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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Month: September 2012

Get Ready Dems: If Obama wins conservatives will try to de-legitimize his victory with hysterical, phony claims of “massive election fraud.” There are four important ways Dems can plan now to fight back

Every Democrat is painfully aware of the widespread GOP/conservative efforts to suppress the Democratic vote in the coming elections. An extensive and detailed report by Demos and Common Cause has carefully delineated the major problems that exist and searing indictments of the voter suppression strategy have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post and a wide range of other national periodicals.
Elizabeth Drew summarized the situation nicely in a recent New Yorker commentary:

…The current voting rights issue is even more serious [than Watergate]: it’s a coordinated attempt by a political party to fix the result of a presidential election by restricting the opportunities of members of the opposition party’s constituency–most notably blacks–to exercise a Constitutional right. This is the worst thing that has happened to our democratic election system since the late nineteenth century, when legislatures in southern states systematically negated the voting rights blacks had won in the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

But while the possibility of Romney and other Republican candidates actually winning elections by disenfranchising Democratic voters is the most grotesque threat on the horizon it is also important for Democrats to be aware of a second major danger that springs directly from the first: even if Obama not only wins the election but does so by a sufficient margin to avoid a contested result, the claim that massive voter fraud occurred can and will be used to de-legitimize his victory to millions of Americans and to provide a bogus justification for continued GOP intransigence and political sabotage during his second term.
Unfortunately, both the Republican Party and movement conservatives have the strongest possible incentives to follow this path if Obama is indeed re-elected.
For the GOP, an Obama victory will generate tremendous pressure on the party to moderate their extremist strategy of complete noncooperation and refusal to compromise with the new administration. The claim that Obama was only elected because of massive voting fraud will provide an easy and hypocritically “altruistic” rationalization for them to continue employing their extremist political strategy.
For movement conservatives, an Obama victory will generate tremendous demoralization among “the troops” and even the most ferocious denunciations of Romney’s ideological weakness and personal ineptitude will not be sufficient to restore their former fighting spirit. The claim that Obama was elected by massive voting fraud, on the other hand, will not only provide an explanation for the conservative defeat but also serve as a rallying cry for continued mobilization and a justification for continued belief that conservatives are still the “real” majority.
It is, of course, completely inevitable that the conservative grass-roots voter fraud groups that have been organized to monitor polling places on Election Day will loudly allege “massive voter fraud” and a stolen election regardless of what actually occurs on November 6th. But for this accusation to gain any significant credibility beyond the circle of already convinced conservatives, an absolutely key requirement will be some kind of dramatic visual evidence of problems or disruptions occurring at polling places. After all, by themselves on-camera interviews with the leaders of the voter fraud monitoring groups — interviews in which these grass-roots “voter vigilantes” will breathlessly allege the existence of busloads of swarthy immigrants and shiftless minorities having been herded from precinct to precinct to vote multiple times — will not be sufficient to convince anyone outside the circle of true believers.
The impact of such charges will be vastly amplified and reinforced, however, if video images of even the smallest and most unrepresentative handful of disruptions at polling places can be obtained and then presented as evidence that something suspicious was actually going on. It is only necessary to remember how Fox News’ relentless repetition of the footage of two motley and rather forlorn “Black Panthers” standing for several minutes in front of a single African-American precinct in 2008 elevated the notion of “thuggish intimidation” of McCain voters into a major national story and an unquestioned truth for millions of Fox viewers.
Most disturbingly, even incidents that are directly and entirely provoked by the actions of the new voter vigilantes themselves will actually serve to bolster and reinforce the bogus accusations of voter fraud. The simple fact is that, from a distance, images of angry people shouting at each other do not reveal what their dispute is about or which side is actually at fault. Any dramatic video images of angry confrontations or disruptions on Election Day, regardless of their actual cause, will powerfully reinforce the false perception that “something fishy” was really going on.
Unfortunately the danger that disruptions will be provoked by the voter vigilantes themselves is extremely high.
In the first place, the grass-roots voter vigilantes are already deeply and passionately convinced that massive voting theft is an established fact. An article in The Atlantic described one grass roots leader in the following way:

