washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes – Abrams Historic Win in Georgia

Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nomineee Stacy Abrams not only beat her Democratic opponent, Stacy Evans, by a 3-1 margin; she also received more votes than the two Republican candidates, Brian Kemp and Casey Cagle, combined. Kemp and Cagle are now in a run-off that is already dividing Republicans. In his New York Times column, “In Georgia, Democrats Go With a Voter-Turnout Strategy,” David Leonhardt writes, “Last night, Stacey Abrams won the Democratic nomination in that Georgia governor’s race. She isn’t only the first black woman to be a major party nominee for governor anywhere in the country — a welcome milestone. Abrams has also made clear that she plans to win by motivating liberals more than winning over conservatives…“The approach of trying to create a coalition that is centered around converting Republicans has failed Democrats in the state of Georgia for the last 15 years,” she said recently…The Abrams approach will not be easy. The turnout of voters under 30, as well as Asian-Americans and Latinos, tends to be extremely low in midterms — each below 30 percent. By comparison, African-American voter turnout is substantially higher, almost as high as white turnout in midterms, despite years of voter suppression against African-Americans in many places.”

Vox’s P.R. Lockhart illuminates the critical role of Black political groups in Abrams’s landslide primary victory, noting that “this historic win didn’t happen by accident. It was the result of months of effort by an increasingly influential network of political groups and outreach initiatives, many of them helmed by black women, that are eager to build political power and influence in black communities.” Key groups that worked tirelessly for Abrams include, Glow Vote, Higher Heights, Democracy in Color, BlackPac, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, the Center for Popular Democracy Action, “the New Georgia Project Action Fund, a division of the New Georgia Project, a group Abrams founded to register voters of color and boost their turnout in elections. Lockhart quotes Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of BlackPAC, who explained that Abrams has  “run a campaign that is a model for candidates all across the country on how to engage and excite Black voters.”

Here’s an interview with Abrams, conducted by Frank Ski at Atlanta’s V-103:

The Abrams landslide primary win may have helped another Black woman candidate in Georgia — Lucy McBath. As Jamilah King reports in her article, “Last Night Was Huge for Black Women in Georgia—and Not Just Because of Stacey Abrams: Lucy McBath will advance to a July run-off, putting her gun-safety message to the test in GA6.” at Mother Jones: “…Another victory of sorts was playing out in nearby DeKalb County, where first-time candidate Lucy McBath earned the most votes in the Democratic primary for  Georgia’s sixth congressional district. Though it wasn’t the same kind of celebration as Abrams’—McBath didn’t top 50 percent of the vote, so she will now advance to a July run-off against businessman Kevin Abel—many in the chattering classes considered even getting to this point a real long shot. McBath is a black woman running on gun safety in Georgia, and, what’s more, she only entered the race for GA6 in April. If elected, McBath would be the only black woman in Georgia’s congressional delegation.” McBath could benefit from the intersection of two rising movements — Black women’s political empowerment and gun control.

“It’s been a long drought in statewide elections for Georgia Democrats, but the state’s shifting demographics along with President Trump’s unpopularity in Georgia — according to a Gallup poll, Mr. Trump had an approval rating of only 41 percent and a disapproval rating of 53 percent during 2017 — give Democrats some reason for optimism.” writes Alan Abramowitz in his New York Times op-ed,  “Can Stacey Abrams Change the Way Democrats Win in the South?” Abramowitz adds, “One recent poll from Survey USA had Mr. Cagle leading Ms. Abrams by only five points in a general election matchup. And in Tuesday’s primary, Democratic turnout came close to matching Republican turnout — Democratic primary voters made up 48 percent of those who turned out…In the Survey USA poll, almost all Democratic identifiers supported Ms. Abrams and almost all Republican identifiers supported Mr. Cagle, with independents splitting evenly. If those voting patterns hold true in November, the outcome of the race will hinge on which party does a better job of energizing and turning out its base voters. Since 2002, Republicans have had the advantage in that regard. In nominating Stacey Abrams, Georgia Democrats are betting that anger at President Trump and a candidate with strong appeal to the state’s growing nonwhite electorate will drive enough Democratic voters to the polls to reverse that trend and make history.”

In their Washington Post article, “Stacey Abrams, Democrats’ newest Southern hope, looks to Virginia, Alabama for path to victory in Georgia,” Michael Scherer and Vanessa Wiliams note that ““It’s possible for a Democrat to win statewide office in Georgia, but it would have to be under unusual circumstances,” said Trey Hood, a professor and pollster at the University of Georgia, who has polled the race for local news organizations. “There would have to be probably depressed Republican turnout as well, and Abrams will have to win a certain share of the white vote.”…Hood points to a back-of-the-envelope calculation of the challenge facing Abrams. Based on the 2014 midterm turnout rate, if Abrams won 95 percent of the black vote, she would need to capture about 36 percent of the white vote to win a two-person race. In a January statewide poll by Hood, only 24 percent of white Georgia voters identified as Democrats.”

At New York Magazine, Ed Kilgore’s post, “Stacey Abrams and the New Democratic Coalition in the South” puts Abram’s impressive victory in perspective: “In a Democratic electorate that is now over 60 percent African-American, it’s not surprising that Abrams won. But her better than three-to-one margin over Evans showed she had built her own biracial coalition without a white skin–or conspicuous centrism…One of the moving parts in this development was explained by Sean McElwee in a New York Times op-ed this week: white Democrats are becoming not only more progressive, but more responsive to the kinds of racial justice concerns their fellow-Democrats from minority backgrounds care about. Within the Democratic Party, racial divisions are simply less compelling than they once were, even as minority politicians are taking a more active and visible role.”

Ruy Teixeira makes the case that “Abrams must perform relatively well among white voters to win Georgia. There is a very simple reason for this. While the minority vote is large in Georgia, the white vote is much larger. It’s highly unlikely to be under 60 percent of the vote and will probably be a bit higher…Even in 2012, when Georgia black turnout was actually higher than white turnout (and way higher than white noncollege turnout), whites were still 62 percent of voters and blacks were just 32 percent…Clinton in 2016 actually did better than Obama in Georgia, losing the state by just 5 points, compared to Obama’s 8 point deficit. This improvement is entirely attributable to Clinton’s improved performance among whites, both college and noncollege. Granted, her absolute support levels were still low among these groups, but her relative improvement was enough to make the state significantly closer.”

The Abrams campaign should take note of Josh Meyer’s post, “Midterms are in Putin’s crosshairs, ex-spy chief says” at Politico: “Not content with installing Donald Trump in the White House in 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin is now revising his sophisticated meddling operation in order to outflank U.S. security agencies and tip the scales in the upcoming congressional midterm races, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told POLITICO on Wednesday…Clapper made that assertion as part of a wide-ranging interview timed with the release of his memoirs about his 50-plus years in the U.S. intelligence community, “Facts and Fears: Hard Truths From a Life in Intelligence,” which he wrote with Trey Brown…Clapper, 77, says he thinks the Kremlin, led personally by Putin, is already engaged in an ongoing and active influence effort that is even more elaborate than the one he believes was used during the 2016 campaign to swing the election.”


Political Strategy Notes

At The New York Times, Michael Tackett and Rachel Shorey report some good news in their article, “Young People Keep Marching After Parkland, This Time to Register to Vote.” As Tackett and Shorey note “Voter data for March and April show that young registrants represented a higher portion of new voters in Florida, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, among other states. In Florida, voters under 26 jumped from less than 20 percent of new registrants in January and February to nearly 30 percent by March, the month of the gun control rallies. That ticked down to about 25 percent in April, as the demonstrations subsided, but registration of young voters remained above the pace set before 17 students and faculty were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland…In North Carolina, voters under 25 represented around 30 percent of new registrations in January and February; in March and April, they were around 40 percent…In Pennsylvania, voter registrations across age groups increased sharply in March and April before the primary last week, but registrations of young voters increased the fastest, jumping to 45 percent in March and more than half in April, from fewer than 40 percent of voters in January and February.”

