washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Ruy Teixeira

Democrats Need to Be the Party of and for Working People—of All Races

And they can’t retake Congress unless they win over more white workers.
by Robert Griffin, John Halpin & Ruy Teixeira

Read the article…

Matt Morrison

Rebuilding a Progressive Majority by Winning Back White Working-Class Moderates

From the findings of Working America, the AFL-CIO’s outreach program to non-union working people.
by Matt Morrison

Read the article…

The Daily Strategist

August 20, 2017

From 2016 Landslide to 2018 Defeat: Why Some “Safe” House GOP Seats Really Aren’t

I ran across a fascinating analysis of House midterm elections at Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and condensed and extended it at New York:

The good news for House Republicans, according to a detailed analysis of the midterm landscape from Kyle Kondik of Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, is that 226 of the 241 GOP winners last year won by a double-digit margin, typically the definition of a “landslide.”

The bad news is that in the last three midterm elections (2006, 2010, and 2014), the average House incumbent representing the party that controlled the White House suffered a negative swing of 12 points. So even “landslide” winners in the previous cycle got quickly into hot water when the midterms rolled around.

Indeed, fully 21 House Republican incumbents won by 12 points or less in 2016. Ten of them also represent districts won by Hillary Clinton.

[E]ven if all 21 seats fell to the Democrats — and they lost none of their own — that still wouldn’t be enough to flip control of the House.

The hunt for additional pickups might begin with the 13 House incumbents who did win by more than 12 points in 2016 — but whose districts were carried by Hillary Clinton. And perhaps even more promising are open seats, as Kondik notes:

“[T]he results in open seats defended by the presidential party [in the last three midterms] saw huge swings in favor of the opposite party. In such seats, the presidential party share declined about 11 points from the presidential to the midterm elections — or 22 points in terms of margin — and the president’s party only held 25 of the 46 seats included in the study over the three midterms.”

At the moment, there is only one open GOP House seat where the Republican stepping down won by fewer than 22 points (the 27th district in South Florida, long represented by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, which Hillary Clinton carried by nearly 20 points). But additional retirements in the next few months will produce more open GOP seats, and probably more targets.

There is no guarantee, of course, that 2018 will be an “average” midterm. But given President Trump’s persistently low approval ratings and the current high level of political engagement among Democrats, if anything, the next midterm is likely to produce an anti–White House wave that is above average. So while Republicans have done a good job via gerrymandering in making a very high percentage of their incumbents safe, the benchmark for “safety” may be higher than ever, too.


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.


Sessions Defines Trumpism, But Russia’s More Important To the Boss

After reading the president’s remarkable interview with the New York Times, I had this to say at New York about one strange revelation:

[T]he president extensively vented his fury at Attorney General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Justice Department’s investigation of Russian involvement in the 2016 election, inquiring minds obviously wanted to know if Sessions might be stepping down. Trump had, after all, basically said he regretted his choice of Sessions and would not have made it had he known what he knows now.

But today Sessions briefly and mildly responded to questions about Trump’s comments by saying he planned to stay on in the Justice Department “as long as that appropriate,” as the Times reported.

Trump has complained about Sessions’s recusal before, though in the past his anger has been expressed behind the scenes and via intermediaries. But more generally, this is also not the first time the president has accused subordinates of fireable offenses without trying to fire them, as my colleague Olivia Nuzzi has pointed out:

“Although Trump once tried and failed to trademark the words, ‘You’re fired!’ — his catchphrase from The Apprentice — it seems that he doesn’t actually enjoy repealing and replacing the loyalists that surround him. Like so much with the president, it’s shtick designed to make him look tough. ‘At the end of the day, he’s a natural-born salesman and he likes people to like him,’ a…senior administration official said. ‘He’s a conflict-avoider. He hates firing people.'”

So long as Sessions is willing to put up with his boss’s public abuse, his job is probably secure for the time being. That is particularly true because Trump’s post-Sessions options at Justice are not good, and a Senate confirmation hearing for a subsequent nominee might not go very well.

