washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

“Many of the party’s existing economic priorities play well in both spheres of underdevelopment, the urban and the rural, and among groups found in both places, such as millennials. Reducing costs or eliminating tuition at public colleges and universities is popular everywhere. The public’s level of support for Medicaid, which congressional Republicans’ proposed ACA repeal seeks to slash, is overwhelming: A Quinnipiac Poll from March found just 22 percent of Americans favored cuts to Medicaid while 74 percent opposed them; among white working-class respondents, 29 percent favored the cuts and 66 percent didn’t. The declining incomes of white workers and the rising eligibility thresholds of the ACA have combined to increase the number of Medicaid recipients within the white working class—a development that Paul Ryan and his ilk failed to anticipate…unless and until the Democrats devise compelling programs for these Americans—programs that not only help revive their economy but make clear that they are as much a part of the Democrats’ vision of America as any other group—Democrats’ electoral prospects in district after district and state after state will remain dim. And the Democrats’ ability to deliver for their base will continue to be thwarted by basic electoral arithmetic.” — from Harold Meyerson’s “Place Matters” in the Roundable on The White Working Class and the Democrats in The American Prospect.

Democrats field a glut of House candidates in 2018 but remain divided on how to win,” report Ed O’Keefe and David Weigel at The Washington Post. “The largest number of Democratic congressional candidates in decades is putting into play dozens of House districts across the country, raising the possibility of a bitterly contested midterm election cycle next year as the party and its activists try to take advantage of President Trump’s unpopularity to win a majority in the House.” Despite differences across a liberal-moderater political spectrum, “Democrats can exceed their past performance in at least 70 House districts across the country controlled by Republicans, primarily because more Democrats registered to vote, said Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in a memo to his colleagues last week…“In recent cycles, candidate recruitment meant dialing the phone and asking people to run. This cycle, it’s about answering the calls when they come in,” said Nathan Gonzales, editor of Inside Elections, a nonpartisan newsletter that tracks congressional races.”

“To win again,’ writes Franklin Foer in The Atlantic, “the Democrats don’t need to adopt an alien agenda or back away from policies aimed at racial justice. But their leaders would be well advised to change their rhetorical priorities and more directly address the country’s bastions of gloom. The party has been crushed—not just in the recent presidential election, but in countless down-ballot elections—by its failure to develop a message that can resonate with people beyond the core members of the Obama coalition, and by its unwillingness to blare its hostility to crony capitalism. Polling by the group Priorities USA Action shows that a stunning percentage of the voters who switched their allegiance from Obama to Trump believe that Democratic economic policies favor the rich—42 percent, nearly twice the number who consider that to be true of Trump’s agenda…The makings of a Democratic majority are real. Demographic advantages will continue to accrue to the left. The party needs only to add to its coalition on the margins and in the right patches on the map. Doing that does not require the abandonment of any moral principles…”

In his Washington Post article, “Beyond opposing Trump, Democrats keep searching for a message,” DanBalz writes, “Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg, writing in the American Prospect, sees a problem that goes beyond white working-class voters to those within the Democratic base who also were left behind by the post-2008 economic gains. He argues that the party’s problem is with working-class voters of all types, not just whites…Greenberg has long been critical of the tepidness of the party’s economic message and puts some of the blame on Obama. He believes the former president’s economic message in 2012 and 2016 focused on progress in the recovery largely to the exclusion of the widespread pain that still existed. “That mix of heralding ‘progress’ while bailing out those responsible for the crisis and the real crash in incomes for working Americans was a fatal brew for Democrats,” he argues.”

If you had to pick a state that had the most to lose under Trumpcare, it shouldn’t take long to settle on West Virginia. Michael Tomasky explains why in his Daily Beast post, “If She Votes for Trumpcare, Her Home State Gets Mauled: No senator who has yet to come out for or against the health care bill faces a more open-and-shut case than Shelley Moore Capito.” As Tomasky elaborates, “…It’s estimated that about 150,000 West Virginians, maybe more, gained coverage under the ACA (see page 9 of this Urban Institute report). That study is a little bit old. It may now be 170,000. That’s in a state with a population of about 1.8 million; so, nearly 10 percent…A policy brief to be released this week by the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policynotes that the health care industry accounts for more than 10 percent of the state’s GDP and estimates that 10,000 West Virginians could lose their jobs, and the state could lose $1 billion in GDP. Health care jobs have been one of the few growth sectors in the state. A lot more than coal…Medicaid pays for 72 percent of nursing-home care for the state’s seniors, provides $20 million in school-based services for young people, and brings in $110 million for drug treatment. All that would be gone…with Rand Paul voting no on one side and Nevada’s Dean Heller doing the same on the other, it might come down to Capito. Of all of them, she represents the state that would most clearly just get mauled by this GOP bill.”

Conservative columnist Hugh Hewitt explains why “Replacing Obamacare is a make-or-break moment for Republicans,” and notes ‘If the GOP defaults on its core promise, it is doomed as a party to minority status, probably as early as 2018 and certainly in 2020…It will forfeit every other Republican goal because failing to deliver on the central promise of eight years of debates and campaigns will shatter the credibility every Republican, not just those who block the bill. The party as a whole will be gravely wounded, perhaps beyond healing for a generation or more.”

“The most glaring weakness in the modern Democratic coalition is the decline of white working-class support that once provided a major pillar of the Democratic Party,” Andrew Levison writes in “Winning (Some) Middle-of-the-Road Working-Class Whites” in the Roundtable on The White Working Class and the Democrats at The American Prospect. “In 2008, even in the midst of a massive and terrifying economic crisis and an unprecedented military fiasco, Barack Obama still received only 40 percent of the white working-class vote. In 2012, Obama’s share declined to 36 percent and in this year’s election, Hillary Clinton suffered an unprecedented 8 percent additional drop to an abysmal 28 percent of white working-class support, according exit polls…For 40 years, polls have repeatedly shown that majorities of white working people support quite a substantial range of basically progressive economic policies but, oddly, never vote for the Democratic politicians who promise to enact them…Even in predominantly white working-class communities, where a larger segment of the common-sense, middle-of-the-road white workers might be open to Democratic candidates, the simultaneous emergence of grassroots independent candidates would in many cases still be a net benefit to Democrats. Such candidates would tend to draw more support from Republicans than Democrats, helping the latter…Because it would split the GOP vote, a three-way race that included an independent candidate would still provide a greater opportunity for the Democrat to win a plurality than a two-way race against a Republican would provide the opportunity for winning an outright Democratic majority.”

