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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Teixeira: Turnout of Black and Non-College white Voters May Define Outcome in Virginia Governor’s Race Today

 The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist: Why the 21st Century Will Be Better Than You Think, is cross-posted from his blog:


The finale of the Virginia governor’s race is upon us. Two things are clear: (1) Northam is running a narrow lead over Gillespie; and (2) voting cleavages by demographic group look very similar to those in 2016. The latter is actually quite an interesting development.

In 2016, according to the synthetic data analysis we conducted for our recent voter trends report, there was a very significant margin swing toward Democrats among white college graduates in Virginia, from losing this group by 5 points in 2012 to carrying it by 9 points in 2016. That’s the main reason why Clinton carried Virginia by a greater margin than Obama–an unusual pattern for the 2016 election.

That trend is evident in the just-released Upshot//Sienna poll of Virginia voters. Northam leads Gillespie among white college grads by an identical 9 point margin.

As for white noncollege voters, Clinton lost them by 40 points in 2016 and Gillespie leads Northam by an identical 40 points in the Upshot poll.

Black voters in the Upshot poll give Northam a 75 point margin over Gillespie, similar to Clinton’s relatively poor showing in 2016 (a 79 point margin vs. 88 points for Obama in 2012).

Perhaps it will all come down to turnout. In 2016, our estimates indicate that Virginia black turnout was down 3 points while white noncollege turnout was up 2 points. If the discrepancy in black and white noncollege turnout trends persists this Tuesday, the Democrats’ newfound ability to dominate the white college vote might not be enough to carry the state.

WaPo-ABC News Poll Shows Most White Workers Souring on Trump

A careful reading of the new Washington Post/ABC News poll, conducted 10/29 to 11/1, indicates that a majority of “non-college,” white respondents say Trump’s tax bill favors the rich and he is trying to sabotage the Affordable Care Act. Further, they don’t believe Trump understands them. When you explore the data and clickable sub-topics, here are a few of the more revealing data nuggets you will find:

Asked “do you think Trump is trying to make the current federal health care law work as well as it can, or trying to make it fail?,” only 45 percent of white, non-college men say he is trying to make it work, while 46 percent say he is trying to make it fail. For white, non-college women, only 25 percent agree that he is trying to make it work, while 67 percent say he want to make it fail.

Asked whether Trump’s tax proposals “favor the rich, middle-class or poor all equally,” 40 percent of white, non-college men say it favors the rich, 22 percent say the middle class, 3 percent say the poor and 26 percent say all equally. For white, non-college women, the figures are 57 percent say his tax proposals favor the rich, 15 percent say the middle class, 2 percent say the por and 21 percent say all equally.

Responding to the question, “Do you think Trump understands people like you, or not?,” 44 percent of white, non-college adults say “Yes,” while 55 percent say “No.”

Clearly, the stereotype of white working-class voters as gullible Trump supporters is grossly over-stated, particularly with respect to women. Democrats don’t have to persuade a majority of white working-class voters that Trump opposes their interests; That is already accomplished. The challenge is doing all that can be done to get them to the polls and urging them to vote their convictions.

Polls Show Widespread Doubts About GOP Tax ‘Reform’

From James Hohman at The Washington Post Daily 202:

What’s clear from numerous polls in recent weeks and months is that Americans across the political spectrum don’t think the wealthy or big businesses should get a tax cut. And few see taxes as the top issue Congress should tackle,” Heather Long writes on Wonkblog. “What does have solid support in recent polls is tax cuts for small businesses and the middle and lower classes.”

A Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll released Sunday found that only 25 percent think the tax bill is a “good idea.”

A Politico-Morning Consult poll published yesterday showed 48 percent “support” or “somewhat support” a tax bill. But sentiment dropped sharply when people are asked about some of the specifics that will be in the GOP bill, especially a tax cut for business.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll in September asked, “Do you support or oppose Trump’s tax plan?” 28 percent said they “strongly” or “somewhat” supported the plan; 73 percent believe that the current tax system favors the wealthy; and 65 percent believe businesses pay too little.

A CBS poll released Wednesday found 80 percent think that taxes for big business should stay the same or go up; 56 percent said Trump’s plan will benefit the rich, while 13 percent said it would benefit the middle class; and 70 percent said Congress should address other issues before passing a tax bill.

Gallup found this April that 51 percent of Americans feel their taxes are “too high.” In 1985, the last time the system was overhauled, 63 percent felt that way.

Yet, despite such poll numbers, there is a real danger that the legislation could pass and be signed into law. As Harry Enten notes at FiveThirtryEight, “Luckily for the Republicans, tax reform isn’t a top issue for most Americans. If that continues to be the case, voter opinion might not greatly affect the bill’s chance of passage.”

