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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Rural Voter

The new book White Rural Rage employs a deeply misleading sensationalism to gain media attention. You should read The Rural Voter by Nicholas Jacobs and Daniel Shea instead.

Read the memo.

There is a sector of working class voters who can be persuaded to vote for Democrats in 2024 – but only if candidates understand how to win their support.

Read the memo.

The recently published book, Rust Belt Union Blues, by Lainey Newman and Theda Skocpol represents a profoundly important contribution to the debate over Democratic strategy.

Read the Memo.

Democrats should stop calling themselves a “coalition.”

They don’t think like a coalition, they don’t act like a coalition and they sure as hell don’t try to assemble a majority like a coalition.

Read the memo.

The American Establishment’s Betrayal of Democracy

The American Establishment’s Betrayal of Democracy The Fundamental but Generally Unacknowledged Cause of the Current Threat to America’s Democratic Institutions.

Read the Memo.

Democrats ignore the central fact about modern immigration – and it’s led them to political disaster.

Democrats ignore the central fact about modern immigration – and it’s led them to political disaster.

Read the memo.

 

The Daily Strategist

June 23, 2024

Why It’s Critical to Prevent a Republican Trifecta

Democrats are obviously focused on defeating Donald Trump in November. But if they don’t, hanging onto the Senate will be tough, and the consequences of allowing a Republican trifecta are very significant, as I explained at New York:

Donald Trump’s circle of advisers is developing an elaborate and menacing set of policies that might be imposed by executive order in a second Trump presidency. It’s clear MAGA-land is eager to expand presidential powers to and beyond Nixonian levels with or without any permission slips from Congress. But all things being equal, Trump and his cronies would prefer a compliant Congress that gives them the maximum legal authority to kick ass and take names. That will first require Republican control of Congress, which is a pretty good bet if Trump wins the presidential race (the GOP is narrowly favored to retain control of the House and more strongly favored to flip the Senate).

If Republicans do win a trifecta (as they did in 2016, and as Democrats did in 2020), they will unlock the magic of “budget reconciliation” as a way to package and (with luck and skill) enact much of what Trump and his congressional allies can agree on in one huge bill.

Reconciliation is a device created by the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 and was first used extensively by Ronald Reagan in 1981. It creates a path around the filibuster powers that normally give the Senate minority (so long as it commands 40 votes) a veto on controversial legislation and the leverage to compel compromises on “must-have” bills. It also speeds up the timetable for congressional consideration of its contents and can cover a broad swath of subjects so long as they have a direct impact on spending and revenue levels. It’s how Republicans enacted the Trump tax cuts of 2017 and how Democrats enacted both the American Rescue Plan of 2021 (a.k.a. Biden’s stimulus package) and the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (originally dubbed “Build Back Better”).

Reconciliation was also the vehicle for the last big Republican legislative failure: the bid in 2017 to repeal and replace Obamacare, which failed twice in the Senate because the GOP could not nail down its own lawmakers or flip any Democrats. That was a bitter source of disappointment; prior to the 2016 elections, then–House Speaker Paul Ryan referred to reconciliation as a “bazooka in my pocket” that would destroy the institutional obstacles to his much-desired demolition of key elements of the welfare state.

Now Ryan’s successor, Mike Johnson, is thinking about how to avoid the 2017 failure and make maximum use of the “bazooka” that is now in his pocket, as the Washington Times reported:

“House Speaker Mike Johnson and Senate Republicans met Wednesday to begin discussions on a policy agenda they can muscle through Congress next year if their party has full control in Washington.

“Central to the developing GOP agenda is renewing a significant chunk of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that is set to expire in 2025. But Mr. Johnson is urging Republicans to think bigger than extending those tax breaks and look at a wider swath of policy areas that could be packed into a Senate filibuster-proof budget reconciliation package.

“Budget reconciliation is how Republicans and former President Donald Trump passed their 2017 tax law. But after watching Democrats use it to pass much broader legislation under President Biden — the 2021 coronavirus relief law known as the American Rescue Plan and the 2022 climate and tax law called the Inflation Reduction Act — Republicans want to do more if they control Congress and the White House.

“’The main idea is let’s think big,’ said Sen. Kevin Cramer, North Dakota Republican.”

To put it another way, while it’s unclear whether Republicans would prefer to handle tax cuts and spending cuts in the same reconciliation bill, using the device to pay for the former via the latter goes without saying. And in terms of spending cuts, when Republicans talk about thinking big, that’s likely to involve a meat ax aimed at domestic programs, including those safety-net programs (consider Medicaid and Obamacare subsidies a permanent GOP target) that aren’t placed explicitly off-limits by Trump.

It’s clear today’s Republicans believe their 2017 predecessors blew a prime opportunity to make drastic changes in how the federal government operates, perhaps because so few of them actually thought Trump would win. This time around, they’re thinking ahead. So should Democrats. And the best way to deny a right-wing policy coup is to prevent a GOP trifecta.


New Biden Ad Spotlights Trump’s Criminal Convictions

Check out the new Biden-Harris ad, followed by some of the commentary of Julianne McShane at Mother Jones:

President Joe Biden is highlighting the fact that his GOP opponent for the presidency is now a convicted felon—a first in American history.

The ad begins with somber, black-and-white pictures of former President Donald Trump in court flashing across the screen. “In the courtroom, we see Donald Trump for who he is,” a narrator explains. “He’s been convicted of 34 felonies, found liable for sexual assault, and he committed financial fraud.” (Fact-check: All true.)

After a brief detour into some of Biden’s accomplishments—”lowering healthcare costs and making corporations pay their fair share”—the narrator reminds viewers of the high stakes in November’s election: “This election is between a convicted criminal who’s only out for himself and a president who’s fighting for your family.”