But Sessions’s feelings aside, the optics of Trump’s tirades against the attorney general are terrible. He owes an awful lot to Jeff Sessions, his earliest real supporter on Capitol Hill. They have no significant policy disagreements that we know of. If there is such a thing as “Trumpism,” Sessions is its chief acolyte.

For Trump to ignore all that and repeatedly trash-talk his attorney general because of his prudent recusal over the Russia investigation is a pretty clear indication that the president is not just distracted by the probe, but intensely fears it. He can claim all he wants that the whole thing is “fake news” that the failed media or the loser Democrats invented, but his behavior shows otherwise.


Political Strategy Notes

Paige Winfield Cunningham reports at The Daily 202 that “Conservatives are furious – furious – that Senate Republicans got close to repealing big parts of Obamacare and are now on the verge of walking away from the effort altogether, possibly leaving President Obama’s health-care law on the books for the foreseeable future…Now, nothing is turning out as they’d hoped. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) intends to hold a vote early next week to start debate on a repeal bill. But unless senators can hash out an agreement on how to treat Medicaid spending — as they tried to do in a meeting last night in Sen. John Barrasso’s (R-Wyo.) office — it will likely fail…” Cunningham reports that groups like Freedomworks, Tea Party Patriots and Club for Growth are so angered that they have initiated ‘shaming’ campaigns to punish conservatives who announced against the GOP ‘repeal and replace’ bills.

In his syndicated Washington Post column, “Why Obamacare won and Trump lost,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes, “The collapse of the Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act is a monumental political defeat wrought by a party and a president that never took health-care policy or the need to bring coverage to millions of Americans seriously…They had seven years after the law was passed and could not come up with a more palatable blueprint.” However, adds Dionne, “Supporters of the 2010 law cannot rest easy…On Wednesday, the president demanded that the Senate keep at the work of repeal, and, in any event, Congress could undermine the act through sharp Medicaid cuts in the budget process and other measures. And Trump, placing his own self-esteem and political standing over the health and security of millions of Americans, has threatened to wreck the system.”

At New York Magazine, Ed Kilgore explores three interim health care reforms, which could possibly leverage bipartisan support to help bridge the transition from Obamacare to a single payer or public option health care system: 1. Stabilizing individual insurance markets; 2. Keeping the maximum number of younger and healthier people in insurance risk pools; and 3. Broader nonideological reforms of the health-care system., including more flexibility at the state level for administering Medicaid and allowing people nearing retirement age to buy into Medicare coverage.

A stray, but hopeful thought, tickled by a friend’s Facebook observation: As health insurers realize how fast the public is warming to Medicare-for-all/single payer/public option, the insurance companies will fight harder for Obamacare. “We’re not seeing any evidence of a death spiral or a market collapse,” said Cynthia Cox, Kaiser’s associate director of health reform and private insurance (quoted in Paul Demko’s “Despite doomsday rhetoric, Obamacare markets are stabilizing” at Politico on July 17th). “Rather, what it looks like is insurers are on track to have their best year since the [Affordable Care Act] began.”

Steve Phillips, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and author of “Brown Is the New White: How the Demographic Revolution Has Created a New American Majority” has a New York Times op-ed, “The Democratic Party’s Billion-Dollar Mistake.” Among his observations:  “In the 2016 election, the Democratic Party committees that support Senate and House candidates and allied progressive organizations spent more than $1.8 billion. The effectiveness of that staggering amount of money, however, was undermined by a strategic error: prioritizing the pursuit of wavering whites over investing in and inspiring African-American voters, who made up 24 percent of Barack Obama’s winning coalition in 2012..”

At The Fix, Aaron Blake sees trouble ahead for Democrats in the new WaPo/ABC News poll, which “presents a pretty mixed bag for Democrats. It shows that registered voters say they want Democrats to control Congress to be a check on Trump by a 52-38 percent margin, but it also shows Democrats are — rather remarkably — less enthusiastic about voting than Republicans are. While 65 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning adults say they are “almost certain to vote,” just 57 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning adults say the same.”

