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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

April 16, 2024

Teixeira: The Three Point Plan to Fix the Democrats and Their Coalition

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, politics editor of The Liberal Patriot newsletter and co-author with John B. Judis of the new Book “Where Have All the Democrats Gone?,” is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

What’s wrong with this picture? The Republican Party seems a shambles, with the unpopular, erratic Trump, with all his massive baggage, as their standard-bearer. Yet the Democrats’ standard-bearer, Biden, is equally if not more unpopular.

For the last six months, Biden’s approval rating has been in the 39-41 percent approval range with 54-56 percent disapproval. As Harry Enten points out “Biden is the least popular elected incumbent at this point in his reelection bid since World War II.”

And critically, trial heats pitting Biden against Trump have consistently shown Biden running behind. Indeed, Biden hasn’t had a lead of any kind in the RCP running average since September of last year (though the race has tightened a bit in recent weeks). That compares to a Biden lead of over six points at this point in the cycle four years ago. As Enten also notes:

[A] lead of any margin for Trump was unheard of during the 2020 campaign—not a single poll that met CNN’s standards for publication showed Trump leading Biden nationally.

Biden is also running behind Trump in six of seven key swing states, consistent with his failure to establish a solid lead in the national popular vote.

In addition, Democratic Party identification has been declining throughout Biden’s presidency and is now at its lowest level since 1988. Looming over this trend and all the other rough results for the Democrats cited here is the indisputable fact that Democratic poor performance is being driven by defections among working-class (noncollege) voters of all races. Polling consistently shows Biden running deficits among working class voters in the mid-teens, a dramatic fall-off from the 4-point deficit he experienced in the 2020 election.

It’s time to admit that the Democratic party brand is in deep, deep trouble, especially with working-class voters. That is why the Democrats cannot decisively beat Trump and the Republicans, despite the latter’s many liabilities, and find themselves fighting desperately at the 50 yard line of American politics. So it is and so it will continue to be until Democrats figure out how to stop the bleeding with working-class voters.

That means the Democratic approach needs to change. Here’s my three point plan for doing so, originally put forward in October of 2022 and more relevant than ever.

1. Democrats Must Move to the Center on Cultural Issues

2. Democrats Must Promote an Abundance Agenda

3. Democrats Must Embrace Patriotism and Liberal Nationalism

I expand on each of these points below.

The Culture Problem

Here’s the deal (as Biden might put it): the cultural left in and around the Democratic Party has managed to associate the party with a series of views on crime, immigration, policing, free speech and of course race and gender that are quite far from those of the median voter. These unpopular views are further amplified by Democratic-leaning media and nonprofits, as well as within the Democratic Party infrastructure itself, all of which are thoroughly dominated by the cultural left. In an era when a party’s national brand increasingly defines state and even local electoral contests, Democratic candidates have a very hard time shaking these cultural left associations.

As a direct result of these associations, the party’s—or, at least, Biden’s—attempt to rebrand Democrats as a unifying party speaking for Americans across divisions of race and class appears to have failed. Voters are not sure Democrats can look beyond identity politics to ensure public safety, secure borders, high quality, non-ideological education, and economic progress for all Americans.

Instead, Democrats continue to be weighed down by those whose tendency is to oppose firm action to control crime or the southern border as concessions to racism, interpret concerns about ideological school curricula and lowering educational standards as manifestations of white supremacy, and generally emphasize the identity politics angle of virtually every issue. With this baggage, rebranding the party as a whole is very difficult, since decisive action that might lead to such a rebranding is immediately undercut by a torrent of criticism. Democratic candidates in competitive races certainly try to rebrand on an individual level but their ability to escape the gravitational pull of the national party is limited.

Have things improved on this front in the course of the Biden administration? I don’t think so. A Liberal Patriot/YouGov poll found that more voters thought the Democrats had moved too far left on cultural and social issues (61 percent) than thought the Republicans had moved too far right on these issues (58 percent). In the latest Wall Street Journal poll, Trump is preferred over Biden by 17 points on reducing crime and 30 points on securing the border, now the second most important voting issue after the economy.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Democrats’ steady movement to the cultural left and ever “woker” stances on these issues is the steady movement of the intended audience for these stances away from the Democrats. These charts by John Burn-Murdoch of the Financial Times illustrate this trend. Whatever else the Democrats’ left turn on cultural issues is accomplishing, it’s not doing them much good among the nonwhite voters—especially nonwhite working-class voters—who, activists assured them, were thirsting for the maximally “progressive” position on these issues.


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Chart showing that Democrats’ advantage with non-white voters has been rapidly eroding and is now at its weakest since the 1960s

This wasn’t supposed to happen! But it is. As Burn-Murdoch notes:

The image of the GOP as the party of wealthy country club elites is dimming, opening the door to working- and middle-class voters of all ethnicities…More ominous for the Democrats is a less widely understood dynamic: many of America’s non-white voters have long held much more conservative views than their voting patterns would suggest.

This is staring to bite as Democrats’ cultural evolution takes them farther and farther away from the comfort zone of these voters. Damon Linker describes the process well in a recent post on his Substack:

Our polity is deeply divided over politics, with Democrats and Republicans often residing in morally and epistemologically distinct worlds, and each side viewing the country’s history, current condition, and possible futures very differently. But there’s also a common public culture all Americans share and take part in. It is governed by certain implicit norms and expectations that apply to everyone.

But who determines those norms and expectations? The answer is that these days it is often progressive activists. How do they accomplish this exercise of political-cultural power? I will admit that I’m not entirely sure. Something like the following process appears to happen: A group of left-leaning activists declares that certain words, claims, or arguments should be considered anathema, tainted as they supposedly are with prejudice, bigotry, racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, or transphobia; then people in authoritative positions within public and private institutions (government, administrative and regulatory agencies, universities, corporations, media platforms, etc.) defer to the activists, adjusting the language they use to conform to new norms; and then, once the norms and expectations have been adjusted, a new round of changes gets mandated by the activists and the whole process repeats again, and again, and again.

