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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Political Strategy Notes

The heat is on in Florida, where informed and articulate high school students are leading protests that have Republican politicians like Sen. Marco Rubio and Governor Rick Scott squirming in the headlights as they parrot the NRA party line. As Julie Turkewitz and Alexander Burns report at The New York Times, “In addition to the students amassing in Tallahassee, Democrats in Florida have vowed to make gun control a central campaign issue in 2018, and a national gun-control group is already targeting Mr. Scott with television ads that say he neglected public safety…The developing clash over firearms has the potential to define Florida politics in a critical election year, thrusting the state into the center of a stalemated national debate around gun violence and the Second Amendment. In a politically divided state where the National Rifle Association has held broad influence for decades — every governor for 20 years has been an ally of the group — even fierce supporters of gun rights now believe Republicans cannot afford to seem passive in response to gruesome scenes of violence.”

N.Y. Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney may have just nuked her prospects for re-election with her lame comment that “so many” mass murderers “end up being Democrats.” As Virginia Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly, ” wrote on Twitter that she “owes America a sincere and abject apology.” And her expected Democratic challenger this year, State Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, said in his own Twitter post that her “toxic rhetoric” was “a new low” and that “inserting politics into a national tragedy is beyond the pale & disgusting.” The NY-22 district was already considered a solid pick-up possibility for Democrats. Independents, moderates and Dems who are disgusted by Tenney can contribute to Brindisi’s campaign right here.

Here’s a Brindisi ad for the NY-22 race:

In his PowerPost article “For some Democrats running for Congress, a strategic navigation of gun issues,” Paul Kane notes that a number of Democrats running for House seats this year, including Connor Lamb, Paul Davis, Jeff Van Drew and Jason Crow, are taking cautious stands on gun violence prevention. Kane also quotes Adam Jentleson, a strategist at Democracy Forward, a liberal research group, who says “A tectonic shift is underway on guns. Democrats have tried making nice with the NRA and been burned again and again…More and more Democrats are coming around to seeing that there’s no upside to courting the NRA — they’re going to spend millions casting you as a gun-grabber regardless of your actual position, so what’s the point?”

Conservative apologists for Russian meddling in our elections are all bent out of shape because Twitter is putting an end to giving Russian bots free reign. As Jessica Guynn explains at USA Today, “Fake accounts on Twitter have been traced to a Kremlin-linked “troll farm” accused of inflaming political divisions on hot-button national issues such as gun control after last week’s Florida school shooting. According to researchers at the University of Southern California, conservatives retweeted Russian trolls about 31 times more than liberals and produced 36 times more tweets…An organization that tracks Kremlin-backed Twitter accounts — the Alliance for Securing Democracy — says such influence operations have remained active since the election, serving to amplify disputes bubbling on the Web. On Wednesday, #twitterlockout and #twitterpurge were the top and trending hashtags used by the accounts linked to Russian influence operations tracked by the Alliance’s Hamilton 68 project.”

At FiveThirtyEight, Nathaniel Rakich’s post “The 18 (!) Governorships Democrats Could Pick Up This Year,” includes this observation: “If the much-ballyhooed “blue wave” does materialize this fall, it could be Republican governors who suffer the most losses…The other day, we ran down the seven governorships held by Democrats or independents that could fall to the GOP in November. Today’s list of vulnerable Republican seats is more than twice as long. According to qualitative assessments by nonpartisan handicappers — The Cook Political Report, Sabato’s Crystal Ball and Inside Elections,1 — only eight GOP-held governorships are completely safe in 2018.2 That leaves 18 Republican-held governorships in some degree of danger…”

Reasonable people can disagree about whether Rev. Billy Graham was truly nonpartisan, even though he was perceived that way by many, and certainly the mass media. His influence waned substantially in recent years, as he faded from the scene and his politically-strident son, Franklin Graham, became more of a right-wing public figure. But Billy Graham’s death does add a bit of a punctuation mark to the end of the era when most prominent evangelical leaders proclaimed their nonpartisanship and valued a semblance of moral rectitude in the political candidates they supported.

