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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Daily Strategist

March 25, 2019

Teixeira: Three Key Factors Will Decide Trump’s Re-Election Chances

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

These’s been a couple of interesting articles lately on Trump’s generic chances–that is, his re-elect probability against an averagely good Democratic candidate. The 538 chat on this is a good one to go over to get a sense of all the reasons why he may (or may not) be in a good position to be re-elected. In the end, I think the assembled 538’ers are not quite sure how to call it. One participant avers that they seem to be putting Trump ‘s re-elect probability at between 47-53 percent. Leaving aside the faux precision, it sounds like they just don’t have a strong view one way or the other.

Also useful is an article on Vox by Dylan Scott going over some of the same ground. Distilling the discussion down to its essence, I’d say there are three big macro-factors that are influencing Trump’s chances:

1. His approval rating–it is bad and that should hurt him
2. Incumbency–he is the incumbent and that should help him
3 The economy–the economy has been good by standard metrics and that should help him. However, his approval rating has consistently lagged economic performance since his inauguration and evidence from recent Presidencies suggests that the the relationship between economic performance and Presidential outcomes has generally weakened. Therefore, while the economy should be of some help to Trump, it may not be nearly as much help as it has been to Presidents in the past.

Of these factors, probably the most important to Trumps’ fate the first one. So the key question for Trump is can he (a) use his other advantages to neutralize his lousy approval ratings or (b) actually improve these ratings.

Stay tuned!

Democrats Undertake a Third Reconstruction to Ensure Voting Rights

There’s been a lot written about the Democratic House’s new voting rights push. But as I argued at New York, much of the discussion doesn’t quite capture its scope and historical significance.

The remarkable partisan polarization over HR1 — House Democrats’ ambitious but hardly novel package of “pro-democracy” reforms, centered on voting rights — shows that this issue, once a matter of bipartisan do-gooder sentiment, has now become a deadly serious point of contention in our politics. This has happened rather quickly as the two parties each came to recognize their future might depend on expanding or restricting ballot access.

All 234 House Democrats present voted for HR1 while all 193 Republicans present voted against it. That’s remarkable given the bipartisan support voting rights (and even other features of the bill like campaign finance reform) had until very recently. To be sure, politicians in both parties still think ballot access is critically important. But Republicans, having placed their bets on an electoral base that is overwhelmingly white and significantly upscale, are becoming deeply invested in suppression of voting opportunities for those who are unlikely to join their coalition.

A recent study showed that of 20 states identified as making it most difficult to vote, Trump carried 17. Hillary Clinton carried 12 of the 20 states where it is easiest to vote.

The homeland of Republican voter suppression is in the South, where keeping African-Americans from the ballot box is an ancient tradition practiced mostly by Democrats in the long period from the emancipation of slaves until the end of Jim Crow. Now across the region the Republicans who control every state legislature in the former Confederacy are pursuing an ensemble of measures to restrict the franchise, from cutbacks in early voting, to aggressive voter purges, to voter-ID requirements, to reductions in polling places. This trend rapidly proliferated after the 2013 Supreme Court decision (supported by all five Republican-appointed Justices, with all four Democratic-appointed Justices dissenting) that killed the chief enforcement mechanism of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Without the requirement that states with a history of racial discrimination submit election system changes to the U.S. Justice Department for “preclearance,” it’s been open season on ballot access, particularly as racial polarization in partisan preferences has intensified.

As veteran political journalist Ron Brownstein has observed, the current split in Congress over HR 1 is just the beginning of an era in which one party supports and the other opposes voting rights: it’s a struggle that may determine political dominance in many states and nationally for years to come:

“Particularly in states across the Sun Belt — from North Carolina, Florida and Georgia to Texas and Arizona — the electoral competition is shaped by a stark demographic divide. In all of those states, Democrats are increasingly reliant on growing populations of younger and nonwhite voters. But in each of those states and others demographically similar to them, a Republican coalition almost entirely dependent on white voters — especially older, blue-collar and non-urban whites — still has the advantage, particularly in state elections.

“In each state the Republican majorities have used that power to approve either restrictions on voting — such as tougher voter identification laws — partisan gerrymanders or both, making it more difficult for that emerging nonwhite electorate to overturn their dominance.”

As in the Reconstruction era after the Civil War, one party is committed to the use of federal power to vindicate voting rights, and the other is opposed. Today’s Republicans don’t openly tout white racial supremacy rationales the way many Democrats of the 19th century did, but they do similarly claim they are simply defending states’ rights to control elections, and warn of electoral fraud and corruption, and less vocally, of a partisan conspiracy whereby minority voters will use their political power to redistribute the wealth of virtuous tax-paying white folks. Southern opponents of the first Reconstruction resorted to terrorism along with less violent forms of intimidation aimed at black would-be voters and officeholders. But formal disenfranchisement was accomplished throughout the region by 1900, aided by Supreme Court rulings sharply limiting federal jurisdiction over elections. Now strategies for disenfranchisement are covert and partial. But like yesterday’s Democrats, today’s Republicans are acutely aware that their local and national power depends on holding back a tide of minority voting power than might submerge their party.