Brendan Nyhan notes at The Upshot: “A new working paper by the Emory University political scientists B. Pablo Montagnes, Zachary Peskowitz and Joshua McCrain argues that people who identify as Republican may stop doing so if they disapprove of Trump, creating a false stability in his partisan approval numbers even as the absolute number of people approving him shrinks. Gallup data supports this idea, showing a four-percentage-point decline in G.O.P. identification since the 2016 election that is mirrored in other polling, though to a lesser extent…When the Emory political scientists use the Gallup data to account for Republicans who have stopped identifying with the party since the election, they find that partisan support for Trump could be substantially lower than it appears.”

For a little heavier lifting, check out Gabriel Winant’s “The New Working Class” at Dissent, which includes this take on the potential for working-class solidarity: “To imagine that we should look for “class” and see hard-hats mistakes a particular historical manifestation—the industrial working class—for a general category whose ranks are always changing. But while the idea of a new working class is not yet widely accepted, its distinguishing features are, on their own terms, familiar. We can reduce them down roughly to feminization, racial diversification, and increasing precarity: care work, immigrant work, low-wage work, and the gig economy. There’s also a host of interlinked forces shaping working-class life from outside the workplace: policing and punishment; housing insecurity; indebtedness; the costs of education; and the difficulties of caring for the young, the disabled, the sick, the addicted, and the old. A set of shared experiences coheres here, and a potential set of shared enemies: landlord, lender, bill collector, manager, cop. Racialized and gendered unevenness in exposure to these forces is real, but that portion of experience that is shared appears, quite clearly, to be growing year by year at the intensifying intersection points of race, gender, and class. This, the growing stock of common experience, is the process called “class formation.””

Trump as Buchanan 2.0: “The “miracle” of the mogul’s campaign, apart from his cunning success in manipulating negative media coverage to his advantage, was capturing the entirety of the Romney vote, without any of the major defections (college-educated Republican women, conservative Latinos, Catholics) that the polls had predicted and Clinton had counted upon. As in an Agatha Christie mystery, Trump eliminated his dazed primary opponents one after another with murderous innuendo while hammering away on his master themes of elite corruption, treasonous trade agreements (“greatest job theft in the history of the world”), terrorist immigrants, and declining white economic opportunity. With the support of Breitbart and the alt-right, he essentially ran in Patrick Buchanan’s old shoes.” – From Mike Davis’s “The Great God Trump and the White Working Class” at The Jacobin.


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.”


Political Strategy Notes

By a 2-to-1 margin, Americans prefer Obamacare to Republican replacements,” reports WaPo’s Philip Bump. “In the new Washington Post-ABC News poll released Sunday, we decided to ask the question directly: Which do you prefer, Obamacare or the Republican replacement plan? By a 2-to-1 margin — 50 percent to 24 percent — Americans said they preferred Obamacare…There’s a split by party, as you might expect, with Democrats broadly favoring the existing law and Republicans the latter. But that split wasn’t even, with 77 percent of Democrats favoring the legislation passed in 2010 by their party and only 59 percent of Republicans favoring their party’s solution. Independents in this case came down on the side of the Democrats, with 49 percent favoring the existing law vs. 20 percent backing the GOP alternative…More worrisome for Republicans hoping to pass a new bill is how the support broke out by demographic. Only among Republicans, conservatives, white evangelicals and white men without college degrees did more Americans support the GOP bill than Obamacare. In every other group analyzed, including older respondents and white women without college degrees — an important part of President Trump’s voting base in 2016 — backed the existing law by some margin.”

