washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

At The Weekly Standard, David Byler addresses the question, “Can Sherrod Brown Take Back the Working Class Vote in Ohio? His Senate race is a test of whether Obama-Trump voters are reliable Republicans.” Byler writes that “For decades, Ohio has been a political bellwether—a quadrennial swing state that often voted for the winning presidential candidate. But in 2016, something odd happened—Ohio jerked sharply to the right, giving now President Trump an eight-point win despite his two-point national popular vote loss. Some Republicans hoped that Trump’s win was a sign of permanent shift that would allow them to unseat progressive Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown in 2018…But a new Baldwin Wallace poll is throwing some cold water on those hopes…Baldwin Wallace found that Brown leads two possible Republican challengers, Jim Renacci and Mike Gibbons, by 12 and 10 points respectively…According to the poll, 13 percent of Trump voters favor Brown. Some of those voters may be the much discussed Obama-voting white working class Democrats that Trump won over in 2016. Ohio is flush with those voters…More broadly, it might be worth thinking of these Obama-Trump voters not as reliable Republicans but as possible swing voters. They have, after all, swung from Obama to Trump recently and have reasons to vote for either party (cultural commonality with Republicans and economic agreement with Democrats).”

Yet more evidence that voter enthusiasm is high among rank and file Democrats. “Democrats turned out for Illinois’ primary in higher numbers than the left-leaning state has seen for a midterm election in more than a decade, deciding several hotly contested races and signaling the November election could be even tougher than usual for the GOP,” report Sara Burnett and Sarah Zimmerman of Associated Press. “More than 1.2 million people voted in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. That was nearly double the number who cast Republican primary ballots and a roughly 25 percent increase over 2010, the last time Democrats had a competitive gubernatorial primary.”

The gang at FiveThirtyEight addresses a question of interest to political strategy wonks and Democratic headhunters looking for potential senate candidates in 2020: “Which U.S. House Race Is The Best 2018 Bellwether?” At one point Clare Malone makes the case for CA-45: “It’s held by Republican Mimi Walters, but Hillary Clinton won it by 5 percentage points in 2016. It’s in the general Los Angeles area, and it has the suburban voter types who I think are the sort that we’ve seen be more persuadable to the Democratic side in the special elections we’ve had since President Trump’s election. I’m interested in that particular group of voters this year and think the California 45th would give me a decent handle on them if it were the only race I were allowed to know the result of.” Nathaniel Rakich agrees with Malone that CA-45 is “the ideal test case” for guaging college-educated voter trends. Other districts noted in the article include ME-2, IL-6, TX-32, TX-7, CA-25, NY-19, OH-12, KY-6 and VA-10.

In her Newsweek article, “We need Stronger Labor Unions to protect the Middle Class,” Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife program at Harvard Law and a former member of the NLRB,  shares some disturbing statistics: “Its failure can be summed up in one surprising statistic : the percentage of American workers who are members of unions is lower now than before the NLRA passed. ..Think about that; workers were more likely to be union members (13.2 percent) when they had no right to do so than they are now (10.7 percent) after more than 80 years of having a federally protected right. This decline is having a dramatic effect on all American workers – because the decline in union density suppresses wages for all workers, it accounts for about one-third of income inequality over the past several decades.” Block suggests amending The National Labor Relations Act, which “pre-empts ” – any state or local law that even arguably affects the rights covered by federal law…One big way to change labor law would be to allow states and even cities to enact their own rules for the future of the labor movement.”

Syndicated columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. reports on “the outrage created by the invasion of an estimated 50 million Facebook accounts for the ultimate benefit of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign,” and adds, “we have a right to worry about the ability of a researcher to use voluntary answers to a survey of 270,000 Facebook users to “scrape” information on 50 million people, later used by Trump’s campaign. We have a right to be outraged about Facebook’s failure to inform users that their data had been harvested. “They keep saying, ‘Trust us, we can take care of our own people and our own website,’ ” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “Well, that’s not true.” She and Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., have called for Judiciary Committee hearings, and Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia also called on Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress.” It’s one thing for a political campaign to have your phone number, Dionne argues. “But no campaign is permitted access to your hopes, fears, worries, passions or day-to-day business,” which they can get from you Facebook posts.

The Trump Administration’s failure to address the crisis in Puerto Rico with a serious relief plan could have some unintended consequences that backfire badly. As Manuel Madrid writes in The American Prospect,  “Clustered along Florida’s I-4 corridor, a political bellwether for the state, Puerto Ricans in central Florida are increasingly considered a counterweight to the state’s Republican-leaning Cuban American population, over half of whom voted for Donald Trump. In the wake of Hurricane Maria, a state-provided count claimed that the number of Puerto Ricans who had settled in Florida by December 2017 could be as high as 280,000—a figure that has since been questioned by experts. A newer estimate from University of Florida economists, using school enrollments and requests for state aid as a guide, put the total closer to just 50,000. But this number could grow. Recently, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at the City University of New York released a study projecting that Puerto Rico could lose as many as 470,335 residents between 2017 and 2019. If recent trends serve as any guide, many if not most of those migrants will end up in Florida.”…“Very soon, the Puerto Rican vote will be in the driver’s seat in Florida,” says Garces of Mi Familia Vota, one of the Florida groups in discussion with the DNC. “But this work is year-round, it won’t be solved in one election cycle or just on even years.”

The appointment of John Bolton as Trump’s national security advisor can only signal an even more contentious and belligerent era for U.S. foreign policy. Heather Hurlbert explains why in her article, “John Bolton’s Incompetence May Be More Dangerous Than His Ideology” at New York Magazine: “…He seems to relish the role, going out of his way to argue that the Iraq War wasn’t really a failure, calling for U.S.-led regime change in Iran and preventive war against North Korea, and writing the foreword for a book that proclaimed President Obama to be a secret Muslim. He is a profoundly partisan creature, having started a super-PAC whose largest donor was leading Trump benefactor Rebekah Mercer and whose provider of analytics was Cambridge Analytica, the firm alleged to have improperly used Facebook data to make voter profiles, which it sold to the Trump and Brexit campaigns, among others. Recently Bolton’s statements have grown more extreme, alarming centrist and conservative national security professionals along with his longtime liberal foes.”

Geoffrey Skelley shares the good news at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Gov. Bruce Rauner (R-IL) endured a difficult night on Tuesday. Although he won his party’s primary to earn a reelection shot in November, the contest in some ways confirmed his overall weakness as the most endangered incumbent Republican governor facing the voters in 2018. As such, the Crystal Ball is moving the Illinois gubernatorial contest from Toss-up to Leans Democratic, the first time in the 2018 cycle that we have rated an incumbent U.S. senator, U.S. House member, or governor as an underdog for reelection. Rauner’s vulnerabilities are two-fold: his party base is not solidly behind him — the GOP primary made this abundantly clear — and he faces an energized Democratic Party in what is typically a blue state….With our ratings change, [Democratic nominee J. B.] Pritzker starts the general election campaign with an edge over Rauner. On top of Rauner’s intraparty problems,..At the starting gun, Pritzker holds an early advantage.”

Few will be shocked by the headline of Margot Sanger-Katz’s, “Getting Sick Can Be Really Expensive, Even for the Insured” in The New York Times. But her findings in the article helps to explain why health care reform remains a leading priority for many voters in 2018, particularly high-turnout seniors. As Sanger-Katz notes, “New research shows that for a substantial fraction of Americans, a trip to the hospital can mean a permanent reduction in income. Some people bounce right back, but many never work as much again. On average, people in their 50s who are admitted to the hospital will experience a 20 percent drop in income that persists for years. Over all, income losses dwarfed the direct costs of medical care…On average, uninsured people in the study owed the hospital $6,000, compared with only $300 for those with insurance. But the average decline in income for both groups was much larger — an average earnings hit of $11,000 by the third year. Much of that average — around 60 percent — came from people who never returned to work at all…To the authors, the lesson of the paper is that standard health insurance isn’t enough — policymakers need to think about ways to better protect people against the income risks that accompany illness.” Clearly America’s health security system should include better wage replacement insurance, sick leave provisions or and broader disability insurance — reforms that could prove popular with senior voters and thise with chronic disabilities.