These partisan dynamics are what separate today’s climate from that of what many have called the Second Reconstruction, the civil-rights era that culminated with the successful implementation of school desegregation, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The battle lines then were mostly regional rather than partisan, though the prominence of Democratic president Lyndon B. Johnson in the key landmark legislation initiated a partisan realignment of the South that led formerly Democratic white conservatives overwhelmingly into the GOP. That party was slowly but surely transformed into a militantly conservative bastion of support for states rights and property rights, and opposition to the kind of public spending that might disproportionately help minorities.

The white conservative backlash to the First Reconstruction succeeded almost totally in the disenfranchisement of African-Americans and the imposition of a virtual apartheid regime at the end of the 19th century. The Second Reconstruction’s accomplishments have been undermined more subtly, via voter suppression measures in the states and recent illustrations of residual racism from redlining to efforts to drain public schools of resources to police misconduct aimed at minority citizens and undocumented immigrants.

And so, arguably, we are seeing the first stages of a Third Reconstruction, again focused on (but not limited to) the South, with the goal of finally realizing the promise of equality extended in the so-called Reconstruction Amendments (the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution, which abolished slavery, mandated equal protection for all citizens, and banned discrimination in voting) enacted after the Civil War. Because the bipartisanship of the Second Reconstruction has been lost, the Third Reconstruction may be as bitterly divisive as the First, and could quickly grow to overshadow other political issues. And while this Third Reconstruction may extend to multiple issues touching on equality, it will almost certainly be rooted in the fight for voting rights, which will determine the balance of power in many states and nationally.

Reverend William Barber II, the North Carolina pastor who founded that state’s Moral Mondays movement in opposition to a conservative takeover that made voter suppression prominent and explicit, titled his 2016 memoir/manifesto The Third Reconstruction. In it he accentuated the importance of voting rights as a threshold issue:

“Because political power is a democracy’s chief safeguard against injustice, we must continue to engage the voting rights issue after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which removed protections against voter suppression in southern states that had been in place for half a century. This fight is, in many ways, bigger than Selma and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That expansion of voting rights fifty years ago was a concession to the civil rights movement. We didn’t get all we were asking for. Now, fifty years later, we’re fighting to hold on to the compromise. What we really need is a constitutional amendment to guarantee the same voting rights in every state. This must be the cornerstone of the Third Reconstruction.”

Constitutional amendments in our system are very difficult to secure. But HR1 and Sewell’s legislation restoring the VRA together represent an effort to nationalize voting rights as much as the Constitution allows, as both its supporters and opponents acknowledge. HR1 takes a chainsaw to the thicket of voter-suppression techniques Republican-controlled states have contrived, which in intent echo the formal disenfranchisement the first Reconstruction fought and the poll taxes and literacy tests targeted by the second. And the restored voting rights enforcement mechanism in the Justice Department that Sewell’s bill would provide is aimed at rebuilding the federal government’s oversight of state and local electoral procedures, giving the victims of voters suppression an ally as powerful as the Freedmen’s Bureau of the first Reconstruction.

As in the first two Reconstructions, action in Washington will depend on the success of local grassroots pressure in the states where the battle against voter suppression rages. And that means today’s voting rights push must become not merely an issue among issues, but a social movement with a sense of moral urgency.

Lessons from New Study of 2018 Voter Turnout

In marking “the highest voter turnout in a midterm in 100 years,” the just-released “America Goes to the Polls” report by Nonprofit VOTE and the U.S. Elections Project examines the differences in voter turnout between states in relation to various voting policies. It’s a good read for Democrats interested in voting reforms.

“The report also ranks all 50 states by turnout, with the top ten states averaging 61% turnout of eligible voters. By comparison, the bottom ten states averaged only 43% – a gap of almost 20%.” In addition,

Seven of the top 10 states had Same Day Registration (SDR) which allows a voter to register or update their voter registration when they go to the polls. By comparison, eight of the bottom 10 states required voters to register four weeks before the election. “If I could implement only one election reform to increase voter participation, it would be Same Day Registration,” says Michael McDonald, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida. “Year-after-year, states with Same Day Registration have a turnout advantage over states without the policy, including a seven-point advantage in the 2018 elections.

