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

January 17, 2018

Making the Democratic Case in Bellwether PA

Harold Meyerson shows political beat reporters how it’s done in his WaPo op-ed “A Democrat for Main Street.” Meyerson’s article sheds fresh light on the complex politics of bellwether Pennsylvania and its marquee Senate race, and should be of keen interest to Democrats. Here’s a teaser, but read it all:

Politically, north-central Pennsylvania is one of the most venerable Republican terrains in the land, and it’s grown more Republican in recent decades with the closing of unionized steel and textile mills. James Carville once famously observed that Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh with Alabama in between.
…With Northeastern and Middle Atlantic states clearly moving in a more Democratic direction, Santorum — whose voting record and social philosophy are more suited to an Alabama Republican — heads the list of Republican senators whom the Democrats think they can defeat this year. But there are enough places like Mifflin County in Pennsylvania to make it a real fight, which is why the Democrats have rallied to the socially conservative, economically progressive Casey. Early on, the Senate Democratic leadership (Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer) and the state’s Democratic governor, Ed Rendell (a onetime Casey opponent), made it clear that Casey was their guy.

Meyerson points out that the candidacy of a Green Party “Naderistic nihilist” has cut Democrat Casey’s once-formidable lead to 6 points in the polls. Meyerson also notes that the same bloggers who backed Lamont in Connecticut are supporting conservative Casey, laying bare the GOP big lie that the netroots are extremists. All in all, an informative primer on PA senate politics.


Dems Challenged to Strenghten Party for Long Haul

In today’s WaPo, columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s “A Gap in Their Armor” is a meditation on the importance of party that should be read by all Democrats. We’ll quote briefly here and urge progressives to read the whole piece.

…Dean and Emanuel are both struggling against the same overlapping realities: Democrats have chronically underinvested in building state parties. Wealthy donors who bankrolled grass-roots organizing in the 2004 presidential campaign have largely gone to the sidelines this year. And Republican-oriented interest groups are, on the whole, better financed and disciplined than their Democratic counterparts.
…There is a lesson here about campaign finance reform and those who pretend that Democrats can rely on a handful of wealthy donors when crunch time comes. There is also a lesson about how a political party needs to see itself — and be seen by those who support it — as a long-term operation, not simply as a label of convenience at election time.

There’s more In Dionne’s challenge, and taking it seriously could strengthen Democrats in ’08 — and beyond.


Dems Seize National Security Issue

In today’s New York Times, Carl Hulse reports on the Democrats’ efforts to more effectively leverage the issue of national security for the fall elections. Hulse notes in his article “Democrats See Security as Key Issue for Fall“:

…Democrats say the administration’s initial support of a business deal that would have allowed a Dubai company to assume control of parts of some seaport terminals was a turning point in the public’s view of Mr. Bush’s credibility on national security. As a result, they say they are advising candidates to respond quickly and with force to Republican attacks.

Hulse points out that recent polls no longer give the GOP any significant advantage on the issue of terrorism and that the 9-11 Commission leaders say the Iraq war drains resources needed to protect Americans at home. He quotes Senate Minorty Leader Harry Reid on the GOP’s less than impressive track record:

During the 2002 and 2004 elections, Republicans tried to sow fear in the American public by claiming that they were the only ones who could keep America safe. This from the same crowd that has driven Iraq to the brink of disaster, left Osama Bin Laden on the loose to attack again and continues to ignore our security needs at home.”

With the anniversaries of 9-11 and Katrina fast approaching, Dems have a unique opportunity to put the GOP on the defensive. And they are already on it, Hulse says:

A video Monday on the Web site of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee showed footage of Osama bin Laden, referred to an increase in terror attacks, highlighted illegal immigration and pointed out the nuclear aspirations of Iran and North Korea.
“Feel safer?” it concludes…

The answer to that question, more than any other, will likely determine the outcome of the November elections.


Harris Poll: Women Lead Dem Surge

Democrats enjoy a 15 point edge among adults asked to chose parties if the congressional election were held today in a just-released poll conducted 8/4-7 by Harris Interactive.

