President Obama's decision to keep Debbie Wasserman Schultz as party chief will have her at the Democratic helm through the midterm election -- a time when the president's party often loses seats.
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Obama on Monday asked the party to reelect the Florida congresswoman as Democratic National Committee chairwoman -- making her selection a mere formality and displaying confidence in the woman who helped him win reelection and the party pick up House and Senate seats.
Now Wasserman Schultz will seek to replicate Democrats' 2012 winning formula under much tougher circumstances.
"Debbie will need to build on the remarkable success President Obama has enjoyed, but Democrats will not have President Obama on the ballot ever again, so this next election will be extremely challenging," said Democratic strategist Paul Begala, who helped run the Democratic super-PAC Priorities USA during the 2012 cycle. "Continually engaging voters, especially the new American majority of younger people, African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, single women and a few of us old white dudes is, I suspect, going to be Debbie's top challenge."
The demographically diverse coalition of voters Obama and Democrats rely on tends to stay at home in non-presidential elections, and the DNC will need to reincorporate the powerful Obama for America turnout operation into its own organization in order to keep the Senate and win back the House.
The party faces a difficult Senate map, with many incumbents running in red states. More than a dozen Democrats up in 2014 represent swing or red states, while just one Republican-held seat leans toward the Democrats.
On the House side, Republican used the redistricting process to reduce the number of competitive seats and lock in the GOP's 2010 gains, making it harder for Democrats to win control of the lower chamber. Second-term presidents' parties often suffer losses during midterm elections, making Wasserman Schultz's job even harder, though one bright spot for the party is gubernatorial races, where Republicans are defending many more seats.
Accomplishing any gains will be difficult. The younger and non-white voters who fueled Obama's wins did not show up in nearly the same numbers in 2010, giving Republicans a major edge in that election. Getting them to the polls without Obama on the ticket could prove difficult once again.
SOURCE: Cameron Joseph and Daniel Strauss