McShane adds that “The new ad is reportedly part of a $50 million ad blitz the Biden campaign is launching through the end of this month, timed to kick off before the first presidential debate between Biden and Trump, hosted by CNN and set for June 27. It also reflects the Biden campaign’s increasing focus on turning Trump’s conviction into a critical part of its messaging. New polling shows this could matter to certain key voters. A POLITICO Magazine/Ipsos poll found that more than a fifth of independent voters—21 percent—said the conviction made them less likely to support Trump. On the other hand, 44 percent of independents said they somewhat or strongly believed the false narrative that the hush-money case was brought to support Biden’s re-election. In 2020, Biden led Trump among independent voters by 52 to 43 percent.”

McShane concludes:

As Democrats attempt to highlight the contrast between Biden’s and Trump’s records on abortion rights, NBC News reports that the Biden campaign plans to hold more than 30 events in battleground states this Saturday to mark the two- year anniversary of Dobbs, the ruling that struck down Roe. The Democratic Party arm focused on state legislative races also announced a $10 million campaign today in swing states emphasizing the importance of electing Democrats at the state level and putting Biden back in the Oval Office for another term.

It looks like the Democrats’ gloves are finally off—just in time for next week’s battle on the debate stage.

And not a minute too soon.


Biden Rather Than Trump Could Have an Electoral College Advantage in 2024

Looking into the reasons for Republican triumphalism and Democratic pessimism in the 2024 presidential contest, I identified and challenged one factor at New York:

Beneath all the noise about Trump riding high is some actual empirical evidence that’s he’s improving on his 2020 performance. That’s most obvious in national popular-vote estimates: Trump lost by 4.5 percent in 2020 and is leading, albeit modestly, in 2024 national polls. But it’s also evident in particular states where he didn’t do well at all last time around. Lately, there’s a lot of buzz about Trump being competitive in supposedly deep-blue Virginia, as The Wall Street Journal reports:

“Whether Virginia backs Donald Trump or Joe Biden shouldn’t even be a discussion.

“The state hasn’t backed a Republican for president since George W. Bush in 2004.

“But early polls showing Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, cutting into the Democratic president’s lead have served as a wake-up call for Virginia Democrats, who acknowledge headwinds with voters dissatisfied with Biden’s leadership. Republicans say that if Virginia is even remotely on the table for Trump, Biden is in serious trouble in traditional battleground states such as Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.”

Underlying this Republican excitement are two polls, one from Fox News in June and another from Roanoke College in May, showing Trump and Biden tied in the Old Dominion. While that’s hardly a big dataset, it is indeed eyebrow-raising: In 2020, all but one public poll of Virginia taken after May showed Biden with a double-digit lead, and he ultimately won by 10 percent. Virginia was also carried by Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012 and by Hillary Clinton in 2016. So it’s a blue state turning purple, and some would say that has big implications for the rest of the country!

Unfortunately for this take, short-term trends in particular states don’t always mean a lot. I’m old enough to remember that before Obama won Virginia in 2008, the state went Republican for 11 straight presidential elections. It was the only state of the former Confederacy to go against Jimmy Carter twice. Big-time national losers George H.W. Bush (in 1992) and Bob Dole (in 1996) won there. Biden’s double-digit win in 2020, moreover, reflected a fairly sudden Democratic surge: Obama won the state by less than his national popular-vote margin in 2008 and by exactly his national margin in 2012; Clinton won Virginia by a hardly overwhelming 5 percent.

Obviously, if Trump actually wins Virginia, it would be a big deal, putting 13 precious electoral votes he’s never won before into his column. But a tightened margin in any given state really just means the favored party will have to decide whether to put resources there that had been earmarked for states previously thought of as battlegrounds. If there’s a national shift, it’s likely to be reflect in national polls, and there Trump’s lead doesn’t look like the stuff of landslides (0.8 percent in the current RealClearPolitics averages of head-to-head polls).

The reality is that we may not know what the 2024 battleground landscape will ultimately look like until a lot closer to Election Day. Don’t forget that the identity of the closest states can and does change. Florida was the ultimate battleground state of all time in 2000; now it’s considered reliably red. That’s even truer of Iowa and Ohio; the latter is where the 2004 presidential election was decided, and the former was dead even in 2000 and 2004 before lurching toward Democrats in the two Obama elections and then massively toward Trump in 2016 and 2020. And it’s not just newly red states that have changed complexions: In living memory, New York, California, and Hawaii were presidential battleground states.

Is there a theory as to why Trump might be doing significantly better in Virginia without it necessarily signaling a big national lead? Yes, actually. National polls are showing Trump making gains among young and non-white non-college-educated voters, and Biden making gains among white college-educated voters. This may shift each candidate’s vote share in various states without flipping them, as Sean Trende recently noted:

“One doesn’t have to be gifted with a particularly vigorous imagination to see what could happen here: Trump has substantial improvements among non-white voters, driving gains in some red areas (like Texas) and flipping some important swing states. He also makes gains in some blue states like Virginia, New Mexico, California, and New York, but is unable to flip them because the hole with educated whites is just too deep. Then, in relatively white Rust Belt states like Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Michigan, very little changes.”

So the widespread assumption of a built-in Republican advantage in the Electoral College may actually be outmoded. You can’t look at Trump’s small lead in national polls and assume this means he’s far ahead in the race for EVs that really matters, as Trende points out:

“The result could easily be Trump winning the popular vote, but Biden eking out a narrow 270-268 Electoral Vote victory … It’s a really narrow road to victory for the former president right now, but it is also a perfectly plausible path.”

So perhaps MAGA folk should hold off on the premature victory celebrations, in Virginia and elsewhere. The shape of the election is still developing.


