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No Slam Dunk for Republicans in PA-18 After All

Perusing the polls this week, some good news for Democrats popped up. I wrote about it at New York.

Democrats have been going through a sort of Poll Panic of late, agonizing over the apparent loss of a big advantage in the congressional generic ballot, and also small but steady improvements in the president’s job approval ratings.

Today, it’s Republicans’ turn to look at poll numbers and freak.

A rare public poll (from Monmouth) of the special congressional election race in the 18th Congressional District of Pennsylvania shows Democrat Conor Lamb within the margin of error of the lead of Republican Rick Saccone. The lead for Saccone ranges from five points (50/45) in a low-turnout scenario, to four points (48/44) in a very-high-turnout scenario, to just three points (49/46) in a scenario based on the turnout patterns in 2017 special elections.

That’s newsworthy because this is a race where the Republican should be far ahead. PA-18 is both strongly Republican and strongly pro-Trump. The GOP congressman (Tim Murphy) whose sex-scandal-driven resignation forced this special election faced no Democratic opponent in 2016 or 2014; even in the Democratic landslide years of 2006 and 2008 he won with 58 percent and 64 percent of the vote, respectively. There is not, moreover, any reason to expect an anti-Trump backlash to demoralize Republican voters: Trump carried the 18th by 20 points (as compared to his one-point margin in Georgia’s Sixth District, the historically Republican district that was the site of last year’s hottest House special election).

Some observers of the race have noted that Lamb, a young former prosecutor with deep roots in Pittsburgh politics, is a more attractive figure than Saccone. But the Republican has been given every bit of help money and power can arrange. Trump is scheduled to make his second appearance with Saccone next week. Mike Pence has been thumping the tubs for him as well.

For poll skeptics, Monmouth has a very good reputation, and it’s not some routinely pro-Democratic outfit (indeed, a January Monmouth poll showing the Democratic congressional generic ballot lead dropping to two points probably started the current Poll Panic among members of the Donkey Party). And for the record, it used the same variable-turnout-model approach in the run-up to December’s Alabama general election, and its 2017 special election model showed a dead heat, even as most pollsters predicted a Moore win.

If Lamb does pull the upset, or even gets close, it will provide fresh evidence that 2018 could be a big year for House Democrats — and that Trump Country territory like southwest Pennsylvania isn’t safe.

Political Strategy Notes

In his CNN Politics post, “Why Congress is hesitant to pass gun control, by the numbers,” Harry Enten writes: “Last year, Gallup asked Americans whether they would vote only for a candidate who shared their views on gun policy or whether it was one of many important factors they would consider before voting. Among gun owners, 30% said they could vote only for someone who shared their viewpoint. Among those who didn’t own guns, it was 20%. Not only that, but since 2000 the percentage of gun owners who said gun issues were key to their vote climbed by 17 points. It rose by just 10 points among those who didn’t own guns…Pew has made similar findings to Gallup. Gun owners are 9 points (21% to 12%) more likely to have contacted public officials about gun policy than those who don’t own guns. Americans who favor loosening gun laws have been 7 points (22% to 15%) more likely to contact public officials than those who favor stricter gun laws….Even if some Republicans were tempted to support stricter gun control, these numbers suggest that they might be pressured into voting against it because gun rights advocates are more likely to make their voices heard.”

Josh Voorhees wites at slate.com that “…There is major difference between an issue not being an automatic drag on your electoral prospects and actually being a boon to them. Saying gun control isn’t the losing issue it’s made out to be is not the same as saying it’s a winner. There are plenty of logical reasons for Democrats to fret. The majority of Americans may be in favor of small, specific actions like universal background checks or renewing the ban on assault weapons, but as Ramesh Ponnuru argued persuasively in the National Review in November after the mass shooting in Las Vegas, one reason the passion for those very actions is so muted is that many supporters don’t actually believe such laws would make all that much of a difference. Things only get more complicated when the debate moves into the abstract and away from the specifics (as it often does when the NRA is involved); opinions on gun control versus gun rights tend to swing toward control in the aftermath of a high-profile shooting before swinging back as time passes. That means a gun-centric pitch from Democrats would likely find a receptive audience today but an uncertain one in November…Democrats would have a particularly strong argument for tying Trump to the lack of action on guns, considering the NRA was one of Trump’s earliest backersto the tune of $30 million—and remains one of his strongest supporters. That gamble could come with a rather big reward if gun control activists were able to capture a few notable Republican scalps in November: the chance for them and Democrats to do a little mythmaking of their own. Convincing Americans that gun control isn’t toxic at the ballot box wouldn’t be enough to pass meaningful gun laws, of course, but it might finally be a start.”