Also, “three of the top 10 states – Colorado, Oregon, and Washington – had Vote At Home (VAH). Utah, which in 2018 adopted both Vote at Home and Same Day Registration, saw the highest increase in turnout over the last midterm of any state in the nation.” In all, “Vote at Home states had a 15.5 percentage-point advantage over non-VAH states in 2018 state primaries.”

The report also notes that “registration growth was nearly four times higher in the five states reporting AVR results compared to states that don’t have either AVR or SDR policies.”

Some other data points from the Executive Summary:

  • The midterm voter turnout, at 50.3% nationwide, was the highest it has been in over one hundred years, since 1914.
  • Every state except Alaska and Louisiana saw an increase in midterm turnout over 2014.
  • States with SDR policies had turnout rates seven  percentage points higher than non-SDR states
  • Three of the four Vote at Home States – Colorado, Oregon, and Washington – ranked in the top ten in turnout. These states send all registered voters their ballot two or more weeks in advance and provide secure and convenient options to return it.
  • Utah, the fourth and newest state to implement Vote at Home statewide, led the nation in voter turnout growth over 2014.
  • Since 2016, 17 states and the District of Columbia have enacted automatic voter registration policies.
  • The five states* that reported their AVR registration data saw their state’s list of registered voters increase on average four times more over 2014 than the 22 states without AVR or SDR policy.
  • In contrast to most elections, voter turnout in states with the most competitive statewide elections for U.S. Senate or Governor was on average no different than turnout in states without a competitive statewide contest.
  • The number of House seats that were competitive more than doubled from 33 in 2016 to 89 seats in 2018. Still only one in five House seats were competitive and the majority of House races were uncontested or won by landslide margins of 20 percentage points or more.

To download America Goes to the Polls 2018, visit http://www.americagoestothepolls.org.

Nonprofit VOTE partners with America’s nonprofits to help the people they serve participate and vote. See nonprofitvote.org for more.

The U.S. Elections Project provides timely and accurate election statistics and research reports regarding the United States electoral system. See electproject.org for more.

Most Indies Are No Such Thing

It’s a point made by political scientists repeatedly over the years, but it’s worth reiterating with fresh evidence, as I did at New York.

Pew has a new report out looking at self-identified political independents. It doesn’t break any new ground, but it should be waved in the face of Howard Schultz and others who look at the high percentage of Americans who prefer to call themselves independents and see a huge constituency for some centrist “third force.” It’s largely a mirage.

According to Pew’s numbers, while 38 percent of Americans identify as indies, only 7 percent “decline to lean towards a party.” Party “leaners” are a lot like self-identified partisans. For example, 70 percent of GOP-leaning indies give Donald Trump a positive job rating; 75 percent of them favor an expanded border wall; and 78 percent would prefer a smaller government providing fewer services. And far from being “plague on both your houses” nonpartisans with disdain for elephants and donkeys, independent leaners like one party and really dislike the other:

“Currently, 87% of those who identify with the Republican Party view the Democratic Party unfavorably. Republican-leaning independents are almost as likely to view the Democratic Party negatively (81% unfavorable). Opinions among Democrats and Democratic leaners are nearly the mirror image: 88% of Democrats and 84% of Democratic leaners view the GOP unfavorably. In both parties, the shares of partisan identifiers and leaners with unfavorable impressions of the opposition party are at or near all-time highs.”

The idea that independents are mostly “moderates” is increasingly out of whack with reality, too. A majority of GOP-leaning indies self-identify as conservative now, and while “moderates” still outnumber “liberals” among Democratic leaners (by a 45-39 margin), the latter category is steadily growing, as is the case with self-identified Democrats.

One implication of the report that’s worth internalizing is that polls and other opinion indicators that don’t break out leaners from true indies create an impression of the whole category as being in the middle on issues and candidates alike. In truth, much of what you read about independents reflects the dynamics of partisan leaners canceling each other out. So that big, potentially irresistible force poised between the two parties is mostly a figment of the imagination. And the partisan polarization so many self-identified pundits love to deplore extends well into the ranks of the technically unaffiliated.


Political Strategy Notes

Mark Joseph Stern explains how “Florida Republicans Are Sabotaging a Constitutional Amendment That Gave Felons the Right to Vote” at slate.com: “In November, a supermajority of Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment restoring voting rights to former felons who’ve completed their sentences. On Tuesday, Florida Republicans advanced a bill that will strip hundreds of thousands of these individuals of the franchise once again….That measure, which GOP lawmakers voted out of committee along party lines, is a direct assault on Amendment 4, which altered the state constitution to reinstate felons’ right to vote. It is an astonishing rejection of Floridians’ overwhelming support for the amendment and a flagrant power-grab designed to suppress potential Democratic votes. And because the Florida Legislature, governorship, and Supreme Court are dominated by Republicans, the bill stands an excellent chance of becoming law, reversing the biggest voting rights victory of the 21st century so far…Shortly after the 2018 election, it became clear that Republican lawmakers would attempt to undermine Amendment 4. By its own terms, the law is self-executing; it requires no implementation by the Legislature. Floridians who have completed a sentence for a felony conviction should now be permitted to vote, so long as they did not commit homicide or a sex offense. Yet GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis (who opposed the amendment) and his allies in the Legislature quickly asserted that it is not self-executing and requires “implementing language.” That’s not true, but it allowed Republicans to curtail the amendment’s impact under the guise of “implementing” it. Since November, the key question was how brazenly GOP lawmakers would seek to subvert the amendment: Would they tinker around the edges, or gut the law entirely?”