A Democratic Comeback in the South?

The notion that the Democratic Party is D.O.A. in the south has been upended by Doug Jones’s victory in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race and the strong showing of Democrats in Virginia’s recent elections, along with John Bel Edwards becoming Louisiana Governor in 2016.

Democrats may also have a real shot at winning the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Thad Cochran in Mississippi. Republican Governor Phil Bryant is expected to name state Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Cindy Hyde-Smith to the U.S. Senate seat, but she will have some nasty opposition from hard-core conservative Chris McDaniel. Ed Kilgore writes that McDaniel feels “entitled” to the G.O.P. nomination as a result of  “his close primary race against Cochran in 2014.” Indeed, McDaniel has already announced his candidacy for the seat in November.

Several Mississippi Democrats are considering running for the Senate seat. But the most likely Democratic candidate is former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and Congressman Mike Espy. As Kilgore notes,

Establishment Republicans in both Jackson and Washington, however, fear that if McDaniel (who has a robust collection of craziness on his résumé) edges Hyde-Smith in the special election, he might actually lose the seat to Espy, an outcome that would be as strange as the GOP’s loss of Jeff Sessions’s seat in next-door Alabama. It’s the sort of thing that could even produce a Democratic majority in the Senate.

An Espy victory in Mississippi will require a heroic voter turnout effort similar to what occurred in the recent Alabama and Virginia elections, along with a strong Espy campaign. If such a prospect seemed unlikely a year ago, it now seems possible.

Perhaps the marquee Senate race in the south will be Democrat Beto O’Rourke vs. Sen. Ted Cruz, whose current approval ratings in Texas are less than impressive. O’Rourke lags in some recent polls, but he is credited with solid skills in terms of public speaking, debating and messaging in general. He could ride a blue wave to flip the seat for Dems. In the Tennessee US. Senate race, former Democratic Gov. Bill Bredesen leads Rep. Marsha Blackburn in a new PPP poll — a possible pick-up opportunity for Democrats.

Dems have their best southern pick-up prospects in House districts FL-26, FL-27, TX-7 and VA-10, according to the Cook Political Report. If a ‘blue wave’ materializes, another half-dozen seats could be included.

In addition, Democrats have candidates for all 2018 governor’s contests in the south. Florida, where Democrats have three strong candidates, is the marquee race, and it is currently rated a toss-up. In addition, the gun safety issue may help Democratic candidates in Florida. Georgia and Tennessee governors races could also get competitive.

Democrats lack majority control of both houses of the state legislature in any southern state, except for Maryland. But they are very close to majorities — 2 votes down in both houses of the Virginia state legislature. Dems are also contending for majorities in the state senates of FL, SC, TX and LA., but lag by larger margins in the lower houses of southern state legislatures, as a result of the impressive Republican takeover campaigns of recent years.

Of course, the Republican ‘control’ of the South has been overstated, in that Democrats have long held the mayorships of most major southern cities. Democrats currently serve as Mayors of Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Austin, Charlotte, Nashville, Baton Rouge, Memphis, Baltimore, Annapolis, Louisville, New Orleans, Charleston, S.C., Tallahassee, Little Rock, Chattanooga, Columbia, SC, Tampa, Jackson, Birmingham, Orlando, Wilmington, NC, Norfolk and Richmond, in addition to numerous second tier cities.

While it would be overstating the case to say that the south is back in play in a big way for Democrats, it is reasonable enough to expect some significant improvement in 2018 and there is cause for hoping to do even better in the longer range. But Democrats must raise their game considerably with respect to campaigns for state legislative seats.

Political Strategy Notes

In his article, “Resolving the Democrats’ False Choice: How the party can win both the “missing Obama millions” and the Obama-to-Trump voters” at The New Republic, Joshua Mound writes, “Instead of pitting voters of color against white working-class voters in an imaginary election, Democrats should target their policy proposals and political appeals to voters who bridge the gap: the black working class…But the Democrats don’t have to choose between working classes of different colors. African Americans are to the left of whites on just about every economic issue. That means that in order to target the needs of the black working class, Democrats will have to adopt the type of populist economic policies that, many observers argue, are Democrats’ best hope of winning back some of the Obama-Trump voters that Cohn and others believe are necessary for the party to be competitive in presidential and congressional contests…The white voters for whom racism trumps all are lost to Democrats. So there’s no sense, morally or politically, in the Democrats’ returning to Sister Souljah–style racial pandering to whites. But by combining racial and cultural progressivism with an economic platform that’s equal parts Bernie Sanders and Black Lives Matter, Democrats can turn out Obama voters who stayed home in 2016 and win back some Obama-Trump voters.

From Jane Kleeb’s contribution to an intra-progressive debate on “Should We Primary Every Democrat? Three views on left electoral strategy ahead of the 2018 midterm elections” at In These Times: “Primarying conservative and moderate incumbent Democrats simply because they are not as progressive as other Democrats, as Dan advocates, has never made much sense to me. Call me whatever label you want, but I would rather have a Democrat who is with us 70 percent of the time than a Republican who is against us 100 percent of the time. Even more than that, I firmly believe that diversity is a strength—not just diversity of race, or religion, or nationality, but also of ideas. A Democratic Party that has both Elizabeth Warren and Heidi Heitkamp makes us stronger. For example, when a farmer with a rural perspective on how healthcare improvements could impact their community sat at the table with an economics professor, those perspectives joined together to make Obamacare stronger…But to primary people not as part of a well-thought-out strategy, but simply because they do not hold the progressive line 100 percent of the time, is short-sighted and ultimately weakens us as a national party. I prefer to walk the road of building the party so our bench is broad and we put an end to the current one-party rule governing many of our states and our country.” Kleeb Kleeb is the founder of Bold Nebraska, chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party, a member of the Democratic Party’s Unity and Reform Commission, and an Our Revolution board member. The other contributors include Dan Cohen, president of Blue Sun Campaigns and a pollster and strategist for progressive electoral and issue campaigns and Dayton Martindale, an assistant editor at In These Times.

In the same forum, Cohen writes, “We need Democratic elected leaders who will actually lead, and who embody a true commitment to social and economic justice, inclusion and respect. That means we need contested Democratic primaries: on every level of government, in nearly every district, as often as possible. We should be challenging not only conservative or centrist Democrats, but any Democrat failing to act so as to restore confidence in our party and in government…But there’s a caveat. If we are running to transform the party in a more progressive, inclusive direction, we must foster a culture of respect for those with whom we, at least for now, disagree…our primary opponents are not the enemy, nor are the voters who put them in office. We need not compromise our values, but there is a world of difference between saying, “My opponent is a corporate shill,” for example, and saying, “I respect my opponent and we agree on some issues, but we disagree on the need for a living wage now…We must remember that we build movements over a longer time frame than one election cycle. Many of our challengers will lose, at least their first run…What’s more, if we don’t beat them this time, it gives us leverage to hold them accountable. All of which helps move the party left, because when politicians publicly endorse progressive policies, it tells voters, “That’s what Democrats are about.”

Michael Tackett reports that “White Evangelical Women, Core Supporters of Trump, Begin Tiptoeing Away” at The New York Times. “While the men in the pulpits of evangelical churches remain among Mr. Trump’s most stalwart supporters, some of the women in the pews may be having second thoughts. As the White House fights to silence a pornographic actress claiming an affair with Mr. Trump, and a jailed Belarusian escort claims evidence against the American president, Mr. Trump’s hold on white evangelical women may be slipping…According to data from the Pew Research Center, support among white evangelical women in recent surveys has dropped about 13 percentage points, to 60 percent, compared with about a year ago. That is even greater than the eight-point drop among all women…“That change is statistically significant,” said Gregory A. Smith, Pew’s associate director of research, who also noted a nine-point drop among evangelical men. “Both groups have become less approving over time.”