And who are these young voters supporting? Shorey and Tackett explain: “And those new registrants lean Democratic. Of the new voters ages 25 and under in the state, a third registered as Democrats; 21 percent signed up as Republicans; and 46 percent registered as either unaffiliated or with another political party. For new registrants over 25, 27 percent were Democrats; 29 percent were Republicans; and 44 percent were independent or affiliated with a different party…In addition to the registration figures, new polling of younger voters from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics found a significant jump from two years ago in those who say their involvement will make a difference. Such optimism indicates a voter is more likely to actually turn out…So far, the Harvard polling indicates that Democrats are the more likely beneficiary of the increased commitment to voting, with half of voters 18 to 29 saying they will vote Democratic. The remainder are divided between Republicans and independents.”

At New York Magazine, Ed Kilgore explains why “The Democratic Wave May Depend on Millennials Becoming Unusually Motivated to Vote.” Kilgore quotes Ronald Brownstein, who observes, “No more than about a quarter of eligible adults younger than age 30 have voted in any of the past five midterm elections. In 2010, voters under 30 represented just 12 percent of all voters, exit polls found, down from 18 percent in 2008. The share of ballots cast by voters under 30 likewise skidded from 19 percent in 2012 to 13 percent in 2014…Recent polling offers ominous signs for Democrats that this pattern of demobilization could persist in 2018… Stanley Greenberg, the veteran Democratic pollster, told me there’s a “very real risk” that Millennial turnout could lag again in 2018.” Kilgore adds, “after all, Barack Obama’s strong popularity among young voters exhibited itself as a powerful force in 2008 and 2012 — but not in the 2010 and 2014 midterms…It’s entirely possible that Democrats can overcome a recurrence of the “midterm falloff” among young voters by gains elsewhere in the electorate, most notably the college-educated suburbanites who have contributed to Democratic over-performance in off-year elections from Virginia to Arizona. But even modest improvements in millennial turnout could work wonders, given the large lean toward Democrats in that demographic (a net 27 points in the same Pew survey that showed desultory millennial interest in the election)…Democrats are almost certainly going to make gains in November, but nothing would reduce the magnitude more than unsuccessful efforts to mobilize millennials that do succeed in terrifying old white folks. They can take comfort, however, in the fact that, all in all, the most terrifying force in American politics resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. That may be just enough to rouse young people from their apolitical prejudices and get them to the polls in November.”

The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin probes a question of growing concern for Democrats: “Will the Fervor for Impeachment Start a Democratic Civil War? A push to remove Donald Trump from office may lead to disaster in the midterms.” Toobin quotes Jamie Raskin, a first-term Democrat from Maryland and vice-chair of the Judiciary Committee: “It’s hard to think of a more impeachable President in American history…By firing Comey and waging war on the special counsel, Trump has become the master of obstructing justice…I have a thick notebook of obstruction-of-justice episodes…It’s only because we’re waist-deep in the Trump era that we forget how completely radical and beyond the pale it is to have the President directly threatening the people who are involved in a criminal investigation of him.” All of Trump’s utterly impeachable offenses notwithstanding, a premature focus on impeachment could be a disaster for Democrats. But the more worrisome question is, will Trump’s reckless corruption eventually leave the Democrats no other option? I have trouble imagining that not happening. At a certain point, Democrats could look bad for dodging impeachment and shirking their constitutional responsibility. Timing is everything.

Democrats ramp up efforts to turn more red seats blue in the South in the wake of recent successes,” reports Deborah Barfield Berry at USAToday. “With midterms less than six months away, national Democrats say they are ramping up their efforts in the South working with the Congressional Black Caucus and local grassroots groups to pick up more seats, even in traditionally red districts…The DCCC and the caucus say the South is key to a Democratic takeoverof the House…The shift in focus comes in the wake of recent Democratic victories in the South, including in Alabama where Doug Jones pulled off an upset in the Senate race last December...“We’re not forfeiting the South like we used to and the party is coming down to help,” said Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. “If we’re going to grow, we’re going to grow in the South. This traditional Democratic forfeiting in the South and this traditional Democratic message doesn’t work … We’re forcing them to come and they’re coming…The DCCC already has staff in some competitive districts in Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina and Texas, said Kamau Marshall, the committee’s director of African American Media and deputy national press secretary…But the South remains a difficult landscape for Democrats. In Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana, for example, only four out of 23 congressional seats are held by Democrats.”

At Daily Kos, Egberto Willies urges “No need for Democrats to fear their progressive wing: join it, instead,” and shares some thoughts on messaging: “…We must have a simple message at the tip of our tongues, ready to tell constituents what Democrats will do for them…Democrats will fix the health care issue once and for all with a single-payer Medicare for All system…Democrats will provide student loan relief…Democrats will provide need-based subsidized child care for anyone who wants to work…Democrats will decriminalize marijuana and treat drug use as the disease that it is…Democrats will make the criminal justice system live up to the “Justice is Blind” motto….Those five bullet points expressed in different terms will work in every district in America. It appeals to millennials, people of color, all working class people, parents, and every demographic in between. Most importantly these bullet points afford Americans a path to self-sufficiency It frees them from aberrations in the economy that stunts innovation, the inability to start one’s business, and the dependency and the enslavement to the corporation…Every appearance in the media should segue to these points…We need a simple message that appeals quickly, cannot be easily demagogued, and can broaden a base. Politicians who support the five issues listed in bold above are all in with most of the progressive agenda…We must dialogue from a position of strength, and use our sound economic stance and the intrinsic morality of our positions to put all who oppose the progressive tenets Americans say they want on the defensive. Open the windows so America can see exactly who opposes progressivism.”

 

At CNN Politics Harry Enten notes that “There’s a surprising lack of good polling in this year’s key Senate races,” and observes “Calling balls and strikes is difficult when you’re partially blind…That’s the situation Senate prognosticators are in when it comes to this year’s races. In the early going, there just isn’t a lot of good polling data out there to understand the playing field…Democrats need a net gain of two seats to pick up control of the Senate. CNN rates 11 Senate races as either competitive (i.e. leaning towards one party) or as a toss-up, including 3 Republican-held seats and 8 Democratic held seats. Most of these seats have very little non-partisan polling for them…While a number of key Senate races haven’t been polled at all this cycle, every single competitive race had at least one poll taken in it by this point in the last midterm cycle in 2014…More worrisome is the lack of high quality polling information from these Senate races. Only 2 (Florida and Tennessee) of the 11 races (18%) have gold standard polling. That is, pollsters who are non-partisan, use live interviews and call cell phones and are transparent about their data. Only one state (Florida) has had more than one gold standard poll taken in it. In 2014, 67% of competitive races at this point had been polled by gold standard pollsters.”

Kyle Kondik, Managing Editor, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, shares “The Democrats’ Drive for 25 in the House: An Update,” and notes: “Overall, the Democrats’ odds in the districts mentioned have largely but not universally gotten a little better…The California primary on June 5 looms as the most important date in the battle for the House between now and the November election…The Democrats’ odds of retaking the House majority remain about 50-50… there is still a possibility that Democrats won’t just win the House, but win it easily. The range of possible outcomes still seems wide…Some district-level indicators are a little brighter for Democrats since we first described this narrow path to a Democratic House majority…One thing that’s clear in comparing the Democrats’ current path to a House majority versus the one we sketched out in February is that the playing field is bigger. Back in February, we listed 65 GOP House seats in a competitive (non-Safe) category. We now list 86. Many of these races likely will not develop (particular in the Likely Republican column, where we list 35 GOP districts). On the other hand, some current Safe Republican races may enter the fray, too.”


The McCaskill Template: Election Strategy for Dems in Red States

If Democrats are ever going to regain majority control of Congress, they will have to hold seats, as well as win new ones. For an instructive read about how it’s done, read Perry Bacon, Jr.’s 538 post, “Missouri’s Claire McCaskill Has Been Savvy And Lucky — Can She Do It Again?” As Bacon writes,

Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri has survived the growing Republicanismof her state by being good at politics. But she’s also been a bit lucky. And that combination may save her again this November…McCaskill is not just politically endangered because she, along with nine other Senate Democrats, is running in a red state. President Trump won Missouri by 19 percentage points.