The good news is that Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, narrowly defeated in the contest for Florida’s governorship in November, has launched a major voter registration campaign, “Bring it Home Florida,” named after his campaign slogan. Gary Fineout reports at Politico: “There are currently 4.96 million registered Democrats in the state compared to 4.7 million Republicans and nearly 3.6 million voters with no party affiliation…Gillum, whose political committee Forward Florida still has nearly $3.9 million available, hinted at his plans earlier in the year…“In this period of time, whatever resources that I raise and time and energy I spend in this state is going to be around voter registration and deep-level engagement, so that when we have a nominee, we have an apparatus we can turn on,” Gillum said in January…Trump’s campaign is heavily focused on Florida, the biggest swing state in the nation, with 29 of the 270 electoral college votes needed to win. Without the Sunshine State, Trump’s path to victory narrows significantly…Steve Schale, a Florida political consultant who worked for President Barack Obama, said that Democrats need to do a better job of registering voters in Florida. On his blog this week, he said that the voter registration advantage held by Democrats has fallen by 400,000 voters over the last 10 years…Democrats say they have identified as many as four million Floridians eligible to vote who are not registered. Florida party officials say they plan to partner with data science firms and hire dozens of full-time organizers as part of the new $2 million effort.”

Should Democrats raise more hell about dental care not being included in Medicare? Read Darla Mercado’s “Medicare won’t cover this key expense, and it’s eating into retirees’ wallets” at cnbc.com, and you will be left with the impression that it could, indeed be a popular issue, especially with many high-turnout senior voters. Mercado notes that “Nearly 7 out of 10 Medicare beneficiaries have no dental coverage at all, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Half go without seeing a dentist.” Also, “the average Medicare enrollee spent an average $922 in out-of-pocket dental costs…In all, 65 percent of Medicare beneficiaries, or 37 million people, have no dental coverage, according to recent data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.” Comprehensive health security means every health need, as well as everybody.

At FiveThirtyEight, Perry Bacon, Jr.’s “What The Big Sanders And O’Rourke Fundraising Numbers Don’t Capture” provides a good read for Democrats interested in campaign fund-raising strategies. Bacon notes that the early fund-raising totals of the Sanders and O’Rourke campaigns don’t show a lot of donor diversity. But Bacon also provides some stats that could be helpful to Democratic campaigns in targeting possible donors. Here’s just one excerpt “When asked by the Pew Research Center in the fall of 2016 if they had donated to a political campaign over the previous year, 24 percent of Democrats with incomes between $75,000 and $150,000 said they had, compared to 8 percent of those with incomes below $30,000. Donating to campaigns was also more common among people with more education (33 percent of Democrats with postgraduate degrees had donated, compared to 6 percent who did not attend college), older people (32 percent among those over 65, 11 percent of those ages 18-29) and white people (21 percent of white Democrats, 7 percent of Latinos.2)”

“Support for impeaching President Donald Trump has fallen 7 points since December, a CNN Poll conducted by SSRS finds, following Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi calling impeachment “so divisive to the country,” Jennifer Agiesta reports at CNN Politics. “The decline — from 43% in favor in December to 36% now — stems largely from a change in Democratic views on impeaching the President. In December, 80% of self-identified Democrats said they were in favor of impeachment — that now stands at 68%, a 12-point dip. Among independents and Republicans, support for impeachment has fallen 3 points over the same time…The only major subgroup among which the decline was larger than among Democrats is college graduates: 50% backed impeachment in December, 35% do so now. Combining the two to look at Democrats with college degrees, support for impeachment fell 17 points from 79% in December to 62% now. RELATED: Full poll results.

