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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Among “10 Thoughts After the Alabama Senate Election” by Nathan L. Gonzales at Roll Call: “It was a good night for the polling average. Neither result should have been a surprise, considering Moore had a narrow 48 percent to 46 percent advantage in the final RealClearPolitics average. But that was much closer to the final outcome than late polling which showed Moore with a 9-point lead (Emerson College) and Jones with a 10-point lead (FOX News)…Even though turnout was higher than expected, about 35 percent of voting-age Alabamians chose to vote in the most highly-publicized election in the state in recent history.”

Alabama’s African American voters were instrumental in the election of Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate. But that does not mean that there was no voter suppression. As Brentin Mock writes at CityLab, “The Daily Beast reported seeing police set up near polling locations to check people for warrants in Montgomery, Alabama, one of the state’s urban centers where black voters helped send Jones to victory. There is a long history of this specific kind of police badge-sponsored voter intimidation in Alabama (and other states) to frighten black voters away from the polls…there were reports of long lines caused, in part, by voting machines that broke down throughout the day. Secretary of State Merrill also failed to deploy an adequate number of polling officials and resources…There were no shortage of voter ID problems in yesterday’s election, with poll workers questioning the validity of some voters’ IDs when not rejecting themoutright…Black voters helped Jones win despite voter suppression, not because they were spared from it.”

“Jones did win, by 2 percentage points. Which means we can quantify the Alabama swing as 24% toward Democrats,” notes Sam Wang at Princeton Election Consortium. “It should be noted that over 15% of this swing occurred before the Washington Post bombshell. A 15-point swing is consistent with other special elections this year. Yesterday’s election could only be made possible by Trump’s deep unpopularity…Exit polls showed that 91% of Republicans voted for Moore. The discrepancy between that and 82% suggests that turnout played a major role – see my Twitter feed for analytics from others quantifying this.”

Also check out David Litt’s Daily Beast post, “How Doug Jones Destroyed Roy Moore’s Whole Shtick with One Well-Chosen Verb.” Exit poll analysis is revealing. But candidate message also matters. Litt, a former speechwriter, argues that Doug Jones delivered a master-stroke one-liner that revealed Moore’s essential phoniness: “When you see me with a gun, folks, I’ll be climbing in and out of a deer stand or a turkey blind, not prancing around on a stage in a cowboy suit.” Litt continues, “…Parse that phrase closely, and you realize it’s a body blow – not just to Moore, but to Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, and the politics they champion. Litt notes further, “instead of fighting on the culture warrior’s turf, Jones turned to ridicule. “Prancing around on a stage in cowboy suit.” Litt adds, “Look at the word choice in that sentence. Not “walking” or “marching,” but “prancing.” Not at a rally, but “on a stage.” Not dressed like a cowboy, but “in a cowboy suit.” These were precise, cutting words. They didn’t just make fun of his opponent. They went straight at the central conceit of his public persona – his toughness. Words like “prancing” and “cowboy suit” suggest the opposite of masculinity. Where Roy Moore presented himself as an alpha male, Doug Jones exposed him as a kind of right-wing cabaret act…in the age of Trump and Bannon, plenty of them will feature ersatz tough-guys eager to turn politics into a pissing contest. By making his opponent look ridiculous, Doug Jones reminded us that Democrats don’t have to play that game to win elections. With carefully-chosen words, and a healthy appreciation for the power of mockery, they can corral the pigs without getting mud on their hands.”

James Hohman explains why “Democrats risk overplaying their hand by pushing for Trump’s resignation” at The Daily 202: “Many veteran operatives and elder statesmen in the Democratic firmament worry that engaging in this fight is not the way to win in 2018. They think Hillary Clinton blundered by trying to turn last year’s election into a referendum on Trump’s baggage and boorish behavior. They worry that Democrats won’t fully capitalize on Trump’s unpopularity if they’re perceived as overplaying their hand. They’re nervous that the conversation over whether Trump should step down has sucked up too much political oxygen, possibly at the expense of the tax debate — which a lot of these Democrats believe they can win since so many voters already see the GOP bill as a giveaway to the rich at the expense of the middle class…Ed Rendell, the former governor of Pennsylvania and chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said it’s very hard to ask Trump to resign when all the accusations of sexual assault against him were out in the open before the 2016 election. “The American people knew this, and they voted for him anyway,” Rendell said in an interview. “If there were any new allegations, that might be something different. But they knew it, and they voted for him.”

Further, writes Hohman, “Matt Bennett, a co-founder of the center-left group Third Way and a senior official in Clinton’s White House, proposes an 80-20 rule for Democrats. “Our view is that every Democrat has to follow their conscience in how they discuss Trump and determine the proper call to action should be — resignation, investigation, impeachment, etc.,” he said. “But by Election Day 2018, with control of Congress now clearly in the balance, 80 percent of what voters hear from Democrats better be about what they will do to ensure that everyone, everywhere has the opportunity to earn a good life. That means they can talk Trump 20 percent of the time. But the focus should be on opportunity. Doug Jones and Ralph Northam didn’t win by calling for impeachment or resignation. Pretty soon, Democrats on the ballot in November will need to become laser-focused on their voters’ lives.”

