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A Democratic Comeback in the South?

The notion that the Democratic Party is D.O.A. in the south has been upended by Doug Jones’s victory in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race and the strong showing of Democrats in Virginia’s recent elections, along with John Bel Edwards becoming Louisiana Governor in 2016.

Democrats may also have a real shot at winning the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Thad Cochran in Mississippi. Republican Governor Phil Bryant is expected to name state Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Cindy Hyde-Smith to the U.S. Senate seat, but she will have some nasty opposition from hard-core conservative Chris McDaniel. Ed Kilgore writes that McDaniel feels “entitled” to the G.O.P. nomination as a result of  “his close primary race against Cochran in 2014.” Indeed, McDaniel has already announced his candidacy for the seat in November.

Several Mississippi Democrats are considering running for the Senate seat. But the most likely Democratic candidate is former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and Congressman Mike Espy. As Kilgore notes,

Establishment Republicans in both Jackson and Washington, however, fear that if McDaniel (who has a robust collection of craziness on his résumé) edges Hyde-Smith in the special election, he might actually lose the seat to Espy, an outcome that would be as strange as the GOP’s loss of Jeff Sessions’s seat in next-door Alabama. It’s the sort of thing that could even produce a Democratic majority in the Senate.

An Espy victory in Mississippi will require a heroic voter turnout effort similar to what occurred in the recent Alabama and Virginia elections, along with a strong Espy campaign. If such a prospect seemed unlikely a year ago, it now seems possible.

Perhaps the marquee Senate race in the south will be Democrat Beto O’Rourke vs. Sen. Ted Cruz, whose current approval ratings in Texas are less than impressive. O’Rourke lags in some recent polls, but he is credited with solid skills in terms of public speaking, debating and messaging in general. He could ride a blue wave to flip the seat for Dems. In the Tennessee US. Senate race, former Democratic Gov. Bill Bredesen leads Rep. Marsha Blackburn in a new PPP poll — a possible pick-up opportunity for Democrats.

Dems have their best southern pick-up prospects in House districts FL-26, FL-27, TX-7 and VA-10, according to the Cook Political Report. If a ‘blue wave’ materializes, another half-dozen seats could be included.

In addition, Democrats have candidates for all 2018 governor’s contests in the south. Florida, where Democrats have three strong candidates, is the marquee race, and it is currently rated a toss-up. In addition, the gun safety issue may help Democratic candidates in Florida. Georgia and Tennessee governors races could also get competitive.

Democrats lack majority control of both houses of the state legislature in any southern state, except for Maryland. But they are very close to majorities — 2 votes down in both houses of the Virginia state legislature. Dems are also contending for majorities in the state senates of FL, SC, TX and LA., but lag by larger margins in the lower houses of southern state legislatures, as a result of the impressive Republican takeover campaigns of recent years.

Of course, the Republican ‘control’ of the South has been overstated, in that Democrats have long held the mayorships of most major southern cities. Democrats currently serve as Mayors of Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Austin, Charlotte, Nashville, Baton Rouge, Memphis, Baltimore, Annapolis, Louisville, New Orleans, Charleston, S.C., Tallahassee, Little Rock, Chattanooga, Columbia, SC, Tampa, Jackson, Birmingham, Orlando, Wilmington, NC, Norfolk and Richmond, in addition to numerous second tier cities.

While it would be overstating the case to say that the south is back in play in a big way for Democrats, it is reasonable enough to expect some significant improvement in 2018 and there is cause for hoping to do even better in the longer range. But Democrats must raise their game considerably with respect to campaigns for state legislative seats.

Teixeira: A Plug for the White Working Class Roundtable Website

by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis (cross-posted from his facebook page): 

Since we’ve been talking about the white working class and its importance to the Democratic party, allow me to point you toward a new website dedicated to that very proposition. Published by the good folks at The Democratic Strategist (a site I co-founded many moons ago) the site allows you to access the entire contents of the recent book, Democrats and the White Working Class, which has twelve–count ’em, 12!–great essays on this topic. The site also contains a variety of other useful materials on the issue.