Speaking at one Texas Tea Party gathering, Alan Vera, the Army ranger turned volunteer-trainer, cautioned that “evil” forces were about to launch “the greatest attack ever on election integrity,” and implored the crowd to prepare for a “ground war”: “In 2012, we need a patriot army to stand shoulder to shoulder on the wall of freedom and shout defiantly to those dark powers and principalities, ‘If you want to steal this election, you have to get past us. We will not yield another inch to your demonic deception … If you won’t enforce our laws, we’ll do it ourselves, so help us God.’ ” Shaking his fist in the air, he cried, “Patriots, let’s roll!” The crowd cheered wildly.

(Other activists, of course, are far more cynical. A board member of the Racine county Wisconsin GOP who supervised the county’s major voter fraud group in 2010 noted that some precincts might be targeted “just because it’s a heavily skewed Democratic ward.”)
But, for the most part, the conservative ground troops will be utterly committed true believers who are completely convinced that massive voting fraud is occurring and that they are heroic patriots defending the nation from a sinister coup-de-tat.
This problem is then compounded by the fact that the tactics of the voter vigilantes are inherently provocative and extremely likely to provoke conflict.
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More Voters Agree: ‘GOP = Gridlock, Obstruction and Paralysis’

Ed Kilgore flags a new Gallup poll indicating that the ‘divided government is good’ meme is losing its appeal with many voters. As Andrew Dugan reports at Gallup politics,

A record-high 38% of Americans prefer that the same party control the presidency and Congress, while a record-low 23% say it would be better if the president and Congress were from different parties and 33% say it doesn’t make any difference. While Americans tend to lean toward one-party government over divided government in presidential election years, this year finds the biggest gap in preferences for the former over the latter and is a major shift in views from one year ago.
These findings are based on Gallup’s annual Governance survey, conducted Sept. 6-9. The data show an increased level of support for one-party rule amid a currently divided government in which the Democrats control the presidency and the Senate, while the Republicans control the House. This suggests many Americans are experiencing divided-government fatigue.
Opinions on divided government have fluctuated over the years. When one party controlled both Congress and the presidency in 2006 and 2010, Gallup found near-historical lows supporting one-party rule. This suggests Americans may simply tend to prefer what they don’t have or see problems in whatever the current situation is. At least one chamber of Congress changed hands in the subsequent elections, and the increase in support for one-party government in 2008 foreshadowed an election that would give the Democrats sole control of the presidency and both houses of Congress.

Dugan cites stats showing that most of the increasing preference for one-party government is among Democrats, which is no great shocker. But it isn’t too much of a stretch to assume that the trend has broader roots, given the recent uptick in Democratic self-i.d. and broadening support for Democratic candidates down ballot. It looks like more voters are clear about who is responsible for gridlock in Washington.

Lux: Time for Dems’ Full Case Press

At HuffPo Mike Lux makes a compelling argument that Republican desperation indicates a solid Democratic victory on November 6 is likely– if Dems will now press their case.
Lux provides three video clips, which reveal the GOP’s increasing desperation. There’s one of ‘Morning Joe’ Scarborough holding his head in despair about Romney’s painful cheerleader attempt, another showing Romney’s new ‘Me too — I’m like Obama’ ad, and the last one depicts Sen. Scott Brown’s supporters disparaging Elizabeth Warren’s Native American heritage. But it’s Lux’s commentary that explains what is going on and the extraordinary opportunity Dems can now seize. Regarding the ‘me too’ ad, Lux writes:

