washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

If President Trump is spiteful/dumb enough to pull the U.S. out of the historic Paris Climate Agreement combating climate change, he will be providing Democrats a powerful cudgel to further damage his support among young people, who polls indicate care more about the environment than older voters. “Even among people who voted for President Trump, only 28 percent want the U.S. to leave the agreement,” Carter Roberts notes at The Hill.

The news from GA-6 is getting better, as indicated by Pema Levy’s “Nearly 8,000 New Voters Registered Ahead of Georgia Special Election: It’s enough to make the difference in a close race—and potentially put Democrat Jon Ossoff on top.” at Mother Jones.” Meanwhile the Marietta Daily Journal Reports that “Turnout Tuesday [first day of early voting] was more than four times greater than the first day of early voting for the original race on April 18, which only saw 160 Cobb voters vote in person.” But Levy cautions, “The district has more than 521,000 registered voters, so it’s unclear whether another 7,942—or about 1.5 percent of that total—will make a difference.” And there is also the problem of Republican control of the Secretary of State’s office, so Dems must remain vigilant in monitoring late GOP voter suppression efforts. In addition, Republicans are very worried about this race, because and Ossoff win will encourage Democratic challengers in similar districts across the country.  Those who want to help Ossoff can visit his ActBlue page right here.

At Politico, Edward-Isaac Dovere reports that former Veep Joe Biden has launched “a new PAC, American Possibilities, giving him a way to support Democratic political candidates while keeping his own options open for a potential 2020 presidential run…the former vice president, who has harbored presidential ambitions for decades, said he wants Americans to “dream big” again…Officially, the group will be “dedicated to electing people who believe that this country is about dreaming big, and supporting groups and causes that embody that spirit,” according to the PAC’s launch materials. “Thinking big is stamped into the DNA of the American soul,” Biden wrote… “The negativity, the pettiness, the small-mindedness of our politics today drives me crazy. It’s not who we are.”

Jeff Stein writes at Vox: “At least three House Democrats are backing a new political organization that aims to give progressive candidates in the Midwest and Appalachia a new form of support that isn’t dependent on the Democratic Party’s coastal financial elite…The People’s House Project, founded by former MSNBC host and 2010 Virginia congressional candidate Krystal Ball, has begun interviewing candidates and recruiting donors for the new political action committee. The organization, which will go public on Tuesday, will provide money, guidance, and political connections for the candidates it chooses to run under its banner…They’ll try to fundraise for the PAC’s candidates, recruit candidates that fit the bill, and give them a slogan to use to try to distinguish themselves from the national party. “It will allow them to say, ‘I’m a different kind of Democrat,’” said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), one of the House Democrats backing the project, in an interview. “It’s hard to convince people around here sometimes how toxic our brand is. But, clearly the brand is damaged, and we need to see if something else can work.” A couple of Democratic officials interviewed by Stein “view the project as complementary, rather than in conflict with, the existing Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Similarly, and “don’t intend for the new organization to serve as a rebuke to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi…This has to be a movement with a lot of hands rolling in the same direction,” [MI Rep. Dan] Kildee said…”

Moderate and liberal Democrats who participate in Pelosi-bashing may be getting suckered by Republicans, who have repeatedly attacked her and linked Democratic candidates to her (“the Pelosi Factor“). She was re-elected House Minority Leader by a large margin, and will likely continue to serve as speaker, should Democrats win back a House majority. And let’s not forget that she did an outstanding job of rallying the House votes needed to enact Obamacare, and later protected it from GOP “replacement” scams. Internal criticism of Democratic leaders should be made welcome, but it should also be made in a constructive spirit.  As MLK once put it, referring to internecine bickering in the Civil Rights Movement, “Our enemies will adequately deflate our accomplishments. We need not serve them as eager volunteers.”

“Republicans are getting a jump on Elizabeth Warren’s 2020 presidential campaign,” writes Eric Levitz at New York Magazine. “The Massachusetts Democrat is preparing to run for re-election to the Senate in 2018 and hasn’t said yet whether she’ll challenge President Donald Trump for the White House. But in-state and national Republican officials have decided to target the liberal icon anyway, saying they will try to inflict enough damage during the Senate race to harm any future presidential effort — and perhaps dissuade her from running altogether.” Republicans are going to attack any Democratic presidential candidate with everything they have. But they also fear Warren for her impressive ability to explain their economic injustice and  corruption in simple language.

WaPo’s Laurie McGinley and Scott Clement report “Most Americans hold an unfavorable view of the House-passed health-care bill and want the Senate to change it substantially or block it entirely, according to the latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll…A 55 percent majority of Americans view the Republican-backed American Health Care Act negatively, the same proportion who want the Senate to make major changes to the legislation or reject it, the survey finds. Only 8 percent want the legislation, which would repeal and replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act, approved as it now stands…Almost half of the public, 49 percent, holds favorable views of the ACA, while 42 percent have negative views, which are among the law’s most positive ratings tracked in polls by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation in the years since the law’s passage.”

From Geoffrey Skelley’s “Just How Many Obama 2012-Trump 2016 Voters Were There? Using different surveys to try to answer an oft-asked question” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “…Estimates of the raw number of such Obama-Trump voters range from about 6.7 million to 9.2 million. That’s a wide range, and considering the caveats regarding voter recall of past votes, it is important to be clear about the relative uncertainty of these figures….Nonetheless, these surveys offer additional evidence about a critical part of the 2016 equation: the millions of voters who switched from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016. Given the extremely close margins in some states, particularly the Rust Belt trio of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, these voters played a crucial role in handing over the White House to the GOP.”

Thomas B. Edsall explores a question on the minds of many in his NYT column, “Has the Democratic Party Gotten Too Rich for Its Own Good?,” and notes: “As the Democratic elite and the Democratic electorate as a whole become increasingly well educated and affluent, the party faces a crucial question. Can it maintain its crucial role as the representative of the least powerful, the marginalized, the most oppressed, many of whom belong to disadvantaged racial and ethnic minority groups — those on the bottom rungs of the socioeconomic ladder?…This will be no easy task. In 2016, for the first time in the party’s history, a majority of voters (54.2 percent) who cast Democratic ballots for president had college degrees. Clinton won all 15 of the states with the highest percentage of college graduates.” Even today, however, Democratic office-holders, coast to coast, are far more supportive of economic reforms benefitting working people than are their Republican adversaries. The perception problem has more to do with the way many Democrats raise money and cozy up to Wall St.


Political Strategy Notes

As we commemorate Memorial Day, Samantha Layne’s “9 Ways Republicans Could Have Helped Veterans…But Decided Not To” at reverbpress.com provides good talking points. A couple of her examples: “H.R. 466, which was the Wounded Veteran Job Security Act was a bill designed to provide job security for vets receiving medical treatment for injuries sustained while serving our country. Employers would be forbidden from firing veteran employees who miss work due to treatment related to a service-related disability. The bill had 24 co-sponsors, 23 of which were Democrats. Sounds great, right? Blocked by the GOP…Then there was H.R. 1168, the Veterans Retraining Act. This bill was designed to provide financial assistance to unemployed vets while they retrain for the current job market. But, unfortunately, Republicans decided to not pass it. Sorry, vets, but be sure to stop by for a photo op where they can shake your hand and thank you for your service!”

At The Nation, John Nichols reportsChristine Pellegrino did not just declare victory after a remarkable special-election win that saw her flip a historically Republican New York State Assembly seat to the Democratic column on Tuesday. The elementary-school teacher turned candidate announced that Long Island was sending a message that will resonate far beyond a legislative district that backed Donald Trump last fall but that has now will be represented by a bold progressive activist…New York’s 9th Assembly District is one of 710 state legislative districts nationwide that have been identified by the Ballotpedia website as including all or part of so-called “Pivot Counties,” which “voted for Democrat Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and then voted for Republican Donald Trump in 2016.” As of April 2017, the website explains, “477 state house districts and 233 state senate districts intersected with these Pivot Counties. This includes districts that intersected with only small portions of a county as well as districts that overlapped with multiple counties. These 710 state legislative districts account for approximately 10 percent of all state legislative districts in the country.”

