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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Hillary Clinton Speaks on Trump Campaign's Paranoia

Clinton in Reno

A man with a long history of racial discrimination, who traffics in dark conspiracy theories drawn from the pages of supermarket tabloids and the far reaches of the internet, should never run our government or command our military.

Hillary Clinton Speaks on Trump Campaign's Paranoia

Clinton: Trump campaign built on ‘prejudice and paranoia’

Of course there’s always been a paranoid fringe in our politics, steeped in racial resentment. But it’s never had the nominee of a major party stoking it, encouraging it, and giving it a national megaphone. Until now.

Hillary Clinton Speaks on Trump Campaign's Paranoia

Hillary Speaks in Reno About Trump’s Predjudice

Trump’s lack of knowledge or experience or solutions would be bad enough. But what he’s doing here is more sinister. Trump is reinforcing harmful stereotypes and offering a dog whistle to his most hateful supporters. It’s a disturbing preview of what kind of President he’d be.

Hillary Clinton Speaks on Trump Campaign's Paranoia

Alternative Right

The de facto merger between Breitbart and the Trump Campaign represents a landmark achievement for the “Alternative Right.” A fringe element has effectively taken over the Republican Party.

Hillary Clinton Speaks on Trump Campaign's Paranoia

Don’t Be Fooled

No one should have any illusions about what’s really going on here. The names may have changed… Racists now call themselves “racialists.” White supremacists now call themselves “white nationalists.” The paranoid fringe now calls itself “alt-right.” But the hate burns just as bright. And now Trump is trying to rebrand himself as well. Don’t be fooled.

The Daily Strategist

August 29, 2016

Creamer: How Trump Helps ISIS, Threatens Our National Security and Betrays American Values

The following article by Democratic strategist Robert Creamer, author of Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, is cross-posted from HuffPo:

I recently returned from an international seminar where one of the scholars argued a point that is very important for every American to hear before November 8th.

He said that democracies come in many different forms with various structures and systems. But authoritarian regimes all have four characteristics in common:

  • Grievance-Driven Nationalism.
  • The narrative that the majority of people have been victimized by enemies – foreign and domestic.
  • The legitimation of conspiratorial thinking.
  • The argument that only the one strong man can come to the people’s rescue.

These things are true whether they describe the authoritarian regimes of history like Mussolini and Stalin, or those of the current period, like Kim Jong-un in North Korea, or Putin in Russia – both of which Donald Trump apparently admires.

And those four characteristics practically define the Trump political message. Trump argues that he will make America “Great Again” — that he will address the legitimate grievances of those whose incomes have stagnated by throwing out the immigrants, the Muslims, the “others” that have made it so — none of which has anything whatsoever to do with the economic pain he alleges to address.

Many Americans have seen what happens when a strong man blames the “other” for a nation’s sense of victimization. It always ends in tragedy, whether for the Jews of Europe or the Tutsis of Rwanda.

Trump has no compunction creating and legitimating conspiracy theories such as his “birther” fantasy that President Obama was born in Kenya and is not the “legitimate” President.

And Trump makes it clear every day that only he can fix the country’s problems — apparently through the force of his own will.

The so-called Alt-Right Movement championed by Brietbart.com, whose CEO is now directing the Trump campaign, is the face of right-wing authoritarian nationalism in the United States.

Democrats Are on the Brink of a Historic Presidential Winning Streak

As the two major political parties struggle once again for the presidency, it’s being largely missed that Democrats are likely about to break a record of presidential election success that dates all the way back to 1828. I discussed this development and its significance at New York:

When you think of the great political coalitions of the past that were dominant for long stretches of time, you’d probably include the Democratic “New Deal” coalition, the Republican “Gilded Age” majority, and maybe the antebellum Democratic and post–Civil War Republican winning streaks. More recently, you might consider the Republican-dominated period from Nixon to Poppy Bush with its suggestion of a GOP “electoral college lock” pretty notable.

But as Ron Brownstein notes today, the contemporary Democratic Party is on the brink of exceeding them all by one key measurement. If Hillary Clinton wins this year, the Donkey Party will have won the popular vote in six of the past seven presidential elections.

There are some qualifications that must be attached to this accomplishment, of course. Most obvious, the Democratic popular-vote victory in 2000 did not lead to a Gore administration; Democrats suffered the same fate after winning the popular vote in 1876 and 1888. In three of the five most recent victories, the Democratic candidate did not win more than 50 percent of the popular vote (and the odds are pretty good that even with a comfortable decision Hillary Clinton will be a plurality winner as well). And most significant, Democratic success at the presidential level has not been accompanied by consistently strong performances down ballot, especially in midterms, where Republican landslides during Democratic presidencies (1994, 2010, 2014) are becoming pretty common.

Still, something is going on that makes the presidential-popular-vote winning streak possible, particularly when you add in the Democratic near-miss in 2004 and contrast this era with the 1980s and its three straight Republican wins by large margins. Brownstein points to a common feature of all dominant presidential coalitions: the close alignment of a party with “growing groups in the electorate.” For today’s Democrats, that means “minorities, Millennials, and whites who are college-educated, secular, or single (especially women).”

Today’s Republicans, of course, by nominating Donald Trump, have gambled everything on winning a supersize and super-energized share of the declining groups in the electorate: white folks, old folks, non-college-educated folks, self-consciously religious folks, and married folks (especially men). If that strategy fails, as appears likely at the moment, then the GOP will have the dual problem of a continuing and intensified misalignment with prevailing demographic trends, and a disappointed and angry old-white-male “base” that may be even more radicalized by the election of the first woman president following the first African-American president. It’s not a scenario that will lend itself to a quick recovery, which means the Democratic winning streak could grow even longer.

Or so Democrats hope. Karl Rove had similar visions of a permanent Republican majority in the early 2000s, but objective reality rudely interfered. That can always happen.

