WASHINGTON--A leading Democratic group--Priorities USA--is warning party leaders they could squander a strong political climate in 2018 if they don't start to emphasize pocketbook issues over loose and unfocused critiques of Donald Trump.
According to internal polling by the super PAC, President Donald Trump's approval rating climbed to 44 percent in the first week of February, compared to 53 percent who disapprove. That mirrors Trump's improving position in public polls.
In November, the same survey found his approval rating at 40 percent, with 54 percent disapproving.
The group's survey also showed the Democratic Party's generic ballot advantage had shrunk, with 46 percent preferring Democrats to 42 percent for Republicans.
The memo says that a broad range of metrics show the political climate is still favorable for Democrats. But it also makes an unambiguous diagnosis for Trump's recent rise: Democrats this year have stopped focusing on economic and health care issues, topics that demonstrably hurt his approval during his first year in office.
Priorities' polling found that while people in November readily mentioned Trump's health care and tax reform measures, by February they were instead more cognizant of his tweets.
Democrats, the memo said, must "not allow themselves to be sidetracked and distracted by Trump's latest tweets."
"While still on track for a successful November, the extent of Democratic gains will be blunted if Democrats do not re-engage more aggressively in speaking to the economic and health care priorities of voters," it said.
The memo comes amid a rancorous debate on Capitol Hill over immigration, in which Democrats in January temporarily pushed to shut down the federal government because of the absence of a DACA agreement. The Priorities missive does not say the party should avoid a debate over immigration, but says time and time again that the absence of fiscal criticism of Trump has allowed him to one-sidedly extol the benefits of a growing economy.
"There's no question that Trump benefits when a critique of his tax and health care policies is not front and center -- especially when voters are hearing Trump's side of the story on the economy," the memo said.