If you noticed a recent diminishing of Republican candidate quality independent of ideological considerations, it’s not just a vague impression. As Paul Blumenthal notes at HuffPost, “Republicans Have 4 Convicted Criminals Running For Congress In 2018,”and notes that, in addition to Joe Arpaio’s Arizona campaign for U.S. Senator, “convicted criminals running for office as Republicans are Don Blankenship, the former head of the coal mining company Massey Energy who is running in the Republican primary to challenge Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.); former Rep. Michael Grimm, who is challenging incumbent Rep. Dan Donovan (R-N.Y.) to reclaim the Staten Island congressional seat he once held; and Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.), who is running for re-election.” Read the article for more details.

Others have noted a similar downtick in the credentials of presidential appointees under Trump. Ryan Koronowski’s Think Progress article, “Trump’s new economic adviser is really bad at economics. Here are the receipts: Larry Kudlow has made some astoundingly bad predictions, even for a CNBC pundit,” points out that the President’s pick for director of the National Economic Council is much in keeping with his habit of making one of the worst possible choices. Along with a litany of Kudlow’s laughable predictions, Koronowski writes: “Past NEC directors have had law degrees from Yale or Harvard or Cornell, MBAs from Harvard or Wharton (not a bachelor’s with an economics major like the president), a Ph. D in economics from Harvard or MIT, decades of business experience, or taught at the London School of Economics..Kudlow has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Rochester and did not complete a master’s degree in economics at Princeton. He has worked at a junior level at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and also in the Reagan Office of Management and Budget. He worked at Bear Stearns from 1987 to 1994, until he was fired for cocaine abuse. After working for Arthur Laffer’s firm, he got into journalism, most notably hosting a business show on CNBC.”

At BuzzFeed News, Ryan C. Brooks writes that “Democratic strategists argue that there is a cost to the “churn-and-burn” fundraising strategy that outweighs the extra dollars it brings in. The cost of the spammy, fear-based communications, they say, is depressed and alienated voters and the public impression of the Democratic Party as just another arm of a cynical, dishonest establishment…“I think the DCCC’s email strategy is a wasted opportunity for Democrats. They have this expansive email list that they could be using to cultivate and motivate voters to flip congressional seats in 2018,” said Laura Olin, a Democratic digital strategist who’s worked with a host of progressives including Barack Obama’s digital team….“The thing is that fundraising campaigns from Obama, Warren, and Bernie showed us that we don’t need to use those scare tactics to raise money, and those tactics don’t make us lose our values by being inclusive, engaging, and honest rather than being alarmist and misleading,” said [Democratic digital strategist Matthew] McGregor.”

Jefferson Morley drops a political strategy nugget about the importance of personal contact with voters in his article, “The Democrats’ Sweet Spot: Diverse, Young, Working-Class People Who Didn’t Vote” at Alternet: In a large-scale study Sean McElwee, a co-founder of Data for Progress, Jesse H. Rhodes and Brian F. Schaffner of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Bernard L. Fraga of Indiana University  “studied the ballots of 64,000 voters in 2012 and 2016 and came away with a key finding: The number of voters who cast a ballot for Obama in 2012 and did not vote in 2016, or voted for a third-party candidate, outnumbered those Obama voters who pulled the lever for Trump…The Obama voters who stayed home, while generally liberal, were significantly less liberal on four of five key policy questions than the loyal Democratic voters who voted for both Obama and Clinton. In other words, more liberal policy positions were not sufficient to lure them to the polling booth…What made the difference for these non-voters was personal contact, or the lack thereof….“Only 43 percent of Obama-to-nonvoters reported being contacted by a candidate in 2016, compared with 66 percent of Obama-to-Clinton voters,” the authors say.”

Among the political campaign insights shared by long-time labor organizer Marshall Ganz in his article, “How to Organize to Win: Rebuilding the democratic infrastructure is too important to leave up to the consultocracy” in The Nation: “Organizing people is not only about solving immediate problems, like making sure your candidate gets the most votes or putting up a stop sign. It is about doing this and, at the same time, developing the leadership, organization, and power to take on structural challenges in the long run. It is not about fixing bugs in the system, like a safety net. It is about transforming the cultural, economic, and political features of the system. One of the main reasons I got hooked on organizing in the civil-rights movement was that it allowed me to work with people to find the resources within themselves and each other to create the power they needed to change the institutions responsible for their problems in the first place. That is what healthy democracy requires…This kind of organizing, however, is a far cry from the political marketing campaigns run by the electoral-industrial complex today…In a consultant-driven model, volunteers show up but get no training, receive slipshod or inaccurate materials, and are ignored by campaign higher-ups, who could care less about what they learned by talking with real voters. Who cares? It’s all taken care of by polling, targeting, and modeling. The role to which ordinary citizens are relegated in most campaigns is that of “real people”—RPs in campaign-speak—props for a photo op…Mobilizers only turn out people with whom they agree. Organizers engage these people in reaching out to other people with whom they don’t agree. Mobilizing spends down resources. Organizing generates new ones.”

Political Strategy Notes

NYT’s Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin share some campaign spending notes regarding Conor Lamb’s victory in PA-18: “Mr. Lamb raised $3.9 million and spent $3 million, compared with Mr. Saccone’s $900,000 raised and $600,000 spent as of Feb. 21. But Republican outside groups swamped the district. Between conservative “super PACs” and the National Republican Congressional Committee, Mr. Saccone had more than $14 million spent on his behalf…Mr. Lamb got just over $2 million.”

The Upshot is providing two revealing maps, which show which precincts of PA-18 Lamb and Saccone respectively won and which precincts went more Democratic than was the case in 2016. The second map shows zero precincts voting more Republican in 2018 and dozens of precincts voting more Democratic — which suggests that the case for a recount is weak indeed. Both maps provide hover charts, another good resource for social scientists to investigate a demographic breakdown of the vote.

In his post, “The ‘Enthusiasm Gap’ Could Turn A Democratic Wave Into A Tsunami” at FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver writes that “there were signs of an enthusiasm gap even within Pennsylvania 18 on Tuesday night. According to the Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman, turnout in Democratic-leaning Allegheny County equaled 67 percent of presidential-year turnout, but voters turned out at only 60 percent of presidential levels in Republican-leaning Westmoreland County. That sort of turnout gap suggests that registered-voter polls could be underrating Democrats in this year’s midterms — and could turn a challenging year for Republicans into a catastrophic one.”

At ThinkProgress, Elham Khatami writes “Election night exit polling by Public Policy Polling found that among PA-18 voters who said health care was the most important issue, Democrat Conor Lamb beat Republican Rick Saccone by a margin of 64 to 36. Saccone’s support of the Republican health care agenda — namely, efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — made 41 percent of voters less likely to vote for him. Fifty-three percent of voters disapproved of GOP efforts to repeal the health care law and 48 percent believed Republicans are trying to sabotage the law since they failed to repeal it…as Forbes’ Bruce Japsen previously reported, health care is especially important in Western Pennsylvania. Although health care premiums have risen (a rise which officials in Pennsylvania attribute to Trump’s “refusal to make cost-sharing reduction payments for 2018”), the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) — the region’s largest non-governmental employer — has grown substantially under the ACA…Pennsylvanians — namely, those living in rural areas — have also benefited from the state’s Medicaid expansion under the ACA, which went into effect in 2015 and has been touted by health experts as means of addressing the state’s opioid crisis. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) declared the epidemic a statewide disaster emergency earlier this year…Voters sent the same message in Virginia’s gubernatorial race in November, when 67 percent of those who cast ballots said health care was the most important or a very important issue to them. Those individuals voted for Democrat Ralph Northam by a margin of 62 to 32.”

Ronald Brownstein writes in The Atlantic of Conor Lamb’s victory that “But the limits of his gains in the district’s mostly blue-collar areas—Westmoreland and Washington counties—underscore how far Democrats still have to go with these voters, and how difficult a slog it could be…The complex, narrowly divided outcome in Pennsylvania suggests that Republicans could face a stiffer challenge than they expected in at least some blue-collar and non-urban districts where Trump has remained relatively popular—places like upstate New York, downstate Illinois, and parts of Michigan and Iowa. But Lamb’s apparent win—which turned on big margins in Allegheny, the district’s county with the most college graduates—also suggests that the epicenter of Republican vulnerability will remain the suburban white-collar districts most visibly alienated from Trump.”