E.J. Dionne, Jr. spotlights “The Senate’s three big lies about health care“: They are “Lie One: Democrats and progressives are unwilling to work with Republicans and conservatives on this issue…In fact, Democrats, including President Barack Obama when he was in office, have said repeatedly that they would like to work with Republicans to improve the Affordable Care Act. Senate Democratic leader Charles E. Schumer’s office put out a list of such offers, including a June 15 letter from Schumer to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calling for a cross-party meeting to “find a way to make health care more affordable and accessible.”Lie Two: This bill is primarily about improving health care for American families. No, this effort is primarily about cutting taxes…Lie Three: The Senate bill is a “compromise.” Really? Between whom? The House wants to destroy Obamacare quickly, the Senate a bit more slowly while also cutting Medicaid more steeply over time. This is only a “compromise” between two very right-wing policies.”

At The Guardian, Lauren Gambino details the scope of Medicaid, which would be subjecgted to “deep cuts” under Trumpcare: “Medicaid is the nation’s largest public insurance program, providing health benefits to nearly 74 million Americans including low-income adults and children, seniors and people with disabilities. It has unparalleled reach: about half of all babies are born on Medicaid and four in 10 children are covered by Medicaid or its sister benefit, the Children’s Health Insurance Program…Those programs also cover roughly three in 10 people suffering from opioid addiction. Medicaid has also become a critical benefit for elderly Americans whose medical needs are not covered by Medicare, including six in 10 residents in nursing homes.,,The Senate healthcare plan, like the House bill that narrowly passed last month, would phase out Medicaid expansion under the ACA, under which 31 states and the District of Columbia added more than 11 million low-income adults to the program.”

Political Strategy Notes

AP’s Erica Werner makes a case that “McConnell stakes it all on health care bill” and writes thaT “The shrewd Kentuckian has made himself practically the sole arbiter of the bill and will be largely responsible for the outcome, whether it’s a win, a loss, or a win that turns into a loss over time as unpopular consequences of the legislation take hold…he has almost no margin for error. McConnell will be able to lose only two senators from his 52-member conference and still pass the bill, with Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote. Democrats are unanimously opposed….He doesn’t always prevail. McConnell is not a fan of unnecessary conversation and plays his cards close to his chest, which can create the impression that he has a secret plan up his sleeve when that’s not the case.” My guess is he has a plan, and like LBJ in the 1960s, he knows where the bodies are buried and he doesn’t like to lose. Dems should plan for the worst.

From an NBC/Wall St. Journal poll released yesterday and flagged at The Daily 202: “Only 16 percent of Americans believe that the House health care bill is good, down from 23 percent last month. Even among Republicans, just one in three view the measure positively. But the public is basically split down the middle over Obamacare, with 41 percent saying the 2010 law is a good idea and 38 percent saying it’s a bad idea. Asked if Congress and the president should continue their efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the split is similar: 38 percent say yes, 39 percent say no, and 20 percent have no opinion. But here’s the rub: 71 percent of Republicans want Congress to continue its effort to repeal the ACA, and only 12 percent of GOP voters want to move on. Independents also slightly favor forging ahead with repeal, 38 percent to 32 percent.”

The Trumpcare bill has already drawn condemnation from some powerful organizations, including AARP, the American Hospital Association, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and the Association of American Medical Colleges, report Robert Pear and Thomas Kaplan. “We are extremely disappointed by the Senate bill released today,” the medical school association wrote. “Despite promises to the contrary, it will leave millions of people without health coverage, and others with only bare-bones plans that will be insufficient to properly address their needs.”

Kaplan and Pear also noter President Obama’s reaction to the GOP bill: “The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill,” Mr. Obama wrote on his Facebook page. “It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else…In a message to his supporters, Mr. Obama urged people to demand compromise from their lawmakers before senators vote on the Republican bill next week.”

As inhumane as is the Trumpcare bill is, the best hope for defeating it may come from four senators who think it’s too liberal. “Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah said in a joint statement they’re “not ready to vote for this bill,” report Miranda Green, Phil Mattingly and Ashley Killough, at CNNPolitics. “Currently, for a variety of reasons, we are not ready to vote for this bill, but we are open to negotiation and obtaining more information before it is brought to the floor,” the senators said. “There are provisions in this draft that represent an improvement to our current health care system, but it does not appear this draft as written will accomplish the most important promise that we made to Americans: to repeal Obamacare and lower their health care costs.” Of course the four senators know perectly well that they are going to have to vote for some of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act later on in any replacement bill. But for now they must make a big show of saying they stood firm for Obamacare repeal. Reading between the lines of their statement, don’t be shocked if they cave and vote for it as soon as some piddly token is tossed their way. The four are more about limelight theatrics than anything else.

As James Hohmann reports in The Daily 202: “THE BIG IDEA: Much of the concern that Republican senators expressed yesterday about the draft health-care bill felt more like political posturing than genuine threats to torpedo the effort. There are not currently the 50 votes necessary to advance the legislation that Mitch McConnell unveiled Thursday. There will need to be concessions and compromises, and there are several ways the push could still fall apart in the coming days. But pretty much every Republican, including the current holdouts, wants to pass something. And no GOP senator wants to bear the brunt of the blame from the base for inaction. That factor must not be discounted…Cruz issued a joint statement with three other conservatives — Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Mike Lee of Utah — saying that they cannot support the legislation as it stands. Parse their words carefully, and it’s notable how many outs they gave themselves.

As for the concerns of what nowadays passes for Republican “moderates,” Hohmann adds , “There are some obvious “gives” that could get a few of the wavering moderates on board: “Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told reporters Thursday that she and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) would try to amend the Planned Parenthood restrictions during next week’s ‘vote-a-rama,’ a period when senators can offer unlimited amendments to the health-care measure,” Kane reports. “GOP insiders expect Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), who oppose the bill’s deep cuts to Medicaid, to be mollified by more cash to combat the opioid epidemic.” That might leave Rand Paul as the biggest hurdle, but McConnell could afford to lose the junior senator from his state. (We’re keeping a running whip count here.)”

At Campaigns & Elections, Tim Lim explains why “Democrats Need a New Advertising Strategy for 2018.” As Lim notes, “While every scenario is different, and you still need to take an audience first approach, we recommend at least 20 percent of the persuasion media spend to be spent on digital and layered with other mediums to be able to make an impact. That doesn’t including resources for the other pieces of a campaign around fundraising, mobilization or other direct response efforts…The centerpiece of the advertising program for most campaigns is the minute-long TV ad. The same ad that is put on broadcast television is the same ad that you see on YouTube and Facebook. This trend is not creating engaging content for voters. Before the TV shoot even happens, there needs to be consideration for different ad formats, which aren’t centered on the TV ad. For instance, online videos should have the main message be shown in the first 6 seconds and there should be plenty of space infographics and rich media.”

What Ossoff Did Right

You may have already had your fill of post-mortems of the GA-6 election. Just about everybody has had their say about what Jon Ossoff did wrong, or what went wrong in the Atlanta ‘burbs special election, save the candidate himself. His reflections will be of considerable interest when he shares them.

