“I honestly don’t think the Democratic Party can be a majority party unless we start appealing to Middle America a lot more. I’m talking about the area between the two mountain ranges, the Appalachians and the Rocky Mountains. And if we’re able to do that, I think it will provide success,” Tester, who is also a farmer, told David Axelrod on an episode of CNN’s “The Axe Files” podcast released on Thursday.
The comments from Tester come as Democrats seek to hold on to their majorities in Congress in the 2022 midterm elections and amid low approval ratings for both Congress and President Joe Biden. Failures on key issues on Biden’s agenda, including passing voting rights legislation, also have Democrats rethinking their strategy for the upcoming elections. The President’s approval rating is 42%, with 55% disapproving, according to CNN’s average of six recent national polls.
Democrats hold a narrow majority in Congress, where the Senate is split 50-50 and Vice President Kamala Harris’ power to cast a tie-breaking vote gives them the advantage. Democrats have struggled among rural American voters in the polls while Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, have found solid footing among rural Americans. CNN exit polls from the 2020 presidential election found that among rural voters, 42% voted for Biden and 57% voted for Trump.
Tester, who was critical of Democrats’ messaging and appeal to rural Americans following the 2020 presidential election, also told Axelrod rural Americans view the Democratic Party as “toxic.”
“It’s toxic. The national Democratic brand in, I think in rural America generally, is toxic, and it’s because, quite frankly, we don’t show up,” he said when asked how his Montana neighbors view the Democratic Party. “I’m talking about national Democrats. We’re not willing to go places we’re not wanted and answer questions.”
He continued, “I think it’s critically important if you’re going to win, you’ve got to go to those places, as miserable as it might be, you still go. You still contact the people, and you still let people know that you’re a human being and you have a view for this, a vision for this country.”