tv Newsmakers Guy Cecil Priorities USA CSPAN May 7, 2018 11:03am-11:37am EDT
moving criminal justice system. he has written numerous briefs and death penalty cases before the supreme court. watch "landmark cases" tonight at 9:00 eastern on c-span, and join the conversation. #landmarkcases. and follow us on c-span. we have background on each case ,n the "landmark cases" book and the "landmark cases" podcast landmarkcass. >> welcome to "newsmakers." the primary season is in full swing. we are pleased to welcome guy cecil, from priorities usa, a democratic super pac. michael scherer, you are up first.
>> we had good news, unemployment below 4%. is the economy revving up create headwinds for the democratic argument in 2018? guy: there are two ways to look at the economy. we have seen is a pretty consistent set of job gains. 220,000 jobs gained throughout the entire obama administration into the trump administration. the other thing it reveals is we have a problem with wages. we have a problem with people not entering the employment market. a lot of us in d.c. in new york look at these things from the 30,000-foot view. i was the stock market doing -- how is the stock market doing how is gross domestic product , doing. on the ground, people are being squeezed i higher insurance 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 stay on these
education issues that will come up to the next six months. >> last year you and your leadership at priorities usa said you were going to commit $50 million in spending and digital ads. you were going to be talking to vote switchers. can you walk us through, in the seven states you have highlighted at 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: one of the things we consistently see, we have seen it in the special elections, we have seen it in 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 those particular issues. over the last year and a half we has been online and talking about the harms of the republican health care plan and
the harms of the tax bill. i think you will see us do a lot in those particular areas among others. the other thing i would point out is these persuadable voters are one part of our operation. i think they are a particular part of the electorate democrats have ignored. they ignore them in 2016, they ignored them in previous midterm elections. that won't be the extent of our program. we will still have significant part of our program focused on midterm drop-off voters, those voters that participant date in -- participate in presidential years and drop off in midterms, and that disproportionally affects democrats. when you look at the alabama race, 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. >> why do you think those voters
have been ignored in the past? of focus onas a lot turning of the democratic base come and there were questions about whether we could compete in those areas. what happened was, it became self-fulfilling prophecy. we were very active, the in miami andrty, fort lauderdale and jacksonville in florida. we were active in florida and milwaukee. when you look at the e xurbs of the i-4 corridor, the highway between tampa and orlando, there was not enough democratic activity. it was a function of how people view the midterm. people have walked away from trying to persuade americans. they think we are more partisan than ever, and therefore nobody is convinceable. but that really isn't the case, and we have lots of examples of that. heidi heitkamp won on the ballot despite the fact 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 not in the middle of talking to those voters, all we are doing is ceding the ground to republicans can which is a shame because we have something important to say to them. >> one of the things you have been doing is research about how to message swing voters. is there anything you have uncovered in focus groups and polling that is surprising to you? myths -- areral their liberal myths where you go to democrats and say you think this is true, but it is not true? guy: we did a group that focused 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 election.
i think the 2 -- i don't know if they they are not registered to are t there certainly counterintuitive, is, one, it is important for us to hold donald trump accountable, but if all we are doing is talking about donald trump, that is not motivating. 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 has a negative impact on their interest. it highlights the point that, yes, donald trump is not going to let election be anything other than a referendum on donald trump. when you turn on cnn, you turn on other news networks, the entire conversation is about stormy and mueller. those things are important, but it is not what is going to decide the election. i think convincing democrats we need to hold trump accountable but we need to get back to talking about bread-and-butter
issues and issues like criminal justice becomes important. >> do you worry about the attempt to make that next step. is there anyone doing a good job of messaging? there seems to be complaints and confusion about what the democratic brand stands for. are you worried about how voters see the party? guy: it depends on what you mean by the word "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 expect. we are a more diverse parties on the republican party. we have folks that are interested in a wider array of issues. we constantly get in this mold of talking issues and not values. my advice to candidates running, you should actually -- this is coming from a super pac that tends to talk more about the other side -- candidates should be talking more about their values and their vision for the country. if you look at the ads running
so far in the midterms in the off-year elections, run by democrats like jon tester or claire mccaskill, 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 was positive. it wasn't talking about accusations against moore, it wasn't talking about donald trump. it was talking about our candidate and aspirational desire of people to claim 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. >> when donald trump holds his next rally, he will say i cut your regulations, fighting taxes, i'm fighting china. that is what he is offering. that is what republicans are offering voters. what are democrats offering?