Some intriguing stats from Kyle Kondik’s “This Century’s Electoral College Trends” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “The most dramatic recent shift in Virginia came from 2004 to 2008, when the Old Dominion moved from giving Democrat John Kerry just 45.9% of the two-party vote to giving Democrat Barack Obama 53.2%, a 7.3-point jump in vote share (and a 14.6-point jump in margin). Of course, the nation as a whole moved from 48.8% for Kerry in 2004 to 53.7% for Obama in 2008, an increase of 4.9 points. Part of the Virginia story is that it shifted more dramatically from 2004 to 2008 toward the Democrats than the nation as a whole did…Some broad patterns emerge. “Generally speaking, the Sun Belt and West are trending Democratic. The Midwest and North more broadly, along with Greater Appalachia, are trending Republican…Generally speaking, much of the West and parts of the South were more Democratic relative to the national voting in 2016 than they were in 2000, while much of the Midwest, Greater Appalachia, and New England were more Republican relative to the nation in 2016 than they were in 2000.” Kondik also shares some revealing graphs showing regional trends in party voting.

Alex Shephard writes at the New Rerpublic that “the Democratic Party is moving left, whether they like it or not. Forty-six percent of Democrats and Democrat-leaning voters now identify as “liberal,” up from just 28 percent a decade ago. At the same time, the percentage of people identifying as “moderates” has fallen from 44 to 37. When Obama was elected, one could accurately describe the Democratic base as being moderate, but that’s no longer true anymore. As The Atlantic’s David Graham wrote last year, registered Democrats have become more liberal on immigration, economics, and race over the same period. Increasing taxes on the rich, Medicare for All, and a jobs guarantee all poll well today.”

In “Removing Barriers to Voting Improves Turnout” at The Washington Monthly, Nancy LeTourneau presents some voter turnout data and graphs, including: According to a report from Nonprofit Vote and the U.S. Elections Project, voter turnout in the 2018 midterms was the highest its been in over 100 years…Seven of the 15 states with same day registration (SDR) were among the top ten states in voter turnout…Eight of the ten lowest turnout states have registration deadlines four weeks before the election…Three of the four vote at home (VAH) states ranked in the top seven of 2018 voter turnout…Registration growth was nearly four times higher in the five states reporting automatic voter registration (AVR) data in 2018.”

Can McConnell Be Defeated in 2020?

What are the chances Democrats could defeat Trump’s most powerful enabler, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2020?

Tal Axelrod reports at The Hill that “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) approval rating is underwater in Kentucky ahead of his reelection race next year, according to a new Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey released Thursday.” Further,

About 33 percent of registered Kentucky voters polled approve of the job McConnell is doing, while 56 percent disapprove and 11 percent are unsure. Additionally, 32 percent think McConnell “deserves to be reelected,” and 61 percent think it’s “time for someone new.”

Despite low approval ratings, McConnell holds a razor-thin lead against a generic Democratic opponent. About 45 percent of Kentucky voters say they would vote for the Senate leader and 42 percent say they would support a “Democratic opponent.” About 12 percent are unsure.

Exactly half of the people surveyed in the PPP poll said they supported McConnell in 2014.

Axelrod also cites a “Morning Consult poll, which “found last month that the Kentucky Republican was the third most unpopular senator in the country, with 47 percent of Kentuckians disapproving with his job performance. However, notes Axelrod, “McConnell consistently polls poorly but has been serving in the Senate since 1985.”

McConnell will be 78 in 2020, but there are no indications that he is interested in retiring, so Democrats have to assume he will be running, and he is vulnerable.

Democrats who are interested in taking him on, however, should take note of his strategy and strengths. Ed Kilgore noted last year that “McConnell’s M.O. in Kentucky is not so much to improve his own image as to drag his opponents down to his own level of unpopularity using his vast fundraising ability. He also has, of course, a general election advantage based on his state’s partisan leanings, which have been trending Republican for a good while.”

Also, McConnell’s constituents know that as, Majority Leader, he has the power to bring home the pork, which is a big plus for smaller to midsize states. He is also shrewd, disciplined and not particularly bound to any moral code when it comes to the pursuit of power. If McConnell needs Trump to help mobilize his base, Trump will surely campaign for him. And we can be sure that he will get all the money he needs from his corporate sugar-daddies.

For Democrats, however, the big question is, who can they run? As for possible oponents, Axelrod writes, “Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is reportedly courting former Marine fighter pilot and recent congressional candidate Amy McGrath to challenge McConnell next year. Steven Cox, a Kentucky health care advocate, already declared his candidacy in the race.” McGrath lost her 2018 race for KY-6 to Republican Andy Barr, who received 51 percent of the vote to McGrath’s 47.8.

In her Washington Monthly article, “The Guy Who Could Beat Mitch McConnell in 2020,” Nancy LeTourneau notes:

it’s probably too early to start thinking about individual senate races in 2020, but what if I told you that it is possible that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell could be beaten? Most people would probably assume that is because he is the most unpopular senator in his home state, with approval ratings at around -25. But that was the case before he ran for re-election in 2014, and he still won.