I particularly recommend Andrew Levison’s summary essay, “Five Fundamental Challenges Democratic Candidates Must Get Right If They Want to Win the Support of Non-Racist White Working Class Americans”.

The White Working Class Roundtables

(Read More here)

SCOTUS Ruling Improves Dem 2018 Prospects, May Block ‘Extreme Partisan Gerrymandering’

At CNN Politics ‘The Point,’ Chis Cillizza reports some very good news for Democrats:

On Monday afternoon, the Supreme Court handed Democrats a major victory in the party’s attempt to retake the House this November, turning aside an appeal by Pennsylvania Republicans that would have kept the state’s new congressional map from being in effect for the coming primary and general elections in the Keystone State.

“For Democrats, it means a likely pickup of additional 4-5 seats,” said Marc Elias, a noted Democratic elections lawyer. “Democrats only need 23 to retake the majority in the House, so this is one big chunk.”…The new map, which now almost certainly will be the lines under which candidates will run in 2018, also handed Democrats a series of opportunities including at least three seats in southeastern Pennsylvania and several more improved opportunities in places like Allentown and southwestern Pennsylvania.

Cillizza adds that “Democrats could raise that to five seats, then more than 20% of all the seats they need to pick up to retake the majority might come from Pennsylvania alone.” In addition, “there is the broader import of the Supreme Court declining to hear the redistricting appeal by Pennsylvania Republicans. Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states with ongoing battles over how much partisanship and politics is too much partisanship and politics when it comes to redistricting.”

Further, “If the Court ultimately decides that extreme partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional, it will have a profound effect on how maps gets drawn — and who controls the House majority — in 2021 and beyond.”

Adam Liptak notes in The New York Times that “The latest application was denied by the full Supreme Court without comment or noted dissents.” Also, he ads,

Hours before the Supreme Court issued its order, a panel of three federal judges rejected a third and quite similar challenge to the State Supreme Court’s map from Republicans in Pennsylvania’s State Senate. The panel of two United States district judges and one federal court of appeals judge said the Republican senators did not have standing to sue…While further court challenges are possible, Monday’s decisions make it very likely that this year’s congressional elections in Pennsylvania will be conducted using the new map, which will help Democrats.

The ruling caps a great week for Democrats, particularly Pennsylvania Democrats. And if the SCOTUS trend against partisan gerrymandering continues, it will be great for American democracy, as well

Political Strategy Notes

In his article, “Resolving the Democrats’ False Choice: How the party can win both the “missing Obama millions” and the Obama-to-Trump voters” at The New Republic, Joshua Mound writes, “Instead of pitting voters of color against white working-class voters in an imaginary election, Democrats should target their policy proposals and political appeals to voters who bridge the gap: the black working class…But the Democrats don’t have to choose between working classes of different colors. African Americans are to the left of whites on just about every economic issue. That means that in order to target the needs of the black working class, Democrats will have to adopt the type of populist economic policies that, many observers argue, are Democrats’ best hope of winning back some of the Obama-Trump voters that Cohn and others believe are necessary for the party to be competitive in presidential and congressional contests…The white voters for whom racism trumps all are lost to Democrats. So there’s no sense, morally or politically, in the Democrats’ returning to Sister Souljah–style racial pandering to whites. But by combining racial and cultural progressivism with an economic platform that’s equal parts Bernie Sanders and Black Lives Matter, Democrats can turn out Obama voters who stayed home in 2016 and win back some Obama-Trump voters.

