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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Creamer: How to Really Make the Affordable Care Act Even Better

The following article by Democratic strategist Robert Creamer, author of Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, is cross-posted from HuffPo:

Republican fantasies about “repealing and replacing” the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are crashing on the rocks of two-to-one public opposition, and a tidal wave of ordinary people who are demanding their Members of Congress vote NO.

So what about a real plan to make the ACA even better? What about a plan to provide even more access to health care and make premiums more affordable – especially for working people — rather than the GOP plan to take health care away from millions?

The Affordable Care Act has massively increased coverage at much more affordable prices for many, many Americans. What’s more, it has prevented insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions, installed many consumer protections for consumers and helped lower the rate of health care inflation. Most importantly, it established that in a civilized society, health care is not a commodity to be bought and sold, but a right.

The ACA was a major step in the right direction. And in many respects, the United States has a spectacular health care delivery system. But in others we still have a great deal of room to improve.

Let’s start by remembering that health care costs per capita in the United States remain the highest of any industrial nation, even though our health care outcomes remain well below the best performing nations in the world.

The ACA has indeed improved outcomes for many, many Americans. And it has bent the cost curve. Health care cost inflation is much lower today than it was in the pre-ObamaCare era to which the GOP seeks to return.

The last way to “improve” the health care system is to repeal the ACA and return to the bad old days before health care was considered a human right in the United States. The same obviously goes for partial repeal proposals like the House or Senate TrumpCare repeal and replace bills.

In fact, to the extent the ACA could be improved it’s because it doesn’t provide enough of a good thing.

There are three major factors driving health care costs in the United States. First are payment systems that incentivize the numbers of procedures that are performed rather than the outcomes they produce. Second are the costs of prescription drugs – which are much higher than they are in the rest of the world. Finally are the excessive costs of administration, marketing and profit that are associated with private insurance companies. Remember, Medicare’s administrative cost is a fraction of the combined costs of profits, administration and marketing for private insurance companies.

The best way to improve the health insurance system in America and simultaneously cut costs would be to follow the lead of most other industrial countries and set up a single-payer system for everyone like the Medicare system that covers senior citizens in the U.S. today.

Such a system would not only assure that everyone has health care, it would also allow the purchasing power of the single-payer to negotiate with drug companies for much lower prices, eliminate massive amounts of insurance company bureaucracy and allow for new systems of provider payments that would incentivize results rather than the number of procedures that can be billed out to insurance.

A single-payer system would without doubt be the best way to finance health care in the United States. Regardless of what is done with health insurance today, the odds are good that one day the U.S. will ultimately have a single payer system.

Short of a single-payer system, there are, however, three specific policies that would greatly improve the availability and affordability of health insurance.

The current ACA system has three major shortcomings.

  • First, some especially hard to serve markets have only one – or in some cases potentially fewer – insurance plans offered on their ACA exchange. That leaves consumers captive and defeats to purpose of the exchanges. Of course a big part of this problem results from intentional policies of the Trump administration that are intended to sabotage the ACA. Many of the companies who have exited these markets have done so because of uncertainty whether Trump would fund the subsidies provided by the ACA.
  • Second, the ACA left in place policies that allow the pharmaceutical industry to charge U.S. consumers much more than they charge consumers abroad.
  • Third, subsidies for insurance plans stop at income levels that still make individual or family policies purchased on the Exchanges unaffordable to many working families.

These two problems could be effectively addressed by three progressive policies that are all very politically popular:

1). Increase substantially the income levels at which working people can receive subsidies on the exchanges. The dollars needed to finance these subsidies should come from additional taxes on the wealthy, health insurance companies and especially the giant pharmaceutical companies.

Remember that the pharmaceutical companies have made record profits by gouging U.S. consumers substantially more than they can charge consumers in other countries. That is especially due to the limits on re-importation of pharmaceuticals and the fact that Medicare is prevented by law from negotiating with pharmaceutical companies for cheaper drug prices. So a pharmaceutical company tax is a fair source of revenue for increased subsidies for working people.

Recall, by the way, that when the Medicare Part D plan was passed that outrageous provision banning negotiation was itself negotiated by Republican Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Bill Tauzin who then promptly left Congress to make millions of dollars as head of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

2). Repeal the prohibition against Medicare negotiating with the drug companies for lower prices and require that they provide pharmaceuticals to consumers on the exchanges at the Medicare-negotiated rate. In addition, allow re-importation of pharmaceuticals from suppliers in other countries who can obtain drugs at prices below which these companies sell to U.S. consumers.