Political Strategy Notes

Here we have an excellent example of the self-defeating myopia of single-issue politics. If one of these GOP Senators wins, and his victory denies the Democrats a Senate majority, not only would President Clinton’s ability to enact significant gun safety legislation be destroyed, but her ability to get a strong gun safety advocate confirmed to the Supreme Court would also be badly compromised.

At Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Alan I. Abramowitz reports on the findings of the Generic Ballot Forecasting Model, including: “…In order for Democrats to gain the minimum of four seats they need to regain control of the Senate (if there is a Democratic vice president to break a 50-50 tie), they probably would need a lead of at least two or three points on the generic ballot and to gain the minimum of 30 seats they need to regain control of the House, they probably would need a lead of at least 13 points on the generic ballot…According to HuffPost Pollster, results of recent national polls give Democrats an average lead of five points on the generic ballot. If that lead were to hold up until the week after Labor Day, the traditional cutoff date for the generic ballot forecast, Democrats would be expected to gain about 16 seats in the House and about four seats in the Senate — not enough to flip control of the House but enough to flip control of the Senate if Clinton wins the presidential election.”

Crystal Ball also spotlights another model, which is more more favorable to Democrats, “The Seats-in-Trouble House and Senate Election Forecasts” by James E. Campbell, which finds that “Based on seven House Democratic seats being rated as only leaning to the Democrats, toss-ups, or tipped toward going to the Republicans, and 33 House Republican seats being rated as only leaning to the Republicans, toss-ups, or tipped toward going to the Democrats — a net of 26 more Republican than Democratic seats-in-trouble — the model predicts that Democrats will gain 32 House seats in November. This would bring the number of House Democrats up to 220 members, two seats more than required for a bare majority. The forecast was made on Aug. 18, 2016…Based on one Senate Democratic seat being rated as a toss-up or tipped toward the Republicans and eight Senate Republican seats being rated as toss-ups or tipped toward the Democrats — a net of seven more Republican than Democratic seats-in-trouble — the model predicts that Democrats will gain seven Senate seats. This would bring the number of Senate Democrats (including two Independents who caucus with Democrats) up to 53 seats, a majority. The forecast was made on Aug. 19, 2016.”

Too often tragedies like the mass poisoning of Flint, Michigan’s water supply fade from the headlines after a short burst of public outrage, with few corrective measures in place, thanks to obstruction by Republicans. The crisis in Flint is symptomatic of other disasters in waiting as result of decades of Republican infrastructure neglect all across America, and there is a disturbing pattern of law enforcement making examples of mid-level officials bureaucrats and letting it go at that, while the more culpable CEO’s and top administrators who threw public safety under the bus are let off. Chase Madar’s NYT op-ed, “The Real Crime Is What’s Not Done” explores the political ramifications of infrastructure neglect, noting “A well-enforced regulatory regime lacks the TV-movie narrative arc of a criminal trial. But none of these crimes could have been committed if the government had been doing its job properly.” What Democrats must do is make it clear that it is the Republicans who are putting public safety at risk with obstruction and neglect across the nation.

Steve Bousquet of the Miami Herald reports that “Republicans and their allies in the state Capitol are flexing muscle in at least three hotly contested Democratic primary races in a covert attempt to define the makeup of the Florida Senate for years to come…In Tampa Bay’s most hard-fought Senate primary where black Democrats could be decisive, a new mailer in support of Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, makes it appear he has the support of President Barack Obama (he doesn’t). The mailer was paid for a committee backed by Republican interests…In Palm Beach County, the same group, operating under the nebulous name Floridians for a Better Florida, is helping Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, with mailers attacking his rival, Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth.” It would be good if there were more examples of Democrats successfully deploying such a strategy, as did Sen. Clarie McCaskill in her U.S. Senate re-election bid in 2012.

Democrats now know exactly which House seats the GOP is prioritizing to protect or flip, as a result of the GOP Super-PAC, The Congressional Leadership Fund’s (CLF) decision to allocate their $10 million investment, reports Ted Barrett at CNN Politics. “The Congressional Leadership Fund’s spending on TV and digital advertising — as well as get-out-the-vote efforts — is aimed at 12 of the most competitive seats this fall that could determine if Democrats can make up the 30-seat deficit they face now and reclaim the majority after six years out of power.” The targeted congressional seats are in south FL, CA, NB, IA, WI, NY and TX. The non-partisan Sunlight Foundation reported that CLF had a 58.05% return on investment in 2012. The CLF’s largest donor in 2012 was Sheldon Adelson, who gave $5 million. Other major donors included Chevron.

Ben Rosen notes at The Monitor, “Larry Grisolano, who oversaw paid advertising efforts for the 2008 and 2012 Obama campaigns, predicted in June 2015 that the presidential campaigns will devote nearly a quarter of their spending to digital media…But Nicco Mele, director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, says online advertising is only effective in raising money or increasing voter turnout, not persuading voters to choose one candidate over another…“Television is the most powerful form of persuasion,” he tells the Monitor in a phone interview Wednesday. “The internet is not as effective in changing people’s minds.””

Can Hillary Clinton win a healthty share of the votes of blue collar youth? Rebeccca Nelson probes the possibilities in her TNR article, “The Forgotten Millennials” Nelson observes, “When Clinton talks about millennials, she tends to use the word interchangeably with “college students.” But millennials with university degrees don’t represent their entire generation—just those with the greatest economic and educational advantages. A full 40 percent of young people never made it past high school, according to a recent analysis by CIRCLE, a research center that specializes in youth issues…Politicians tend to ignore working-class millennials for a simple reason: They don’t show up on Election Day. Just 29 percent of blue-collar youth turned out to vote in 2012—about half the rate of those who’d attended college. But in market terms, that political disengagement represents an opportunity for Clinton: CIRCLE estimates there are more than 17 million eligible voters under 35 still waiting to be mobilized—the last big segment of American voters that is genuinely up for grabs….Working-class youth should be Clinton’s for the taking: Fifty-two percent lean Democratic; 34 percent tilt Republican. And because so many are politically disengaged, their leanings are considered “soft,” in campaign parlance: They could be swayed by any candidate with a message that resonates.”