If the election were held today, 30 percent say they would vote for the Republican candidate while 45 percent would vote for the Democratic candidate—similar to last month, when 31 percent said they would vote Republican and 44 percent would vote Democratic.

Dems owe much, but not all, of their edge to women, according to the poll:

While women favor the Democratic candidate by a wide margin of 22 percentage points (50% for the Democratic candidate vs. 28% for the Republican), men favor the Democratic candidate, but by a smaller margin of seven percentage points (40% for the Democrat candidate vs. 33% for the Republican).

The poll also found surprising strength for Democrats among conservatives, with nearly one-third (32 percent) saying they would vote for the Democratic candidiate in their distric, compared to 50 percent for the Republican. Conversely, “liberals are holding more true to their core,” with 68% of them saying they would vote for the Democratic candidate, compared to five percent for the Republican. Just over half of ‘moderates’ (52 percent) chose the Democratic candidate while 24 percent picked the Republican.
The poll also give Dems an edge in party loyalty, with 87 percent Democrats saying they would vote Democratic, conparted to and 81 percent of Republicans staying with their party. With respect to Independents, 37 percent supported the Democratic candidate, with 25 percent for the Republican.
With respect to issue priorities, the poll indicated that,

…Concern over the war in Iraq tops the list of concerns, as 29 percent say it is one of the two most important issues the government needs to address. This is followed by healthcare (13%) and the economy (12%). Remaining high on the list is gas and oil prices, with 11 percent saying it is one of the most important issues, while five percent are saying energy is one of the most important issues to address. Immigration continues to drop as a concern – last month 13 percent believed it was one of the most important issues and this month only nine percent say that.


Labor Unites for November Elections

Republicans hoping recent divisions in the labor movement will help save their hides in November are likely to be sorely disappointed, according to an article by Christian Science Monitor reporter Amanda Paulson. In her article “Ignoring Split, Labor Makes Election Push,” Paulson notes:

The AFL-CIO is dedicating the most it ever has for a nonpresidential election – $40 million – for political mobilization this fall. It has zeroed in on 21 key states to focus on and will be active in more than 200 Senate, House, gubernatorial, and state legislative races.

And it’s not just the amount of money and resources. There is a real commitment to cooperation and coordination between the two major divisions, explains Paulson:

The AFL-CIO and the Change to Win federation have set up a national labor coordinating committee for political activities. They’ve agreed to merge member lists, work together on phone banks, walks, and leaflet distribution, and help state and local groups work closely on key elections.

The cooperative spirit between the two factions should allay some Democratic concerns about Change to Win’s emphasis on organizing before politics. As Change to Win’s political campaign director Colleen Brady said “It’s still a labor family. On the ground, we will work together where it makes sense.”
After a long decline in membership, unions have begun to grow again. The continuing commitment to progressive politics as a unifying theme for American labor can only bode well for Democrats.


New AP-IPSOS Poll: Dems Got Serious Game

The new AP-IPSOS poll is out, and Donna Cassata’s wrap-up of the results indicates that Democrats are gaining momentum in their quest to win back control of congress. For openers:

the president’s approval rating has dropped to 33 percent, matching his low in May…More sobering for the GOP are the number of voters who backed Bush in 2004 who are ready to vote Democratic in the fall’s congressional elections — 19 percent. These one-time Bush voters are more likely to be female, self-described moderates, low- to middle-income and from the Northeast and Midwest.

The red is starting to fade even in the south, says Cassata:

His [Bush’s] handling of nearly every issue, from the Iraq war to foreign policy, contributed to the president’s decline around the nation, even in the Republican-friendly South….in the South, Bush’s approval ratings dropped from 43 percent last month to 34 percent as the GOP advantage with Southern women disappeared.

It gets better. According to Cassata, the poll, conducted 8/7-9, indicates:

…fewer than 100 days before the Nov. 7 election, the AP-Ipsos poll suggested the midterms are clearly turning into a national referendum on Bush.
The number of voters who say their congressional vote this fall will be in part to express opposition to the president jumped from 20 percent last month to 29 percent, driven by double-digit increases among males, minorities, moderate and conservative Democrats and Northeasterners.