our focus is simple. we want to give everybody a fair shot. raising wages, expanding jobs theving everyone opportunity they desire. when democrats talk about the republican tax plan we win the argument. it is simple. republicans have chosen to raise taxes on the wealthiest middlens and it is the class who are going to pay. they are going to pay with higher tuition costs, higher premiums, with stagnant wages. we are seeing that. marco rubio said there is no evidence that the tax credits are going to accrue to the benefit of working people. now, we were saying that before they decided to vote for the bill. i think it is important we continue saying that. >> that is a message against trump. what is the positive economic message of the democratic party?
sure, it ranges depending on educational opportunity. letting students negotiate their student loan rates. it includes a real infrastructure build to bring jobs back to communities that need them the most. we have now lived through, what, 52 infrastructure weeks. next week is always going to be infrastructure week. it is incumbent upon us to talk about developing jobs, raising wages, educational opportunity. if we stick to those three fundamental pillars, we will be successful. >> user does the sector director of the democratic senatorial campaign committee in 2012. your candidates elected that cycle are now running for reelection. if you are back at the committee, how would you advise them to run their campaigns, 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 in 2006. i've worked in part or in total with almost the entire class of democratic senators. 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 veterans. particularly around the v.a. that is number one. number two, we have to make sure we have the right balance of turning out our base but not walking away from persuadable voters. they are there. we know for example in the research we have done, people who voted for trump and president obama, a third of them now have an unfavorable opinion of donald trump. two thirds have an unfavorable opinion of republicans in congress. half of them want a congress
that holds the president accountable. having a good balance between those two things. and number three, where democrats have dropped the ball particularly in midterm elections, letting republicans define the race early. we can't allow republicans to do that. we have a funding disadvantage, and priorities is helping to focus on that. other organizations are helping to focus on that. but we have to make sure we republicans go up attacking, we're up and on the air quickly. >> you are going to be playing defense in a bunch of these states that trump won i 10, 20 more points. he has indicated he is going to go to these states and call out the democratic incumbent and hope he can bring along some of his voters to turn against the people they may have voted for in the past. how do you inactivate your democrats against presidential attacks? guy: a few of those democrats,
he asked to join the administration. he will have a little challenge dealing with that. when you look at the faces you are talking about, you are talking about deeper red states, they are smaller states. more people get to know their elected official. they have 95% name id. every single democratic incumbent is viewed favorably. every single one of these states. the most important thing is to continue to connect yourself to the state and not necessarily every nuance and every fight that is 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 they are there every day 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 income is especially on the democratic side have higher
favorability ratings than donald trump and we should not run away from that. >> did you ask democrats not to talk about impeachment? guy: i tend to be relatively agnostic about the debate. the reality is that partisans on both sides are in their quarters, and independents who are not paying attention to every nuance of what is happening in d.c. they are , paying attention to television ads, going into the summer when kids are out of school. my focus is more on that than on issues with stormy daniels and michael cohen. to be clear, we should elect investigations proceed. -- we should let investigations proceed. we want our representatives to focus on 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 those states, but frankly, in a lot of house races. >> speaking of house races, we got -- as you said we are , heading into primary season. we have a ton of crowded thinking -- california, thinking texas -- where we have well-funded democrats running. we have seen your committee counterparts trying to intervene in these races in texas where they tried to keep one candidate out. they have dabbled in california. do you think the party should be more active helping to shape these primaries so that the kinds of candidates who got through on not running simply because they want to impeach trump, or do you think that will backfire and enrage activists
who might be participating? guy: california is different. everyone is on the ballot at one time. unlike most of the country where you have a democratic primary and republican primary, everyone is on the ballot. the top two vote getters it to the next round. making sure that we have a democrat as one of the top two vote getters in three or four races -- you would know better than i -- 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 expansionist. 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 more concerned about those primaries. i do not think that is the case in this election. >> speaking of which, do you think the house or senate will flip?