Paul Krugman’s syndicated column on “The GOP Health Care Con” rolls out the Republicans’ latest catastrophe: “The most important change, however, is the way the bill would effectively gut protection for people with pre-existing medical conditions. The Affordable Care Act put minimum standards on the kinds of policies insurers could offer; the new Senate bill gives in to demands by Ted Cruz that insurers be allowed to offer skimpy plans that cover little, with very high deductibles that would make them useless to most people. The effects would be disastrous, which is what insurers themselves say. In a special memo, AHIP, the insurance industry trade group, warned that it would “fracture and segment insurance markets into separate risk pools,” leading to “unstable health insurance markets” in which people with pre-existing conditions would lose coverage or have plans that were “far more expensive” than under Obamacare…Put another way, this bill would send insurance markets into a classic death spiral. Republicans have predicted such a spiral for years, but kept being wrong: Obamacare, despite having some real problems, is stabilizing, and doing pretty well in states that support it. This bill would sabotage all that progress.”

Bill Lambrecht of the Washington Bureau of the San Antonio Express-News reports on Democratic military veterans running for congress, including: Joseph Kopser (TX); Jason Crow (CO); Dan McCready (NC); Chrissy Houlahan (PA); Mikie Sherrill (NJ); and Josh Butner (NJ). Lambrecht quotes Simon Rosenberg, founder of NDN, a Democratic-aligned think tank in Washington, who notes “The issue of whether America has been betrayed and whether our homeland has been violated by an outside foreign power creates an environment where patriotism and love of country become important in a way that they haven’t been for a very long time.”…Rosenberg said he believes that veterans “are going to drive a very different sensibility in the Democratic Party than we’ve had over the last generation. If we can mount a big argument to the American people based on love of country and patriotism, I think we are going to be a formidable political party in 2018.”

Max Ehrenfreund explains why “Democrats’ internal dispute over the white working class is about to get real” at The Washington Post: “After decades of relying on free-market solutions to achieve liberal aims, Democrats have shifted to the left in recent years, and many are calling for more government intervention in the economy…The shift follows a gradual trend among Democratic voters toward more progressive politics. The share of Democrats calling themselves liberal has increased from 27 percent in 2000 to 42 percent today, according to the Pew Research Center. There are now more ordinary people in the party who describe themselves as liberal than who describe themselves as conservative or moderate.”

AP’s Steve Peoples and Bill Barrow discuss Democrats’ struggle to craft an appealing message that can inspire voters. “The soul-searching comes as Democrats look to flip at least 24 GOP-held seats necessary for a House majority and cut into Republican advantages in U.S. statehouses in the 2018 midterm elections. Yet with a Russia scandal engulfing the White House, a historically unpopular health-care plan wrenching Capitol Hill and no major GOP legislative achievement, Democrats are still struggling to tell voters what their party stands for.” How about “Move America forward with health care for all and investment in infrastructure projects that provide jobs: Vote Democratic.”

“If we kill net neutrality,” writes at Bryan Mercer in his article, “Why Net Neutrality Is a Working-Class Issue” at In These Times, “we will make it more politically possible for Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and other big telecom providers to raise their prices and sell your private data for profit. Net neutrality is an important protection that working-class people and communities of color need, considering the history of predatory practices of telecom providers and the tightening wallets of Americans who aren’t part of the one percent…Make no mistake: Net neutrality is one of the defining workers’ rights and civil rights issue of our time. We all know the internet is driving changes in culture, politics and the economy. It is also one of the key spaces where workers can organize—and where mass movements for racial and economic justice blossom and build power.”

Jonathan Chait scores a number of good points in his New York Magazine article, “How ‘Neoliberalism’ Became the Left’s Favorite Insult of Liberals,” including: “The Democratic Party has evolved over the last half-century, as any party does over a long period of time. But the basic ideological cast of its economic policy has not changed dramatically since the New Deal. American liberals have always had some room for markets in their program. Democrats, accordingly, have never been a left-wing, labor-dominated socialist party. (Union membership peaked in 1955, two decades before the party’s supposed neoliberal turn, and has declined steadily since.) They have mediated between business and labor, supporting expanded state power episodically rather than dogmatically. The widespread notion that “neoliberals” have captured the modern Democratic party and broken from its historic mission plays upon nostalgia for a bygone era, when the real thing was messier and more compromised than the sanitized historical memory.”