I suspect that to many millions of Americans (and to lots of people living in democracies across the world where something similar is going on) the process feels a bit like a rolling moral revolution without end that makes them deeply uncomfortable. That response is no doubt a function of right-leaning views among some voters. But I’d be willing to bet that for many others, the negative reaction follows from the sheer bossiness of it, with schools, government bureaucrats, HR departments at work, movie stars, and others constantly declaring: You can’t talk that way anymore; you must speak this other way now; those words are bad; these words are the correct ones. A lot of people are ok with this. But many others respond with: Who the f-ck are you to tell me how I’m allowed to talk? Who elected or appointed you as my moral overseer and judge?

To many voters, especially working-class voters, this is the world Democrats are bequeathing to them and they flat-out don’t like it. And that’s important! I never cease to be amazed by Democrats’ touching, if delusional, faith that they can simply turn up the volume on economic issues and ignore these sentiments. Culture matters and the issues to which they are connected matter. They are a hugely important part of how voters assess who is on their side and who is not; whose philosophy they can identify with and whose they can’t.


Political Strategy Notes

David Dayen targets a glaring GOP vulnerability in his article, “Republicans Are Objectively Pro–Junk Fee: A new congressional resolution aligns Republicans with the financial industry’s fight to preserve sky-high credit card late fees” at The American Prospect. As Dayen writes: “The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s $8 cap on credit card late fees has had a wild ride on the road to implementation. After being finalized last month, the rule drew a lawsuit from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which sought an injunction in Fort Worth. No credit card companies are located in Fort Worth; the venue choice was made purely to ensure that the case would be heard by a right-wing federal judge….The first district court judge assigned to the case owned a bunch of credit card company stocks and recused himself; the second judge, a Trump appointee, showed remarkable candor in saying the case had no business being in Fort Worth and should be heard in Washington. Then the far-right Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with the Trump judge and tried to pull the case back to Texas. Then one of the authors of that opinion, it turned out, also owned a bunch of credit card company stocks. He has asked for briefings on whether he should recuse himself, basically seeking outside opinions on his own personal corruption….That’s not the only attack on the late fee rule. Now congressional Republicans are coming after it, in the process finally setting up a partisan fight over the popular issue of junk fees, which the Biden administration has been pushing for the past few years. Republicans, it turns out, are objectively in favor of junk fees. And by next week, they’ll be on the record for them.” Dayen adds that “Republicans in the House and Senate have filed resolutions of disapproval of the late fee rule….Not only that, but Tim Scott, the South Carolina senator who is on the short list to be Donald Trump’s vice-presidential running mate, has taken on the role of the leading champion of junk fees. Scott, the ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, proudly announced this week that he’s introduced the resolution to kill the late fee rule….Every Republican, including those in swing districts, will now have to decide whether they support higher costs on Americans, which will be redistributed to the banks and the card companies….Even on the off chance that this gets through the Senate, President Biden has championed eliminating junk fees and would surely veto the bill. There’s no chance Republicans have enough votes to override him…..So not only does this vote put Republicans on the spot over junk fees, it’s a doomed vote, completely initiated by their own possible VP nominee….Few causes poll better than eliminating junk fees. One poll from Data for Progress found junk fee prevention to be at nearly 80 percent support, including 72 percent of self-identified Republicans.”

So how are American attitudes toward helping Ukraine resist Putin’s attacks playing out? According to Megan Brenan’s report on the latest Gallup poll on the subject, “As military aid for Ukraine remains stalled in the U.S. House of Representatives, Americans themselves are equally split, at 36% each, between those who believe the United States is doing too much to help Ukraine and those saying it’s not doing enough. However, this is a more favorable balance of opinion for Ukraine than last fall, when more thought the U.S. was doing too much (41%) than not enough (25%)….This comes as Americans’ perceptions of who is winning the war have also shifted, with more now saying Russia rather than Ukraine has the upper hand, although a majority of U.S. adults still see neither side as winning….Partisans remain sharply divided in their opinions of the war, with Democrats more supportive than Republicans of helping Ukraine. However, the gap is now at a record high, given the surge in Democrats’ belief since last fall that the U.S. is not doing enough. Republicans’ minimal agreement with this position hasn’t changed, and political independents’ views are closer to Republicans’ than Democrats’….The latest data are from a Gallup poll conducted March 1-17, several weeks after the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan aid package that included $60 billion in funding for Ukraine. The bill has been stuck in the U.S. House as Speaker Mike Johnson has been working to get support from his Republican caucus, which currently holds a slim two-vote majority….Democrats — and, to a lesser extent, independents — are driving the increase since October in views that the U.S. is not doing enough in the conflict. Sixty percent of Democrats (up by 22 percentage points) say U.S. support for Ukraine is insufficient, while 34% of independents (up by nine points) agree. At the same time, Republicans’ view is essentially unchanged, with 15% saying the U.S. is not doing enough….In addition, between 25% and 28% of all three party groups think the current level of help for Ukraine is about right, while 57% of Republicans, 39% of independents and 13% of Democrats think the U.S. is doing too much….Fifty-five percent of Americans think the U.S. should continue to support Ukraine in reclaiming its territory, even if that requires prolonged involvement, rather than ending the conflict as quickly as possible, even if that means ceding territory to Russia (43%). These findings are unchanged from the previous readings in October. However, the percentage of Americans who now favor continuing the fight to win back Ukraine’s territory is lower than the 62% to 66% who preferred that approach between August 2022 and June 2023.”

Elise Gould has some welcome talking points for Democratic candidates in her article, “A record-breaking recovery for Black and Hispanic workers: Prime-age employment rates have hit an all-time high alongside tremendous wage growth” at the Economic Policy Institute web pages. Among her insights: “Unemployment has been at or below 4.0% for 27 months running, the longest such stretch since the late 1960s. Low-wage workers experienced an unprecedented surge in wage growth over the last four years, as shown in our new report….These historically robust outcomes extended to Black and Hispanic workers. In 2023, the share of Black and Hispanic people ages 25-54 with a job hit an all-time high. Further, real wage growth among Black and Hispanic workers experienced a significant turnaround from the stagnant wage growth they suffered in much of the prior four decades….Black and Hispanic workers hit all-time high employment rates in 2023: The Black PA EPOP hit 77.7% in 2023, better than its previous high in 1999 (77.3%). The Hispanic PA EPOP reached 77.9%, better than its pre-pandemic high of 77.4% in 2019….Due largely to the more robust policy response, it took only four years for Black and Hispanic workers to hit pre-pandemic employment peaks in this business cycle compared with the prolonged recovery from the Great Recession—when Black and Hispanic employment only hit pre-recession levels after 11 and 12 years, respectively….Black workers in particular experienced wage growth far above their historical norm: 1.4% annually over the last four years.”