Among the critiques of Ossoff’s campaign messaging and strategy, several resonated with me. Ed Kilgore’s observation that “Negative ads still work” was certainly verified by Handel’s relentless ads, arguably the overarching component of her strategy.  Ossoff’s “attack” ads were comparatively tame and polite, and he really didn’t give Handel’s gaffe about opposing a “living wage” an energetic workout.

The GA-6 election and other special elections of 2017 suggest that Democratic candidates could toughen up a bit. I agree some with Cenk Uygur’s argument that Democrats have to start calling out their Republican opponents as “corrupt”, whenever it applies, which is a lot. Ossoff could have done more to characterize his adversary as a toady for her wealthy contributors, even in a district where the median income is quite high.

Reluctantly, I have to agree with Republican ‘Morning Joe’ Scarborough that Democrats may be wasting too much political energy on demonstrations relative to front-porch canvassing or registering voters. Yes, the anti-Trump ‘Resistance’ demonstrations have helped to rally public opinion against him and the Republican agenda. But at least some of that time, energy and expense could be more productively invested in voter registration and GOTV.

The ‘Morning Joe’ program also featured one of the lamer blanket observations about the GA-6 election I have heard, Mark Halperin’s characterization of the vote as “an unmitigated disaster for the Democrats.” As a friend put it in an email, “I’m confused: 2016 — GOP wins deep red district by 23 points. 2017 – GOP wins deep red district by 4 points. Conclusion: unambiguous Democratic disaster?”

We shouldn’t move on, however, without a nod to what candidate Ossoff did right, because those lessons may be useful.

First, Ossoff had the metttle to step up and run in a district that most political wonks would call a lost cause for Democrats, and he damn near won it in the first round. Democrats are always yakking about how we need fresh faces, and we do. But it takes courage and personal sacrifice for a relatively unknown someone to take the risk and actually join the fray and make a go of it. He gets Aces for raw determination.

Democrats need more such gutsy newcomers, especially women and candidates of color. The obstacles, especially the financial hurdles, are so formidable, that when someone rises to the challenge from nowhere and does well, it’s a national news story. That leads to another of Ossoff’s impressive accomplishments — fund-raising. He raised more dough than any congressional candidate ever, which is quite amazing for a previously no-name Democrat. If nothing else, Democrats ought to study the hell out of his fund-raising strategy, and the DNC and state Democratic parties would be smart to hire him as a consultant.

Ossoff’s campaign turned an R+23 district into an R-3.7 district. He also recruited an estimated 2,000 volunteers, which may also be close to a record. I don’t buy the argument that a more “charismatic” candidate would have done better. The political world has plenty of charismatic individuals who don’t know squat about fund-raising, or lack the work ethic and grit to put up a good fight, or the skill-set to hold their own in a debate with a more experienced candidate.

I hope that Ossoff will run again for elective office, and leverage the lessons of his campaign. No doubt some potential candidates may be discouraged by Ossoff’s loss in the GA-6 race.  Nonetheless, today Democratic newcomers all across America are thinking more seriously about running for office, thanks to Jon Ossoff’s campaign. That alone makes him a rising star in my book.

Why Ossoff Lost and What He Won

It’s a little harder today than it was yesterday morning to challenge the argument that the suburban, heavilly-gerrymandered south is still ‘fool’s gold’ for Democratic House candidates. Handel’s victory provides red meat for Democratic strategists who argue that, generally, Dems shouldn’t squander resources running in southern, predominantly white House districts.

Ossoff’s loss by less than 10,000 votes cast out of more than 259,000 cast (51.87 to 48.13 percent) may dampen the enthusiasm of the “run everywhere” advocates in the Democratic Party, at least as far as House districts are concerned. But Obama’s 2008 victories in NC, FL and VA and 2012 wins in VA and FL still indicate that good Democratic presidential candidates can still do well in southern states. It’s the House races in southern, predominantly white districts that look a bit less accessible today.

Handel ran a competent campaign. She didn’t whine too much about attacks against her; She kept on attacking Ossoff relentlessly and apparently made her memes about her opponent stick. As Ed Kilgore notes in New York, “Handel’s strategy – keeping a prudent distance from Donald Trump and reminding GOP voters in endlessly rerun ads that the mild-mannered centrist candidate was linked to “extremist liberals” ranging from anarchist street protesters to Hollywood to Nancy Pelosi – was effective.”

John Cassidy writes in his New Yorker article, “Jon Ossoff’s Georgia Sixth Loss Is a Reality Check for Democrats,” that “The G.O.P. high command depicted Ossoff as a puppet of Hollywood celebrities and Nancy Pelosi, who, according to the Journal Constitution poll, has a ninety-one per cent disapproval rating among local Republicans…the Republican barrage proved effective, something Handel acknowledged in her victory speech.”

As for the argument that Ossoff “would have done better if he had adopted a more populist and overtly anti-Trump approach,”  Cassidy writes, “In a district as red as Georgia’s Sixth, the disheartening truth is that Ossoff probably wouldn’t have done better had he run to the left.” But I do have to wonder of Ossoff could have hit Handel harder with the video clip showing her opposition to a “living wage.” I’m left with a feeling that he could have attacked her more effectively, at least on that gaffe.

Handel also handled White House participation delicately, using Vice President Pence for fund-raising, but not for rallies and avoiding talk about Trump. “During her two debates with Ossoff, ” writes Frank Bruni in The New York Times, “she sidestepped any utterance of Trump’s name to a point where Jim Galloway, a columnist for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, cracked that “the clothes have no emperor.” As Robert Costa, Paul Kane and Elsie Viebeck and put it in The Washington Post, Handel also did a good job of  “deflecting the barrage of questions about Trump’s latest tweets or his handling of investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.”

A former Georgia Secretary of State who knew the district from the inside out, Handel also had all the benefits of her party’s domination of state politics, along with buckets of GOP money, and she leveraged these assetts well. Ossoff should also be credited with running a good campaign. He almost won it without a run-off, and he did recruit an estimated 12,000 volunteers.

In his PowerPost analysis, “Ossoff chose civility and it didn’t work. How do Democrats beat Trump?,” Paul Kane discusses the possibility that Ossoff should have campaigned a little more like a warrior and a little less like a gentelman: “In Ossoff, Democrats hoped they had found a potential new path to defeating Republicans with a message of peace and civility. They calculated that the fiery rage, often associated with supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), would not win over moderate Republicans and centrists…So Ossoff chose the high priest route instead of the fierce warrior. It was civil disobedience rather than civil unrest.”

Kane notes that an Ossoff volunteer, Jeff Jacobsen, “acknowledged that there were times he wanted Ossoff to be more of a fighter. “Sometimes my wife and I are a little frustrated, but if that’s who he is, that’s who he is. He’s not getting down and dirty…” There is both a hunger for more candidate civility on the part of many voters, coexisting alongside a longing for more aggressive candidates who deploy tougher rhetoric. Tone is important in the context of different electorates and opponents. In any case, Ossoff’s toughness was more in his energetic determination than in his rhetoric. I suspect such tone choices are a usually a washout, unless taken to extremes.

