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The Daily Strategist

August 1, 2014

The Price To Be Paid



This week House Republicans have tied themselves in knots trying to pass a "border crisis" bill, in part because conservatives are demanding that any such legislation be accompanied by efforts to restrict or even repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, under which the president suspended deportations for DREAMers. You'd think to watch them that placating the nativist wing of the GOP was the only factor that mattered. But as I pointed out today at the Washington Monthly, a big price will be paid among Latino voters:

I would assume that Republicans are at least dimly aware that the anti-DACA provisions they are toying with to get conservatives on board a border refugee bill will come at a political cost. If not, they should check out this reminder from the polling firm Latino Decisions:
The push to dismantle DACA will significantly alienate Latino voters according to recent surveys carried out by Latino Decisions. President Obama's 2012 administrative order on DACA, which provided temporary relief to more than 550,000 undocumented young people was overwhelming supported by Latino voters. In our June 2014 poll with the Center for American Progress, 84% of Latinos said they would be more enthusiastic toward the Democratic Party if DACA was renewed by President Obama in 2014. This high level of enthusiasm cuts across all segments of the Latino electorate....

DACA was a defining issue in 2012 for Latino voters and it continues to be a policy of utmost support. If Republicans wish to woo Latino voters, ending DACA is a severely misguided strategy as history proves. Back in 2013 the GOP already voted to defund DACA and in a July 2013 survey, we asked how favorable or unfavorable Latinos would feel toward the Republican Party if House Republicans voted to cancel all funding for the DACA program. In this survey, 75% of Latinos said they would be less favorable toward the GOP than they already were. Favorability also dropped significantly among likely GOP supporters: Evangelicals by 75%, political Independents by 73% and among Latinos who had previously voted Republican by 66%.

Messing with DACA is a really bad idea for a party that's already struggling to cross the threshold of credibility with a Latino demographic that's only going to become more important every year.


Hope on the Horizon: America's Cities Moving Forward



For those who are fed up with despairing about the Republicans' obstructionist stranglehold on congress, I suggest reading Taylor Malmsheimer's "The Future of Minimum Wage Will Be Decided in Cities" at The New Republic. It's a little tonic for progressives who may be wallowing in mid-summer political doldrums. Have a swig:

In June, the City Council of Seattle made headlines when it voted unanimously to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour, the highest in the country. While Seattle wasn't the first city to take minimum wage legislation into it's own hands, it seems to be at the forefront of a national trend toward significant minimum wage hikes at the local level. In just over a year, at least six other cities and counties have mandated minimum wages as high as $15, and several more have legislation in the works.

In 2003, Santa Fe and San Francisco became the first cities to institute their own minimum wages, distinct from their states--and it wasn't without opposition. Each city faced significant resistance from the business community: In San Francisco, organizations like the Chamber of Commerce and the Association of Realtors campaigned against the ballot proposition, arguing that it would lead to worker layoffs. In Santa Fe, the local chamber of commerce joined with New Mexicans for Free Enterprise and four other plaintiffs to sue the city, arguing that the municipality did not have the power to enact a minimum wage higher than the state's. Despite the opposition, the San Francisco raise passed with 60 percent of a ballot vote, and the New Mexico Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Santa Fe's legislation. But over the next eight years, only three other localities raised their minimum wage above the state level.

Malmsheimer cites three reasons why the cities are driving the trend: It's easier to pass legislation at the city level; Concerted targeting by advocacy groups, and; Cities have higher costs of living. It's not a cakewalk, and big biz is fighting tenaciously against the trend. But Malmsheimer points out that there is "no evidence of appreciable job losses or job relocation from urban-focused minimum wages."

Might this may be the dawn of a new era of cities filling the void left by Republican obstructionists in Washington? The minimum wage increases in cities are significant. But there may be a lot more to look forward to in other urban reforms that can't get traction in congress, such as environmental regulations, housing and education, as well as needed economic incentives and disincentives.

Democrats need to keep up the good fight to win elections to secure needed national reforms. But let's also keep an eye on the cities and get more involved in local reform movements. There is something to be said for keeping faith that workable reforms are contagious.


July 31, 2014

Campaign Finance Reform Gives Dems Edge in New Poll



The following report is cross-posted from a Democracy Corps e-blast:

A new poll of the 12 states where control of the Senate is being contested, fielded by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner for Democracy Corps and Every Voice, a major new advocacy effort, shows that voters of all political persuasions are disgusted with the current campaign system and are ready for real reform - and they are ready to vote to get it.