The reason McConnell could lose is because of someone named Matt Jones, who happens to be Kentucky’s favorite sports radio host. Jones is actively considering a challenge to the Senate Majority Leader, which would launch one of the most fascinating races of the season…Matt Jones says that he will make an announcement sometime this summer about whether he’ll run against McConnell in 2020.

LeTourneau believes Jones has the kind of working-class cred that might take a big enough bite out of McConnell’s base. She quotes from a Politico profile of Jones, which notes,

Jones is a liberal populist—an outspoken champion of worker’s rights, a pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro-wrestling NASCAR enthusiast—looking to recapture the Trump vote from Republicans in a state the president won by nearly 30 points in 2016…

When pressed, he identifies as a “Southern populist progressive,” wary of using the term “liberal” in his home state. He is a proponent of Obamacare and marijuana legalization, generally an advocate of free trade and lowering the corporate tax, bullish on union rights and a vocal opponent of corporate welfare. These stances almost universally find root not in party allegiance but in the effect on Kentucky’s working class, a mooring so deep that Jones says he would vote against his personal beliefs in the Senate—on coal, for instance—if he felt it was in the best interest of his constituents.

Other possible opponents for McConnell include: former Attorney Genera Jack Conway, who ran for governor in 2015 but lost to Matt Bevin and earlier to Sen. Rand Paul; Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Grimes, who lost to McConnell by more than 16 percent in 2014; former State Auditor Adam Edelen; Andy Beshear, current Attorney General and son of former Governor Steve Beshear; and actress Ashley Judd, who has never run for office.

There are currently no candidates announced, other than Cox.  But they have until Jan 30th of 2020 to file to run for the Senate.

McConnelll seems almost invulnerable to many, as a result of the power plays he has successfully pulled off in recent years, which got more coverage than his failures. But Democrats have tremendous motivation to defeat McConnell, and the 2016 Democratic victories hold out the hope that voters may be tiring of Republican corruption and gridlock, with shutdown-enabler Mitch McConnell serving as as poster-boy. McConnell has also recently suggested cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits, which, if properly publicized, can only add to growing doubts about his leadership among Kentucky working families.

LeTourneau adds that “candidates running in red states like Beto O’Rourke, Stacey Abrams, and Andrew Gillum challenged the traditional Democratic formula of scripted centrism by running on progressive positions combined with authenticity. While the new approach didn’t get any of them over the top, they all came much closer than Democrats have performed in the past, so it’s certainly worth a try in Kentucky.”

Teixeira: Understanding Prospects for a Blue Texas

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

Nate Cohn presents some new data on the 2018 Texas Senate election based on survey data, actual election results and the voter file for the state. His analysis largely accords with what I and some other analysts have been saying about trends in Texas and prospects for Democrats. Here’s the basic story:

“[H]ow did Mr. O’Rourke fare so well? He did it through old-fashioned persuasion, by winning voters who had voted for Republicans and for minor-party candidates….

Mr. O’Rourke’s strong showing had essentially nothing to do with the initial vision of a Blue Texas powered by mobilizing the state’s growing Hispanic population. The Texas electorate was only two points more Hispanic in 2018 than it was in 2012, but President Obama lost the state by 16 points in 2012, compared with Mr. O’Rourke’s 2.6-point loss.

At the same time, Mr. O’Rourke fared worse than Mr. Obama or Hillary Clinton in many of the state’s heavily Hispanic areas, particularly in more conservative South Texas. This could reflect Mr. Cruz’s relative strength among Hispanic voters compared with a typical Republican.

Instead, Mr. O’Rourke’s improvement came almost exclusively from white voters, and particularly college-educated white voters. Whites probably gave him around 33 percent of their votes, up from a mere 22 percent for Mr. Obama in 2012.

There’s clearly additional upside for Democrats if they could pair their recent gains among white voters with improvement among Hispanic voters (through some combination of persuasion, higher turnout among registrants and newly registered voters)…..

Put it together, and Texas is on the cusp of being a true (if Republican-tilting) battleground state. It might not be immediately and vigorously contested, as Arizona or North Carolina will most likely be, given the greater expense of campaigning in Texas and the fact that it starts out to the right of those states. But if Democrats chose to contest it seriously in 2020, there wouldn’t be anything crazy about that.”

So there you have it. Texas really is becoming a battleground state, through a very interesting combination of persuasion, turnout and demographic change. There’s a lesson there for people who are just included to look at one factor!

Teixeira: Turnout and Persuasion in the 2018 Texas Senate Election

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

With Beto O’Rourke apparently about to enter the Presidential race, it’s a good time to consider how he did so well in that 2018 Senate election. Patrick Ruffini of Echelon Insights recently published some detailed data on Twitter which I think are quite interesting.