Also, adds Brownstein, “Southwest Pennsylvania was an early center of the movement away from Democrats among blue-collar whites. Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996 carried both Westmoreland and Washington, two preponderantly white counties in the district with relatively few college graduates. Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004 each held Washington but lost Westmoreland. Obama and Hillary Clinton then lost both of them in 2008, 2012, and 2016. In fact, the GOP has won a higher share of the vote in Westmoreland than it did four years earlier in each presidential election since 1992, and it has improved in Washington all but once. Trump topped 60 percent in both…Lamb clawed back some of those losses, with Saccone carrying 57 percent in Westmoreland and 53 percent in Washington—majorities, but not blowouts. That suggests Lamb ran more competitively among blue-collar whites than Democrats did in earlier high-profile Trump-era contests, such as last year’s governor’s race in Virginia and special Senate election in Alabama. There, exit polls showed the GOP candidates carrying over 70 percent of whites without a college degree each time. Still, the results hardly signal a collapse in the GOP’s blue-collar foundation.”

The United Mine Workers of America strongly supported Conor Lamb, and here’s their take on the PA-18 election: “…One issue that clearly stands out is solving the multi-employer pension crisis…Saccone ducked the issue when asked to address it by reporters…PA-18 demonstrates that voters who fear for retirement security will blur partisan lines to support candidates they believe have their backs…“You elect this man to Congress, and you won’t have to lobby him one minute,” said [UMWA President Cecil] Roberts at a recent campaign rally for Lamb. “He’s for your pensions, he’s for your union, he’s for your health care. This is a ‘yes’ vote.”…In the wake of Lamb’s victory last night, Roberts noted that, “a lot of our members who didn’t vote in the last election or voted for President Trump came out and voted for the one candidate who was clear about standing up for their pensions and their retirement security.”

Looking ahead, Geoffrey Skelley notes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “As things stand, two other congressional districts will have special elections before the 2018 midterm election: AZ-8 on April 24 and OH-12 on Aug. 7.[2] Based on the 2016 election, the presidential lean of the two districts favors Republicans — R +24.5 in AZ-8 and R +14.1 in OH-12. However, if the swings in those contests follow the average swing during the Trump era (D +13.7), they will be competitive races. This is particularly true of OH-12, which would see its Republican lean essentially neutralized by the average swing in congressional contests. The PA-18 result should scare Republicans, but if the GOP loses OH-12 just three months before the midterm election, those fears will grow exponentially.”

Here’s an ad for Democratic candidate, Dr.Hiral Tipirneni, who is running in AZ-8 (ActBlue page here):

Political Strategy Notes

Re Elizabeth Warren’s statement that “I am not running for president,” note that she did not say “I will not run for president.” She probably means that she won’t run, but there may be some wiggle room in there way down the road. Either way. all a candidate who has dropped out of a race has to do, after a suitable period of time, is say that things have changed, and something like “I want to provide a voice that is missing from the current field of candidates.” The record suggests that voters don’t penalize candidates much for changing their minds about running. Warren’s dropping out nonetheless comes as a bit of a disappointment, because she has an impressive ability to articulate the need for financial reforms and economic justice, and seems more alert to class issues than the previous Democratic nominee. Assuming Bernie Sanders runs for the 2020 Democratic nomination, there will still be a strong progressive voice for economic justice in the campaign. But a double-barrelled megaphone for economic reforms would be even better. Warren will no doubt continue to speak out on economic issues, but the cameras and microphones will increasingly follow the candidates in 2020.

Warren has also made news with her blast against Senators — including 16 Democrats — who are supporting legislation to weaken Dodd-Frank. As Alexander Bolton reports at the Hill: “Liberal Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is calling out fellow Democrats by name for backing what she is panning as the “Bank Lobbyist Act” and it’s not sitting well with colleagues up for reelection in November…They find it galling that Warren is blowing the whistle on a vote they took this week to begin debate on legislation rolling back part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Act…Lawmakers find it especially annoying that Warren called them out in a fundraising email circulated among the liberal base…“Saying Democrats are helping roll back rules on big banks doesn’t make me the most popular kid on the team,” she acknowledged. “But Massachusetts didn’t send me here to fight for big banks.”

Alex Shephard also has some harsh words for the Democrats in his New Republic article, “Everything Wrong With the Democrats, in One Bill: The bipartisan push to roll back parts of Dodd-Frank reveals a minority party that can’t get it right on the policy or the politic.” As Shephard explains, “What’s so bewildering about all this is that blocking this bill would be politically valuable for Democrats…In the right hands, it could show just how beholden Republicans are to moneyed interests. After passing a $1.5 trillion tax cut package for corporations and the wealthy, Republicans are making it easier for banks to take on the kinds of risks that nearly destroyed the financial system. This bill could be a neat encapsulation of a corrupt administration and an out-of-touch Republican Party. Instead, it has become a totem of a feckless and incompetent Democratic Party.” Shephard does note, however, that “The 17 Democrats who voted for the bill to proceed on Tuesday are either centrists or facing reelection in states that Donald Trump won in 2016. They have defended the bill on the merits, arguing that it will free up credit in rural areas and that it’s an overdue fix for Dodd-Frank’s flaws. There is also a sense among Democrats that this may very well be the best deal they can get on Dodd-Frank reform.”

Alexander Nazaryan explores some answers to the question, “Can Donald Trump, the Most Unpopular President Ever, Save Republicans from a Massive Defeat in 2018?” at Newsweek, and notes: “Back when Trump’s approval ratings were languishing in the 30s, there was little for Republicans to like, and even less to take. Now, the president has climbed back to the safer zone of the 40s. The generic ballot—which simply asks voters if they prefer Democrats or Republicans— saw a 13-point Democratic lead shrink in half (it has since risen to 6.9). Brian Walsh, a Republican consultant who runs a pro-Trump super PAC, says a generic battle that continued to favor Democrats by only 5 points would portend only a “bumpy night” for Republicans, whereas anything like a 12-point advantage on the generic would be “devastating.” Because partisan redistricting conducted in 2011 heavily favored Republicans, explains veteran University of Virginia pollster Larry Sabato, “Democrats must win a clear majority of the popular vote by 5 to 6 percent nationally to have a good chance to take the House.” (Pennsylvania has just redrawn its congressional district map to undo the effects of Republican gerrymandering; that will likely lead to Democratic gains in the House and, even more importantly, could signal a broader push away from district maps that favor the GOP.)..Democrats have now won 36 state legislature special elections since Trump’s inauguration, many in districts that he won. Republicans have won only four.”

At Brookings, Elaine Kamarck provides some early findings from the Brookings Primary Project: “Let’s start with the lay of the land. At this point, as the following chart indicates, Republican incumbents stand to face more competition than their Democratic counterparts from two key sources. First, many more Republican incumbents are being primaried (i.e., challenged) by well-funded opponents from their own party. Second, in a telling measure, there are many more competitive Democratic primaries in Republican-held districts than competitive Republican primaries in Democrat-held districts. Competitive elections can both stem from and generate the entry of higher-quality candidates. They also attract media attention. This means that more Republican incumbents will have to deal with well-funded primary challenges and well-funded, battle-tested general election foes who can make news—prospects incumbents tend to dread. In addition, there are over twice as many Republican retirements as Democratic retirements in the House—usually an indication that the exiting members think it’s going to be a bad year for their party.”

In Bridget Bowman’s “Can Unions Push Conor Lamb to an Unlikely Victory in Pennsylvania?” at cqpolitics.com she writes about the Democratic candidate’s campaign to filp PA-18: “Lamb has attempted to appeal to union workers by embracing labor groups, which have deep roots in southwestern Pennsylvania.” She notes that Tuesday’s election could “test the political power of organized labor — and whether union leaders can rally members around a Democrat at a time when predominantly white, blue-collar workers have been fleeing the party…Over the past month, unions have been heavily targeting 30,000 of their members by phone, in their neighborhoods and at their work sites, arguing that Lamb will fight for organized labor…Union leaders say Saccone’s record in the state House will hurt him with their members. He was endorsed by Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Work Committee in 2014 and he voted against a bill that expanded access to unemployment compensation…Both Lamb and Saccone signaled support for the proposed tariffs during a debate Saturday night.”