From Jane Kleeb’s contribution to an intra-progressive debate on “Should We Primary Every Democrat? Three views on left electoral strategy ahead of the 2018 midterm elections” at In These Times: “Primarying conservative and moderate incumbent Democrats simply because they are not as progressive as other Democrats, as Dan advocates, has never made much sense to me. Call me whatever label you want, but I would rather have a Democrat who is with us 70 percent of the time than a Republican who is against us 100 percent of the time. Even more than that, I firmly believe that diversity is a strength—not just diversity of race, or religion, or nationality, but also of ideas. A Democratic Party that has both Elizabeth Warren and Heidi Heitkamp makes us stronger. For example, when a farmer with a rural perspective on how healthcare improvements could impact their community sat at the table with an economics professor, those perspectives joined together to make Obamacare stronger…But to primary people not as part of a well-thought-out strategy, but simply because they do not hold the progressive line 100 percent of the time, is short-sighted and ultimately weakens us as a national party. I prefer to walk the road of building the party so our bench is broad and we put an end to the current one-party rule governing many of our states and our country.” Kleeb Kleeb is the founder of Bold Nebraska, chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party, a member of the Democratic Party’s Unity and Reform Commission, and an Our Revolution board member. The other contributors include Dan Cohen, president of Blue Sun Campaigns and a pollster and strategist for progressive electoral and issue campaigns and Dayton Martindale, an assistant editor at In These Times.

In the same forum, Cohen writes, “We need Democratic elected leaders who will actually lead, and who embody a true commitment to social and economic justice, inclusion and respect. That means we need contested Democratic primaries: on every level of government, in nearly every district, as often as possible. We should be challenging not only conservative or centrist Democrats, but any Democrat failing to act so as to restore confidence in our party and in government…But there’s a caveat. If we are running to transform the party in a more progressive, inclusive direction, we must foster a culture of respect for those with whom we, at least for now, disagree…our primary opponents are not the enemy, nor are the voters who put them in office. We need not compromise our values, but there is a world of difference between saying, “My opponent is a corporate shill,” for example, and saying, “I respect my opponent and we agree on some issues, but we disagree on the need for a living wage now…We must remember that we build movements over a longer time frame than one election cycle. Many of our challengers will lose, at least their first run…What’s more, if we don’t beat them this time, it gives us leverage to hold them accountable. All of which helps move the party left, because when politicians publicly endorse progressive policies, it tells voters, “That’s what Democrats are about.”

Michael Tackett reports that “White Evangelical Women, Core Supporters of Trump, Begin Tiptoeing Away” at The New York Times. “While the men in the pulpits of evangelical churches remain among Mr. Trump’s most stalwart supporters, some of the women in the pews may be having second thoughts. As the White House fights to silence a pornographic actress claiming an affair with Mr. Trump, and a jailed Belarusian escort claims evidence against the American president, Mr. Trump’s hold on white evangelical women may be slipping…According to data from the Pew Research Center, support among white evangelical women in recent surveys has dropped about 13 percentage points, to 60 percent, compared with about a year ago. That is even greater than the eight-point drop among all women…“That change is statistically significant,” said Gregory A. Smith, Pew’s associate director of research, who also noted a nine-point drop among evangelical men. “Both groups have become less approving over time.”

If you noticed a recent diminishing of Republican candidate quality independent of ideological considerations, it’s not just a vague impression. As Paul Blumenthal notes at HuffPost, “Republicans Have 4 Convicted Criminals Running For Congress In 2018,”and notes that, in addition to Joe Arpaio’s Arizona campaign for U.S. Senator, “convicted criminals running for office as Republicans are Don Blankenship, the former head of the coal mining company Massey Energy who is running in the Republican primary to challenge Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.); former Rep. Michael Grimm, who is challenging incumbent Rep. Dan Donovan (R-N.Y.) to reclaim the Staten Island congressional seat he once held; and Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.), who is running for re-election.” Read the article for more details.

Others have noted a similar downtick in the credentials of presidential appointees under Trump. Ryan Koronowski’s Think Progress article, “Trump’s new economic adviser is really bad at economics. Here are the receipts: Larry Kudlow has made some astoundingly bad predictions, even for a CNBC pundit,” points out that the President’s pick for director of the National Economic Council is much in keeping with his habit of making one of the worst possible choices. Along with a litany of Kudlow’s laughable predictions, Koronowski writes: “Past NEC directors have had law degrees from Yale or Harvard or Cornell, MBAs from Harvard or Wharton (not a bachelor’s with an economics major like the president), a Ph. D in economics from Harvard or MIT, decades of business experience, or taught at the London School of Economics..Kudlow has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Rochester and did not complete a master’s degree in economics at Princeton. He has worked at a junior level at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and also in the Reagan Office of Management and Budget. He worked at Bear Stearns from 1987 to 1994, until he was fired for cocaine abuse. After working for Arthur Laffer’s firm, he got into journalism, most notably hosting a business show on CNBC.”