This is the classic “I really am more like my opponent than you think I am” commercial, one that, as a Democrat, I am way too familiar with our own party running. For 30 years, scared Democrats have been running ads talking about how much like Republicans they really are: fiscal conservatives, won’t raise taxes, tough on crime and welfare cheats. They were defensive ads that accepted the Republican framing and assumed voters wouldn’t accept Democratic/progressive message and issue and values and ideas. Now the tables are turned, and Romney is resorting to having to run ads that say “I really do care about people who aren’t rich!”
The reason this is happening isn’t just that Romney has to play defense because of the infamous 47 percent video (which around 90 percent of voters in swing states are saying they have heard about). It is because the Republicans have lost the central debate in this election. An evenly divided, frozen-in-place electorate spent the two weeks of the conventions getting the chance to take a long look at both parties’ central arguments, and the result was a tectonic plate shift. It wasn’t huge, but it was decisive. Went from an electorate that had been absolutely stationary in their voting plans for several months, practically dead even with the margin barely changing, to an electorate that suddenly moved a very solid 4-5 points not just at the presidential level, but in virtually every competitive race around the country. And that change in numbers has only been reinforced and hardened by the 47 percent video.
Even in the face of a weak economy and the huge money edge the Republicans have, voters have heard the case for Romney-Ryan economics and values, and they are rejecting it. They don’t believe that people who need a hand up from the government are lazy moochers who have grown too dependent. They don’t believe that Medicare ought to be privatized and turned into a coupon. They don’t believe that women should have no right to contraceptive coverage, or that students should only go to college if they can borrow money from their parents. We are winning this debate and we’d be winning even bigger without a weak economy and the boatload of special interest cash.
Here’s the key: since we are winning, let’s not back down. When you have the other team on the run is not the time to back off and give them a breather. It’s not the time to play prevent defense, to get mealy-mouthed and cautious the way some campaigns do when they are ahead. We are winning this debate: let’s keep confidently making our arguments and pushing this pro-middle class, pro-investment in our people message.

As for the Scott Brown clip, Lux explains,

…The other thing that happens when campaigns are losing the central argument in the race is that they get desperate. They start trying to change the subject and throw dumb stuff in the air to distract people. And they start ginning their team up to do desperate things…Brown is losing the essential issue debate in this race, so he is trying to change the subject. We are going to see a lot more of this from Republicans in the weeks to come.

As Lux concludes, “The debate has been won by the Democratic side, and now the Republicans are left with ads apologizing for being Republicans and Rovian tactics designed to distract the electorate. It is time for the Democrats to press their case..”

Creamer: Why Romney Would be a Disaster for Our National Security

Democratic strategist Robert Creamer, author of Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, has an important post, “Five Reasons We Can’t Trust Romney With Our National Security” up at HuffPo. Here’s some excerpts:

Romney’s neocon foreign policy adviser, Richard Williamson, told the Washington Post that, “There is a pretty compelling story that if you had a President Romney, you’d be in a different situation.” He’s right about that. We’d be in a very different — and dangerous — situation if Mitt Romney were in charge of American national security. There are at least five reasons why every American should be frightened at the prospect of Mitt Romney as Commander-in-Chief.
1). Mitt Romney has no guiding principles when it comes to foreign policy — or anything else for that matter — but one: his own personal ambition…Romney has demonstrated time and time again that he has no lasting commitment to principle whatsoever. He has gone from being pro-choice to ardently anti-abortion; morphed from a Massachusetts moderate to a “severe conservative”; demonstrated his willingness to buy companies, load them with debt, bleed them dry and destroy the lives of workers and communities all to make money for himself and his investors.
After favoring immigration reform in the past, Romney became the most anti-immigrant major presidential candidate in modern history.
Romney drafted and passed RomneyCare and then promised to repeal a similar bill when one was passed by President Obama and a Democratic Congress. Why? Because that’s what the thought was necessary to get the Republican nomination for president.
Romney has no North Star guiding his behavior except his desire to enhance his own personal wealth and his own driving ambition.