“The legitimacy of an election is only as good as the reliability of the machines that count the votes,” according to The New York Times editorial board. “And yet 43 states use voting machines that are no longer being made, and are at or near the end of their useful life. Many states still manage their voter-registration rolls using software programs from the 1990s. It’s no surprise that this sort of infrastructure failure hits poorer and minority areas harder, often creating hourslong lines at the polls and discouraging many voters from coming out at all. Upgrading these machines nationwide would cost at least $1 billion, maybe much more, and Congress has consistently failed to provide anything close to sufficient funding to speed along the process…Elections are hard to run with aging voting technology, but at least those problems aren’t intentional. Hacking and other types of interference are. In 2016, Russian hackers were able to breach voter registration systems in Illinois and several other states, and targeted dozens more. They are interfering again in advance of the 2018 midterms, according to intelligence officials, who are demanding better cybersecurity measures.”

Economist Jared Bernstein, author of The Reconnection Agenda: Reuniting Growth and Prosperity, floats a good idea in his article, “Fixing the tax bill: How Democrats should use some rare leverage,” at PostEverything: “Republicans need Senate Democrats to help them fix their tax bill, which, as documented in this New York Times piece, was jammed through with a bunch of drafting mistakes that are now posing real problems for farmers, small businesses and even multinational corporations…For example, based on a mistake that significantly hurts certain grain sellers, one executive from Oklahoma, an avowed Republican, said he’d be “receptive to selling our business” if the “grain glitch” isn’t fixed. In words that cannot be resonating well with Republican leadership, he said he longed to go back to the old code. Another grain operator claimed that unless the glitch is fixed, it would “drive investments in rural America away. We can’t compete.”…These rural farmers are not alone. Retailers, restaurateurs and U.S. companies with foreign operations are all calling for quick fixes to the sweeping bill….Here’s the crucial point: Republicans can’t fix most of these drafting mistakes without votes from Senate Democrats. That gives Democrats the leverage they lacked in the original tax debate, which was passed using a procedural method that required only a majority in the Senate, as opposed to 60 votes…Bernstein also provides a list of reforms Dems should insist on for their votes on the corrected tax bill, and concludes ‘The key to the whole strategy, of course, is stiff Democratic spines across the caucus.'”…in this case, forget “they go low, we go high.” Instead, go with this: In their rush to transfer billions to their funder base, they screwed up; here’s the cost of the fix. Take it, or leave it.

Is Country music just a conservative platform? Joseph P. Williams wrote in U.S. News that “A 2004 Gallup survey found nearly 60 percent of country fans identify more strongly with Republicans, compared with 11 percent who identify as liberal and around 30 percent who say they’re political moderates.” Jon Bernstein noted in his 2016 Guardian article, “Country Music Has Become Apolitical: Why Acts Have Kept Quiet on the Election,” that “A recent informal survey conducted by the trade publication Country Aircheck showed that 46% of the industry professionals who participated favored Trump compared to 41% who supported Clinton, with 13% supporting Gary Johnson.” An NPR report “A Political History of Country Music” explores the conservative and liberal (New Deal) roots of the genre, as does the WNYC (an NPR affiliate) program on “Class Politics, Country Music and Hillbilly Humanism,” which looks at the complex political attitudes of country music fans, the music and artists. Merle Haggard, who scored big with “Okie from Muscogee,” also recorded “Irma Jackson,” a heartfelt song about being in love with a Black woman. We could add moments like the defiant Dixie Chicks dissing Bush II, Johnny Cash performing with Pete Seeger on his popular TV show and Appalachian music icon Ralph Stanley’s endorsement of Obama. Alt-country’ artists, like  Rodney Crowell, Emmylou Harris and Iris Dement, along with mainstream country artists, such as Dolly Parton and Kenny Rodgers and newer artists, prefer to express progressive values in lyrics instead of public statements. It’s more about using the music to win hearts and minds.

Political Strategy Notes

Some hopeful and sobering numbers from the Texas primary, flagged in Alex Seitz-Wald’s post, “Democrats hope biggest Texas midterm primary turnout in 15 years starts national wave” at nbcnews.com: “Democratic turnout was up 84 percent from the last midterm primary, in 2014, while Republican turnout increased about 14 percent, according to data from the secretary of state’s office. GOP turnout was the highest since the 2010 midterm…It also was a big night for female candidates — more than half of the nearly 50 women running won their primaries or advanced outright to runoffs in May, the Associated Press reported…Republicans still easily outnumbered Democrats at the polls on Tuesday and in early voting — 1.54 million to 1.04 million — underscoring just how difficult it will be for Democrats to take the country’s second-largest state, even in what is shaping up as a strong year for the party.” But the GOP edge doesn’t mean that Dems can’t pick off a couple of House seats.

Also at nbcnews.com, David Wasserman’s “Is Texas turning purple? A look at the midterm numbers” put it this way: “With nearly all votes counted, total votes cast in the Democratic primary surged 85 percent over 2014’s tally, compared to a 14 percent increase on the GOP side. However, the Republican primary still accounted for 60 percent of all primary turnout…Democrats’ enthusiasm gains over 2014 and 2010 were especially pronounced in wealthy inner suburbs of Houston and Dallas, where Trump is uniquely unpopular. That’s good news for Democrats’ hopes of unseating GOP Reps. John Culberson and Pete Sessions, neither of whom have faced competitive races this decade. Their districts handily voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, but in a surprise, Hillary Clinton narrowly carried both districts in 2016…And Democrats’ new Senate nominee, Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a former punk rocker who represents El Paso, showed he still has work to do to consolidate his own party before he faces Cruz. He demonstrated far less appeal among his own party’s voters in places like Beaumont (34 percent), Laredo (42 percent) and Dallas (58 percent) than he did in liberal Austin (87 percent).”

Emily Gooden and Rachel Scott report that “National Democrats stick with aggressive primary strategy despite Texas results,” a policy that many feel hurts Democratic hopes for unity in November. Regarding the DCCC opposition to Laura Moser in the  Democratic primary for TX-7, Scott and Gooden write, “National Democrats are vowing to stick with their strategy of aggressive involvement in primary elections, even after their interference in a Texas House race seemed to boost the candidate they came out against – setting up more potential battles in advance of the May run-off…And while parties have interfered in primaries in the past to help ensure the candidate they see as the strongest to win in November becomes the nominee, the public way the DCCC stepped into the Texas race caused concern.”

NYT’s Michael Tackett reports that “Blue-Collar Trump Voters Are Shrugging at Their Tax Cuts,” and notes that “The white working-class voters in the industrial Midwest who helped put Mr. Trump in the White House are now seeing the extra cash from the tax cut, the president’s signature domestic policy achievement and the foundation for Republican election hopes in November…But the result has hardly been a windfall, economically or politically. Other workers described their increase as enough for a week’s worth of gas or a couple of gallons of milk, with an additional $40 in a paycheck every two weeks on the high side to $2 a week on the low. Few are complaining, but the working class here is not feeling flush with newfound wealth.”

In his syndicated NYT column, Nobel Prize for Economics laureate Paul Krugman weigh’s in on Trump’s trade war: “It’s true that trade deficits can be a problem when the economy is depressed and unemployment is high. That’s why I, like many other economists, wanted us to take a tougher stance on Chinese currency policy back in 2010, when we had around 9 percent unemployment. But the case for worrying about trade deficits, like the case for running budget deficits, has largely evaporated now that unemployment is back to 4 percent…So we can’t “win” a trade war…A cycle of retaliation would shrink overall world trade, making the world as a whole, America very much included, poorer. Perhaps even more important in the near term, it would be highly disruptive…..Never mind the net loss of jobs from a full-scale trade war, which would in the end probably be a relatively small number. The point instead is that the gross job losses would be huge, as millions of workers would be forced to change jobs, move to new places, and more. And many of them would suffer losses on the way that they would never get back. Oh, and companies on the losing end would lose trillions in stock value. So the idea that a trade war would be “good” and “easy to win” is surpassingly stupid.”

