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

March 20, 2018

Survivor! by Jim McTague

by Alan Abramowitz
The new issue of Barron’s Magazine, always a model of objective journalism, has a cover story by Jim McTague that argues that reports of a coming Democratic victory in the 2006 midterm elections are greatly exaggerated.
A lot of McTague’s “analysis” appears to consist of little more than wishful thinking. For example, he predicts that Rick Santorum, who has been trailing Bob Casey, Jr. in every poll in the last six months, will win reelection in Pennsylvania thanks to a late surge in support from the western part of the state and that Mark Kennedy will defy polls showing him trailing by double-digits to defeat Amy Klobuchar in Minnesota.
Beyond wishful thinking, McTague’s argument that Republicans will keep control of the House and Senate rests almost exclusively on the fact that most endangered Republican incumbents have raised more money than their Democratic challengers and, in both 2002 and 2004, the candidate who spent the most money in a House and Senate race almost always won.
But there is a fundamental flaw in this argument: 2002 and 2004 were not wave elections–elections in which there is a strong national tide. In wave elections lots of incumbents lose even though they outspend their challengers. This is what happened in 1974, 1980, 1982, and 1994. In 1994, for example, 26 of the 34 Democratic incumbents who lost their seats outspent their Republican challengers. On average, losing Democratic incumbents outspent their Republican challengers by a margin of $969,000 to $663,000. Republicans also won 14 of 25 open seat races in which the Republican candidate spent less than the Democratic candidate.
Using the the relative size of the candidates’ campaign warchests to predict election results in a wave election can yield highly misleading result. If a strong Democratic wave hits the House and Senate on November 7th, as now appears likely, many Republican incumbents will lose despite outspending their Democratic challengers.

State of the Race Update II

by Ruy Teixeira
(cross-posted at http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/showdown06/)
It’s been awhile since I’ve had a chance to post an update on how the campaign’s unfolding. I’m tempted to say: it’s just like I said before….only more so! But what fun would that be? So here’s a round-up of where things stand.
First, the macro-indicators……
Presidential Approval. Bush’s approval rating continues to go down. Charles Franklin’s latest trend-based estimate now stands at 36 percent, a substantial decline since late August/early September.
Congressional Approval. Congressional approval continues to run very, very low. In the latest Gallup poll, approval of Congress was only 23 percent. And in the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, Congressional approval was a stunningly low 16 percent.
Generic Congressional Contest. Charles Franklin’s latest trend-based estimate has the Democrats’ advantage at 13 points. Knock 5 points off that to compensate for the typical overstatement of the Democratic advantage in this question and you still have a substantial 8 point Democratic lead in the Congressional vote. If that lead holds on election day, that would obviously be good for the Democrats, though how good in terms of actual seat gains is a matter of considerable debate. Or, to put it more bluntly: we just don’t know.
Voter Enthusiasm. Pew has just released an extensive study that documents what many other polls have shown: Democrats are much more enthusiastic about voting this year than Republicans are. In that study, 51 percent of Democrats said they were more enthusiastic about voting this year, compared to just 33 percent of Republicans.
That’s a bit on the macro situation. But how are things playing on the micro, race by race situation where, of course, the election will be played out and actual political gains accrued?
The House. Analysts universally agree that more and more seats are coming into play. Charlie Cook, for example, now has 43 GOP seats classified as competitive (6 more than he had last week), including 25 he rates as toss-ups and three as leaning Democratic.
Democracy Corps recently surveyed voters in roughly the same set of GOP-held districts that Cook classifies as competitive (they included a few more not on Cook’s list) and found signs of what they call a “Republican meltdown” in those districts. They found:

Democrats are ahead by 4 points overall in the named Congressional vote (49 to 45 percent) [named vote means the actual candidate names are given to respondents; in the generic vote the Democratic lead was actually 10 points–RT]; indeed, they are ahead by 2 points (48 to
46 percent) in the bottom tier of presumably safest seats.
This vote represents a dramatic change in the state of the race over the last two weeks. The end of the Congress — with the increased pessimism and anger about Iraq and the Foley scandal and subsequent partisan brawl — has moved voters to shift their assessments of the parties and their votes. The 1994 election broke at the end; this one just broke. The shift is evident on every indicator — party, Bush, war, intensity and morale.