3). Set up a public insurance option offered nationwide that can compete in every market in America. A public option, like Medicare, would have low administrative and marketing costs and major market clout, and would provide an affordable insurance option whenever private carriers abandoned insurance markets. In addition, competition from a public insurance option would force down private insurance costs.

A public insurance option is pretty much a no-brainer. It was passed by the House of Representatives when the ACA was on the way to becoming law, but ultimately dropped by the Senate as a result of a massive insurance industry lobbying and the work of the former “Senator from Health Insurance” Joe Lieberman.

Together, increased subsidies for working people, a public insurance option and lower pharmaceutical prices would solve most of the shortcomings of the current Affordable Care Act.

They work as policy – unlike GOP proposals like health savings accounts that mainly benefit the wealthy. And they are also very popular politically. They represent the high political ground.

Once ordinary people have administered the coup de grace to GOP proposals to “repeal and replace” ObamaCare, Democrats should forcefully advocate these three policies to make ObamaCare even better.

And they should dare the Republicans to pass these proposals that would actually address the issues people care about – increasing the availability and affordability of health insurance coverage – rather than taking health care away from millions of their fellow Americans.

Working America: Be Bold, Be Visible: Central Ohio Midterm Voters’ Outlook on Policies and Politicians

The following article is cross-posted from the Working America Front Porch Focus Group Report:


Working America canvassers held face-to-face conversations with 355 likely midterm swing voters in central Ohio in early June. During these front-porch discussions, we surveyed midterm voters on their top issues and 11 public policies designed to address economic and public health concerns. The list included eight middle-class-oriented policies, two policies targeting low-income workers, and the American Health Care Act, or Trumpcare. We wanted to understand if and where working people are feeling pinched and what solutions they believe will deliver meaningful change to their lives. We also asked about their source for political news and views of politicians. Here are our findings:

There is strong support in Ohio for an array of progressive policies to expand and strengthen the middle class. During our 355 face-to-face conversations, we found solid support across partisan lines and income levels to curb the outsourcing of jobs, address the opioid crisis and pass paid family leave. These three policies have such high levels of support and intensity that they could prove persuasive even for Trump swing voters in 2018. In addition, five other progressive policies promoting middle-class well-being are backed by more than 70 percent of Clinton voters and at least a plurality of Trump voters we spoke with during this project.

Trumpcare is intensely opposed by Clinton swing voters and weakly supported by Trump swing voters. Only 39 percent of Trump voters — and a mere 2 percent of Clinton voters — support the passage of Trumpcare. Overall, 60 percent of Ohio swing voters we spoke with chose it from a list of 11 policies as the one that would have the most negative impact on their family. Voters in both camps identify health care as their most important issue, so a candidate’s stance on Trumpcare could be hugely persuasive in 2018.

While there is a path forward for Ohio progressives in 2018, voters’ low information about elected officials is helping to drive a low opinion of all politicians. Our conversations with Ohio swing voters reveal they know little about their elected officials; half of them say they do not know or have no opinion of either U.S. senator. And a substantial share of voters told us they get their news from right-leaning media sources; 49 percent of Trump voters rely on Fox or other TV news as their primary news source. Overall, voters are far more likely to hold “all politicians” responsible for the state of the economy rather than one political party, Wall Street or corporations. In 2016, Democrats in Ohio tried and failed to use conventional paid media to push back against right-wing messages. In 2018, progressives need to change the way we get information to voters and do far more direct outreach. Having better policies won’t make a difference if voters never hear about them.