At The Atlantic, however, Ronald Brownstein makes a compelling case that Trump is a disaster for 2018 Republican candidates, and it would be political malpractice for Dems not to take full advantage of it: “One of the clearest messages from 2017’s big contests is that other Republicans are now closely bound to their volatile and vitriolic president. Exit polls showed that among voters who disapproved of Trump, the Democrats won 82 percent in New Jersey, 87 percent in Virginia, and 93 percent in Alabama. Few congressional Republicans have tried to establish much independence from Trump, yet in most places he is even less popular than he was on Tuesday in Alabama, where exit polls showed voters splitting evenly over his job performance. After Alabama, Republicans up and down the ballot face urgent choices about whether they will continue to lash themselves to the mast of Trump’s storm-tossed presidency…“Anti-Trump fever is now so strong among Democrats, young voters, and independents that the GOP is likely to face a surge in turnout on the Democratic side that will make the 2018 midterms lurch toward the demographics of a presidential year,” says longtime GOP strategist Mike Murphy, who advised Attorney General Jeff Sessions when he first won his Alabama Senate seat, in 1996. “That is a looming disaster that could well cost the GOP control of the House. We are in a Trump-driven worst-case situation now.””

Nate Cohn observes at The Upshot that “many red-state Democrats are favorites to win re-election, despite the steady national trend toward a tighter relationship between presidential and Senate vote choice. Polls show that red-state Democrats remain popular, and most hold a lead over many of their strongest potential challengers…With Mr. Jones’s victory in Alabama, Democrats need only two more seats to take control, and they could have other opportunities with possible vacancies in Republican-held Arkansas and Arizona…My sense is that Democrats would be favorites in Nevada and Arizona if 2018 turned out to be a so-called wave election like the 2006 or 2010 midterms. This year’s special elections and national political indicators suggest that development is likelier than not.”

Mark Murray reports at NBC News that “Democrats now enjoy their largest advantage in congressional preference in nine years, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, signaling a dangerous political environment for Republicans entering next year’s midterm elections….Fifty percent of registered voters say they prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress, versus 39 percent who want Republicans in charge…This past October, Democrats had a 7-point advantage on congressional preference, 48 percent to 41 percent…In this most recent poll, Democrats hold a whopping 48-point lead in congressional preference among voters ages 18-34 (69 percent to 21 percent), a 20-point lead among female voters (54 percent to 34 percent) and a 12-point lead among independent voters (43 percent to 31 percent)…By contrast, Republicans have a 2-point edge among white voters (46 percent to 44 percent) and a 12-point advantage with whites without a college degree (50 percent to 38 percent)…Notably, Democrats lead among male voters by 2 points, 46 percent to 44 percent, and among seniors by 4 points, 46 percent to 42 percent…The NBC/WSJ poll also shows Democrats with the intensity advantage, with 59 percent of Democratic voters saying they have a high level of interest in next year’s elections (registering either a 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale), versus 49 percent of Republican voters saying the same thing.”

3 comments on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. R on

    “Matt Bennett, a co-founder of the center-left group Third Way and a senior official in Clinton’s White House, proposes an 80-20 rule for Democrats.”

    Third Way people are not “center-left”. They are DLCers. Look it up. You know. Try google or another web search engine. At best, Third Way people are sticks in the Democratic Party’s wheels. If you want those wheels to come off, listen to Third Way.

  2. pjcamp on

    Democrats get the vapors. Film at 11.

    BTW, based on today’s news, apparently Northam believes he won by running against Obamacare.

    I’m pretty sure he didn’t.

  3. Candace on

    yes, people voted for Trump knowing of what he’s bragged about and been accused of before the election but they didn’t know Trump and his team were being investigated by the FBI. Americans should’ve known that. (Republicans had to have known. Why didn’t they choose like Kasich or anyone else?)
    Desperate people with a lot of power are very dangerous. Thanks everyone involved in keeping that information private.

    I’d like to see a poll asking how many people thought the elites wouldn’t allow Trump to win because I heard and read that often. They’d say the election was rigged because of how Bernie was treated but also because of what a non candidate Trump was. Most people didn’t take him seriously or were maybe not familiar with his personality type, but they are now.

    Another thing to keep in mind about the election is Republicans had quite a long list of candidates running for pres and everyone knew Hillary was running. She was an easy target, the Republican candidate was not. She also carried on about Russia. That worked just about as well for her as it did for Mitt Romney.
    Americans do not want war

    On overplaying a hand: Trump wouldn’t be president, make the decisions he has, support the policies he does, or be in the clear about he and his administration’s ties to Russia without the full support of the Republican Party (which is no doubt why they want the investigation shut down) 20/80 sure but any criticism of Trump should always be tied to the Republican party whether McConnell or Bannon establishment and if applicable, be sure to mention what democrats want to do differently.


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