Political Strategy Notes

At The New Republic’s “The Daily Blast,” Greg Sargent shares a podcast in “Shocker Poll: Trump Verdict Actually Does Matter to Voters—Big-Time” and writes: “This week, Politico released a new poll with some pretty big surprises: A larger than expected percentage of Americans say Donald Trump’s criminal conviction in Manhattan makes them less likely to vote for him. The finding is even more striking among independents. The poll also took the innovative step of trying to gauge how important Trump’s conviction is to voters. And the answer is: pretty important! We talked to Ankush Khardori, a senior writer for Politico Magazine who oversaw this poll, who walked us through its findings, what they mean, and whether Trump’s pressure on Republicans to protect him from the law will backfire on the GOP in November. Listen to this episode here.” At The Hill, Max Burns writes in “Polls prove: Even ‘Teflon Don’ can’t brush off ‘convicted felon’” that “A slew of new polls have come out in the two weeks since a New York jury declared Trump guilty of falsifying business documents, and none of them are good news for the MAGA faithful. From his cratering popularity with independent voters to weakness in key swing states, the Trump campaign is wrestling with the tough reality that normal people just aren’t interested in being represented by a convicted criminal. …With a tough debate in just nine days and the possibility of jail time looming next month, Trump is facing the first of several crucial moments in his 2024 campaign. As expected, he’s handling them all like a guy without a strategy. That’s a huge blessing for Joe Biden….Trumpworld is still reeling from brutal Morning Consult and Yahoo! Newspolls, both conducted in the days after Trump’s criminal conviction. Those polls are the first in weeks to show President Biden ahead among likely voters, and they also reveal a Trump campaign plummeting in popularity with the independent and Republican-leaning voters he’ll need to convince in order to walk back into the White House.” What Democrats must keep in mind, however, is there is no guarantee that Trump’s felony convictions will still motivate voters four and a half months from now.

Democrats should pay attention to Ewan Palmer’s disturbing report at Newsweek, in which he writes: “Veteran Republican political consultant Roger Stone has been widely criticized over an audio clip that’s emerged of him discussing potential measures the party could take to ensure Donald Trumpwins the next election….The clip, secretly recorded by progressive filmmaker Laura Windsor while posing as a fan, reveals that Stone and other Trump allies are prepared to use “lawyers, judges, technology” to challenge the results of November’s race if need be. During a “Catholics for Catholics” event held at Mar-a-Lago on March 19, Stone was heard saying that steps need to be taken to stop President Joe Biden beating Trump as the “election can be stolen again” from the Republican….It isn’t the first time Stone has been recorded discussing plans to help Trump win a presidential election. In August 2023, footage obtained by MSNBC showed Stone dictating to an associate a plan to install a group of fake electors who could “accurately reflect” that Trump had beaten Biden in 2020 in states where the results had been “illegally” denied to him “through fraud.”. Those who shrug the story off as an idle threat should consider, as Palmer writes, “Stone was also a key part of the so-called “Brooks Brothers Riot,” which shut down a recount of Florida’s 2000 election ballots. Republican George W. Bush was eventually declared the winner in Florida over Al Gore, thus clinching the presidential race overall, by a margin of just over 500 votes.” We don’t  hear a lot about what Democrats are doing to address GOP election deniers and fraudsters, but let’s hope it is substantial enough to challenge what appears to be an all-out Republican effort to discredit the duly certified results of the 2024 presidential election.

In “Reporting on violence and threats against US election workers: 6 things to know” Clark Merrefield writes at The Journalists Resource: “Threats against poll workers made national news following false claims from former President Donald Trump and supporters that Joe Biden had fraudulently won the 2020 presidential election….For example, in Georgia “two local election workers, Ruby Freeman and Wandrea Moss were pressured to make false claims of voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election,” write the authors of a 2022 essay on local political violence, published in the State and Local Government Review. “After refusing to lie, a far-right media outlet spread conspiracies about the two women that resulted in a mob surrounding their house.”….In April 2024, a federal judge upheld a $148 million judgment for Freeman and Moss from a civil case against former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who admitted to making false claims about the poll workers….More than one-third of election officials — 38% — have experienced “threats, harassment, or abuse” specifically because of their job, finds a 2024 survey of 928 local election officials conducted by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University….That’s up from 30% who reported the same the year prior. More than half of the officials surveyed in 2024 by the Brennan Center said they are worried about the safety of their staff in future elections and 92% have enacted measures to protect voters and poll workers since 2020….Some 28% indicated they were “very” or “somewhat” concerned about harassment or threats aimed at their family or loved ones while 27% were “very” or “somewhat” concerned about being assaulted at home or work….The ongoing potential for threats to poll workers and election officials is real enough that the U.S. Department of Justice has launched a task force to address those threats….But some election officials don’t think the task force is doing enough. National Association of State Election Directors Executive Director Amy Cohen in June told reporter Zachary Roth with the nonprofit Oregon Capital Chronicle that it is “very clear that we are not seeing a deterrent effect.”

Merrefield provides a six-point “tipsheet” for journalists, exploring some ways they can report better about political violence and threats, including:

1. Understand the social forces that tend to lead to political violence.

2. Know that a small but notable segment of the U.S. population thinks political violence is sometimes justified.

3. Remind audiences of the long history of electoral violence in the U.S.

4. Interview poll workers about what motivates them.

5. Understand how election officials try to manage the emotional burden of intimidation, for themselves and their staff.

6. Note the difference between poll watchers and poll workers.

Regarding number 2, Merrefield writes, “To capture a snapshot of Americans’ views of political violence, nine scholars affiliated with the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis, conducted a nationally representative survey with 8,620 participants during the summer of 2022. Results were published in September 2023 in the journal Injury Epidemiology….  Nearly 20% of those surveyed strongly or very strongly agreed that having a “strong leader for America is more important than having a democracy.”….When they asked participants to imagine a scenario in which they believed political violence was justified “to advance an important political objective,” nearly 22% responded that political violence is never justified. Democrats should read Merrefield’s article to get a clear sense of the challenges journalists and they will  face in order to insure clean, certified and peaceful elections actress the U.S.


