Photo courtesy Rachel Bitecofer

Hitting ’Em Where It Hurts

Political strategist Rachel Bitecofer pulls no punches in her fight to save democracy

The future of American politics seems bleak.

State legislatures are proposing more anti-trans legislation than ever before, women are losing autonomy over their bodies and, with the upcoming presidential election, democracy itself may be under threat. 

“This is not a drill, folks,” Rachel Bitecofer says.

Bitecofer, 47, is a political strategist — and author — perhaps best known for her accurate prediction of the “blue wave” in the 2018 midterm elections. As a 24-year-old single mother, Bitecofer studied political science at Lane Community College before getting her bachelor’s degree in the field from the University of Oregon.

Bitecofer later earned a doctorate in political science and international affairs from the University of Georgia. She became the assistant director of the Wason Center for Civic Leadership at Christopher Newport University in 2015. There, Bitecofer lectured students on political behavior, political analysis and elections.

Shortly after dipping her toe into political forecasting in 2018, Bitecofer says, she left her academic position to join the Niskanen Center, a think tank based in Washington, D.C.

“Was I going to be a quiet academic that in my silence normalized the abnormalness of everything that Donald Trump represents?” Bitcofer says. “Or would I be public and stand up for democracy?”

At the Niskanen Center, Bitecofer accurately predicted the outcome of the 2020 presidential election but “failed down ballot,” she says, as she had forecast Democratic advancements in the House and Senate. After realizing that this group of Democrats could not survive another election cycle, Bitecofer says, she began to advocate for a “negative partisanship” political strategy. She is now working as a political strategist with Democratic Party candidates.


That’s where Bitecofer’s recent book, Hit ’Em Where It Hurts: How to Save Democracy by Beating Republicans at Their Own Game, comes in.

Positive partisanship, Bitecofer says, is when a voter relies on their positive view of a party’s brand rather than the details of individual candidates during an election cycle. Under positive partisanship, a Republican would vote for the Republican Party and a Democrat would vote for the Democratic Party.

Negative partisanship, the political strategy Bitecofer advocates for in Hit ’Em Where It Hurts, is when a someone votes due to the “fear of the threat, sometimes the hate and the anger that you feel towards the opposition party, especially when it’s a platform that conflicts with your own worldview,” Bitecofer says.

Bitecofer worked with the Democratic Party to implement negative partisanship in the 2022 midterm elections, which she says “helped Democrats beat back the red wave.”

According to Bitecofer, Republicans have successfully used negative partisanship for decades, painting all Democratic candidates as anti-freedom and pro-government control. However, after the Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade in 2022, Democrats were able to flip the narrative and tell voters that the Republican Party is an “extremist threat that’s coming directly for you, your freedom, your health, your security,” Bitecofer says.

Negative partisanship is more important now than ever before due to the threat of a second Trump term, Bitecofer says. If he were to be re-elected, those who would be most at risk are “poor people, Black people, Latino people, trans people and women,” Bitecofer says, but she says not enough voters are concerned yet.

“If they happen to be like me — sick at night when we go to bed, sick when I wake up with fear — that’s gonna get more palpable as we go on through the year,” Bitecofer says. “We need that sickness to spread to other people, because it’s a very localized disease right now. We need other Americans, regular Joes and Janes, to be waking up with the same gut nervousness about this election.”

Bitecofer says that predicting the outcome of the 2024 presidential election would be difficult this early on, but that right now it will “come down to seven states and a few thousand votes in each of them.” However, it’s imperative that voters start paying attention to the election now, she says, rather than wait until after Labor Day to tune in.

It’s time, Bitecofer says, to fight for our democracy.

“As warm and fuzzy as it makes us feel to say it or even believe it,” Bitecofer says, “when they go low, we have to hit ’em where it hurts.”

Hit ‘Em Where It Hurts, by Rachel Bitecofer and Aaron Murphy, Crown Books/Penguin Random House, is available for $30 hardcover, $13.99 Kindle. Ask for it at your local bookseller. Bitecofer will speak with Thom Hartmann 7 pm April 5 at Powell’s City of Books in Portland. More info at

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