Teixeira: Trump May Be Losing Support of Working-Class Whites

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist: Why the 21st Century Will Be Better Than You Think and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

Trump has hit a new low in his job approval ratings. As the Washington Post notes:

trump approvals

On Sunday evening, a poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal indicated that Trump’s approval rating had hit a new low, sinking to 38 percent. More worrisome for the president? Since September, the drop was biggest among independents, whites and whites without a college degree — key components of the coalition that won Trump the White House. NBC and the Journal also reported that the 38 percent rating was lower than any other president had seen at a similar point in their first terms in the modern era.
On Monday, new data from Gallup reiterated that same message. In Gallup’s daily tracking poll, which looks at three days of national polling, Trump’s approval rating hit a new low of 33 percent and his disapproval a new high of 62 percent. The net approval — those who approve minus those who disapprove — hit a new low at minus-29.

The decline among working class whites is particularly noteworthy. Without strong support from these voters, Trump is in big trouble. This is a trend to watch.

Linkon and Russo: Economic Nationalism and the Half-Life of Deindustrialization

The following article by Sherry Linkon and John Russo, authors of Steeltown U.S.A.: Work and Memory in Youngstownis cross-posted from Working-Class Perspectives:

In a 60 Minutes interview in September, Steven Bannon touted his form of economic nationalism and suggested that Democrats like Senator Sherrod Brown and U.S Representative Tim Ryan understood his economic vision, even if they didn’t agree with him. It was fitting that he name-checked Brown and Ryan, as both come from Northeast Ohio, where the history of deindustrialization began 40 years ago this fall. On September 19th, 1977 — known locally as “Black Monday” — Youngstown Sheet and Tube announced that it was shutting down, kicking off a wave of steel mill closings that would displace more than 40,000 area workers basic steel and steel-related industries.

At the time, some explained deindustrialization as part of the “natural economic order.” Borrowing the term from Joseph Schumpeter, economists and business leaders saw the closings as part of an evolutionary process, a form of “creative destruction” that caused temporary hardships but would lead both capital and labor to more productive activities.  While commentators acknowledged that the process was difficult and uncomfortable, they insisted that the ultimate outcome would be economic growth and a higher standard of living.

Eager to validate such promises, local leaders brought in an array of speakers, including Irving Kristol and Michael Novak from the American Enterprise Institute, who gave public lectures at Youngstown State University. Both insisted that the Mahoning Valley would prosper over time as new industries took root and workers retrained for new jobs. It was all part of what Novak called The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism.

Texting Beats Email for GOTV — Big Time

Raven Brooks, chief operating officer of Vote.org, has a post up at Campaigns & Elections showing a strong edge for texting over email as a tool for getting out the vote. Here’s the lede and the link:

At the beginning of the 2016 cycle, we felt that text messages held promise based on some existing studies done by our peers in the civic engagement world. They were promising, but not done with large sample sizes because on the whole most campaigns organizations hadn’t invested much in mobile programs yet. We were eager to build on their work and run some larger studies as well as testing a new mode of contact.

In 2014 the Analyst Institute conducted a study of texting with around 150,000 participants. They found this increased turnout in that midterm year by 0.9 and 1.4 percent for “plan-making” texts (those that get the voter to go through the mental process of planning how they will get to the polls). The program operated at an incredibly low cost when looking at cost per vote, especially compared to other modes of contact.

At vote.org, we ran three experiments in 2016 using SMS for voter registration and two varieties of GOTV. But before we get into the findings, some explanation of terminology is in order.


Carville and Greenberg: The country hates the GOP Congress: Why don’t Democrats have a knock-out lead?

The following article by James Carville and Stan Greenberg is cross-posted from Democracy Corps:

About 9 months into his presidency, Donald Trump has settled into a historically weak job ap- proval of 41 percent, well below his presidential vote, and with the strong disapproval over 45 percent of voters. He remains an unrepentant divider which pervades all political discourse.1

Yet the most hated politicians are the Republicans in Congress, and perhaps they ought to be more of the focus as they are on the ballot in 2018. Mitch McConnell is the least popular con- gressional leader in Democracy Corps’ polling, followed by Speaker Ryan. Voters know that the Republicans are in charge in Congress and these are the poster children. So why do the Democrats not enjoy a stronger lead in the ballot?


1 National phone survey of 1,000 registered voters conducted by Democracy Corps and Greenberg Research from September 30 – October 6, 2017. The survey was matched to voter file and 67 percent of respondents were reached by cell phones. Of these registered voters, 667 are “likely voters” in 2018. Greenberg Research maintains its own survey and weighting methods, independent of surveys released by GQRR.