Trump’s Felony Convictions – No Traction for GOP and Potential Edge for Dems

Trump’s felony convictions did not produce Dems’ hoped-for large decline in his public support. But at least his campaign’s fantasies about the convictions giving him an upward bump did not happen. As Chris Lehman argues in “Trump’s Conviction Was Supposed to Boost His Popularity. It Hasn’t. Contrary to Republican claims that the public would see their presumptive nominee’s criminal trial as a political persecution, polls are showing that voters aren’t convinced” at The Nation:

Amid the steady torrent of MAGA-branded falsehoods and cynical spin jobs streaming through this election season, one whopper has stood out: the notion that Donald Trump’s criminal conviction in New York would prove an asset to his reelection campaign. Duly parroted among the Beltwaypress and right-wing pundits, this claim distilled a long series of GOP talking points on the reckless and tyrannical conduct of Democratic “lawfare” targeting the former president. As righteous Americans saw the fallout from this campaign, they’d rise up in outrage on Trump’s behalf—or so went the standard MAGA refrain.

But now that the verdict has sunk in—and Biden strategists have awakened to the advantages of pitching an aggressive message around Trump’s rampant criminality—voters are looking unlikely to join the retinue of MAGA leaders in storming the Bastille. A new poll from Politico/Ipsos finds that 21 percent of independent voters say that Trump’s conviction makes them less likely to vote for him, with just 5 percent describing themselves as more likely to support him on the basis of his felon status. In what looks to be a close election in which swing voters may once again play an outsize role, these numbers are anything but good news for the Trump campaign.

Karissa Waddick adds at USA Today that “Of those polled, a whopping 40%” in the poll “also said Trump should be imprisoned for his crimes, including 42% of independents.”

Lehman notes that “The survey does, however, show that other elements of the MAGA agitprop campaign against the verdict have been more successful. Forty-three percent of respondents said that President Joe Biden had helped to bring the prosecution against Trump—another rank MAGA falsehood that congressional leaders are trying to sow more widely with bogus inquiries into the New York prosecution.” But a slight majority, 51 percent “repudiated” the notion. Further,

Given the overall distractibility of the voting public, and the GOP’s overt strategy to spread baseless conspiracy theories among low-information voters, it’s critical for Democratic campaign messaging to continue hammering away at this central Trump liability. The good news is that, for once, Democratic strategists are stirring out of their habitual defensive crouch and moving into attack mode. The Biden campaign recently debuted a $50 million ad buy for a cogent TV spot called “Character Matters,” which will blanket swing states in the week leading up to the June 27 presidential debate. “In the courtroom, we see Donald Trump for who he is,” a somber voiceover announces over black-and-white images of Trump in court. “He’s been convicted of 34 felonies, found liable for sexual assault, and he committed financial fraud.” After touting Biden’s record on issues like corporate accountability, the ad archly sums up the stakes of the 2024 presidential balloting: “This election is between a convicted criminal who’s only out for himself and a president who’s fighting for your family.”

It’s a welcome and blunt message after an initial bout of hand-wringing in Democratic circles over how and whether to highlight Trump’s conviction in Biden campaign pitches. The party’s chronic posture of meek institutional deference was clearly unsuited to meet the historic moment of a major party’s presumptive nominee’s conviction in a jury trial; in the first few days after the jury verdict, it appeared that party leaders would continue blindly insisting that the important thing was to contrast the two candidates’ governing records, and to let Trump’s criminal conviction speak for itself.

In reality, of course, criminal conspiracy is the Trump governing record, from the cronyist deals he cut for his business interests and immediate family members to his flagrant auctioning of policy stances in exchange for campaign backsheesh. As the general election season heats up, the main challenge for Biden’s campaign is to reinforce these key connections exposing the pseudopopulist rhetoric of the MAGA movement as nothing more than a rolling grift spearheaded by a felon and lifelong fraudster. As it happens, the new Politico/Ipsos poll points toward that very direction: Instead of documenting rapidly spreading popular suspicion of the basic operations of lower courts, it found that the public most distrusts the US Supreme Court—which Trump steered irrevocably rightward under the direction of the Federalist Society, a hard-right dark-money colossus. Just 39 percent of respondents said they found Supreme Court justices to be trustworthy; by contrast, 54 percent said they trusted the legal judgment of jurors—the same legal actors who put Trump on the verge of a potential jail term.

All of this should prove modestly helpful to Democrats. As Lehman explains, “As Brian Beutler has argued, all the elements are in place for Biden and his Democratic backers to mount a wide-ranging assault on the mobbed-up, pay-to-play model of Trumpian governance….Conveniently, much of this money-driven government makeover is copiously documented in Project 2025, the Heritage Foundation’s blueprint for a second Trump term—and the subject of The Nation’s most recent cover package.”

Democrats still must figure out some easy-to-grasp soundbites to drive home the message that, not only Trump, but the entire G.O.P. has degenerated into a corrupt personality cult. Lehman concludes, “Now that the Biden campaign has finally found the gumption to draw on Trump’s criminal record for its core messaging, it must press home the broader indictment of Trumpian rule as graft by another name. After all, the payments a con man makes are typically far less consequential than the ones he receives.”


Ruy Teixeira Conversation With Josh Kraushaar: ‘Who Will Capture the Center?”

“This week I’m joined by my good friend, Josh Kraushaar. He’s one of America’s keenest political minds and a long-time journalist who is currently the Editor in Chief of Jewish Insider. We discuss developments in the presidential campaign, the ongoing brand challenges of Biden on the economy and energy policy, and explore the impact of recent anti-Israel protests and emerging divisions within the Democratic Party on the Israel-Hamas war.