At BuzzFeed News, Ryan C. Brooks writes that “Democratic strategists argue that there is a cost to the “churn-and-burn” fundraising strategy that outweighs the extra dollars it brings in. The cost of the spammy, fear-based communications, they say, is depressed and alienated voters and the public impression of the Democratic Party as just another arm of a cynical, dishonest establishment…“I think the DCCC’s email strategy is a wasted opportunity for Democrats. They have this expansive email list that they could be using to cultivate and motivate voters to flip congressional seats in 2018,” said Laura Olin, a Democratic digital strategist who’s worked with a host of progressives including Barack Obama’s digital team….“The thing is that fundraising campaigns from Obama, Warren, and Bernie showed us that we don’t need to use those scare tactics to raise money, and those tactics don’t make us lose our values by being inclusive, engaging, and honest rather than being alarmist and misleading,” said [Democratic digital strategist Matthew] McGregor.”

Jefferson Morley drops a political strategy nugget about the importance of personal contact with voters in his article, “The Democrats’ Sweet Spot: Diverse, Young, Working-Class People Who Didn’t Vote” at Alternet: In a large-scale study Sean McElwee, a co-founder of Data for Progress, Jesse H. Rhodes and Brian F. Schaffner of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and Bernard L. Fraga of Indiana University  “studied the ballots of 64,000 voters in 2012 and 2016 and came away with a key finding: The number of voters who cast a ballot for Obama in 2012 and did not vote in 2016, or voted for a third-party candidate, outnumbered those Obama voters who pulled the lever for Trump…The Obama voters who stayed home, while generally liberal, were significantly less liberal on four of five key policy questions than the loyal Democratic voters who voted for both Obama and Clinton. In other words, more liberal policy positions were not sufficient to lure them to the polling booth…What made the difference for these non-voters was personal contact, or the lack thereof….“Only 43 percent of Obama-to-nonvoters reported being contacted by a candidate in 2016, compared with 66 percent of Obama-to-Clinton voters,” the authors say.”

Among the political campaign insights shared by long-time labor organizer Marshall Ganz in his article, “How to Organize to Win: Rebuilding the democratic infrastructure is too important to leave up to the consultocracy” in The Nation: “Organizing people is not only about solving immediate problems, like making sure your candidate gets the most votes or putting up a stop sign. It is about doing this and, at the same time, developing the leadership, organization, and power to take on structural challenges in the long run. It is not about fixing bugs in the system, like a safety net. It is about transforming the cultural, economic, and political features of the system. One of the main reasons I got hooked on organizing in the civil-rights movement was that it allowed me to work with people to find the resources within themselves and each other to create the power they needed to change the institutions responsible for their problems in the first place. That is what healthy democracy requires…This kind of organizing, however, is a far cry from the political marketing campaigns run by the electoral-industrial complex today…In a consultant-driven model, volunteers show up but get no training, receive slipshod or inaccurate materials, and are ignored by campaign higher-ups, who could care less about what they learned by talking with real voters. Who cares? It’s all taken care of by polling, targeting, and modeling. The role to which ordinary citizens are relegated in most campaigns is that of “real people”—RPs in campaign-speak—props for a photo op…Mobilizers only turn out people with whom they agree. Organizers engage these people in reaching out to other people with whom they don’t agree. Mobilizing spends down resources. Organizing generates new ones.”

A Big Fat Elephant Loss in Pennsylvania

Late in the evening of the special election in PA-18 Tuesday night, before it was clear Democrat Conor Lamb had won, I offered some reflections at New York on how shocking it was that this race was even competitive.