WaPo conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin takes a look at the political moment, and offers this take: “One can look at guns and dreamers as discrete issues, but they can also be seen as issues on which Democrats want to change the status quo, while Republicans would prefer a logjam. The GOP is a prisoner to its anti-immigrant base and to the NRA, both of which would love for nothing to be done on their respective issues. Democrats not only have substantive support for legalizing dreamers and toughening gun laws, but they can make the case that the GOP is thwarting the will of the people and is beholden to special interests. That is a dangerous position for Trump — who promised to shake things up — and his party to be in. By contrast, Democrats need to impress upon voters that they are the problem-solvers and have responsible, concrete solutions. In a midterm election, when the party out of office can capitalize on the White House’s failure to live up to expectations, Democrats have reason to be encouraged.”

Aaron Blake has an amusing peek at Trump’s “empathy deficit” at The Fix. Blake’s article features a photo of Trump’s enumerated notes for his “listening session” with high school students. As Blake notes, “Yep, right there at No. 5 is a talking point about telling those present that he was actually listening to them. After what appear to be four questions he planned to ask those assembled, No. 5 is an apparent reminder for Trump to tell people, “I hear you.”…Even No. 1 is basically a reminder that Trump should empathize. “What would you most want me to know about your experience?” the card reads. So two-fifths of this card is dedicated to making sure the president of the United States assured those assembled that he was interested in what they had to say and their vantage points.”

How Much of Dem Focus Should Be on Russia Probe?

In her pbs.org post,  “Would focusing on Russia probe help or hurt Democrats in the midterms?,” Jessica Yarvin writes:

…Some liberal groups see a danger in Democrats focusing too much of their 2018 messaging on the Russia probe, its ties to the Trump campaign, and issues like corruption in politics.

Priorities USA, another prominent left-leaning group, put out a memo last week arguing that Democrats should stick to an economic and health care-centric message in the months heading into the midterms…“When voters hear the Democratic argument on health care or on taxes and then hear the Republican side, they side with Democrats,” Priorities USA Communications Director Josh Schwerin said.

The group wrote in its memo that its internal polling shows Trump’s approval rating climbed four points since November, from 40 percent to 44 percent. However, specific policies, like the tax law Trump signed late last year, and the GOP’s repeated attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, remain unpopular, the polling shows.

However, writes Yarvin, “In a report released last week, the influential liberal Center for American Progress group outlined several potential ways that Democrats could use the investigation and alleged collusion to their advantage this fall.” Further,

The CAP report cited several instances in which Russian money may have flowed to the Trump Organization through Trump’s business associates, including the real estate developer Felix Sater. Highlighting those connections could help build the case with voters that Trump can’t disentangle his work as president from his global business empire — an issue critics argue raises questions about corruption and conflicts of interest.

There is “a sense of out-of-control sprawling corruption that goes across a wide number of issues,” Jesse Lee, a senior advisor at the Center for American Progress, said in an interview.

The report describes “the fluidity with which Sater has shifted from real estate to geopolitics” and makes the case that “business relationships can be repurposed as pathways to foreign influence.”

There is ample polling data which indicate that corruption is a potent issue for assembling electoral majorities. This was true even before Trump, and it now looks like a huge gift staring Democrats in the face. Democrats also have a range of reforms to address corruption, including:

The report pointed to the DISCLOSE Act, which would ban campaign contributions from American corporations that have at least 20 percent foreign ownership. The bill was first introduced in the House by then-Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and in the Senate by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. in 2010. Since then., Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., has repeatedly introduced the legislation, most recently last July.

Trump’s particular corruption issues, along with the fact that McConnell, Ryan and other GOP leaders  have produced zero reforms to address corruption, remain a glaring political reality. Their inability to enact any anti-corruption legislation whatsoever, despite the GOP’s “trifecta” majority, amplifies the case against Republican-driven corruption.

The Russia probe escalates the Democratic edge on the corruption issue even further. To fail to leverage this advantage would be gross political malpractice, though it should be thoughtfully balanced with other specific campaign issues and tweaked for each electorate.

Teixeira: Yes Trump’s Approval Rating Is Up, No That Doesn’t Mean the Democrats Won’t Succeed in November

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog

Trump’s approval rating has clearly gone up in the last month, from a little under 40 percent to a little under 42 percent, according to the 538 composite. That’s not nothing and, all else equal, good for the Republicans. But it doesn’t change much about expectations for the upcoming election, which are still quite poor for the GOP.