And the kicker:

…On the generic question of whether voters would back the Democrat or Republican, 55 percent of registered voters chose the Democrat and 37 percent chose the Republican, a slight increase for Democrats from last month.
…”The signs now point to the most likely outcome of Democrats gaining control of the House,” said Robert Erikson, a Columbia University political science professor.

The GOP fear-mongers are working overtime to gain political advantage following the terrorist plot foiled by British intelligence and trash Dems as ‘enemies of moderation’ in the wake of Lieberman’s defeat. With numbers like these, they have a very tough sell.


Crashing the Gate Reviewed

by Scott Winship
On this day in which the subject of the netroots is dominating the news cycle, I thought I’d review Jerome Armstrong’s and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga’s Crashing the Gate, which I finally finished. And you netrooters may be pleasantly surprised.
Crashing the Gate is essentially a guide to the New Politics. For those who are not deeply embedded in the netroots culture, the book is the best single source of information on the new political players, the institutions-in-making, and the philosophy of the New Politics, which includes the netroots but also renegade unions like the Service Employees Industrial Union, think tanks such as NDN, and progressive venture capitalists like Andy and Deborah Rappaport. Armstrong and Moulitsas clearly have a big-picture understanding of how these pieces are connected, and their description is informed by interviews with participants all over the country.
One might have thought that bloggers, whose posts typically range from a few words to a couple thousand words, would have difficulty translating their thoughts to a format requiring 200 pages. But Crashing the Gate is a very enjoyable and quick read. The only deficiencies I saw involved the beginning and ends of the book. The introduction isn’t worth the time of those who follow political news regularly, beginning with a conventional overview of the conservative coalition before switching gears to set up the rest of the book’s critique of the Democratic Party and its affiliated institutions. The concluding chapter, which lays out the New Politics agenda now that they are “inside the gates”, feels incomplete.
But in between is a trenchant – if sometimes overly cynical and one-sided – appraisal of the Democratic establishment. The chapters of the book take on: single-interest advocacy groups whose short-sightedness leads them to sometimes back Republicans or refuse to support Democrats, D.C. consultants who face no accountability and have not evolved over time to embrace new realities, foundations and institutional donors who shy away from building a Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy, the Democratic Leadership Council and establishment figures who worked to undermine Howard Dean’s presidential campaign, and Party congressional committees for abandoning red-state candidates and pressuring candidates into hiring ineffective consultants and pollsters.
Much of the middle of the book is devoted to contrasting how Democrats have campaigned and developed over time to Republican approaches. The chapter on consultants shows how far ahead the GOP is when it comes to targeting voters using sophisticated databases, relying on new media for advertising, creating memorable ads that strike an emotional chord, and even the hiring and payment of consultants. The chapter on infrastructure provides both an overview of Republican institutions and a revealing look at how Democrats are trying to copy them.
Armstrong and Moulitsas recount the rise of the netroots, from the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill that shifted power away from the establishment, to the Dean insurgency, and through the 2005 contest for the Democratic National Committee chairmanship and beyond. And the final chapter is a concise summary of “what the netroots wants”.
Crashing the Gate isn’t without problems. Most obviously, it essentially blames the poor electoral performance of Democrats on everything except for their policies and agenda. In Armstrong’s and Moulitsas’s world, public opinion matters little. Think tanks are needed to come up with attractive ideas, and a message machine is necessary to promote them, but it is as if they believe there are simply good ideas out there and the Republicans have just been better at extracting and promulgating them. And the emphasis on tactics and campaign strategy also relegates ideas to a secondary concern.
Armstrong and Moulitsas are also unnecessarily critical of the motives of establishment figures in places. In their telling, no one in the establishment can just be incompetent or ineffective, they must be corrupt or lazy. The consultants and pollsters come in for particularly harsh treatment, even if some of it – for some of those tarred – may be justified. Indeed, the prevailing attitude is that once inside the gates, the establishment must be overthrown entirely. A separatist strain surfaces here and there throughout the book, with intimations that one of the things the netroots wants is to build an entirely parallel set of institutions.
Whether this set of institutions would become the party, supplant it, or counterproductively sit alongside it is a vital question, perhaps one we should all keep asking as the netroots continue to assert themselves as a power center. If the netroots really aren’t ideological, then the party can’t help but benefit from the more effective strategies, tactics, and institutions of the New Politics. But if it is ideological, then party institutions may end up fragmented and divided. The netroots have crashed the gate – it remains to be seen what they will do from here.