While we don’t yet have a clear winner in this election, we do have a clear loser: the Republican Party. This was, as I argued some time ago, the “no-excuses” special election for the GOP. This congressional district is strongly Republican and strongly pro-Trump. Saccone wasn’t a perfect candidate, but he wasn’t a disaster like Roy Moore, either: He had enough outside money and enough get-out-the-vote help from the national party and conservative groups to counteract anything Lamb could throw at him. Plus, he had massive support from the president, his family, and his administration, in an iconic Trump Country district that almost perfectly typified the Rust Belt areas that decided the presidency. If Lamb wins, it will represent a historic disaster for the GOP. If Saccone wins, it will still send a stark warning sign to the majority party in the House as we head toward November.

Republican message-meister Frank Luntz put it plainly this evening:

Yes, this is a special election; some might imagine that in a regular election, such as the one in November, more Republican voters will show up. The problem with that hypothesis is that turnout today was at full midterm levels. There’s no reason to think turnout patterns in November will be more favorable for the GOP, particularly given the massive Trump administration attention that this district got during this contest.

Another Republican rationalization we have already heard from the Washington Examiner’s Salena Zito is that Conor Lamb is not a real Democrat (because he was nominated by a convention and didn’t have to win the votes of left-bent primary voters), and thus his performance does not show how real Democrats will do in November. But, by any standard, Saccone is a real Republican who ran more than ten points behind the normal GOP vote in Pennsylvania’s 18th district. And Lamb was lifted to parity with Saccone by the very same labor movement — battered and diminished as it is — that will be fighting for Democrats in swing districts all over the country. Dismiss labor, dismiss energized rank-and-file Democrats, and dismiss the ability of the Donkey Party to find suitable candidates like Lamb, and you’re well on the way to underestimating the likelihood of a Democratic wave in November.

Yes, a lot of things can change between now and then. But we are now seeing a regular pattern of Democratic over-performance in special elections — whether they ultimately win or lose — spanning the entire Trump administration so far. This election may just be another data point among many, but put them together and they unambiguously show big trouble for Trump and his party. To paraphrase Frank Sinatra, if they can’t make it there (in southwest Pennsylvania), they can’t make it anywhere. And it’s time they woke up and smelled the bitter coffee.

As of this writing, Saccone still hasn’t conceded, despite his cause looking hopeless. But it could be some time before his party recovers from this one.

Chait: ‘Conor Lamb Strategy’ Can Work Again

In his New York Magazine post, “Democrats Can Run the Conor Lamb Strategy Over and Over,” Jonathan Chait makes a case that Democrats can replicate the ‘Conor Lamb strategy’ to good efect in the 2018 midterm elections:

…There are a lot of Conor Lambs out there. Very early in the election cycle, Democrats recruited candidates with nontraditional backgrounds, especially in the military, who would appeal to voters in red districts. “A rough profile of [Democrats’] ideal candidate has started to emerge: veterans, preferably with small business experience too,” reported Politico last April. “They’d like as many of them to be women or people who’ve never run for office before — and having young children helps.” The next month, Axios reported that Republicans were already worried about “Democrats recruiting unusually high-quality House candidates for the 2018 midterms.” It listed several:

— Jason Crow to challenge GOP Rep. Mike Coffman for Colorado’s 6th District. Crow’s bio: “[Led] a platoon of paratroopers during the invasion of Iraq and earned the Bronze Star for his combat actions during the invasion …”

— Chrissy Houlahan to challenge GOP Rep. Ryan Costello for Pennsylvania’s 6th District. Houlahan’s bio: Engineering degree from Stanford, Captain in the Air Force Reserve, chief operating office of an apparel company and of nonprofits.

— Josh Butner to challenge GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter for California’s 50th District. Butner’s bio: Navy SEAL, serves as trustee on a school board, and currently works for the dive equipment company, Aqua Lung.

“The unusual success Lamb showed in running a competitive race in Trump country,” concludes Chait, “is not a total fluke, but rather proof of concept for a strategy that could replicate itself across the country.”

In replicating the ‘Conor Lamb strategy,’ Democratic candidates should also emulate Lamb’s ability to avoid gaffes and blunders, his calibrated messaging strategy and, where possible, his outreach to labor unions, which can provide needed manpower for a winning ground game. Lamb was an excellent  candidate, in terms of both background and exceptionally-good judgement. As Chait points out, Dems have much to gain by studying his example.