  1. Policies to expand and strengthen the middle class have broad and intense support among Ohio swing voters. Stopping outsourcing, addressing the opioid crisis and establishing paid family leave are all backed by at least two-thirds of Trump voters and an overwhelming majority of Clinton voters with whom we spoke. These policies are strongly supported across income and party lines, and appear to have sufficient intensity to be persuasive with voters.
  2. Health care is currently Ohio voters’ No. 1 issue, and the deep unpopularity of Trumpcare could make it a highly persuasive issue. A full 87 percent of Clinton swing voters oppose Trumpcare. Even among Trump voters, the bill is unpopular, with a majority either neutral on (44 percent) or outright opposed (17 percent) to its passage. When queried about health care, voters from both parties and at all income levels prioritize affordable and accessible care. Given the highly negative perception of Trumpcare, even many Trump swing voters could be persuaded by arguments against it.
  3. Ohio voters are highly polarized over raising the minimum wage, but it has strong support with the lower-income voters that Democrats struggle to get to the polls in midterm elections. The partisan divide over the minimum wage is stark: 79 percent of Clinton voters support it, while 58 percent of Trump voters oppose it. However, 68 percent of all low-income voters, including Trump voters, back a minimum wage increase. This could make the issue a powerful mobilization tool for progressives.
  4. Conventional paid media has not been getting through to voters, leaving them with little information about elected officials. In Ohio’s 2016 race for the U.S. Senate, the two top candidates and their supporters spent an estimated $90 million, with a huge share going to TV ads and other paid media. Yet 53 percent of the swing voters we surveyed did not know or had no opinion of Sen. Rob Portman, one of the candidates in that race. This shows the limited effectiveness of conventional advertising and paid media in reaching voters.
  5. Voters’ low information is combining with right-wing media narratives to cement a low opinion of all politicians.Progressives need to change how they get information to the public. Our conversations reveal that voters across the political spectrum do not differentiate between Democrats and Republicans when assigning responsibility for their economic woes during the last decade. Two out of five voters we spoke with told canvassers “all politicians” were at fault. Voters repeatedly said they do not see elected officials dealing with issues important to them. The upshot is that voters blame elected officials writ large for the state of the economy more than they blame the corporate beneficiaries of rigged rules. If progressive candidates want to change that narrative in 2018 and beyond, direct outreach to voters like door-to-door contact will be essential.

The findings in this report are based on “front porch focus groups” — interviews held in person at voters’ front doors.Working America canvassers conducted the interviews from June 5 to June 16 in working- and middle-class neighborhoods in Columbus and several surrounding towns as well as in Circleville, Delaware and Mansfield. The people we spoke with voted in at least one nonpresidential election since 2010, which suggests they are likely to vote in 2018. These voters landed squarely in the middle of the partisan spectrum with an average Catalist Vote Choice partisanship score of 48.2 (on a scale of 0-100, 0 being most Republican and 100 being most Democrat). The estimated household income of voters averaged roughly $88,000 a year. Ninety-eight percent of voters were white, 1 percent were African-American, none were Latinx and 0.3 percent were Asian; the ethnicity of 0.3 percent was unknown.


1. What Voters Think About Policies to Strengthen the Middle Class

Working America canvassers talked with Ohio swing voters about eight policies designed to strengthen and expand the middle class. Their responses show there is broad support, even among Trump swing voters, for many progressive policies.

In South Columbus, one of our canvassers talked with Robert, a 51-year-old white Trump voter who wanted Democrats “to stop with the [Russia] investigation crap.” But Robert supported all eight progressive policies, including making it easier to unionize. He related how he’d tried to form a union at work and feared he’d lose his job. On many issues, Trump swing voters shared powerful stories from their own lives that explained why they backed progressive policies. This doesn’t mean Trump swing voters will automatically pull the lever for a progressive in 2018. But it’s a good reminder that some of these voters swung from Barack Obama to Trump and that policies relevant to their lives may help swing them back in a progressive direction.

For all the policies that follow, we measured both the level of support and the level of intensity that voters had for each policy. We measured the level of support by asking voters whether they supported, opposed or felt neutral about each policy. We measured intensity by asking voters which policies they thought would have the greatest positive or negative impact on their families. For the full set of results, please see the charts in the Appendix.

1.A. Broad, Intense Support for Three Policies to Bolster the Middle Class

Chart 1 shows three middle-class-oriented policies that garnered the support of at least two-thirds of Trump voters and an overwhelming majority of Clinton voters. Trump voters also ranked these policies as the top 3 out of 8 middle-class-oriented policies that would have the greatest positive impact on their lives. All three policies had strong support across income and party lines, and they appear to have sufficient intensity to be persuasive with voters in 2018.

Looking at support, three policies rose to the top across partisanship: curbing outsourcing, addressing the opioid crisis and passing paid family leave. Looking at intensity of support, we see that among the broadly supported policies, these three also ranked as the most likely to have a positive impact on the lives of Ohioans. They resonate across the board. Beneath the charts is a more detailed analysis of each policy.