Shameless Gov. Chris ‘Bridgegate’ Christie vetoes a NJ Motor Voter Bill, which “would automatically register voters who are renewing or applying for a driver’s license.” As the Star-Ledger’s editorial “Christie tries to rig the system by vetoing motor-voter bill,” notes “Of all the ways Republicans use voter suppression to influence elections – gerrymandering districts, voter ID laws, purging rolls, shorting voter periods, preventing ex-cons from voting – this is especially odious, because MVC already makes you jump through hoops to prove that you are who you say you are. The only fraud here is the governor’s brand of politics.”

Clinton Could Create Most Progressive SCOTUS Since the Warren Court

It’s not an especially novel observation to note that the future shape of the Supreme Court is at stake in this presidential election. But more specifically, the long-time control of SCOTUS by Republican nominees could be coming to an end, a possibility I examined at New York.

[T]rue domination of the Supreme Court by one party or ideology takes time, and usually consecutive presidencies of the same party. A Clinton presidency following an Obama presidency could do the trick.

That would be a really unusual opportunity for the Donkey Party, which has not had more than eight consecutive years of controlling the White House since Harry Truman left office. Republicans have had vastly better luck in securing SCOTUS nominations. Indeed, because Jimmy Carter did not have a single SCOTUS vacancy to fill, Republican presidents appointed an astonishing ten consecutive justices between 1969 and 1991. The only reason this did not produce a profoundly conservative SCOTUS era is (as any conservative, and especially Christian conservative, will tell you) that multiple Republican-appointed justices turned out to be relatively liberal on certain issues (notably abortion) or liberal altogether (e.g., John Paul Stevens and David Souter).

As Dylan Matthews explains at Vox, a second President Clinton (especially if she won a second term) would have a good shot at creating the first unambiguously liberal Court since 1971, and perhaps a 6-3 liberal majority on SCOTUS in fairly short order. Aside from stopping a conservative trend on the Court in areas ranging from campaign-finance reform to business regulation to labor law, such a development could lead to progressive constitutional landmarks unimagined for decades, such as prohibitions on mass incarceration and establishment of a truly national right to vote without state and local obstruction and harassment.

It is theoretically possible, of course, that Clinton appointments could disappoint liberals the way Nixon and Ford and Reagan appointments have disappointed conservatives. But probably not: The brouhaha over “treacherous” Republican justices has made it vastly more acceptable to vet potential nominees carefully for their past record and their judicial philosophy. There may be some doubt about what Donald Trump will do in the way of shaping the Supreme Court in a coherent manner. But Hillary Clinton’s direction in judicial appointments should be clear enough, and will probably motivate an unprecedented degree of conservative resistance in the Senate and beyond.

If we are lucky, conservative resistance to progressive SCOTUS nominees will be a worst-case scenario for Democrats.

Lakoff: Why Progressives Must Better Understand Trump’s Language

Trying to better understand Donald Trump’s use of language may seem like one of the least agreeable chores a sensible person would want to embrace. As George Lakoff acknowledges at HuffPo in the final installment of his two-part analysis of how to understand Trump (we flagged part one on August 1) :

Responsible reporters in the media normally transcribe political speeches so that they can accurately report them. But Donald Trump’s discourse style has stumped a number of reporters. Dan Libit, CNBC’s excellent analyst is one of them. Libit writes:

His unscripted speaking style, with its spasmodic, self-interrupting sentence structure, has increasingly come to overwhelm the human brains and tape recorders attempting to quote him. Trump is, simply put, a transcriptionist’s worst nightmare: severely unintelligible, and yet, incredibly important to understand.

…Trump’s crimes against clarity are multifarious: He often speaks in long, run-on sentences, with frequent asides. He pauses after subordinate clauses. He frequently quotes people saying things that aren’t actual quotes. And he repeats words and phrases, sometimes with slight variations, in the same sentence…Some commentators have even attributed his language use to “early Alzheimer’s,” citing “erratic behavior” and “little regards for social conventions.” I don’t believe it..

As unappeling as studying Trump’s communication may be, it is pretty important to do so. As Lakoff puts it, “the very fate of the nation, indeed human civilization, appears destined to come down to one man’s application of the English language — and the public’s comprehension of it.” Lakoff cautions, however, that ridiculing Trump’s language and dismissing it as unworthy of analysis may be a mistake:

…I have found that he is very careful and very strategic in his use of language. The only way I know to show this is to function as a linguist and cognitive scientist and go through details.

Let’s start with sentence fragments. It is common and natural in New York discourse for friends to finish one another’s sentences. And throughout the country, if you don’t actually say the rest of a friend’s sentence out loud, there is nevertheless a point at which you can finish it in your head. When this happens in cooperative discourse, it can show empathy and intimacy with a friend, that you know the context of the narrative…

Trump often starts a sentence and leaves off where his followers can finish in their minds what he has started to say. That is, they commonly feel empathy and intimacy, an acceptance of what is being said, and good feeling toward the speaker. This is an unconscious, automatic reaction, especially when words are flying by quickly. It is a means for Trump to connect with his audience.

With respect to the way Trump addresses his adversary’s attitude toward the Second Amendment, for example,  Lakoff notes, “his words are carefully chosen. They go by quickly when people hear them. But they are processed unconsciously first by neural circuitry — and neurons operate on a thousandth-of-a-second time scale…Trump begins by saying, “Hillary wants to abolish, essentially abolish the Second Amendment.” He first just says “abolish,” and then hedges by adding “essentially abolish.” But having said “abolish” twice, he has gotten across the message that she wants to, and is able to, change the Constitution in that way.”