A project of RT Strategies and Constituent Dynamics called “Majority Watch” has been polling 54 competitive House districts–49 of which are currently held by Republicans–and currently characterizes 24 of these districts as strong Democratic, 8 as leaning Democratic and 5 ties. Leaving out the ties, that translates into a Democratic gain of 19-27 seats, depending on whether you choose to include the leaning Democratic seats or not–that is, into a Democratic House majority of 222-230 seats.
Note, however, that some of the Majority Watch polls are a bit old and go back to the beginning of the fall. On the other hand, the sitaution in most of these districts has likely only worsened for the Republicans since that time.
Over at Pollster.com, Mark Blumenthal and Charles Franklin look over all the available public polling on competitive House races and assess it as follows:

Looking at the survey averages in districts with two or more polls available, we see Democrats leading beyond the margin of error in ten districts currently held by Republicans….
In addition, we see statistically significant Democratic leads in four more districts held by Republicans surveyed only once by non-partisans since the summer (all four were polled by the Majority Watch project)….
Perhaps more troubling for Republicans is that we see no Republican leading in any district currently held by a Democrat. Moreover, of the 23 Republican held seats currently rated as “toss-ups” by the Cook Political Report, Democrats lead by significant margins in 9, Republicans leading in none. The remaining 13 Republican “toss-up” seats look too close to call based on available data. And that says nothing of the 31 Republican seats that Cook rates at “lean” or “likely” Republican, where public polling is scarcer still.

They also provide a compendium of all the available public polling on these races, a very useful resource. Chris Bowers, over at MyDD, compiles much of the same information on his House forecast page and assesses the overall data as indicating a Democratic gain of 21-28 seats, for a Democratic majority of 224-231 seats.
To summarize, the available micro, race by race data indicate that, based on reasonable assumptions about the relationship between these data and election outcomes, the Democrats will probably retake the House this November–though nothing is certain and the size of a new Democratic majority could range anywhere from a few seats (e.g., 219-216) to thirty or more (e.g., 233-202). Perhaps the safest guess would be in the middle range between these two possibilities.
The Senate. Turning to the Senate, Democratic chances also look good–though not as good as in the House and it is much easier to see them falling short here. Here are the Pollster.com last 5 poll averages for the seven most competitve Republican and one competitive Democratic race: Missouri, 46D-45R; Montana, 48D-41R; New Jersey, 46D-41R; Ohio, 51D-42R; Pennsylvania, 52D-41R; Rhode Island, 46D-40R; Tennessee, 45D-45R; and Virginia, 44D-49R.
At this point, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Montana look particularly solid for the Democrats and they are breathing a sigh of relief for the widening lead Menendez is taking over Kean in New Jersey (see Tom Edsall’s very good article on why this is happening). If we also allocate Rhode Island and Missouri to the Democrats, based on their current leads in those states, that would give the Democrats a gain of 5 seats, with a possible sixth and control of the Senate (assuming Lieberman caucuses with the Democrats) depending on whether Ford can beat Corker in Tennessee in the currently-tied race.
That may well be how it all turns out. One more reason to count on a very exciting election night.

The Fat Lady Ain’t Singin’, But…

by Scott Winship
I checked back in to Majority Watch today and they are forecasting a Democratic majority in the House of 222 to 230 seats — even if they lose 5 “tied” races. In other words, Republicans will have to win all the ties and at least 5 Dem-leaning districts to retain their majority. It’s difficult to see how that scenario could happen.

Greenberg: Dems Can Create ‘Historic Election’

Stan Greenberg has an important TPM Cafe article, “For Democrats, Time To Seize The Moment” that should be a huge wake-up call for Party leaders. Greenberg argues that there is an historic opportunity for Dems to win not just a majority, but a working majority — if adequate funding is provided for a larger list of winnable campaigns. Read the whole article and discussion thread. Here’s an excerpt:

These moments come once or twice in a political life time. When the Republican built a 26 seat majority, they used their incumbency and their social networks to hold on to Congress for over a decade. We have the chance to build a comparable majority, which will impact politics for the next decade.
The risk is that our activists and donors and party leaders are satisfied with winning when there is an opportunity for a real majority. The difference between governing with a 5-seat majority and a 25-seat majority is night and day. In one scenario you spend your life trying to keep the 5 moderate Democrats from voting with the Republicans; in the other, you are able to achieve a unity that can really enact progressive things.
The last thing we want to see the day after the election are 10 seats where the Republicans were able to hold on by a 100 votes.
I don’t spare anybody in this call for change. The big donors from 2004 haven’t stepped up; the DNC is hardly a player; activist on-line groups are doing impressive things but operating in fewer states and districts. The two party committees have raised historic amounts of money and now have to make choices about how much debt and how broad a playing field.
The key is for all involved to look at this as an historic election and make choices now that reflect the moment.
This is also a moment for Democrats to let voters know what they stand for and what they want to do for the country. There are a lot of voters ready to vote for change who would be relieved to discover that Democrats want to rise above the partisan polarization to do the people’s business. That means Medicare, negotiating lower drug and health care costs, raising the minimum wage instead of congressional salaries, a new direction in Iraq and working for energy independence.
That is the missing piece for voters who want change.

