The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Big Democratic donors are starting to pay attention to downballot races. Finally.

WaPo's Matea Gold wrote the two most important sentences today not containing the words "Rubio" or "Clinton":

The plan embraced by the Democracy Alliance, an organization that advises some of the Democrats’ top contributors, puts an urgent new focus on financing groups that can help the party regain influence in time for the next congressional redistricting process, after the 2020 elections. The blueprint approved by the alliance board calls on donors to help expand state-level organizing and lobbying for measures addressing climate change, voting rights and economic inequality.

I've written before in this space about how the most important gains Republicans have made during the Obama years are not in the Senate or the House but rather at the state legislative level.  Here are the remarkably stark numbers -- courtesy of Republican lobbyist Bruce Mehlman -- detailing how disastrous the last three elections have been for downballot Democrats.

No, my caps lock wasn't accidentally on. Those numbers are just absolutely stunning. And they are, in large part, the result of a concerted effort by major Republican donors to spend time and money building organizations designed to win state legislative seats and chambers. Democratic money men and women, up until today's decision by the Democracy Alliance that is, have largely avoided dumping money into these sorts of less sexy downballot races.

The decision by the Democracy Alliance to start spending money to build the sort of apparatus that Republicans have had in place for the better part of the last two decades is a recognition of just how important state legislative races are for the futures of the two parties.

Yes, state legislatures are often the minor leagues for rising political stars to practice their craft. (Marco Rubio, for example, was the speaker of the Florida state House before running for Senate in 2010.) But, they also serve as the policy petri dishes for lots and lots of ideas that percolate up to the national level, helping to keep the parties fresh, vibrant and forward looking. And then, of course, there is the role legislatures play in most states in redrawing congressional district lines once a decade. Republican dominance at the state level in the 2010 election led to a national House map that could -- and, in reality, should -- ensure a Republican majority through at last 2022.

The size of Democrats' current deficits in state legislatures suggests that even with an infusion of cash from the Democracy Alliance, the Democratic attempt to re-claim the ground that has been lost over the past eight years is a long-term project. But, Republicans have almost always been smarter and more strategic about making investments in the long game of politics. This latest news from the Democracy Alliance suggests Democrats may finally be committed to playing catch up.