Never mind the “well-regulated militia” part of the second amendment. Trump, like all Republicans and NRA minions, ignores it. “The Second Amendment has been reinterpreted by contemporary ultra-conservatives as the right of individual citizens to bear contemporary arms (e.g., AK-47’s),” adds Lakoff.  “The term “Second Amendment” activates the contemporary usage by ultra-conservatives. It is a dog-whistle term, understood in that way by many conservatives.”

Lakoff quotes Trump, who explains, “By the way, and if she gets to pick [loud boos] — if she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know.” Lakoff breaks it down:

“By the way,” marks a parallel utterance, one that does not linearly follow from what was just said, but that has information relevant to what was just said.

“And” here marks information that follows from what was just said.

“If she gets to pick …” When said the first time, it was followed immediately by loud boos. The audience could finish the if-clause for themselves, since the word “pick” in context could only be about Hillary picking liberal judges. Trump goes on making this explicit, “if she gets to pick her judges…”

“Gets to” is important. The metaphor here with “to” is that Achieving a Purpose Is Reaching a Destination” with the object of “to” marking the pick. The “get” in “get to” is from a related metaphor, namely, that Achieving a Purpose Is Getting a Desired Object. In both Purpose metaphors, the Achievement of the Purpose can be stopped by an opponent. The “if,” indicates that the achievement of the purpose is still uncertain, which raises the question of whether it can be stopped.

“Her judges” indicates that the judges are not your judges, from which it follows that they will not rule the way you want them to, namely, for keeping your guns. The if-clause thus has a consequence: unless Hillary is prevented from becoming president, “her judges” will change the laws to take away your guns and your Constitutional right to bear arms. This would be a governmental infringement on your freedom, which would justify the armed intervention of ultra-conservatives, what Sharon Angle in Nevada has called the “Second Amendment solution.” In short, a lot is entailed — in little time on a human timescale, but with lots of time on a neural timescale.

With respect to Trump’s “Nothing you can do, folks,” Lakoff explains, “This is a shortened version in everyday colloquial English of “There will be nothing you can do, folks.” That is, if you let Hillary take office, you will be so weak that you will be unable to stop her. The “folks,” suggests that he and the audience members are socially part of the same social group — as opposed to a distant billionaire with his own agenda.”

Then Trump’s punch line, which created a media mess that lasted for days: “Although the Second Amendment people, maybe there is.” Lakoff adds “Although the Second Amendment people” calls up the alternative for those who would act violently to protect their Second Amendment right.” Lakoff continues:

“I don’t know” is intended to remove Trump from any blame. But it acts unconsciously in the opposite way. It is like the title of the book I wrote, “Don’t Think of an Elephant.” The way the brain works is that negating a frame activates the frame. The relevant frame for “Second Amendment people” is use of arms to protect their rights against a government threatening to take away their rights. This is about the right to shoot, not about the right to vote. Second Amendment conservative discourse is about shooting, not about voting.

The point here is that Trump’s use of language is anything but “word salad.” His words and his use of grammar are carefully chosen, and put together artfully, automatically, and quickly.

Trump never overtly used the word “assassinate.” He says he was just suggesting that advocates of the Second Amendment vote, and was being sarcastic. A sarcastic invocation to vote would sound very different. A sarcastic invocation to vote might be, “The American way to change things is to vote. But maybe you care so much about shooting, you won’t be able to organize to vote.”

It’s important for Dems to understand that this is not just verbal diarrhea. “He chose his words very, very carefully.”

Lakoff has much more to say about Trump’s deployment of carefully-chosen terms like “believe me” and “many people say,” as well as the reasons Trump appears to ramble “off topic,” when really he is “always on topic,” as Lakoff sees it.

…But you have to understand what his topic is. As I observed in my Understanding Trump paper, Trump is deeply, personally committed to his version of Strict Father Morality. He wants it to dominate the country and the world, and he wants to be the ultimate authority in this authoritarian model of the family that is applied in conservative politics in virtually every issue area.

Every particular issue, from building the wall, to using our nukes, to getting rid of inheritance taxes (on those making $10.9 million or more), to eliminating the minimum wage — every issue is an instance of his version of Strict Father Morality over all areas of life, with him as ultimately in charge.

As he shifts from particular issue to particular issue, each of them activates his version of Strict Father Morality and strengthens it in the brains of his audience. So far as I can tell, he is always on topic — where this is the topic.

Lakoff cautions that “He is a talented charlatan. Keeping you off balance is part of his game. As is appealing to ordinary thought mechanisms in the people he is addressing.” Further, “It is vital that the media, and ordinary voters, learn to recognize his techniques. When the media fails to grasp what he is doing, it gives him an advantage. Every time someone in the media claims his discourse is “word salad, “ it helps Trump by hiding what he is really doing.”

Lakoff also flags Trump’s fake ‘apology’ and Trump’s disclaimer: “Too much is at stake for us to be consumed with these issues.” However, says Lakoff, “note how carefully he has chosen his words. And what is the intended effect? He should be excused because inaccurate word choice is so natural that it will inevitably occur again, and he should not be criticized when the stress of the campaign leads inevitably to mistakes in trivial word choice.”

“The words he carefully uses,” concludes Lakoff, “often over and over, get across his values and ideas, which are all too often lies or promotions of racist, sexist, and other un-American invocations. When these backfire mightily, as with the Khans, there can be no hiding behind a nonspecific “regret” that they were just rare, accidental word choice mistakes too trivial for the public to be “consumed with.”

Once Dems understand that Trump’s ‘word salad’ is not mere buffoonery, but a carefully calculated ploy to mask his anti-democratic ideas in a self-righteous cloak, then Dems can begin to refute his real agenda and media domination with more compelling responses.

Greenberg: Dems Must Seize Chance for Wave Election

The following memo by Democratic strategist Stan Greenberg is cross-posted from Democracy Corps.