Campaign reforms, from a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United to public matching funds for candidates that reject large donations, are widely popular ideas that actually move voters in these critical battleground states during a simulated-debate.

In the simulated debate (using the actual candidate names), Democrats supporting a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United and a proposal to reduce the influence of big money in campaigns gain a net five points, with the gains concentrated among swing center-right groups. Clearly, the debate around these issues puts Republicans squarely on the wrong side of public opinion.

Key findings:

There is an intensely Anti-Washington mood in the Senate battleground.

Voters are strongly negative towards Super PACs and believe spending in politics this year is worse than in the past and is very corrupting.

There is overwhelming cross-partisan support of a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United that can translate into added support for Democratic candidates who support the amendment and damage Republicans who oppose it.

Importantly, there is more than two-to-one support for plans to give public matching funds for small donations to candidates who reject big donations. Support holds steady after balanced debate on the proposal that accuses the supporters of favoring "welfare for politicians" with taxpayer dollars.

Republican candidates supporting the RNC lawsuit to eliminate individual contribution limits put themselves in danger of losing support.

Engaging in a debate about money in politics, when it includes both a push to overturn Citizens United and the matching funds campaign finance proposal, moves the Senate Vote a net 5 points towards Democrats.

Read the full memo here.


July 30, 2014

Political Strategy Notes



Julia Preston reports at the New York Times that a new poll by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 69 percent of respondents said that the 57,000 plus unaccompanied migrant children from Central America who have come to the U.S. should be permitted to stay "if authorities determine it is not safe for them to return to their home country." Only 27 percent said they should be deported. However, notes Preston, "There is broad consistency for a policy offering support for the unaccompanied children and a determination process, not just an open door," said Robert P. Jones, the chief executive of the research institute. "At the same time, there are concerns that policy may bring some negative consequences, and the situation has raised people's concerns about immigrants over all."

At The Upshot Derek Willis reports on Kansas Democrats' promising new emphasis on demographic modeling and micro targeting persuadable/mobilizable voters.

In her Washington Post column, "Building a progressive alternative to ALEC," The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuval observes, "Recently, the American Legislative and Issue Campaign Exchange and the Progressive States Network announced a merger to build an organization that will be focused on moving a progressive policy agenda in the states. While the goals of the new undertaking may resemble those of ALEC, their methods are vastly different. They will operate transparently, use no lobbyists, and make their model legislation and resources available to everyone; their database already showcases 1,800 examples of progressive legislation. And they will engage with people, not corporations...As [executive directory Nick] Rathod underscores, "For nearly a generation, conservatives have outpaced us at the business of movement-building in states. They have focused hard on it, poured resources into it and have been ruthlessly efficient at it. Starting now, we will do the same."

Oppo alert: Time magazine's Jay Newton-Small reveals how House Republicans are planning to get a larger share of women voters.

The National Journal's Lucia Graves and Stephanie Stamm crunch the data, explain "What Keeps Women from the Polls?" and find that the voter turnout of women, and African American women in particular, is adversely impacted by disproportionate caretaking responsibilities.

From the Christian Science Monitor: Jared Gilmour's "Why Democrats are campaigning on your student loan debt: Student loan debt is a big issue, and Democrats are increasingly talking about it in an effort to get voters to the polls in key states this November" notes that "Student loan debt is a big issue with big reach. In fact, 37 million Americans currently face a record $1.2 trillion student debt load. And nearly 7 million borrowers are in default on $100 billion in loans, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau." Gilmour quotes DCCC Chair Rep. Steve Israel: "Show me a suburban district, and I'll show you a district where that's going to be a motivating issue" and notes that Democratic candidatures are advocating reforms in major Senate races.

At Brookings Elaine C. Kamarck discusses reforms for "Increasing Turnout in Congressional Primaries"

Take a gander at this nifty political demographic map of North Carolina at the American Communities Project web page. You hover over the color-coded regions and it tells you which demographic group (i.e. "working-class country," "college towns," "military posts" "evangelical hubs," "African American south," "graying America" etc.) dominates the population. The analysis accompanying the map bodes well for Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan.

The headline of Steve Benen's Maddowblog post "The GOP loses control of its Frankenstein monster" sums up the impeachment follies nicely. Benen observes, "Republican leaders created a monster, doing nothing to tamp down the right's crusade to tear down the Obama presidency, and they suddenly find themselves scrambling now that the monster is running lose. As Arit John put it, Republicans have "lost control of the impeachment plot they hatched."