The Democrats are ahead by just 8-points among registered voters, and 5-points among likely 2018 voters in Democracy Corps’ most recent national survey. That is marginally down from the 10-point and 7-point advantages (among registered and likely voters, respectively) Democrats held in our June polling on behalf of WVWVAF. (We will release new findings on behalf of WVWVAF next week.)

See graph at this link.

The focus should be more on the GOP Congress, but contributing is the Democratic Party brand, which is unimpressive in this poll. They are viewed more favorably by just net 4-points. There has been no growth in identification with the Democratic Party, as there was in going into 2016.

This dynamic is producing a situation where self-identified Democrats, generic Democratic voters and Hillary Clinton-supporters hold their preferences with great certainty, but they are no more likely to turnout for Democrats in the off-year election, according to this poll.

A remarkable 81 percent of Democrats strongly disapprove of Donald Trump, while just 55 per- cent of Republicans strongly approve of his job performance. Those voting for the Democrat for Congress are more certain of their choice by 62 to 38 percent, while those voting Republican are split in their certainty (52 very certain to 48 percent somewhat certain).

Yet when it comes to the measures used to gauge interest and intention to vote, Democrats and Republicans are showing equal engagement. That will not produce the landslide election Democrats are hoping to achieve.

See graph at this link.

Maybe Steve Bannon is right that stoking the flames of identify politics creates an environment where Democrats calling for big economic change don’t get heard. We saw in the polling we re- cently released with Public Citizen that Donald Trump has high approval marks when it comes to ‘keeping jobs in the US’ (+27) and ‘putting American workers before the interests of big corpo- rations’ (+7).


But two things catch our eye in this poll to suggest the election could take shape in very different ways by next year. First, watch the seniors and Baby-Boomers. With acute sensitivity to the impact of health care changes, seniors and Boomers are giving particularly high negative marks to Trump and Republicans. The Democrats even hold a 2-point lead in the generic ballot among seniors, breaking the age pattern that has shaped our recent elections.

Second, in our first poll testing a 2020 presidential contest between Donald Trump and Elizabeth Warren, the Senator wins by 12-points (54 to 42 percent). In coming polls, we will test other potential nominees, but that result is some measure of the real structure of the partisan balance.

Teixeira: Why Dems Must Address Lagging Economic Opportunity in Small Town, Exurban and Rural America

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist: Why the 21st Century Will Be Better Than You Think and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

Do people in small town, exurban and rural America really have anything to complain about or are they just lashing out because of the rise of diversity? A fascinating column by Ron Brownstein covers the diverging fate of these places and the faster growing cores of metropolitan areas. It would appear that folks in these areas really do have something to complain about and that they really are, in fact, being left behind.

In metro areas from Seattle to Chicago to Washington, DC, new data show that per capita incomes, education levels and the young adult share of the population are rising rapidly in downtown urban centers that were left for dead 30 and 40 years ago. Simultaneously…incomes, education levels and the age structure is failing to keep pace, or even deteriorating, in the small town and exurban communities at the metropolitan area’s periphery.

This widening geographic separation between town and country — reinforced by a strong urban tilt in such key measures as venture capital investment and new business formation — helps explain President Donald Trump’s overwhelming support in the smaller, mostly white communities that largely feel excluded from the economic recovery since 2009….. per capita incomes since 1990 have increased just three percent in communities 30 miles out, while rising fully 45% at the city center.

Like a river cutting through rock, these shifting economic currents are helping to carve the nation’s stark new political alignment. Along with unease about demographic and cultural changes, the sense of falling behind economically helps explain Trump’s dominance of mid-sized and small town America: he carried more than 2,600 counties last fall, more than any candidate in either party since Ronald Reagan in 1984.

Conversely, the thriving economies, and increasingly youthful and well-educated profiles of the largest urban centers, help explain how Hillary Clinton carried 87 of the 100 largest counties by a combined margin of nearly 14.7 million votes, according to calculations by Pew Research Center senior writer Drew DeSilver (including Washington, DC, pushes the margin to nearly 15 million votes). Although few Democrats recognize it in their rhetoric or agenda, they are increasingly the party of the places in America that are succeeding the most in the globalized, post-industrial economy.

The moral of the story: if Democrats want to succeed with the voters they’ve been losing, they will have to make a very serious effort to spread economic opportunity more widely.

Lux: Why Dems Don’t Need Wall St.