Models, of course, disagree on how grim the forecast is for the Republicans, so any given model should not be taken as the last word. But Seth Masket at Mischiefs of Faction cites a midterm model that illustrates how difficult the situation is for them. The model is a simple one that relies on just Presidential approval and growth in real per capita disposable income (RDI). What it says is this:

[The model] predicts Democrats will pick up 45 to 50 House seats this fall, and take over 15 to 20 state legislative chambers. A loss of just 24 House seats would flip House control to the Democrats….

Most years, this model works fairly well. It predicted Democrats losing 46 House seats in 2010 (they lost 63), and it predicted Republicans losing 40 House seats in 2006 (they lost 31).

You can see in the chart above how this works, with Trump’s approval running a little over 40 percent and RDI growth around 1 percent in the last year. It’s apparent that moving Trump’s approval rating around a little bit at a given level of economic growth does not change the forecast much. Plus Trump’s approval rating have been bouncing around between 37 and 42 percent since early last April  so it’s hard to see the kind of mega-spike that might really change things.

A huge increase in RDI growth seems unlikely also though, of course, anything is possible. But as Masket observes:

Even if RDI growth jumped to 3 percent…the model would still predict Republicans to lose 37 House seats, more than enough to lose control of the chamber, and 14 state legislative chambers.

So the fundamentals don’t look good for Team Red. But it’s just one model so should be treated with caution. After all, there are lots of other factors like the various structural advantages Republicans take into an election like this. But even those have been declining as Nate Cohn has pointed out, knocking a couple of points off of the GOP’s “thumb on the scales”. This includes the effects of anti-gerrymandering court decisions, Democratic fundraising and candidate recruitment and Republican retirements.

It’s a long time ’til election day. But the basic story continues to be a positive one for Democrats, as these data and the results of recent special elections suggest.

FL Mass Shooting Underscores Urgent Need for Gun Safety Reforms, Defeat of NRA at Polls

The U.S. is now averaging more than one mass shooting every day, and in just just 44 days into 2018, there have been 19 school shootings. The 19-year old who bought a semi-automatic AR-15 and mowed down at least 17 students in a Parkland, FL  high school from which he was expelled provides yet another a tragic example of how easy it is for just about anyone to get weapons of mass murder, in this case, depite his threats and worrisome tips to law enforcement from students who knew him.

It’s crickets for recipients of NRA contributions, other than their usual “thoughts and prayers” response. As in so many other mass shootings, there was no “good guy with a gun,” as the NRA argues is the best solution to the problem of mass shootings. Eventually they will respond with the usual parroting of misleading statistics and other aguments of distraction, as they bide their time until the outrage melts away.

Democrats have to provide some significant leadership for gun safety because it is a national security issue, of more immediate urgency than any of our military conflicts in other nations. The lack of common sense restrictions on weapons of mass destruction is a matter of urgent national security because it is facilitating the murder of American children, not in some imagined future, but right now.

The challenge for Democrats is to keep the heat on for gun safety reform at the federal, state and local levels. Every Democratic candidate, from school board to the presidency, must become an informed, articulate champion of common-sense restriction on semi-automatic weapons, and it wouldn’t hurt for rank and file Democrats to press the case through November 6th in social media, town hall meetings and all engagements with their elected officials. We owe that much to the children who have been slaughtered by semi-automatic weapons. There is no better way to honor their lives and help their families.

To become better-informed advocates for responsible gun safety reforms, check out “America’s unique gun violence problem, explained in 17 maps and charts” by German Lopez at Vox. Lopez has done an outstanding job of producing some easy to understand, but striking graphics, which can be especially useful in social media. We’ll share one of them here, urge you to read the whole article and make good use of the graphics, as Democrats press the case for actual reforms, instead of only ‘thoughts and prayers.’

See also this NYT editorial identifying the recipients of the largest NRA contributions.

Bold Tax Justice Reform Is Best Democratic Response to GOP Class Warfare

The following article by Jack Metzgar is cross-posted from Working-Class Perspectives:

When Trump Republicans passed the historically unpopular Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, they continued a 3-decades long GOP effort to reshape the tax code in ways that are hard to reverse.  Relying on what political scientists call path dependency, Republicans have steadily moved us toward a tax system that increases inequality and that makes it harder and harder to sustain most of what the federal government does to fulfill its Constitutional responsibility to “promote the general welfare.”   What they have done would be more appropriately titled the Consolidating the Oligarchy Act.