GOP Impeachment Intentions Denial Increasingly Ridiculous



Regarding our post below about Republican leaders denying their party is pushing toward impeachment, do check out this link-rich post, "GOP's base Clamors to Impeach Obama" by Drew Courtney at People for the American Way's Right Wing Watch, documenting the growing number of Republicans guzzling the impeachment Kool-Aid. Here are some of Courtney's examples (click on the article for the links -- there are more than 30 links, too many to include here for now):

  • In a radio interview last week, Rep. Michele Bachmann said that she believed the president has "committed impeachable offenses" but that first "the American people have to agree with and be behind and call for the president's impeachment."
  • This month, Rep. Lou Barletta of Pennsylvania said that there are "probably" the votes in the House to impeach the president for "absolutely ignoring the Constitution, and ignoring the laws, and ignoring the checks and balances."
  • In March, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California hinted at impeachment proceedings in response to illegal immigration.
  • Last year, Rep. Blake Farenthold of Texas toyed with the idea of impeaching the president over "the whole birth certificate issue."
  • Also last year, Rep. Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan said that impeaching the president would be "a dream come true."
  • Rep. Steve King has promised impeachment proceedings if President Obama issues an executive order granting work permits to undocumented immigrants.
  • Sarah Palin has repeatedly called for impeachment in recent weeks.
  • Glenn Beck has repeatedly called for the president's impeachment for the IRS scandal, an imaginary plot to give weapons to Al Qaeda in Syria and for a supposed cover-up of the role of a Saudi national in the Boston Marathon bombings. "You need to file the articles of impeachment. He needs to have the stain on his record that they cannot remove," he said.
  • The prominent right-wing legal group Liberty Counsel launched a campaign in February to call on the House to start the process of impeaching the president before he succeeds in "remaking the United States of America into a godless, socialist nation." The group launched a similar campaign in 2011. Although Liberty Counsel officials have cited President Obama's executive order on LGBT nondiscrimination, the Benghazi attack, marriage equality as possible reasons for impeachment, ultimately the group's chairman Mat Staver said an impeachable offense can be "whatever Congress says it is at any given time."
  • Fox News legal analyst Andrew Napolitano has floated the idea of impeachment for at least a year.
  • In 2012, American Family Association President Tim Wildmon called for the president's impeachment because he "intentionally misled the American people" about the attacks in Benghazi. This year, he declared that the GOP would have impeached President Obama even if he had been a Republican because the "Christian element" in the party would never tolerate "lawlessness and lying."
  • The American Family Association's Bryan Fischer demanded President Obama's impeachment for his handling of the court case challenging the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act.
  • Gun Owners of America director Larry Pratt has called for Obama's impeachment for his backing of "pagan" gun safety laws and before he takes "total control."
  • WorldNetDaily managing editor David Kupelian wants Republicans to impeach Obama and remove him from office if they take control of the Senate: "We need to remove this guy or to stop what he's doing as soon as possible. The next opportunity is in November and we'll see what the Republicans and the Christians and the conservatives can do then." The site's editor in chief, Joseph Farah, has also repeatedly called for impeachment proceedings.
  • Former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo called for Obama's impeachment earlier this year, claiming that the president has become "addicted to dictatorial behavior."
  • Tea Party Nation urged its members to sign a petition calling on Congress to "impeach and arrest the tyrant king Obama!"
  • Alan Keyes who lost the 2004 Illinois Senate race to Obama, advocated for impeachment over the Fort Hood shooting, Obama's "dictatorial intentions," and something to do with "gay lovers." He has alsocalled on Michele Bachmann and Jesus Christ to help in the impeachment endeavor "before it's too late."
  • In 2012, Americans for Truth About Homosexuality's Peter LaBarbera called for Obama's impeachment for trying to "pander to his homosexual activist base."

There are just two possible conclusions to draw from all of these examples : Either the Republican leaders know perfectly well they are careening toward squandering tens of millions of taxpayer dollars on an impeachment effort that is doomed to fail, or they have totally lost control of their unhinged base. Neither one will inspire much support from thoughtful voters.


GOP Impeachment Talk Looks Like a Game-Changer, Alright



From Nick Corosaniti's "Impeachment, on G.O.P. Lips, Animates Democrats' Base" in the New York Times:

Democrats cannot get enough of Republicans talking about impeaching President Obama.