Kilgore affirms that “Ossoff’s strategy was to win in the first round before local and national Republicans got their act together.” In this, he very nearly succeeded. Or, according to one insider, Dee Hunter, director of the Civil Rights Center of Washington, D.C., only voter suppression prevented him from winning in the first round. It is possible, though not likely, that another Democrat in another transitional district might have better luck with a such a first-round blitz. But it appears that Republicans have developed solid enough ground games for run-off elections.

What did Ossoff win? He forced the GOP into record-level spending in a solid red district. More importantly, as Kilgore writes, “Democrats searching for a silver lining in the Georgia race don’t have to look too far. This is the third consecutive special election (the fourth if you count South Carolina) in a historically Republican district where the Democratic percentage of the vote jumped sharply. Democrats will surely retake the House if the swing in their direction is similarly strong in 2018.”

Looking toward the future, the lessons of the GA-6 election may soon be buried in the rubble of coming political earthquakes. As Cassidy concludes, “If the White House and the Republicans go ahead and pass unpopular measures, such as tax cuts for the rich and a health-care bill that raises premiums and causes tens of millions of people to lose their insurance coverage, they could well suffer the consequences in 2018.”

So often the seeds of future victories are hidden in electoral defeats. Just as Handel has learned the useful lessons of her past political defeats, Georgia Democrats can hope that Ossoff will be back in politics again. Having learned the lessons of his defeat in the special election run-off, he now has greater name-recognition and fund-raising smarts — both of which could serve him well in the next election.

Political Strategy Notes

Gabriel Debenedetti’s Politico post “Democrats sweat the details in Georgia special election: Party officials fear the potentially demoralizing effect of a defeat” may be overstating the psychological effects of a possible Ossoff defeat in the GA-6 election this Tuesday. The party pros are not going to fold up in the fetal position if their candidate doesn’t win. They will be focused on the next important race within hours. And savvy observers know that Ossoff has already won in two important ways: First, getting to “toss-up” status in the polls one day out is a major accomplishment in a suburban, white majority southern district. And second, given Georgia’s track record with respect to voter suppression, it is quite likely that Ossoff would have won the district without a run-off, had there been no voter suppression. Ossoff, a smart, but not particularly charismatic candidate, has already demonstrated the application of Goethe’s insight, “Boldness has genius and magic in it” — especially for Democratic candidates.

On the other hand “If Ossoff can pull off this victory in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, it will deliver a much-needed positive jolt to the party apparatus,” writes Paul Kane at PowerPost…”An Ossoff win, just a week after Northam’s convincing primary victory, would signal that the Democratic establishment is still alive and kicking…An Ossoff victory — far from a sure thing — would also signal that the GOP, despite controlling all of Washington, remains more beset by ideological divisions and personality disputes than the Democratic Party. Neither party appears particularly unified, but Democrats have been bracing for anti-establishment candidates’ knocking off party veterans in the same manner that Republicans have endured in recent years.”

So now there’s a TV ad that tries to link Ossoff to Kathy Griffin’s sense of political humor and the Scalise shooting, as Julia Manchester reports at The Hill. “The unhinged left is endorsing and applauding shooting Republicans,” the ad’s narrator says…“When will it stop? It won’t if Jon Ossoff wins on Tuesday,” the narrator continues.” Of course the Handel campaign was all crocodile tears in denouncing the ad. My hunch is that any voters dumb enough to fall for this one were a lost cause anyway. But it’s probably too much to hope that it will actualy help Ossoff with the very few remaining ‘swing voters.’

There have been more than 150 mass shotings this year already, with only one by a guy who claimed to be a progressive and who  expressed hatred for Republicans. Guess which incident got the most coverage. In addition to President Trump’s encouragement of violence during his campaign, the displays of hypocrisy, demonization and political amnesia among haters of Democrats have been off the charts. One conservative radio host, Jesse Lee Peterson has chartacterized Democrats as “children of Satan.”

Fenit Nirappil reports at The Washington Post that Virginia Democrats are unifying behind Ralph Northam’s gubernatorial campaign to defeat Republican Ed Gillespie, founder of the Repubican ‘Freedom Caucus,’ which has done so much damage to the tone of American politics.

Some encouraging stats from the VA governors elections, reported by Holly Stouffer of WHSV-TV: “Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam secured his spot with 303,429 votes in the Democratic primary. Ed Gillespie had 160,039 votes in the Republican primary…If you take a look at the overall totals for the governor’s race, there’s nearly a 200,000 vote difference between the Democrats and Republicans across the state…More than 540,000 people voted for the two Democrats and the Republican side had around 360,000 voting for the three candidates on the ballot.”

And Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley note at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, “Solid African-American turnout is also a Northam priority, and his apparently robust performance with that bloc of voters is helpful. His new running mate might help in that regard, too. Attorney Justin Fairfax (D), an African-American lawyer, won the lieutenant gubernatorial primary after he narrowly lost a 2013 primary for attorney general. There’s some evidence that having a black candidate on the statewide ticket can help with black turnout. Rounding out the Democratic statewide ticket is Attorney General Mark Herring (D), who deferred to Northam in the gubernatorial race and is seeking reelection to an office he only won by a minuscule margin in 2013.”

Here’s an ad being tweaked for use in the campaigns to defeat Republicans Sens. Jeff Flake (Ariz.), Dean Heller (Nev.), Ted Cruz (Tex.), and Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R):

There is such a thing as “good guilt,” at least in the political sense, and Javier Panzar’s L.A. Times post, “These Democrats feel guilty for sitting out the 2016 elections, and they aren’t waiting to register voters for the midterms” shows how it can work.

Political Strategy Notes

At Democracy Now, Greg Palast explains “How Racist Voter Suppression Could Cost Jon Ossoff the Georgia Election.” Voting rights groups have registeted over 86,000 new voters, but 40,000 of those applications are “missing,” according to Nse Ufot of the New Georgia Project. “To be very clear, Jon Ossoff would be the congressional member right now,” says Dee Hunter, director of the Civil Rights Center of Washington, D.C., quoted in the article. “He really would have won the previous special election but for a combination of systemic voter suppression tactics and techniques.”

Senate likely to miss its Obamacare repeal deadline: The prospects of Republicans meeting their deadline of a Senate health care vote before the end of the month are bleak — and growing more so by the day,” reports Jennifer Haberkoprn at Politico. “…The Senate could still rush to get the bill passed in two weeks…But it’s unlikely they’ll make it. Even if they resolve their biggest disagreements, they still have to write the rest of the bill, send the full text to the Congressional Budget Office, await the agency’s score and keep 50 Republicans together through a lengthy series of procedural votes on legislation that would reshape one-sixth of the American economy — all with Democrats trying to slow them down every step of the way.”