Stopping Outsourcing – Overall, 79.3 percent of Ohio swing voters told us they want lawmakers to discourage companies from outsourcing jobs and encourage them to provide good wages and benefits through tax incentives. Voters ranked it first among the eight middle-class-oriented policies as the one that would have the greatest positive impact. Stopping outsourcing received more support from Trump swing voters than any other policy, with 83.2 percent of them backing the measure. And it wasn’t just displaced factory workers who complained about outsourcing. White-collar workers had concerns as well.

Teixeira: How Vulnerable Is Trump?

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, The Optimistic Leftist:

Some have argued that the emotional bond between Trump and his supporters is so strong that it’s nearly impossible to break.

I don’t believe this is true for a couple of reasons. First, Trump is attached to the GOP and the GOP is remarkably out of touch with the voters who supported Trump. This is a non-trivial problem, as Ron Brownstein explains in The Atlantic.

The Senate Republican health-care bill has been repeatedly crushed in a slow-motion collision between the party’s historic ideology and the interests of its modern electoral coalition. Yet congressional Republicans appear determined to plow right through the wreckage.

Even as the Senate’s latest effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act collapsed on Tuesday, the House Republican leadership released a 10-year federal-budget blueprint that points them toward a similar confrontation, between their dominant small-government dogma and the economic needs of their increasingly blue-collar and older white base.

The Urban Institute found that 80 percent of those who would lose coverage under the Senate repeal-and-replace bill were non-college educated, 70 percent worked full-time and 60 percent were white. Rural areas would be particularly hard hit by the Medicaid cuts and so on. Candidate Trump of course said he would do none of this stuff but that went out the window once he started dealing with Congressional Republicans and their libertarian proclivities.

This matters. Brownstein notes that Trump’s approval ratings among white noncollege women is now 19 points lower than his vote support among this group back in November. Will all of these voters abandon him? No, but if a serious chunk does it will hurt both him and the GOP.

But isn’t it true that Trump’s overall support has been rock-steady? On net, aren’t his voters sticking with him? This is a myth. It is certainly true that he retains most of this support. But that’s different from all. Brendan Nyhan points out in a New York Times Upshot column that the seeming stability in Trump’s approval rating among GOP partisans may be an illusion. This is because Republican identifiers who disapprove of Trump may cease identifying as Republicans, thereby propping up his numbers among that group. But he’s still losing support.

A new Ipsos poll finds that one in eight Trump supporters from last November now say they aren’t sure they’d do it again after the last six months. We don’t know of course whether these voters would actually follow through on their sentiments. But it is not a good sign, either for Trump or the GOP.

People are reluctant, understandably so, to believe in Trump’s vulnerability. People will not soon forget the night of November 8, 2016 when nothing turned out like it was supposed to. But if his supporters have a fear of falling downward economically, what happens if they conclude he can’t stop the fall, much less lift them up? He will be punished like all politicians. It is just a matter of when and how much.

New Survey Provides 2018 Midterms Turnout Estimates, Reveals Challenge Facing Democrats

In a new Lake Research Partners/The Voter participation Center report, “Comparing the Voting Electorate in 2012-2016 and Predicting 2018 Drop-off,” Celinda Lake and Joshua E. Ulibarri offer data-driven projections of voter turnout in the 2018 elections. The study should be required reading for all 2018 Democratic candidates and campaigns. As Lake and Ulibarri report:

  • Using a predictive methodology for population growth and likely turnout patterns, it is projected that the RAE [Rising American Electorate – “unmarried women, Millennials (ages 18-34)*, African Americans, Latinos, and all other people of color (as defined by the Census) – now accounts for more than half of the voting eligible population in this country (59.2%)”] will comprise 61.6% of those who will vote in November 2018. This means that one in three voters who turned out in 2016 will NOT turn out in 2018 (35.1% of those who voted in 2016, or 25.4 million RAE voters, will stay home).
  • The predicted drop-off among non-RAE voters is only 22.1% or 14.4 million voters. In fact, of the nearly 40 million Americans predicted to drop-off from 2016, two-thirds will come from the RAE (remember, the RAE represents 59.2% of the vote eligible population).
  • Turnout is predicted to drop the most among Millennial voters and unmarried women. In fact, this is true in patterns seen between 2008 and 2014. Drop-off among Millennials is predicted to be 54.1% (or 17.2 million voters) and 33.4% among unmarried women (or 11.1 million voters).
  • Regionally, the biggest drop-off of RAE voters is predicted to take place in the Mid-Atlantic states (NY, PA, and NJ – Census defined region). Here, 39.6% of RAE voters are expected to drop-off in 2018.
  • Among target states, Virginia, North Carolina, and Nevada are expected to see the biggest drop-off rates among RAE voters. 48.7% (or roughly 1,106,000 voters) of RAE voters are predicted to drop off in Virginia in 2018, while 44.2% (or roughly 309,000 voters) and 43.4% (or roughly 1,135,000 million voters) of RAE voters will drop off in Nevada and North Carolina, respectively.