How Mr. “Art of the Deal” got played…again :

For Further evidence that the GOP brand is tanking precipitously, check out Philip Bump’s “The more a poll mentions Republicans, the less popular the party’s health-care bill” at  the Washington Post. Bump notes that the mere mention of the word “Republican” in recent polls evokes dramatically lower levels of support from respondents for their health care bill. “For Republicans worried about the political effects of the American Health Care Act,” writes Bump, “it’s a big old warning flag. People who hear repeatedly that the bill is a Republican one are much less likely to support it.”

From Paul Kane’s article, “The lesson of Montana for Democrats: They need serious candidates — and a policy agenda,” at PowerPost: “…After receiving just 44 percent of the vote, Quist may demonstrate the limitations of quirky, first-time candidates…What Montana showed was the need to field candidates with backgrounds that appeal to voters who have tended to back Republicans in congressional races. It’s not necessarily an ideological requirement to be a centrist — serious candidates, such as Sens. Bernie Sanders ­(I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), can reside at the edge of the ideological spectrum. But they nearly always need more gravitas than Quist brought from a decades-long career as a guitar player in a popular bluegrass band in the Mountain West…Democrats might pull off the win in Price’s seat, but if they are going to ride a wave all the way to the majority, they probably need more experienced candidates than Ossoff and Quist — and with a sharper message than Ossoff’s introductory ad a few months ago.” That said, it should be noted that Quist’s opponent, Gianforte was not exactly Mr. Gravitas.

Kyle Kondik notes in his post “What to Make of Montana” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “PredictWise conducted a snap poll Thursday afternoon and found that Gianforte’s lead had dipped to five points from 12 points in polling it had done a week ago (see more here from PredictWise’s David Rothschild). So perhaps this did shave a few points off Gianforte’s margin of victory, but it’s impossible to know with much certainty without robust exit polling, which was not conducted in Montana.” Regarding 2018, Kondik writes, “…Gianforte still has a misdemeanor assault charge hanging over his head, and perhaps an opportunistic Democrat may smell blood in the water looking ahead to next year. Then again, Gianforte’s body slam may eventually blow over and not do him any lasting harm, and Democrats may very well be looking at many other districts next year.”

GA-6 early voting starts tomorrow and continues through June 16th. Volunteers, including those who would like to participate in telephone canvassing, no matter where you live, can sign up here.

The Plum Line’s Paul Waldman makes a salient point about the power of “a new clarity” on policy benefitting Democrats:  “For instance, The Affordable Care Act is an uncharismatic policy that is meant to solve an intricate, interlocking series of problems in the American health-care system. But you know what is a charismatic policy? Single-payer health care. It’s easy to understand, and it promises terrific benefits. And right now, there’s an argument brewing between leftists who want the party to stand firmly for single-payer, and liberals who support it in principle but worry about the political and practical difficulties of getting there. To those liberals, the leftists respond: “We need to aim high, speak in broad strokes and not get bogged down by self-imposed constraints about the possible…What we can say is that there will almost certainly be other issues on which Democrats will discard their previous “It’s complicated” position for ones that take a firm, clear stance and leave the compromises and complications until after the election.”

Alice Ollstein reports at Talking Points Memo that “Florida GOPer Helped Russian Hacker Disseminate Dems’ Voter Turnout Data.”  As Ollstein writes, “A Republican political operative in Florida asked the alleged Russian hacker who broke into Democratic Party organizations’ servers at the height of the 2016 campaign to pass him stolen documents, according to a report Thursday by the Wall Street Journal…In return, that operative received valuable Democratic voter-turnout analyses, which the newspaper found at least one GOP campaign consultant took advantage of the information. The hacker went on to flag that same data to Roger Stone, a longtime confidant of Donald Trump’s who briefly advised his presidential campaign, and who is currently under federal investigation for potential collusion with Russia…The Wall Street Journal’s report presents the clearest allegations to date of collusion between people connected to Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia.” Seems like this should be more of a BFD.


Political Strategy Notes — Gianforte Meltdown Edition

So the big question this morning is which candidate will be helped in today’s special election by an incident in which the Republican candidate for Montana’s sole House seat, Greg Gianforte allegedly body-slammed and punched a reporter for The Guardian, Ben Jacobs (described as “a liberal journalist” in Gianforte’s media statement). Jacobs was asking the candidate if he had read the Congressional Budget Office report on the American Health Care Act. According to Fred Barbash’s Washington Post account of the incident, Gianforte was cited by the Gallatin County sheriff for misdemeanor assault and Montana’s three major newspapers withdrew their previous endorsements of the Republican. Fox News reporter Alicia Acuna, who witnessed the incident, wrote that “Gianforte grabbed Jacobs by the neck with both hands and slammed him into the ground behind him.”…Acuna and her crew “watched in disbelief as Gianforte then began punching the reporter. As Gianforte moved on top of Jacobs, he began yelling something to the effect of, ‘I’m sick and tired of this!’” While the incident is expected to energize the base supporters of both Gianforte and his opponent, Democratic candidate Rob Quist, it is unclear at this point how it will influence potential swing voters in Montana today.

In her account at Fox News Politics, Acuna also wrote, “To be clear, at no point did any of us who witnessed this assault see Jacobs show any form of physical aggression toward Gianforte, who left the area after giving statements to local sheriff’s deputies.”

As Ben Kamisar writes at The Hill, “Montana is a tricky state to predict. Pre-election polling is notoriously unreliable both because of the state’s size and the independent nature of its electorate…Last year’s presidential election is proof of the state’s purple leanings. While Republican Donald Trump blew Democrat Hillary Clinton out in the state by a 22-point margin, Gianforte lost his gubernatorial bid to Democrat Steve Bullock by 4 points…Republicans are leaning on President Trump’s popularity in the state to win votes for Gianforte. Vice President Pence and Donald Trump Jr. both campaigned for him, while Trump and Pence appeared in robocalls days before the election.”

As for possible late voter decisions resulting from the incident, Montana is one of 15 states that allow same-day voter registration, which could help the candidate who has the best GOTV operation.

In their New York Times coverage of the Quist-Gianforte race, Jonathan Martin and Nate Cohn note that “Within hours, newspapers in Missoula, Billings and Helena had rescinded their endorsements of Mr. Gianforte, House Democrats released a digital ad featuring the audio recording, and Republicans were in a state of paralysis about what to do with a candidate who suddenly had a court date next month…At a final rally for Mr. Quist in a brewpub in Helena, activists were electrified by the news, and some of them said they intended to play the tape for those yet to vote when canvassing for Mr. Quist…Washington-based Republicans were already grumbling about having to spend millions of dollars on behalf of Mr. Gianforte, who is a multimillionaire. Montana still occasionally elects Democrats statewide, but it leans Republican and has not sent a Democrat to the House for over two decades…officials in both parties believe that more than half of the total ballots that will be cast in the election had been submitted before Thursday…Republicans outspent Democrats more than two-to-one on television and radio, according to media buyers in both parties.”

Gianforte was undoubtedly feeling additional media pressure as a result of the Congressional Budget Office’s devastating report on the American Health Care Act, which he strongly supported. Clare Foran notes at The Atlantic: “The outcome of the Montana election could also complicate Republican plans to push a conservative policy agenda through Congress. Republican leaders cobbled together the votes to pass the American Health Care Act in the House earlier this month, but a GOP health-care bill has yet to come together in the Senate. One Wednesday, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the AHCA would result in 23 million Americans being uninsured by 2026, compared to the law as is. ” That Gianforte responded to a tough but fair question about the CBO report and his support of the GOP bill with the temperament of an immature jr. high school student won’t help with Montana moderate voters. Ed Kilgore and Margaret Hartmann noted in New York magazine that “Last month, Jacobs reported that Gianforte, a tech millionaire, owns about $250,000 in shares of two index funds that are invested in the Russian economy and have holdings in companies under U.S. sanctions.”

Some observers are wondering if Gianforte’s behavior should be considered light of the climate created by Trump’s unprecedented media-bashing. In her Washington Examiner post, “Joe Scarborough: Greg Gianforte’s bodyslam not a surprise in the ‘age of Trump’,” Melissa Quinn  writes, “”Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough said Republican candidate Greg Gianforte’s assault on a reporter Wednesday night isn’t surprising “in the age of Trump,” and warned President Trump’s “words have consequences.”…All three papers overnight took their endorsements away from this Republican guy,” Scarborough, a former Republican congressman, said Thursday of the press reaction in Montana. “It’s that incredible. A guy assaults a reporter, which I guess shouldn’t be too surprising in the age of Trump where he calls the press ‘enemy of the people.’ There reckless words have consequences.”