Political Strategy Notes

NYT’s Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin share some campaign spending notes regarding Conor Lamb’s victory in PA-18: “Mr. Lamb raised $3.9 million and spent $3 million, compared with Mr. Saccone’s $900,000 raised and $600,000 spent as of Feb. 21. But Republican outside groups swamped the district. Between conservative “super PACs” and the National Republican Congressional Committee, Mr. Saccone had more than $14 million spent on his behalf…Mr. Lamb got just over $2 million.”

The Upshot is providing two revealing maps, which show which precincts of PA-18 Lamb and Saccone respectively won and which precincts went more Democratic than was the case in 2016. The second map shows zero precincts voting more Republican in 2018 and dozens of precincts voting more Democratic — which suggests that the case for a recount is weak indeed. Both maps provide hover charts, another good resource for social scientists to investigate a demographic breakdown of the vote.

In his post, “The ‘Enthusiasm Gap’ Could Turn A Democratic Wave Into A Tsunami” at FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver writes that “there were signs of an enthusiasm gap even within Pennsylvania 18 on Tuesday night. According to the Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman, turnout in Democratic-leaning Allegheny County equaled 67 percent of presidential-year turnout, but voters turned out at only 60 percent of presidential levels in Republican-leaning Westmoreland County. That sort of turnout gap suggests that registered-voter polls could be underrating Democrats in this year’s midterms — and could turn a challenging year for Republicans into a catastrophic one.”

At ThinkProgress, Elham Khatami writes “Election night exit polling by Public Policy Polling found that among PA-18 voters who said health care was the most important issue, Democrat Conor Lamb beat Republican Rick Saccone by a margin of 64 to 36. Saccone’s support of the Republican health care agenda — namely, efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — made 41 percent of voters less likely to vote for him. Fifty-three percent of voters disapproved of GOP efforts to repeal the health care law and 48 percent believed Republicans are trying to sabotage the law since they failed to repeal it…as Forbes’ Bruce Japsen previously reported, health care is especially important in Western Pennsylvania. Although health care premiums have risen (a rise which officials in Pennsylvania attribute to Trump’s “refusal to make cost-sharing reduction payments for 2018”), the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) — the region’s largest non-governmental employer — has grown substantially under the ACA…Pennsylvanians — namely, those living in rural areas — have also benefited from the state’s Medicaid expansion under the ACA, which went into effect in 2015 and has been touted by health experts as means of addressing the state’s opioid crisis. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) declared the epidemic a statewide disaster emergency earlier this year…Voters sent the same message in Virginia’s gubernatorial race in November, when 67 percent of those who cast ballots said health care was the most important or a very important issue to them. Those individuals voted for Democrat Ralph Northam by a margin of 62 to 32.”

Ronald Brownstein writes in The Atlantic of Conor Lamb’s victory that “But the limits of his gains in the district’s mostly blue-collar areas—Westmoreland and Washington counties—underscore how far Democrats still have to go with these voters, and how difficult a slog it could be…The complex, narrowly divided outcome in Pennsylvania suggests that Republicans could face a stiffer challenge than they expected in at least some blue-collar and non-urban districts where Trump has remained relatively popular—places like upstate New York, downstate Illinois, and parts of Michigan and Iowa. But Lamb’s apparent win—which turned on big margins in Allegheny, the district’s county with the most college graduates—also suggests that the epicenter of Republican vulnerability will remain the suburban white-collar districts most visibly alienated from Trump.”

Also, adds Brownstein, “Southwest Pennsylvania was an early center of the movement away from Democrats among blue-collar whites. Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996 carried both Westmoreland and Washington, two preponderantly white counties in the district with relatively few college graduates. Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004 each held Washington but lost Westmoreland. Obama and Hillary Clinton then lost both of them in 2008, 2012, and 2016. In fact, the GOP has won a higher share of the vote in Westmoreland than it did four years earlier in each presidential election since 1992, and it has improved in Washington all but once. Trump topped 60 percent in both…Lamb clawed back some of those losses, with Saccone carrying 57 percent in Westmoreland and 53 percent in Washington—majorities, but not blowouts. That suggests Lamb ran more competitively among blue-collar whites than Democrats did in earlier high-profile Trump-era contests, such as last year’s governor’s race in Virginia and special Senate election in Alabama. There, exit polls showed the GOP candidates carrying over 70 percent of whites without a college degree each time. Still, the results hardly signal a collapse in the GOP’s blue-collar foundation.”