The main takeaways are below. I was particularly struck by the findings on persuasion vs. turnout. The key to O’Rourke’s excellent performance was apparently persuading folks to vote for him, rather than simply getting more Democrats out to vote.

 Turnout leaned slightly right of ‘16.
 Backbone of Dem ‘18 voter surges: Whites in metros and young voters.
 Stronger Latino turnout than in CA or FL

Political Strategy Notes

Let’s have a hearty ‘Amen” for Ian Millhiser’s post, “Democrats don’t need any more presidential candidates. They need senators: Let us all take a moment to praise Sherrod Brown” at ThinkProgress. In one graph, Millhiser writes, “Other Democrats, such as Texas’ Beto O’Rourke or Colorado’s John Hickenlooper, would do well to follow Brown’s example and run for Senate and not the presidency.” Brown’s presidential candidacy would have almost certainly given the Republicans another Senate seat. Hickenlooper and O’Rourke didn’t take Millhiser’s advice, and may have booted two possible pick-ups for Dems. Millhiser continues, “If Democrats win the presidency, but lose the Senate in 2020, Republican partisans like Mitch McConnell, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh are likely to sabotage the next president’s entire term — and then force that president to run for reelection with no accomplishments whatsoever.” Really, after Biden enters the race, the spectrum of Democratic beliefs will be well-represented by a host of solid candidates.

But among those Democrats who are running for president , Ronald Brownstein sees a problem developing among announced candidates: “The sprawling Democratic field is already so large, and so diverse in race and gender, that strategists are expecting tough competition in the early stages for almost every group of voters imaginable. But there’s one potential exception to that pattern: older voters. Even in a rapidly diversifying party, it’s virtually certain that most Democratic primary voters next year will be older than 45. Yet most of the top-tier candidates look best suited to compete for younger voters, an imbalance that grew more lopsided with the announcement from O’Rourke, who connected powerfully with youthful audiences during his narrow loss in last fall’s Senate race in Texas…And for all of the candidates already jostling in the race, relatively few alternatives might be able to compete with Biden for middle-aged, middle-of-the-road voters, particularly in the middle of the country…This potential mismatch between the pools of voters and candidates looms so large because, even amid all of the party’s other demographic changes, older voters constitute a surprisingly large share of the Democratic primary electorate. Fully 60 percent of primary voters in 2016 were 45 or older, according to an analysis of all 27 exit polls that year conducted by the CNN polling director, Jennifer Agiesta. And while the Democratic primary electorate is growing more racially diverse, about two-thirds of those relatively older primary voters were white.”

In his post, “There Aren’t Many True Independents, and They Aren’t Into Politics” at New York Magazine’s Intelligencer, Ed Kilgore notes, “The most interesting thing about the small tribe of true indies is that they are significantly less politically engaged than independent leaners, who are in turn less engaged than out-and-out partisans. Only about a third of true indies report having voted in the 2018 midterms. It’s likely many of them aren’t turned off by partisan extremism and longing for centrist savior, but rather turned off by politics generally. This means they are difficult to persuade and even harder to mobilize.” Also, “In truth, much of what you read about independents reflects the dynamics of partisan leaners canceling each other out. So that big, potentially irresistible force poised between the two parties is mostly a figment of the imagination.”

Turns out, “Most Americans have confidence in special counsel Robert Mueller and congressional Democrats, as both investigate aspects of President Trump and his administration, according to a new Hill-HarrisX poll,” Matthew Sheffield reports at The Hill. “The survey, released Monday, found that 19 percent of registered voters trust Mueller the most, followed by 10 percent who chose Democrats. Twenty eight percent of respondents said they trust the special counsel and Democratic lawmakers equally…Fifty-seven percent said they trusted Mueller and Democrats, while 43 percent said they didn’t trust either of them. That figure is in line with the 45 percent of registered voters who approved of Trump’s job performance in a recent Hill-HarrisX poll…Older respondents were least likely to have faith in the congressional and special counsel inquiries. A 52 percent majority of voters between the ages of 50 and 64 said they trusted neither Mueller nor congressional Democrats, as did 47 percent of voters who were 65 and older.Thirty-nine percent of respondents between the ages of 35 and 49 said they did not trust Mueller or congressional Democrats to investigate Trump. Voters between the ages of 18 and 34 had even more confidence in the two investigations, with 34 percent saying they did not trust them.”