At The Atlantic Russell Berman explores “How Democrats Would Fix Obamacare,” and notes, “The Democratic ideas fall roughly into two categories: proposals that might attract support from Republicans as part of a short-term fix if the repeal effort fails, and those that will only be viable if the party can retake one or both chambers of Congress in 2018. Murray’s renewed call for a public insurance option— which would compete with private insurance in the marketplace—almost certainly falls in the latter bucket. Democrats fell a few votes shy of including a public option in the 2010 law, but the idea faces staunch opposition from Republicans and insurance companies who see it as a slippery slope to a completely government-run health-care system.”

Robert L. Borosage writes at The Nation that  “Infighting Is Good for the Democratic Party: Given recent failures, isn’t it time to debate ideas and strategy?” As Borosage explains, “…This isn’t about a consensus politics, in which the only question is which team—the red shirts or blue shirts—wins the game. The challenge is how to forge a broad majority for fundamental change in a country desperately in need of it…Democrats need a big debate about what can be done—and there is no better time to have it then when the party is out of power. The populist revolt that is roiling politics here and abroad isn’t going away. The Sanders-Warren wing of the party has energy and passion. They are armed with a narrative of what went wrong, a bold agenda for change, and a growing grassroots organizing and funding capacity. The debate within the party isn’t a diversion or a liability. It is a necessary step to recovery.”

“About 61% of us think Trump tried to obstruct or impede the Russia inquiry, a survey from the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found.” — From Josh Hafner’s USA Today article, “Most Americans think Trump committed a felony, poll shows.”

In his New York Times column, Thomas B. Edsall addresses a topic of paramount interest to ‘big tent’ Democrats, “Where Democrats Can Find New Voters.” Among his insights: “Democrats, however, know that they need to get more votes from workers without college degrees, and that their best opportunity to do so is among service workers…More than half of low-paying service jobs are held by women, many of them minorities, who are much more sympathetic to the Democratic Party than men generally and white men in particular…Union officials estimate that there are 64 million workers across the country who make less than $15 an hour. “Only half are registered, and only half of them voted. 48 million of them did not vote in 2016,” one union leader, who asked not to be identified so that he could be forthright, told me.” Edsall quotes politcal pollster and Democratic strategist Stan Greenberg: “I think there really is potential for Democrats to gain here. This is a real insight into what is possible.”

Reid Wilson writes at The Hill that “Democrats have, in effect, built themselves into a geographic box, one that hinders their ability to reclaim control of the U.S. House of Representatives and makes it difficult to win the Electoral College and the White House…While clustering may be good economics, it doesn’t make a winning political coalition. Democratic voters are overwhelmingly likely to live in deep-blue congressional districts and less likely to live in swing states critical to both parties’ paths to winning the Electoral College…Only five of the nation’s 50 largest cities delivered margins for Clinton large enough to swing entire states her way: Denver, Portland, Ore., Las Vegas, Minneapolis and Washington, D.C., which has three electoral votes.”

The Plum Line’s Paul Waldman hones in on current Democratic strategy and identifies three critical goals: “Find a way to defeat the GOP health-care bill..Maximize the chances of winning the House in 2018 (the Senate is theoretically possible but much tougher)” and “To paraphrase Mitch McConnell, make Donald Trump a one-term president…the primary power available to congressional Democrats in all these battles is their ability to raise a stink — to ask tough questions in hearings, to give interviews, to go on television and rail at the administration’s misdeeds and the villainy of the other side’s policy proposals. Which it sure looks as though they’re doing, even if they’ll surely make some mistakes along the way.”

In their Monkey Cage post, “More states are registering voters automatically. Here’s how that affects voting,” Robert Griffin, senior policy analyst at the Center for American Progress and Paul Gronke, director of the Early Voting Information Center write“…We analyzed Oregon’s automatic voter registration system — a result of the 2015 law known as Oregon Motor Voter (OMV). We found that in less than a year, OMV registered over 270,000 new voters, and more than 98,000 of them voted in the 2016 election. Compared to citizens already registered, these automatic registrants were significantly younger and lived in places that had lower incomes, lower levels of education, more racially diverse populations and lower population densities. And while programs that register more voters are usually thought to benefit Democrats, we found that wasn’t entirely the case…We don’t know yet whether Oregon’s results represent automatic voter registration systems everywhere. If they are, then we can expect increased voter registration, resulting in an electorate that better represents U.S. citizens as a whole.”

Why Impeaching Trump is a Weak Message for Democrats

At The Boston Globe, Victoria McGrane and Astead W. Herndon explain why “Trump impeachment is wrong 2018 election message, Democrats say.” As McGrane and Herndon write,

Given how unlikely it is that the House Republican majority would approve articles of impeachment (no American president ever has been impeached when his own party controlled the House), the real political prize for Democrats is winning the House in 2018.

And making impeachment the major theme of 2018 elections is not a winning formula, at least not yet, in the view of party strategists.

Electing Democrats and flipping the House to Democratic control is the only way to provide a real check on Trump’s reckless ways, they argue. And the way to do that is by maintaining a focus on pocketbook issues, criticizing the Republican policy agenda, and, in swing districts, winning over some who voted for Trump in 2016 and may be turned off by strident talk of impeachment.

That emphasis makes sense for several reasons. If Democrats took the bait and made impeachment their central priority, they would look pretty ineffectual if it didn’t happen, which remains at least a strong possibility. They would also become the new ‘Party of No,’ which is also risky, since voters are growing tired of do-nothing government which investigates more than it legislates.

That is not to say that Dems should avoid getting involved in moving impeachment of Trump forward. It’s really about not making it the Democratic party brand. Democrats can’t dodge their responsibility to defend America’s national security, which Trump has grotesquely compromised. They should be eager participants in the impeachment process when the time is ripe. But Democrats who make impeaching Trump the focal point of their identity as a 2018 candidate risk courting defeat.

Another strategic argument against Democratic candidates leading the campaign for impeachment is that Republicans really ought to be held more accountable for their Frankenstein. They created the climate that nurtured the Trump disaster, and they should be forced to spend their time, energy and resources on getting rid of him. Trump’s impeachable offenses are also a wedge that can further divide the Republican Party, thereby helping Democratic candidates to chart a path to victory.

There is also an argument that Pence could be even worse for Democrats, since he doesn’t have Trump’s immaturity and arrogance, and might end up looking like a significant improvement to scandal-weary voters. In the worst case scenario, Pence could legally serve as President for 10 years or longer. Dems should not rush to give him that opportunity.

“…At this early stage,” report Herndon and McGrane, “many party leaders contend, putting impeachment front and center in House races across the country would be a mistake. Most elected Democrats are proceeding with extreme caution, avoiding the word impeachment and in most cases refusing to straight-out accuse Trump of committing crimes.” Further,

Strategists say Democrats are right to tread a careful line. Focusing 2018 messaging on impeachment — at least at this early stage — runs the risk of getting ahead of public sentiment. Democrats are better served, they say, by talking up the Republican effort to replace the Affordable Care Act. Polls show the House-passed GOP bill, which would cause an estimated 23 million people to lose insurance, is highly unpopular with voters of all political stripes.