guy: the house is in great shape given where we are with the generic ballot measure. the senate, if you would have asked me a year ago whether we have a chance, i would have said no. and i would not have thought much about it. i think 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. the fact we have a potential pickup in nevada, arizona, in tennessee, texas is going to continually be more competitive, we have interesting primaries going on in mississippi, which isn't a place democrats talk a lot about -- even though the math overall is working against us, we do have a shot. i'm not ready to say it is the most likely thing, but if we can pick up two or three republican seats we have a chance. obviously, the alabama race was critical to make that happen. it would have been a much steeper climb if we had not won that race.
>> priorities started as a group that spent a lot of money on television. this year you are spending a lot of money digitally. there is a sense that democrats have lost their digital edge. that the web was a democratic zone when obama came up. it stayed that way for a while. where did democrats lose their step, and what do you need to do to get it back? think republicans caught on quickly because you had groups like those founded by -- funded by the koch brothers and mercers that were consistently everyday 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 and that would be the extent. that does not work anymore. number two, we have not invested 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 campaigns 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 the strategic question -- how do i reach the voter that i need to reach? we felt like it was important to level the playing field. this is true not just of the presidential race, to be clear. 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 and information online than ever before. >> you laid out a list of states you are going to be active in. is there any plan to expand that? how are you judging and making those decisions on investments going forward? guy: we started in seven states because they had races up and down the ballot. a governor's race or a senate race, multiple congressional races. in one case, a ballot measure. in almost every case that were competitive enough, democrats could win and chamber. if we know one thing, we know democrats have been terrible at winning down-ballot races 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 moved into missouri, indiana, north dakota, maine. we will be announcing 25 races we intend to advertise in.
we intend to be in 18-20 states. to 30 house districts. we are working on the final details. but it will certainly be a large map for us. >> senator chuck schumer, the democratic leader, recently came out for legalizing marijuana. i wonder what you think how that would play. is that a motivating thing for younger voters or other groups of voters? guy: absolutely. i do not think there is any question that in the places where we have seen legalization on the ballot it has increased interest in the election for young voters in particular, that it has increased turnout. that is not the reason somebody should be for it, but it is a winner in terms of the politics election,he especially when you are dealing with the midterm where we have seen participation rates drop. >> does that work in red states
and blue states? rural states and states that are urban? guy: i have not seen the polling broken down by state, but nationally you are with the folks that have expressed interest in legalization. >> we're down to three minutes. >> ok. guy: shorter answers. >> i would be curious to get your thoughts on the way priorities shares money. you do not have to immediately report. 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 transparent?tirely is that problematic? 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 will abide by the law, but we will not create annex a burden on us that republicans don't have to follow. -- an extra burden on us that republicans don't have to follow. we have a training program for digital activists. we have an issue-based communications program we are talking about irrespective of who is on the ballot, and the foundation focused on suing a number of states on voting rights and voter suppression legislation. in fact, we are currently suing the 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. >> i want to get in a 2020 question. guy: times up. [laughter] >> 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 pick up on? 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 a 2020 because we have states rapidly changing in terms of demographics. but we still are competitive. i think we are to win a lot of races in these midwestern states. number two, be authentic. i know it sounds trite. i think there's nothing like a magnifying glass of running for office, certainly for president. and i think being true to who you are, not trying to design something for the base to get you through, it is going to be really important. number three, have an expansionist view of the electorate. it is not just about turning out the base. we should be talking to more people about what democrats stand for, and not just the list of 40 policy proposals we would pass if we get into power. those are the things i would
