tv Newsmakers Guy Cecil Priorities USA CSPAN May 6, 2018 5:59pm-6:32pm EDT
out, resource strains, at the end of the day is simply a matter of justice. nobody wins of it takes four years to decide a case. you're in charge of 642,000 immigration or cases, lord knows how many bia cases. i will leave it right there but it want to thank you. thank you for being the first of our immigration newsmakers. appreciate you coming. dir. mchenry: thanks for having me. it was my pleasure. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] morning, we are in lincoln, nebraska, for the next up on the c-span bus 50 capitals tour. governor peter ricketts will be our guest during washington journal, starting at 9:45 a.m. eastern.
susan: welcome to c-span'newsmakers. the primary season is in full swing. we are pleased to welcome guy cecil from priorities usa, a democratic super pac. we will talk politics with him for the next half hour. let me introduce the two reporters asking questions. michael scherer elena schneider. michael, i think you are up first. michael: we had some good news on the economic front. unemployment below 4% for the first time since 2000. is the economy revving up create headwinds for the democratic argument in 2018? guy: there are two ways to look at the economy. but we have seen is a pretty consistent job gain. we have averaged somewhere between 180,000 to 220,000 jobs gained throughout the entire obama administration into the trump administration. the other thing it reveals is we still have a problem with wages. we still have a problem with people not entering the employment market.
i think lot of us in d.c. and new york look at these things from the 30,000 foot view. how is the stock market doing? how is gross domestic product doing. on the ground people are being squeezed by higher insurance costs, higher college costs. i do not think it is completely in line with the story the administration is telling. i think it is incumbent upon democrats to make sure we are focused on these wage issues and education issues that will come up throughout the next six months. elena: last year, you said you were going to commit $50 million in spending and digital ads. in particular you said you were going to be talking to vote switchers. can you walk us through, in the states you have highlighted, seven that priorities usa will be working in what are you , saying to romney and clinton voters, and obama trump voters? how are those messages going to be different? guy: i do think going back to
the original question one of the , things we consistently see, we have seen in the special elections and the off-year elections, almost every public poll, health care and taxes continue to be one of the top two or three issues facing the country. i think you will see us talk about this particular issues. over the last year and a half we have been online and talking specifically about the harms of the republican health care plan , the harms of the tax bill. i think you will see us do a lot in this particular areas, among others. the other thing i would point out is these voters are one part of our operation. i think they are a particular part of the electorate democrats have ignored. they ignored them and 2016 and in previous midterm elections. that will not be the extent of our program. we will still have significant part of our program focused on midterm drop off voters, those
voters that participate in presidential years, and that disproportionally affects democrats. when you look at the alabama race in particular two thirds of , our program focused on turning out african-americans and people that we thought were open to voting for a democrat for the first time in a while. elena: why do you think those voters have not turned out? guy: i think folks had questions about whether or not we could compete in some of these areas. what happened was, it became self-fulfilling prophecy. active in the democratic party in miami and fort lauderdale, and jacksonville in florida. we were active in florida and milwaukee. when you look to the i-4 corridor, the highway between orlando and cap of there was not , a lot of democratic activity.
i think it was a function of how people viewed the midterm and the presidential election. people had walked away from trying to persuade americans. they think we are more partisan than ever and nobody is convinceable. that really is not the case. dakotaeitkamp in north won on the ballot despite that mitt romney won by double digits. wisconsin elects tammy baldwin and scott walker. there still are these changes and i think if democrats are in the middle of talking to those voters, all you're doing is ceding the ground to republicans. that's a shame because we have something important to say to them given -- them. michael: one of the things you been doing his research about how to message swing voters. is there anything you have uncovered in focus groups and polling that is surprising to you? busts some liberal myths are you have to go democrats and say this is not true?
guy: we did a group that focused in particular on young african-americans. millennials. the coming generation after millennials. in particular those who have not been part of the electoral process. they are not registered to vote. they don't vote in midterm elections or they chose to sit out the 2016 collection. i don't know if they are surprising but they are certainly counterintuitive. one, it is certainly important for us to hold donald trump accountable, but if all we're doing is talking about donald trump that is not a motivating influence, in particular african american millennial voters. in many ways donald trump is the living, breathing embodiment of why they think the system is working against them. constantly only talking about trump actually has a negative impact on their interest in the election. it highlights the point of yes, donald trump is not going to let election be anything other than a referendum on donald trump.