Bacon goes on to note that Trump’s popularity since the 2016 election has tanked in Missouri, down to 2 points net favorability in one poll and 4 in another. That helps McCaskill. So does the nasty scandal centering on Missouri’s indicted Republican Governor Eric Greitens, whose refusal to resign has divided the state GOP and has likely damaged Republican credibility to provide good leadership in the eyes of some voters. McCaskill’s re-election race is very close, according to polls:

That same Emerson poll showed McCaskill tied at 45 percent with Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, who is the favorite to win the Aug. 7 GOP Senate primary in the state. Two other polls from April showed McCaskill with tiny leads (1 and 4 percentage points) over Hawley. So McCaskill is competitive, despite the conservatism of the state. But she is far from a shoo-in. This is likely to be a close race, with both parties spending heavily.

McCaskill is an emblematic centrist Democrat in the sense that “She has voted with Trump’s position on about 46 percent of legislation4 in the Senate, according to FiveThirtyEight’s Trump score tracker, enabling the senator to position herself as not adamantly opposing everything the president does like some of her more liberal colleagues. At the same time, she voted against the major initiatives that Trump and congressional Republicans pushed last year, the health policy proposals that would have gotten rid of parts of the Affordable Care Act and the tax overhaul.” McCaskill understands that many voters who self-identify as conservatives support liberal policies that are properly presented.

Credit McCaskill with agile and gutsy campaign skills, as Bacon explains:

If you’ve followed McCaskill’s career, it’s not surprising that she is well-positioned in 2018 — she seems to be good at getting elected, staying in office and anticipating where politics is going. In 1992, she was the first woman elected to be the county prosecutor in Jackson County, which includes Kansas City. She was later elected state auditor and just barely lost her 2004 gubernatorial bid. In 2006, she was the first woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate from Missouri, defeating a GOP incumbent. Early in 2008, she endorsed Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary, a move that was bold and controversial, since she was the first female senator to embrace Obama over Clinton.

In 2012, McCaskill was in trouble, running for reelection in a year when Obama was on the ballot but unpopular in Missouri. So McCaskill and her campaign ran ads ahead of the GOP primary in Missouri, trying to boost the most conservative candidate in that race, then-GOP Rep. Todd Akin…The goal was to get conservative primary voters to back Akin as a way to annoy Democrats…McCaskill felt Akin would be the weakest of the GOP candidates in the general election. It’s not clear how much that ad boosted Akin in the primary, but he won that race and McCaskill easily defeated him in the general election.

McCaskill’s luck kicked in again —  she “wasn’t on the ballot in 2010 or 2014, years when Republicans were dominant in congressional elections.” And if she wins this year, “it would be quite a feat. She would have won three straight Senate elections in Missouri, while the state went from one where Democrats lost at the presidential level by 7 percentage points (2004) to almost 20 points (2016).”

The thing about McCaskill’s ‘lucky breaks’ is that she wasn’t just a passive recipient of good luck; when ‘luck’ came near, she pounced on it with a bold response at every opportunity, learning from mistakes and tweaking her strategy and tactics to leverage advantage at pivotal political moments. In addition to being an alert campaigner, she is also very good at setting a positive tone in television interviews and uses media adroitly.

None of this is to say that McCaskill’s tactics can be replicated in every campaign. But her strategy of paying close attention to her adversaries weaknesses and vulnerabilities, and then addressing them boldly and driving wedges through the opposition is exemplary. She has also shown that a centrist political persona can be an asset in winning support for hot button progressive reforms, including Obamacare, gun safety, immigration, reproductive rights and others. Democrats running in red states and districts can benefit by studying her example.


Political Strategy Notes

A bit of temporary good news for Democrats — and for everyone who doesn’t want to pay more for internet service, as reported in Cecilia Kang’s “Senate Democrats Win Vote on Net Neutrality, a Centerpiece of 2018 Strategy” in The New York Times: “The Senate passed a resolution in a 52-47 vote to overturn a decision last December by the Federal Communications Commission to dismantle Obama-era rules that prevented broadband providers like Verizon and Comcast from blocking or speeding up streams and downloads of web content in exchange for extra fees. The commission’s repeal of net neutrality is set to take effect in a few weeks.” However, “the rare victory for Democrats is sure to be short-lived, with a similar resolution expected to die in the House, where Republicans have a larger majority. Only three Republican senators voted in support of the resolution [Collins, Murkowski and Kennedy]. However, “The effort to stop the repeal of net neutrality rules is part of a broader political strategy by Democrats to rally young voters in the November elections.” Here’s a sharable link for contacting Senators who voted to raise internet fees.

We shouldn’t be surprised that the biggest corporate advocates of destroying Net Neutrality — Verizon, Comcast and AT&T — are also deeply involved in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which provides “template” voter suppression legislation and other Republican-friendly bills for state legislatures. Could a cell phone users campaign to ditch these providers get them to back away from their big bucks opposition to net neutrality and support of voter suppression?

Hillary Clinton won the 2016 Democratic nomination. But it looks increasing like Sen. Bernie Sanders is proving more influential on the future policies of the Democratic Party, as David Weigel and Michael Scherer explain at PowerPost: “Democrats across the board are embracing the policies of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — Medicare for all, legal marijuana and free college — but primary results underscore that the 2016 presidential candidate is struggling to emerge as a kingmaker in the party…While Sanders hasn’t dominated the Democratic Party, his ideas have made huge inroads. “What Bernie’s doing now is seeding what we’re going to do in November,” said Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), one of a handful of congressmen who endorsed Sanders for president. “Even in those districts where somebody’s going to lose, you’ve got to keep people activated. It’s a different kind of trickle-down.”…Sanders-backed candidates are 10 for 21 this election cycle, while 46 of the 134 who had the support of Our Revolution, the group Sanders started after his presidential bid, triumphed. There have been some notable losses, including Tom Perriello in Virginia’s Democratic primary for governor last year and gubernatorial hopeful Dennis Kucinich in Ohio this month, who was backed by Our Revolution but not Sanders.”

From Ed Kilgore’s “Primary Roundup: Big Victories for Women and Progressives” at New York Magazine: “The 2018 primary season ended in four more states on May 15, and, overall, it was one of many that will likely give this cycle a “Year of Women” description, particularly among Democrats. It also was a pretty good day for self-conscious Democratic progressives — and a bad day for those who fear their viability in general elections…In the next two weeks 11 states will hold primaries and another (Texas) will hold runoff elections. The relative calm of May 15 will be replaced by a lot of noise and perhaps some drama.”

In their NYT post “Half of the Women Running in House Primaries Have Won So Far,” Denise Liu and Kate Zernike write, “Record numbers of women are running for Congress. And many are winning: Ten states have had primaries so far, and in those, 60 women have won and 63 have lost…The surge in the number of candidates is mostly among Democrats, and of the 60 candidates who have won so far, 52 are Democrats…Of the 52 Democrats who have won their primaries, 34 are in districts that are considered solid or likely Republican seats in the general election in November, based on the ratings of three nonpartisan organizations.”

In a paragraph focusing on primery results in Pennsylvania, Joan Walsh noted at The Nation, “In Pennsylvania, a state with an all-male House of Representatives delegation, women won the nomination in four of the six races where Democrats are given the best chance of toppling a Republican, and in a couple more districts where victory will be tough, but still possible. In state legislative races, four women backed by the Democratic Socialists of America defeated male incumbents in their Democratic primaries. Three don’t have Republican opponents, meaning they’re almost certainly headed to Harrisburg. More than 100,000 more Democrats than Republicans turned out on primary day.”

Senator Amy Klobuchar put it well, when asked about Democratic midterm strategy focusing on Trump at the Center for American Progress Ideas Conference: “We’re not going to see [continued success] if we spend our whole time bemoaning the fact that he’s there,” Klobuchar said of Trump,” reports Chris Cillizza at CNN Politics. “He’s there. And we have to present an alternative…I promise you, if that is all we do to follow him down every rabbit hole, that is not how we change the country, that is not how we change the well-being.”” There is a strong link between the approval ratings of a sitting President and party performance in the midterms. But candidates should focus their campaigns on their positions on key issues of their constituents, draw contrasts to their opponents, and leave the Trump-bashing to the media and activists. Still, Trump’s mounting scandals may make it difficult for candidates to avoid the topic.