Date: August 22, 2016

To: The progressive community

From: Stan Greenberg, Democracy Corps

The Wave

America is about to experience a once-in-a-lifetime earthquake of an election, but progressives do not seem to trust the new American majority and its ascendant values and thus, continue to be tactical, reactive, and fight old wars. As a result, they may miss the chance to create a governing majority after November 8th.

Hillary Clinton is beginning to emerge with the kind of lead you would expect in a country where over 60 percent of the electorate will be racial minorities, single women, millennials, and seculars and where the positive sentiment about the Democratic Party is 9 points higher than for the Republicans.(1)

Progressives, pundits and the media are consumed with the pivotal role of angry white working class men when their vote share is declining every presidential election and will be only 18 percent of the electorate this year. When Clinton’s margin was only 3 points, their share of the electorate would have to jump to 25 percent to push the overall vote to parity.(2)

I am the person who invented the term “Reagan Democrats” and took Bill Clinton to Warren in Macomb County, Michigan. But then, the white working class men’s share of the electorate was twice what it is today.

Today, I want progressives to embrace an economic narrative that seeks to “level the playing field,” because that is key to motivating working class voters, white and minority, including women who are now a majority of the working class, not because of its appeal to Reagan Democrats.

Because progressives did not trust the new American majority, they thought Donald Trump’s dark convention and speech was effective and waited for the polls to be sure. They thought Pennsylvania would be close, underestimating the new dynamics in the state. And their priority and strategy was to stop Trump in the Rust Belt states to stamp out any chance of Trump being elected.

But Trump already lost this election before his disastrous last week, as only 6 percent of Clinton voters would even consider supporting Trump. The number of potential switchers in this election has shrunk to just a third of what it was in the last three presidential elections.

This misplaced priority comes at the expense of efforts to produce the biggest possible wins in the elections for the U.S. Senate and House and state elections.

Campaigns and media should be focused on this number: 38 percent. That is the percent of the vote that Trump is likely to win in this multi-party election, matching the vote share for George Bush in 1992 when he lost to Bill Clinton by 5 points. That 38 percent should concentrate the mind on what is the real opportunity for Republican votes and voters to disappear down the ballot.

Here is what progressives should focus on to maximize that opportunity.

Task 1: Get Clinton voters to vote Democratic down-ballot

Clinton is beginning to build comfortable leads in the diverse and Rust Belt battleground states, but the Democratic Senate and House candidates are performing less impressively.

We know from the WVWV/VPC June state battleground research that 16 percent of the likely electorate in these states are Clinton voters who are not yet voting for the Democratic candidate for Senate. Three-quarters of these unconsolidated voters are members of the Rising American Electorate – minorities, unmarried women and millennials at the heart of the progressive coalition. They are mostly Democrats (70 percent), yet half said they were casting ballots for the Republican Senate candidate, and about 40 percent are undecided.(3)

We know who they are, but we need to learn what gets them to cast a Democratic vote down- ballot.

 Trump ticket and nationalized election. The DCCC correctly points out that our presidential election years are increasingly nationalized. They are rightly attacking Republican candidates for continuing to support Trump. Whether this will work long- term is an empirical and testable proposition. It is critical to learn whether it will work when an increasing number of Republicans are putting distance between themselves and Trump. Will it impact down-ballot voting at the state level?

It is quite possible that this strategy helps to build a GOP brand image that is independent of Trump and rationalizes split-ticket voting. Or not.

The Republican brand values at the national and state level. We need plan B, and it may be one that focuses on the GOP itself. At the national and state level, the Republican Party is associated with extreme positions on abortion, guns, discrimination against the LGBT community, and women. With the goal to get Clinton voters to vote straight ticket, informing voters of these GOP positions may prove more motivating – as you can see in the graphs below. Two-thirds of Clinton voters not yet supporting the Democrat for Senate become very certain to switch their vote when they hear that list of Republican positions.

(click here for graphic, “Voting for Clinton, but not for Senate Democrat”)

This underscores the critical need for a strategy for these unconsolidated Clinton voters that could readily produce a major shift to the Democratic candidates for Congress and state legislatures. The right strategy could be embraced by the Senate and House campaigns, the state parties, as well as the national Clinton campaign.

Task 2: Getting Trump voters to punish GOP establishment candidates

While Trump is getting 38 percent of the vote, some proportion of them will not vote Republican down-ballot if Trump is angry at candidates who are distancing themselves from him. This is a potential gold mine. There is a reason why so many Republican leaders are tongue-tied in the face of today’s election. A GOP House candidate who does not support Trump pays a much higher price with GOP voters than one who supports him and this is quantifiable: almost one in five of those voting for the Republican House candidate (or undecided) are much less likely to support him or her – if they are not supporting Trump.

(Click here for graphic on those voting/not voting for GOP candidate who supports Trump)

Trump will do most of the work for progressives on this task, though pressing all Republicans on where they stand on Trump increases the number of campaigns Trump voter resentment becomes a significant factor down-ballot.

Task 3: Fueling the Republican civil war and getting moderates to vote Democratic

This is the biggest opportunity for progressives to play offense and produce a sustainable fracturing of the Republican Party that impacts the Congress, the states and the issues that get taken up after this electoral earthquake.

His vote would not be at 38 percent but for these Republicans who are holding back. Public research shows 20 percent of Republicans are currently not voting for Trump, and we know from Democracy Corps’ Republican Party Project that most of those self-identified Republicans are moderates.(4)

(Click here for graphic on GOP moderates president preferences)

The fracturing and potential is very real: moderates comprise 31 percent of the Republican base electorate. These are college-educated, socially liberal voters in a white working class, socially conservative GOP. They feel alienated from their own party, which means it may be possible to shift the partisan plates.