Geoffrey Skelley, Associate Editor, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, provides an excellent demographic dissection of a critical swing state, Virginia: “Based on the Census Bureau’s 2015 estimates, Virginia ranks sixth among the 50 states in its percentage of the population 25 years or older that has at least a bachelor’s degree…Virginia has also become more diverse in many ways. It’s become more racially and ethnically varied since the 1970 census. Race and education are now the two strongest indicators of voting preference, so the fact that Virginia’s population has moved from being 19% nonwhite in 1970 to about 37% nonwhite today is surely a part of the story as well. The fastest-growing localities in the state, such as Loudoun and Prince William counties in Northern Virginia, have become dramatically more diverse since 1970. Loudoun was 13% nonwhite in 1970; today, it is 10 times bigger in overall population and is about 41% nonwhite. Prince William has seen even more dramatic changes: It was about 6% nonwhite in 1970; today, its population is roughly five times bigger (if you subtract Manassas and Manassas Park from its 1970 totals; they’re now independent cities) and the county is 54% nonwhite. The physical origins of Virginia’s population are now more diverse as well. In 1970, 63% of the state’s population had been born in the state; in 2010, that figure had fallen to just below 50%…These are just some of the factors that have moved Virginia in the Democrats’ direction in national politics. It will be interesting to see where it goes next.”

Associated Press reporter David A. Lieb’s “Analysis indicates partisan gerrymandering has benefited GOP” provides a revealing quantification of what you already knew: “The AP scrutinized the outcomes of all 435 U.S. House races and about 4,700 state House and Assembly seats up for election last year using a new statistical method of calculating partisan advantage. It’s designed to detect cases in which one party may have won, widened or retained its grip on power through political gerrymandering. The analysis found four times as many states with Republican-skewed state House or Assembly districts than Democratic ones. Among the two dozen most populated states that determine the vast majority of Congress, there were nearly three times as many with Republican-tilted U.S. House districts…Traditional battlegrounds such as Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida and Virginia were among those with significant Republican advantages in their U.S. or state House races. All had districts drawn by Republicans after the last Census in 2010…The AP analysis also found that Republicans won as many as 22 additional U.S. House seats over what would have been expected based on the average vote share in congressional districts across the country. That helped provide the GOP with a comfortable majority over Democrats instead of a narrow one.”


Democratic Senators In Trump Country Looking Solid for 2018

I don’t usually pay much attention to Karl Rove’s predictable writing. But the one-time Boy Genius’ latest column just begged for a response, which I provided at New York.

[V]eteran spinner Karl Rove devoted a Wall Street Journal column to a baleful assessment of the reelection prospects of Senate Democrats running in states carried handily by Donald Trump last year.

There’s a certain dated quality to Rove’s analysis; he writes as though these senators are fresh from gazing in awe at Trump’s 2016 victory and are trying to decide whether to fight back or run for the hills. In reality, these pols have for the most part chosen to oppose every unpopular thing Trump and the congressional GOP have proposed this year, which fortunately for red-state Democrats is nearly their entire agenda. Still, the 2016 numbers are indeed daunting for some:

“The 25 Democratic senators who face re-election in 2018 are already gearing up for a fight. Their latest quarterly fundraising reports, released over the past two weeks, show impressive totals, ranging up to $3.1 million. But for the 10 Democrats from states carried by President Trump, a well-stuffed war chest may not be enough.

“This is especially true for six senators in states where Mr. Trump’s victory last November was huge. He won Joe Manchin’s West Virginia by an astonishing 42 points; Heidi Heitkamp’s North Dakota by 36 points; Jon Tester’s Montana by 20; Joe Donnelly’s Indiana and Claire McCaskill’s Missouri by 19, and Sherrod Brown’s Ohio by 8.”