From Vox, hypocrisy much?

At Politico, Elena Schneider reports that “Republican Rick Saccone holds a slim lead over Democrat Conor Lamb in the special election for a Western Pennsylvania congressional seat, according to a Monmouth University poll released Thursday…Saccone leads Lamb, 49 percent to 46 percent, the poll shows — only a marginal edge for Republicans in a district that supported President Donald Trump by 20 points in 2016. Another 4 percent are undecided, and 1 percent support a third-party candidate…The enthusiasm gap in the district strongly favors Democrats. Nearly half of Democratic voters, 48 percent, say they are following the March 13 special election closely. By contrast, only 26 percent of Republican voters are following the race closely.” The electiopn is March 13th.

Noting that the Monmouth poll has “a very good reputation,” Ed Kilgore elaborates: “this is a race where the Republican should be far ahead. PA-18 is both strongly Republican and strongly pro-Trump. The GOP congressman (Tim Murphy) whose sex-scandal-driven resignation forced this special election faced no Democratic opponent in 2016 or 2014; even in the Democratic landslide years of 2006 and 2008 he won with 58 percent and 64 percent of the vote, respectively. There is not, moreover, any reason to expect an anti-Trump backlash to demoralize Republican voters: Trump carried the 18th by 20 points (as compared to his one-point margin in Georgia’s Sixth District, the historically Republican district that was the site of last year’s hottest House special election)…If Lamb does pull the upset, or even gets close, it will provide fresh evidence that 2018 could be a big year for House Democrats — and that Trump Country territory like southwest Pennsylvania isn’t safe.”

E. J. Dionne, Jr. provides an eloquent description of one of Trump’s biggest liabilities, which Democrasts should think about addressing more creatively. In his column, “A Groundswell for Sanity,” Dionne writes, “The hardest of the hardcore Trump loyalists are still likely to cast ballots this year. But he also drew support from loyal Republicans and white working-class swing voters. Many of them were not enthralled by him but couldn’t abide Hillary Clinton — or were just plain angry. It’s hard to imagine they’re overjoyed with the past 13 months…Some members of this dispirited group overlap with a third key constituency that is underanalyzed because its ranks are not exceptionally partisan or ideological. They are citizens who ask for a basic minimum from those in charge of their government: some dignity and decorum, a focus on problem-solving, and orderliness rather than chaos. Trump and the conservatives sustaining him are completely out of line with this behavioral conservatism built on self-restraint and temperamental evenness…They include small-business owners who prefer low taxes but care about schools, roads, libraries and parks. They may be critical of government, but they also expect it to do useful things. They don’t much like bragging and find an obsession with enemies unhealthy…The obvious political calculation is that this fall’s elections will be decided by which side mobilizes its most ardent supporters. But here is a bet that there is also a quiet revolution of conscience in the country among those who are sick to death of the chaos they see every day on the news, a White House whose energy is devoted to stabbing internal foes in the back and a president who can’t stop thinking about himself. In the face of this, demanding simple decency is a radical and subversive act.”