“Impeachment is so high-stakes that you have to be very careful moving forward with that,” said Karlyn Bowman, a public opinion analyst with the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute. “The waters are so muddy now, with Comey and Mueller, and the committees looking into that. I’d certainly focus on health care, where Republicans look very vulnerable.”

Priorities USA, a major Democratic super PAC, in a recent memo offering guidance on political messaging, cautioned Democrats against losing focus on health care. Trump’s ongoing crisis does not necessarily rub off on House Republicans, it said.

As the chorus for impeachment grows, Democrats will likely face increasing pressure to get out in front of the effort to rid America of Trump. But Democrats should keep focused on the essential task — creating a message that brands Democrats as the only political party that fights for working people of all races and their families. Give Trump and the GOP the room they need to self-destruct, while Democratic candidates show American voters what serious leadership looks like.

Political Strategy Notes

Celinda Lake, Daniel Gotoff, & Olivia Myszkowski explain why “Absent a MoreProgressive Economics, the Democrats Will Lose” at The American Prospect/Democratic Strategist roundtable on ‘The White Working Class and the Democrats’: “…Too many times, our party has been guilty not just of sins of omission—failing to stand up to the Republicans on critical issues, or even providing the GOP cover in some cases (as when some congressional Democrats supported the Bush tax cuts and the war in Iraq)—but of commission, too. The Obama administration’s embrace of the financial industry early in his first term, combined with its decision not to prosecute any of the individuals and institutions responsible for the economic collapse of 2008, led to a new low point in the Democratic Party’s credibility as a check on Wall Street. In the 2010 midterm elections, voters who blamed Wall Street for the country’s economic problems preferred Republican candidates by a margin of 16 points, despite the Democratic Party’s efforts to deliver a message against Wall Street special interests…Given this reality, it is not particularly surprising that the party has yet to articulate a clearer, more credible, and more commanding vision for the economic revitalization of the country, the middle class, and, more specifically, the hollowed-out communities in which many white working class voters struggle.”

In the same forum, Guy Molyneux, partner and senior vice president at Peter Hart Research Associates, writes, “…Trump will lose ground if and when white working-class voters see that he is not delivering for them, and is in fact serving others. Democrats must aggressively contest Trump’s core promise to the white working class: that he is putting the government to work for them. Much of Trump’s actual agenda is of course devoted to helping millionaires and large corporations. Our job is to make it impossible for working-class Americans to miss, or deny, that reality…In terms of a broader message, Democrats’ traditional economic populism offers a starting point, but we need to also borrow a bit from Trump’s playbook. We must speak not only about inequality and unfairness in our economy, but also about politicians who use their political power on behalf of corporations and the wealthy…We now have a tremendous opportunity to leverage public disgust with government, while focusing it on its proper target: Republicans’ determination to use government power to enrich the rich and empower the powerful. ”

“We need to start winning the trust of working-class voters through year-round, in-person engagement,” writes Matt Morrison, the deputy director of Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO,” also at the roundtable on The White Working Class and the Democrats. “In those conversations and subsequent communications efforts, we need to change the narrative so voters’ frustrations are refocused on the appropriate targets instead of on other working-class people who are different from them. By doing so, we can defuse right-wing messages that target “others” and negate demands for racial justice….We must engage voters with face-to-face conversations that are as much about listening as talking. It’s this kind of organizing that persuades the skeptical and mobilizes the committed. As Andrew Cockburn has noted in Harper’s Magazine, “Of all the ways to get people to come out and vote tested by the academics, one emerged as the absolute gold standard. Talking to them face-to-face, the longer the better, turned out to have a dramatic effect. … [T]he effect is infinitely more cost-effective than any traditional media-heavy approach.””

The McCaskill Smackdown:

In his PowerPost article, “Inspired by Sanders, activists push Democrats to the left — or out of the way,” David Weigel notes an important distinction between two different kinds of populism:  “Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a freshman who has become the face of the Justice Democrats political action group, which was set up to beat “corporate” incumbents in primaries, said there was such a thing as too much negativity…“There’s a populism that goes after a villain, and there’s a populism that’s aspirational,” Khanna said. “Aspirational populism cuts across the party. It means talking about single-payer health care. It means the bill I’m working on with [Sen.] Sherrod Brown [D-Ohio] to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit. Six months ago, people said that was crazy. And now everyone who might run in 2020 is calling and asking if they can endorse it.”

Ronald Browstein writes at The Atlantic: “If the continued decline of blue-collar whites is the principal warning sign for Republicans in the new figures, the red light flashing most brightly at Democrats is the disappointing turnout among minorities. Though Trump presented a uniquely polarizing and provocative foil, the Census figures showed that turnout in 2016 sagged among Hispanics and skidded among African Americans….Among Hispanics, the States of Change analysis found that turnout declined slightly among those with a college education (down from nearly 71 percent in 2012 to just over 68 percent in 2016) and among those without (from just under 44 percent last time to just under 43 percent this time). Overall, the Census put total Hispanic turnout at just under 48 percent, which is within the narrow range of 47 percent to 50 percent over the past four presidential elections that has frustrated Democrats hoping for larger gains and greater impact.” — from Ron Brownstein’s article ..The most positive sign for Democrats was state-level Census data showing Hispanic turnout surging in Arizona and improving somewhat more modestly in Nevada and Colorado, all states where the party made a significant organizational effort. (Surprisingly, the Census data show Hispanic turnout declining from 2012 in Florida and slipping modestly in Virginia and North Carolina.)…In 2016, turnout sagged to about 73 percent among college-educated African Americans (down from nearly 80 percent in 2012) and to about 56 percent among those without degrees (down from over 63 percent in 2016). Overall, the Census data showed turnout among eligible African Americans dropped fully 7 percentage points from 2012 to 2016, the biggest drop over a single election for the group since at least 1980. In the battlegrounds that tipped the election to Trump, state-level Census data show black turnout plummeting in Wisconsin; skidding in North Carolina, Florida, and Ohio; and declining more modestly in Michigan and Pennsylvania.”

Those who are concerned about the deployment of pro-Republican groups to provoke physical confrontations and intimidation of Democratic voters should check out “Bikers for Trump dip toe into local politics with Handel-Ossoff contest” by Tamar Hallerman at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. As Hallerman writes, “It wasn’t exactly your typical Saturday afternoon sight in this sleepy Sandy Plains neighborhood: almost a dozen barrel-chested, leather-clad bikers — led by a quartet of clean-cut high school students, no less — going door to door asking if these 6th District voters plan to support Republican Karen Handel…“We’re here to put Karen Handel where she needs to be,” one of the bikers told a voter at his front door, “in D.C. supporting President Trump.”…So members of the group – some from as far as Florida – dropped in on a Handel campaign event Saturday at Williamson Bros. Bar-B-Q in Marietta. The contrast in style was striking: Handel, sporting boat shoes and a white collared shirt, shaking hands with the bikers, clad in leather vests with patches stating “all my ammo is dipped in pig’s blood…“This is not about Karen Handel. It’s about the Republican Party,” said Strzalkowski. “We support Karen Handel because she supports President Trump.”