Lamont Victory: Where He Got the Votes

There is no shortage of post-mortems on Lamont’s Connecticut victory in today’s blogs and rags, addressing his win from every conceivable issue-angle. For a high-profile contest, however, the reporting on who voted for each candidate has been somewhat sketchy. Connecticut papers do offer a few clues. An editorial by the Hartford Courant, which endorsed Lieberman, noted:

…the unprecedented rush of registered unaffiliated voters and new voters to the Democratic Party in Connecticut in recent weeks is a phenomenon that should keep Karl Rove awake at night.

The Courant reported that more than 40 percent of eligbile voters turned out, 15 percent more than the last Connecticut Democratic primary, a 1994 contest for the gubernatorial nomination. Writing in The Connecticut Post Peter Urban and Michael P. Mayko note that 28,886 voters were “newly registered or switched from unaffiliated since May 1.”
Mark Pazniokas of The Hartford Courant offers this assessment:

Lamont rolled up lopsided margins in the Farmington Valley, Litchfield County, the lower Connecticut River Valley and scattered suburbs around the state. He won Hartford and Lieberman’s hometown of New Haven, which first elected Lieberman to the state Senate in 1970.
Lieberman dominated in the New Haven suburbs, the struggling rural towns of eastern Connecticut and old mill towns of the Naugatuck Valley, home of conservative Reagan Democrats and the place he chose to begin his campaign bus tour 10 days ago. He also took Bridgeport.

Mystery Pollsterl Mark Blumenthal has a few insights in his “Connecticut Epilogue,” including:

The geographic turnout patterns are also relevant. Charles Franklin has already posted an amazingly thorough (and graphical) turnout analysis of the turnout showing that Lieberman did better in the larger towns and cities, while Lamont did better in less urban areas. He also confirms the so-called “Volvo/donut” turnout pattern suggested yesterday by Hotline On-Call, that turnout was higher in the smaller towns where Lamont had an advantage, lower in the larger towns where Lieberman did better (see also Hotline’s follow-up analysis this morning).

Looking toward the future, As an Independent, Lieberman hopes to win voters from Connecticut’s 453,715 Republican and 929,005 unaffiliated registered voters. But if he takes the higher road of affirming Democratic party unity, Lamont should hold the seat for the Democrats.


BlogiStan (Greenberg)