“In the 2016 presidential election, black voters, on average, waited 16 minutes to vote, while Latino voters waited 13 minutes, according to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology survey of voters. In the same election, white voters waited 10 minutes. In 2012, black and Latino voters stood in line for more than 20 minutes to cast their ballot, nearly twice as long as white voters…Stephen Pettigrew, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, has found if there are two neighborhoods in the same city, and one is majority-white and the other has more blacks and Hispanics, voters in the white neighborhood have a shorter wait…Voting rights advocates call the disparity a “time tax.” They argue that it violates the fundamental right to vote — and that it is often intentional…In poorer counties and cities, long lines may stem from a lack of resources. But even in wealthier counties, minority communities tend to get fewer polling places, voting machines and poll workers than white neighborhoods in the same county, according to a 2014 study from the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law.” — from “Voting Lines Are Shorter — But Mostly For Whites” by Matt Vasilogambros at HuffPo.

Laura Clawson gets down to the nitty-gritty in her Daily Kos post, “How much of tax bill’s benefits do the richest 1 percent get? The answer might surprise you,” and concludes with a succinct soundbite for Democratic candidates everywhere: “The answer, of course, is more than 80 percent, something only 17 percent of voters currently realize. Democrats need to inform the public and drive that number up by November. It’s hard to wrap your head around, of course: 1 percent of the people getting more than 80 percent of the benefit? Even 20 percent of the benefit seems like an awful lot. But it’s true, and Republicans are going all out to keep voters from realizing what the Republican tax plan was all about. The more people know, the better the Democratic chances in November. ..So say it whenever you get the chance: More than 80 percent of the tax plan’s benefits go to the richest 1 percent of Americans.”

Ronald Brownstein addresses an unusual political question in his article, “Could Amazon Flip a State? Democrats could gain politically if the company chooses a city in a battleground state for its second North American headquarters.” at The Atlantic: “Amazon has signaled it intends to finalize its choice this year. Once it’s established, the number of workers connected to the new corporate hub is expected to grow significantly, with Amazon actively recruiting employees from around the country. Amazon projects that it will directly inject into the winning community up to 50,000 new jobs and $5 billion in investment. Based on the spin-off effects it has experienced in Seattle, the site of its first headquarters, Amazon forecasts that other companies will create roughly as many additional jobs. Add in the workers’ families, and Amazon’s choice city could attract well over 100,000 new residents…But the company’s selection could plausibly nudge the current swing states of Pennsylvania and North Carolina toward the Democrats—or accelerate Georgia’s transition into a genuinely competitive battleground. It might take years, but if Amazon founder Jeff Bezos picks one of those places, he could deliver a major political disruption right to the two parties’ doorsteps.”

“Pocahontas” Fights Back

Sen. Elizabeth Warren made a major speech this week that not only affects her political career, but is an instructive example of how to deal with Republican racial slurs. I wrote about it at New York.

The president’s inveterate use of the name “Pocahontas” in mockingly referring to U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren is a bit more than an example of Trumpian boorishness or of his habit of giving people derogatory nicknames. He’s picking up on a slur that certain Massachusetts opponents of Warren have been using since 2012, when the conservative Boston Herald found out Warren had self-identified as having a Native American background in a Harvard faculty directory back in the 1990s. Subsequent digging by various unfriendly and neutral sources discovered that Warren had no formal ties or right to identify with the Cherokee tribe she had been told was prominent in her mother’s Oklahoma background — but also that there was no evidence the highly regarded law professor had ever benefited from a Native connection.

Still, attacks on Warren for exaggerating her Native background struck a conservative chord by raising the familiar targets of diversity, affirmative action, and “political correctness,” then and now. Staff of her 2012 Senate opponent Scott Brown were caught on camera doing various pseudo-Native war chants at a campaign rally. By 2016, one of the most aggressive weaponizers of the “Pocahontas” slur, the hammerheaded Boston radio personality Howie Carr, introduced Donald Trump at a campaign rally with similar war whoops.

This nonsense has created a dilemma for Warren. Does she go out of her way to publicly confess her extremely minor misconduct in the faculty-directory listing, thus fanning the “scandal?” Does she ignore it entirely? Or does she find an effective way to fire back?

A Warren speech today to the National Congress of American Indians showed she has decisively settled on firing back.