“Liberal anxiety about the fate of the midterms — and I would venture, the country itself — is rising,” writes NYT columnist Charles Blow in his column, “A Blue Wave of Moral Restoration.”To all this, I say: Calm down. Not relax. Not rest easy. Not coast. But stay the course and don’t panic. Work hard, message well and bring your passion — and a few neighbors and friends — to the polls in November…If voters do that, as they have already done in special elections, signs are positive for a major realignment in Washington.” Blow quotes an unamed CNN political analyst: “If past trends hold, it is possible Democrats could see a double-digit swing in the average House district in 2018 compared with past elections…The average swing across all elections has been +13 Democratic, signaling a national political environment is 13 points in the Democrats’ direction.”

Providing flexibility in places to vote  helps to increase voter turnout, as Bartholomew County, Indiana, found out on May 8th, reports local newspaper, The Republic. “The number of early voters who cast ballots this year in Bartholomew County was double the early turnout from four years ago…On Election Day, Bartholomew County could choose from 18 voting centers. Eight were located around Columbus, while others in Hope, Clifford, Taylorsville, Elizabethtown and other geographic areas of the county helped give voters plenty of options to make casting a ballot as easy as possible…Voters could cast a ballot at whichever voting center was most convenient, a much better scenario than when people were limited to a specific precinct during daytime hours when many people have employment obligations.”


Political Strategy Notes

In her article, “Democratic candidates are focused on issues such as health care, despite what pundits say” At mic.com, Emily C. Singer”notes that “A recent HuffPost/YouGov poll from early April found that health care is the top issue for voters in the midterm elections. Nearly a third, or 30%, of voters said health care is their top issue, while guns and immigration tied for second place, with 25% each…“In the polling, when you ask people what’s the most important issue, health care comes up at the top or near the top,” Peter Hart, a longtime Democratic pollster who helps conduct the NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, said in an interview.”

Here’s a political ad focusing on health care for Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen, who is running for Senate in Nevada:

Bloomberg’s Joe Nocera make a persuasive case that “The gaming of Hatch-Waxman is one of the two most important reasons why drug prices are so out of control. The other reason is that drug company executives — like executives in every other industries — began kneeling at the altar of “shareholder value.” And the easiest way to boost profits, and thus the stock price, was to raise prices relentlessly…But the single best way to get drug prices under control would be to put the teeth back into Hatch-Waxman. It would not be a particularly difficult thing to do. First, shorten the patent exclusivity period to 10 years. (Drug companies say they need the longer time to recoup their research and development costs, but the truth is most companies spend more on marketing than R&D.)..Second, outlaw the practice of paying companies to keep generics off the market and similar forms of gamesmanship. Third — and most important of all — don’t allow companies to extend the period of exclusivity beyond the original 10 years.” Democrats should do all of the above, while also making a strong case for “allowing Medicare to negotiate directly with the drug companies over pricing. Given that Medicare spends over $400 billion on drugs, it would have tremendous negotiating power, that could yield billions in savings. Of course, that is exactly what the Republicans are afraid of, and why they persuaded the president to take it off the table.”

Washington Post business writers Erica Werner and Carolyn Y. Johnson note that “Democrats are trying to take back an issue Donald Trump effectively stole from them during the 2016 presidential campaign: the high cost of prescription drugs…Democrats are also promising to appoint a “price gouging” enforcer who would fine drug companies if their price increases surpassed certain thresholds — another piece they believe will show voters that Democrats are prepared to tackle the issue in a way Trump hasn’t…“There’s no question that it provides an opening for us,” said Rep. Richard E. Neal (Mass.), the top Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee…A Kaiser Health Tracking Poll in March found that 52 percent of Americans said passing legislation to lower prescription drug prices should be a “top priority” for Trump and Congress. Nearly three-quarters of Americans said pharmaceutical companies have too much influence in Washington, a view shared by both Democrats and Republicans.”

Overconfidence that feeds complacency is always a bad thing, which Democrats should keep in mind, regarding their strong performance in special elections since 2016. Powerpost’s Sean Sullivan and Seung Min Kim report that “Trump’s improved standing, energized GOP voters worry Democrats,” and note “After months of confidence that public discontent with President Trump would lift Democrats back to power in Congress, some party leaders are fretting that their advantages in this year’s midterms are eroding amid a shifting political landscape…Driving their concerns are Trump’s approval rating, which has ticked upward in recent weeks, and high Republican turnout in some recent primaries, suggesting the GOP base remains energized. What’s more, Republicans stand to benefit politically from a thriving economy and are choosing formidable candidates to take on vulnerable Democratic senators.” Fair enough. But Dems should not do too much handwringing. The sky is more likely to fall on Republicans than Dems in the coming months, as the Mueller probe zeroes in on the Trump Administration’s unprecedented level of corruption, dragging Trump’s approval ratings downward. The blue wave may be smaller than expected a few weeks ago. But the smart money is still on Dems winning a House majority, with gains in state legislatures. Moreover, “Republicans still have messy intraparty fights to navigate in Mississippi and Arizona, with polarizing Senate candidates who party officials believe could lose to Democrats. They are plotting ways to elevate the more electable ones…If Democrats can flip one or both of those seats, their path to the majority will be easier, contingent on holding seats. Democrats also have a plum opportunity for a pickup in Nevada.”

The Trump Trade Hawk walkback begins. As Brett Samuels reports at The Hill, “Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Sunday criticized President Trump for directing the Commerce Department to assist a Chinese telecommunications company…“How about helping some American companies first?” Schumer tweeted in response to Trump’s earlier tweet on the matter…Trump earlier in the day said he’s working with Chinese President Xi Jingping to get Chinese company ZTE “a way to get back into business, fast.”…“Too many jobs in China lost,” Trump tweeted.

L.A. Times writer Christine Mai-Duc reports on a new strategy for California Democrats competing in ‘top two’ primaries: “Vexed for months over the prospect of getting boxed out of crucial House races after California’s primary, Democrats think they’ve found a way to fight back….The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee this week began airing television adsthat go after two Republicans running for retiring Rep. Ed Royce’s seat. The ads made no mention of a third, Young Kim, who has led polls, has the backing of Royce, and is widely seen as the Democrats’ most formidable potential opponent in November…By attacking two Republicans viewed as second-tier, Democrats are hoping to suppress GOP votes for those candidates while ensuring that Kim gets far enough ahead to be the only Republican in the general election. They also hope to avoid explicitly backing or attacking one of their own in the increasingly nasty intraparty fights in some districts.’

In Neil Rothchild’s “The Senate Democrats who keep saying no to Trump nominees” at Axios, he indicates that only 10 Democratic Senators voted against confirming Trump nominees in more than 70.3 percent of the 37 selected votes, and only two, Gillibrand and Warren, did so more than 90 percent of the time. Given Trump’s record of poorly-qualified and morally-dubious nominees, are too many Democratic senators giving them an easy ride?

“Today, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP) and its offshoot — the Black Women’s Roundtable — launched the Unity ’18 Black Voting & Power Building “Time4APowerShift” campaign in Atlanta, Georgia,” reports Donna Owens at Essence magazine. “The goal is to leverage the impact of the Black vote and collective leadership, with a special emphasis on the South, Black women, and young voters. Unity ’18 is phase one of a four-year campaign that includes developing and organizing a long-term Black political and economic power building strategy. It will encompass the 2018 midterms, the 2020 Presidential election and more, including the 2020 census and redistricting that help will determine the balance of political power for the coming decade and beyond…The new campaign, said organizers, will partner more than 60 national and state-based organizations and networks, that are primarily led by Black women…There will be an emphasis on getting out the vote in places where the Black vote will be key to shifting political power, such as Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.”


Political Strategy Notes

“To take back the majority in the House this November, political scientists calculate Democrats will have to win the popular vote by an extra 7 to 11 percent to overcome lines drawn by Republicans to keep them out.” notes Amber Phillips in her article, “Ohio voters just made gerrymandering more trouble than it’s worth” at The Fix. “It’s not an exaggeration to say that if Democrats can’t win back a seat at the table for drawing maps by the time the 2020 Census comes out, they could be locked out of power for a generation.” On Tuesday, “Ohio voters decided to limit one party’s power to draw congressional lines that would lock the other out of power for a decade. Advocates say their success in Ohio on Tuesday could be the start of a record-breaking year for redistricting reform, which could be on the ballot in five more states. And that raises the question: Are voters who are sick of Washington now turning their frustration to gerrymandering?”