when you turn on cnn and other news networks, the entire conversation is about stormy and mueller. any investigation. those things are important but it is not what is going to decide the election. i think convincing democrats yes, we need a whole trump accountable but we need to get back to talking about bread and butter issues becomes important. -- and issues by criminal justice become important. elena: the wary about democrats ability to take the next that? there seems to be complaints about confusion about what the democratic brand stands for. are you worried about how voters see the party right now and what they stand for? guy: i think it depends what you mean by the word "rand." -- brand." if the expectation is democrats are going to develop a slogan and that is going to set the world on fire and make the difference, i don't think that is what you can inspect from us. we are a more diverse party in
the republican party. we have a wider range of issues. we constantly get in this mold of talking issues and not necessarily talking about values. my advice to candidates running, you should -- this is coming from the super pac that spends time talking about the other side, a candidate should be talking more about their values and about their vision for the country. i think if you look at the ads running so far in the midterm, the off-year elections, the ads run by democrats like jon tester or joe donnelly, they have been doing that. they are not talking about what is happening in d.c. we have seen this in real time. going back to alabama 75% of our , advertising in alabama was actually positive. it wasn't talking about the accusations against mueller. it wasn't talking about donald it was actually talking about our candidate and the desire for people to reclaim power by voting. i think it is going to be a balance but when you get on the
ground you find candidates are pretty consistent on the issues. michael: when donald trump holds his next rally, he will say i am cutting regulations and i lowered your taxes and i'm fighting china. what is the economic response from the democratic party? that is what he is offering. what are democrats offering? guy: i think our focus is very simple. we want to give everybody a fair shot. we want to focus on raising jobs, andanding giving young people every opportunity they desire. when you look at the tax argument, and occasionally i get into fights with how much to talk about the tax argument when , democrats talk about the republican tax plan we win the argument. the argument is simple. that republicans have chosen to raise taxes in the middle class are going to pay with higher tuition costs, higher premiums,
they will pay with continually stagnant rages -- stagnant wages. we saw marco rubio say there is no evidence that the tax credits are going to accrue to the benefit of working people. we were saying that before they decided to vote for the bill. i think it is important we continue saying that. michael: that is a message against trump's message. what is the positive message? guy: sure, i think it ranges from educational opportunities. taking a look at letting students negotiate their student loan rates. it includes a real infrastructure bill that allows us to bring jobs back to communities that need them the most. we have lived through 52 infrastructure weeks. next week is always infrastructure week. i think it's incumbent upon us to continue to talk about developing jobs raising wages, , educational opportunity. if we stick to those three fundamental pillars, i think we will be successful. elena: he served as the
executive director of the campaign committee in 2012. your class of candidates elected or reelected are now running for reelection. if you are back at the committee, how would you advise them to run their campaigns, but specifically how to run it differently than they did in 2012? what needs to be different about the way they do it in 2018? guy: i was at the dscc. political director when that class ran. or totalrked in part with almost the entire class of senators running on the democratic. one which i had done, more emphasis on positive campaign ads that are values-based and talk about your record of service in the state. what you have delivered. we see that in montana. there is an ad out talking about what jon tester has done for the veterans in his state, particularly around the v.a. that is number one. we have to make sure we have the
right balance of turning out are base but not walking away from persuadable voters. not walking away. they are there. we know, for example, the research we have done that voters have voted for president obama and then voted for president trump, a full third of them now have an unbearable opinion of donald trump. two thirds have an unfavorable opinions of republicans in congress. half of them what a congress that holds the president accountable. so having a good balance between those two things -- and number three, i think where a lot of democrats have dropped the ball particularly in midterm , elections, is by letting republicans define the race early. we can't allow republicans to do that. we have a funding disadvantage in priority is to focus on that. other organizations are focused on that. we have to make sure when republicans go up attacking, we're up and on the air quickly. michael: you are going to be playing defense in a lot of byate states that trump won