Julia Mueller explains why “Suburban women are more complicated than ‘soccer moms’” and explores the political ramifications. at The Hill: “President Biden and former President Trump are both fighting for the suburban woman voter, but she’s no longer the “soccer mom” caricature that gained traction in the ’90s….The label connotes a stereotypical picture of a white, college-educated woman, married with a couple of kids….The country’s suburbs have grown more racially and ethnically diverse, and looking at a single archetype of the suburban woman voter for 2024 risks missing key differences across the demographic….“If you want to talk about suburban women, you want to get away from the caricature. It’s much different than it was … because there are many more people of color moving into the suburbs than there were before,” said Bill Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution….In 1990, a few years before the “soccer mom” moniker caught on in the 1996 election cycle and early aughts, roughly two in 10 suburbanites living around major metro areas were people of color – but by 2020, that number was approaching five in 10, according to research Frey conducted using Census data….the diversity of women in the suburbs – and even the attitudes of the suburbs’ white women with college degrees — appear to have shifted in recent years amid new pressures and social norms, experts said….“They’re becoming more diverse, and also, the motherhood component maybe isn’t as strong as it once was,” Betsy Fischer Martin, executive director of the Women & Politics Institute at American University, said of the suburbs….Women broadly lean toward Democrats, and Biden won 56 percent of suburban women in 2020, while 54 percent of suburban men went for Trump, according to Edison Research exit polling. A new NPR/NewsHour/Marist poll released earlier this month found Biden up 28 points over Trump among college-educated white women….But white women overall went to Trump in 2020, while 90 percent of Black women and 69 percent of Hispanic women backed Biden, according to the exit polls.” However, “NBC News data analyzed this month by the firm Public Opinion Strategies found Democrats’ advantage among suburban women overall has shrunk from a 10-point margin in 2016 to a five-point edge in 2023….“It’s kind of like a double-whammy of higher mobilization in the suburbs and then greater mobilization among women, and then mobilization on issues specific around abortion,” [University of Delaware political scientist Erin] Cassese said, and even a small shift among white women could be “significant enough” to swing things in key battleground states.”


As Exploration of the Disconnect Between Economic Realities and Public Perception

Will Historic Job Growth Bring an End to the “Vibecession”?, John Cassidy asks at The New Yorker, and writes:

During the past year, the economy has added 2.9 million jobs, and since Biden came to office it has added 15.2 million jobs. All told, there are now about 5.8 million more Americans at work than there were immediately before the covid-19 pandemic started. And for those who are still concerned about the inflation rate, which has fallen from a high of 9.1 per cent in June, 2022, to 3.2 per cent, the new jobs report contained some reassuring news on that front, too. In the twelve months before the report was issued, hourly wages rose by 4.1 per cent–—the lowest figure since June, 2021, and another indication that inflation is contained. Strong economic growth combined with low unemployment and low inflation is pretty much an ideal outcome for any policymaker.

There are at least three explanations for why Biden’s ratings haven’t benefitted from these developments: the consumer-prices theory, the lags theory, and the vibes theory. The prices theory emphasizes that price levels—and the over-all cost of living—remain high, despite much lower rates of inflation. The lags theory says that people’s perceptions about politicians and economic policymaking can take quite a while to catch up with a changing environment. The vibes theory says that, for whatever reason, many Americans’ subjective feelings about the economy have lost touch with reality. To use the term coined by the economic commentator Kyla Scanlon, many of them are still stuck in a “Vibecession.”

Evidence can be cited to support each of these theories. Although the price of food hasn’t climbed much in the past year, many groceries and other items, such as secondhand vehicles, are still a lot more expensive than they were when Biden was elected, in 2020. Wages have increased faster than prices in the past year, but they haven’t risen by enough to offset previous price hikes. That supports the prices theory. Supporting the lags theory are recent indications that broad economic sentiment has improved, even though this hasn’t yet made itself visible in political polls. Last month, the University of Michigan’s index of consumer sentiment was 28.1 per cent higher than it was a year ago. The same organization’s index of consumer expectations, which reflects survey respondents’ feelings about the future, has gone up even more. It seems reasonable to expect that improving consumer sentiment should eventually have an impact on people’s assessments of economic policymaking, including the President’s stewardship.

Cassidy has more to say about the disconnect between economic statistics and public perceptions, and you can read the rest of his article right here.


Presidential Race Is Back to Square One

As part of my regular poll-gazing, I took a look at the presidential trends at New York:

Joe Biden is continuing his snail-like progress toward a dead heat with Donald Trump in polling this week. The RealClearPolitics polling averages for a national head-to-head contest between the two presidents now show Trump up by a mere 0.2 percent (45.5 to 45.3 percent), his smallest lead in these averages dating back to last October. If you took a very outlierish Rasmussen Poll giving Trump an eight-point lead out of the equation, Biden would actually be ahead. As it is, he leads Trump in the most recent surveys by Reuters-IpsosI&I-TIPPData for ProgressNPR-PBS-Marist, and Quinnipiac, a pretty impressive collection of pollsters (all but I&I-TIPP are in the top-25 outfits, according to FiveThirtyEight’s ratings).

Trump is maintaining a slightly larger lead (1.9 percent) in the national five-way polls that include Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Cornel West, and Jill Stein, per RCP’s averages. RFK Jr. holds 10 percent of the 13.2 percent going to non-major-party candidates. So the larger field continues to help Trump and hurt Biden, albeit marginally.