The United Mine Workers of America strongly supported Conor Lamb, and here’s their take on the PA-18 election: “…One issue that clearly stands out is solving the multi-employer pension crisis…Saccone ducked the issue when asked to address it by reporters…PA-18 demonstrates that voters who fear for retirement security will blur partisan lines to support candidates they believe have their backs…“You elect this man to Congress, and you won’t have to lobby him one minute,” said [UMWA President Cecil] Roberts at a recent campaign rally for Lamb. “He’s for your pensions, he’s for your union, he’s for your health care. This is a ‘yes’ vote.”…In the wake of Lamb’s victory last night, Roberts noted that, “a lot of our members who didn’t vote in the last election or voted for President Trump came out and voted for the one candidate who was clear about standing up for their pensions and their retirement security.”

Looking ahead, Geoffrey Skelley notes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “As things stand, two other congressional districts will have special elections before the 2018 midterm election: AZ-8 on April 24 and OH-12 on Aug. 7.[2] Based on the 2016 election, the presidential lean of the two districts favors Republicans — R +24.5 in AZ-8 and R +14.1 in OH-12. However, if the swings in those contests follow the average swing during the Trump era (D +13.7), they will be competitive races. This is particularly true of OH-12, which would see its Republican lean essentially neutralized by the average swing in congressional contests. The PA-18 result should scare Republicans, but if the GOP loses OH-12 just three months before the midterm election, those fears will grow exponentially.”

Here’s an ad for Democratic candidate, Dr.Hiral Tipirneni, who is running in AZ-8 (ActBlue page here):

Lamb Claims Victory With Small Lead, Dems Win Either Way

The official tally from the Pennsylvania Department of State indicates that, with 100 percent of precincts reporting in the PA-13 special election, Democrat Conor Lamb has 113,111 votes, while his Republican opponent, Richard Saccone has 112.532 and Libertarian Drew Gray Miller has 1,372. In percentage terms, Lamb has 49.83 percent of the vote, compared to Saccone’s 49.57 and Miller’s 0.6 percent.

Lamb claimed victory, telling his supporters that “we did it.” But Saccone has not yet conceded.

The official count for provisional and absentee ballots could take a couple more days. But Lamb appeared to be holding his own in terms of absentee ballots. Chris Potter reports at The Pittsburgh Post Gazette, that “as of 5:30 a.m. Wednesday: The unofficial total for absentee ballots in Washington County, shows Democrat Conor Lamb with 609 votes and Republican Rick Saccone, 547.” Washington County is one of four  counties in this district, and has a similar demographic profile as the district as a whole. Both the county and the district have 95 percent white residents.

A recount is possible, but not automatic. A recount can be requested, but it requires three voters in each requesting precinct to attest that error or fraud was committed. Recounts usually don’t change the result. In his post, “Recounts Rarely Reverse Election Results” at FiveThirtyEight, Carl Bialik notes,

Recounts typically don’t swing enough votes to change the winner. Out of 4,687 statewide general elections between 2000 and 2015, just 27 were followed by recounts, according to data compiled by FairVote, a nonpartisan group that researches elections and promotes electoral reform. Just three of those 27 recounts resulted in a change in the outcome, all leading to wins for Democrats: Al Franken’s win in Minnesota’s 2008 U.S. Senate race, Thomas M. Salmon’s win in Vermont’s 2006 auditor election and Christine Gregoire’s win in Washington’s 2004 gubernatorial race.