The following article by Democratic strategist Michael Lux, author of  The Progressive Revolution: How the Best in America Came to Be, is cross-posted from HuffPo:

My old colleague Doug Schoen from the Clinton White House days has an op-ed out in the New York Times that is remarkable for its audacity. In “Why Democrats Need Wall Street,” he argued that Democrats have not been winning many elections lately because the party philosophy has become more Bernie Sanders and less Bill Clinton. According to Schoen, “moving the party away from a reflexive anti-Wall Street posture” was a key factor in the success of one Clinton presidency and the defeat of another.

Let’s start with the basic premise, that getting closer to Wall Street helps in winning elections. Any serious look back on Clinton’s 1996 campaign would have to note that the most important moment by far was the 1995 government shutdown fight with Newt Gingrich and the eventual Republican nominee, Bob Dole. Before that fight, Bill Clinton was about 10 points down in the national polls against Dole. After the smoke cleared, Clinton was about 10 points ahead, and the race never again got close.

Schoen and his partner, Mark Penn, argued against having that fight with Newt and Dole, saying Clinton would look more moderate by just splitting the difference and coming to a quick compromise more on their terms. But when Clinton rejected that advice, and instead announced he would fight to the end on preserving money for Medicare, Medicaid, education, and the environment, the polling turned bad for the Republicans. We won decisively.

Oddly enough, President Clinton’s campaign stump speeches that year never did mention his desire to deregulate Wall Street. Fast forward to 2010, which was a terrible year for Democrats. Voters were outraged by the Wall Street bailouts, the fat bonuses that went to the same executives that crashed the economy, and the utter failure to prosecute any bankers that were responsible. Exit polls noted that 24 percent of the public thought the top blame for the bad economy was due to Bush, 29 percent said Obama, and 44 percent said Wall Street. Of those who blamed Wall Street first, Democrats got beat almost 2-1. Pollster Stan Greenberg argues compellingly that these soft-on-Wall Street factors hurt Hillary’s 2016 campaign badly and are still haunting Democrats today.

Even though the economy remained weak and Obama was vulnerable, Democrats got lucky in 2012 when the Republicans nominated Mitt Romney of Bain Capital. Obama won in great part due to bashing Romney for his financial industry track record of stripping jobs from communities for the sake of big profits for his company.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren was the only challenger in the country who beat an incumbent senator, a well-liked moderate one at that. Sherrod Brown had more money spent against him than any senator in the country, yet never trailed in the ultimate swing state of Ohio, winning by more than Obama. Tammy Baldwin upset a popular ex-governor to win an open Senate seat. All three based their campaigns in large part on running against Wall Street.

Two years later, the 2014 elections were a debacle for Democrats nationwide, but especially for more centrist Democrats. Strong advocates of Wall Street accountability like Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Al Franken of Minnesota, and Gary Peters of Michigan all won races that were supposed to be challenging rather easily.

In 2016, while Secretary Clinton certainly took some progressive stands on economic issues, she rarely waved the populist flag or made tough attacks on Wall Street. In fact, Clinton was badly damaged by taking six-figure speaking fees for speeches to Goldman Sachs. She never fully embraced Elizabeth Warren’s Wall Street reform agenda, and instead of picking a populist VP candidate such as Warren or Sherrod Brown, she chose the single candidate who was widely seen as closest to Wall Street.

Meanwhile, Trump attacked Wall Street, hedge funds, and firms like Goldman Sachs in speech after speech, as well as TV ads. He even endorsed Warren’s idea of reinstating Glass-Steagall and breaking up the biggest banks.

Schoen says Democrats need Wall Street’s money, but Warren in her Senate race and Sanders in his presidential campaign proved small online contributors could make a strong populist campaign financially competitive with a Wall Street-funded campaign. Schoen argues that there are more people who self-identify as moderates than liberals, ignoring the fact that most moderate swing voters hate Wall Street.

Finally, Schoen says Democrats need to be a pro-small business/pro-entrepreneur party. On this I heartily agree with him. The problem is that being pro-Wall Street is not the same thing. The too-big-to-fail banks rarely lend to small businesses and start-ups. They work mostly with the biggest businesses when they are lending, and use much of their money for financial speculation in the markets.

And what Schoen views as policy successes – Clinton’s deregulation of media and banking that has led to the consolidation of those industries into oligopolies – inherently crushes the little guy. Truly being pro-small business entails using anti-trust law to free markets from monopolies; making sure community banks can lend money to local businesses; and making sure potential customers of those local businesses make enough money to be able to buy things from those local businesses.

Schoen’s op-ed fails at policy and fails at politics. Hillary Clinton didn’t lose because of her wild, raging, left-wing populism ― she lost because working-class voters who haven’t gotten a raise in years don’t think Democrats are willing to fight for them.