Battleground-state polling has been sparse in recent weeks; the last public polls in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, and Wisconsin were from a March 24 Wall Street Journal survey. So Trump maintains his relatively robust leads in all those states. New polling in North Carolina (from High Point University and Quinnipiac) shows Trump’s lead in that state shrinking slightly to 4 percent. And fresh data from Pennsylvania via Franklin & Marshall has given Biden a slight (0.1 percent) lead in that state in the RCP averages. The trends for Biden overall are positive, albeit very slightly and slowly so.

In terms of where the numbers might go as we approach November, there are some even more positive sights for the incumbent. A fascinating new national survey from NORC published by FiveThirtyEight looked at how demonstrated propensity to vote affected presidential-candidate preferences, and the findings are potentially significant:

“When we broke out respondents by their voting history, we found dramatic differences in whom they support for president in 2024. President Joe Biden performed much better among frequent voters, while Trump had a large lead among people who haven’t voted recently. Specifically, among respondents who voted in the 2018, 2020 and 2022 general elections, Biden outpaced Trump 50 percent to 39 percent. But among respondents who were old enough to vote but voted in none of those three elections, Trump crushed Biden 44 percent to 26 percent.”

This survey reinforces evidence elsewhere that the traditional Democratic reliance on “marginal voters” has ended, and that now it’s Republicans who need an unusually high-turnout election to get Trump’s supporters to the polls. In the short term, this could mean that when pollsters begin to shift from registered-voter to likely-voter samples, Biden will probably get a boost (the sort of boost Republican candidates used to count on) in the comparative numbers. Whether that carries over to the actual results in November may depend on overall turnout levels, with Democrats holding an unusual advantage among the voters most likely to show up at the polls.

There are, of course, many other factors that will influence the direction of this contest, including the strength, wealth, and wisdom of the campaigns and of the national and state parties supporting them. But one thing to watch is whether the Kennedy candidacy, which is marginally hurting Biden right now, gets onto the ballot in all or most of the battleground states. At present, Kennedy’s campaign claims it has enough signatures to gain ballot access in Arizona, Georgia, and Michigan, and it’s in a dispute with Nevada over an early deadline for identifying a vice-presidential candidate that it missed, which may land in court. If Kennedy does gain the ballot access he needs, the big question will be whether his conspiracy-theory-drenched appeal has the sort of staying power that non-major-party candidates usually lack. If he fades, it will likely benefit Biden.

Real-world developments outside the campaign trail could matter as well. Team Biden has to worry about signs of renewed inflation. And all of Trump’s efforts to avoid a preelection criminal trial appear to have failed, at least in New York.

For now, this contest seems to be back to square one: very close and subject to a lot of cross-currents and events we can’t really predict.


Political Strategy Notes

Christian Paz has a post up at Vox, “Are young voters really embracing Donald Trump?,” which sheds some light on Democratic concerns about younger voters. As Paz writes, “Just about every national poll seems to show that Biden is underperforming with young people compared to his 2020 results as well as polls at the same point in the 2020 cycle. But the crosstab results of some of these surveys also suggest that Biden is not only losing ground; Trump is gaining support. That’s an especially surprising result for the famously progressive and Democratic-leaning youth vote….Instead of looking at any single poll, take their sum view, conveniently updated every month in this cross-tabulation tracker from the former Democratic pollster Adam Carlson. Regardless of whether you look at the 18–34 or 18–29 subgroups that are often used in polling young voters, it’s clear that Biden is underperforming his 2020 numbers. In March 2024 polls alone, that shift from 2020 for those adults aged 18–29 was about 13 points toward Trump, even though Biden still holds an overall advantage of 11 points in the aggregate. Among adults aged 18–34, Trump holds a slight lead of about 1.5 percentage points. And this has generally been consistent when looking at the aggregate results of January and February 2024 polls as well….Trump’s favorability rating among the youngest cohort of voters has been steadily increasing. As of the end of 2023, that improvement has brought his standing with adults aged 18–34 back from a post-January 6 low point right to the same support he had on the eve of the 2020 election, according to Gallup polling. Other polls, like the Economist/YouGov’s surveys, found that by February 2024, Trump’s favorability among those under the age of 30 had finally turned positive, improving about 30 points since February 2021….The Harvard Youth Poll in December, for example, showed Trump had an edge over Biden on a range of key issues with younger voters. On the economy, Trump had a 15-point lead; on national security, he had a 9-point lead; on the Gaza war, Trump led by 5 points; and on “strengthening the working class,” Trump had a 4-point advantage. Biden, meanwhile, had an edge on climate change, abortion, education, and “protecting democracy,” among a few other issues….Polls specifically of young voters, like the Harvard Youth Poll, continue to show a large Biden advantage with younger voters (it was 11 points in December). They show that among the youth most likely to vote, Biden has an even bigger advantage (24 points)….61 percent of young voters view Trump very negatively compared to just 44 percent who feel like that about Biden. “If young voters are defecting from Joe Biden, they’re not doing so out of any affinity for Donald Trump,” write the Split Ticket authors. So instead of a Trump youth rise, we’re seeing a collapse of youth support for Biden….Even this month, the results of two high-quality national polls, one from Quinnipiac University and another released by Fox News, showed conflicting realities. In Quinnipiac’s survey, the results for young adults aged 18–34 gave Biden a 20-point advantage over Trump. Meanwhile, Fox’s survey showed that adults aged 18–29 backed Trump with an 18-point margin. This 38-point gap seems illogical, even if there are some discrepancies with the cohorts used in the surveys.”