Republicans are betting that a reasonably strong economy and a series of small tax cuts for almost everybody in 2018 will make them more popular going into this year’s mid-term elections.  If Democrats want to win this fall, they cannot be satisfied to merely attack the GOP’s “tax reform,” the vast majority of whose benefits go to corporations and the top 1% to 5% .  They need their own bold tax fairness plan that frankly taxes the rich to pay for a wide variety of government activities that majorities of the public firmly desire – everything from a long-term modernizing infrastructure program and increased funding for education and veterans to deficit reduction and real lower-income and middle-class tax cuts.  Such a program would be wildly popular (see recent Gallup and Pew surveys), with the potential to win back millions of white-working-class swing voters as well as to regain huge margins and turnout among working-class people of color.

Simply removing the tax code’s bias that favors investors over workers, consumers, and home-owners would provide enough revenue ($300 to $500 billion a year) for a progressive government to really make a difference in working people’s lives and prospects.  And unless we do that, the government will increasingly lack the resources to address any of our problems that cost money to solve, which is almost all of them.  What’s more, systematically advocating how to unrig the tax code would provide Democrats a rich opportunity to reveal how American oligarchs have been buying and renting our government to suit their purposes – especially when contrasted with the Trump GOP’s hypocritical insistence that what they have done is a “middle-class tax cut.”

Teixeira: Dems Must Navigate the Immigration Paradox

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:


Here are three things we know about the American public and immigration.

1. The American public is becoming more favorable, not less favorable, toward immigration. In fact,  the public is not only more favorable but it is now at historically high levels of favorability toward immigration and immigrants. From a recent article by Derek Thompson:

·         The share of Americans calling for lower levels of immigration has fallen from a high of 65 percent in the mid-1990s to just 35 percent, near its record low.
·         A 2017 Gallup poll found that fears that immigrants bring crime, take jobs from native-born families, or damage the budget and overall economy are all at all-time lows.
·         In the same poll, the percentage of Americans saying immigrants “mostly help” the economy reached its highest point since Gallup began asking the question in 1993.
·         A Pew Research poll asking if immigrants “strengthen [the] country with their hard work and talents” similarly found affirmative responses at an all-time high.

Pretty much all relevant polling data say the same thing. Here are a couple charts from the two leading academic surveys, the General Social Survey and the American National Election Study:


Moreover, as the polling data also show very consistently, the public is very supportive of the DREAMers and opposed to building a wall on the border with Mexico.

2. The places with the most immigration tend to be the ones least supportive of Trump and a hard line on immigration. Conversely, of course, if the exposure to immigrants is limited, that tends to correlate with high support for Trump and being hostile to immigration. This chart from Ron Brownstein sums up the situation well:


And yet…despite a public that’s trending favorable toward immigrants, especially in areas where they are common, we have the third thing we know about the public and immigration:

3. Anti-immigrant feelings now have more political salience than they have had a very long time and that is hurting the Democrats. It is clearly the case that for an important minority of–primarily white noncollege–voters, they feel intensely enough about this issue to respond positively to anti-immigrant messages and candidates. Trump would not be President if this were not true. And the GOP hopes they can continue to use this issue to keep these voters away from the Democratic party, a strategy that has worked to perfection in Rustbelt and other declining areas of the country.

Can the Democrats resolve this immigration paradox so they do not suffer politically for being pro-immigrant in country that is increasingly pro-immigrant? We shall see. But it would appear they need to think carefully about how to reach voters outside of blue America who do not start with the presumption that immigration is beneficial. Otherwise,the immigration paradox is likely to continue, and continue to hurt the Democrats.

Is Targeting 100 House Seats Realistic for Dems?

Josh Vorhees reviews Democratic strategy to win House of Reps seats in his slate.com post, “Democrats Say They Are Now Targeting 101 House Seats. Wait, Really?: As the title suggests, he has some doubts, including,

Democrats have set their sights on taking 101 House seats from Republicans.
Wait, what now? Via NBC News:

At House Democrats’ annual conference Thursday, Rep. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), is expected to tell colleagues the committee is expanding the battleground to include 101 Republicans — the largest in a decade, a Democratic source familiar with the matter told NBC News.