They are using it to raise money and claim to have collected $1 million on Monday alone. They are using it to add supporters, with 74,000 new contributors. And, to animate their base, they would like to goad Republicans into debating impeachment in close races in the midterm elections...The talk of impeachment has had a catalytic effect on fund-raising for the Democratic campaign committee, which raised $7.6 million online through more than 400,000 donations since Mr. Boehner announced the lawsuit against the president. That is an average of $19 per donation

...All of which has forced Republican leaders in Congress to talk down any notion of "high crimes and misdemeanors," saying that Democrats were cynically using the specter of impeachment as a "scam" to generate support.

Democratic leaders must be pinching themselves and asking giddily, "Can this be real?" If the Republicans proceed, they may write a new chapter in the annals of political stupidity, or at least a new take on "Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory."

Boehner and McConnell are denying there is any such master plan. "Impeachment, who us?," while several Republican members of congress are talking it up. Meanwhile Boehner is going forward with his lawsuit against the president for "abusing his power," even writing an op-ed defending it, which looks a lot like a set-up for impeachment. As Corosaniti reports,

On Monday, an op-ed article published in USA Today, written by Mr. Boehner, defended his lawsuit, claiming, "President Obama has overstepped his constitutional authority." Democrats seized on the language, sending email that threats of impeachment were "no laughing matter" and asking for contributions to help "take on the Tea Party."

President Obama has plenty of messaging ammo to ridicule Boehner's lawsuit, including the reality that he has issued fewer executive orders than Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan and Bush II and fewer total vetoes than any president since James Garfield.

Put all of that together with the "do-nothing congress" meme, and Dems have a potent message strategy to leverage for November. As DCCC Chairman Steve Israel, explains "This is going to be 98 days of daily process between Republicans, who are obsessed with lawsuits and appear to be moving closer to impeachment...It's having the unintended consequence of moving our base in a midterm election and also moving persuadable voters to us in a midterm election..."

If it turns out that Boehner's lawsuit tips the election enough to enable Democrats to hold the senate, Dems -- and the nation -- will likely get a bonus in the form of a new Republican House speaker, presumably one less opposed to any form of bipartisan cooperation.


July 29, 2014

Lux: Early Predictions on Presidential Elections Usually Wrong



From "Presidential Politics and Predictions: Be Ready to Be Wrong" by Democratic strategist Mike Lux, author of "The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came to Be":

... If you look at the history of presidential politics in the modern era, the last half-century-plus, the strongly favored frontrunner almost never cruises easily to victory. Big stuff, little stuff, insurgencies popping up out of nowhere, scandals, stumbles -- frontrunners, even the dominant ones, have lost a lot more often than they won, and generally even when they have won, they had a hell of a tough road getting there. In fact, in only two of the past 11 Democratic presidential primaries where there wasn't an unchallenged incumbent president has the clear frontrunner at this moment in the four-year cycle gone on to win the nomination, and in one of those two situations (Mondale), he had a far tougher fight than expected.

In 1960, LBJ was the clear frontrunner, the dominant figure in national Democratic politics. He had by far the most important endorsements, and the strong support of the party establishment in most of the states. Hubert Humphrey was widely thought of as the only guy with a decent shot of beating him. Jack Kennedy was a lightly regarded upstart, with his youth and Catholicism considered obstacles way too big to overcome.

In 1968, LBJ -- this time as the incumbent president -- was of course going to win the nomination hands down. He completely dominated the party machinery, had limitless campaign money stashed away, was further ahead in the polls than Hillary. Gene McCarthy's campaign was considered worse than a joke, it was assumed to be a short-lived token protest movement. My first political memory, as a 7-year-old just getting interested in politics, was seeing that LBJ speech where he stunned the world by announcing he would not run again, and I will never forget the looks of shock on my parents' faces.

In 1972, Ed Muskie was the overwhelming frontrunner -- way ahead in the polls, the money, the endorsements, everything. A silly media frenzy over whether he cried, and a hippie volunteer army for McGovern in New Hampshire, were all it took to quickly dislodge him from the race.

In 1976, Teddy Kennedy was the frontrunner in the polls but did not run. There were several Senate heavyweights who were thought to be top tier candidates, all of them faltered. Absolutely no one predicted Jimmy Carter.

The 1980 race was the only serious primary against an incumbent in modern presidential election history, and oddly, Teddy Kennedy actually started with a huge lead in the polls, as Carter was pretty unpopular with the Democratic base. But after Kennedy's disastrous 60 Minutes interview, everything reversed and Kennedy never recovered.