Is Arizona now a more bluish shade of purple, thanks to the state Supreme Court ruling upholding a 160-year old law that outlaws and criminalizes nearly all abortions? Probably is my guess. As Kristine Parks writes at foxnews.com, “The ruling comes on the heels of a Wall Street Journal poll conducted before the ruling, which found a majority of Arizonans sided with President Biden over Trump on the issue of abortion.” Parks reports that CNN commentator Margaret Hoover said in an interview that “the ban was unpopular with Republican voters in the state and would “absolutely impact the presidential election.” Parks adds that “Hoover, who is married to Democratic congressional candidate and former CNN senior political analyst John Avlon, insisted that the Arizona ruling showed how Trump’s defense of states’ rights on abortion could backfire in the election….”How’s it going? It’s not going to go so well for him in Arizona,” Hoover argued, denouncing the “draconian” law without exceptions for rape or incest.” Further, writes Parks, “Trump issued a statement on abortion rights on Monday, one day before the Arizona Supreme Court ruling….In a video posted to his social media platform, Trump argued that abortion rights should be a state issue decided by the “will of the people.”…. “The states will determine by vote, or legislation, or perhaps both, and whatever they decide must be the law of the land — in this case, the law of the state,” Trump said. “Many states will be different. Many states will have a different number of weeks… at the end of the day it is all about the will of the people.”….His statement drew the ire of some pro-life activists, who believed it was a victory for Democrats.” Joseph Choi and Nathaniel Weixel report at The Hill that “The Civil War-era law makes abortion a felony punishable by two to five years in prison for anyone who performs or helps a woman obtain one. It includes an extremely narrow exception for “when it is necessary” to save a pregnant person’s life.” Even Arizona Republicans are shook up by the ruling, as  Carter Sherman and Lauren Gamboino report at The Guardian: ““This is an earthquake that has never been seen in Arizona politics,” said Barrett Marson, a Republican consultant in Arizona, of the decision. “This will shake the ground under every Republican candidate, even those in safe legislative or congressional seats.”

“Arizona Democrats immediately promised to ditch the new law in November, and to work toward a more humane solution in the meantime. “Certainly people are outraged,” Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs told CBS.” Joan Walsh writes at The Nation. “And this will motivate them in November.” Attorney General Kris Mayes agreed. “I think this changes everything. I think it supercharges the ballot initiative and it supercharges the elections of all pro-choice candidates.” Indeed, President Biden won Arizona by just 11,000 votes in 2020 and his campaign there can use extra juice, amid reports that some Latino voters are paying more attention to Trump this year.”….Politically, if you want to know who’s hurt by the ban, look at which party is screaming the loudest. MAGA Senate candidate Kari Lake howled on Tuesday. The last time she ran, in 2022, she embraced the 1864 statute; now, she condemns it, demanding “an immediate commonsense solution that Arizonans can support.”…. Regarding a ballot initiative in Arizona, Walsh notes “Initiative organizers say they have more than enough signatures from state voters, but it has not been formally placed on the ballot yet. The Arizona Republic reports that organizers have 500,000 signatures, beyond 383,000 required for ballot access. They’re aiming to collect 800,000 signatures before a July deadline. Abortion will definitely be on the ballot in Florida, Maryland, and New York; organizers are optimistic about planned initiatives in Arizona and at least four other states….Much like the Florida initiative that would enshrine abortion rights in that state’s Constitution, Arizona’s measure protects the practice up until fetal viability, or after that if necessary to save the mother’s life. While polling in Arizona and elsewhere shows that strong majorities of voters want to preserve access to abortion, significant portions would nevertheless like to see some limits. However, since those favoring limits differ wildly over which ones they’d support, these more sweeping initiatives are gaining the upper hand. Rising numbers of voters tell pollsters they support no restrictions on abortion, and declining numbers say they want abortion to be illegal under all circumstances.”

From “Democrats lean into border security as it shapes contest for control of Congress” by Stephen Groves at abcnews.com: “With immigration shaping the elections that will decide control of Congress, Democrats are trying to outflank Republicans and convince voters they can address problems at the U.S. border with Mexico, embracing an issue that has traditionally been used against them….Democrats are no longer shrugging off such attacks: They believe they can tout their own proposals for fixing the border, especially after Trump and Republican lawmakers rejected a bipartisan proposal on border security earlier this year….“It gives some Democrats an opportunity to say, ‘Look, I’m here for solutions,'” Gallego said. “Clearly, the Republicans are here to play games. And so whether it’s Kari Lake or Donald Trump, they’re not interested in border security. They’re interested in the politics of border security. And, we’re here to actually do something about it.”….Democrats aren’t going to win on immigration this year, but they have to get closer to a draw on the issue to get to a place where people take them seriously,” said Lanae Erickson, a senior vice president at Third Way, a centrist Democrat think tank. “Be palatable enough on that issue that people are then willing to consider other priorities.”….Still, Democrats face a difficult task when it comes to the politics of border security. A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research has found that almost half of adults blame Biden and congressional Democrats for the current situation at the U.S.-Mexico border, while 41% blame Republicans in Congress.”


For Biden, Two Paths to Victory Are Better Than One

A perennial strategic topic has popped up a lot recently, so I addressed it at New York:

In 2020, Joe Biden won four states by a margin of less than 2 percent of the vote: Georgia (0.23 percent), Arizona (0.30 percent), Wisconsin (0.63 percent), and Pennsylvania (1.33 percent). Donald Trump won one state, North Carolina, by 1.34 percent. Biden carried two other key states by margins under three points: Nevada (2.39 percent) and Michigan (2.78 percent). These seven states represent what most strategists in both parties consider to be the Biden-Trump battlegrounds for 2024, though obviously some will argue that others should be targeted (many Republicans think they have a chance in Minnesota, which Biden carried by just over 7 percent, and an abortion referendum makes Florida, which Trump carried by 4.36 percent, tempting for Democrats). Polling tends to confirm these seven as highly competitive this year.

2024 polls also, however, show a distinct regional pattern whereby Trump is leading Biden by robust margins in the Sun Belt states of Arizona (4.5 percent in the RCP polling averages), Nevada (3.2 percent), Georgia (3.8 percent), and North Carolina (4.6 percent), while Biden is doing relatively well in the Rust Belt states of Michigan (Trump leads by 2.8 percent, per RCP), Pennsylvania (Biden leads by 0.1 percent), and Wisconsin (Trump leads by 0.6 percent). His campaign may be tempted to narrowly focus on a Rust Belt strategy for victory but would be well advised to keep his options open.

There are some underlying dynamics that reinforce the regional pattern, as Ron Brownstein explains:

“President Joe Biden’s breakthrough 2020 wins in Arizona and Georgia seemed to confirm that the party’s future was increasingly reliant on Sun Belt states rapidly growing more racially diverse.