Our research from the Republican Party Project done earlier this year says it is possible to move them to vote for Clinton and Democrats down-ballot, but Democratic campaigns and progressive institutions have been reluctant to reach this far.

Again, because these are college-educated, moderates and socially liberal, they respond to a Democratic candidate who says let’s get beyond divisive social issues, supports infrastructure investment, encourages long-term corporate investment, supports work and family policies including equal pay for women. They should be a visible target for campaigns at all levels, and these college-educated registered Republicans are easily targetable.

Progressives need to become strategic and opportunistic to make sure this year is really an electoral earthquake.


(1.) Huffpollster average, August 11, 2016. Democrats viewed favorably by 44 percent, Republicans by 35 percent.

(2.) In a three way race, white non-college educated men vote for Trump over Clinton, 58 percent to 22 percent. In a two way ballot, 61 percent vote for Trump and 35 percent vote for Clinton. With all else equal, white non-college men would need to count for 25 percent of voters in order for Trump to tie Clinton in a competitive three-way race and they would need to count for 36 percent of the electorate in order for Trump to tie Clinton in a two way race.

(3.) On behalf of Women’s Voice. Women’s Vote Action Fund and the Voter Participation Center, Democracy Corps conducted a nine-state battleground survey of 2700 likely voters from June 11th – 20th. Three hundred cases were completed in each state: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The margin of error for the entire survey is +/- 1.89 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. The margin of error within each state is +/-5.66 percentage points. Margin of error is higher among subgroups.

(4.) Democracy Corps national web-survey of 800 likely Republican voters conducted February 11- 16, 2016 using a voter file sample; 81 percent of Republicans were voting for Trump in the August NBC/Wall Street Journal poll of 800 registered voters, July 31- August 3, 2016 and see “Can Trump Catch Up?” Amy Walter, Cook Political Report, August 11, 2016.

Political Strategy Notes

Sean McElwee’s salon.com post”Research shows Democrats are better for the economy — so why do voters trust Republicans more?” merits a thorough read from all Democrats concerned with crafting a stronger message that defines their party. From his conclusion: “Instead of bashing government and praising “job creators” Democrats must espouse a narrative that places the government and the safety net as a core component of economic growth. Such a narrative would emphasize the important ways that government creates the environment for growth, with infrastructure investment, science and technology research, education, childcare, healthcare and a safety net as a backdrop… As my colleague Tamara Draut argues, a better framework would be bottom-up: emphasizing that the working class is an engine for economic growth, and as long as they are left behind, our society struggles…An economic system that allows all Americans to flourish is the path to prosperity. But Democrats have to embrace the public sector, instead of austerity.”

If any Democratic ad-makers need a list of Trump’s self-damaging tweets and video clips, former MI Gov. Jennifer Granholm has just the thing in her HuffPo post, “37 Times Donald Trump Should Have Apologized.” Or you could go with Chris Kirk’s “183 Things Donald Trump Has Said and Done That Make Him Unfit to Be President” at slate.com.

Ryan Cooper illuminates “Hillary Clinton’s Southern strategy” at The Week: “…Turning out Democrats in record numbers could change the party’s fortunes in the South…Probably the key demographic to focus on is young voters…If Clinton is to take any of these states, young voters (and their more left-wing ideas) are where to start…Southern people need federal government help more than most. Most of the states that refused the Medicaid expansion in ObamaCare are in the South — where people are disproportionately poor and hence could qualify for coverage. Clinton winning these states could mean Democrats taking control of the state government, and giving health insurance to millions of people at a stroke — at virtually no cost to state governments either…And, of course, a disproportionate fraction of those poor Southerners are black. More than half of African-Americans live in the South — and more are moving there over time…Trump’s omnishambles campaign might just give them [Democrats] the opening they need to start rebuilding the party and contesting elections where liberal policy is most desperately needed.”

Re our recent “Political Strategy Notes – Trumps’ Hidden Tax Return Edition,” here’s MoveOn.org’s petition.

As incredible as is the story behind the Manafort meltdown, anyone who believes that replacing him with  a Breitbart wingnut, like Stephen K. Bannon is going to facilitate a “pivot to the center” is setting a new standard for gullibility. As TNR deputy editor Ryu Spaeth writes at The New Republic: “With his latest campaign shakeup, Trump is pivoting to a meaner, nastier Trump…The problem with Paul Manafort, it turns out, was not that he was a shill for allies of the Kremlin. It’s that he tried to turn Trump into a respectable-ish general election politician. Now that Manafort has received a de facto demotion, to be replaced by Steve Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News, we can expect to see Trump drop any pretense of cleaning up his act. Instead, he’s reportedly going to amplify the combative persona and ethno-nationalist message that won him the GOP primary.” Spaeth shares a tweet by WaPo national political reporter Robert Costa, who notes “Bannon has convinced Trump that rest of campaign needs to be bare-knuckles brawl, w/ full-bore populism/movement politics.”

In The New York Review of Books, Elizabeth Drew discusses Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy by David Daley, which takes a revealing look at the GOP’s political firewall, the REDMAP program. Drew explains how REDMAP has been so effective in taking over state legislatures and governorships in historical context and suggests a way for Democrats and progressives to undo the damage done by rabidly partisan redistricting: “What is to be done about partisan districting? Fortunately, a workable answer isn’t obscure or unachievable. The process has to be taken from the parties and turned over to nonpartisan commissions…What is required is a sufficient number of people who understand the issues at stake to bring pressure in their state to rectify its districting system…Embarrassment can be a potent political force and blatant denial of even the concept of representative government should be quite embarrassing…Citizen action of the kind that would push for redistricting commissions can be quite effective once the public is armed with the facts and determined to push for change…What’s needed now is the will in numerous states to force the powers that be to make this most fundamental and consequential reform of our political system.” Mobilizing such a coalition is harder than Drew suggests, but she is surely right that no one has come up with a better idea.