“We discuss developments in the presidential campaign, the ongoing brand challenges of Biden on the economy and energy policy, and explore the impact of recent anti-Israel protests and emerging divisions within the Democratic Party on the Israel-Hamas war.”

Josh Kraushaar is the author of Axios’ weekly Sunday Sneak Peek newsletter, which focuses on the big-picture forces driving American politics, and he writes a column analyzing the latest political developments for Jewish Insider. He has served as editor-in-chief of the Hotline, where he authored the biweekly Against the Grain column and hosted a weekly podcast featuring the leading lawmakers, political operatives and journalists for candid interviews. He also was co-author of the 2014 Almanac of American Politics. Kraushaar frequently appears as a political analyst on television and radio. He is a Fox News Radio political analyst, providing political commentary across all the network’s platforms.

Ruy Teixeira is senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, politics editor of The Liberal Patriot newsletter, author of numerous works of political analysis, and co-author with John B. Judis of “Where Have All the Democrats Gone?


Political Strategy Notes

Some salient points from Kyle Kondik’s “Electoral College Rating Changes: Half-Dozen Moves Toward Republicans in What Remains a Toss-up Race” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Today we’re making a half-dozen changes to our Electoral College ratings, all of them benefiting the Republicans. These moves don’t significantly change our overall outlook, which is that we don’t really see a clear favorite in the presidential race, but they do better align our ratings with that overall outlook….Map 1 shows the updated ratings, which now show 251 electoral votes at least leaning toward the Republicans and 241 at least leaning toward the Democrats. Four states are Toss-ups: Arizona and Nevada in the west and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in the Industrial North.

Map 1: Crystal Ball Electoral College ratings

….Our general assumption is that Biden is going to perform at least a little better in November than polls are showing now, much like Donald Trump generally performed better in November of both of his election years than what late spring polling suggested. Biden probably has a little bit more base consolidation to do than Trump—we may actually be seeing some of that in the wake of Trump’s conviction on business record falsification charges in New York a couple of weeks ago. To be clear, that doesn’t make Biden a favorite in our eyes—again, we just don’t see a favorite….Pennsylvania, the native state of President Biden and one of the states that helped nudge Donald Trump over the finish line in 2016 before flipping back blue in 2020, goes from Leans Democratic to Toss-up. This reduces, from 260 to 241, the number of electoral votes at least leaning to Democrats in our ratings. We also are making a concurrent move in the Senate race there, moving Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) from Likely Democratic to Leans Democratic. We think Casey will likely do better than Biden, but not overwhelmingly better, so it makes sense to make these moves in tandem (we’ll say more about this race and the overall Senate picture in a future issue). Pennsylvania moves to Toss-up but we are keeping Michigan as Leans Democratic; Michigan is generally more Democratic than Pennsylvania in presidential elections (that has been the case in each of the last seven elections)….Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, which together basically decided both the 2016 and 2020 elections, seem likeliest to be the deciders in 2024 as well.”

In “An unexpected generational realignment is scrambling the 2024 election,” Zachary B. Wolf writes at CNN Politics, in 2020, “Biden’s margin among younger voters — he got 65% of voters ages 18-24 — helped him overcome the fact that Trump got 52% of older voters, who accounted for more than half the electorate….Voters under 30 haven’t preferred the Republican since 1988, when George H.W. Bush defeated Democrat Michael Dukakis in a landslide. Voters over the age of 65 haven’t preferred the Democrat since 2000, when Al Gore lost the election despite getting more votes than Republican George W. Bush….But the old rules don’t seem to apply in this year’s presidential election, where both candidates are old men and their fitness to serve is a top issue. Older voters are gravitating to Biden, and younger voters are taking a look at Trump….A new Marist poll in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, for instance, showed a tight race overall with Trump at 47% and Biden at 45%, a within-the-margin-of-error difference….Trump is making inroads with voters of color and is nearly even with Biden among voters under 45 in that poll. But older voters have gone in the opposite direction, and instead of favoring Trump, are nearly split in the Marist poll….It’s a trend that extends to other states. In a nationwide Quinnipiac University poll released in May, Biden and Trump split younger voters, but Biden has an edge among voters 65 and older….They also write that “in 2024, baby boomers now make up a wide majority of the senior vote for the first time — an enticing demographic shift the Biden campaign is seizing upon in Michigan and across the country.”….CNN’s Ronald Brownstein noted last year that older voters were more likely to approve of Biden’s job performance and argued that some of his policy wins, like pushing for lowering drug costs in Medicare, appeal directly to seniors….Whatever the reason, if Biden is to overcome questions about his age to keep his job, it will be with help from people his own age.”

In another close Biden vs. Trump race, Black and Latino voters could make the difference,” David Lauter writes at The Los Angeles Times. “Two weeks after Donald Trump’s conviction on multiple feloniesrelated to the payment of hush money to a porn actress, we have a pretty good sense of the political impact: It has hurt him, but not much….In the average of public polls maintained by the FiveThirtyEight website, for example, Trump’s edge over President Biden has dropped by 0.8 percentage pointssince the jury verdict was announced….That’s a very small shift, but it comes in a very tight race: The polling average now finds the two candidates almost tied — 41% for Trump, 40% for Biden….Pollsters have to guess which voters will actually cast ballots this fall; we can’t know for sure. All polls also come with a degree of uncertainty, reflected in their stated margin of error. In statewide races, it’s normal for polls to miss the final results by 4-5 points. There’s no way to know in advance which side the error will help….Polls are also a snapshot, and lots of events could have an impact between now and November. The list starts with the scheduled June 27 Biden-Trump debate and continues through Trump’s sentencing on July 11, his pick of a running mate, the two party conventions, a second debate in September and undoubtedly other developments that can’t be known in advance….In 2020, Biden carried 25 states, the District of Columbia and one Nebraska congressional district, which splits its electoral votes. He ended up with 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232….Biden currently can count on 19 of those states plus D.C., with a total of 226 electoral votes….Georgia, which Biden carried last time, currently leans toward Trump. Five other Biden-carried states — Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — are competitive. Together, they have 61 electoral votes….”