Now, a point of clarification: I checked with the DCCC, the official campaign arm of House Democrats, and they confirmed that their list of battleground targets really does run 101 races long—though three of the 19 open seats on that list are currently held by Democrats. But while that 98 figure doesn’t make for quite as strong of a shock-and-awe more-than-a-hundred PR strategy, in reality, there’s not all that much difference between the two figures. Both can safely be described as a freaking lot.

Vorhees’s concern is understandable. That’s a dramatic increase from the two-dozen seats Trump’s -10 underwater (but recently improved) approval numbers indicate are a realistic goal for Dems, according to some political pundits. Vorhees adds:

On Thursday, the Cook Political Report moved a whopping 21 races in the direction of Democrats. And yet even after that sizable shift, it’s hard to count to 98. Cook currently considers 343 of the 435 House seats either solidly Democrat (175) or solidly Republican (168). And of the remaining 92 races thought to either be competitive or have the potential to become competitive before November, 19 of them are currently held by Democrats. Put another way, Democrats are targeting dozens of seats that Cook and other nonpartisan experts think will stay red—some deep red—come Election Day 2018.

…According to the DCCC, their internal, district-level polling is one reason for the confidence. They say Trump is underwater in more than 60 districts he won in 2016. The DCCC also points to strong fundraising by individual candidates and national Democratic groups, which together they hope will offset some of the GOP’s traditional advantage when it comes to outside money (see: Brothers, Koch).

Despite the encouraging numbers, Vorhees sees “some element of posturing” in the DCCC strategy and he concludes, “Every dollar they spend trying to flip that 60th seat—let alone the 98th one—is a buck that they won’t have to invest in those races far more likely to decide control of the House for the next two years. It may not be Hillary can win Texas! but it feels hauntingly close to It’s cool, Michigan’s in the bag.”

It may be, however, that underinvesting in winnable districts with substantial numbers of white working-class voters who are fed up with Trump is the greater danger. Dems have some useful numbers  to work with in identifying competitive districts and Democratic fund-raising is going well.

Overconfidence and spreading resources too thin can be a problem. But It would also be a shame if excessive caution prevented Democrats from winning an additional ten or more seats. Allocating available resources optimally to numerous campaigns is a tricky challenge in any election, especially the 2018 midterms, which have so far produced a bumper crop of Democratic candidates nation-wide. Better polling in congressional districs would be a big help.

Waldman: Dems Finally Play Offense

Some instructive comments from Paul Waldman’s Plum Line post, “Republicans have rigged the system for years. Democrats are finally fighting back“:

One of the most important differences between the two parties today is that Republicans never stop asking how they can change the rules to benefit themselves. Democrats, on the other hand, are almost always on the defensive, trying to stop what Republicans are doing (with mixed success), but often getting bowled over by Republicans who have thought more about how to go about rigging the system and have more resources at their disposal.

The recent history of these efforts starts a little under a decade ago, when Republicans realized that if they could win victories in the 2010 elections, they’d control redistricting after the census. Democrats weren’t paying nearly enough attention to state elections, and in that 2010 wave, the GOP took control of multiple state legislatures. With their control of redistricting, they redrew maps across the country, and as a result, in the 2012 House elections, Democratic candidates won over a million more votes than Republican candidates, but Republicans controlled the chamber by a 33-seat margin (you can read more about that here).

Yes, Democrats have gerrrymandered on occasion, as well, notes Waldman, “but they haven’t waged the kind of organized and sustained assault on institutions that Republicans have.” He quotes Carolyn Fiddler, a state politics expert at Daily Kos, who adds that “Democratic donors are definitely stepping up and investing in state-level politics this cycle in ways I’ve never seen.”

Waldman cites the work of “new groups on the left such as Indivisible and Run For Something that are channeling so much activist energy are putting a large portion of their attention on state and local elections.” Further,

And in a few places, Democrats have actually gone on the offensive, passing automatic voter registration that would render some Republican vote suppression efforts moot. Voters in Florida will have a ballot measure in November to end the state’s felon disenfranchisement law, which leaves 1.5 million Floridians who have served their time without the right to vote.