For one thing, she’s insisting that Cherokee heritage was indeed part of her family’s life, even as she acknowledges that only tribes themselves can establish Native status.

“[M]y mother’s family was part Native American. And my daddy’s parents were bitterly opposed to their relationship. So, in 1932, when Mother was 19 and Daddy had just turned 20, they eloped …

“They’re gone, but the love they shared, the struggles they endured, the family they built, and the story they lived will always be a part of me. And no one — not even the president of the United States — will ever take that part of me away …

“I’m here today to make a promise: Every time someone brings up my family’s story, I’m going to use it to lift up the story of your families and your communities.”

At the same time, Warren ripped into Trump’s derisive references to her — which at one point he irrelevantly repeated during an Oval Office ceremony honoring Native military veterans — as an example of age-old racist distortions of Native history. After briefly recounting the actual tale of the actual Pocahontas, Warren offered this indirect jab:

“Indigenous people have been telling the story of Pocahontas — the real Pocahontas — for four centuries. A story of heroism. And bravery. And pain.

“And, for almost as long, her story has been taken away by powerful people who twisted it to serve their own purposes.”

Including you-know-who.

Warren later took a more explicit shot at Trump and at his favorite predecessor:

“It is deeply offensive that this president keeps a portrait of Andrew Jackson hanging in the Oval Office, honoring a man who did his best to wipe out Native people.”

And she linked advocacy for Native Americans to the more standard liberal causes she has embraced, including opposition to Big Oil profiteering from Native lands, the fight against GOP-supported safety-net cuts that disproportionately affect minorities, and even banking reform (“[I]t’s about 12 miles on average from the center of tribal reservations to the nearest bank branch.”)

It’s reasonable to assume that Warren will hearken back to this speech whenever Trump or anyone else calls her “Pocahontas” in the future, ensuring that the nastier aspects of the slur will not go unnoticed.That’s morally necessary and politically smart.

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.

Political Strategy Notes

Jill Leovy has an important article, “The Computer Scientist Who Prefers Paper: Barbara Simons believes there is only one safe voting technology” at The Atlantic. Leovy writes, “According to the Department of Homeland Security, those [Russia’s] efforts included attempts to meddle with the electoral process in 21 states…In September, after years of effort by Simons and the nonprofit she helps run, Verified Voting, Virginia abandoned the practice…Simons believes that the failure to heed her warnings has left states in grave danger, with too many potential weak points to shore up before hackers do succeed in altering an outcome. It is not a theoretical vulnerability, Simons told me. “Our democracy is in peril. We are wide open to attack…Many of the leading opponents of paperless voting machines were, and still are, computer scientists, because we understand the vulnerability of voting equipment in a way most election officials don’t…By Verified Voting’s count, 13 states, including populous ones such as Pennsylvania and New Jersey, still have paperless voting. Given the thin majorities in Congress, that leaves more than enough machines to allow hackers tremendous power to influence American politics. And all 50 states use computerized scanners for vote counting—few of them with sufficient postelection auditing to detect manipulation. Mandatory audits, in the form of hand counts of randomized samplings of ballots, are essential to protect against invisible vote theft, Simons believes. In an unaudited system, malicious code could easily go unnoticed…“There’s no malware that can attack paper,” Simons said. “We can solve this. We know how to do it.”

Regarding voting in Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf just “ordered counties planning on replacing their electronic voting systems with machines that would maintain a paper trail, hopefully guarding against interference in a future election,” reports Lulu Chang at Digital trends…“This directive will ensure that the next generation of the commonwealth’s voting systems conforms to enhanced standards of resiliency, auditability and security,” Acting Secretary of State Robert Torres said in a statement…Pennsylvania is not requiring all counties to throw away their equipment yet, however. Rather, the directive only applies to counties that are already in the process of switching systems — those counties will be required to buy new machines with the paper backup addition.

