DES MOINES — Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe says 2018 is a “big year” for Democrats to rebound in state-level races because governors elected to new four-year terms will be in key positions when new congressional and legislative maps are drawn in 2021 after the 2020 census.
“If we don’t do well this year, then we are out as a party for 10 years,” said McAuliffe, a former head of the Democratic National Committee who was in Iowa on Tuesday for an “All Hands on Deck” volunteer event to fire up the Iowa party’s grass-roots’ effort heading into the November midterm election.
However, McAuliffe, 61, who has been coming to the first-in-the-nation caucus state since 1980, said he doesn’t sense a problem in getting voters engaged in an off-presidential cycle after the 2016 election.
“They’re as energized as I’ve ever seen them in the midterm,” McAuliffe said in an interview after meeting with Iowa campaign coordinators at a local union hall. “I do think that 92 million people who did not vote in 2016 woke up the next day after that election and said, my goodness, what happened?
“It happened because a lot of people just didn’t exercise their right to vote. I just think for many people — for women, for young people — they’re not going to let that ever happen again. They’re energized. I’ve never seen anything like it in a midterm.”
Iowa could play a significant role as Democrats try to win back Midwestern states that helped Donald Trump win the presidency in 2016.
The state has Des Moines businessman Fred Hubbell locked in a tossup race with Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, two highly competitive congressional races in play, and Democrats hoping for a shot at taking back control of the Iowa House and several state-level executive offices.
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“Iowa has some of the most strategic elections in the country,” McAuliffe said. “As you look around the country, I don’t think you have too many states that have an opportunity of picking up as many Democratic seats as we do here.”
McAuliffe, who left office in January, has been touring the country to raise money and attention for Democratic candidates in at least 19 states as well as laying the groundwork for a possible 2020 presidential bid.
“I would be disingenuous if I said I wasn’t thinking about it,” McAuliffe said, “but I’m not thinking about it to the point of making a decision.”
Iowa Republicans marked McAuliffe’s return to Iowa by calling him and Hubbell “liberal, elite Democrats more fit for the East Coast” than Iowa.
“It’s pretty revealing that Hubbell has failed to build a strong list of surrogates in Iowa and needs to rely on out-of-state, washed-up Hillary Clinton stand-ins like the embattled former governor from Virginia,” said Jesse Dougherty, communications director for the Republican Party of Iowa.
McAuliffe, a top Democratic fundraiser and a vocal critic of Trump, said he believes 2018 candidates should focus on laying out a positive agenda and noting flaws in the Republican tax cuts, health care shortcomings, trade policies and economic policies that aren’t aiding average Iowans.
He said Trump “inherited a great economy” from President Barack Obama, “but people aren’t feeling it. They know the Trump economy is not working for them.”
If anything, he said, they’re paying higher health insurance premiums and feeling the pinch from Trump trade policies that are hurting America’s ability to compete globally while making goods more expensive at home.
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“The tax cut added a couple trillion (dollars) to our debt,” he said. “It didn’t go to the average family’s bottom line or to anyone’s bottom line. It went to stock buybacks and the top 1 percent.
“In fact, many folks are going to see when April 15 comes around next year that they’re actually paying more. This did nothing to help the average family in America.”
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