Political Strategy Notes

At the Crystal Ball, Larry J. Sabato, Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley see an Obama victory, Dems holding the Senate 51-49 and a 6-seat Dem pick up in the House of Reps.
Lisa Mascaro of the Trib’s D.C. Bureau has a mildly encouraging update on Dem hopes for holding the Senate.
But they are talking “Obama Landslide” over at Capitalist Tool Forbes, at least according to the Jude Wanniski Electoral model.
Alex Isenstadt’s “Democrats shift ad buys in bid for House,” reports that “the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee reduced commercial buys in four, Republican-friendly districts, each of which are seen as uphill for the party…The committee increased its purchases in four districts where Democrats are playing offense, three of which are held by Republican incumbents. The party will spend more against GOP Rep. Dan Lungren, who is running for reelection to a Sacramento-area seat that shed Republican voters in redistricting, and freshman Republican Reps. Ann Marie Buerkle of New York and Ohio Rep. Bill Johnson. It has also invested more funds in Illinois’ 13th District, which GOP Rep. Tim Johnson is retiring from…Democrats are also expanding its buy in one defensive race: North Carolina’s 7th District, where Democratic Rep. Mike McIntyre is facing a tough reelection bid…”
At PoliticusUSA Sarah Jones has a funny account of Romney’s failed cheerleader chant near Dayton.
Early voting is boffo in the Buckeye, reports Bill Turque at WaPo.
Turns out that the Ryan-calling Romney-“Stench” thing was satire. That it was seen as credible by so many that author Roger Simon had to ‘splain it with an addendum is not a good sign for Mitt.
Some big spenders are getting it up for pro-Democratic Super-PACs, reports Nicholas Confessore at the New York Times.
Here’s a good source for both voter registration deadlines for the 50 states and links to get registered for each one.
The new Obama ad makes the case for ‘Economic Patriotism.’ About. Friggin. Time.

Lux: How Dems Can Win — and Govern

This article, by Democratic strategist Mike Lux, author of The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came to Be, is cross-posted from HuffPo:
I have been in politics way too long to take anything for granted in this presidential race, and I am way too superstitious to assume a victory no matter what. The strongly anti-Obama vote remains at a rock solid 45 percent no matter what ridiculous things Romney says or does, and there will be a few percent undecided right to the end, which means Romney will hang relatively close through the last weeks of this race. By everything I can tell, including both public and private polls I have seen, this is a 4 point race, and that is still close. World events, a weak Obama debate performance or some other kind of mistake, or any number of other things might still put Romney even closer before it is done.
Having said all that, Romney is in a world of hurt, primarily because of the way he has defined himself philosophically and values-wise to the American people. He has lost the essential debate in this race, and the Republican base has created a locked box that imprisons him and makes his comeback very difficult. It’s not just that he is down by a few points: the voting dynamics have solidified, and the chances for Romney’s vote to grow are severely limited because the key groups of swing voters really don’t like him. If Romney comes back and wins, it will not be because of Romney, it will be because of something big happening — a major Obama mistake, people falling asleep in the Get-Out-The-Vote operations, a huge international or economic crisis — that Romney has nothing to do with. Romney’s chances for winning are now out of his hands, so all the stories about whether the Romney campaign will ever get its act together are irrelevant. With a big Obama campaign mistake or an earth-shaking world event, Romney could still win this election, but he and his party have lost the debate over values, policy, and the future of the country.
Given that, we Democrats and progressives should — without losing focus for a moment on turning out the vote and finishing off the re-election job — begin thinking about the implications of a second term for Obama, and how we can begin working now to make it successful for most of the American people. That analysis needs to be done both on the political and economic side of things.
When it comes to politics, naturally the big story is the nature of the next Congress. Because we are winning the central debate, our numbers have gone up in competitive House and Senate races throughout the country. We need to keep driving home our winning argument about community, investing in our people, and fighting for a strong middle class — and we need to do everything possible(except in a few swing states and districts that lean Republican) to nationalize this election.