Business Insider’s Brian Logan pulled together the comments from the three major newspapers who rescinded their endorsements:: “The editorial board at the Billings Gazette said: “We previously supported Gianforte because he said he was ready to listen, to compromise, to take the tough questions. Everything he said was obliterated by his surprising actions that were recorded and witnessed Wednesday. We simply cannot trust him. Because trust — not agreement — is essential in the role of representative, we cannot stand by him…An article from the Independent Record offered this rebuke: “Democracy cannot exist without a free press, and both concepts are under attack by Republican US House Candidate Greg Gianforte … These are not things we can continue to brush off.”…The Missoulian’s editorial board wrote: “Gianforte committed an act of terrible judgment that, if it doesn’t land him in jail, also shouldn’t land him in the US House of Representatives.”

Here’s one eyewitness account via CNN:


Political Strategy Notes

Paul Kane’s “For Democrats, special elections may be preview of 2018 campaigns” at PowerPost provides an overview of the Democratic strategies being deployed in three House elections in GA, MT and SC and sees a common thread, keeping it local. As Kane writes, “…In all three races, Democrats have made a tactical decision not to turn the contests into a referendum on Trump’s alleged scandals and instead are focusing on policy decisions by the president and congressional Republicans…Democrats say that they have learned a lesson from the 2016 elections, in which House Democratic candidates relentlessly focused their campaigns on trying to tie Republican incumbents to the personal scandals of Trump or some of his more outlandish policy statements…That strategy failed in almost spectacular fashion, providing a net gain of only six seats when, just two weeks before Election Day, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was predicting gains of more than 20 seats and possibly winning the majority…The danger for Democrats is that they might be overlearning the lesson of the last war, applying the 2016 mind-set to what could be a different environment in 2018.”

Despite the ‘keeping it local’ strategy, “The Democratic Party’s chance to win back the House of Representatives next year, considered a long-shot only a short while ago, is soaring thanks to a crack recruiter: President Donald Trump,” writes  Albert R. Hunt at Bloomberg View. “Dave Wasserman, a political analyst for the Cook Report and a leading expert on House elections, now puts prospects of a Democratic takeover at between 40 percent and 50 percent. Democrats are quick to credit Trump for encouraging candidates to step forward. “If you don’t get good candidates you won’t benefit much even from a wave,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, who was the architect of the party’s last midterm triumph in 2006, when he was a congressman…To date, an unusual number of Democratic women and veterans have announced bids for office. A smaller-than-usual proportion of the new candidates already hold elected office.”

In his NYT Politics article, “Outside Washington’s ‘Blazing Inferno, Democrats Seek an Agenda,” Jonathan Martin cites the difficulty Democrats have generating public interest in issues in the long media shadow of Trump’s latest debacle. But Martin, covering the Center for American Progress “ideas conference” for Democrats, also notes that health care is the top issue cited by Democratic office-holders and campaign workers: “There’s this Washington narrative, and then there’s a voter narrative,” said Anita Dunn, a longtime Democratic strategist. “Significant parts of our base are following the Washington narrative very closely, but for voters who voted for Donald Trump or voters who didn’t vote at all, I think Democratic candidates are going to have to make the election meaningful to those voters’ lives…The more effective way to do that, in the eyes of many Democrats, is to draw more attention to the repeal of the health law than to the investigation of Mr. Trump’s campaign…“The Trump story happens without us,” said Ms. Dunn, noting that the leaks will keep coming and Democrats have little control over the F.B.I. inquiry; the investigation by the newly named special counsel, Robert Mueller; or the inquiries being led by the congressional Republican majorities….“But the health care contrast, which is a very, very powerful one if you look at the polling, is where we can draw a sharp contrast…”

Martin’s article also quotes Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Brian Schatz, who note two other issues that worry their constituents, along with health care: “Ms. Warren, while insisting that Democrats could link the Trump campaign inquiry and his policy agenda under the rubric of accountability, acknowledged that she did not hear much from voters about Russia-related matters…“The two issues people raise the most with me are health care and student loans,” she said in an interview. “And both of them make people cry.”…Some in the party are gamely trying to break through on the policy front, as Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii demonstrated on Friday shortly after yet more developments related to Mr. Trump were reported. In an all-caps Twitter post, Mr. Schatz wrote, in part, that in the middle of the White House’s troubles, “they are still trying to take away your healthcare and ruin the internet.”

At The Nation, Robert Borosage noted that Sen. Bernie Sanders was not invited to the ‘ideas conference,” but “The first sessions of the day on the economy revealed that Bernie Sanders’s agenda is gaining ground among mainstream Democrats. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti described his success in passing a $15 minimum wage, a large infrastructure program, and tuition-free community college. Senator Jeff Merkley, the sole senator to support Sanders in 2016, indicted the trade and tax policies that give companies incentives to move jobs abroad, and called for major investments in infrastructure, renewable energy, and education. Medicare for All still appeared to be off the table, however, with most speakers focused on defending Obamacare against the Republican assault.”

Also at NYT Politics, Robert Pear provides an update on the ways that that Trump and his Administration and other Republicans sabotage Obamacare. Pear notes “The administration’s refusal to guarantee payment of subsidies to health insurance companies, the murky outlook for the Affordable Care Act in Congress and doubts about enforcement of the mandate for most people to have insurance are driving up insurance prices for 2018, insurers say in rate requests filed with state officials…The cost-sharing payments are only part of the problem. Insurers said the Trump administration was also destabilizing insurance markets by indicating that it would loosen enforcement of the mandate for people to have coverage or pay a penalty.”…“The Trump administration is paying the subsidies, but is trickling them out one month at a time,” as part of a “very cunning’’ strategy to undermine the health care law, said Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut…In an interview with The Wall Street Journal last month, Mr. Trump threatened to withhold subsidy payments from insurers as a way to induce Democrats to negotiate with him on a replacement for the Affordable Care Act.” Democrats clearly need some sharply-worded soundbites to hold Republicans accountable for their refusal to enforce the Affordable Care Act.

Democrats also need some better memes to brand the Republicans in a way that gets voter attention. Paul Krugman’s column, ‘What’s the Matter with Republicans” offers this insight: “It has become painfully clear, however, that Republicans have no intention of exercising any real oversight over a president who is obviously emotionally unstable, seems to have cognitive issues and is doing a very good imitation of being an agent of a hostile foreign power…There is not a hint that any important figures in the party care enough about the Constitution or the national interest to take a stand…The G.O.P…is one branch of a monolithic structure, movement conservatism, with a rigid ideology — tax cuts for the rich above all else.”

“With a horde of vocal Trump supporters cheering on every inane statement, delusion, lie and bad act, the majority of the American people can be forgiven for thinking the GOP as a whole has lost its mind. The Republicans may soon lose a generation of voters through a combination of the sheer incompetence of Trump and a party rank and file with no ability to control its leader…Trump still thinks he stands in contrast to Clinton, when in reality, for voters watching the chaos unfold, he stands in contrast both to a more level-headed Vice President Pence and an unknown generic Democrat — neither of whom constantly reminds people of their incompetence. Unless Republican leaders stage an intervention, I expect them to experience a deserved electoral blood bath in November 2018.” — from arch-conservative Erick Erickson’s Washington Post op-ed, “Here Comes the GOP Bloodbath.”

“Morning Joe” Scarborough, a vocal Republican critic of Trump and his inner circle, has been trying again to rebrand Trump as a Democratic creature — a tough sell, considering that Trump was the overwhelming winner of most of the GOP primaries, has appointed only Republicans to top posts in his administration and only 13 percent of Democrats approved of Trump’s first 100 days in a WaPo/ABC News poll reported April 23rd. If Trump is still around in 2020, I wouldn’t be shocked if Scarborough himself runs in the GOP primaries and caucuses.