Battle for a Senate Majority: The Four Closest Races

If the polls are correct this time, and let us be clear that they are not always on target, it appears that the battle to win a Democratic majority of the U.S. Senate may come down to the four closest races, as Democratic candidates are pulling ahead in other key Senate contests. The two closest in the polls as of today are in Virginia and Tennessee, where the polls are showing a dead heat. Next are Missouri and New Jersey, where Democrats hold a very slight lead.
One of the simplest ways to help Democrats win a majority of the Senate is to make a contribution to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Or, support the four Democratic candidates locked in the closest races:

Harold Ford for U.S. Senate
Jim Webb for U.S. Senate
Bob Menendez United States Senator
Claire McCaskill for U.S. Senate

Between now and November 7th any of the four races could become less competitive. Or other races could suddenly become toss-ups. But it is likely that these races will stay pretty close. Time is short, so a quick contribution to any of the aforementioned links would be a much-needed investment in winning a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate.

Dem Campaigns Way Short of Cash

The good news is that Democrats have expanded the number of congressional seats they can pick up on Nov. 7 beyond what most insiders thought possible six months ago — as many as 41 in the House, according to DCorps strategist Stan Greenberg, and 7 in the senate. The bad news is that they are far short of the cash needed to run competitive campaigns. According to Jim VandeHei’s WaPo article “Funding Constrains Democrats: Party Chiefs See Chance to Take 40-Plus Seats With TV Push,” Dems face some painful choices over the next two+ weeks:

Some Democratic officials and donors want their money concentrated to maximize the chances that the party captures the minimum number of seats necessary to gain majorities in the House and the Senate, rather than having resources spread too thin by spending on second-tier targets….It would be virtually impossible to expand the number of House seats with fully competitive races without taking some money away from efforts to win back the Senate.
…The DCCC is likely to go deep into debt, perhaps topping the $11 million deficit it racked up in 2004. The committee can borrow as much as a bank is willing to lend. The other option is to take money out of Republican districts that the party is confident it is almost certain to win.
This approach carries a big risk, however. If the party pulls ads in districts such as the Indiana base of Rep. Chris Chocola, who is trailing by double digits in private Democratic polling, it might allow an established GOP incumbent to creep back up in the race.

VandeHei points out that big donors, including George Soros, are not giving as much to congressional campaigns as in 2004, prefering to invest in long-term growth. DCorps strategists Stan Greenberg and James Carville and are now calling on Dem campaigns to borrow as much as they can to close the cash shortfall. As James Carville puts it:

I am saying this is a twice-in-a-lifetime environment… You try to maximize it.

For both parties, it’s all about saturating districts with TV ads over the next two plus weeks, and the GOP has a strong advantage at present. Smaller contributors will probably decide how large the Dems’ margin of victory will be in the House and whether or not Dems win the Senate. Everyone who wants to see a Democratic majority in Congress should make a contribution NOW.

South Sours on Iraq Quagmire

Southerners are often characterized as “my country, right or wrong” patriots who provide uncritical support for U.S. military intervention anywhere. But this perception may be simplistic and outdated, according to a recent poll now generating considerable buzz around the blogs. Among other findings, Facing South reports that the poll, conducted by Knowledge Networks for the Institute for Southern Studies/School of Public and International Affairs at N. C. State University 9/19-26 (PDF summary here) indicates:

57% of Southerners believe the U.S. “should have stayed out of Iraq,” compared to 44% who think the U.S. “did the right thing” by taking military action. Nationally, 58% of the public believes the U.S. should have stayed out and 43% now agree with military action.
…30% of those polled in Southern states say the U.S. should “withdraw completely” from Iraq. Those in non-Southern states were less likely to call for a total withdrawal of U.S. troops (26%), but more likely to think U.S. troop levels should be decreased “some” or “a lot” – 34% in non-Southern states, compared to 26% in the South. Put together, 56% of Southerners and 59% in other regions support a decrease or withdrawal of U.S. troops.