Rove goes on to make a very dubious assertion that we are going to hear a lot from Republicans between now and November of 2018:

“They must all keep an eye on the president’s favorability ratings. On Election Day, Mr. Trump was viewed favorably by 37.5% of voters and unfavorably by 58.5%, according to the RealClearPolitics average. As of this Wednesday, his ratings stood at 40.4% favorable and 53.6% unfavorable.

“Mr. Trump is likely to be more popular in states he won than his national average: The larger his margin in those states last November, the better he stands now. If this trend holds through 2018, Democrats in states Mr. Trump won by double or nearly double digits could face stiff re-election contests.”

This argument ignores the rather pertinent fact that Trump was running against a rival who was almost as unpopular as he was. In 2018, Republicans won’t have the luxury of running against Hillary Clinton. Instead, they will be up against well-known Senate incumbents with their own public profiles, and in a midterm environment where there is usually a wind blowing against the party controlling the White House.

So while we should indeed “keep and eye on the president’s favorability ratings,” those of the senators in question are even more relevant. As it happens Morning Consult just released an update of its home-state favorability assessments for all 100 U.S. senators, and the very Democrats Rove thinks are in inherently deep trouble are actually doing quite well. Joe Manchin’s ratio is 57/31; Heidi Heitkamp’s is an even more impressive 60/28. Jon Tester (50/39), Joe Donnelly (53/25), and Sherrod Brown (50/29) are at or above the magic 50-percent level that often connotes future victory, with limited “unfavorables,” and Claire McCaskill (46/38) isn’t exactly plumbing the depths of unpopularity, either.

In fact, the one senator up in 2018 whose favorability numbers are underwater is a Republican, Jeff Flake of Arizona (37/45).

Another problem for the GOP is that it is struggling to find credible challengers to theoretically vulnerable Democrats in some states (as in Missouri, where consensus GOP favorite Representative Ann Wagner decided not to take on McCaskill), and is facing potentially fractious Republican primaries (as in Indiana, where Representatives Luke Messer and Todd Rokita are already attacking each other) in others.

There is plenty of time for things to change in the months ahead, and nobody on the Democratic side has any reason to feel complacent about holding onto Senate seats in one of the more lopsided landscapes in living memory. But for now, a Democratic red-state bloodbath in 2018 looks unlikely. And if congressional Republicans continue to flail around in the clumsy pursuit of an unpopular agenda, the odds of survival for Democrats in Trump Country will only go up.


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.

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Political Strategy Notes

First the good news, from David Weigel at PowerPost: “Tuesday night, Democrats picked up two seats in Oklahoma, a once-blue state where the Obama years had reduced them to a rump party. It was the fourth pickup in a state legislative race this year,* the only electoral bright spots for a party that is lagging in fundraising and fighting localized battles over leadership and messaging. Michael Brooks, who’d lost a 2014 race for the state’s 44th Senate District, won it by 9 points on Tuesday; Karen Gaddis, who’d narrowly lost the 2016 race for the 75th District of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, took it by 5 points this time.” However, writes Weigel, “The victories also did little to slice into what, by the end of the Obama years, had become a Republican supermajority…

In a Vox exclusive, Sarah Kliff reports that “House Democrats introduce new plan to fix Obamacare,” which stops far short of single-payer reform. As Kliff explains, “Ten House Democrats will unveil a new plan to fix Obamacare, highlighting the parts of the law that have struggled to work and offering modest steps to improve them. The proposal includes more funding to help insurance plans cover the sickest patients, along with possibly changing the timing of the open enrollment season in hopes of attracting more Americans to sign up for insurance…These Democrats are agitating for a new strategy, one where they speak openly about the health law’s weak spots — particularly the individual market — and how to shore them up. The party has so far been reticent to highlight Obamacare’s problems at a moment when Democrats are fighting against Republican efforts to repeal parts of the law.”