The study includes national, regional and state data, and the authors note that “Drop-Off – refers to the loss of voters from 2016 to 2018. The average of turnout in 2006, 2010, and 2014 was applied to 2018 population estimates to calculate 2018 turnout. Percentage drop-off is the difference between 2016 and 2018 turnout as a percentage of 2016 turnout. Number drop-off is that percentage of the 2016 electorate.”

The study underscores the profound disadvantage Democratic candidates face in midterm elections, since the RAE is composed of largely pro-Democratic constituencies. The 2018 vote total could be even worse, if the Republicans are able to expand their voter suppression impact. If, on the other hand, Democrats are able to run really good candidates and mobilize more effective voter registration, education and turnout campaigns, the 2018 results could be significantly better in key states.

ABC/WaPo Poll: Dems in Good Position for 2018

Yes, it’s still early, but a new ABC/Washington Post Poll shows Democrats with an impressive lead among potential midterm voters. As Sofi Sinozich writes at abcnews.com:

There is a Democratic preference: Among all adults, 53 percent say they’d prefer to see the Democrats take control of Congress “to act as a check on Trump,” vs. 35 percent who’d like to see the GOP retain control “to support Trump’s agenda.” That said, among registered voters, it’s a 52-38 percent split, and among likely voters, 50-41 percent — the Democratic margin drawing in from 18 to 14 to 9 points as voting likelihood increases.

Drilling deeper, Sinozich adds:

In the question on control of Congress, registered partisans nearly unanimously back their respective parties, leaving the result driven by independents: Half prefer Democratic control of Congress, 36 percent, Republican.

Among white registered voters, men without college degrees, some of Trump’s strongest backers in the 2016 election, prefer Republican control, 60 vs. 34 percent. By contrast, among white women with college degrees it’s the opposite — 59 vs. 35 percent for Democratic control.

Democratic control wins only a slight edge among returning voters, 49 vs. 41 percent, while potential new voters prefer it by 2-1, 64 vs. 30 percent. That reflects the fact that new potential voters are younger and more likely to be nonwhite, two groups that consistently lean Democratic. And it underscores the Democratic Party’s need to boost turnout in these groups.

Sinozich’s report emphasizes that “Despite Trump’s historically low approval rating, opposition to him is not producing appreciably more 2018 voting intention than is support for him” and she notes that “51 percent of registered voters say Trump won’t be a factor in their vote for Congress. The rest split closely between saying they’d vote to support Trump (20 percent) or to oppose him (24 percent), a non-significant gap.” Other poll analysts have noted a long-standing relationship between the midterm performance of political parties and the President’s approval ratings.

In any case, the Democratic Party is not going to hang all of its 2018 midterm elections hopes on Trump’s sinking popularity, despite the media’s narrow construct of Democratic strategy as a choice between focusing on Trump or local issues. Very few Democratic candidates are counting on Trump’s approval ratings to get elected. While Trump is undoubtedly doing some damage to the Republican “brand” among swing voters, the more interesting question at this juncture is how much damage McConnell and Ryan are doing to the GOP’s image with their ‘repeal and replace” follies. All of this may matter less in November, 2018 than the voting public’s perception of economic realities.

Martinez: Virginia Can Light Path to Victory for Dems

Leopoldo MartínezBoard Chair for Latino Victory Project, limns a victory strategy in his HuffPo article “Organizing a Democratic Comeback” at HuffPo — beginning with the Virginia Governorship:

Trump did not win the national popular vote. Further, his margins of victory were dismal in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — less than 0.5%. We know that this was merely due to thousands of registered democrats in those states not showing up to the polls or them being diverted to protest for Johnson or Stein. It is also clear that voter turnout in red states, like Arizona or Texas, was worse for Trump than for the past two Republican presidential candidates. And yes, we now know that according to America’s intelligence community, the Russian government did meddle in the 2016 Presidential election. For these reasons, and Trump’s poor presidential performance thus far, we must maintain our fight for “resistance,” and continue to “re-litigate,” with much help from the media, the 2016 election.