At FiveThirtyEight.com Harry Enten explains why “Democrats Have A Slight Edge In The Georgia 6 Runoff But the race is too close to call,” noting that “The race remains too close to call. Ossoff’s lead is slim, especially given the past accuracy of special House election polling, and we simply don’t know what to expect voter turnout to be in Round 2 compared with Round 1. Still, it’s significant that Ossoff has maintained and even widened his lead as voters make up their minds, because it suggests that undecided voters aren’t overwhelmingly Republican. It’s possible that Handel will pick up the vast majority of the remaining undecided voters in the campaign’s final days, but there’s no reason to expect that to happen… If the current polling holds, Handel’s just a normal polling error away from winning — but she, not Ossoff, needs that error. Either way, this one’s probably going down to the wire.”

“If Republicans don’t act fast, Democrats will pitch their plan for single-payer, universal health care as a choice between something that costs individuals less vs. more, that is simpler vs. more complicated, that leads to greater equality vs. more inequality,” writes freaked out Republican strategist Ed Rogers in The Washington Post. “Republicans should be on the lookout. While we try to muddle through repealing and replacing Obamacare, Democrats are sharpening their message on health care. In their race to the left, Democrats are increasingly calling for a full-fledged single-payer system. And considering Republican credibility on repeal-and-replace is damaged, if not shot, the Democrats’ message will be compelling to a lot of voters who sense nothing but confusion from the GOP. The momentum is shifting, and the stakes are getting higher for Republicans…And in this fight, Republicans cannot just become the party of no. If Republicans fail to stand up and speak with clarity, we may be forced to defend the remnants of Obamacare as the best option to ward off socialized medicine. The public senses confusion, and the Democrats sense an opportunity. Time is running out.”

Vanden Heuval: Time is Ripe for Medicare for All

In her Washington Post column “Time for Democrats to unite around Medicare for all,” Katrina vanden Heuval calls on progressives to press the case for universal health insurance:

As complicated as health care is, the case against Trump’s health-care bill is simple. Trump promised to provide “insurance for everybody”; the American Health Care Act passed by the House last month would cause 23 million Americans to lose their coverage. Trump promised not to cut Medicaid; the AHCA would slash more than $800 billion from the program. Trump promised to protect people with preexisting conditions; the AHCA would allow discrimination against such patients. As National Nurses United Executive Director RoseAnn DeMoro put it, Republicans are essentially proposing “a 21st Century version of ‘Lord of the Flies.’

For Democrats, opposing Trump’s plan, which a measly 8 percent of Americans support in its current form, is a no-brainer. But with health care emerging as the American people’s top concern , according to recent polls, Democrats would be wise to seize the moment, go on the offensive and rally around a bold alternative to the Republican Party’s backward vision. It’s time for progressives and Democrats to unite behind Medicare for all.

Under a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system, the United States would join virtually every other Western country in recognizing health care as a fundamental right and providing insurance for every citizen. It would reduce the burden on employers, which bear the brunt of the cost of insurance today, and it would bring down overall health-care costs because Medicare is more efficient than for-profit private insurance…

Public opinion data indicate that majority support for such a system has arrived. As vanden Heuval writes,

Contrary to how it is often portrayed, this is not some left-wing fantasy but an idea with widespread across-the-aisle support. An April survey from the Economist/YouGov showed that 60 percent of Americans support “expanding Medicare to provide health insurance to every American,” including a majority of independents and nearly half of self-identified Republicans. Likewise, a Gallup poll conducted last month found that a majority of Americans would like to see a single-payer system implemented. (Given how deeply Medicare is woven into the fabric of our society, I prefer the term “Medicare for all” over the wonky “single-payer.”)

The Affordable Care Act was a step in the right direction, but far short of the broader health security that would be provided by a universal, single-payer, Medicare for all system. Americans are ready for serious health care reforms. But the Republicans have shown they can’t deliver it. Democrats now have a unique opportunity to lead the way forward.

Perhaps the best reason reason to energize a ‘Medicare for all’ movement is that it will literally save lives, help millions of Americans to heal more quickly and prevent a lot of unnecessay illnesses. Every day of delay exacts a heavy cost in lives lost and Americans staying sick longer than necessary. And toward what end — bigger profits for health insurance companies?

Health care is the central, progressive reform — the one that is most urgently-needed for a thriving democratic society. It’s the reform that can re-inspire the confidence of citizens in their government. It can also position the Democratic Party as the most credible choice for voters who believe we can do better.

Universal health security is a simple, easy to understand principle, and Medicare for all is the most credible way to get it. It is an easier sell than yet another set of ‘reforms’ in a for-profit system. Many who believe in economic competition and a strong private sector also understand that taking the profit motive out of our health insurance system is really the only way to cover everyone.

Some may argue that Medicare for all is a radical reform that will scare a lot of voters. Which voters? Not those who have no health insurance. Not those who are paying too much out-of-pocket for skimpy coverage. Not those who are fed up with the ever-increasing premiums of for-profit unsurance companies.

There is some legislation already pending, as vanden Heuval reports:

A bill introduced by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) in the House has 112 co-sponsors, representing a solid majority of the Democratic caucus, up from just over 60 in the last Congress. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who made Medicare for all a central plank of his presidential campaign platform, is preparing to introduce a bill in the Senate. And last week, supporters of Medicare for all scored a big victory when the California Senate advanced a state-level single-payer bill that DeMoro hailed as a “moral model” for the country.

Yes, the Republicans have the votes to defeat a Medicare for all bill. But that’s not a good reason to campaign for something weaker. They are going to defeat anything Democrats propose, at least until the midterm elections. So why not use the opportunity to brand the Democrats as the party that has a serious proposal to cover everyone and build a movement for a healthier society?

Win or lose, a stronger Medicare for all campaign can educate millions of voters, help take the boogeyman out of the term “socialized medicine” and advance the day when everyone has health security, just like in other industrialized nations. It’s a much more appealing alternative than fighting for another ‘reform’ bill that leaves millions uncovered.

Some may say “yes, Medicare for all is the best goal, but we have to get there gradually.” The legislation should provide adequate time for health insurance companies to diversify assets and reallocate their resources. But ‘delay’ too often translates into ‘never,’ and America has been postponing a reckoning with our failed health care system for many decades.

For Democrats, the leadership challenge is clear. As civil rights leader Dorothy Height once put it, “If the time is not ripe, we have to ripen the time.”