New PRRI Study Reveals Issues That Can Help Dems Win More Support from White Working-Class

A recently-released study by the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) and The Atlantic magazine conducted in September and December has generated discussion about the finding that racial attitudes of white workers helped Trump win the presidency.  Although the study highlighted the significant role of racism and “cultural dislocation” in the election outcome, it also illuminated several major issues that, if emphasized in future campaigns, could give Democrats an edge, including:

German Lopez notes at Vox the study’s finding that  “about 68 percent “believe the American way of life needs to be protected from foreign influence.” In comparison, 44 percent of white college-educated Americans reported a similar view. As Lopez explains, “White working-class voters who say they often feel like a stranger in their own land and who believe the U.S. needs protecting against foreign influence were 3.5 times more likely to favor Trump than those who did not share these concerns.”

The survey also found that “about 60 percent “say because things have gotten so far off track, we need a strong leader who is willing to break the rules.” Trump projected a strong persona in the 2016 campaign. He is a rule-breaker. But it would be entirely convicing and verifiable for Democrats to project the meme that he is an extremely weak leader. In fact, “weak bully” is a term that fits him better than any other president.

Fifty-three percent of those surveyed supported increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and 58 percent said the rich should pay more in taxes. (Those figures are similar to the results for the general population.) Almost no prominent Republican leaders support such a proposed hike in the minimum wage,

“Asked how well they felt Trump understood their communities’ problems, a majority of the white working class — 51 percent — answered “not too well” or “not well at all,” notes Max Ehrenfruend at WaPo’s Wonkblog. “Those figures suggest Trump might not have long to deliver.”

One surprising revelation was that “More than seven in 10 (71 percent) white working-class Americans and about three-quarters (74 percent) of the public overall agree a person who has been convicted of a felony should be allowed to vote after he has served his sentence,” notes Steven Rosenfeld at Alternet, via salon.com. Democrats have been much stronger critics of felon disenfranchisement.

Rosenfeld also flags the finding that “twelve percent of white working-class Americans report a family member has struggled with alcoholism, while a similar number (8 percent) say the same of drug addiction. Among white college-educated Americans, fewer say someone in their household has struggled with either alcoholism (9 percent) or drug addiction (3 percent).” With Attorney General Sessions going on the warpath against pot smokers and virtually all Republican leaders wanting to cut funding for rehabilitation, Democrats may be able to win some working-class support by emphasizing their track record as supporters of rehab programs.

German notes further,

The research also shows it’s possible to reach out to Trump voters — even those who are racist or sexist today — in an empathetic way without condoning their prejudice. The evidence suggests, in fact, that the best way to weaken people’s racial or other biases is through frank, empathetic dialogue. (Much more on that in my in-depth piece on the research.) Given that, the strongest approach to really combating racism and sexism may be empathy.

One study, for example, found that canvassing people’s homes and having a 10-minute, nonconfrontational conversation about transgender rights — in which people’s lived experiences were relayed so they could understand how prejudice feels personally — managed to reduce voters’ anti-transgender attitudes for at least three months. Perhaps a similar model could be adapted to reach out to people with racist, sexist, or other deplorable views, although this possibility needs more study.

In one sense, politics is the art and science of figuring out which policies to emphasize at the right time and place. Most voters harbor a range of both conservative and liberal opinions, and this may be particularly true of the white working-class. Democrats are uniquely positioned by virtue of both track record and proposed reforms to benefit from the attitudes of white workers on these issues and others. Democratic candidates of 2018 should take note and appropriate action to leverage what they already have.


Political Strategy Notes

In his New York Magazine post “Is That a Democratic Tsunami Taking Shape for 2018?,” Ed Kilgore notes, “A new poll shows the kind of numbers that if they become common could definitely portend not just a “wave” but a veritable tsunami. Quinnipiac’s latest national poll mainly drew attention for showing some really terrible assessments of Donald Trump. But its congressional generic ballot was a shocker: By a 54 – 38 percent margin, American voters want the Democratic Party to win control of the U.S. House of Representatives. This is the widest margin ever measured for this question in a Quinnipiac University poll, exceeding a 5 percentage point margin for Republicans in 2013. Indeed, I could not find any polls showing that kind of margin for either party during the 2014 or 2016 cycles (there was one Rasmussen poll in late 2013 — when Republicans were getting blamed for a government shutdown — that showed Democrats up by 11 points, but no other double-digit leads were evident going into either the 2014 or 2016 elections).”

From The Atlantic/PRRI study, “Why the White, Working Class Voted for Trump” (see also here):

Alexander Burns reports at the New York Times that “Young Black Democrats, Eager to Lead From the Left, Eye Runs in 2018“: “In states from Massachusetts to Florida, a phalanx of young black leaders in the Democratic Party is striding into some of the biggest elections of 2018, staking early claims on governorships and channeling the outcry of rank-and-file Democrats who favor all-out battle with Mr. Trump and increasingly question his legitimacy as president…By moving swiftly into the most contentious midterm races, these candidates aim to cement their party in forceful opposition to Mr. Trump and to align it unswervingly with minority communities and young people. Rather than muting their differences with the Republican Party in order to compete in states Mr. Trump won, like Georgia and Florida, they aim to make those distinctions starker.” The states where African American political figures are planning a run for statewide office inlcude FL; GA; IL; MA; MD; OH and VA.

At NBC News, Mark Murray reports “By a 2-to-1 ratio, Americans say the health care legislation that was recently passed by the House and supported by President Donald Trump is a bad idea instead of a good idea, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll…Forty-eight percent say it’s a bad idea, including 43 percent of respondents who “strongly” believe that…By contrast, just 23 percent call the legislation a good idea, including 18 percent who “strongly” say that…According to the new NBC/WSJ poll, 52 percent of Republican respondents say the GOP health-care legislation is a good idea, versus 77 percent of Democrats who believe it’s a bad idea. Among independents, it’s 44 percent bad idea, 18 percent good idea.”

“The new NBC-Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday shows that only 29% of all respondents approved of Comey’s firing while over 50% percent of those who said they knew “a lot” about how those events unfolded said they disapprove of the president’s behavior,” reports Jon Queally at Common Dreams.

The real “fake news” — both McConnell and Fox News know that a distinguished jurist of Merrick Garland’s character would never be suckered by such a lame idea. As David Weigel explains at The Fix: “The reasons to object were quickly explained by reporters and by liberal court analysts like Dahlia Lithwick. “Garland probably won’t want to give up his lifetime tenure as the chief judge of the second-most important court in the land,” Lithwick wrote, “and surely the most significant bulwark against Trump administration overreach, in exchange for a 12-minute gig on The Apprentice before he uses the wrong color highlighter and gets fired by a crazy person.” Among most court-watchers, the scheme was pretty obvious: Lee would give Republicans a chance to tweak a Garland-less court, changing a 7-to-4 liberal majority to a 6-to-5 majority. And in his tweet, Lee was explicit: If Garland went to the J. Edgar Hoover Building, Democrats wouldn’t need a President Trump/Russia special prosecutor.”

Adam Liptak reports at The New York Times that the U.S. Supreme Court may be preparing to establish “a workable standard” to decide when the political gerrymandering has crossed a constitutional line….In the coming weeks, the Supreme Court will consider an appeal from a decision in Wisconsin that may have found that holy grail. The case, Gill v. Whitford, No. 16-1161, arrives at the court in the wake of a wave of Republican victories in state legislatures that allowed lawmakers to draw election maps favoring their party…In 2012, Republicans won 48.6 percent of the statewide vote for Assembly candidates but captured 60 of the Assembly’s 99 seats. In 2014, 52 percent of the vote yielded 63 seats…Congress requires the Supreme Court to hear appeals in some areas of election law, and Wisconsin officials have filed such an appeal. That means the Supreme Court is very likely to weigh in on the fate of political gerrymandering, probably during the court’s next term, which starts in October.”

Ari Berman explains why “Trump’s Commission on ‘Election Integrity’ Will Lead to Massive Voter Suppression” at The Nation, noting that “Vice President Mike Pence will be the chair and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach will be the vice chair—two men with very long histories of making it harder to vote, especially Kobach. Given the lack of evidence of voter fraud, the commission seems designed for one purpose: to perpetuate the myth of fraud in order to lay the groundwork for enacting policies that suppress the vote…If you want to know what such voter intimidation looks like, take a look at Pence’s home state of Indiana, where state police in October 2016 raided the offices of a group working to register African-American and low-income voters. They seized thousands of voter-registration applications, even though only 10 were suspected to be fraudulent and no one has been charged….In Kansas, Kobach has been the driving force within the GOP behind policies that erect new barriers to the ballot box and the most fervent evangelist of unproven voter-fraud claims.”