Lauter continues, “Of the 25 states Trump carried, all but one remain solidly in his favor. The exception, North Carolina, leans in his direction. Democrats have hopes of making it competitive, but that’s not the case now….To get to the 270 needed for victory, Biden needs to nail down 44 electoral votes beyond what he can currently count on….His best shot, current polls suggest, would be to carry the three competitive northern industrial states. Together, they would give him precisely what he needs. In all three, recent polls show a very tight race….All that sounds very familiar: The election will likely be settled by small margins in Wisconsin, Michigan and, especially, Pennsylvania — exactly as it was in both 2016 and 2020….But there’s a twist this time. Trump won in 2016 by appealing to the grievances of conservative white Americans. This time, his advantage over Biden comes by virtue of support from Black and Latino voters….Biden still wins both groups, but his margins have shrunk significantly from four years ago….A new poll from Marist College of voters in Pennsylvania illustrates the point. The poll finds Trump ahead, barely, in a state that Biden carried in 2020 and that both candidates need this year….What’s changed is that Trump gets 23% of Black voters, compared with only 7% whom he won in 2020, according to exit polls….As in Pennsylvania, white voters in Arizona haven’t moved — Trump wins among them by about 9 points, the poll found. What has changed since Biden narrowly won the state is that he’s only winning Latino voters by eight points — less than half his margin from four years ago….the key question, as political analyst Ron Brownstein has written, may be “whether Trump can sustain his support among non-Whites while offering … a bristling message and agenda on race-related issues” that energizes his white, conservative core supporters….Trump repeatedly has called for mass deportations of immigrants in the country without legal documentation — a group that’s heavily Latino — as well as reinstitution of stop-and-frisk police tactics that many cities have abandoned because they led to civil rights violations….Those policies are not popular — except with Trump’s base. A lot of voters, especially younger ones, who are just now starting to tune in to the campaign, haven’t heard much about them. Democrats will be working overtime during the next several months to make sure that changes.”


A Summation of Trump’s Actual Record

If you were looking for a succinct summary of Trump’s real record as president to share, Heather Digby Parton has a good one, “Worse than inflation: Let’s remember Trump’s real record in office,” at Salon. Start here:

Public opinion polls about the current presidential race are mystifying in a lot of ways. How can it be that the twice impeached, convicted felon Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party again? As inexplicable as it is to many of us, I think after eight years we have to accept that almost half the country is beguiled by the man while the other half looks on in abject horror and carry on from there. But as much as we may be dismayed by this adoration and fealty to Trump the man, it’s still maddening that so many voters — including even Democrats — insist that everything was so much better when Donald Trump was president. I can’t believe that people have forgotten what it was really like. By almost any measure it was an epic sh**show.

One obvious explanation is that Trump lies relentlessly about his record. So after a while people start to believe him. According to Trump, we had unprecedented prosperity, the greatest foreign policy, the safest, the cleanest, the most peaceful world in human history and it immediately turned into a toxic dystopia upon his departure from the White House.

The reality, of course, was far different.

From the day after the election, Trump’s presidential tenure was a non-stop scandal. Even in the early days of the transition, there were substantial and well-founded charges of corruption, nepotism and collusion with foreign adversaries. There was the early firing of Trump’s national security advisor, the subsequent firing of the FBI director and eventually the appointment of a special counsel. He did manage to set a record while in the White House: the highest number of staff and cabinet turnovers in history, 85%. Some were forced out due to their unscrupulous behavior, others quit or were fired after they refused to carry out unethical or illegal orders ordered by the president. This continued throughout the term until the very last days of his presidency when a handful of Cabinet members, including the attorney general, resigned over Trump’s Big Lie and refusal to accept his loss.

Yes, those were really good times. Let’s sign on for another four years of chaos, corruption and criminality.

But, let’s face facts. What people think they miss about the Trump years was the allegedly great pre-pandemic economy and the world peace that he brought through the sheer force of his magnetic personality. None of that is remotely true. The Trump economy was the tail end of the longest expansion in history begun under President Barack Obama and the low interest rates that went with it. Nothing Trump did added to it and he never lived up to even his own hype:

Trump assured the public in 2017 that the U.S. economy with his tax cuts would grow at “3%,” but he added, “I think it could go to 4, 5, and maybe even 6%, ultimately.”If the 2020 pandemic is excluded, growth after inflation averaged 2.67% under Trump, according to figures from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Include the pandemic-induced recession and that average drops to an anemic 1.45%. By contrast, growth during the second term of then-President Barack Obama averaged 2.33%. So far under Biden, annual growth is averaging 3.4%.

Inflation started its rise at the beginning of the pandemic (Trump’s last year) and continued to rise sharply in the first year of the Biden administration before it started to come back down. The reasons are complex but the fact that it was lower under Trump is simply a matter of timing. Trump’s economy was good but it wasn’t great even before the pandemic. He had higher unemployment than we have now, he blew out the deficit with his tax cuts and his tariffs accomplished zilch. Sure, the stock market was roaring but it’s even higher now.

Unlike Trump, who simply rode an already good economy, Biden started out with the massive crisis Trump left him and managed to dig out from under it in record time. No other country in the world has recovered as quickly and had Trump won re-election there’s little evidence in his record that he could have done the same. All he knows is tariffs and and tax cuts and he’s promising more of the same.

On the world stage, he was a disaster. From his ill-treatment of allies to his sucking up to dictators from Kim Jong Un to Vladimir Putin, everything Trump did internationally was wrong. He was impeached for blackmailing the leader of Ukraine to get him dirt on Joe Biden, for goodness sakes! Does that sound like a sound foreign policy decision? The reverberations of his ignorant posturing will be felt for a generation even if he doesn’t win another term.