Republicans hold House seats in 28 congressional districts that Obama won in 2012 and Dems need a total net pick-up of 30 House seats this year to win back the critically-important Speaker’s gavel. At Daily Kos, Stephen Wolf explores ways to determine the percentage margin of victory Hillary Clinton would need to give Dems a good chance to flip majority control of the House back to Democrats, and comes up with a qualified estimate of 7-8 percent.

In her Cook Political Report update on the U.S. Senate race in North Carolina, Jennifer Duffy notes: “[Republican incumbert Richard] Burr goes into the final months of the race with nearly $7 million in the bank. By contrast, [Democratic candidate Deborah] Ross had just over $1.9 million on hand as of June 30. It is worth noting, though, that Ross outraised the incumbent in the second quarter, $2,101,017 to $1,575,224 for Burr…According to the current RealClearPolitics.com moving average (4/23 – 8/10), Burr has a one point advantage over Ross, 41.3 to 40.3. According to the HuffPollster moving average of all surveys taken in the race, Burr is ahead of Ross, 39.7 percent to 37.4 percent with Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh taking 4.6 percent…The most recent public poll actually showed Ross ahead of Burr by two points. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist College survey (August 4-10 of 921 registered voters) had Ross leading Burr, 46 percent to 44 percent…Absentee voting starts in early September; 56 percent of voters are expected to cast their ballots early, leaving Burr with little time to make his case to voters. As such, the race moves to Toss Up.” Looks like reducing Burr’s financial edge could help Ross win. Her ActBlue contributions page is here.

The staff of Talking Points Memo offers “TPM’s Guide To GOPers Hopping Off The Trump Train.” It’s a growing list with three general categories: ‘Ready for Hillary,’ ‘The Holdouts’ and ‘The Arch-Weasels,” one of whom is Sen. Rand Paul, who has said he will support Trump, despite calling him “a delusional narcissist and an orange-faced windbag.”

Clinton in Better Shape to Leverage Early Voting

At The Fix, Philip Bump has an overview of early voting windows in the 50 states and how these windows  affect presidential campaign strategy. Bump unveils a new WaPo graph which depicts the early voting window in each state, along with polling averages in each state, to provide a sense of how Clinton and Trump are doing. Bump writes:

…”Election Day” is a misnomer, suggesting a set time at which America will head to the polls. Our description of Election Day being 82 days away is correct in that Nov. 8 is the day most people will vote in the election — but millions will vote well in advance of that, some by absentee ballot and some at early voting stations. What that means is that the presidential campaigns (and every other candidate) needs to have its turnout operation up and ready within a month, not within two. And it means that Trump’s consistent pokiness about setting up his field effort will be a problem sooner rather than later.

At Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg (who knows this world well) reports that Hillary Clinton’s campaign has oriented its operation in an unusual way, dividing its focus between states that vote early and those that don’t, recognizing the very different ways in which the campaigns in those places differ. In 2012, a quarter of the votes cast were cast by early ballot, he notes. Michael McDonald, who tabulated that number, figures this year could top one-third.

Bump points out that the rules for early voting vary significantly from state to state, so the value of any comparisons is limited accordingly. One of the consequential takeaways from the graph is that people will start voting toward the end of September in six states, including potential swing states Michigan and Minnesota. All of the other early voting windows open up in October, with the exception of Oklahoma, which has a tiny early voting window in November.

Some, but not all of the potential swing states that will decide the election, have early voting windows opening in October, including Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio and Wisconsin. Of this list, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina and Georgia have the most electoral votes, and all of them have Republican Governors and Secretaries of State.

Recent history suggests voter suppression activities on election day, including “caging,” poll site and hours disinformation, phony “security” guards, no parking signs near polls, purge lists, voting machine malfunctions, poll understaffing to create long lines and other scams, will be in full throttle in the first three of these states.  So early voting can make a pivotal difference in these four states, especially NC, where close races for Governor and U.S. Senator, as well as President are heating up. Ohio and Florida also have see-saw senate races, according to recent polls.

It makes good sense for Democratic candidates to try and bank as many votes as possible in the early voting windows in these four potential swing states. Florida (Oct. 29) and North Carolina (Oct. 27) have short early voting windows, while Ohio (Oct. 12) and Georgia (Oct. 17) open their early voting windows earlier.

Democrats should take no comfort from the fact that many Republicans, including Governor Kasich of Ohio, have given up on Trump. Dems should still expect fierce voter suppression in Ohio, where Republicans desperately want to hold Rob Portman’s senate seat and in NC, where even more is at stake.

It is encouraging that the Clinton campaign has a much better ground game already gearing up to help bank early votes. They are going to need it in a big way in Florida, North Carolina and Ohio, and perhaps Georgia.

Trump’s New Campaign Chief Freaks Out Conservatives, Too

The news that Donald Trump hired Breitbart News executive Stephen Bannon to serve as his new campaign chairman, even as his fellow Republicans were begging him to “normalize” his campaign, shocked people all over the political spectrum (at least outside Breitbart’s own fever swamp!). But the most savage condemnations came not from the Left but from the Right, as I noted at New York.

Here’s conservative activist and TV commentator Erick Erickson:

Bannon coming onto the Trump campaign is just a doubling down on crazy. It means the Trump campaign has not really learned any lessons, does not really recognize its message is not a winning message, and it’s just going to go out in a blaze of conspiracy theory and bitterness.

We are now moving beyond a dumpster fire. We’re more at Chernobyl. The only thing that’ll be coming out of the Trump campaign by November are three headed rats, which is kind of fitting.

Here’s Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard:

“The campaign overhaul means that Trump is choosing to end his campaign living in the alternate reality that Breitbart creates for him on a daily basis — where everything he does is the best, where everyone who questions him is an idiot or a traitor, where big rallies portend electoral victories, where House speaker Paul Ryan is the problem with modern conservatism, where polls that find him down are fixed, where elections he loses are rigged, where immigration and trade are the nation’s most pressing issues, and where, truly, Trump alone can fix it all.