“But seven months before his rematch with presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump, Biden’s most promising path may run directly through the three Rust Belt states that he recaptured in 2020 after Trump dislodged them from the ‘blue wall’ in 2016: Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. That’s the conclusion of a broad array of Democratic strategists.

“The shift in expectations reflects the upside-down racial dynamics of the 2024 race, with most national and state polls showing Biden largely holding his 2020 support among White voters, while facing, at this point, unprecedented erosion among Black and Latino voters. Biden, as I wrote last year, is likewise maintaining his 2020 support better among older than younger voters. These surprising patterns have made the relatively older and Whiter three industrial blue wall states appear a better bet for Biden.”

If everything else stays the same as in 2020, Biden could lose Arizona, Nevada, and Georgia, along with North Carolina, and still win the presidency by the smallest possible margin in the Electoral College: 270 electoral votes to 268.

As Brownstein notes, the issue landscape in November could also make a Rust Belt strategy focused on white swing voters profitable:

“Biden is heavily stressing his support for legal abortion, and while polls show broad support for that position across racial lines, many pollsters believe it resonates most powerfully as a voting issue among college-educated White voters, especially women. Conversely, economic issues loom largest for most non-white voters; that’s a difficult dynamic for Biden across the Sun Belt because polls consistently show widespread discontent with his management of the economy, including among many Black and Latino voters.”

Another factor pushing Team Biden toward a Rust Belt strategy is the apparent strength of indie candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. among the Latino voters who are so prevalent in Arizona and Nevada, as Politico recently reported:

“[A] previously unreported poll in mid-February by Democratic group Equis Research … showed Kennedy performing surprisingly well among Latino voters in a dozen battleground states, effectively splintering Biden’s Hispanic coalition from 2020, when he garnered 59 percent Hispanic support …

“The poll of 2,010 registered Latino voters found Kennedy winning one in five young Latino voters, and also reported him capturing a sizable 17 percent Latino support in Arizona and an even more robust 21 percent in Nevada — the highest number among the battleground states polled.”

More generally, RFK Jr. seems to be taking votes away from Biden disproportionately in the Sun Belt. In the RCP averages, polls that include Kennedy and other minor candidates show Trump increasing his lead over Biden to 5.8 percent in Arizona5.5 percent in Nevada5.6 percent in Georgia, and 7 percent in North Carolina. These margins are pretty formidable.

Still, staking everything on sweeping Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin would be perilous for Biden. Michigan still looks a bit shaky for the president thanks to Democratic base voters there who are unhappy with his position on the Israel-Hamas war. And you can argue that as November approaches, the Kennedy threat will fade as minor-party/indie candidacies typically do and that the Black and Latino voters so crucial in the Sun Belt are likely to return to the Democratic fold. In addition, Arizona and Nevada may have abortion-policy measures on the ballot in November that could help boost Democratic turnout. On Tuesday, Arizona’s high court reinstated a total abortion ban from 1864.

Fortunately for Biden, his campaign doesn’t have to commit to one region or the other just yet, and it has the resources to keep all the battleground states in play. But some Democrats may have a residual hangover from 2016, when Hillary Clinton vainly pursued Sun Belt votes while failing to shore up what was then called the “blue wall” of Rust Belt states that swung to Trump. The numbers indicate that Biden should indeed nail down Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin if he can. But it would be prudent to make a big play for one of the larger Sun Belt states as well (e.g., Arizona, Georgia, or North Carolina) in case things go wrong. Having just one narrow path to 270 electoral votes is never a good idea.


Glastris: Who Got More Done, Biden or Trump?

Paul Glastris, editor in chief of Washington Monthly, introduces the April/May/June print issue of the magazine, which focuses on a detailed comparison of the records of President Biden and his Republican opponent during their respective administrations. Glastris’s introduction to the print issue, is here cross-posted from Washington Monthly:

It’s easy to conclude that American voters don’t care about reality these days. As the economy gets better, Joe Biden’s job approval numbers get worse. As his legal losses pile up, Donald Trump’s grip on the Republican Party tightens. Each side’s base is more motivated by fear of the other side (“negative partisanship,” political scientists call it) than by their own candidate’s record. The “low information” swing voters who will likely determine the 2024 presidential winner aren’t paying attention, and it’s not clear they will between now and November. “Facts don’t care about your feelings,” the conservative pundit Ben Shapiro famously wrote. For most voters, something like the opposite is true: Their feelings don’t care about the facts.

But some voters surely do care, including—indeed, especially—the readers of the Washington Monthly. That’s why we have devoted the feature well of the April/May/June print issue to an accounting of Trump’s and Biden’s presidential records of accomplishment.

Such an assessment is valuable in any presidential year, especially this one. A typical presidential reelection contest features an incumbent and a challenger who holds a not-quite-equivalent office—a senator, say, or a governor. This November’s race pits against each other two presidents from the major parties who served consecutively. That hasn’t happened since 1892, when Democrat Grover Cleveland challenged (and defeated) Republican Benjamin Harrison, to whom he’d lost four years earlier. The Trump-Biden comparison is even more apt—and potentially revealing—because neither president has more cause to blame Congress for their failings. The party of each all-but-certain nominee controlled both chambers during his first two years in the Oval Office, then only the Senate (by a minuscule majority) in his second two years.

Our editors spent months digging into the records of both presidents, beginning with the accomplishments each administration touts. We eliminated their least important and reliable claims and wrote short descriptions of the remaining ones by subject area in a back-to-back fashion for easy comparison. (See the index here.) We also asked 10 journalists to investigate both presidents’ records in a specific realm—the courts, national security, antitrust, etc.—and report on who got more of their respective agendas done and how.

Though the Washington Monthly is a center-left magazine, we didn’t judge the presidents’ achievements by whether we personally approve of them. Instead, we looked at what the presidents themselves wanted to accomplish. For example, Biden aimed to use federal regulations to advance his liberal agenda, whereas Trump vowed to ax regulations. So, the fair metric in that case is whether Biden has been an effective regulator and Trump a successful deregulator.

How, then, do Trump’s and Biden’s records in office stack up? Read the list and the essays and decide for yourself. We think you’ll find some surprises.

But after considering both the number and importance of each president’s achievements, here’s our takeaway (see chart).