For those who were wondering why Republicans hate automatic voter registration so much, Sean McElwee explains at salon.com: “As David Shor of Civis Analytics notes, turnout among people of color in Oregon increased by 89 percent between 2012 and 2016, after the state implemented automatic voter registration (a reform that automatically registers qualified voters when interacting with some state agencies). Other research suggests that automatic voter registration bolstered turnout among young people and people of color in Oregon.”


Political Strategy Notes – Comey Firing Edition

Most people who have been payhing attention are going to answer, “Oh Hell yes!” But David A. Graham explores the question “Was Russia the Real Reason Trump Fired James Comey?” at The Atlantic, and notes, “These may be good reasons to question Comey’s leadership and even to remove him, but it is all but impossible to believe that Trump believes them, because Trump has criticized Comey for dealing with Clinton too lightly all along. The day that Comey announced he was not recommending charges against her, Trump tweeted: “FBI director said Crooked Hillary compromised our national security. No charges. Wow! .” However, adds Graham, “Comey’s lengthy dissection of Clinton’s errors in that news conference offered Trump lots of ammunition to attack her.” In other words, Trump saw an opportunity to cloud  his firing of Comey with a phony reason and he seized it.

As Ed Kilgore pointed out yesterday, at New York Magazine, via TDS, comparisons of Trump’s firing Comey to Nixon’s ‘Saturday night massacre’ are badly flawed, in part because Democrats had majority control of the relevant congressional committees back then and the special/independent prosecutor law quietly expired in 1999, giving Trump a better chance of surviving his latest self-imposed crisis. Among Republicans, thus far only Sen. John McCain, among influential GOP leaders, has stepped up and directly called for “a special congressional committee to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.” Whether or not that actually happens depends on the persistence of both the media and protestors.

Also at New York Magazine, Frank Rich takes a more optimistic view of the likely outcome in his post, “The Comey Firing May Be the Beginning of the End of the Trump Administration,” arguing that “the new [F.B.I.] director’s attempts to further derail the ongoing investigation will be met with revolt by the career professionals within the organization — an unwinding that may already be happening. There will be chaos. There will be leaks. There will be resignations. There will be synergy, clandestine or otherwise, with the Senate and House investigations into Trump and Russia. There will be blood. After the news of the firing broke last night, McCain called the scandal “a centipede” and made an unassailable prediction: “I guarantee you there will be more shoes to drop, I can just guarantee it. There’s just too much information that we don’t have that will be coming out.”

It appears that Attorney-General Jeff Sessions is calling the shots in Trump’s strategy now. “The drama was fresh evidence of Sessions’ role as a critical political player in the Trump cabinet,” writes Eliana Johnson about the Comey firing at Politico. “He has exhibited all the qualities of loyalty Trump most prizes: He was the first senator to endorse him, one of the only members of the upper chamber to embrace him enthusiastically during the presidential campaign, and, as his involvement in the Comey controversy demonstrates, has proved that he is willing to thrust himself into the breach and take political hits to advance the president’s interests…When Trump temporarily soured on his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, and it looked like ideological moderates were on the ascent in the West Wing, National Review’s Rich Lowry referred to Sessions – the ideological patron of immigration hawks and trade skeptics – as Trump’s “indispensable man.”

The Reuters take on the Comey firing, “Delay seen, again, on Trump growth agenda after Comey sacking” puts the episode in context of the whole Trump project. Investors were all juiced up about Trump’s potential ability to implement deregulation and other pro-corporate ‘reforms’ to benefit the market. But this latest distraction gives them one more indication that C.E.O. Trump is incapable of focusing on the economic agenda. He doesn’t get his head in the economic game the way they hoped. “At the least, financial market participants viewed President Donald Trump’s abrupt dismissal of Comey as an unwelcome distraction, while some fretted it could tie Washington in knots for months, potentially postponing already-delayed reforms…The takeaway for the stock markets: don’t bet on any quick legislation around trade, the budget, health care, or infrastructure…”There is nothing good out of this for markets,” said Michael Purves, chief global strategist at Weeden & Co. “It will weigh on Trump’s ability to cut deals with Congress. It costs him negotiating leverage.””

Some Vulnerable Republicans Begin To Question Timing Of Comey’s Firing,” reports Jessica Taylor at npr.org: “I’ve spent the last several hours trying to find an acceptable rationale for the timing of Comey’s firing. I just can’t do it,” Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., tweeted late Tuesday night. Flake is up for re-election in 2018 and is one of the few Senate targets Democrats have in a map where they’re largely playing defense…Several of the most endangered House Republicans — including Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock, Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo, New York Rep. John Katko and Texas Rep. Will Hurd — also expressed concern about the timing of Trump’s decision. All sit in districts that the president lost last November and are atop Democratic target lists in next year’s midterm elections.

Kate Glueck writes at McClatchey: ‘In interviews with current and former top RNC members on Wednesday, veteran Republicans called the timing politically problematic, with some warning of potentially serious consequences for the 2018 midterms…“It worries me for the midterm elections,” said a Republican national committeewoman who called the optics “bad” and the timing “odd” and “inconsistent.” “It looks like we’re shooting from the hip all the time with no real rhyme or reason. If people can’t figure out the logic about what we’re doing, how can they support it?” Agreed a former top RNC member: “If he wears the base down where eventually they say, ‘Maybe I can’t defend this so much anymore,’ and all of the enthusiasm is on the Democratic side in 2018—I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but it could be a wipeout kind of year for us. I think we need to be more careful about that.”…Of course, it’s far too early to say how Comey’s firing will affect races more than a year away. Trump’s base remains committed to him, and here in San Diego, many RNC attendees–who are generally supportive of the president’s record so far–applauded the decision to fire Comey, timing aside…One Republican strategist working on 2018 races said that while the White House would like the questions about Russia to go away, firing Comey ensures that the issue remains front and center for the GOP. That could have a chilling effect on Republicans considering a run for office next year—and a galvanizing one for Democrats doing the same, the source said…This development comes as Republicans continue to search for challengers in what should be marquee 2018 races.”

Asked “Do Democrats need a vision for 2018 and 2020? Or can they win just by running against Trump? (With the latest James-Comey-firing imbroglio, for example, there seems like plenty of material for Democrats to run on)” in a FiveThirtyEight chat, Nate Silver responds “For 2018, an anti-Trump/anti-GOP message should suffice. For 2020, they’ll need that plus something more affirmative…You might need an affirmative message if you were running against a super-popular Dwight D. Eisenhower-type of president and trying to make the case for why he needed some constraints on his power anyway. But the Democrats are running against Donald Trump. And Republicans already control both branches of Congress, in addition to the presidency. It’s not a hard argument to make.”

Noting that “Democratic candidates in upcoming special elections to replace GOP House members joined their party’s chorus. Jon Ossoff in Georgia and Archie Parnell in South Carolina both called for a special prosecutor to lead the Russia investigation,” Bridget Bowman writes at rollcall.com that “Some Democrats said the Comey firing may be another piece of ammunition against Republicans as they look to win back the House. “From the health care bill, with virtually no public support, to these outright outrageous actions by the president around Russian interference, … I think all of this puts us in a better position in 2018,” Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wisc., told reporters on a Wednesday press call with liberal groups…Rep. Ruben Gallego, who was also on the call, agreed with Pocan…“I think it’s going to have a lot of impact,” the Arizona Democrat said. “If you have a party that is essentially siding with Russians and the obstruction of justice, … they will end up paying the consequences.”