“Breitbart is the only place that is more Trumpian than Trump.”

And more succinctly, here’s conservative talk-radio host Charlie Sykes:

“Trump’s campaign has now entered the hospice phase. He knows it’s dying and he wants to surround himself with his loved ones.”

Last but not least, there is the bitter jeremiad from Ben Shapiro, a former colleague of Bannon who left Breitbart because it was becoming a “Trump Pravda”:

“Many former employees of Breitbart News are afraid of Steve Bannon. He is a vindictive, nasty figure, infamous for verbally abusing supposed friends and threatening enemies. Bannon is a smarter version of Trump: he’s an aggressive self-promoter who name-drops to heighten his profile and woo bigger names, and then uses those bigger names as stepping stools to his next destination. Trump may be his final destination. Or it may not. He will attempt to ruin anyone who impedes his unending ambition, and he will use anyone bigger than he is — for example, Donald Trump — to get where he wants to go. Bannon knows that in the game of thrones, you win or die. And he certainly doesn’t intend to die. He’ll kill everyone else before he goes.”

Now, it is true that all of the above detractors of Trump and Bannon are prominent Never Trump activists who look forward to regaining power in the GOP after a Trump defeat. Nonetheless, it is a remarkable cascade of venom involving people who once served the same political gods. And, if they are right about the hiring’s significance, they won’t have to wait long to get the old band back together with the Trumpites in full disgrace.

If they’re wrong, of course, big plates of crow will be in order. But the country as a whole will have much bigger problems.

Political Strategy Notes

In his Washington Post column on the Trump campaign leadership re-do, E. J. Dionne, Jr. observes, “There is much good news but one piece of bad news for Clinton in the Trump shake-up. The bad news is that she is likely to have to play more defense, especially if Bannon builds on his success in enticing reporters at non-conservative media outlets to work on stories damaging to her…The good news is that Trump seems determined to fight through the campaign on his own terms. This reduces the chances that he will drop out of the presidential race, which, in turn, means that Clinton is more likely to avoid what would be the biggest blow to her chances: a Trump withdrawal and the naming of a new GOP candidate.”

Sam Wang writes in his post “What would it take for the House to flip?” at the Princeton Election Consortium: “…I used the generic Congressional preference poll and national Presidential polls to estimate that if the election were held today, House Democratic candidates would win the popular vote by 5-8%…. Judging from the last few cycles, that level of public opinion appears to be right on the edge of being enough to give Democrats control of the House…Kyle Kondik takes a more extreme view, and estimates that Democrats need a +10% win. If true, that would be a serious deviation from 1946-2012 trends. There is a research finding from the 1990s asserting that the effects of gerrymandering can fade after a few cycles…”

At FiveThirtyEight,com Seth Masket explains “How A Trump Debacle Could Affect The House And State Legislatures.” Masket looks at historical data, crunches the numbers and observes “There’s a pretty clear relationship — for each additional percent of the vote a presidential candidate receives, his or her party will gain several House seats and about two dozen state legislative seats, according to my analysis. But there’s quite a bit of leniency in that relationship. While having an unpopular candidate at the top of the ticket is certainly a challenge, it’s not necessarily a death sentence. Candidates can sometimes successfully distance themselves from their presidential candidate.”

Presidential Debates Will Almost Definitely Exclude Third Parties,” writes Alice Ollstein at ThinkProgress, because none of them are getting close enoiugh to the 15 percent average in five major polls that is required to be in the debates.

At The New Republic Kevin Baker makes the case for Democrats returning to a form of “machine politics” — using some of the organizing structures that empowered strong Democratic state and local parties in the past, while avoiding the corruption that often came with it.

“Trump plans to devote himself primarily to five crucial states — Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania — where he hopes that raucous rallies and a relentless presence on television will electrify his working-class base and thousands of other people who have grown disengaged and frustrated with the political class,” report Robert Costa, Jose A. DelReal and Jenna Johnson at The Washington Post.

Also at TNR David Dayen writes about Zephyr Teachout’s challenge to debate her opponent’s PAC funders (which I noted in Monday’s Strategy Notes) and comments: “Attack ads usually stream across local television screens without any context. By calling out the funders directly, Teachout has tainted those forthcoming ads by associating them with corruption. And that’s a lesson other Democrats might want to heed.”

From Dara Lind’s “Democrats have a secret plan to win red states without moving to the center” at Vox: “…What if Democrats stopped thinking about winning as many of the available, likely voters as possible, and started thinking about changing the pool of who was a likely voter? What if they focused less on persuasion and more on voter mobilization?…If Democrats stop pivoting to the center and spending money on ads, and start focusing on getting their natural allies to the polls, they can win more durable victories; America, after all, is only getting more diverse…Instead of spending money on ads…spend it on turnout. [Democratic strategist Steve] Phillips estimates that for the amount of money spent on attack ads in the 2014 North Carolina Senate race, for example, Democrats could have paid for “400 full-time staff members to go door to door in communities of color for an entire year, talking to and mobilizing the voters who had turned out for [Democratic Sen. Kay] Hagan when she won in 2008.”

Roll Call columnist Jonathan Allen explains why “We’re Underestimating the Donald Trump Debacle,” noting that “Trump’s failure to put together even a bush league campaign organization has Republican insiders rightly worried about the long-term implications of the impending November debacle. He’s refused to do the presidential-year work that parties rely on to build their donor, volunteer and voter lists for future elections at the local, state and national levels…“Presidential races are where you can invest in data infrastructure, organizing talent, technology, etc. He is not doing that. She is,” Jeremy Bird, the national field director for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign said on Sidewire…Democratic and Republican strategists say he could do truly lasting damage to the size and strength of the party and its ability to find and mobilize like-minded voters.”