Political Strategy Notes

E, J, Dionne, Jr. explains why “Joe Biden must go left and right at the same time” in his Washington Post syndicated column: “Here’s one reason understanding the trajectory of the 2024 campaign will be so complicated: President Biden is running as both a conservative and a progressive. He must be both to win….Before card-carrying members of the right protest my characterization of Biden as “conservative,” they should consider who is carrying the banner for the most basic conservative impulse of all: preserving the nation’s institutions….Even at the level of economic self-interest, some well-off conservatives might lay aside their concerns that Biden wants to raise their taxes, preferring stable governance to the chaos a new Trump term would portend. The stock market’s bullish performance under Biden might push some of them in this direction….The opening Biden has with pro-institution conservatives was underscored by an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll published Wednesday. It found that on a variety of institutional questions, Democrats were united while Republicans were divided, providing Biden with many wedges to drive into the GOP coalition….Democrats, by contrast, were far more united against rule-breaking, against religion in government policy and against granting a president immunity. Unsurprisingly, nearly all saw Biden as the legitimate election winner….Biden is also getting a lot of help from Trump, whose wild and often hate-filled daily pronouncements will continue to shake many Tory souls. An AP/NORC poll late last month was revealing: While 43 percent were “extremely” or “very” fearful about a second Trump administration, only 31 percent harbored such fears of a new Biden administration….Biden’s vocation in this campaign is to show that “safe” can go hand-in-hand with “progressive.” When it comes to making this argument, some of the knocks on Biden — that he doesn’t provoke “excitement” and maybe even his age — could prove to be his major assets.”

“Adam Carlson, a former Democratic pollster, has been updating a useful spreadsheet aggregating the crosstabs of national polls and comparing them to what happened in 2020,” Kyle Kondik writes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball. “Across nine polls in March—including some of the ones we noted above—Carlson’s average found Biden up 3 points on Trump among those aged 65 or over, compared to a Trump win of 4 points with that bloc in 2020 based on an aggregate of analyses of the 2020 electorate (including the Catalist report, which we cited above, along with a Pew Research Center analysis and the AP/Fox News VoteCast)….Biden won the national popular vote by 4.5 points in 2020, while the March polling Carlson aggregated showed a Trump lead of 1.5 points. So the polls show the oldest voters getting about 7 points bluer but the overall electorate getting 6 points redder. This is where Biden’s weaknesses with, for instance, young voters and Black voters are making a difference—in Carlson’s polling aggregate, Biden was doing 15 points worse with young voters and 29 points worse with Black voters than he did in 2020. We do think there are reasons to be skeptical of these huge Republican swings among these subgroups based on history and other factors, as I wrote back in November on young voters and Abramowitz wrote last week on Black voters. But there also are reasons to be skeptical of Biden’s overperformance among older voters, too. Part of that is the history—particularly recently, one would not expect the 65+ cohort to vote to the left of the nation in a presidential election….Younger cohorts appear to be likelier to disagree with Biden on how he has handled the situation in Gaza, for instance. It also may be that some economic challenges, like higher interest rates imposed by the Federal Reserve to fight inflation, are felt more by younger people trying to enter the housing market as opposed to older people who are more established. More broadly, the aforementioned New York Times/Siena poll found that 65 and over respondents were less pessimistic about the economy than the 18-29 group (38% of the former said economic conditions were excellent or good, while just 14% of the 18-29 group said the same). There could be many other legitimate explanations for a real shift in how voter preferences are changing among age groups—the patterns of the past do not always project the future.”

Democrats and other liberals and progressives who identify with the economic ‘left’ should read Nathan Robinson’s Current Affairs interview with Jessica Burbank, a “commentator who appears on The Hill’s Rising, co-hosts the Funny Money podcast, and now hosts her own online news program called Weeklyish News. Jessica is also big on TikTok, where she produces remarkable short videos communicating left political and economic ideas, such as this one on the power relationship between workers and bosses or this one on Elon Musk.” In many of her videos, Burbank, who comes from a working-class family, role-plays both sides of arguments between bosses and workers. Here’s an excerpt of Burbank’s comments in the interview from “How to Communicate Left Ideas to Gen Z” at Current Affairs: “I put myself really into the shoes of the person who holds these views that are very different from my own. I think it’s helped me consider my beliefs from a bunch of different perspectives and test them and come up with more persuasive explanations for things that I already talk about regularly. And so, doing the back and forth, it actually ended up being so much faster than if it was just me talking at the camera….People embrace populism because they’re kind of ripe for it. They don’t like the elites, and they don’t like the way they communicate. And so, I think another thing is that people are ready for it, and I think we have this opportunity where people are gravitating towards populism….I don’t think meeting people where they’re at right now is by knocking on their door because when someone comes to your door, you just want to get back to resting and scrolling on TikTok again. You’re not really meeting someone where they’re at. They mind it when they answer the door. They think, how can I get back to my television? How can I get back to my leisure time and consume entertainment? And so, meet people where they’re at, and if I put my organizer cap on, it is scrolling TikTok. That is where they’re getting information….I left a huge nonprofit, People’s Action, which was founded coming out of the labor movement, and they have member organizations in every state. I felt like if I was on the phone all day, or if I was creating a list for a mass text, we were engaging people less than my posts on TikTok. And so, when I left to pursue media, I actually didn’t feel like I was leaving organizing. I felt like I was going to the heart of it….I think people absorb a lot more value and information through comedy than anything else. I think it’s such an important tool. If you really care about your idea getting communicated, can you make it funny?”