In 1984, Mondale was the overwhelming favorite, as far ahead as Hillary in the polls and with every major group and most politicians' endorsements. He didn't make any big mistakes, ran a strong early campaign, and easily won Iowa as predicted, beating Gary Hart 50-17. But Democratic primary voters were restless, bored with Mondale's safe establishment-mandated coronation, and looking for someone new. When Hart came out of the pack of candidates with a surprising second place finish, he trounced Mondale in NH and was on a roll, winning most of the next several primaries. Without some stumbles, Hart would have been the nominee.

Speaking of stumbles, Hart's big one on his friend's boat, the Monkey Business, with Donna Rice forced him to withdraw in 1988 after being the overwhelming favorite in the early polling. Gephardt, who had been working Iowa for years, became the favorite after that, but last minute entry Dukakis raised a lot more money than anyone else, and Gephardt split the populist vote with Simon, Gore, and Jesse Jackson. Gephardt won Iowa, Dukakis finished a pretty anemic 3rd there, but the late-entry candidate who had been at 1% in the polls ended up easily winning the nomination in the end.

In 1992, Cuomo was the strong favorite in the polling and among pundits right up until the time he decided not to run (quite late in the cycle, he was still debating with himself in the fall of '91). After that, Clinton was one of the favorites until he stumbled, after which everyone pronounced his campaign over, after which he came back and won the nomination. (And after he won the nomination, up until the Democratic convention no one thought he had a shot of beating Bush.)

In 1996, no one challenged President Clinton for the nomination after he decisively beat the Republicans in the budget showdown. In 2000, there was the only primary fight in this entire saga that went pretty much as predicted, with Vice President Gore keeping his early lead and turning back a challenge from Bill Bradley, although a lot of us who closely followed the race think that if Bradley hadn't spent too many resources contesting the Iowa contest where he was never going to win, that he would have beaten Gore in NH (he only lost 51-47). In that scenario, Bradley might well have made that race a hell of a fight.

In 2004, Hillary Clinton was way ahead in the early polling but did not run, and there was no real favorite. In the early days of the race, it was thought that Gephardt would win Iowa and Kerry would win NH, but then both faded and Dean came on from nowhere (literally 0 or 1% in the early polling, with no one predicting he had a chance) to a big lead in the polls, money, and endorsements. When Dean made some late mistakes, and Kerry and Edwards put together a late surge, the race was reshaped again.

Finally in 2008, people have already forgotten how inevitable Hillary was seen then. At this time of the cycle then, July of 2006, it looked unlikely that Obama would even run. And throughout 2007, she had a wide lead in the polls and endorsements.

That's the track record, folks: 11 contested primaries over the last 54 years, only one of them turned out pretty much as expected, and only two where the pre-season favorite even won...

Looking at the record of front-runner fade-outs, you could make a pretty good argument that it's not such a good thing for Hillary Clinton that so many think she has a lock on 2016. Early coronations also invite lots of potshots and negative attention.

Measure that, however, against the considerable advantages of having lots of time to unify the party, rack up the contributions and recruit GOTV muscle. But Lux is surely right that betting on any candidate months before the campaign begins is unwise.


July 28, 2014

GOP's Short-Sighted Strategies



Political parties often face choices between strategies that create (or promise to create) a short-term advantage, and those that address long-range challenges. One of the GOP's problems right now is that it is developing a real habit of sacrificing the long game to immediate opportunities. I briefly discussed five recent examples today at the Washington Monthly:

The first example involves the many, many lies told by GOP pols and affiliated gabbers about the alleged horrific impact of the Affordable Care Act on old folks. These ranged from deliberate mischaracterization of the Medicare "cuts" in the ACA (raised to an infamous art form by Paul Ryan in 2012), and ranged on up to the amazingly effective if completely fabricated "death panel" meme. As a short-term strategy, this made sense, and certainly helped solidify the GOP's sudden new dominance among older white voters, a key factor in 2010. In the long term, though, aside from the risk of hellfire, the tactic undermined the GOP's simultaneous commitment to "entitlement reform," the linchpin of its fiscal strategy.

A second choice of short-term versus long-term strategies has been the War on Voting, which has risked generational alienation of affected young and minority voters in exchange for dubiously effective electoral advantages. This is an ongoing choice, which only Rand Paul has (temporarily) seriously questioned.