At slate.com, Josh Voorhees reports that “Women keep winning. On Tuesday night, nearly two-thirds of the women running in congressional primaries won their nomination. Overall, female candidates snagged 27 of the 81 major party House nominations that were up for grabs in Indiana, Ohio, North Carolina, and West Virginia. That continues a trend that began with the nation’s first primary in Texas this year and then seemed to stall a bit in the second, in Illinois later that same month…According to Gender Watch 2018, a project of the nonpartisan Center for American Women and Politics, 22 of the 31 women running in a House Democratic primary on Tuesday won the nomination. That means women will make up a majority of the party’s 40 congressional nominees in those states.”

From Ronald Brownstein’s take on the primaries at the Atlantic: “The results of Tuesday’s primary elections simultaneously bolstered the Republican Party mainstream and demonstrated how much ground it has yielded to Donald Trump, particularly on the volatile issue of immigration….In several key races, GOP primary voters rejected candidates who presented themselves as the most ardent acolytes of Trump, in terms of style, political agenda, or both. But the relatively more mainstream alternatives triumphed in those contests only after embracing much, or all, of Trump’s hostility toward immigration. That dynamic underscores Trump’s success at eroding resistance in the GOP toward his racially infused nationalism. And that could prove a defining gamble for the party in a nation inexorably growing more diverse…But in the broader electorate, roughly three-fifths of Americans have opposed building the border wall and an even higher share has supported some legal status for the undocumented. While sanctuary policies can be more difficult ground for Democrats to defend, polls consistently show that significantly more Americans believe immigration strengthens, rather than weakens, the country; the margin was greater than 2 to 1, for instance, in an NBC/Wall Street Journal survey released last September.”

“Donald Trump’s disgraceful personal behavior makes him a very tempting target. But there’s not much more that any Democratic can say about Trump that voters haven’t heard already,” writes Democratic pollster Brad Bannon in “A winning strategy for Democrats in 2020: populism, not Trump bashing” at The Hill. “To address Trump’s failure to help working families, Democrats should challenge his tax cuts for corporations, which have led to cuts in spending for education and health care. And to get there, the Democratic presidential hopefuls have an obligation to outline their approach to improve the economy for working families…A powerful populist economic message will attract voters. Personal attacks on Trump will distract people. It’s not enough for Democratic presidential candidates to bash Trump. Presidential hopefuls will also need to lay out their program for moving America forward. The same goes for Democratic Party leaders who want to turn out the party base to vote this year in the midterm elections.”

A new study by Politico indicates that “Trump thrives in areas that lack traditional news outlets: Relentless use of social media and partisan outlets helped him swamp Clinton and exceed Romney’s performance in places lacking trusted local news media.” Shawn Musgrave and Andrew Nussbaum note that “Trump outperformed the previous Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, in counties with the lowest numbers of news subscribers, but didn’t do nearly as well in areas with heavier circulation.” Also, “Trump struggled against Clinton in places with more news subscribers: Counties in the top 10 percent of subscription rates were twice as likely to go for Clinton as those in the lowest 10 percent. Clinton was also more than 3.7 times as likely to beat former President Barack Obama’s 2012 performance in counties in the top 10 percent compared to those in the lowest 10 percent — the driest of the so-called news deserts.” Clearly, Democrats have to expand and intensify their social media outreach in rural areas, if they want to improve their prospects beyond the suburbs.

In a FiveThirtyEight.com roundtable, Politics Editor Micah Cohen shares some polling on impeachmant: “In April, Monmouth University asked, “Do you think President Trump should be impeached and compelled to leave the presidency, or not?” and 39 percent said “should” vs. 56 percent who said “not.”…A Quinnipiac poll in April found 38 percent of people think Trump should be impeached and removed; 55 percent do not…A new CBS News poll found that 30 percent of people would be more likely to vote for a Congressional candidate who supports impeachment; 40 percent said less likely. (Twenty-nine percent were unsure or didn’t answer.)…But there’s obviously a big partisan split; here’s the party breakdown from a Marist/NPR poll…”

Impeachment advocates might also give some thought to “Trump Is No Longer the Worst Person in Government,” by WaPo columnist George F. Will, who notes: “Donald Trump, with his feral cunning, knew. The oleaginous Mike Pence, with his talent for toadyism and appetite for obsequiousness, could, Trump knew, become America’s most repulsive public figure. And Pence, who has reached this pinnacle by dethroning his benefactor, is augmenting the public stock of useful knowledge. Because his is the authentic voice of today’s lickspittle Republican Party, he clarifies this year’s elections: Vote Republican to ratify groveling as governing…Trump is what he is, a floundering, inarticulate jumble of gnawing insecurities and not-at-all compensating vanities, which is pathetic. Pence is what he has chosen to be, which is horrifying.”


Political Strategy Notes

CNN Political Analyst Julian Zelizer’s “Democrats, focus on midterms — not Trump impeachment talk” pinpoints the party’s 2018 dilemma: “The biggest challenge for Democrats is to avoid letting anti-Trump fervor drown out their own message. To be sure, attacking the President is often an important part of wave elections. Though they already had control of the House in 1982, Democrats expanded their majority by urging voters to take a stand against the Reagan Revolution. In 1994, Newt Gingrich used President Bill Clinton — and his failed health care plan — as a foil to excite voters to turn out in the election. Nancy Pelosi returned the favor in 2006 as Democrats were determined to send a message to President George W. Bush, just as Tea Party Republicans did in 2010 when they took back the House.” However, “Democrats are making a big political bet if they think that the news over Russia, payments to porn stars and ongoing lies will be enough to bring voters out to the polls. This is especially risky given that unemployment is now at historically low 3.9% and Trump might be on the cusp of helping to orchestrate a major peace deal between North and South Korea…Democrats must avoid two big pitfalls — failing to deliver a compelling agenda and dampening their own turnout though excessively hard-line tactics in the primaries. And that could leave Republicans in much better shape than they otherwise would be in the age of Trump.”

The Washington Post provides the following video clip, explaining “How Democrats Are Planning to Take Back Power“:

At npr.com, Jessica Taylor reports that “Republican Fears About Holding The Senate Start To Sink In,” and observes, “In conversations with several top GOP strategists, nearly all conceded that the overwhelming Democratic enthusiasm they’re facing this November is incredibly worrisome. Most still think it’s a better than even chance that they do keep the Senate — albeit narrowly — but it’s no longer out of the realm of possibility that the upper chamber could change hands, especially given the volatility of the GOP’s two-seat majority…Lackluster fundraising as of late from GOP challengers and stronger-than-expected hauls from Democratic incumbents has further stoked worry among Republicans. Taylor probes the political dynamics of ther most vulnerable senate seats of both Democrats and Repubicans and notes, “Tennessee has emerged as the biggest wildcard that could make or break the Senate majority for both parties. Democrats scored a major coup by convincing former Gov. Phil Bredesen to enter the race after frequent Trump critic and GOP Sen. Bob Corker announced he wouldn’t run for re-election.”

In FiveThirtyEight article, “Democrats’ Horrible 2018 Senate Map Couldn’t Have Come At A Better Time” Nathaniel Rakitch writes, “Still, Democrats should probably be thrilled with an overperformance of even half that. It all comes back to that pesky Republican bias in the Senate — and specifically its lopsided distribution. In short, 2018 could be not just bad, but a veritable armaggeddon for Senate Democrats. They should count their lucky stars that their worst-case map looks like it’s going to coincide with their best-case turnout environment.” Rakitch cites Demo rats “healthy lead in generic-ballot polling,” but adds that “Democrats need to overperform by a whopping 11 seats in order to snag a majority. Still, Democrats should probably be thrilled with an overperformance of even half that…They should count their lucky stars that their worst-case map looks like it’s going to coincide with their best-case turnout environment.”