Michael Scherer’s “Election contrast in the Trump era: Republican pugilists vs. Democratic pacifiers” at Post Politics paints with a broad brush in defining the tonal differences between candidates of the two parties this year. He cites some examples to make the point that Republicans are generally deploying more warlike rhetoric in their messaging, while Democrats project themselves as the “pacifiers.” Some of this is overstated — Senator Tami Duckworth (D-IL), for example, though not up for re-election this year, recently called Trump “a five-deferment draft-dodger” and “cadet bone-spurs.” But overall, Scherer is right that Republicans are still trying to project themselves as more ‘pugilistic.’ Many Democratic candidates are betting that most persuadable voters are feeling the effects of Trump-fatigue and what Jesse Jackson once called the ‘rat-a-tat-tat’ of Americans politics. But Dems who strive to be perceived as “reconcilers,” instead of “pacifiers,” are likely on the right tonal track.

Jonathan Allen sees a toughening of Democratic messaging tone in his NBC News post, “Democrats debate: Get personal with Trump or take the high road.” Allen cites Duckworth’s comments, and then notes reent remarks by Terry McAuliffe and Nancy Pelosi: “Within the last few weeks, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi accused Trump of trying to “make America white again” with his immigration plan, and former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said he’d flatten Trump if the president got in his physical space.” Allen quotes one of the more perceptive new Democrats, who cautions, “I don’t think we’ll win a street fight with Trump in slinging accusations back and forth,” said Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif. “That didn’t work out so well for Marco Rubio. Instead of being consumed with attacking Trump, we need to be consumed with solving the real problems of the citizens and nation we represent.”

Ed Kilgore probes the thorny question, “Is Democratic Cooperation With Trump Depressing Supporters?” at New York Magazine.” Kilgore explains, “Projecting oneself as the proud member of the uncompromising anti-Trump resistance just isn’t an option for members of Congress from areas that were and remain pro-Trump enclaves. Yes, senators like Joe Manchin, Heidi Heitkamp, Jon Tester, Joe Donnelly, and Claire McCaskill need an energized anti-Trump “base” to turn out for them. But it’s not going to be enough. And exhibiting a frustrated willingness to work across party lines — which is really what Senate Democrats have mostly been doing, along with trying to form a coalition with those Senate Republicans who are fighting Trump on immigration — is going to be more effective than heading to the barricades…Those Democrats who are in public office have to pick and choose moments of loud opposition, and sometimes even have to sound conciliatory. Yes, if anyone voting in November doubts Democrats are the anti-Trump party,  that’s a problem. But snarling and snapping every minute until then is probably not necessary to maintain confidence in the Donkey’s bite.”

At The Guardian, check out “Social Class in the 21st Century by Mike Savage review – the emotional effect of class” by Lynsey Hanley, who asks in the subtitle, “Are you ‘established middle class’, ‘technical middle class’ or one of the ‘precariat’? Today’s complex society demands new categories in the class-crazy U.K. Hanley adds “If there’s a single fact that illustrates the way social class works in Britain today, it’s in the opening pages of this startling book. Of the 161,000 people who initially filled in the Great British Class Survey, which ran on the BBC website in 2011, 4.1% listed their occupation as chief executive, which is 20 times their representation in the labour force. By contrast, precisely no one stated they were a cleaner. While it’s pleasant to have your status at the top of the social pile affirmed, it’s rather less so to be reminded you’re at the bottom…The coffin of class, to paraphrase Richard Hoggart, remains stubbornly empty.” It would be good to have an equally large sample share their views hereabouts. Further, writes Hanley, “Long-range social mobility, from bottom to top, is a feat summed up by the title of one chapter: “Climbing Mountains”…More common, argues Savage, is the short-range movement within the middle classes, enabled by the social and cultural capital accumulated through going to university…The rough/respectable divide retains a powerful hold on working-class relationships and self-awareness, and is exploited by politicians in election after election, while the new elite gets on with consolidating its hoard of economic, cultural and social capital.”