Political Strategy Notes

Read former F.B.I. Director James B. Comey’s prepared testimoney to the  Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Among the better articles interpreting Comey’s prepared statement, read E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s “Trump doesn’t understand how to be president. The Comey story shows why,” which notes “Here are the things Trump still doesn’t get: (1) Comey is his own person concerned with his own reputation and standing. (2) A president, unlike a despot, can’t unilaterally change the rules that surround a legal investigation. (3) People in government don’t work only for the president; their primary obligation is to the public. (4) Personal relationships matter a great deal in government, but they aren’t everything; Comey could not go soft on Michael Flynn just because Trump likes Flynn or fears what Flynn might say. (5) Because of 1, 2, 3 and 4, Comey was not going to do what Trump asked, even if this meant being fired.”

In his WaPo op-ed “I helped prosecute Watergate. Comey’s statement is sufficient evidence for an obstruction of justice case,”  Phillip Allen Lacovara sees it this way: “Comey’s statement lays out a case against the president that consists of a tidy pattern, beginning with the demand for loyalty, the threat to terminate Comey’s job, the repeated requests to turn off the investigation into Flynn and the final infliction of career punishment for failing to succumb to the president’s requests, all followed by the president’s own concession about his motive. Any experienced prosecutor would see these facts as establishing a prima facie case of obstruction of justice.”

“Sixty percent of U.S. voters believe President Trump did something illegal or unethical in his dealings with Russia, fewer than three in 10 voters believe he is level-headed and more than half say they disapprove of the way he is handling the economy, immigration and climate change, according to a poll released Wednesday…Those negatives, and more, contributed to a new low in the president’s overall approval rating as charted by Quinnipiac University. Only 34 percent of American voters approve of the president’s performance, while 57 percent of voters disapprove.” — from Cody Fenwick’s post at The Patch, “President Trump’s Approval Rating Falls To Lowest Point: Poll.”

Yet CNN’s Eric Bradner explains why “Even amid Russia probe, many Democrats see health care as their real winner,” and offers this quote: “I would encourage all of our candidates to make sure that health care stays front and center of the election,” said Guy Cecil, the chairman of the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA.”The visceral, gut reaction that people have makes it more powerful than Russia,” he said. Further, adds Bradner, “No matter the outcome of the Russia investigation, “health care will be a cornerstone issue in 2018,” said Markos Moulitsas, the founder and publisher of the liberal blog Daily Kos. “It motivates the base like few other issues, and more and more, moderates are aligned with liberals,” Moulitsas said. “It’s a win-win.”” And, “When I’m talking to candidates,” [Democratic political consultant Zak] Petkanas said, “I tell them that they should be saying ‘health care’ five times for every time that they say the word ‘Russia.'”

Dave Weigel reports on a “resolution” of the incident in which congressman-elect Greg Gianforte assaulted Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs. The outcome is an apology by Gianforte coupled with a donation of $50K to the Committee to Protect Journalists, “part of an agreement that settles any potential civil claims.” Weigel adds that “Gianforte is still facing criminal misdemeanor charges in Gallatin County, Mont.” Even still, I have to wonder if Gianforte is getting off pretty easy and if the agreement will encourage more violence against journalists.

The Economist argues that “A surge in activism could reinvigorate the Democratic Party…Or perhaps sink it.” The magazine’s editors note “The energies unleashed by the Women’s March, the biggest political protest in American history, have been sustained. In even the most conservative places, including the lily-white northern suburbs of Pittsburgh, where [Republican Rep.] Mr Rothfus won in November with a big majority, established centre-left groups report massive increases in support and new ones are mushrooming. MoveOn, an online protest outfit with 8m members, says it has three times as many monthly donors as it had before Mr Trump’s inauguration. “This is what we were made for,” enthuses its director in Washington, DC, Ben Wikler. Primed by social media, and fuelled by ever-rising outrage at Mr Trump, the most successful new entrants are growing even faster…Pantsuit Nation, a pro-Clinton Facebook group started during the election campaign, had 3m members by the end of it. A report by the Centre for American Progress, a think-tank, reckons 140 new groups have been launched since then. The breakout star of the new activists, Indivisible, was launched by a pair of former Democratic congressional staffers in January, and now has 6,000 groups, in every congressional district, including 15 in Mr Rothfus’s…Indivisible followers swamp their local Republican lawmaker with pestering letters, jam their phone lines with inquiries, about their votes or intentions to vote, buttonhole them in public and organise protests rallies when they go to ground, as many now have…” However, cautions The Economist in the concluding paragraph, “For Democratic politicians vying to appeal to this massive and growing crowd of fired-up progressives, the answer may be to worry less about ideology and more about tone.”

Thomas B. Edsall makes a case that “The Democratic Party Is in Worse Shape Than You Thought” in his NYT column, after reading some of the articles featured in The American Prospect/The Democratic Strategist roundtable “The White Working Class and the Democrats.” Edsall’s observations include, “Sifting through the wreckage of the 2016 election, Democratic pollsters, strategists and sympathetic academics have reached some unnerving conclusions…What the autopsy reveals is that Democratic losses among working class voters were not limited to whites; that crucial constituencies within the party see its leaders as alien; and that unity over economic populism may not be able to turn back the conservative tide. Equally disturbing, winning back former party loyalists who switched to Trump will be tough: these white voters’ views on immigration and raceare in direct conflict with fundamental Democratic tenets…Democratic pessimism today stands in contrast to the optimism that followed the elections of 2006, 2008 and 2012.” Unlike Republicans, however, Democrats are at least facing their internal problems with open dialogue and searching for solutions.

In his post, “Democrats Keep Losing, but They May Be on Track to Win” at The Upshot, Nate Cohn writes, “But even if the Democrats go 0 for 4, these special election results augur well for the party in 2018. They’re consistent with a strong Democratic showing in next year’s midterm elections, and they’re even better than what one would expect in a so-called wave election, like the one that swept Democrats into power in the House in 2006 and back out in 2010. It’s what the Democrats need to win the 24 seats necessary to retake the House next year…Even if the Democrats go 0 for 4, these special election results augur well for the party in 2018…Democrats need to win seats like Georgia’s Sixth, but they don’t need to win all of them…What Democrats really need is put these races into play. They have done that and more.”

So, “What does an early voting surge mean for Georgia’s 6th District?,” asks Kristina Torrez in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Her take: “Adding to the suspense, nearly 8,000 voters have been added to the district’s voting rolls since the April special election. Experts say those are likely to be “high propensity” voters — meaning they are more likely to turn out to vote than skip the race. “The federal judge’s ruling to reopen voter registration was a game changer for the Ossoff campaign because it allowed him to hopefully expand the electorate,” Democratic strategist Tharon Johnson said…Johnson said the early voting numbers should favor Ossoff because Democrats traditionally do a better job of getting their voters to the early voting sites.”