by Scott Winship
I’ve been meaning to plug a number of pieces by organizations that one of my bosses (Stan Greenberg) heads up. First, those who are sick of me intimating that Democrats ought to moderate their positions should definitely check out “How Democrats Can Use Polling to Win Elections,” by Amy Gershkoff of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. Amy argues that Democratic pollsters and polling audiences need to ape Republicans not on issue positions, but in the way they design and use polls.
Amy offers three recommendations:
Collect data on issue importance and then analyze the voting patterns of the electorate by issues rather than by demographics. No more, “Married blue-collar Catholic men vote for X.” Instead, consider how people for whom, say, Iraq is the most important issue allocate their votes. This approach filters out data on issue preferences that are only weakly held and focuses on the issues that really affect voting.
When attempting to woo Independents, emphasize only issues that are of critical importance to them. It turns out that these issues are more likely to be terrorism and red-button values issues rather than health care and jobs. Similarly, when trying to increase Democratic turnout, campaigns should also focus on their critical issues.
Focus on issues that are extremely important to lots of people (rather than just somewhat important) and where the Democratic position is the most popular. Attempt to increase the salience of these issues among voters for whom the issue is only somewhat important (e.g., Iraq in 2004).
This accords with my distrust of lots of demographic segmentation analyses. A pollster might find that married women favor pulling out of Iraq by a 60 to 40 margin and then recommend that Democrats emphasize a pull-out so that they can improve their performance among married women. But it may be that many of those pro-pull-out voters were going to vote Democratic anyway, and so if one really wanted to improve one’s performance among married women, one should emphasize staying the course (to woo some of the anti-pull-out women. That would only make sense if a stay-the-course position didn’t actually lose voters who otherwise would have supported the candidate, but without knowing anything about how many and who finds Iraq extremely important, it’s not obvious which strategy to take.
The second Greenberg-related piece is a Democracy Corps memo [pdf] written with James Carville, “Getting Heard: Points of Engagement for a Change Election.” Greenberg and Carville argue that to maximize chances of winning back control of Congress, Democrats need to advance “ideas and critiques that are newsworthy”, promote an agenda that portrays them as “agents of change”, and elevate the importance of economic issues in the campaign. In terms of specifics, they advocate linking Congressional pay raises to minimum wage increases, making consideration of hot-button values issues contingent on passing legislation to reduce economic insecurity, pushing for Congressional oversight of Iraq spending, and repealing corporate tax breaks. They also suggest a college tuition tax credit, changing energy policy to focus on alternative fuels, and allowing Medicare to negotiate prices with drug companies.
The call for repealing corporate tax cuts is a bit incongruent with their finding that the biggest fear voters have of Democrats is that they will raise taxes. On the other hand, Greenberg and Carville do call for middle-class tax cuts (the college tuition tax credit), and the proposed Iraq oversight would likely promote reduced spending.
Finally, Democracy Corps has also released an analysis of public polling, by Karl Agne, that provides nearly 50 pages of polling questions from various organizations on all of the hot political topics of the day. The basic conclusions are that things haven’t changed much for a few months and that that’s good new for Democrats, given how lousy things look for Bush and the GOP. Polling junkies go nuts. (Incidentally, you can google the Democracy Corps website to find these comprehensive summaries going back several years. Definitely a valuable resource if you’re interested in a particular topic that isn’t currently in the news or if you are looking for trend data.)
Time for more coffee. Did you know that Starbucks has the most caffeinated coffee on the market? Did you know that you can order a “short” coffee, latte, or cappuccino even though that option’s not mentioned anywhere by Starbucks? Can you guess where I do most of my blogging?


GOP Strategy Memo Urges Focus on Iraq, Security Issues

In his article in today’s LA TimesGOP Leaders Are Hoping to Turn the War Into a Winner,” Peter Wallsten reports on a new Republican Party strategy memo urging party leaders to stress Bush’s leadership on Iraq and other national security concerns as the best way to turn out their base. As Wallsten explains:

The memo suggested that Republicans could motivate their base in the upcoming elections by talking about foreign threats and national security issues, including Iraq and the potential nuclear threat from Iran, and by drawing contrasts with Democrats in those areas. It said “a huge 87% of the base expresses extremely strong feelings” about national security issues….The memo showed that the strategists hoped to stick to their post-2000 playbook of galvanizing the base using national security and other hot-button issues, asserting that 95% of base voters are either “almost certain” or “very likely” to vote this year.

However, as Wallsten notes, A recent LA Times/Bloomberg poll indicated that 49% of respondents “strongly disapproved” of Bush’s Iraq policy. And according to a new Washington Post ABC News poll reported by Peter Baker and Claudia Deane:

Among voters across the board, 38 percent say they are more likely to oppose candidates who support Bush on Iraq compared with 23 percent who are more likely to support them.

The WaPo poll reports that 52 percent of respondents favor the Democratic congressional candidate in their district, with 39 percent for the Republican and respondents now “trust” Democrats to do a better job fighting against terrorism than Republicans by a margin of 46 percent to 38 percent. The poll indicates Dems have “a big advantage among independents,” according to Deane and Baker.
And the base referred to in the GOP strategy memo may be more fractured than its authors acknowledge. As WaPo columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. recently observed:

Between now and November, conservative leaders will dutifully try to rally the troops to stave off a Democratic victory. But their hearts won’t be in the fight.

If Dionne is right, Dems may be celebrating a political trifecta in November — winning majorities of the House, Senate and governorships.