Political Strategy Notes

What can Democrats learn from Emmanuel Macron’s impressive victory in France? Given the enormous differences in the political systems and cultures of France and the U.S., it would be silly to suggest that what worked there would also work here. But if any of the lessons are useful they might include that a young semi-outsider candidate can overcome the politics of fear. Oh, that’s right, we learned that already in 2008. Trump was rooting for Le Pen, who shared his xenophopic worldview. But he did, gasp, somewhat graciously congratulate Macron, who is more in the mold of Blair and Clinton. It’s hard to say what the economic reverberations will be, other than a short-term boost for the EU, which could help stabilize the world economy — at least for a while. Much depends on France’s MP elections next month. Le Pen got a third of the votes cast, so he will have to address some of the FN’s concerns to forge a working majority. “Even if the globalists have won today, it doesn’t mean that the populists won’t win tomorrow,” said Daniele Antonucci, an economist at Morgan Stanley. But there’s no escaping the conclusion of the New York Times editorial: “French voters were not seduced by nativist illusions and instead chose a youthful and optimistic president who believes that France must remain open, progressive, tolerant and European.”

In their New York Times article, “‘No District Is Off the Table’: Health Vote Could Put House in Play,” Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns update the bad news for Republcians: Democrats are recruiting challengers aggressively, even in conservative-leaning districts, importuning an eclectic group of could-be candidates that includes a Minnesota gelato baron, a former candidate for governor of Kansas and the mayor of Syracuse….“No district is off the table,” said Representative Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, the House Democratic campaign chairman, who vowed that Democrats would cast the widest possible net…The Democrats need 24 seats to recapture the House majority, and they believe the most straightforward path back to power is through the 23 Republican districts won by Hillary Clinton in November, as well as the dozens more where President Trump remains deeply unliked…All told, 80 House Republicans from districts Mr. Trump carried by 55 percent or less voted for the health law’s repeal. “Any Republican member of Congress in a seat that the president won by less than 10 points who isn’t concerned needs to be concerned,” said Glen Bolger, a Republican pollster…Democrats are seizing the moment to seek out promising challengers, from blood-red Kansas to the blue-tinged suburbs of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and enticing them with the prospect of a political wave…Reflecting the emboldened mood, formidable candidates have already indicated they are likely to run — even in districts that Republican incumbents have had little trouble holding.”

Julian Zelizer of CNN has a warning for Democrats regarding the May 5th unemployment rate report — a decline to 4.4 percent: “With the economy having reached full employment, the best conditions in more than 10 years, many voters will be in good spirits about the status quo. Notwithstanding all the talk about the impact of the health care legislation, the bottom line to Americans’ pocketbooks will matter a great deal come the midterm campaigns…If conditions don’t change significantly, Republicans will benefit. President Trump and the GOP, whether they deserve it or not, will be able to claim credit for the recovery. (Presidents usually get the blame or credit for economic conditions, even if they don’t have a big impact on them.)” Zelizer is right that an improving economy can help the party in political power. But, if “full employment” means a job at a decent wage for everyone who wants one, the U.S. has a ways to go before we can trruthfully say our economy has achieved that standard.

At Common Dreams, John Atcheson also has a sobering thought for Democrats: “Here’s the timeline for leveling the playing field. Democrats would have to launch an effective attack on Republican legislators at the state level in 2018 and 2020, then wait for the census results and draw reasonable districts that actually represent the people. As a result, the first time Democrats could face Republicans without their Gerrymandered advantage will be 2022, again, assuming Democrats get their act together…Even more frightening is the fact that Republicans are just 2 states shy of being able to convene a Constitutional Convention and the Koch Brothers – funders of the Coup – are pumping money into an effort to put them over the top.”

Charles D. Ellison, Philadelphia Tribune Washington Correspondent notes a devious method Republicans use to suppress minority votes: “One such scheme, the Interstate Crosscheck System, worries observers like Dr. G.S. Potter of the Strategic Institute of Intersectional Policy. The anti-voter fraud system first created by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Koback in 2005, has grown substantially in size and scope – from its one-state origin to now 30 states. “It was designed and implemented by Kris Kobach, a well-known white nationalist,” observes Potter. “And [it’s] used to identify millions of black and brown voters specifically to deprive them of their Constitutional right to vote…As of 2016 the ICS has already worked rather meticulously, already identifying over 7 million voters for purging, more than 1 million of which were completely eliminated from voter rolls….Center for American Progress researchers highlight that “[b]ecause nonwhite communities share surnames more commonly than white communities—in fact, 50 percent of Communities of Color share a common surname, while only 30 percent of white people do—this leads to a greater number of flagged potential double voters, and thus a significant over-representation of minority voters on the Crosscheck list.”

Nate Cohn explains why “There’s Reason to Be Skeptical of a Comey Effect” in the 2016 election at The Upshot. Cohn cites the final Upshot/Siena College poll in Florida, completed the night before the Comey letter, which had Trump leading Hillary Clinton in the state, 46 percent to 42 percent. “At the time,” writes Cohn, “the poll looked like a bust. There wasn’t much reason to think the result was even in the ballpark. Mrs. Clinton was ahead by six points in national polls and ahead by a similar margin in states worth 270 electoral votes, suggesting Mrs. Clinton was probably up by a few points in Florida…it’s now clear that Mrs. Clinton was weaker heading into Oct. 28 than was understood at the time. Several other polls were conducted over the same period that showed Mr. Trump gaining quickly on Mrs. Clinton in the days ahead of the Comey letter. And the timing of these polls — particularly the gap between when they were taken and when they were released — has probably helped to exaggerate the effect of Mr. Comey’s letter on the presidential race.” Certainly, swing voters would have reason to be skeptical about an October 28th ‘surprise.” However, concedes Cohn, “It’s hard to rule out the possibility that Mr. Comey was decisive in such a close election. Mr. Trump won Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania by less than a percentage point.” And it doesn’t do anything to erase concerns about Comey’s motivation in releasing the letter.

In other endless, post-mortem news, we have “Why did Trump win? More whites — and fewer blacks — actually voted,” by Bernard L. Fraga, Sean McElwee, Jesse Rhodes and Brian Schaffner at The Monkey Cage. “Using data from the voter file vendor Catalist and information from the U.S. Census Bureau, we examine the change in turnout rates for different racial/ethnic groups between 2012 and 2016. Black turnout declined dramatically; white turnout increased noticeably; and Latino and Asian American turnout went up even more. In the key swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, those shifts were especially strong. How strong? Without those shifts in turnout from various racial and ethnic groups, these pivotal states might have gone not to Trump but to Clinton — giving Clinton an electoral college victory…Black turnout fell by 4.3 percentage points in non-battleground states in 2016 compared to 2012. But it fell by 5.3 percentage points in states where the election was decided by a margin of less than 10 points…But in Michigan and Wisconsin — two key Midwestern states where, to analysts’ surprise, Trump won — black turnout fell by more than 12 points…In the critical battleground state of Florida, white voter turnout jumped by 4 points — and black turnout fell by 4 points. Trump won Florida by a margin of just 1.2 points.”

It’s not just Jon Ossoff’s run for congress in GA-6 that has Democrats optimistic about regaining a foothold in Georgia. Greg Bluestein reports that “Democrats circle Atlanta statehouse seats where Trump struggled.” As Bluestein explains, “We told you earlier that a May 16 runoff for the state Senate District 32 seat vacated by Judson Hill of Marietta, a Republican, could become a test vote for the larger Sixth District contest on June 20: But other districts in Atlanta’s suburbs may make for easier Democratic pickings. And it could start with two soon-to-be-opened state Senate seats…David Shafer of Duluth and Hunter Hill of Smyrna both represent Senate districts that Hillary Clinton won in November. And both are vacating their seats to run for higher office…Fran Millar of Dunwoody is the third Republican in the Senate representing Clinton turf…In the House, the landscape is even friendlier to Democrats. Only two Democrats represent districts taken by Donald Trump…But 14 Republicans hold Clinton turf…State Rep. Rich Golick of Smyrna represents the “bluest seat of the bunch” – Clinton carried his district 55 to 41 percent. Three other GOPers are in territories that Clinton carried by double-digit margins.”