However, Waldman concludes that “it’s still the case that Republicans are on the offensive while Democrats mostly play defense, trying to stop Republicans from rigging the system.”

The Republicans haven’t paid much of a price for their voter suppression, stonewalling in congress and gerrymandering projects, despite all that has been said about it in the media. It appears that they correctly calculated that voters who would be disgusted by their obstruction of democracy are already against them, while the small percentage who are swing voters don’t seem to care much about it.

Deciding the allocation of resources to be invested in defensive and offensive strategy is always a tough call. But it’s encouraging that Democrats are now investing more resources into the latter, a needed first step to becomming a more pro-active party.

Teixeira: Trump’s State Approval Ratings Provide The Key to 2018

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

There is nothing more important than the overall political environment for the magnitude of Democratic gains in 2018. The poorer that environment is for Republicans, the better the Democrats will do in any given race with any given candidate. And there is nothing more important to that environment than President Trump’s approval ratings which, as those who pay at least some attention to politics know, have generally been dismal at the national level.

But the 2018 races are run not nationally but in the individual states, so it is important to have a sense of how Trump is viewed in individual states to assess Democratic prospects. That is why the state approval ratings just released by Gallup are so useful, because they provide an approval rating for Trump in all 50 states. (The ratings are average ratings from 2017; Trump’s overall approval rating today appear to be slightly higher–a point or two–than its 2017 average, so the Gallup data cited here may be slightly underestimating his current state approval ratings).

The state ratings are particularly interesting in light of where the real battles of 2018 are likely to be fought. As Philip Bump has noted, 64 competitive House seats held by Republicans are in states where Trump’s approval rating is under 50 percent; 60 of these seats are in states where his rating is below 45 percent and 34 are in states where his rating dips below 40 percent.

One way to get a sense of just how much the political environment in a given state has shifted since Trump’s election is to compare Trump’s margin in 2016 with his net approval rating (approval minus disapproval) from the Gallup data. The results are rather striking when we look at states with key races.

The states with the largest number of competitive House seats held by Republicans are: California (8); Pennsylvania (6); New York (5); New Jersey (4); Virginia (4); Illinois (4) and Ohio (4). Trump’s average approval rating in these states is 36 percent (low of 29 percent in California and high of 45 percent in Ohio). And on average Trump’s net approval rating in these states is 12 points worse than the margin he attained in these states in the 2016 election. For example, Trump carried Ohio by 8 points in 2016; his net approval rating in 2017 was -5. Interestingly, the only state where the shift against Trump was not in double digits was California. But here his margin in 2016 was already -30, so he slipped to “only” -36 in net approval rating.

Drilling down a little bit farther, the same patterns can be found in most states with competitive Senate, governor’s and/or state legislature elections. In Arizona, where Democrats are targeting Jeff Flake’s open Senate, as well as seeking to make big gains in the state House and Senate, Trump’s net approval is now -12, a 16 point shift compared to his 2016 margin. In Florida, where the Democrats are defending a Senate seat and targeting Republican governor Rick Scott and the state Senate, Trump is also at -12, 13 points worse than his 2016 showing. In Iowa, where the Democrats are after the governorship and serious gains in the state House and Senate, Trump’s net approval is -9, 18 points worse than his victory margin in the state in 2016. In Nevada, where Democrats have good chances to flip Dean Heller’s Senate seat and the governor’s mansion, Trump is at -11, 13 points worse than 2016. Even in North Dakota and West Virginia, two states with Democratic-held Senate seats where Trump has (in relative terms) sky-high net approval ratings of 18 and 26 points, respectively, these ratings still trail Trump’s 2016 election margins by 16 points.

Most astonishingly, in Texas where the Democrats are after three House seats and have an outside shot at Ted Cruz’ Senate seat, Trump’s net approval is at -15, a stunning 24 point decline from Trump’s victory margin in 2016. But a word of caution here. Gallup’s net approval ratings are among all adults, a group that tends to be pro-Democratic relative to the likely or actual voting pool and this difference, as Harry Enten has pointed out, is particularly large in Texas. So don’t break out the champagne toasts for blue Texas quite yet.