In his New York Times op-ed, “Democrats Can Win on Immigration,” Matt A. Barreto makes a convincing case and argues, “In their quest to retake the House or the Senate (or both), Democrats should not shy away from incorporating and welcoming immigrants into their own rhetoric. When Republicans embark on meanspirited immigrant bashing, Democrats should take notes from Harry Reid’s 2010 re-election victory in Nevada and Ralph Northam’s 2017 gubernatorial win in Virginia. Both Mr. Reid and Mr. Northam rebuffed racially charged anti-immigrant campaigns, standing up for Dreamers, and in the process winning over Latino voters alongside a coalition of progressive and moderate college-educated whites…Mr. Trump and his fellow Republicans are clearly gearing up for a similar anti-immigrant effort in 2018. But now the mask has been pulled off. Voters get it. Democrats have an opportunity to speak out strongly against bigotry. And in doing so, they have a path to victory in 2018 and beyond.”

Some provocative snarkage from the New York Times editorial “We’ve Got the Memo. Now What About Trump’s Tax Returns?,” notes: “Since the Republicans are now on board with greater transparency, they will no doubt push President Trump to release his tax returns, as every other major-party presidential nominee has done for the past four decades, won’t they?…How about the White House visitor logs, which the Trump administration started hiding from the public last year? Or, say, the names of all foreign governments and officials who have stayed — at their own or at American taxpayers’ expense — at Mr. Trump’s Washington hotel, at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida or at his golf courses and his other businesses since he became president? Or the names of every foreign business with which the Trump Organization has a financial relationship, especially in countries where America has sensitive foreign policy interests, like China, India, Russia, Turkey or Saudi Arabia?…And, of course, Americans should have complete confidence now that congressional Republicans will demand complete transparency from all members of the president’s campaign, transition team and administration in describing their dealings with representatives of a foreign power that tried to swing our election — as well as from the special counsel who is investigating those efforts…The party that demanded the release of Hillary Clinton’s emails as a central plank of the 2016 presidential campaign must support all of this and more, right?”

Amid the latest round of Pelosi-bashing, Democratic organizer Dana Houle offers this assessment in her Washington Post op-ed “Nancy Pelosi is incredibly underrated.” Houle writes that “Pelosi is one of the most underrated American politicians of the past half-century. Her media and activist critics judge her competence and leadership almost entirely based on her performance in front of a microphone…Her strength is in what she does away from the microphones…Pelosi is a master vote counter — and more than most 20th-century congressional leaders, she has to be. Majorities are narrower, and to pass partisan legislation, or keep a unified opposition, leaders cannot afford to have many members voting against their caucus. When Democrats have been in the minority, she has kept her representatives in check, even as Ryan and his predecessors have had to pull bills from the House floor because they got the whip count wrong… Those who continue to underestimate her will continue to be mistaken. Don’t be surprised if she has another big act in her, as the Speaker who goes toe to toe with President Trump.”

California GOP Poised To Miss Senate and Gubernatorial General Elections

I ran across a poll finding from California and realized the press accounts were missing something big. So I explained it at New York.

[S]hortly before Senator Dianne Feinstein announced she was indeed running for another term, the Public Policy Institute of California released a poll showing that half of the state’s likely voters wanted her to retire.

The sense that the 84-year-old Feinstein might be getting a bit too old, combined with long-simmering lefty hostility to her for being insufficiently progressive, helped draw one of California’s rising Democratic stars, State Senate Majority Leader Kevin de León, into a challenge to the incumbent.

A new PPIC poll indicates that Feinstein’s doing pretty well, leading de León by a robust 46 percent to 17 percent margin among likely voters, with significant leads among virtually every subgroup.

Of perhaps even greater significance, there were no Republican Senate candidates with sufficiently viable campaigns for PPIC to even include them in the poll. With less than a month left before the candidate filing deadline for the June 5 nonpartisan primary, that almost certainly means that for the second election year in a row, Republicans won’t have a candidate for the U.S. Senate in the November general election (under the top-two system, the top two finishers, regardless of party or percentage, advance to the general election).