10 or 20 more points. he has indicated he is going to go to the states and collect the democratic incumbent. to turn against the people they may have voted for in the past. how do you inoculate your democrats against presidential attacks? guy: those democrats he is attacking he asked to join his administration. there is a challenge dealing with that. when you look at the place of where you are talking about deeper red states, they are tending to be smaller states. states were people get the know their elected official. they have 95% name id. every single democratic incumbent is viewed favorably. both personally and in their job performance and every single one of the state. the most important thing is to connect with yourself in the state, not necessarily every nuance and vice happening in washington, d.c. people will vote for heidi
heitkamp and joe donnelly and claire mccaskill because they think even when i disagree with them, i know the other everyday actually fighting for us. the more emphasis we have on that and the less on partisan fights, or focus on various investigations, the better we will do in those states. the reality is a lot of our incumbents, especially on the democratic side, have fire -- higher favorability ratings than donald trump and we should not run away from that. michael: did u.s. democrats not to talk about impeachment? guy: i am agnostic about the debate in the sense of whether it is hurting or helping the party. the reality is partisans are already in the corners. independents-- are not paying attention to it television ads or arguments about impeachment going into the summer when the kids are out of school.
my focus is less on that and more on issues around stormy daniels and michael cohe. -- cohen. we should elect investigations proceed. -- we should let investigations proceed. holding the trump administration the various pieces of it accountable. that is different than choosing it as the basis for which you are running for office. i think the more we focus on where people are and what they care about, the less we focus on washington, the better off we are going to be, not just in the states but frankly and a lot of house races around the country. elena: speaking of house races, i would be curious to get your thoughts. we are heading into primary season. we have a ton of crowded primaries, thinking california, texas will have a host of credible, well-funded democrats who are running. we have seen your committee counterparts trying to intervene
and some of these races in texas where they tried to keep one candidate out. laura moser. they have dabbled in california. do you think the party should be more active in helping to shape these primaries so that the kind of candidates to get through are not there because they simply want to impeach trump, or will that backfire in in rate activists and might be turned off? guy: california is different. everyone is on the ballot at one time. unlike most of the country brief -- when you have democratic primary and a republican primary, in california everyone is on the ballot. make ittwo vote getters to the next round. making sure that we have a democrat as one of the top two vote getters in three or four races where that is a possibility is the function of the dccc. they should be making sure we have that. as far as the rest of the country, i think we are in an expansionist election for
democrats. i think we are going to win more than we lose to set the bar low. i think in those cycles the primaries worry me less. if we were in a midterm in 2010 or 2014 where we knew we were going to be outspent, enthusiasm was not on our side, i would be a lot more concerned about those primaries. i do not think that is the case in this election. elena: speaking of which, do you think the house or senate will flip in six months? guy: the house is in great shape given where we are in terms of the generic ballot measure. the senate, if you would have asked me a year ago whether we have a chance to hold the senate i would have said no. , i would not have thought much about it. when you look at most of the coverage of the senate races so far, for example nbc news today, their top four races, three were republican-held seats. i think the fact we have a potential pickup in nevada, arizona, a competitive race in tennessee, and looks like texas is going to continually be more
competitive, we have got interesting primaries going on in mississippi, which is not a place democrats talk a lot about. even though the math overall is working against us, we do have a shot to take back the senate. i'm not ready to say it's the most likely thing, but if we can pick up to or through -- two or three republican seats, we have a chance given the alabama race was critical to make it happen. it would have been a steeper climb if we had not won that race. michael: priorities started as a group that spent a lot of money on television. this year you were spending a lot of money on digital, not television. there is a sense that democrats have lost their digital edge. that the web in politics with the democratic zone when obama came up in 2008 in a state that white for a while. where did democrats lose their step in what do you need to do to get it back? guy: i think republicans caught on quickly because you had groups like those founded by the -- funded by the koch brothers and mercers that were