Lamb did not campaign directly against Trump, who came to the district to campaign for Saccone. Instead, Lamb focused on issues of specific concern to voters in the district, though sending Trump a message was likely a motivating factor for many Lamb voters. As Peter Baker and Michael D. Shear wrote in The New York Times,

Whether Mr. Lamb holds on to win the House seat matters less than the fact that he was so competitive in the first place. The rebuke of Mr. Trump came from deep inside Trump Nation, a part of western Pennsylvania that overwhelmingly supported him in 2016 and that typically would not seem likely to turn to a Democrat. The district is seen as so strongly Republican that the Democrats did not even field a candidate in recent years…..The tally was also a blunt rejection of the president’s political calculation that tax cuts and steel tariffs would persuade voters in a region once dominated by the steel industry to embrace the Trump agenda on behalf of Mr. Saccone. “Steel is back,” he repeatedly said at the rally, apparently to little effect.

Regardless of the outcome of any possible recount, credit Conor Lamb with a great campaign, with no significant blunders. His victory is instructive for all Democrats running in districts with a large percentage of white working-class voters.

UPDATE: MSNBC declares Conor Lamb the “apparent winner,” after further analysis of absentee and provisional ballots.

Teixeira: Conor Lamb’s Campaign Formula in PA-18 May Help Other Dems

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

The PA-18 model for 2018?

Tuesday’s the big day in Pennsylvania’s 18th CD. Will Democrat Conor Lamb pull off the big upset of absurdly reactionary Trumpian Republican Rick Saccone?

To be honest, this one could go either way. But the very fact that the race is so tight and that Lamb could easily pull off the upset is amazing in and of itself.. This is a district that Trump carried by almost 20 points and it is about 60 percent white noncollege. According to Ron Brownstein, there are only six (!) districts that are more white than PA-18.

So how is Lamb making this election such a contest? The just-released Monmouth Poll tells the story. He is cleaning up among college-educated voters–winning them by 22 points–while being very competitive among noncollege voters–a modest 6 point deficit. (Given how white this district is, we can take these figures as close approximations of preferences among white college and white noncollege voters.)

This is a great formula and the key to a Democratic wave election that pushes into areas–and there are many–where minority voter concentrations are relatively small and white noncollege voters dominate.

If this election is a win for Lamb or even a very close loss, there is much to be learned here for a successful Democratic 2018.

Lamb Campaign Shows Democrats Can Win…If They Run

From The New York Times editorial, “Democrats Can’t Win if They Don’t Run“:

Regardless of who wins the special House election in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, the Democratic candidate, Conor Lamb, has already accomplished something impressive by showing that his party ought to contest every election — no matter how daunting the odds.

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” goes the line often attributed to the hockey great Wayne Gretzky and quoted in school gymnasiums ever since. It’s a lesson that bears repeating to Democratic Party leaders, who in recent years effectively surrendered many seats to Republicans under the mistaken belief that Democrats had no chance. For example, the party did not bother fielding candidates during the 2016 and 2014 elections for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District seat, which recent polls show Mr. Lamb could narrowly win on Tuesday. While Donald Trump won the district by 20 percentage points, it has a large population of union members and more registered Democrats than Republicans.

“Even if Mr. Lamb loses on Tuesday,” the editorial continues, “analysts say he could easily win in November, when Pennsylvanians will vote under a new congressional map ordered by the State Supreme Court in an important gerrymandering lawsuit. Further,

It would be foolish to conclude that Mr. Lamb is doing well only because Mr. Saccone is not a good fund-raiser or that he has backed anti-union policies — two of the many criticisms leveled at him. Mr. Lamb has done what many Democrats have been unwilling or unable to do: speak directly and plainly to voters about their concerns. Smartly, he has not turned this race into a referendum on Mr. Trump’s popularity, which has been a losing proposition in other races, including in the 2016 presidential election. In this, he appears to have learned from the examples set by Mr. Jones and Democratic candidates who have won state legislative races in Virginia and elsewhere since the 2016 election.

In a sense, Lamb has already won by showing that Democrats can be competitive in historically-red districts, with good candidates, a well-organized campaign, a clear message and strong union support. Lamb has provided a potentially-powerful victory template for Dems, and they should make good use of it.