Read more here.


If Biden Somehow “Stands Aside,” Harris Will Stand Up

I have no authority to shut down idle pundit speculation about something weird happening at the Democratic National Convention in August (or even later in the election cycle), but would prefer a little deference to reality, as I noted at New York:

One of the more tedious phenomena of this election year has been the chronic pundit talk of Joe Biden “stepping aside” as presidential nominee and Democrats replacing him with Gretchen Whitmer or Gavin Newsom or some other sort of fantasy candidate. One of many reasons this scenario made little sense is that should something happen to convince the president to abruptly end his reelection campaign, he’s already chosen a stand-in who is very close by: his vice-president, Kamala Harris.

Obviously, anyone willing to overlook Biden’s clear determination to stick it out this year can imagine Harris “stepping aside” — or being shoved aside — as well. But there’s really no evidence that the Democrats who would make this decision (the Biden-Harris loyalists who serve as convention delegates or on the Democratic National Committee) feel this way at all. And now there’s evidence that rank-and-file Democrats have the veep’s back.

While a new Politico–Morning Consult poll with data about Harris shows that she shares her boss’s general election vulnerability, Democrats remain bullish on her. Seventy-four percent think she’d make a good president. By a 59 percent to 31 percent margin, they think she could win a 2024 general election. She’s stronger than Biden among the Black and Latino voters that have been stressing Democrats in recent years. And in terms of early 2028 preferences among Democrats, she’s far ahead of the competition (Harris is at 41 percent; Pete Buttigieg is at 15 percent; Newsom is at 14 percent; Whitmer is at 5 percent). Harris is already the principal voice of her administration and her party on the GOP threat to abortion rights, which will very likely become a more prominent issue as November approaches. She’s not going anywhere.

None of this means that Democrats would want Harris to replace Biden, or that they might not harbor fears about Harris facing Trump. Bigots would definitely be mobilized by the prospect of a half-Black, half–Asian American woman (and one with a Jewish husband!) in the White House. But the idea that Democrats are ready to abandon her or Biden simply has no basis in verifiable fact.

If, for some unforeseeable reason, Biden is incapacitated or decides to pack it in before November, Kamala Harris, for better or for worse, will be the Democratic candidate, period, full stop. Barring any clear evidence to the contrary, it’s time to forget about the fantasy tickets.

 


Political Strategy Notes

From “Democrats Should Run Against the Supreme Court:  And they should take on more than the overturning of Roe v. Wade. They ought to campaign against the whole Trump-enabled, rights-stealing, gift-taking conservative supermajority” by David Atkins at The Washington Monthly: “Shortly after a Manhattan jury convicted Donald Trump of 34 felonies, Speaker of the House Mike Johnson made a curious plea on Fox News. He begged the Supreme Court to intervene on Trump’s behalf. Johnson didn’t claim that Trump was innocent. He didn’t claim that Trump did nothing wrong or did not commit crimes. Instead, the Louisiana Republican simply gestured at vague “abuses of the system” and said he expected the highest court in the land to step in because he “knew some of the justices personally.”….If this feels wrong, that’s because it is. Johnson’s Hail Mary suggestion to his personal friends on the Supreme Court to help Trump evade accountability for his crimes is yet another illustration of the damage that the far-right Supreme Court is doing to the fabric of American democracy. After all, even if the justices ignore the speaker’s plea, they have already dawdled so long on presidential immunity that they have ended any possibility that Trump could be tried for the January 6, 2021, insurrection before election day….Especially after the Court issued its Dobbs decision overturning a half-century of abortion rights, a majority of Americans are incensed about the justices’ behavior. Fixing the Court ought to be a centerpiece of the fight against the far right’s assault on democracy.” In addition to the scandals around Justices Alito and Thomas, “there is the court’s extremist political lurch. The majority of the Court’s conservative jurists were appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote. One was installed by an unprecedented refusal to allow Congress to vote on a Democratic president’s nominee until a Republican was in the Oval Office. The result is a 6-3 hyper-conservative majority that is rapidly tilting the country’s legal framework in favor of corporate power and Christian dominionism….As a result, the Court has become deeply unpopular, with over 60 percent of Americans disapproving of its job. This comes at a time when the judiciary arguably has more power over Americans’ lives than at any other time. Research shows that most voters believe the Court is conspiring to protect Trump on his immunity claims and that opportunities exist for candidates to run on opposition and reforms to the Court….the more the presidential election is a referendum on Joe Biden, the less likely Democrats will prevail. The more it is a referendum on Donald Trump and the Court, the likelier it is that the MAGA Christian nationalist movement will be stopped at the ballot box….The battle for the White House will likely be won or lost among lower-information and less engaged voters whose understanding of the mechanisms of political outcomes can be tenuous at best—and most of whom currently support Trump. An astonishing 17 percent of voters blame Joe Biden for the loss of abortion rights in Dobbs….There is a significant opportunity to educate voters on what Trump has done to them by putting extremists on the court where they are unaccountable, free to take back long-held rights and enrich themselves as well.”