most focus on. if you are any candidate, most certainly running for president. >> nancy pelosi continues to be a prodigious fundraiser, she is a favorite target of the gop, and there are house members clamoring for younger leadership. is she a plus or minus? guy: i think neither. if it was not nancy pelosi, before nancy pelosi it was harry reid. if it wasn't nancy pelosi, it would be chuck schumer. this republican playbook has been used in every election since i have been in politics. the republican national committee said the person they were going to run against most was hillary clinton. who is not on the ballot. this idea that you create a stalking horse come and a mom in the suburbs of orlando or a voter in a denver is going to value that over health care, taxes, education, it is not logical and it will not work. i think 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. >> thank you for your time this week. please come back as the season progresses. guy: thanks for having me. >> we are talking with midterm elections for the house and senate. out to reporters who just il ofioned guy cec priorities usa, the super pac's will stop it feels as though democrats have the momentum going into this election. what other realities in terms of fundraising and also tactical prowess? >> at this point democrats are in the candidate situation are in a great position. outraged bys were the democratic opponent's last quarter. that is a pretty staggering number, and much higher than in traditional midterm years. from that perspective democrats are in a great position. the party perspective is a little more mixed. the rnc has had a lot more
success, obviously, with the party in power. they are able to raise more money off of getting things thie in their agenda. robust has not had a fundraising operation. that is going to be painful for them. they are outmatched in the --nding, so groups like the raise more than $60 million. not a record-breaking number. a mixed bag for democrats and fundraising. a ton ofre spending money against each other and democrats have avoided that on the statewide level. braces, like in west virginia, where it is $4 million they are throwing at each other. none of that money is used to attack the general election. there is a way in which democrats are enjoying the spectacle right now. sitting back and watching.
>> party usa has a focus on digital. how are voters from your reporting feeling about political information coming to them via social media these days? >> there is an awareness those are ways to reach voters. i do not think we are going to move away from that. people may be more interested in where the ads are coming from and a facebook follows through with their promises to require people mightency, be more interested in doing research on their own. the digital labs are not going away. it is ach people and very specific universe of voters. digital is not going anywhere. priority, they can change what their creative
its. a lot of times they will buy an , it won't even look like one. it will be a link to a news article. giving the headline, giving the information they want to give to you. that is how it will be adjusted. we don't have a situation where people are not going to twitter, face. it is about how to navigate the new skepticism. asked about the economy. , ist continues to hum along it the old james carville statement, it is the economy, stupid? >> i think guy is right. even if the economy is doing well. even if the stock market continues to go up, the question is going to be, are people feeling it? are they getting raises? are they less worried about health care?
in the last decade, there has been a story of americans getting squeezed. it is going to take a while to get over that. the question is what people feel in their personal life. i do not think, the wage dated today was not as good as the employment data. i am not sure where everyone is feeling great. the other thing, the economy matters in presidential years more than in midterm years when you have one party governance. the american people have a tradition of hedging their bets do you wanttion is to elect somebody to be a check on the republican party power in washington? even in tennessee among republicans, they are sympathetic to that idea. we don't want one-party control. >> i agree. the check and balance method will be powerful, especially sense of thingis
squeezed in our personal bank accounts. ,his idea of a changed election i don't think that is going to go away. sides weren both discounting the special election early in the air saying they were not appropriate bellwethers for the rest of the are. what about the ones coming up? which races are you watching? >> right now i am watching ohio special election. the primary is coming up on tuesday. i am watching that because it is a suburban district that voted for trump 10 points last cycle. mightshowing signs that trend away from republicans. it does not like the president. it is john kasich's old district. not somebody who resonates there. democrats are excited about the
possibility of flipping that seat. it would give them a narrative as they go into the midterm saying we can persuade those voters to support democrats. >> we will watch that. thank you for being here. >> thanks for having us. >> congress returns today. the house will consider several meetings. members will work on a bill advancing the federal approval process to store nuclear waste in nevada. and a resolution to overturn an auto financing rule. and the senate will continue debate on the court of appeals nominations. lawmakers have confirmed 15 of the president's nominees.
live on c-span and the senate on c-span2. posted by the security of cooperation in europe, coverage of that starts at 3:00 p.m. on c-span3, online and with the free c-span radio app. communicators,e kevin mccarthy and minority leaders talk about the congressional hack ua thon. >> it is important we find ways like this to come together and engage the public in a positive way to make congress more open and transparent. >> this year we have a test going into a number of offices. pretty soon it will transform all of the district offices.