Democrats have had their share of fun ridiculing Trump’s tweets. But not so fast, argues Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), as Susan B. Glasser notes in her Politico post, “Do Democrats Need to Tweet More Like Trump? Chris Murphy looks—and tweets—like a man running for president.” Glasser reports that Murphy has “turned out to have a skill that the older, more experienced Democrats in the Senate do not: Twitter-trolling a president whose own genius for 140-character media manipulation has entirely transformed the idea of the presidential bully pulpit.” Glasser adds, “Murphy says he and others need to channel the “authenticity” that Hillary Clinton lacked on the campaign trail—and acknowledge the “fairly revolutionary mood” that brought Trump to power. Murphy’s tweets “are just me typing out legitimate, real, emotional frustration with what this president is doing and saying,” he tells me, “and I think as a general matter, more Democrats should do.”” Murphy is interested in leveraging the emotional power of twitter soundbites “Whoever the Democratic nominee is in 2020,” writes Glasser,”Murphy says, he or she “absolutely should learn from the Trump campaign that wherever you decide to fall with respect to ideology, you have to have a couple of big, easy-to-understand ideas if you want to become president.”


Political Strategy Notes

At New York Magazine, Ed Kilgore has a succinct description of how the Republicans got their Obamacare replacement/Trumpcare bill passed in the House “by an eyelash.” As Kilgore writes, “House Republicans managed to pass a revised version of the American Health Care Act today by the narrowest of margins: 217–213, with two members absent (and three vacancies). Twenty Republicans voted against the bill. All Democrats did so as well.” Kilgore explains how the GOP got their skeptical members to cave: “The drive to enact this bill — an earlier version was pulled from a scheduled floor vote in March with defeat certain — looked to have stalled earlier this week. But then one announced “no” voter, Representative Fred Upton, Republican of Michigan, came up with an amendment adding a small but symbolic sum of $8 billion to the funds available to states to deal with people that have preexisting health conditions. When the president and congressional GOP leaders avidly agreed, Upton (accompanied by another prior “no” voter, Bill Long) quickly flipped to “yes.” The momentum crucially shifted based on the claim that the House GOP had “addressed” the preexisting conditions issue.” The token sum gave the remaining Republicans just enough cover to cave to Trump, Ryan and the ‘Freedom Caucus.’

But the Republican bill severely weakens pre-existing conditions protection for health care consumers, particularly with respect to pregnancy and child birth. As Danielle Paquette notes at Wonkblog, “Under the GOP’s proposal, states are given the option of dumping an Obamacare rule that requires insurers to provide maternity coverage to all women and safeguards them from fee increases in the event of a pregnancy. In other words, maternity coverage, as dictated by the federal government, would no longer have to be an “essential benefit…Under the GOP plan, a person who loses their employer-provided insurance could face a premium spike if they try to regain coverage in the state or private markets…The Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank, estimated that a woman seeking maternity care under the GOP’s current plan could face surcharges up to $17,000.”

Disappointing as the House vote was, at least we can credit House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other Dems with impressive leadership in rallying every House Democrat to vote against the Trumpcare bill. James Hohman touches on her efforts at The Daily  202: “Pelosi has relentlessly stuck to four talking points that polling and focus groups show are most effective: The GOP plan would raise out-of-pocket costs, hurt people between the ages of 40 and 65, mess up Medicare and strip away coverage from some of the 24 million who got it under the ACA…“When you tell people, ‘This is what you’re going to get,’ that’s harder than saying, ‘This is what you’re going to lose.’”

Irwin Redlener, M.D., president and founder of Children’s Health Fund and professor of pediatrics and Health Policy and Management at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, turns the spotlight at The Daily Beast on what Trumpcare would do to children: “If it passes the Senate and is signed into law by the president, it will be an unprecedented setback, fundamentally threatening the stability of guaranteed access to quality health care of some 35 million children who benefit from the current array of safety net programs that poor—and working poor—families depend upon…The most concerning element of this bill is the provision to transform Medicaid into either a “block grant” or “per-capita cap” system. Either approach would result in drastic cuts to Medicaid and diminished health benefits for nearly half of all American children. Some estimate that Medicaid will sustain as much as $800 billion in cuts over 10 years if this bill is enacted. Given that children make up the largest proportion of Medicaid enrollees, it’s a virtual certainty that they will bear the brunt of these cuts…The GOP’s bill may already be more unpopular than Obamacare ever was.”

So what are the political consequences for House members who voted for Trumpcare? Aaron Blake offers this assessment at The Fix: “…there are clearly some Republicans who may have jeopardized themselves Thursday. According to Stephen Wolf of Daily Kos Elections, 24 House Republicans who voted for the bill come from districts where President Trump didn’t get a majority of the vote, and 14 come from districts that went for Democrat Hillary Clinton. Those are two-dozen districts where this vote can quickly be thrown in the GOP members’ faces. And, again, Democrats need 25 seats.” No doubt many House Republicans. who voted for the bill are secretly hoping it doesn’t pass. “Republicans opened themselves up to all these lines of attack on Thursday,” writes Blake, “and you can bet Democrats will use them. But it’s likely that the backlash won’t be quite as big if the GOP ultimately fails to turn this bill into law…”

Want to take immediate revenge on House Republicans who voted to destroy health care? Here’s how,” writes David Nor at Daily Kos. Nir provides a list of 24 Republican House members made even more vulnerable by their votes for Trumpcare, and explains a really cool project of ActBlue, which merits the support of every progressive: “The fantastic folks at ActBlue have created something called “nominee funds” that you can donate to immediately. These funds are organized on a district-by-district basis: You contribute now, and all money is held in escrow until after each state’s primary. At that point, the cash is transferred in one fell swoop to the Democratic nominee, who can then start using the money for his or her general election campaign pronto…A big surge in donations now would have huge salutary effects right away: It would both terrify Republicans and boost Democratic efforts to recruit good candidates. Of course, it would also help us defeat these Republicans next year. And as it happens, 24 is exactly the number of seats we need to take back the House….So make them pay: Donate $1 right now to each of the Democratic nominee funds targeting vulnerable House Republicans who voted to destroy access to health care.

Defeat of the Trumpcare replacement bill in the U.S. Senate comes down to whether or not three Republicans needed to defeat the measure will vote against it. Early speculation is focusing on Sens. Rob Portman (OH), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Susan Collins, report AP’s Alan Fram and Richard Lardner, with more conservatives Sens. Lindsay Graham (SC), Ted Cruz (TX) and Ramd Paul (KY) also expressing significant concerns.

In his Monkey Cage post, “Want to change Congress? Change who votes in ‘safe’ Republican or Democratic primaries,” Seth J. Hill, assistant professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego, discusses the possibilities for strategic crossover voting. Hill notes, “The idea here is to provide a rough estimate of how feasible it would be for citizens who don’t normally vote in Republican primaries to participate in those primaries to create incentives for GOP candidates to take more centrist positions.” Hill cites the 2014 open primary for Republican  Sen. Thad Cochran’s seat in Mississippi. “Cochran did not win the most votes in the first primary election,” notes Hill. “But in a runoff, his campaign was able to bring out new voters, including from Democratic portions of the state. The number of votes cast increased by nearly 20 percent, and Cochran won. This suggests that at least in some cases, entrepreneurial candidates can mobilize new voters in primary elections, altering the dynamics of the contest.”

At The Atlantic, Ron Brownstein addresses a question of crityical importance for Dems, “Can the Democrats Convince Millennials to Vote in 2018?,” and notes, “The challenge is especially urgent for Democrats because Trump divides younger and older Americans so sharply. Though Trump showed strength among blue-collar white Millennials, he carried just 36 percent of young people overall last November. Polls show he’s lost ground since. Both the CNN/ORC and NBC/Wall Street Journal surveys released last week found his approval rating among adults ages 18 to 34—almost exactly the Millennial generation’s boundaries—falling below 30 percent. That’s much lower than his ratings among older adults, especially those 50 or older…Polls have also found that over three-fourths of Millennials oppose both Trump’s Mexico border wall and his push to repeal Obama’s climate-change agenda. Eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood, cutting taxes for top earners, barring Syrian refugees—each Trump priorities—all face preponderant Millennial opposition in surveys…Millennials said they preferred Democrats for Congress by crushing margins of nearly 30 percentage points in both the NBC/Wall Street Journal and CNN/ORC surveys. That’s more than double the party’s advantage among younger voters in NBC/Wall Street Journal polls from 2010 and 2014.”


