A central force behind this year's midterm election campaign is neither a political party nor a candidate. It's Emily's List, which for the last three decades has worked to assist Democratic women in politics.
Originally organized around fundraising — Emily is an acronym for Early Money Is Like Yeast — the group now recruits and trains as well as finances women candidates. Its only litmus-test issue is support for abortion rights.
What makes the organization loom so large in 2018 is the combination of Hillary Clinton's 2016 defeat and Donald Trump's provocations from the White House. More than 300 women — a record — are now running for Congress. Thousands more have stepped forward for offices at all levels of government.
Speakeasy podcast: Listen to John Harwood's discussion with Stephanie Schriock here
That the emergent Me Too movement has also propelled women into the 2018 arena adds a special irony. Before becoming president of Emily's List, Stephanie Schriock managed the winning 2008 Senate campaign of Al Franken — whose resignation last year made him the highest-profile Democratic casualty of the movement.
I talked with Schriock at Emily's List headquarters in downtown Washington about prospects for women fueling a Democratic takeover of Congress. What follows is a condensed, edited transcript of our conversation.
Harwood: Tell me what these people are doing.
Schriock: So to the right of us, we've got the digital team that oversees all of our social media, as well as our online fundraising and web presence, and then our communications team. To the left, you've got training and recruitment. These are the folks who work day to day with the candidates themselves.
Harwood: Now, you mentioned that the carpet color changes. What does that signify?
Schriock: This is a big change. So right here, just last June, was a wall. And we have expanded the organization, physically tore down walls, to handle this.
Harwood: How many people did you add?
Schriock: We have added over 30 more people. And usually we downsize after a major election like 2016. We kept everybody on and just kept growing. So we're over 100 staff now.
Harwood: How many donors do you have?
Schriock: Hundreds of thousands. And growing rapidly. This election cycle, why I think it is a sea change moment, is that we have had now over 36,000 women come to Emily's List, raise their hand, and say, "I want to run."
Harwood: At all levels?
Schriock: At all levels. And the truth is most of them don't know what they're running for yet. They maybe don't know when they're running, but have gotten over that first major obstacle, which is just that desire, interest, belief that they could do it. That's a massive change. And when more of them run, others will see them run. Young girls will see more women in their legislatures, in their government. It will be a massive change.