The poll suggests that a political earthquake is beginning to rumble, not just in the blue and purple states, but nation-wide. This should be very good news for Democratic candidates. The poll also raises interesting questions for ’08, nicely put in Devon’s Blog at TPM Cafe:

Is winning without the south possible? Maybe. Is it necessary? Maybe not

Environmental Issues May Sway Some Elections

As usual, protecting the environment does not show up as a top five voter concern in the polls. But certainly there are voters for whom it is a pivotal issue, and in close elections they could make the difference between victory and defeat. To get up to speed on environmental issues at stake in the mid-terms, check out Amanda Griscom Little’s Alternet article “November’s Most Crucial Enviro Elections.” Turns out there is a lot happening at the state level, as Little notes:

Examples of ambitious state-level environmental initiatives are legion: Twenty-two states have implemented a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) mandating that a certain percentage of electricity come from clean sources such as solar and wind. Ten states have followed California’s lead in adopting clean-car legislation requiring new automobiles to have lower greenhouse-gas emissions starting in the 2009 model year. Seven states in the Northeast have joined the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative committing to carbon dioxide reductions of 10 percent by 2019. And California has, of course, outdone all the rest by becoming the first state in the nation to impose mandatory caps on greenhouse-gas emissions.

With virtually all of the cutting-edge environmental reforms taking place at the state level, the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters are investing heavily in gubernatorial races. Little also provides an insightful run-down of key Gov races and what’s at stake in NY, PA, MA, MD and FL. As always, Dems are in the best position to benefit from environmental concerns, since few Republicans support substantive environmental reforms.

GOP Losing Security Cred With White Workers

David D. Kirkpatrick’s New York Times article “Voters’ Allegiances, Ripe for the Picking” includes some very good news for Democrats’ prospects regarding one of the most pivotal constituencies. As Kirkpatrick explains:

…the white working class has voted overwhelmingly for Republicans since Reagan. President Bush widened the Republican advantage among such voters from a margin of 17 percentage points in 2000 to 23 percentage points in 2004, according to exit poll data compiled by Mr. Teixeira, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation.
…Now, that security edge has all but disappeared. Among white voters with no college education, approval of the president’s handling of the war on terrorism had plummeted from a margin of 22 percentage points the summer of 2004 to just 7 percentage points last week, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll.

The reason is that the Iraq quagmire has obliterated the GOP’s cred as the ‘national security party’ and set off a kind of chain reaction. As Teixeira notes:

“Iraq is the squandering of the national security premium the Republicans have been living on,” Mr. Teixeira said. The Republicans’ failure at “standing up” to foreign threats, he argued, had diminished their credibility on a whole cluster of “values” issues like “standing up for what is right” as well.
That, he contended, is vindicating his argument for a Democratic ascendance: if the Democrats can cut their margin of defeat among white workers, they can build a durable national majority from their coalition of professionals, women, African-Americans and the fast-growing Hispanic population. Although Mr. Bush’s popularity with Hispanics at one time threatened to dislodge them from the Democratic bloc, the Republican moves this year to build a wall along the Mexican border has effectively pushed them back.
“That is fatal,” Mr. Teixeira said.

And the effects may reverberate for years, ventures DCCC chairman Rep. Rahm Emanuel:

Iraq has the potential to be to the Republican Party on national security what the Depression was to the Republican Party on economics.

The return of the white working class to the Democratic fold would insure Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. For now the trend line for this key constituency suggests a bright blue election.

Energy Independence: The Roux in the Stew

Thomas Friedman’s column in today’s New York Times addresses the centrality of energy independence as a priority for both national security and winning elections. Friedman interviewed Democracy Corps’ James Carville on the topic, and got this savory spoonful of political wisdom:

It should “not be part of an expanding litany, but rather a contracting narrative,” explained Mr. Carville. “It can’t just be that we are for a woman’s right to choose, and education and energy independence. This is the thing we need to get done above and beyond everything else.” People should associate “energy security” with Democrats the way they associate “tax cuts” with Republicans, he argued. “This is not something to add to the stew — this is the stock.”

Carville and DCorps’ Stanley Greenberg have more to say in the column about energy independence as critical for our national security and a leading priority with voters. All of which adds up to a huge advantage for Dems, especially given the GOP’s shameful track record on auto mileage standards, alternative energy and energy conservation.