Strategist: Democrats in Decline

President Obama has failed to expand the reach of the Democratic Party.

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The Democrats are "in decline" and the situation is likely to worsen now that President Obama will no longer head the party's national ticket, says Democratic strategist Doug Sosnik.

Since Obama's re-election victory last November, the Republicans have been pilloried for being out of touch and having a bleak future, which Sosnik acknowledges. But Sosnik warns that the Democrats also are "at considerable risk," partly because Obama hasn't adequately connected his own political fortunes to his party's.

Sosnik, former White House political director for President Bill Clinton and currently a business and political consultant, argues that, "Obama not only got elected by running against the party establishment, but he has governed as a president who does not emphasize his party label. It's hard to be a change agent if you are lugging around a party label in an era where voters are so strongly disaffected from our institutions."

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In a memo to Democratic activists that is being widely circulated, Sosnik points out that since Obama was elected president, the Democrats have lost nine governorships, 56 seats in the House of Representatives and two seats in the Senate. Just as important, the party's favorability rating with the public has declined.

President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks during a ceremony to honor the 2013 National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) TOP COPS award winners in East Room of the White House, Saturday, May 11, 2013, in Washington.
President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks during a ceremony to honor the 2013 National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) TOP COPS award winners in East Room of the White House, Saturday, May 11, 2013, in Washington.

Sosnik says Obama hasn't built up the Democratic party so it will prosper when he leaves office. He is prohibited by the Constitution from serving a third term.

The former Clinton aide also says Democrats can't rely in the future on the same massive African-American turnout received by Obama, the first African-American president. And Sosnik argues that, even though the Republicans have relatively little Latino support, "younger Hispanics feel less of an allegiance to the Democratic party than their elders" and this could hurt the Democrats over the long run.

Sosnik raises the possibility that voters will reject incumbents of both parties in the 2014 midterm elections. He portrays the prospect for 2016 as murky but says both major parties have cause for concern, not just the GOP.

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Sosnik holds out little hope that Obama can persuade Congress to enact his agenda for the remainder of his term. "Obama's victory last November was a great political achievement, but the fact that he didn't set out a clear policy agenda for a second term left him without a clear mandate to govern over a politically divided Congress," Sosnik says.

"....Furthermore, there's not a single member of either party who fears paying a political price for not falling in line with the president, making it even more difficult to get members to cast difficult votes."

Sosnik advised Hillary Clinton's unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2008 but he remains a respected political strategist. His memo was first reported by Politico.

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  • Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com, and "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He is the author of the new book "Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America's Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership." Ken Walsh can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com, and followed on Facebook and Twitter.