At The Atlantic, Adam Serwer’s “White Nationalism’s Deep American Roots” probes the ‘literary’ foundations and influence of white supremacy, anti-semitism and eugenics, supported by Presidents Harding and Coolidge and reaching expression in the Immigration Act of 1924. Among Serwer’s insights: “It was america that taught us a nation should not open its doors equally to all nations,” Adolf Hitler told The New York Times…Elsewhere he admiringly noted that the U.S. “simply excludes the immigration of certain races. In these respects America already pays obeisance, at least in tentative first steps, to the characteristic völkisch conception of the state.”…What the Nazis “found exciting about the American model didn’t involve just eugenics,” observes James Q. Whitman, a professor at Yale Law School and the author of Hitler’s American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law (2017). “It also involved the systematic degradation of Jim Crow, of American deprivation of basic rights of citizenship like voting.” Nazi lawyers carefully studied how the United States, despite its pretense of equal citizenship, had effectively denied that status to those who were not white…They examined cases that drew, as Thind’s had, arbitrary but hard lines around who could be considered “white.” Serwer goes on to explain that modern-day proponents of “nativism,” including Trump advisors, built on these foundations to influence Trumpism. Serwer adds, “to recognize the homegrown historical antecedents of today’s rhetoric is to call attention to certain disturbing assumptions that have come to define the current immigration debate in America—in particular, that intrinsic human worth is rooted in national origin, and that a certain ethnic group has a legitimate claim to permanent political hegemony in the United States.”

Jim Kessler and Ryan Zamarripa argue at The Daily Beast that “Democrats Need to Understand That This Election Will Be Won—or Lost—in Places Like Lordstown, Ohio: Democratic candidates are mostly from blue bubbles, and so is their base. But unless they talk to people in struggling cities and small towns, they will lose.” The authors note that “while Democrats, activists, and progressive intellectuals have railed against the evils of wealth concentration and income inequality, they have paid scant attention to a more pernicious, salient, and politically roiling problem: the concentration of opportunity in America…Consider Queens County and Trumbull County (where Lordstown is located). Between 2005 and 2015, Queens added 7,577 new businesses and gained 78,756 new jobs. Over those same 10 years, Trumbull County lost 592 businesses and shed 11,704 jobs. To put that into perspective, one-seventh of the businesses and jobs in this one Ohio county disappeared. As Queens rocketed forward, the economy in Trumbull resembled a depression…The vast differences between the very wealthy and the rest of us are an everyday reminder in the urban cores of the Blue Bubble. But in the rest of the country, it’s kitchen-table concerns like jobs, wages, and basic benefits that are more tangible and urgent…That is why Democrats need to make opportunity their uniting cause. They need to focus on economic issues that vast swaths of the country can relate to. Spreading the opportunity to earn a good life to more people and places would unite the disparate factions of the party.”

At The Optimistic Leftist, Ruy Teixeira argues “Underrating Trump could also lead Democrats to make bad decisions about the map. It would be easy for Democratic politicians to look at Trump’s low approval numbers, the growing number of Asian American and Latino voters, and conclude that they should de-emphasize the Midwest (or take the region for granted) and run hard in long-term targets such as Georgia, Arizona and Texas so they can run up the electoral college score…Democrats shouldn’t do that. They should try to play on a broad map that includes Midwestern swing states as well as suburban, diversifying America. It’s smart for Democrats to try to get Republicans to spend money and effort on Georgia and Arizona, but Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin are still arguably the lowest hanging fruit and the best route to 270 electoral votes.”

“Trump loses if working people learn how he has betrayed them…To elevate this may be next to impossible…House committees will detail Trump’s perverse budget, which slashes funding for the EPA and food stamps, and renews the attack on health care, cutting everything from Medicare to Obamacare. But all this is too often swamped by the media fixation on Trump and his scandals…Democrats would have to exercise unimaginable discipline—ignoring Trump’s provocations, and the media’s fixations—to focus attention on the true betrayals…No matter how difficult it is, House Democrats have to put real energy in this mission.”  — From “Democrats Must Expose Trump’s Betrayal of Working People: Forget the scandals and the tweets. What really matters is the looting” by Robert L. Borosage at The Nation.

In “Court-Packing Is Not a Threat to American Democracy. It’s Constitutional. Congress is allowed to change the size of the Supreme Court, and it has done so seven times. The country survived just fine” by Tim Burns in The New Republic, he writes: “Courts can, and have at times, stagnated our government’s ability to respond to critical political and economic issues of the day. That is exactly what is happening today. A Supreme Court majority, sharing a constitutional vision that harkens back to the days when political power was enjoyed by only a landed, male, white aristocracy, is preventing our democratic processes from solving problems that go to the very heart of our democracy. The court’s conservatives stand in the way of our efforts to keep dark money out of politics, to prevent the suppression of the voting rights of people of color, and to solve the polarization that has come with political gerrymandering…it’s no accident that the Constitution grants Congress the right to make the Supreme Court as large or small as it likes. Having the ability to change the composition of the Court in this way ensures that Congress has the power to prevent stagnant visions of our law from threatening the growth of our democracy.”