 …Does it make sense to brand “impeachment” and “resistance” the center of the political strategy to regain power? I see the merits of “resistance tactics” to prevent the extreme, such as the possibility of passing Trumpcare 3.0. I do agree that Congress should make Trump accountable for his affair with the wealthiest in America. However, for an impeachment to occur, Democrats need to be in the majority in Congress. Resistance alone, or the prospects of impeachment, are banking on the actions by others, namely Republicans.
Democrats need to convert the popular vote majority we uphold, into seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate. Furthermore, Democrats need to gain control of the state assemblies where the two biggest threats to democracy are emerging due to voter suppression and gerrymandering. Alternatively, we need to elect a governor who will veto every piece of legislation that could reverse our civil rights, like Governor Terry McAuliffe has done approximately 111 times in Virginia.
It is well over time to move from resistance to action, from being in the defensive to rolling out an offensive. We must communicate how the lives of working Americans, the middle class, and those most vulnerable matter. And, we must move beyond traditional partisan politics and coalitions, and activate independents whose aspirations would be better served with the ideas, laws and policies of Democrats. Also, we need to go local the message, issues and policies. We need to listen and develop progressive common sense responses that can be carried by local and state governments, we also need to find common ground with those who have good ideas to solve those problems.

This strategy will move our country forward and better the chances of electing Ralph Northam for Governor of the state of Virginia. Building a majority in the state legislature would not only stop the bigotry reigning in the DC-VA corridor, it will signal a path to reclaim a Senate majority in 2018.

We cannot win, of course, by negatively campaigning against Trump or making Russia and a potential impeachment the central theme in our narrative…The message in this Virginia governor’s race should be about hope and what the people need, preserving the economic and social progress we have made under President Obama, and fixing what needs fixing with specific proposals to mobilize the majority of the people.

“Let’s make Virginia the case to replicate nation-wide in 2018 and 2020,” Martinez concludes. “Building a majority, empowering and mobilizing a broad coalition, and public engagement with a positive policy message is the winning strategy. This will not only benefit the Democratic Party, but it will bring progress for our nation to move forward.”

Russo: Dems Must Listen Closely to Win Support from Working Class Voters

The following article by John Russo, former co-director of the Center for Working-Class Studies at Youngstown State University and currently a visiting scholar at Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, is cross-posted from newgeorgraphy.com:

Ohio has long been seen as a battleground state, up for grabs in most Presidential elections. The state supported winning candidates of both parties for decades. But as the state shifted back and forth, the Mahoning Valley (Mahoning and Trumbull Counties) in Northeastern Ohio remained a Democratic stronghold. If Democratic candidates could garner more than 62% of the vote in this region – as they often did — they would win the state. In years when Republicans won, the Mahoning Valley still voted for the Democrats, but with less enthusiasm.

Not this time. In the 2016 primaries, a number of Mahoning Valley Democrats changed their party affiliation to vote for Donald J. Trump. Last year’s big shift came from people who had sat out the past few elections but showed up to vote this year. In November, Hillary Clinton won Mahoning County but received less than 50% of the vote. She actually lost in neighboring Trumbull County. She lost Ohio by more than 8 points, the biggest loss of any candidate in the state since Michael Dukakis gave up the state to George H.W. Bush in 1988.

That’s why political operatives and journalists are now paying even more attention to the Youngstown area. Even the Ohio Democratic Party (ODP), which has long counted on the Mahoning Valley, is taking notice of a region they didn’t think they needed to worry about.

In what has become a familiar practice following a series of defeats in recent state-wide elections, the ODP sponsored a “Listening Tour.” On June 12, 2017, the tour came to Youngstown with National Democratic Party Chairperson Tom Perez, who reiterated that Youngstown was a political “bellwether.”

The event was held at a local pizzeria, Wedgewood Pizza, and billed as “Pizza with Perez.” Approximately 75 attendees, mostly loyal Democratic Party supporters, including a number of local and state politicians, paid $25 to attend the midday event. I paid my $25 to find out whether Party leaders were seriously listening to the concerns of voters and to see how they would react.