From Kyle Kondik’s “House 2018: 26 Ratings Changes, All in Favor of Democrats at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “In addition to that ratings change, we are making 25 other changes in the House, all in favor of Democrats…No Democratic incumbent is now rated worse than Likely Democratic, a nod to the reality that in a Democratic-leaning environment it will be difficult for Republicans to dislodge many or perhaps even any Democratic incumbents, though there are a handful of Democratic open seats that are more viable Republican targets…Despite all these changes, we still think the odds of a House flip are only about 50-50, although those odds are probably generous to Republicans at this point. But we’re also cognizant of the fact that there’s still a long way to go…the expanding battlefield also illustrates that the Democrats have the potential to not just win the House, but net a significant number of seats beyond the 24 they need if conditions worsen for the Republicans.”

Tiny hands or no, Rhodes Cook writes about “Donald Trump’s Short Congressional Coattails,” also at the Crystal Ball: “Although Donald Trump is remaking the Republican Party in his image, he had among the shortest coattails of any presidential winner going back to Dwight Eisenhower. In 2016, Trump ran ahead of just 24 of 241 Republican House winners and only five of 22 Republican Senate winners…While more Republican House members are from the South than any other region, Trump’s coattails were longest in the Midwest, where he ran ahead of nine Republican House winners. Trump ran ahead of eight victorious GOP House candidates in the South, and a combined total of seven in the two Democratic bailiwicks, the Northeast and the West…with a Gallup approval rating of just 30% among independents, and barely 5% among Democrats, his role in the 2018 general election looks to be problematic…There is little doubt that the controversial Trump will be the central player of the 2018 campaign. Even while his name is not on the ballot, this year’s elections will offer a highly charged referendum on Trump and his presidency.”

“The biggest threat to Democrats in the 2018 election may be the risk of repeating their biggest mistake in the 2016 election,” Ronald Brownstein explains at The Atlantic. “That mistake was Hillary Clinton’s decision to focus almost all of her effort on convincing voters that Donald Trump did not share their values, while failing to effectively challenge his promise that he would represent their economic interests. That failure helped Trump win despite exit polls showing about three-fifths of voters doubted he had the experience or temperament to succeed as president…The comparable risk for Democrats this year is that they will be caught in an endless succession of Trump-centered battles—both cultural (guns, immigration) and personal (Russia, White House chaos)—and fail to effectively challenge the GOP claim that its tax-cut plan is benefiting average families. Republicans expect that if voters believe the party is putting more money in their pockets, even many people recoiling from Trump’s performance will still vote to maintain GOP control of Congress.

“Special election results so far this cycle are among the clearest portents of a Democratic wave in November.1 Democrats are beating their usual percentages of the vote not only in special federal elections (i.e., for the U.S. Senate and House), but also in special state legislative elections. All told, after a trio of legislative specials last Tuesday, there have now been 127 special elections in 28 states since President Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017.2 In the 95 of those races to pit at least one Democrat against at least one Republican,3 Democrats have outperformed the normal partisan lean4 of their districts by an average of 13.2 percentage points…One pattern that should worry Republicans is that Democrats appear to be running farthest ahead of their presidential candidates in red states. The top nine states on the list all voted for Trump in 2016, while eight of the bottom 12 voted for Clinton. That suggests that Democrats are indeed doing better in the conservative areas where they need to make 2018 inroads.8Specifically, special election results suggest that the white-working-class-heavy Midwest — which broke heavily for Trump in 2016 — may not be lost for Democrats after all. Democrats’ 26.2-point overperformance in Iowa, for instance, may help Democrats pick off two House seats they would probably need for the House majority.” — from “The States Where Democrats Are Overperforming Most — And Least — In Special Elections” by Nathaniel Rakich at FiveThirtyEight

Political Strategy Notes

At FiveThirtyEight.com, Nathaniel Rakich has this to say about Democratic Hopes for picking up a U.S. Senate seat in Mississippi as a result of the resignation of Republican Sen. Thad Cochran: “…Cochran’s seat wasn’t scheduled to be up for election until 2020, so we’re looking at another special Senate election in the Deep South. As you might recall, Democrats have had some success with those recently. Like Alabama, a Mississippi special election will be a steep uphill climb for Democrats, but like Alabama, the seat could fall into their hands under the right circumstances. Several things would need to go right for Democrats to snag Cochran’s seat — perhaps a bad Republican candidate and a bad Republican political environment — but the 2018 Senate map offers the party such slim pickings that even a reach like Mississippi opening up counts as a meaningful shift…Under Mississippi law, Republican Gov. Phil Bryant will appoint a new senator to take over for Cochran until a special election is held this November (concurrently with the regularly scheduled midterm elections). There is a catch, though: Special elections in Mississippi are nonpartisan; that is, party affiliations aren’t printed on the ballot..In a campaign without party labels (or at least where they aren’t front and center), the lead weight that is a “D” next to one’s name is partially lifted.” Democrats have two strong potential candidates for the Senate seat, Attorney General Jim Hood and Brandon Presley — Elvis’s cousin.

Harry Enten elaborates at CNN: “To start, there is a single digit spread in Trump’s approval and disapproval ratings in the state. A December Mason-Dixon poll gave Trump just a 51% approval rating to a 43% disapproval rating among voters in the state. Gallup’s polling over the course of 2017 among adults in Mississippi put Trump’s approval rating at only 48% to a disapproval rating of 46%…These spreads are far smaller than the spread between Trump and opponent Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election…Even if we use the average generic ballot result, the fundamentals suggest Mississippi could be competitive. The CNN poll indicates it could be very competitive…Remember, Republican Roy Moore was barely ahead of Democrat Doug Jones for a US Senate seat right next door in far more Republican-leaning Alabama even before he was accused of sexual abuse. A bad candidate in Mississippi could face the same problems.”

““Should the administration opt to move forward with tariffs on steel and aluminum, American manufacturers, businesses and consumers would be forced to bear the brunt, paying more for steel and steel products,” said Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), one of the primary authors of the tax overhaul that’s central to the GOP’s reelection effort. “Such action could very well undercut the benefits of the pro-growth tax reform we fought to get on the books…Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) called Trump’s proposed tariffs a “huge job-killing tax hike.” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said it will “kill American jobs.” And even Trump allies Larry Kudlow, Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore argued in a Saturday CNBC op-ed that “even if tariffs save every one of the 140,000 or so steel jobs in America, it puts at risk 5 million manufacturing and related jobs in industries that use steel.” — from “GOP fears midterm backlash from Trump’s tariffs: The clash suggests that what might be good politics for Trump might not work for the entire party”  by Rachel Bade and Burgess Everett at Politico.

Good news from the keystone state: “A new Emerson College survey reports that Democrat Conor Lamb is now out in front on Republican state Sen. Rick Saccone, ahead of next week’s special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th District. This is the first poll showing him in the lead,” reports Eric Boehlert at ShareBlue: “Lamb, a former Marine and prosecutor, leads Saccone 48 percent to 45 percent, in the closely watched contest. The poll finds that Lamb’s supporters are more enthusiastic about the election, and Lamb enjoys a higher favorable rating than his Republican opponent…All of this is rather shocking, given how deeply red the district has been in recent years. And if Lamb and the Democratic Party pull off an upset win next Tuesday, it would likely point to a political tsunami in November that could bury Trump and Republicans.”