In another FiveThirtyEight post, “What’s At Stake In The First Big Primary Day Of 2018,” Rakich previews tommorrow’s primary contests and sets the stage with a trio of questions: “Will a new political dynasty be born? Will a man not quite a year removed from prison become the GOP’s candidate for Senate? Will Dennis Kucinich finally win a nomination — 14 years after his first quixotic presidential bid?” rackich writes, “These things could all happen Tuesday, primary day in the great states of Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia. As opposed to recent special election days, when the entire political world turned its eyes to a single district, we’ll be dividing our attention among several key contests as the results come in. There are lots of weird, interesting races, but the most significant takeaway will be whether the Democratic and Republican parties are nominating strong candidates for the fall.” Rakitch provides in-depth insights about several of the major races.

Sociologist Andrew J. Cherlin’s NYT op-ed “You Can’t Separate Money From Culture” explores the “misguided debate about whether culture or economics was the driving force in Mr. Trump’s win.” Cherlin argues that “those who try to distinguish between the explanatory power of stagnant wages and a declining industrial base on the one hand, and anxieties about the ascent of minority groups on the other, miss the point: These are not two different factors but two sides of the same coin…astute scholars do not see a wall between economics and culture. They acknowledge that financial hardship affects the daily lives of working-class Americans, but they add that how they respond is based on cultural beliefs that may lead them to scapegoat minority groups…People who are frustrated by their lack of progress may still try to defend the dignity of their work. It is a mistake to see economics and culture as distinct forces. Both propelled Mr. Trump to victory.”

Few political campaign media specialists will be surprised by the title and subtitle of Steven Musil’s CNET article, “Most Facebook users in US still loyal to social networking giant, poll finds: Three-quarters of America’s Facebook users say they use the social network as often or more frequently since a data scandal broke in March.” Sure millions of FB members are ticked off somewhat by revelations of compromised privacy. But anyone who believed that social media platform’s privacy protections were iron-clad was inviting disappointment. Musil notes, “User loyalty remains high with users of the social network, according to a Reuters/Ipsos online poll released Sunday that found about half of Facebook’s American users hadn’t recently changed the amount that they used the site. Indeed, another quarter said they were using it more. Of the approximaely one-quarter of users who said they were using it less frequently, don’t be shocked if they come back.

Further, Elizabeth Grieco reports at the Pew Research Center ‘FacTank’ that “Facebook claims the largest share of social media news consumers, and its news users are much more likely to rely solely on that site for news. Just under half (45%) of U.S. adults use Facebook for news. Half of Facebook’s news users get news from that social media site alone, with just one-in-five relying on three or more sites for news.” According to a survey by statista.com reported in January 2018, “58.3 million U.S. Facebook users were between 25 and 34 years old. This distribution also closely mirrors the overall number of social network users in the United States, as 35.3 million U.S. social media users were aged 25 to 34 years. The total Facebook audience in the United States amounted to 214 million users. With more than 1.8 billion monthly active users, Facebook is the most popular social network worldwide. In 2014, U.S. users spent an average of 39 minutes on the site every day and the social network has become a part of daily online usage for millions of users.” For the 50 most widely-circulated newspaper’s digital editions, “In the fourth quarter of 2016, there was an average of roughly 11.7 million monthly unique visitors (across all devices) for these top 50 newspapers,” according to the Pew Research Center Newspapers Fact Sheet.

Democratic candidates and campaigns should take a gander at “Political Rhetoric 101 for Beginners (such as Democratic candidates)” by X Smith at Op-Ed news. Smith shares some interesting tips, including: “Democrats should make better use of patriotic imagery. When John Kerry was running (sort of) against Bush Jr. in 2004, being from Massachusetts he had massive scope to drape himself with New England’s patriotic imagery–Lexington’s Battle Green and Concord’s Old North Bridge; Faneuil Hall; the USS Constitution; the Old North Church and Paul Revere statue; working-class war memorials in South Boston and Worcester. He could have used those to counter-act the Massachusetts ultra-liberal label and remind people that New England is the birthplace of American patriotism. Total missed opportunity. Republicans have long since seized the flag; Democrats should seize it back while reminding people what it stands for” and “The hard right will always find a way to make their goals sound reasonable, even a popular imperative: uniter not divider; fiscal conservative, defend our borders, restrain government. So don’t try to argue that their stated goals are undesirable: instead attack them for failing to live up to their word. They’re not delivering what the people who voted for them wanted; worse, they’re skilled at disguising what they’re doing (for example fiscal conservatives who pile up massive deficits.) The goal of this line of attack is to peel some moderate conservative voters away from the phony-conservative party.”


Political Strategy Notes

‘You go, Greitens’ has to be the unofficial rallying cry of Missouri Democrats, who hope the redolent mess Missouri’s Republican Governor, Eric Greitens has created for his party will reverberate up and down ballot. As Ed Kilgore explains in his New York Magazine column, “The clock is ticking not just for Greitens but for his fellow party members who don’t want to go into a general election season with this millstone around their necks (all members of the Missouri House and half of the Missouri Senate are up for reelection this year). That is particularly true of the GOP’s putative nominee in the critical fight to take down Senator Claire McCaskill: Attorney General Josh Hawley, who has investigated Greitens himself and called for his speedy resignation.”

In her article, “How Democrats can make Trump chaos a midterm issue” at The PlumLine, Helaine Olen notes that “a poll released Wednesday by Politico and Morning Consult found a growing majority of voters who say Trump is presiding over a disorganized White House, with 62 percent agreeing the administration is either very or somewhat chaotic…This could become a major issue in November’s midterm elections…That chaos percentage is actually up from two months ago, when only 54 percent agreed with the statement. The increasing tendency of voters to believe the Trump administration is something of a shambolic mess gives Democrats yet another cudgel with which to go after Republican congressional candidates in the upcoming fall elections — that is if they strike the right tone.” Olen says that attacking Trump’s character and lack of accomplishments is a “less than effective strategy,” but “The way the White House is run — and its results — offer Democrats multiple opportunities to make their case. Take, for instance, the ongoing Russia investigation or the appalling awfulness of any number of the president’s appointments, such as the seemingly never-ending scandals involving Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. While the public might not be totally focused on these stories, Democratic candidates can still use them to point toward the failure of House and Senate Republicans to properly do their jobs…In other words, Democratic candidates can make the case that leaving Republicans in control of Congress is both enabling and contributing to the chaos emanating from the White House.”

Regarding that aforementioned Politico and Morning Consult poll, Politico’s Steven Shepard writes that “A strong majority of voters say President Donald Trump’s administration is running chaotically after Trump’s pick for veterans affairs secretary, White House physician Ronny Jackson, withdrew his name from consideration last week, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll…More than 3 in 5 voters, 62 percent, say Trump’s administration is running very or somewhat chaotically — nearly twice as many as the 32 percent who say it’s running very or somewhat well…Nearly half of voters, 49 percent, say the Trump administration has done a poor job when it comes to hiring and retaining qualified people — roughly twice as many who say the Trump administration has done an excellent or good job combined.” Puzzling that this number isn’t higher, considering the ever-lengthening list of Trump appointees and associates who resign under public pressure or desert to save their hides.

Matthew Walther’s article in The Week, “Why a GOP midterm shellacking would be good for Trump” taps into another promising vein for Democrats — not just campaigns and candidates, but also rank and file Democrats — to mine. Walther, a conservative writer, is interested in helping Trump and the Republicans by ridding them of the burden of the unruly and chaotic House. But what Dems should do is change the last word of Walther’s title to “America,” and work the argument that a midterm shellacking would restore some neeeded balance and sanity to our politics, which just might appeal to some swing voters and moderate Repubicans. Focus groups often reveal a consistent group of voters who distrust any party having too much control. It’s one of those points that often gets taken for granted, but ought to be emphasized to create buzz that can translate into votes.

Normally it would be a little early to start talking about who is going to be the next Democratic Speaker of the House of Representative. But, since the Republicans are making Nancy Pelosi a big theme of the 2018 elections, it’s a front and center issue Democrats are being forced to address in their campaigns.  David Weigel and Paul Kane address the nuances of the Pelosi dilemma in their PowerPost article, “‘We need some new blood’: Many Democrats call for next generation of House leaders.” Among their observations, “So far, 10 Democratic candidates have said they would oppose Pelosi’s return to the speakership, while at least another 10 have conspicuously declined to express support for her, according to interviews with several candidates and a Washington Post review of statements collected by Republicans…This clamor for change at the top underscores the generational tensions within the House Democratic caucus as younger lawmakers look to replace not only Pelosi but also two other septuagenarians — Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), 78, and Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), 77.” The recent Ipsos/Reuters poll indicating Democratic erosion among younger voters may feed concerns among Democratic House candidates about aging Democratic leaders in congress.