consistently, every day funding organizations focused on talking to people online. democrats were viewing elections as cyclical things that happen every two years. maybe for three or four months you might buy a youtube video or a facebook ad in that would be the extent of it. that does not work anymore. number two, we have not invested the resources in training campaign managers and digital directors and executive directors on what an effective digital campaign looks like. which is especially egregious when democrats rely more on younger voters. we rely more on people of color, who are more likely to be only using mobile to get their news and information. the last thing is, our campaign group outdated. -- grew outdated. we were so focused on catching up on television, making sure we were matching every dollar for every dollar on television, we were not asking how do i reach
the voter that i need to reach? in a way they will receive the information. we felt like it was important for us to level the playing field. you look at house races, almost every case democrats were outspent, in some cases by three or four to one online. that is just not sustainable. when we know more people are getting their news information online than ever before. elena: you laid out a list of seven states you're going to be active in in 2018. is there any plan to expand that? how are you making those decisions on investments going forward? guy: we started in seven states because they had races up and down the ballot. they had a governor's race and or a senate race, multiple congressional races. in one case a ballot measure. in every case, they were competitive enough, if we know one thing, we know democrats
have been terrible at winning down ballot races over the last eight years and we need to have a renewed focus on that. that is how we started with our core seven states. we are expanding in several other states. we've moved into missouri, indiana, north dakota and maine. we will be announcing 25 races will be advertising in. a couple of ballot measures. to be an 18 to 20 states, maybe 25 to 30 house districts. we are working on the final details. it will certainly be a large map for us. michael: senator chuck schumer came out for legalizing marijuana. i wonder how you think double play across the country. is that a motivating thing for younger voters or other groups of voters that will get people to the polls for democrats? guy: absolutely. i do not think there is any
question in the place we have seen legalization on the ballot that it has increased interest in the election for young voters in particular, increased turnout in those states. that is not the reason someone should be forward, but i think it is a winner in terms of the pure politics of it and the election. especially with the midterm where we have seen participation rates drop pretty steeply to -- deeply. michael: does that work in red states and blue states? guy: i have not seen the polling broken down by state but nationally you are with the -- well over a majority of folks who have expressed an interest in legalization. susan: we are down to three minutes. guy: shorter answers is the key. elena: i would be curious to get your thoughts on the way priorities share their money. you have a super pac but you also have a c-4 we you don't have to entirely report the money you are receiving. do you think that is problematic
for democrats and their argument about more transparency, getting dark money out of races, to have an organization like yours, use those methods of communicating where you do not have to be entirely transparent? is that problematic for democrats making that argument? guy: if democrats had their way we would not have the , campaign-finance system we have today, but we do. we are not going to disarm against the republicans. we are not going to create connection burden on us that republicans don't have to follow. a lot of our work is not elect world politics to we have a training program for digital activists. we have an issue-based mitigation program we are talking about health care and taxes irrespective of who is on ballot. and the foundation focused on suing a number of states on voting rights and voter suppression legislation. we are currently suing states of indiana and new hampshire on these issues. we would not design a situation
the way it is but we are not going to disarm against the republican party and conservatives. michael: i want to get into a 2020 question. guy: time is up. michael: do you have a view on who should be the nominee? are there characteristics or advice you would give to that giant class of potential nominees about what lessons they should take from 2016 and what you know about where the country is heading that they should try to pick up one? guy: compete in wisconsin and michigan. but also compete in arizona and georgia. i think we are going to have a bigger map than ever before in 2020 because we have states that are rapidly changing in terms of the demographics. but we still are competitive. i think we are to win a lot of races in the midwest states. number two, be authentic. i know it sounds trite. i think -- there is nothing like a magnifying glass of running for office and certainly for president.