A third, emphasized just today by Ross Douthat (though the critique has always been a staple of so-called Sam's Club Republicanism), was the decision to make the 2012 economic message of the GOP revolve around the needs and perspectives of business owners, presumably to reverse the advantage Democrats had slowly gained since the Clinton years among several categories of upscale voters. This approach played right into Democrats' new openness to populist messages, and while conservatives like Douthat are arguing for policies that appeal to the economic interests of middle-class voters, the shadow of Mitt Romney still looms large.

A fourth, which is also ongoing, was the sudden and almost universal embrace by the GOP of a "religious liberty" argument that identified the party with very extreme positions on birth control and same-sex marriages, undermining years of careful antichoicer focus on late-term abortion and reversing an implicit party decision to soft-pedal homophobia. Those who led this campaign in 2012 probably had visions of it serving as a wedge into the Catholic vote (which even some Democrats feared), which just didn't happen.

And fifth and most definitely ongoing example is the decision to follow an immediate shift to the right in Republican and to some extent independent attitudes towards immigration reform in the wake of the refugee crisis on the border, even though Republicans know they'll pay a long-term price in credibility with Latino voters.

Taking a snail's-eye view of strategic opportunities isn't an inherent Republican vice. But it's becoming habitual right now, in part because any long-range strategy would require ideological concessions, and we can't have that, can we?


Political Strategy Notes



Dan Balz's "If voter turnout is key, why is it so low?" rounds up the reasons and possible cures for low voter participation in mid term elections.

Brendan Nyhan has a good post at The Upshot on the folly of the 'Green Lantern Theory of the Presidency."

Long-term unemployment is plummeting.
Falling-LTU.jpg

The GOP appears ready to squander many millions of taxpayer dollars on a doomed impeachment effort ---even though 65 percent of voters think it is a bad idea, according to a CNN/ORC International poll released Friday.

How many millions would the Republicans spend? One clue is that they spent more than $40 million taxpayer dollars on Ken Starr's impeachment ploy, and Republican leaders are even less anchored to prudent management of taxpayer dollars today.

From The Hill, Mike Lillis quotes DCCC chair Steve Israel on Democratic strategy to use the House's August break to underscore who is really responsible for "the do-nothing congress": "August will be about our action versus their inaction," Israel said..."We'll be talking about how they have stalled on everything, and we have a specific series of initiatives to jumpstart the middle class. That is going to be August."

Tim Devaney writes, also at The Hill, that "Business groups alarmed by rise of 'micro-unions' in workplace."

Some disturbing stats from Robert Reich's "The rise of the non-working rich" at The Baltimore Sun: "In 1979, the richest 1 percent of households accounted for 17 percent of business income. By 2007, they were getting 43 percent. They were also taking in 75 percent of capital gains. Today, with the stock market significantly higher than where it was before the crash, the top is raking even more from their investments...The six Walmart heirs have more wealth than the bottom 42 percent of Americans combined (up from 30 percent in 2007)."

So why aren't voters more ticked off about inequality? Eduardo Porter mulls over some possible answers at The Upshot. "Researchers at the University of Hannover in Germany propose a simpler reason: Voters don't demand more redistribution because they don't grasp how deep inequality is...Evidently, nobody has a clue: In every one of the 26 nations, most of them in the developed world, for which they collected data, people believe that the income gap is smaller than it really is. And using perceived rather than actual inequality, the median voter theory works much better: Where people believe inequality is worse, governments tend to redistribute more...Unsurprisingly, Americans suffer from a pretty big perception gap. They think an American in the middle of the income distribution makes only 4 percent less than the national average, according to Ms. Engelhardt and Mr. Wagener's research. In truth, the American in the middle makes 16 percent less."


July 25, 2014

Political Strategy Notes



From David Lauter's L.A. Times post, "Democratic strategists prescribe populism to cure party ills": "Stanley Greenberg, who has advocated populist economic arguments since before his stint as Bill Clinton's White House polling chief, made a similar argument this week in releasing a new survey of voters in 12 Senate battleground states. The poll showed that some voter groups that are key to Democratic chances are significantly "underperforming" relative to 2012, Greenberg said. That's bad news for Democrats. But the survey, which tested the impact of different political arguments on voter intentions, indicated that a "populist economic narrative" could motivate those voters, even in states that traditionally lean Republican. The subjects Greenberg tested included raising the minimum wage, stronger laws to guarantee equal pay for women, closing corporate tax loopholes and raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans."

Democrat Paul Davis leads by 8 points in KSN News poll in bid to take KS governorship away from Republican Sam Brownback.