But nobody is going to argue that Pelosi’s age has diminished her fighting spirit. At Vox, Ella Nilsen notes “House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has made it clear she isn’t going to leave a “blue wave” up to chance in 2018…“I hope for a wave, but I believe you make your wave,” Pelosi said at a February Austin American-Statesman editorial board meeting. “This is a cold-blooded, strategic, focused campaign to win the Congress for the American people. We don’t waste time. We don’t waste energy, we don’t waste resources.” Fighting spirit is good, but predictions of victory in winning the speakership again can be twisted by Republicans to portray Democrats as arrogant. Also, notes Nilsen, “Pelosi, a formidable fundraiser in her own right, has smashed her own records. She raised $16.1 million in the first quarter alone, and $66.7 million for the entire cycle — about $1 million more than she did in 2016.” Nilsen’s article is an instructive read for other reasons, well-encapsulated in her title, “The Democratic establishment’s controversial meddling in 2018 primaries, explained: The case for and against national Democrats intervening in primaries.

New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait has a an insightful post about corruption in the House under Speaker Paul Ryan’s reign. From Chait’s concluding paragraph: “Ryan has played an invaluable role covering up and enabling Trump administration scandals. When he says his party needs to keep control of the House to prevent subpoenas, he is both promising the cover-ups will continue if his party keeps its control of government, and expressing his clear belief that he opposes any level of independent oversight of the Executive branch.” Democrats have a potent card to play in noting corruption under Republican leaders, and Chait’s column does a great job of distilling it for mass consumption.

Also at Vox, Dylan Scott has some thoughts on “The 6 Senate seats Democrats could maybe, possibly win from Republicans: The opportunities for Democrats to gain ground in the Senate, ranked from most to least likely.” Scott charts a very narrow path to Democratic victory in Nevada, Nebraska, Mississippi, Texas, Tennessee and Arizona. Back on earth, Scottt notes “Democrats have a tall order in the 2018 Senate elections. They have to defend 10 seats in states that Donald Trump won — and on top of that, if they want to reclaim control of the Senate, they have precious few opportunities to take seats from Republicans…At this point, Democrats need more or less a straight flush to win the Senate: They have to hold those 10 seats, some of which are in very hostile territory, and then pick off two states from Republicans.”

 Years from now political scientists will still be studying the rapid success of the movement for acceptance of same-sex marriage, which was succinctly noted in Walt Hickey’s FiveThirtyEight ‘Significant Digits’ column: “A majority of residents support the right of same-sex couples to get married in 44 states. The exceptions are Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, West Virginia, Louisiana and North Carolina. Only in Alabama do a majority of residents oppose same-sex marriage. That 44 states is up from 30 states in 2014. [Public Religion Research Institute].”


White Working-Class Voters Not So Elusive — With Inclusive Economic Policies

Ronald A. Klain’s Washington Post column, “Democrats can’t give up on white working-class voters,” sheds some fresh light on Democratic prospects for winning a pivotal portion of this large constituency. Klain, a senior White House aide to Presidents Obama and Clinton and also a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, writes that, “pragmatically, Democrats need to capture a larger share of white working-class voters. Yes, the party can win the national popular vote without them — and thanks to demographic trends, the Democratic base will continue to grow. But the electoral college remains a reality in presidential politics, and as 2000 and 2016 proved, winning the popular vote alone is not sufficient.”

Credit Klain with using an important phrase that even many seasoned pundits have missed, rendering their “either/or” analyses less than useful. The phrase is “a larger share of white working-class voters.” Not “all white working-class voters,” not “white working-class voters in general” or even “most white working-class voters.” No false choices about strategizing to win all or none. It’s about getting a larger share, and it doesn’t have to be all that much. A gain of 10 percent of white working-class voters for Democrats could be a major game changer, insuring a progressive future for America for decades to come.

And the best part of this modest objective is that it does not sell out any other Democratic constituency. It requires no pandering to racism or nativism, and no squandering of money, time and effort needed to mobilize turnout of the base. What it does require is inclusive policies and rhetoric that speak to working-class voters of all races, policies that brand the Democrats as the only party that offers hope for a better life for working people and their families — black, white, red, brown, yellow and all shades in between.

Klain underscores another good point: “Moreover, for Democrats, it is not enough to win elections: To legislate, you need control of the Senate, where power is concentrated in less populous states, and a solid majority in the gerrymandered House. Thus, to achieve real change, progressives need majorities in a wide swath of the country.” From now on, and forever going forward, Democrats must more strongly emphasize the critical importance of midterm elections to their base, the rising American electorate and all working-class voters. It’s not enough to win the presidency alone. Democrats must also have congressional majorities to move reforms forward. Otherwise, it’s gridlock and polarizing frustration.

“From a policy perspective,” writes Kain, “if Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama could build inclusive coalitions to advance progressive aims, than surely future Democratic leaders can, too. FDR’s Social Security, Clinton’s earned-income tax credits for poor workers and Obama’s health-care reform were all examples of policy ideas that crossed “tribal lines” behind progressive goals.” More such bread and butter reforms are needed to brand Democrats as the party of working people and their families.

Klain points out that “One concept central to these successes was linking progressive aims to the widely shared value of work: tightening the bond between hard work and decent pay, health security and a safe retirement.’ But he cautions that “This may explain why some ideas that Democrats advocated in 2016 — such as “free college” — did not resonate with white working-class voters: Even if such policies were in their economic interest, these voters rejected “free anything” as “handouts.” More to the point, “free college” can be twisted by Republicans to sound like “you’re going to pay for somebody else’s kid’s education.” The better term, the easier sell, is “affordable education.” That implies fair cost-sharing from all families.

Klain endorses a revitalized movement for full employment, including “new proposals from Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif).; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.); and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) — to provide a job for any American willing to work,” which “could be on target. This idea would unite voters who want to help people left behind with those who share former vice president Joe Biden’s view that an earned paycheck is central to Americans’ dignity. And it would provide a powerful rebuttal to cruel new GOP plans to take away health-care coverage and other benefits with “work requirements” that would punish the disadvantaged for not having jobs that don’t exist.”

This sounds a lot like putting some teeth into the Humphrey-Hawkins Full Employment Act of 1978, a law which got badly watered down into a grandiose statement of principles and intentions by the time it reached the President’s desk. There is nothing wrong with the idea of a “guaranteed job for any American willing to work.” But an enormous amount of time, money and energy went into securing passage of Humphrey-Hawkins, which said essentially the same thing. Instead of another comprehensive, multifaceted job guarantee bill, might all those resources be better utilized in building a movement for an infrastructure bill that would put millions of Americans to work in good jobs?

In a sense, such an infrastructure bill is already pre-sold: Polling shows that Americans overwhelmingly agree that our infrastructure needs major repair and rebuild, coast to coast. A Harvard-Harris poll conducted in September found that 84 percent of the public wants to invest more in infrastructure, which is about as close to a slam-dunk as you can get in a poll. In an AmericaThinks survey conducted last July, 70 percent agreed that “improved infrastructure is worth possible tax and toll increases.” According to the Ipsos 2017 Global Infrastructure Index, “nearly two thirds of Americans (62%) believe that the U.S. is not doing enough to meet its infrastructure needs” and “roughly three quarters of Americans think investing in infrastructure is vital to America’s future economic growth (73%).”

Powerpost’s Mike Debonis reports that Democratic leaders are already moving forward in developing an ambitious infrastructure proposal to create 15 million jobs at a living wage, far more substantial than anything on the GOP docket. “As the White House struggles to finance an ambitious infrastructure plan, Senate Democrats are proposing one alternative — albeit one unlikely to pass muster with President Trump: rolling back the recently passed Republican tax overhaul…The proposal unveiled by Democratic leaders Wednesday would plow just over $1 trillion into a wide range of infrastructure needs, including $140 billion for roads and bridges, $115 billion for water and sewer infrastructure and $50 billion to rebuild schools.”…The spending would be offset by clawing back two-thirds of the revenue lost in the Republican tax bill by reinstating a top income tax rate of 39.6 percent, restoring the individual alternative minimum tax, reversing cuts to the estate tax, and raising the corporate income tax from 21 percent to 25 percent.”