The chances for the Democrats to retake the House are now a lot better than the conventional wisdom has it, and my view is that for the sake of Obama’s second term the entire party needs to re-orient itself to that possibility. The Obama campaign, big Democratic donors, and the progressive movement should be willing to take the risk of starting to redirect some resources toward winning House races, because if we can take the House back it will make a second term so much better in terms of getting things done for the American people. We also ought to be working to expand the playing field, because that is how we took the House back in 2006 when through most of the cycle very few people thought we would: the DCCC started out only targeting about 25 races, and in the end more than 60 were competitive. We ended up losing more than half of the closest races that cycle but still easily won the House back, and if we had only been playing in 25 races, Nancy Pelosi would not have been Speaker. Now is the time for the Democratic party, donors, and progressive groups to make the investments needed in enough second and third tier races to allow the possibility of riding the wave if it starts to build. Barack Obama’s second term is going to look a lot better if he has a Democratic House to work with instead of the tea partiers currently in control.
The good news in terms of targeting is that many of the most competitive and potentially competitive House races in the country are concentrated in presidential swing states. The presidential target states — NH, IA, NV, CO, IA, WI, MI, OH, PA, NH, VA, NC — all have at least one first tier House target, most of them have multiples, and they all have 2nd tier races as well. But there are 3 more big states with large numbers of competitive races — IL, NY, and CA — where a lot of resources can and should be targeted as well. Fortunately, they are all big fundraising states, so when the president makes trips there to raise money, he should be spending some time campaigning for House candidates as well.
If Obama ends up winning this election by even just a couple of points, the chances for a Republican Senate takeover are slim to none, but to really give a second term the kind of energy and push it needs, Democrats and progressives should be making sure that the strong progressives running in competitive Senate races get maximum assistance and support. Sherrod Brown, the progressive populist champion of Ohio’s middle class, needs to win re-election. And the party and progressives should give top priority to helping strong economic populists Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin, Mazie Hirono, Chris Murphy, Heidi Heitkamp, and Martin Heinrich win seats in the Senate. With these kinds of voices for working and middle class folks in the Senate, they will push the Obama economic team to be bolder and more progressive in their economic thinking.
Which leads me to economic policy. In a second term, the Obama economic team will need to think big and bold to get us out of the fundamental economic problems that have been 30 plus years in the making. There’s a brilliant new long term economic plan written by Jacob Hacker and Nate Loewentheil that lays out in detail how the Obama economic team should be thinking about economic policy for the next four years. We need to rebuild and revitalize the great American middle class, and allow low income people and young people starting out to climb their way into it; we need to invest in our people, our infrastructure, and our R&D; we need to revitalize the small business sector by giving them access to credit and leveling the playing field in terms of competing with big business; we need to raise wages, strengthen the pension system, and build on the reforms in Obamacare; we need to break up the Too Big To Fail banks and take on the power of Wall Street.
If Romney is elected, none of this will happen, and his and Ryan’s terrible budget policies will sink us back into a depression. But even if Obama is elected, progressives will need to push like crazy (both in the administration and in Congress) to get these kinds of policies that would lift the economy for the long term enacted.
This election is far from over, but Democrats have won the essential philosophical debate, and now have a real opportunity for a wave election. Let’s hope they take advantage of the moment to win the election, and then take advantage of winning to rebuild the American economy.

