from early deficits.
* Scott Brown won union households in 2010. In August,
Elizabeth Warren was trailing incumbent Scott Brown by five
points because of his support from blue collar voters. Since
then the labor movement went door to door to show that
Warren, not Brown was the true friend of working people,
and that Brown embraced the Romney/Ryan agenda. Union
members and working families shifted, and Scott Brown will
no longer be parking his truck the Dirksen parking lot.
* Sherrod Brown and Tammy Baldwin will be strong voices in
the Senate on economic issues for years to come.
3. We made gains in the House despite a huge Republican
* Outside Republican groups 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
outspent Democrats 103 million to 87 million; we nonetheless
won the vast majority of these races. And in the nine most
extreme cases, Republicans are outspent their Democratic
opponents by $55 million to $ 21 million - more than 2-1.
Yet a strong message and good targeting overcame this
advantage, and we are on track to win as many as eight of
* Republican control of state legislatures ensured grossly
gerrymandered districts in many competitive areas, putting
Democrats at a disadvantage after the 2010 process.
4. 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.
* We made solid progress last night, gaining Democratic
majorities in the CO House, ME House & Senate, MN House and
Senate, New Hampshire House, NY Senate, and OR House.
* We held majorities in IA Sen, KY House, NV Sen, OR
Senate, CO Senate, WA House and Senate
* Picked up governors in NH, WA, and likely MT.
5. It's more difficult to vote if you're Latino or African
American. In our post-election poll of the general public we
asked voters whether they experienced problems when trying to
* While only 4 percent of whites reported problems, 10
percent of African Americans and 7 percent of Latinos
* Moreover, 10 percent of Obama voters reported problems
while only 2 percent of Romney voters reported problems, and
that doesn't even include those for whom problems
discouraged them from voting altogether.
* Given this evidence, more study and reform is urgently
6. Latino political strength is growing. Their overwhelming
vote against Romney was a product of both his immigration
policies, and a rejection of his economics.
* Latino support for Obama grew over 2008 from 67% to 71%
* This growth was strongest among young Latinos, where
support for Obama was 74%
* Latino turnout was up to 10 percent, up from 9 percent in
7. A new era of political focus and targeting has indeed
arrived, and progressives are leading the way.
This election was focused on message, and progressive
victories come from articulating a strong and clear message of
economic progress. But careful testing and targeting played a
role in making these cases as effectively as possible.
We at the AFL are proud to have been founders and supporters
of key infrastructure elements of this new progressive tool
set, and send out thanks to the dedicated and talented teams
at the Analyst Institute, Catalist, and our own analytics
staff. We also understand that no advantage in this area is
permanent - we need to continually invest in new tools and new
8. 2012 holds a strong lesson for incumbents as they look
forward to the 2014 contest to hold the Senate and retake the
* Candidates who promote policies that put middle class
needs front and center can and will prosper even in
economically tough times. And labor support of these
candidates will prove to be crucial in election outcomes.
* Labor will rally behind candidates who embrace this
agenda, but will challenge candidates who veer towards the
austerity policies of the right wing.
With Events Across the Country, Working Families Turn from
Election to Protecting the Social Safety Net
by Kenneth Quinnell
November 8, 2012
While working families are resting after an exhausting
election cycle, working people and union members are
continuing to mobilize. Before the end of the year, Congress
will meet in a "lame-duck" session and tackle numerous issues
that could have powerful effects on the lives of middle-class
Americans. Some politicians and Wall Street executives want a
"grand bargain" that could cut Social Security, Medicare and
Medicaid benefits, all to give tax cuts to the wealthiest
people. Working families won't stand for these proposals and
have organized events all across the country to let
politicians know that tax cuts for the wealthy and cuts to the
social safety net are not acceptable.
Yesterday, Arizona seniors, students and workers gathered at
Rep. Ron Barber's (D-Ariz.) office in Tucson to thank him for
his commitment to defend Medicare, Social Security and
Medicaid when he returns to Washington, D.C., for the "lame-
duck" session. Pima County residents shared personal stories
about Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and stressed the
importance of protecting them from benefit cuts.
The Wednesday event at Barber's office is one of many similar
events that working families will hold across the country
today to address the budget showdown Congress will face during
the lame-duck session for a national day of action.
Click here to find an event in your area.
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