Democrats are in very good shape to win majority control of the House of Representatives and the speakership, which will force Trump to negotiate, if he wants to get anything done. Whatever hopes the GOP had for making a credible infrastructure program all their own are shot — if there ever was any possibility. Any such bill is going to have the Democratic stamp on it in a big way, and that would be very good thing for branding the Democrats as the party of working people and their families.


Political Strategy Notes

Some factual antidotes to Republican spin that voters want cuts in social and earned benefits from “Trump Is Using “Welfare” Dog Whistles to Come After the Entire Working Class” by Rebecca Vallas at In These Times: “Trump and his colleagues in Congress learned the hard way last year how popular Medicaid is when they tried to cut it as part of their quest to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And it’s not just Medicaid that Americans don’t want to see cut. Americans overwhelmingly oppose cuts to SNAP, housing assistance, Social Security disability benefits, home heating assistance, and a whole slew of programs that help families get by—particularly if these cuts are to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. What’s more, as polling by the Center for American Progress shows, Americans are less likely to vote for a candidate who backs cuts…By contrast, vast majorities of Americans across party lines want to see their policymakers raise the minimum wage; ensure affordable, high-quality child care; and even enact a job guarantee to ensure everyone who is able and wants to work can find a job with decent wages. These sentiments extend far beyond the Democratic base to include majorities of Independents, Republicans, and even Trump’s own voters.”

At New York Magazine, Ed Kilgore reports that “Another PA GOP Congressman Resigns, Triggering Another Special Election Democrats Likely to Win.” As Kilgore notes, [Republican Rep. Pat] “Meehan’s Seventh Congressional District — the most blatantly gerrymandered of all the Pennsylvania districts — had been atomized in the new map drawn by the state Supreme Court. But his resignation now means Republicans will have to defend it one more time in a special election that is quite likely to produce some more bad vibes and bad headlines for the GOP. The Seventh as currently constitutedwas carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016 and was only narrowly won by Mitt Romney in 2012…Now Meehan, who has been under the cloud of a sexual-harassment scandal, has just resigned as well, after announcing he would pay back $39,000 his office disbursed to a Meehan staffer as part of a settlement he reached with her to head off accusations of improper advances…Democrats think they can pick up as many as six U.S. House seats in November under the new maps.”

There’s not much Democrats can do in planning responses to Trump’s chaotic midterm “strategy,” such as it is, except pay attention and seize opportunities as they arise. Jonathan Martin, Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman of The New York Times sketch Trump’s messy approach to the midterm elections as best they can in their article, “Trump’s Role in Midterm Elections Roils Republicans.” As the authors explain, “Mr. Trump is as impulsive as ever, fixated on personal loyalty, cultivating a winner’s image and privately prodding Republican candidates to demonstrate their affection for him — while complaining bitterly when he campaigns for those who lose. His preoccupation with the ongoing Russia investigation adds to the unpredictability, spurring Mr. Trump to fume aloud in ways that divide the G.O.P. and raising the prospect of legal confrontations amid the campaign…In battleground states like Arizona, Florida and Nevada, Mr. Trump’s proclivity to be a loose cannon could endanger the Republican incumbents and challengers who are already facing ferocious Democratic headwinds.”

In his Washington Post op-ed, “Be progressive, Democrats, not merely liberal,” Rep. Raúl Grijalva, co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, writes, “Where conservatives, broadly speaking, consider most forms of government activity excessive, and where the non-progressive left is often content to sand down the rough edges of the status quo, progressives often seek deep systemic reforms. Waiting for a broken power structure to right itself is a recipe for failure. Our recent focus on economic fairness, an approach dismissed as “populism” by conservatives uncomfortable with questions about capitalism’s imperfections, is a case in point…It’s no accident that progressives today are at the forefront of campaigns for a higher minimum wage, for stiffer bank regulations and government anti-monopoly crackdowns, and for single-payer health care, an idea now supported by more than half of Americans after facing years of condescension even from many liberals. If Democrats take nothing else from our moment of self-reflection, we should remember that on issue after issue, what was once pigeonholed as the “progressive” position has since become the popular position, or become law, or both.”

In her article, “Democrats must be strategic, realistic in order for blue wave to reach governor’s office,” Emiliana Almanza Lopez makes the case in The Badger Herald that Wisconsin’s Republican Governor can be beaten in November — If Democrats nominate a centrist. “If Walker wants to win this next election, he must have to appeal to the moderates of the Republican party that he pushed so far away in his time as governor so far. Due to this attempt, it is vital for the Democratic party to elect a candidate in the primaries who can appeal to this voting population…The candidates range in their political stances, but most of the Democratic candidates are running on platforms of fair wages, education and environmental issues. Some of the candidates focus on bridging the political gap between our polarized parties. These are the people to focus on in the upcoming months…By building bridges these candidates draw in the moderates while appealing to those who vote along party lines.”

In Ohio, however, two progressives, former head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Richard Cordray and former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich, are contending in the race for the Democratic nomination for Governor. As Dylan Scott writes at Vox, “The Buckeye State is one of the most important governor’s races in the country, a test of whether any Democrat not named Sherrod Brown can still win statewide here, and it might also be the most wide open…The Democratic contest could end up being equally eventful and represents something of a family feud within the left: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has taken one side [Cordray], and a Bernie Sanders-aligned group is on the other [Kucinich].”

Can a Tennessee Democrat Pull a Doug Jones?,” asks Steve Cavendish in his NYT op-ed about the TN U.S. Senate race. Cavendish elaborates: “Ms. [Marsha] Blackburn is a Tea Party and Trump stalwart, as are many Tennessee voters. She also represents a type of conservatism that may be peaking in some parts of the South: combative, inflexible and more interested in picking fights than actually governing. An aggregate of recent polls have Mr. Bredesen leading her by 5 percent…Mr. Bredesen spent two terms as governor, from 2003 to 2011, with a pro-business reputation…Even in Middle Tennessee there are some ominous signs for Republicans. In a special election for a State Senate seat in December, a Democrat lost by just 307 votes, in a district Trump carried by more than 50 percentage points.” Retiring Republican U.S. Senator Bob Corker has annaounced that he p[lans to vote for Democrat Bredesen.”

The Upshot’s Nate Cohn puts the midterms in updated perspective in his post, “What to Keep in Mind When Thinking About the Midterms: The generic ballot, the president’s approval rating, recent special elections and a seat-by-seat look all point to a modest edge for Democrats.” As Cohn observes, “Over all, the Democrats’ performance in 2018 special congressional elections looks a lot like their showing in open districts in 2006, and well above the average from wave elections in 1994, 2006, 2008 and 2010…The House Republican majority doesn’t look safe in today’s national political environment. As recently as late last year, you could credibly argue that Republicans would be solid favorites if the Democrats led on the generic ballot by seven points. The Republicans have managed to narrow the Democratic advantage to exactly that figure…But after so many retirements and a redrawn map in Pennsylvania,Republicans would seem to be clear underdogs if Democrats won the popular vote by seven points.”

Eric Boehlert reports at Shareblue Media that “In the latest sign of trouble for Republicans, the Cook Political Report officially swapped the status of the Ohio 12th District special election set for August from “lean Republican” to “toss up.” Republicans have controlled the district for more than three decades…Many Democratic officials are viewing “toss up” races this year as being extremely vulnerable for the GOP, since there’s so much electoral momentum on the side of Democrats…“All of the sudden, districts you didn’t think you could win in, you can win in,” Ohio Democratic Party chair David Pepper told CNN this week, while a GOP consultant in the Buckeye state conceded that race will be expensive, and competitive…The special election is being called to fill the vacancy created by Rep. Patrick Tiberi, who resigned suddenly last winter. Tiberi is part of the large wave of GOP resignations and retirements ahead of the 2018 elections.”