At latinpost.com Nicole Rojas reports that "Latino Voter Turnout Likely Down in 2014, but Immigration Reform Will Still Affect Results." Rojas quotes Patrick Oakford of the Center for American Progress: "Colorado has one of the fastest growing Latino electorates in the United States, and a lot of the races right now in Colorado are really close. So the Latino vote will matter," Oakford said...Latinos will particularly be influential in Colorado 6th District, where incumbent Republican Congressman Mike Coffman will face off against Democrat Andrew Romanoff. "It's a really close election. Mike Coffman narrowly won his previous election, and Latinos are going to be crucial to that," Oakford said."

NYT's Jeremy W. Peters reports that anti-choicers are polishing their message with a new spin that sounds like it's from Frank Luntz's playbook.

At Pew Research Center Drew DeSilver addresses one of the most consequential of questions of electoral politics in the U.S., "Voter turnout always drops off for midterm elections, but why?" Lots of good numbers and analysis here, but could it be as simple as the reality that low-information voters are more likely to cast a ballot in presidential elections?

After reading Aaron Blake's "Americans hate Congress. They will totally teach it a lesson by not voting," noting that turnout was twice as high in percentage terms 50 years ago, I wondered if maybe many Americans are too time-challenged/exhausted to get informed about local elections.

At The National Journal Norm Ornstein posts on "The Existential Battle for the Soul of the GOP: What happens when extremism becomes mainstream?," and observes "The most interesting, and important, dynamic in American politics today is the existential struggle going on in the Republican Party between the establishment and the insurgents--or to be more accurate, between the hard-line bedrock conservatives (there are only trace elements of the old-line center-right bloc, much less moderates) and the radicals." Ornstein then presents a remarkable catalogue of radical right-wing crazy talk. This one should be a keeper/sharer. Ornstein concludes, "when one looks at the state of Republican public opinion (especially among the likely caucus and primary voters), at the consistent and persistent messages coming from the information sources they follow, and at the supine nature of congressional leaders and business leaders in countering extremism, it is not at all likely that what passes for mainstream, problem-solving conservatism will dominate the Republican Party anytime soon."

NAACP set to make voter suppression the central focus of its annual convention, which begins Saturday.

At Bloomberg News Mike Dorning explains why "Obamacare Fight Carries Risks for Republicans in 2016 Swing States."






Editor's Corner

by Ed Kilgore



August 1: The Price To Be Paid

This week House Republicans have tied themselves in knots trying to pass a "border crisis" bill, in part because conservatives are demanding that any such legislation be accompanied by efforts to restrict or even repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, under which the president suspended deportations for DREAMers. You'd think to watch them that placating the nativist wing of the GOP was the only factor that mattered. But as I pointed out today at the Washington Monthly, a big price will be paid among Latino voters:

I would assume that Republicans are at least dimly aware that the anti-DACA provisions they are toying with to get conservatives on board a border refugee bill will come at a political cost. If not, they should check out this reminder from the polling firm Latino Decisions:
The push to dismantle DACA will significantly alienate Latino voters according to recent surveys carried out by Latino Decisions. President Obama's 2012 administrative order on DACA, which provided temporary relief to more than 550,000 undocumented young people was overwhelming supported by Latino voters. In our June 2014 poll with the Center for American Progress, 84% of Latinos said they would be more enthusiastic toward the Democratic Party if DACA was renewed by President Obama in 2014. This high level of enthusiasm cuts across all segments of the Latino electorate....

DACA was a defining issue in 2012 for Latino voters and it continues to be a policy of utmost support. If Republicans wish to woo Latino voters, ending DACA is a severely misguided strategy as history proves. Back in 2013 the GOP already voted to defund DACA and in a July 2013 survey, we asked how favorable or unfavorable Latinos would feel toward the Republican Party if House Republicans voted to cancel all funding for the DACA program. In this survey, 75% of Latinos said they would be less favorable toward the GOP than they already were. Favorability also dropped significantly among likely GOP supporters: Evangelicals by 75%, political Independents by 73% and among Latinos who had previously voted Republican by 66%.

Messing with DACA is a really bad idea for a party that's already struggling to cross the threshold of credibility with a Latino demographic that's only going to become more important every year.