And while California Republicans do have three candidates for governor this year, that could be two too many for the party to place someone in the general election. The new PPIC poll shows Democrats Gavin Newsom (the lieutenant governor and retiring Governor Jerry Brown’s heir apparent) and Antonio Villaraigosa (former mayor of Los Angeles) dominating a large field with 23 percent and 21 percent, respectively. The top-performing Republican, state legislator Travis Allen, is at 8 percent, and it’s not entirely clear his candidacy will survive recently disclosed allegations of sexual harassment in 2013. The other two Republicans in the race hold a combined 10 percent of the vote.

And while Kevin de León, with a virtually assured general election slot, can console himself with the fact that he will have nine months to make a race of it against Feinstein, it’s soon or never for GOP candidates, actual or potential.

If, as appears likely, there are no Republicans at the top of the ballot for the Senate and gubernatorial races in November, it could have a baleful effect on GOP turnout. And that could be a real problem for Republicans trying to hold onto six endangered U.S. House seats.

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.

No Excuses for Trump & GOP If They Lose PA Special Election

Looking at the upcoming special congressional election in Pennsylvania, I offered these thoughts at New York.

The spin wars over the results of the special and off-year elections in the Trump era have been as intense as the races themselves. Democrats can rightly point to a regular pattern of over-performance in congressional and state legislative special elections once you look at the jurisdictions involved. At the congressional level, the playing field was heavily tilted to the GOP by the fact that most of the vacancies involved were produced by Trump lifting incumbents into his administration. So the most common GOP rationalization for obvious Democratic gains in dark-red territory was: “We won, didn’t we?”

The big regular off-year elections in New Jersey and Virginia were Democratic routs by any measure, and produced new excuses for failure: Trump blamed Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie for not running a cookie-cutter campaign based on his own, and Republicans could blame the New Jersey debacle on Chris Christie’s profound unpopularity.

Now, though, a special election is approaching on March 13 in Pennsylvania that will leave no excuses for Trump or for Republicans if the GOP loses. The district itself is both strongly Republican (its Cook Political Report PVI is R+11, which means it has recently voted more Republican in presidential elections than the nation as a whole by 11 percent) and unlike, say, Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District (that district’s PVI is R+8, but Trump only won it by one point), strongly pro-Trump as well (the president carried it by 20 points).

This district is also, not to put too fine a point on it, in perhaps the most stereotypical Trump Country segment of the United States: southwest Pennsylvania, whose bars and living rooms are regularly trawled by conservative journalists like Salena Zito for validation of Trump’s appeal. And the GOP candidate to succeed disgraced GOP congressman Tim Murphy (who had no Democratic opponent in 2014 or 2016), state legislator Rick Saccone, might as well be campaigning in a Trump mask. The fiery conservative likes to boast that he was “Trump before Trump was Trump.”

Raising the profile of this race still more as a potential 2018 bellwether is that the Democratic candidate, former local prosecutor Conor Lamb, is regularly described as being “straight out of central casting” — a 33-year-old Marine veteran with deep roots in the district and a moderate issues profile and style.

Unsurprisingly, reports Politico, the national GOP and the Trump administration are taking no chances in this race. Trump himself and Vice-President Mike Pence have already appeared in the district with Saccone, and are prepared to do so again, with Cabinet members also on call to take the short trip up to Pittsburgh. Saccone is not a particularly good fundraiser, so the GOP and outside groups are already making up for that abundantly; at the moment, “Republicans [are] outspending Democrats on TV by nearly 5-1,” with more money on the way.

All this national and conservative-movement activity is occurring at a time when their huge built-in advantages in the district are potentially being strengthened by an abatement — perhaps temporary, perhaps not — in the intensity of the Democratic “wave” that was so evident at the end of 2017. The Democratic advantage in the congressional generic ballot — a regular measurement of national party strength in a midterm election — has by most accounts shrunk by more than half since its peak just before Christmas.

There’s more than a month to go before voters in Pennsylvania’s 18th District go to the polls, and a lot could happen in the interim. But it’s pretty clear this is the GOP’s race to lose.