It's not hard to figure out that Republicans have been out-messaging Democrats. We have seen that facts don't matter and that strong messaging overcomes playing not to lose.
Having been a speechwriter, political strategist and PR operative for causes and candidates since Jimmy Carter was President, I was sufficiently horrified in this century to join others in forming Messaging Values Project -- a study of how to clearly message progressive values.
During this project we met political researcher and strategist Drew Westen.
Westen is to Democrats what Frank Luntz is to Republicans. Westen, who lives outside Atlanta, conducts focus groups to learn which messages and words resonate with potential voters and which ones fall flat. He understands how to "prime" a message by firing off mental "frames" in the mind of an audience.
Westen is every bit as good as Luntz -- better, I think, because he does not play on ignorance and hate -- but not as widely known. Westen does not have a track record of success (if you call convincing voters to screw up the country a success) like Luntz. For example, one Luntz gem was to advise Republicans to call Obamacare a "government takeover."
One subject for study, although it should not be a political issue, is abortion. I hate to even bring it up. It's a no-win subject. It's a personal matter that Republicans have wrangled and manipulated into hate and crazy and votes. There is no changing anyone's mind on this, but it is an issue that Westen tested in focus groups.
"A man and a woman have the right to plan a family. Voters respond favorably if you begin with that," Westen said in describing the results of focus groups on messaging women's reproductive rights.
Westen closely observed Democrat Jon Osoff's recent loss to Repubican Karen Handel in a highly watched and richly funded special congressional election in Georgia's sixth district.
In this CNN story, Westen lines out the Democrats' failures in this race, and he advises Democrats should use this as a what-not-to-do case study for 2018 congressional races.