July 28: GOP's Short-Sighted Strategies

Political parties often face choices between strategies that create (or promise to create) a short-term advantage, and those that address long-range challenges. One of the GOP's problems right now is that it is developing a real habit of sacrificing the long game to immediate opportunities. I briefly discussed five recent examples today at the Washington Monthly:

The first example involves the many, many lies told by GOP pols and affiliated gabbers about the alleged horrific impact of the Affordable Care Act on old folks. These ranged from deliberate mischaracterization of the Medicare "cuts" in the ACA (raised to an infamous art form by Paul Ryan in 2012), and ranged on up to the amazingly effective if completely fabricated "death panel" meme. As a short-term strategy, this made sense, and certainly helped solidify the GOP's sudden new dominance among older white voters, a key factor in 2010. In the long term, though, aside from the risk of hellfire, the tactic undermined the GOP's simultaneous commitment to "entitlement reform," the linchpin of its fiscal strategy.

A second choice of short-term versus long-term strategies has been the War on Voting, which has risked generational alienation of affected young and minority voters in exchange for dubiously effective electoral advantages. This is an ongoing choice, which only Rand Paul has (temporarily) seriously questioned.

A third, emphasized just today by Ross Douthat (though the critique has always been a staple of so-called Sam's Club Republicanism), was the decision to make the 2012 economic message of the GOP revolve around the needs and perspectives of business owners, presumably to reverse the advantage Democrats had slowly gained since the Clinton years among several categories of upscale voters. This approach played right into Democrats' new openness to populist messages, and while conservatives like Douthat are arguing for policies that appeal to the economic interests of middle-class voters, the shadow of Mitt Romney still looms large.

A fourth, which is also ongoing, was the sudden and almost universal embrace by the GOP of a "religious liberty" argument that identified the party with very extreme positions on birth control and same-sex marriages, undermining years of careful antichoicer focus on late-term abortion and reversing an implicit party decision to soft-pedal homophobia. Those who led this campaign in 2012 probably had visions of it serving as a wedge into the Catholic vote (which even some Democrats feared), which just didn't happen.

And fifth and most definitely ongoing example is the decision to follow an immediate shift to the right in Republican and to some extent independent attitudes towards immigration reform in the wake of the refugee crisis on the border, even though Republicans know they'll pay a long-term price in credibility with Latino voters.

Taking a snail's-eye view of strategic opportunities isn't an inherent Republican vice. But it's becoming habitual right now, in part because any long-range strategy would require ideological concessions, and we can't have that, can we?


July 24: Curbing Enthusiasm About the "Enthusiasm Gap"

The "enthusiasm gap" as a predictor of electoral outcomes is one of the Pew Research Group's less valuable contributions to political analysis. So I took a few shots today at Washington Monthly at Pew's latest offerings on this subject:

Pew is back with its latest estimates of the GOP "enthusiasm gap" at this point in the midterm cycle. Here's the relatively good, or perhaps relatively not-so-bad, news for Democrats:
Today, the Republicans lead on a number of key engagement indicators, though in some cases by smaller margins than four years ago. Currently, 45% of registered voters who plan to support the Republican in their district say they are more enthusiastic about voting than in prior congressional elections; that compares with 37% of those who plan to vote for the Democratic candidate. The GOP had a 13-point enthusiasm advantage at this point in the midterm campaign four years ago (55% to 42%) and the Democrats held a 17-point advantage eight years ago (47% to 30%).

However, as many voters who support the Republican in their district say they are "absolutely certain" to vote this fall as said this in June 2010. Three-quarters of Republican voters (76%) say they are absolutely certain to vote, compared with 67% of Democratic voters. Four years ago, 77% of Republican voters and 64% of Democratic voters said they were absolutely certain to vote in the fall.

As regular readers have heard me say on many occasions, voter "enthusiasm" is an inherently questionable metric for likely voter turnout, insofar as "enthusiasm" beyond that needed to get one to the polls is wasted unless it's somehow communicated (e.g., via volunteer activity).

Another thing to keep in mind when trying to compare this midterm to the last two is that in 2006 and 2010 the party with the least "enthusiasm" was grossly over-extended, particularly in the House, thanks to prior victories in marginal territory. That's certainly not true of House Democrats today, though you can certainly make an argument Senate Democrats are over-extended in the South.

In any event, these type of surveys are really just a placeholder until late-cycle polls begin to get a grip on the universe of "likely voters."

So Republicans excited about the "enthusiasm gap" should curb their enthusiasm. And Democrats should focus on the hard, practical work of getting people to the polls who will vote for the Donkey Party, with or without high levels of "enthusiasm."


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