Most of the time when people make such statements it is hyperbole stemming from issues with the party’s messaging or ground game operations, but those things tend to influence elections at the margins. What really shapes elections are broad fundamentals (demographics, state of the economy) and the structural rules governing the election. It with the later that Democrats have failed measurably.
The District of Columbia has more people than the states of Wyoming or Vermont. The residents of D.C. pay federal taxes and many of them have died defending this country, but they still lack any representation in Congress. Ironically, the people who actually live in the so-called capital of the “free world” are denied the fundamental freedom to choose their own government at the federal level.
There has long been a proposal that would quickly and easily fix this injustice: D.C. Statehood. The residential parts of the district would simply be turned into a new state. It would only take an act of Congress. Democrats could have used their big majority in 2009 to adopted it, giving the people of D.C. the same rights as all other Americans.
Based on the demographics of the district it would likely elect two new Democratic senators, making Republican chances of winning control of the chamber effectively zero. It would also have had the added benefit of slightly improving (but not completely fixing) the overwhelmingly white bias in the Senate.
Democrats attempted a half-measure in 2009 that would have given D.C. only a vote in the House but not the Senate. This measure failed when Republicans used Congress’s control over all of D.C. local laws to force on the residents an unpopular gun provision. The whole incident demonstrates why anything short of statehood would be an injustice.
I find it deeply disappointing that Democrats have made going after Republicans voter ID laws that might “suppress” minority voters when Congressional Democrats refused to actually enfranchise the heavily African-American population of D.C.
While it is impossible to know how Congressional Republicans would act if the roles were reversed I find it unimaginable that they would ever tolerate denying a territory with over 600,000 mostly conservative white Americans Congressional representational and control over their own laws. I suspect fixing the problem would be the number one cause of right wing talk radio.
Congressional Democrats had the chance to do the morally right thing and also help themselves out politically. They failed to act when they could, so if they narrowly lose the Senate it will be entirely their own fault.