Social Policy & Politics Program | Memo

What it Takes to Win

by Jim Kessler, Lanae Erickson Hatalsky and Sophie Shulman

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Democrats and Republicans have the same goal in elections—winning at least 50%-plus one of the overall vote. But what it takes to reach that threshold is very different for each party. To be sure, both Democrats and Republicans need to excite and motivate their respective wings. But the real challenge for each party is winning enough of the middle—those self-identified, ideological moderates who put candidates over the top.

This memo analyzes three decades of exit polls and shows why Democrats need to look for ways to keep moderates at the altar and woo this less vocal—but far more substantial—block of voters. This electoral reality should motivate Democrats to embrace moderates as a part of their coalition and support moderate policies in the major debates in Washington.


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