being true to who you are and not trying to design something that will appeal to the base to get you through one race but in persuade another will be important here and number have three, an expansionist view of the electorate. it is not just about turning about the base. we should be talking to more people about what democrats stand for. not just a list of 40 policy proposals we would passively get into power your those are the things i would most focus on. by the way, if you're any candidate running for office or president. susan: nancy pelosi continues to be a prodigious fundraiser. she is a favorite target of the gop and house members clamoring for younger leadership. your candidates a plus three , -- minus? four guy: i think neither. for your candidates, a plus or orus russian mark -- a plus minus. guy: i think neither. if it was not nancy pelosi,
before nancy pelosi it was harry reid. if it wasn't nancy pelosi will be chuck schumer. this has been used in every election since i have been and politics. the republican national committee said the person they were going to run against most was hillary clinton. who is not on the ballot. a mom in the suburbs or orlando or a voter in denver is going to , taxes,at over health education it is not logical and , it will not work. i think that nancy has been a great leader for the party. she is certainly raising money. she is the reason much of the obama agenda passed. i fully support her running again. guy: thank you for your time this week. guy: thanks for having me. 2018: we are talking with midterm elections with our reporters we just questioned guy cecil. elena schneider, michael scherer . it feels the democrats have the momentum going into this election. what are the realities in terms
of fundraising and also prowess for each of the parties? elena: at this point democrats and a candidate position are in a great position. byincome is were outraged democratic opponents last quarter. it is much higher than in traditional midterm years. in a candidate fundraising perspective, democrats are in a great position. the party perspective is a little more mixed. the rnc has had more success with the president, with the party in power, they are able to raise more money off of getting things done in their agenda. the dnc has not had a rebuff fundraising operation and neville be painful for them. -- and that will be painful for them. they are outmatched in the outside spending. groups like the congressional leadership fund raised more than $60 million last year, another record-breaking number. it is a mixed bag for democrats and fundraising. michael: the other difference is
republicans are spending at the senate level in primaries a ton of money against each other, and democrats have avoided that on a statewide level. it is happening in some house races but they are not costly races. like was going on in west virginia where it is $4 million. republicans are using that against each other. none of that money will be used to attack joe manchin in the general election. there is a way in which democrats are enjoying the spectacle right now. sitting back and watching it happen. susan: priorities usa has a big focus on digital. we do not ask any specific facebook questions. how you feel about political information coming to them via social media these days and privacy issues related to that? elena: there is still an awareness those are effective ways to reach voters. i don't think they will suddenly move away because people are more suspicious. people might be more interested in looking at where the ads are coming home, and facebook following through on their promises to require more
transparency in the ads that will go out, people might be more interested in doing research on their own. those digital ads are not going away. they are still an effective way of reaching people, micro-targeting, reaching people to a very specific universe of voters. that is the power tv is not capable of doing at this point. digital is not going anywhere. michael: the way you can deal like that, they can change what they are creating to deal with mrs. is an -- with spec this is. it won't even look like if realities at. it just be a link to a news article. it was like someone posted a news article from another organization getting you the information they want to give you. i think that is how it will be adjusted. we don't have a situation were people are no longer going to twitter or facebook or turning off their phones. it is about how to navigate the new skepticism. susan: let's return to the first question which is the economy. if it continues, the jobless
along, isnues to hum at the economy, stupid, double impact in november? michael: i think guy's answer is right. even if it is 3% next quarter and the stock market continues to go up into the fall, the question is going to be, are people feeling it in their lives? are they less worried about their health care or paying for college? in the last decade and a half it has been a story of americans getting squeezed. it will take a while for them to get over that. it's a question of whether people feel in their personal lives the momentum. the wage data today was not quite as good as the employment data. we are at a point where everyone is feeling great about it. the other thing i mentioned is presidential years more than midterm years, when you have one party governing. the american people have a
tradition of hedging their bets. one question democrats have been asking is do you want to elect someone to be a check on the republican party in power in washington? even among republicans they are sympathetic to that idea. we don't just want one-party control. elena: i agree. the change method, the check and balance message will be a more powerful one. susan: we're just about out of time. they were not appropriate bellwethers for the rest of the year. what about the ones immediately coming up? watching the ohio special election.
it's a suburban district that voted for trump by about 10 points last cycle, but one showing all the signs that might trend away from republicans. it is not stylistically addictively like the president, and its john kasich's old district. trump is not someone who resonates there and democrats are excited about the possibility. it would give them a narrative setting election going into the midterm to say we can persuade those voters to support democrats more than they have in the past. susan: thank you very much of being here this week. we appreciate your