What I saw was a typical campaign event, with the audience doing the listening while Democratic operatives touted their positions. After brief introductions by state and local Party chairs David Peppers and David Betras, Perez explained his commitment to Democratic politics by recalling his father’s experience of moving to Buffalo from the Dominican Republic. Perez talked about how the community and especially the labor movement helped his family make a home there. He promised that Democrats could be counted on to speak to hopes and fears of the working class and to fight for working people.

Read More Here:

Some Elements of a Winning ‘Rural Strategy’ for Dems

Cartney McCracken, a partner at Control Point Group, a D.C.-based Democratic consulting firm, has a post, “A Rural Strategy for Democrats,” up at Campaigns & Elections, which merits a thoughtful read. McCracken’s lede:

After a string of losses in the 2017 special House elections, it’s clear Democratic candidates are continuing to struggle reaching rural voters. That’s partly because our playbook for appealing to voters outside of urban areas remains unchanged: take a poll, repackage the DNC’s national messaging and target voters with mail and advertising. The problem is many rural voters become alienated when campaigns attempt to micro-target using messaging distilled from a national or statewide poll.

Rural America has plenty of voters who are more politically-astute than what is too often suggested by Democratic boilerplate propaganda. Reaching persuadable rural voters requires a little more thought — and respect. As McCracken observes:

Rural voters who have seen factories shuddered over the past 15 years want to talk about jobs, not economic development. Economic development is a Beltway term that they hear on the nightly news and campaign ads. These voters want to know what the candidate can do to address farm issues, cell phone signal, and broadband internet access. Rural voters want to know what a candidate can do to fix broken roads and keep the cost of gas and milk down.

…To appeal to rural voters, Democrats need to be where rural voters are — the grocery store, the gas station in a one-stop-light town, advertising on terrestrial radio and in local newspapers. Micro-targeted digital ads sound great to consultants, but they’re not nearly as effective as shoe-leather campaigning in rural areas.

…These voters do go to the grocery store, they have post office boxes where they pick up their mail, and they need to refill their gas tanks. These voters are reliable visitors to the county fairs and ramp dinners. Democratic candidates need to be at these places listening to voters’ concerns. These optics persuade rural voters better than a mail piece with the candidate wearing a barn jacket.

“If Democrats want to have any chance of taking back state legislatures, the House, or the Senate in 2018,” concludes McCracken, “we must re-engage the rural vote in person and in messaging. Meet these rural voters where they go, speak with them rather than at them, and incorporate these conversations into messaging that matters.”

Polling data and media outreach are essential tools for connecting with persuadable rural voters. But there is no substitute for showing up in person with a solid understanding of their concerns  —  to really show that a candidate cares. Let the Republicans dodge the town halls in small-town America. That’s not a luxury Dermocrats can afford, if they want to get some traction outside the cities and suburbs of the nation.

It’s Time for Dems to Tend Their Pivotal Base Constituency

Democratic strategists and candidates should take the time to read — and think about — Lauren Victoria Burke’s “As Democrats Keep Chasing Trump Voter Waterfalls, Will They Ever Listen to Their Actual Base: Black People?” at theroot.com. Burke sheds some much-needed light on a Democratic blind spot:

…Does it really take a genius to figure out that if a group votes for you 90 percent of the time you should do what it takes to make sure that group is at the polling place on election day?

…The hard fact is that the Democratic party has no history of taking the strategic advice of African-American elected officials, leaders or consultants and applying substantial financial backing to black voter outreach. Will new DNC Deputy Chair Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) be listened to? Who knows.

If past is prologue, everyone knows what happens next: Senior black officials asking the party for field help will be ignored and, instead, Democrats will stage a few visits to black churches two Sundays before Election Day, followed by that crash panic of activity days before Election Day.

 It was white women who gave 53 percent support to Donald Trump. It was Hispanic voters who gave Trump 29 percent of their support. African Americans voted for Hillary at 93 percent. You’d think lots of energy to get that group out would be common sense after black women were number one in turnout percentage of any voting group…Black turnout dove to 2004 levels in 2016 after Democrats decided that the record numbers seen in 2008 and 2012 would magically persist without President Obama on the ticket.
Then Burke gets down to a very recent case:
There were over 130,000 African Americans in South Carolina’s 5th congressional district. Did the Democratic Party attempt to make a vigorous effort to turn them out? No. African American voters vote for the Democratic Party over 90 percent. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) asked for $200,000 to get out that vote. The answer was no.
It’s entirely possible Democrats could have picked up that seat with a small fraction of what was spent on the Ossoff campaign. It’s not like they weren’t informed about it. Compounding the mistake, Democrats ignored the good advice of one of their most loyal and experienced African American congressmen. As Burke notes,
On June 22, The Root asked Clyburn if he could remember a time when the Democratic Party has listened to blacks on strategy.