A Letter to a “Middle of the Road Moderate” Non-Latino Friend About the Profound Moral Difference Between Democrats and Republicans

A message from TDS Managing Editor Ed Kilgore:
Dear Readers:
Now that the GOP has officially embraced “self-deportation” or “attrition through enforcement” in its platform as the solution to the problem of illegal immigration, I am pleased to have the opportunity to share with you a TDS Strategy Memo from our contributing editor James Vega expressing his very deeply personal reaction:
A letter to a “middle of the road, moderate” non-Latino friend about the moral difference between Democrats and Republicans.
Click Here to read the memo.
I believe you will find the memo both useful and important.
Sincerely Yours,
Ed Kilgore

Kilgore: Fear Not the Late Inning Game-Changers

Pro-Democratic worry-warts seeking relief from terrifying visions of game-changing electoral disaster are directed to Ed Kilgore’s Washington Monthly post ‘Where’s the Change Coming From?” Coach Kilgore has a pep talk for your pre-game jitters in his comments about Charlie Cook’s post at The National Journal noting the Obama-favoring stability of the presidential race:

Cook goes on to look at developments in the battleground states, which provide even worse news for Team Mitt, and notes in passing that of course something unexpected could happen to change the dynamics. But as you read him, it’s hard not to think about how many “game changers” that were discussed earlier this year just haven’t come to pass and may be off the table.
The economy? Yeah, we could get bad jobs reports for September and October, but they’d have to be pretty bad to have a real impact at this late date, and many economic indicators (most notably consumer confidence) are pointing at least modestly upwards in the short run. As WaPo’s Greg Sargent notes today, polls are beginning to show a significant majority of Americans think the economy is now improving or will soon improve under Obama.
The enthusiasm gap? That’s pretty much gone, most observers (including Cook) note…The debates? Rarely a big factor, as political scientist John Sides has demonstrated in a recent piece for the Washington Monthly.
Social issues? It’s enough to note that even though Republicans once thought the “war on religion” would wedge Catholic voters in their direction, it’s now Democrats who raise “social issues.”..The ground game? Even if you accept that Team Mitt is doing a better job in this area than did Team McCain in 2008, nobody seriously argues it has an advantage over Obama, and may have a big advantage.
The ads? Again, it’s pretty well established among political scientists that there is a point of diminishing returns for paid media in presidential campaigns, a point that earlier saturation advertising has already reached. And there’s the little matter of asking what content in political ads would make a difference, given all the strategic conundrums facing Romney.

Sure, an unexpected disaster could lead to an upset. But the (Intrade) smart money says it’s not happening.

The Stench and Gilligan

Roger Simon has a funny — and revealing — post, “Paul Ryan vs. The Stench,” up at Politico, and it bodes ill for the GOP ticket. Simon riffs on reports that Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan has taken to calling his running mate “The Stench” behind his back.
Ryan’s dig comes in the wake of a New York Times story in which Craig Robinson, a former political director of the Republican Party of Iowa is quoted in a moment of excessive candor, “I hate to say this, but if Ryan wants to run for national office again, he’ll probably have to wash the stench of Romney off of him. Here’s how Simon tells it:

Though Ryan had already decided to distance himself from the floundering Romney campaign, he now feels totally uninhibited. Reportedly, he has been marching around his campaign bus, saying things like, “If Stench calls, take a message” and “Tell Stench I’m having finger sandwiches with Peggy Noonan and will text him later.”

Ryan was reportedly livid about the way Stench’s bungling handlers set him up for a big flunk with the AARP. Simon explains:

Even before the stench article appeared, there was a strong sign that Ryan was freeing himself from the grips of the Romney campaign. It began after his disastrous appearance on Friday before AARP in New Orleans. Ryan delivered his remarks in the style dictated by his Romney handlers: Stand behind the lectern, read the speech as written and don’t stray from the script.
Ryan brought his 78-year-old mother with him and introduced her to the audience, which is usually a sure crowd pleaser…But when Ryan began talking about repealing “Obamacare” because he said it would harm seniors, one woman in the crowd shouted, “Lie!” Another shouted “Liar!” and the crowd booed Ryan lustily.
Who boos a guy in front of his 78-year-old mother? Other 78-year-old mothers.

“That was the end of Ryan following the game plan,” Simon says. “Dan Senor, one of Romney’s closest advisers, has kept a tight grip on Ryan, traveling with him everywhere and making sure he hews to the directions of the Romney “brain trust” in Boston. (A brain trust, rumor has it, that refers to Ryan as ‘Gilligan.’)”
Simon then follows with a hilarious account of Ryan’s efforts to break free from the handlers by showing an Orlando town hall meeting a power point presentation with graphs on debt and federal spending etc., actually prefacing his presentation with “I’m kind of a PowerPoint guy, so I hope you’ll bear with me.”
“A word about PowerPoint,” adds Simon. “PowerPoint was released by Microsoft in 1990 as a way to euthanize cattle using a method less cruel than hitting them over the head with iron mallets.”
Simon reports that “The Romney campaign was furious” about Ryan’s going rogue and Ryan reportedly said, “Let Ryan be Ryan and let the Stench be the Stench.” Simon concludes “Ryan Fever. Catch it!”
Don’t be shocked if Ryan denies the Stench thing — it’s hard to see how he could tough it out otherwise. And there will probably be armpit photo-ops and other unconvincing shows of unity in the weeks ahead.
But it’s clear that these ticket-mates don’t dig each other all that much. What we get out of it is a snapshot of a sinking ship, with the captain blithering away on deck as Gilligan swims furiously for the island.