At Facing South, however, Sue Sturgis notes that “Medicare for All wins backing of conservative Southern Democrats.” Sturgis reports that “two Blue Dogs cosponsoring Medicare for All are from the South. Vicente Gonzalez, who was elected last year to represent South Texas’ 15th Congressional District, signed on on April 17. Jim Cooper, who has represented Middle Tennessee’s 5th Congressional District since 2003 and who served its 4th Congressional District from 1983 to 1995, signed on on April 25. Both seats are considered safely Democratic…Other Southern Democrats who’ve signed on to the Medicare for All bill for the first time this year are Kathy Castor, Ted Deutch, Al Lawson and Darren Soto of Florida; Bennie Thompson of Mississippi; G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina; and Gene Green and Marc Veasey of Texas.”

Scott Detrow writes at npr.org that some red state Democrats are ready to negotiate on reforming Obamacare, but they are hanging tough on not cutting Medicaid. Further, “Democrats are prepared to drive a hard bargain. A broader measure would need 60 votes to advance, not 50 like the current GOP measure. That means moderate Democrats would suddenly be the key swing votes who have leverage over the bill’s language…Democrats like North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp and Montana Sen. Jon Tester are both up for reelection next year in deep red states. Both say they’d be happy to deal — but that Republicans would need to drop their push to scale back Medicaid spending. “That has to come off the table,” said Heitkamp. “We cannot be turning back the clock on Medicaid.”…”If eliminating Medicaid, or trimming it back, or however they want to put it is the price for admission, then it’s going to be very difficult,” said Tester.”

U.P.I.’s Allen Cone reports “U.S. adults are divided on the government’s best approach to healthcare insurance reform, according to a Gallup poll…The largest segment, 44 percent, want “significant changes” to the existing Affordable Care Act but to keep it in place, according to the survey. Thirty percent favor repealing and replacing the law and 23 percent want to keep the ACA as it is…With independents, 48 percent want to keep the ACA and make changes. The rest are somewhat equally divided — 25 percent repeal and replace and 23 percent keep it as is.”

In her L.A. Times op-ed, “Democrats are doubling down on the same vanilla centrism that helped give us President Trump,” Melissa Batchelor Warnke quotes Democratic National Comittee Rep. Keith Ellison: “Ellison says he’s keen on rebuilding trust between the Democratic Party and those it represents. “Look, how do you build a trust relationship?” Ellison asked. “You listen to me, I listen to you. When you count on me, when you call on me, you can count on me. But what have we had with the Democratic Party? Sometime around election time we call you and ask you to vote for us. Maybe we ask you for money and then you don’t see us again until we need more votes and more money.” Warnke adds, “One of the goals of the Resistance Summer events is to put the party in contact with the people it represents outside of an election year — a good and necessary idea.”

John Light notes at Common Dreams: “A study by the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA found that Wisconsin’s voter-ID blocked as many as 200,000 people from voting in 2016. That’s an order of magnitude more than the 22,000 votes that delivered the state to Trump.”

In his Harper’s ‘Letter from Washington,’ “It’s My Party: The Democrats struggle to rise from the ashes,” Andrew Cockburn notes a weakness of the Clinton’s campaign which has to do with favoring a technocratic approach over making a more human connection: “Notoriously, the 2016 Clinton campaign put all its trust in a data-driven voter model. In Nebraska, Kleeb remembered the Clinton team working hard. “But what they were missing was the real grassroots person-to-person campaign. They had these sophisticated voter models and their organizers had very specific numerical goals they had to hit at the end of every day. It had no heart. That matters, you know. People vote for people because they think they care about them. It’s not a transactional process, which is exactly what the Clinton campaign was.” (It didn’t help that the voter model failed in many ways to reflect the real-life electorate, fatally underestimating, for example, the number of Trump voters.)…Such withering critiques might warrant major changes in a defeated party’s way of doing business. But indications are that many leading players see no reason why business should not continue as usual.”

Re Mitch Smith’s New York Times article, “Strategy for Democratic Mayors Facing Troubles: Attack Trump,” couldn’t it just be that Democratic elected officials at all levels attack Trump because his outrages are so unrelenting and destructive that responsible leaders can’t ignore them? Think how weird it would be if they didn’t.