Some insights from Thomas B. Edsall’s NYT essay, “Trump Would Be Long Gone if Only We Could ….” “A central predicament of President Biden’s campaign is how to persuade voters to abandon Donald Trump. “In 2012 the Obama campaign turned a nice guy, Mitt Romney, into a piece of crap,” Steve Murphy, a co-founder of the Democratic media firm MVAR Media, told me. “You can’t do that to Trump because everybody already knows he’s a piece of crap.”….Not only do voters know that Trump is a liar and corrupt, narcissistic and venal; his supporters have repeatedly found ways to slide past his liabilities….Kabir Khanna, the deputy director of elections and data analytics for CBS News, emailed me in response to my inquiries concerning the problems facing Democrats who seek to attack Trump….“Part of the issue for Democrats,” he wrote, “is that views of Trump are pretty well established for most of the electorate. Most people know what they think of him. Perhaps the best an opposition campaign can hope to do is raise the salience of certain issues, policies or aspects of his leadership style.” Edsall quotes TDS managing editor Ed Kilgore, who warned at New York magazine “No one should expect Trump to self-destruct or persuadable voters to wake up some morning and realize what a terrible man he is.” ….In April, before the verdict, Republicans were decisively against a felon becoming president, with 17 percent in favor and 58 percent opposed (and the remaining 25 percent not sure)….After the conviction, Republicans flipped, with 58 percent in favor of a felon becoming president and 23 percent opposed (and 19 percent unsure)….John Ganz, a political analyst and the author of the new book “When the Clock Broke: Con Men, Conspiracists and How America Cracked Up in the Early 1990s,” captured this aspect of Trump in “The Shadow of the Mob: Trump’s Gangster Gemeinschaft,” an essay posted last week on Ganz’s Substack, Unpopular Front….For Ganz, one comment in particular from an African American operations manager who participated in a Times focus group session conducted hours after the New York jury found Trump guilty provided an instructive case study: “Trump represents a shock to the system. His supporters don’t hold him to the same ethical standards. He’s the antihero, the Soprano, the “Breaking Bad,” the guy who does bad things, who is a bad guy but does them on behalf of the people he represents.”

“In 2020, Wisconsin was one of Joe Biden’s most important electoral victories, as he successfully clawed back the Midwestern swing state that was narrowly won by Donald Trump in 2016,” John L. Dorman writes in “Biden is lagging in key swing states. But white non-college voters are keeping him afloat in Wisconsin” at Insider. Dorman continues, “While Democrats need to perform strongly in the liberal population centers of Milwaukee and Madison in order to win statewide elections, the party still retains a significant level of support in many rural communities. And it’s Biden’s support among white voters without a college degree — a huge voting bloc in these areas — that’s currently keeping him afloat in Wisconsin….Among the seven major swing states, Biden currently trails Trump by at least three points in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and North Carolina, according to Real Clear Polling averages….In Michigan and Pennsylvania, Biden has smaller deficits against Trump in the polling averages….But in Wisconsin, Biden is often tied with Trump in polling, or has a slim lead. And it’s the backing of many white working-class voters that has been critical for the president….The most recent Quinnipiac University poll showed Biden leading Trump by six points (50% to 44%) among registered voters, while a recent Cook Political Report survey had Biden and Trump tied at 45% among Wisconsin voters….In the Quinnipiac poll, Wisconsin voters gave Biden positive marks on issues like abortion rights and the preservation of democracy. But even on the question of who would better handle international conflicts — where Trump has opened up a lead in many recent polls — the former president only led Biden by one point (48% to 47%)….When it came to economic issues, Trump had an eight-point lead over Biden (52% to 44%) in Wisconsin, per Quinnipiac, a relatively stable number for the incumbent on an issue where he has struggled in national polling. For Biden, the Wisconsin number represents a much more positive outlook from voters compared to his standing in states like Arizona and Nevada…,Among white voters in Wisconsin, Biden actually led Trump by four points (50% to 46%) in the Quinnipiac poll. And college-educated white voters in Wisconsin backed Biden by 27 points (61% to 34%)….But among white voters without college degrees, Biden only trailed Trump by eight points (44% to 52%), a deficit that is much narrower than in virtually every other swing state….That Biden has been able to hold on to a sizable level of support from this voting bloc — despite their overall migration to the GOP — shows the uniqueness of the president’s electoral coalition in Wisconsin.”

Don’t pay too much attention to all of the hoo-ha about the Democrats’ big financial advantage in the 2024 elections. As Michael Mechanic writes in “America’s Top 100 Donors Heavily Favor Trump and the Republicans” at Mother Jones: “Donald Trump may have lost in the Manhattan court where a jury recently convicted him of 34 felonies, but there’s one place he and his party appear to be winning: in the race to snag major cash from the richest families in America….For all of Trump’s supposed grassroots appeal, as of May 1, less than one-third of contributions to his campaign committee for the 2024 election cycle had come from grassroots donors—people giving less than $200. (Campaign finance disclosures tend to lag a month or two behind.)….According to OpenSecrets, large contributors accounted for 69 percent of Trump’s $121 million total. President Joe Biden’s campaign committee, which took in $195 million, got 54 percent from large donors….More broadly, the lion’s share of confirmed contributions from the biggest political givers—the top 100 families—have flowed to Republican candidates and groups….In the “hard money” category—direct donations to candidates, which federal law caps at modest sums—Republicans took in 27 percent more from the Top 100 families than Democrats did ($85.9 million vs. $67.9 million)….But looking at all federal contributions, including “soft money,” a category that tallies the generous donations allowed to party committees and the unrestricted contributions to SuperPACs, Republicans raked in a whopping $508 million from the Top 100—triple the Democrats’ $169 million take….And this was all before Trump got convicted….Trump has vowed to go further: “We’re gonna give you tax cuts,” he told a gathering of “rich as hell” prospective donors at a December Mar-a-Lago fundraiser. Since then, he has been openly transactional in his efforts to raise cash, warning rich donors that supporting Biden will cost them, whereas the policies of a second Trump administration would further enrich them, along with corporate shareholders. (He has also solicited oil and gas executives for generous contributions, promising his administration would pursue policies in their favor.)….A river of cash has poured into Trump’s coffers since his conviction—the campaign claims it received $53 million in the first 24 hours. Which is kind of surreal, but I suppose it adds up. After all, when Trump holds a post-conviction press conference that starts with him saying, “This is a case where, if they can do this to me, they can do this to anyone,” at least some of those rich-as-hell donors no doubt imagine he’s talking directly to them.”