I’m liking the opening graphs of “Texas kicks off crowded Democratic primary with enthusiasm and meddling” by David Weigel and Sean Sullivan in the Washington Post: “The congressional primary season kicks off Tuesday with the Democratic Party facing an unexpected question: Do they have too much of a good thing?..Emboldened by widespread anger with President Trump and wins in gubernatorial and Senate races last year, record numbers of Democrats are running for Congress. While this cascade of candidates reflects the high level of enthusiasm in the party out of power, it has deepened divisions, stoked fresh rivalries and prompted meddling by Democratic officials that has fueled controversy.” Sullivan and Weigel add a little later, ““The good news is that energy is not a problem,” said former congressman Steve Israel of New York, who chaired the House Democratic campaign arm. “The bad news is you’re trying to manage the energy of a nuclear weapon — there’s so much of it.”” In other words, there is overflowing positive energy for change pouring out of the Donkey Party and it’s record number of midterm candidates at this political moment, in stark contrast to the constipated bickering in the GOP about whether or not they should allow the NRA, an  out-of-control chief executive and Russian meddling in U.S. politics to tank their congressional majorities. For Dems, it sounds more like a recipe for a blue wave than a problem.

Paul Waldman addresses the point in his post, “Stop wringing your hands about the battles among Democrats” at The Plum Line: “A number of incumbent Democrats are being targeted with primaries from the left. And this development is being widely seen through the prism of the Bernie Sanders/Hillary Clinton primary fight, with some wringing their hands about how the left is becoming the new tea party and about how destructive this will be to the Democrats’ chances…The GOP has now locked itself into a version of angry white identity politics that may have prevailed in 2016 but will be increasingly unhelpful with each passing year…In other words, the tea party struggled to find the right balance between ideology and practicality, because it convinced itself that maximalism was always the best strategy. At the moment it looks like Democrats are steering a more pragmatic course. It might leave them with a few more moderates in their caucus next year, which could make opposing Trump more complicated. But it could also help them win the House — which would make it all worth it.”

Not to get too giddy about Democratic prospects in Texas — it is Texas, after all. But do check out “What to watch for in Tuesday’s Texas primaries” at cbsnews.com, which notes that,  Dems have strong candidates running for the Democratic nomination in three congressional districts, TX-7, 23 and 32 — in addition to the rising excitement Rep. Beto O’Rourke U.S. Senate candidacy is generating. Regardless of the outcome, starting tomorrow Dems will have four attractive candidates running in Texas, and much more  vitality than was the case in the previous midterm election.

If you think the gun safety movement is fading away as an issue that can give Dems an edge in the midterm elections, better think again. As Ed O’Keefe notes at PowerPost, quoting Sen. Chris Murphy’s comments at a meeting he organized to shape Democratic strategy for reducing gun violence: “Not every Democrat will run on banning assault weapons, but every Democrat should be running on background checks,” Murphy said. “Background checks is popular in every state and every congressional district. It’s a loser for Republicans everywhere. This is a universal political issue for Democrats — background checks is.: O’Keefe adds, “A congressional aide who attended the meeting said that Democrats believe that “we’re in a new period in the fight against gun violence, and this meeting was to recognize that the movement must approach elections with one voice. In order to beat the gun lobby, we need to be well funded, energized and united.” Sen. Richard Blumenthal adds, ““Never before has there been this kind of conversation so soon after a mass shooting — in a sense, it marks the emerging power of these grass-roots groups…We’re looking to them for their networks and organization.” And if Democratic candidates can tap into the emotional power represented in this cartoon in their comments and soundbites, the gun safety movement could get some significant traction come November.

At The New York Times, Farah Stockman has an excellent report on “How College Campuses Are Trying to Tap Students’ Voting Power,” which explains “It’s exciting that colleges are starting to wake up to the role that they should play to teaching people how to be citizens of democracy,” said Robert J. Donahue, associate director of the Center for Civic Engagement at Northwestern University. “Hopefully we’ll live up to the charge and start turning out more active citizens and not just scholars.”..The new emphasis on voting — among a population that tends to vote Democrat — comes as the nation gears up for a high-stakes midterm election. It is unclear whether the efforts to increase student turnout will impact the nation’s political map. Among the students who vote, many cast absentee ballots for districts where they grew up…But about three dozen House races considered competitive this year were won in 2016 by margins smaller than the number of college students living in the district…Young people who do vote tend to favor Democrats. According to a Pew Research Center poll, 58 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds either identify as Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party…Efforts to bolster student turnout have been aided by a new national study that analyzes voting behavior on campuses across the country…For the first time, schools can get detailed data on how many of their students cast a ballot, either locally or absentee, thanks to the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, put out by researchers at Tufts University…Two college athletic conferences have begun giving out trophies to the schools with the highest voter turnout and the most improved turnout, based on the data generated by the Tufts study. A new initiative called the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge offers awards to schools that stand out in civic engagement. And this year, for the first time, Washington Monthly magazine intends to include voter turnout rates in its college rankings.”

GA Republican Leaders the New Job-Killers

One of the most-parroted Republican message points over the years has been calling Democrats “job-killers.” The hope is that it would gain some traction with voters in years when unemployment was high.

Georgia Republican leaders, however, are taking a whole new message strategy in 2018. They are pinning a “kick me – I’m a job-killer” sign on their backsides, and Democratic candidates are more than eager to accommodate them. Some observations from recent articles:

In her Vanity Fair article, “Did Republicans Just Give Amazon’s HQ2 the Kiss of Death in Georgia? As Jeff Bezos’s choice for his second headquarters hangs in the balance, Georgia’s choice to punish Delta could knock it out of the running,” Maya Kosoff writes:

As Jeff Bezos’s decision to bestow one North American city with the capitalist honor of hosting Amazon’s second headquarters hangs in the balance, Georgia Republicans are making Atlanta, which is on the short list of the 20 metro areas Amazon is still vetting, as unappealing as possible for the e-commerce giant. Their efforts, it turns out, have nothing to do with Amazon, and everything to do with the punitive measures the state’s lawmakers have taken against Delta Air Lines, one of the many companies that have decided to end promotional discounts for members of the National Rifle Association in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Georgia’s response to Delta for severing a relatively superficial deal with the N.R.A. is a significant blow: the bill lawmakers approved on Thursday strips out a $50 million sales tax exemption on jet fuel for the airline, which is one of Georgia’s largest employers. The decision to remove the perk amid a broader tax-relief bill is considered one of the more severe punishments leveled at corporations that have taken the “corporate social responsibility” approach to their ties with the N.R.A.—United, North American Van Lines, Hertz, and Metlife have all likewise terminated their relationships with the gun-lobbying group.

In her post, “Republicans’ spat with Delta could hurt Georgia’s Amazon hopes,” At CNN Tech, Kaya Yurieff shares a couple of choice quotes on the topic:

“This could absolutely give Amazon pause,” said Neeraj Arora, a marketing professor at the Wisconsin School of Business. “The company has taken a stance on social issues in the past.”

“Georgia has really hurt their Amazon bids in recent weeks,” said Nathan Jensen, a government professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

It also indicates the political environment may not be stable, according to Brian Richter, an assistant professor of business, government and society at the McCombs School of Business…”It signals to Amazon that politicians in Georgia are more concerned about scoring points with constituents sympathetic to a particular social view than they are about whatever business or economic rationale they may have to direct benefits to a specific firm,” he said.

Cagle’s measure could also adversely impact Georgia’s booming film industry, which is already taking a critical look at the state as a result of its ideologically-extravagant proposal to ban same-sex couples from adoption. As Brittany Miller reports in her article, “Lt. Governor doubles down on Delta, NRA spat; controversial adoption bill threatens Ga. film industry,” at cbs46.com:

Another controversy under the Golden Dome threatens the film industry. The “Keep Faith in Adoption” Act would make it legal for faith-based adoption agencies to bar same-sex couples from adopting. Some in Hollywood are calling for a boycott of Georgia if the bill passes.

Showrunner Ben Wexler tweeted that if the measure passes, “Let’s be done filming television shows in Georgia.” “West Wing” actor Bradley Whitford echoed those sentiments, saying, “We shouldn’t be pouring millions of dollars into a state that codifies hate.”

This could be bad business for Georgia now and in the long run. The “Keep Faith in Adoption” bill passed the Senate and is now in the House. The Jet Fuel Tax Bill still needs to pass the Senate before it’s signed into law.