Political Strategy Notes

Jennifer Agiesta reports on a CNN/ORC poll conducted by telephone April 22-25: “Taking an early look at next year’s congressional elections, a generic ballot yields a Democratic advantage, with 50% saying they’d vote for the Democratic candidate in their district and 41% the Republican candidate if the election were held today. A lead that large, this far out, is not necessarily predictive, however — although it approaches the edge Democrats held early on in the 2006 election cycle when they won control of the House, it is also similar to their advantage early on in the 2010 cycle, which ended with a Republican takeover of the chamber.”

In their Washington Post article, “Public pans Republicans’ latest approach to replacing Affordable Care Act,” Amy Goldstein and Scott Clement report that, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, “Large majorities oppose the ideas at the heart of the most recent GOP negotiations to forge a plan that could pass in the House. These would allow states to choose whether to keep the ACA’s insurance protection for people with preexisting medical problems and its guarantee of specific health benefits…Public sentiment is particularly lopsided in favor of an aspect of the current health-care law that blocks insurers from charging more or denying coverage to customers with medical conditions. About 8 in 10 Democrats, 7 in 10 independents and even a slight majority of Republicans say that should continue to be a national mandate, rather than an option for states to retain or drop…The Post-ABC poll shows that, beyond the criticism of GOP proposals for devolving health policy to the states, many Americans appear leery in general about a major overhaul to the health-care law often called Obamacare, with 61 percent preferring to “keep and try to improve” it, compared with 37 percent who say they want to “repeal and replace” it. About three-quarters of Republicans prefer repealing and replacing the ACA, but more than 6 in 10 independents and nearly 9 in 10 Democrats favor working within its framework.” Ironically, Republicans are actually lucky that this bill appears doomed, because if they enacted it, public reaction would position Democrats for a landslide midterm victory.

To give you an idea of the challenging course Democrat Jon Ossoff has to navigate in his campaign to defeat Republican Karen Handel in the GA-6 run-off election, Elise Viebeck and David Weigel note in their article “GOP candidate now embracing Trump in Georgia’s 6th District runoff” at PowerPost that “The last pre-primary poll conducted by Opinion Savvy suggested that Handel would trail Ossoff by two points in a runoff. At the same time, Trump’s approval rating in the district was 53.7 percent, evidence that Handel’s decision to align herself with him might be a good move.” Despite all of the pre-jungle primary buzz about Ossoff’s formidable fund-raising, the Republicans may have the spending edge in the race. As Viebeck and Weigel note, “The National Republican Congressional Committee is already spending $3.65 million ahead of the runoff, bringing its total spending close to $6 million…The Congressional Leadership Fund, a political action committee aligned with House GOP leaders, announced $3.5 million in new spending — bringing its total to $6.5 million” and ‘Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group backed by the Koch brothers, has kept up its own ground campaign, and Ending Spending, a PAC that has supported Handel in multiple elections, has charged back in to Georgia.”

NYT columnist Frank Bruni provides an apt description of one of Trump’s most shameful “accomplishments”: “…Who among the presidents of the last half-century has been so publicly cavalier about conflicts of interest, so blithe about getting away with whatever grifts he could, so lavishly meanspirited and so proudly rude? Who among those presidents made so little concession to decorum?…Who stooped so low, on the campaign trail or in office, as to ridicule a disabled journalist and make light of a prisoner of war’s ordeal? Who talked incessantly about how heroic his election was, summoning more energy for self-congratulation than he ever exhibited for the praise of others?…Who taunted his adversaries with such abandon? Who made such a spectacle of his grievances that he invented a phenomenon: sore winning?”

In his interview with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, Michael Tomasky observes at The Daily Beast, “Trump got 36 percent of his members’ votes against Hillary Clinton. That’s only three points more than Mitt Romney, but three points isn’t nothing in a close election. And as Trumka emphasized to me, it wasn’t only or even chiefly that Trump did better than Romney. Clinton, he wanted me to know, did worse than Obama—10 points worse, snaring just 55 percent of his rank-and-file’s vote. The rest went third party or sat it out.  Tomasky quotes Trumka: “The Democratic Party quite frankly had no coherent economic message,” he said. “Workers have been facing stagnant wages, dropping benefits, and economic security being taken away from them over a 40-year period. Trump said a lot of stuff—hasn’t followed through on it, but said it, and they were willing to take a chance.”…“Look, you can’t beat something with nothing,” he says. “If you don’t have an economic message that resonates with working people you’re not gonna win. That’s why people like Sherrod Brown and a number of other people running in the same difficult environment that presidential candidates run in succeed. They have a consistent economic message that people know they can believe.”

At The Plum Line, however, Paul Waldman shares a critique of the Democratic party’s message, or lack therof, by Democratic pollsters Allan and Sheri Rivlin, who are also warning that Republicans have an edge in midterms. “Democrats do poorly in midterms,” Rivlin argues. “Republicans are rarely on the losing side of this.” It’s partly because Republican voters — older, whiter, more affluent — are more likely to turn out in any election while many Democrats don’t bother showing up in midterms. But Rivlin is especially concerned with Democrats’ lack of a core economic message, since the economy is usually voters’ most important issue. “We think we have an economic message,” he says, “but we don’t…What Democrats lack is a message on economics that can pass what he calls “the Listerine test.” Listerine had what Rivlin describes as a nearly perfect message: “Listerine kills the germs that cause bad breath.” Eight words that describe the problem, the solution and how it works…The Republican message on the economy passes this test. It’s simple, easy to understand, and explains both every economic problem you could think of and what their solution is: Government is the problem, so if we cut taxes and cut regulations, the economy will blossom.” The Rivlins don’t have a Democratic message that passes ‘the Listerine test,’ but they advocate creating a focus group to develop one.

David Weigel boils the Democratic message problem even more at The Fix: “To progressives, it doesn’t feel like Republicans share this despondence. They compete in the suburbs; they compete in the cities where they can (Omaha, Indianapolis, San Diego). They let the party’s brand shift from race to race, and are nimble about it. But running through each race, they let it generally be known that a Republican is going to be easier on your wallet than a Democrat. There’s an existential argument here that Democrats have not really engaged in for years.”

But it’s not only about message content, argues Paul Kane at PowerPost. “Presence is important,” [Sen. Tim]Kaine (Va.) said in a brief interview. “You’ve got to go to these places.” That adage about presence is one of the increasingly accepted lessons Democrats are heeding from the debacle of last year’s White House and congressional elections…Last year, however, the party’s smart set — including Kaine’s running mate, Hillary Clinton — became so fixated on cranking up the Democratic base that it did not do enough tending to potential supporters in exurban and rural counties. That led to a cratering of support in those regions and opened a path for President Trump’s victory — and helped Republicans keep control of the Senate…Despite the myth of low turnout last year among minorities and liberal activists, Clinton performed better than Obama did in 2012 in Philadelphia, the four large suburban counties around that city and Allegheny County, home to Pittsburgh. She lost the state’s rural parts. The same thing happened in Florida, which also had better turnout than in 2012. Clinton got the necessary votes in urban centers but then got swamped by Trump in inland counties…For now, though, Democrats from the left to the center agree that the first step is Kaine’s “presence” theory — to at least show up in these small towns where some of them went missing in 2016…“You won’t be able to have an organization of any kind in those counties until you actually put some effort into it and some resources,” [Ruy] Teixeira said, calling the “fundamental problem” for Democrats their almost -complete neglect of rural towns. “I think that’s got to change.”

To conclude on an optimistic note, from John Judis’s “Why The Left Will (Eventually) Triumph: An Interview With Ruy Teixeira” at Talking Points Memo, quoting Teixeira: “I favor what economists are calling  a model of equitable growth. It would mean substantial government investment in creating new opportunities for the middle and aspirational classes. It could include a dramatic expansion of the educational system and a Manhattan-style investment in bringing down the price of clean energy and building the infrastructure to match. Granted, these kind of proposals would not get through Congress now, but it is the kind of agenda that I am optimistic that the Democrats will endorse and that the country will eventually embrace…Democrats are the ones who are going to put us there and I think they are going to be rewarded for it…[White working-class] Voters were fed up with stagnation and with the Democrats and they turned to someone who thought could blow up the system. The way the Democrats and the left could mitigate that problem is to show these voters that they take their problems seriously and have their interests in mind, and could improve their lives. I don’t think there is any way of doing that without a new model of economic growth.”