“I haven’t really thought about that,” said Clyburn, with a smile in a ornate lobby off of the House floor. “But they didn’t this time,” he added.

Clyburn will turn 77 next month and has been in Congress since 1993. If Democrats in charge of strategic decisions aren’t listing to him when it comes to black voter outreach, who are they listening to? Speaking with several other senior black Democrats reveals the same scenario.

Further, asks Burke, “Where’s the DNC’s anti-suppression campaign? Where’s the get out the vote effort target to black voters? Where’s the census strategy?”

Damn good questions.

Democratic leaders should certainly make an effort to get more votes from the white working-class. But even if they succeeed in gettting a larger share of that constituency, it won’t mean much if they underperform with African American voters. It’s time to take a sobering look at how they allocate GOTV resources to insure that the only constituency that votes Democratic 9-1 receives the attention it merits. This they should do, not only because it makes practical sense, but also because it is the right thing to do.

“Democrats are proving cycle after cycle that you can have all the money in the world,” concludes Burke, “but if you’re a loser on messaging and vote targeting it’s a waste.”

Choosing between pouring resources into white working-class GOTV and African American voter turnout is essentially a false choice. Neglecting either constituency is a ticket to defeat. Democrats have got to do both — if they really want to win.

Two Weeks Later, Reasons for Ossoff Defeat Come Into Focus

Two weeks after the GA-6 special election run-off, seasoned political columnist Albert R. Hunt of Bloomberg View offers some perceptive observations about Jon Ossoff’s defeat in that marquee contest:

Some disappointed Democrats have argued that they failed because their candidate wasn’t tough enough on Trump, and didn’t take strongly progressive positions that would energize their most loyal voters.

That theory doesn’t hold up to an analysis of voter-turnout data by John Anzalone, the pollster for the Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff.

Anzalone’s breakdown shows that Democrats turned out to vote in impressive numbers. There were 125,000 votes for Ossoff, more than Democratic congressional candidates had gotten in the district before and more than Barack Obama received in the presidential elections of 2008 and 2012.

“We did excite the Democratic base,” Anzalone said. “Trump was the accelerant that brought out Democrats who would not normally vote in a midterm or special election.”

The problem for the Democrats was that there was a larger-than-expected Republican turnout too, enabling the GOP candidate, Karen Handel, to win by 10,000 votes. Some Democrats had hoped that Trump’s unpopularity would dampen turnout for the Republican House candidate; it didn’t happen.

Hunt also sees a foreign policy impact benefitting Handel, as “supporters of Handel hammered Ossoff in the closing weeks of the campaign for inflating his national-security resume and for working with the Qatari-based media network Al Jazeicalera,” and notes that “Trump’s favorable poll ratings in the district rose only once, when he ordered the bombing of Syria in April.” But that’s an argument that would be more applicable to a U.S. Senate race than a House contest. It would be hard to cite a GA House race that clearly turned on foreign policy concerns in the last decade.

Hunt notes the Handel campaign’s extensive Pelosi-bashing as a possible factor. Ads can amplify an albatross strategy to a modest extent. But most Pelosi-haters would likely have voted against Ossoff anyway, regardless of any such attack ads. Value added by such ideological linkage would likely be minimal.

Ossoff’s defeat notwithstanding, Hunt points out that, “in every special House race and statewide contest this year, they [Democratic candidates] have significantly outperformed their showing in recent elections even in defeat.” Picking up two dozen House seats  doesn’t seem like much of a stretch, especially given the President’s tanking approval ratings and the lengthening do-nothing track record of GOP House members.

Other possible reasons for Handel’s win might include suppression of African American and Latino voters, Ossoff’s inadequate  outreach to working-class voters and Handel’s better-than-expected and lavishly-funded ground game. But Hunt is surely right that Democratic candidates have done a lot better thsn before in GA-6 and other 2017 special elections in Repubican-held districts. Looking toward the 2018 midterm elections, Dems have every reason for cautious optimism — and energetic voter mobilization in competitive House districts.