If these bills become law, Georgia might as well put a new motto on state license plates: “We don’t need your stinkin jobs.”

If the leadership of Delta Air Lines were to say to GA Republican leaders that their NRA-coddling/Delta punishing bill is a deal-breaker, Cagle’s ill-considered proposal would disappear.

Back in 1964, former Coca Cola chief Robert Woodruff and CEO J. Paul Austin stood up to segregationist business leaders who were pushing a boycott of a dinner to honor MLK for winning the Nobel Prize for Peace. “But then Coca-Cola put its giant corporate foot down, and changed Atlanta’s history,” writes Jim Burress at npr.com.

“J. Paul Austin was from LaGrange, Ga., but he had been in South Africa for the last 14 years before coming back to Coca-Cola,” says former U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, a close friend of King who also attended the dinner. “He had seen what apartheid had done to the South African economy. So he was very strong on Atlanta not giving in to this kind of pettiness and racism.”

The New York Times published a front-page story about the tepid response King was getting in his own hometown, and Austin decided to flex Coca-Cola’s muscle.

“The phrase that he was quoted as saying was that ‘Coca-Cola cannot stay in a city that’s going to have this kind of reaction and not honor a Nobel Peace Prize winner,’ ” Young says.

The ultimatum worked. The event quickly sold out, says Mark Pendergrast, author of Of God, Country and Coca-Cola.

“If Robert Woodruff — who basically could run the town of Atlanta — if he had not let it be known that the white business community was going to honor Martin Luther King at this dinner, I don’t think it would’ve happened,” Pendergrast says.

Almost 1,600 people attended the dinner, held at Atlanta’s Dinkler Hotel, to honor King and his Peace Prize.

King began his speech, “This marvelous hometown welcome and honor will remain dear to me as long as the chords of memory shall lengthen.”

The event proceeded “like there’d never been a problem,” Young says, and the audience even stood and sang “We Shall Overcome.”

In 2018, Delta Airlines is also faced with a similar moment of truth, in which they can choose to stand firm for decency and safety of children or cave to the gun lobby and their minions in the GA legislature. If they make the wrong decision, it could cost GA many thousands of jobs from Amazon and the film industry, as well as convention business. If they make the right choice, they could help usher in a new era of corporate social responsibility in the heart of the south.

Political Strategy Notes

Experience teaches that what Trump says one day is often contradicted the next day. But Micheal D. Shear reports at The New York Times that “President Trump stunned Republicans on live television Wednesday by embracing gun control and urging a group of lawmakers at the White House to resurrect gun safety legislation that has been opposed for years by the powerful National Rifle Association and the vast majority of his party…In a remarkable meeting, the president veered wildly from the N.R.A. playbook in front of giddy Democrats and stone-faced Republicans. He called for comprehensive gun control legislation that would expand background checks to weapons purchased at gun shows and on the internet, keep guns from mentally ill people, secure schools and restrict gun sales for some young adults. He even suggested a conversation on an assault weapons ban.” Despite reasons to be skeptical about Trump’s follow-through, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) sounded aty cautiously hopeful note: “You saw the president clearly saying not once, not twice, not three times, but like 10 times, that he wanted to see a strong universal background check bill…He didn’t mince words about it. So I do not understand how then he could back away from that.”

However, note Igor Bobic and Elise Foley at HuffPo, “The question now will be whether the passionate Trump at the Wednesday meeting will still be around in days to come. The immigration debate offers plenty of reasons to be skeptical…“Everyone’s coming up to me, saying, ‘We just went through the same thing you went through on DACA.’” Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told HuffPost on Wednesday…“Why would you believe [the president]?” he added.

“After spending most of 2017 defending the Affordable Care Act from GOP attacks, a growing number of Democrats believe the law’s reliance on private insurance markets won’t be enough and the party should focus instead on expanding popular government programs like Medicare and Medicaid,” writes Noam H. Levey at The Los Angeles Times. “The emerging strategy — which is gaining traction among liberal policy experts, activists and Democratic politicians — is less sweeping than the “single-payer” government-run system that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) made a cornerstone of his 2016 presidential campaign.” Further, notes Levey, “Eight in 10 Americans held a positive view of Medicare in a recent nationwide poll by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation. And majorities of both parties favor allowing more people to buy into the program, the survey found. Medicaid enjoys similarly broad support, with three-quarters of Americans expressing a favorable view.”…However, “no one expects any Democratic plan to go anywhere as long as Congress remains in Republicans’ hands and Trump holds a veto pen.”

Christopher Ingraham reports at Wonkblog that “The two assault weapons bans before Congress are co-sponsored by 195 Democrats and 0 Republicans,” and notes that a similar bill in the U.S. Senate has 26 co-sponsors. Further, “Both measures would ban sales of semiautomatic rifles with certain military-style features, such as pistol grips and flash suppressors. The measures would also outlaw the sale of magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Neither bill would require current gun owners to give up any of their weapons.”

Also from Ingraham’s article:

Lamb Campaign Ads Spotlight Strategy for Dems Running in Conservative Districts

As Conor Lamb’s race to represent PA-18 enters the final two weeks, Democrats have reason to be encouraged that the template he is forging could provide the edge they need to flip majority control of the House of Representatives. A quick peek at some of the entries in the #PA-18 twitter page captures  the tone and the excitement mojo Lamb’s campaign is creating for the March 13th special election in Pittsburg’s working-class suburbs:

Damn, @ConorLambPA is killing this debate. I honestly think Dems are going to pull off a #PA18 win on March 13th. Also, Rick Saccone gives off a creepy, Roy Moore vibe.https://t.co/BNSsKP8GCY

— William LeGate (@williamlegate) February 20, 2018

From the Mt. Lebanon Democratic Committee meeting tonight: “Out with the lyin, In with the Lamb.” #PA18 pic.twitter.com/OH4vlsELni

— Conor Lamb (@ConorLambPA) February 24, 2018

An attack on any union is an attack on all unions. Rallying & marching with organized labor today because when unions are under attack, we #RiseUp, we stand together & we fight back. #PA18pic.twitter.com/REDMXKh4DN

— Conor Lamb (@ConorLambPA) February 26, 2018

A new TV ad by Patriot Majority PAC, which favors Lamb, takes no prisoners in addressing the shady record of Lamb’s Republican opponent, Rick Saccone. A transcription from the ad:

“Conor Lamb is a Marine and former prosecutor, with a proven record of putting drug dealers behind bars, who will work to create good paying jobs, make healthcare more affordable, and protect Medicare and Social Security,” said Craig Varoga, president of Patriot Majority PAC and a Pittsburgh native. “Whereas Rick Saccone has allowed lobbyists to pay for lavish meals for himself and billed Pennsylvania taxpayers $435,172 in questionable expenses, all on top of an $87,180 annual salary. Case closed.”

Here’s how the ad rolls:

 Republican ads attacking Lamb have tried to portray him as just another Democrat who would do the bidding of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who seems to be the GOP’s boogeywoman for 2018. This is a very tough sell because “Lamb has pledged not to support the 77-year-old former speaker for another term as her party’s House leader and casts Saccone as the real lackey in the race, certain to cut Social Security and Medicare,” reports AP’s Bill Barrow.

But the Lamb campaign has some catching up to do in order to remain competitive with their opponent, according to David Weigel, writing at PowerPost:

…When outside groups are added to the mix, the count shows 743 more ads for the Republican than for Lamb. Ending Spending Action Fund, the Congressional Leadership Fund and the National Republican Congressional Committee have all spent seven figures on the race, totaling more than $7 million for Saccone; the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent $224,000 on TV ads but has been off the air since last week.

Lamb has also repeatedly outed Saccone as a toady for Republican Speaker Paul Ryan. “Not only does he support Paul Ryan,” notes Lamb, “his entire campaign is being funded by him, and all of his ideas come out of Paul Ryan’s book.”

Lamb is clearly building momentum, and recent polling indicates that the race is in toss-up territory, according to the Cook Political Report — an impressive achievement in a district that Trump won by 20 points.