Still, all in all, favorable data for Democratic prospects in the most important states in 2018. I shall have more to say in the future about the demographics of specific states and Congressional Districts and how this may play into the political trends summarized in this piece

Judis: Why Dems Must Tread Carefully on Immigration Policy

At The American Prospect Long Form, John Judis has an article, “The Two Sides of Immigration Policy: We need to legalize the undocumented already here, but open borders will mean lower wages for American workers,” which merits a thoughtful read by Democrats.  Judis, author of The Populist Explosion: How the Great Recession Transformed American and European Politics, writes:

Democrats and liberals have rightly rejected Trump’s words and deeds. And they have reasserted the need to find an eventual path to citizenship for the 12 million [undocumented immigranrs]. But in responding to Trump’s xenophobia, many have gone to the opposite extreme and denied, in effect, that a problem really exists. They have consistently downplayed or denied that there is any urgent need to stanch the flow of unauthorized immigration. The party’s 2016 platform plank on immigration gave short shrift to the problem of illegal immigration, merely calling for law enforcement that is “humane and consistent with our values.”

…Democrats believe, of course, that in downplaying illegal immigration and insisting that immigration benefits everyone, they are standing up for their own constituents. They think that working-class Americans who backed Trump on this issue failed to understand their own interests. But Democrats are wrong in this case. While many American businesses and the well-to-do have clearly benefited from the massive influx of unskilled immigrants, many middle- and working-class Americans, including such key Democratic constituents as African Americans, have not.

Judis goes on to present evidence that, while Latino voters favor Democrats, their views on illegal immigration reform are not far different from American voters in general. He notes,

…pluralities or majorities of Hispanics are leery of illegal immigration, and want it restricted. They look with disfavor on the massive immigration of unskilled workers. In a 2013 Gallup poll, 74 percent of Hispanics favor and only 24 percent oppose “tightening security at U.S. borders,” and 65 percent favor and only 34 percent oppose “requiring business owners to check the immigration status of workers they hire.”

Reviewing some recent polling data, Judis concludes “In sum, the Democratic stance on these issues is not only unpopular with most voters, but with many Hispanics as well. Except as a response to Trump’s xenophobia, the Democrats’ response makes no political sense, and is not benefiting their own working-class constituents.”

In his NYT op-ed, “Trump Has Got Democrats Right Where He Wants Them,” Thomas B. Edsall writes, “For a Democratic Party whose electoral strength depends on Hispanic support (64 percent of Latinos identified with or leaned toward the Democratic Party in 2016) preventing the deportation of the Dreamers and providing them with legal status has become a matter of political necessity.” Edsall also notes, however, that “The greatest unknown is how immigration reform will influence the voting behavior of the white working class.”

Noting the Democratic belief that “large-scale immigration of unskilled workers will help the Democrats politically and hurt the Republicans,” Judis argues that “Hispanics may not prove to be a dependable Democratic constituency,” as they “move up the economic ladders.” Further, “Republican candidates for governor in Texas and the Senate in North Carolina have almost broken even among Hispanic voters.”

Judis argues that “the continual surge of low-skilled immigrants into the United States will contribute to an impoverished underclass that holds down wages and creates welfare costs for small towns and states.” He notes that  “The existence of that underclass has helped fuel bitter cultural-economic conflicts that have riven America over the last 30 years. It undercuts any promise of an American social democracy or extension of New Deal liberalism…”

Democrats have to tread a policy that rejects both nativism and open borders, while protecting the Dreamers and demonstrating genuine concern for secure borders and decent wages for all workers. As Judis concludes,

What, then, can the Democratic Party do? On the one hand, it is reasonable to push for a path to citizenship, and especially to prevent the cruel deportation of immigrants who were brought here illegally as children and often literally have no home country to return to. It’s also important to defend the labor rights of all residents of the United States, even those without papers, and to resist wholesale raids. But Democrats make both a policy mistake and a political one when they become cheerleaders for illegal immigration and for expanded immigration in general, while denying the plain fact that in many cases immigrants do indeed lower the wages of local workers. Building a wall is bad policy, but so is ignoring the plain realities.

It’s a narrow path, which will require nuanced policies to insure fairness for both immigrants and American workers. Republicans will miss no opportunity to distort Democratic immigration policies as extravagant indulgences that hurt American workers. To win in 2018, as well as 2020, Democrats will have to demonstrate that their party provides the best hope for American workers, as well as immigrants.