With abortion and weed on the ballot in Florida, speculation grows that Democrats may be able to win the state’s electoral votes, which they lost by less than 4 percent of the state’s popular vote in 2020. Democrats suffered a proper drubbing in the ’22 midterms, as GOP turnout reached 67 percent, compared to an unimpressive 52 percent for Dems. Gov. DeSantis and Sen. Rubio were re-elected by healthy margins. But there are other reasons that Florida may be in play for Democrats in November. In “Clawing Their Way Back to Relevance,” Ramendra Cyrus writes at The American Prospect: “Florida homeowners pay the country’s highest average home insurance premiums. In 2023, the average annual premium was $6,000, 42 percent more than in 2022, according to the Insurance Information Institute.” In addition, DeSantis lost some luster as a result of his failed presidential candidacy and “the Florida GOP is also in disarray after a sex scandal and rape allegations forced the removal of the state party chairman.” Also, “In January, Democrat Tom Keen clinched a victory in the state House race for District 35, which includes sections of Orlando, Florida’s fourth most populous city. Both Democrats and Republicans showered dollars on this race, but Republicans outspent the Democrats 2 to 1. In the end, Rep. Keen narrowly took the seat by roughly two percentage points….In 2023, Donna Deegan, a Democrat and a longtime local television anchor, became the first female mayor of Jacksonville, the state’s largest city. Until this “major upset,” Jacksonville had been the largest city in the country with a Republican mayor. Deegan, a Jacksonville native, was able to pull together a bipartisan coalition to win the highly contested race. Deegan stressed her desire to promote greater transparency in the mayor’s office and to restore a sense of community after last year’s racial unrest in the city. She beat her Republican opponent by four percentage points.” Cyrus adds that “DeSantis and the GOP’s grip on power in Florida may have reached its zenith. Anger over developments on issues like abortion and insurance has given the Democrats an opening. But the Florida Democratic Party can’t adopt a scorched-earth approach to seats they have no chance of winning. In 2024, it’s all about the long game—setting the table for future gains. “Democrats have less room for error, that’s for sure. “You have to be smarter with things,” says Isbell, the political consultant. “It will force the Democrats to be strategic about which races they’re going to target.” Even if Democrats lose in Florida again this year, more effort put in to organizing could pay off in the next midterm and presidential elections.


Teixeira: The Democrats’ Patriotism Problem Revisited

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, politics editor of The Liberal Patriot newsletter and co-author with John B. Judis of the new Book “Where Have All the Democrats Gone?,” is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

In the last couple of weeks, I have been revisiting my “Three Point Plan to Fix the Democrats and Their Coalition,” originally published in October, 2022. A brisk tour of the polling and political data suggested the Democrats are still in need of serious reform and that the three point plan is as relevant as ever. Here’s the very short version of the plan:

1. Democrats Must Move to the Center on Cultural Issues

2. Democrats Must Promote an Abundance Agenda

3. Democrats Must Embrace Patriotism and Liberal Nationalism

Two weeks ago I discussed cultural issues. Last week, I discussed abundance (or the lack thereof). This week I’m concluding the series with a discussion of patriotism.

The Patriotism Problem

Democrats suffer from a patriotism gap. They are viewed as the less patriotic party and Democrats are less likely than Republicans and independents to view themselves as patriotic. Here are some examples.

1. A Third Way/Impact Research poll in late 2022 found 56 percent of voters characterizing the Republican party as “patriotic”, compared to 46 percent who felt the same about the Democrats.

2. A Survey Center on American Life/NORC poll from May of last year tested the same question among 6,000 respondents and found 63 percent viewing the Republicans as patriotic, compared to just 48 percent who thought the Democrats qualified.

3. In two 3,000 voter surveys conducted by The Liberal Patriot/YouGov in June and September of last year, only 29 percent of voters thought the Democrats were closer to their views on patriotism than the Republicans were, while 43 percent chose the GOP over the Democrats. Among working-class (noncollege) voters, exactly twice as many (48 percent) thought the Republicans were closer to their views on patriotism than thought that about the Democrats (24 percent). Interestingly, among college-educated voters, there was very little difference in how close these voters felt to the two parties on patriotism.

4. In a poll of 2,500 battleground state and district voters last November, PSG/Greenberg Research found an 11-point advantage for Trump and the Republicans over Biden and the Democrats on who would do a better job on “being patriotic”.

5. In Gallup’s latest reading on pride in being an American, 55 percent of Democrats said they were extremely or very proud of being American, compared to 64 percent of independents and 85 percent of Republicans who felt that way. Just 29 percent of Democrats would characterize themselves as “extremely proud,” down 25 points since the beginning of this century.

6. Perhaps most alarming, in a 2022 poll Quinnipiac found that a majority of Democrats (52 percent) said they would leave the country, rather than stay and fight (40 percent), should the United States be invaded as Ukraine was by Russia.

So the patriotism gap is alive, well, and persistent. Why is this? One key factor is that, for a good chunk of the Democrats’ progressive base, being patriotic is just uncool and hard to square with much of their current political outlook. As Brink Lindsey put it in an important essay on “The Loss of Faith”:

The most flamboyantly anti-American rhetoric of 60s radicals is now more or less conventional wisdom among many progressives: America, the land of white supremacy and structural racism and patriarchy, the perpetrator of indigenous displacement and genocide, the world’s biggest polluter, and so on. There are patriotic counter-currents on the center-left—think of Obama’s speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, or Hamilton—but these days both feel awfully dated.

Similarly, liberal commentator Noah Smith observed in an essay simply titled “Try Patriotism”:

I’ve seen a remarkable and pervasive vilification of America become not just widespread but de rigueur among progressives since unrest broke out in the mid-2010s….The general conceit among today’s progressives is that America was founded on racism, that it has never faced up to this fact, and that the most important task for combatting American racism is to force the nation to face up to that “history”….Even if it loses them elections, progressives seem prepared to go down fighting for the idea that America needs to educate its young people about its fundamentally White supremacist character…

That conventional wisdom is a problem. It’s why “progressive activists”—eight percent of the population as categorized by the More in Common group, who are “deeply concerned with issues concerning equity, fairness, and America’s direction today”—are so unenthusiastic about their country. Just 34 percent of progressive activists say they are “proud to be American” compared to 62 percent of Asians, 70 percent of blacks, and 76 percent of Hispanics, the very groups whose interests these activists claim to represent. Similarly, in an Echelon Insights survey, 66 percent of “strong progressives” (about 10 percent of voters) said America is not the greatest country in the world, compared to just 28 percent who said it is. But the multiracial working class (noncollege voters, white and nonwhite) had exactly the reverse view: by 69-23, they said America is the greatest country in the world.


Will Abortion Vote Make Florida Competitive in November?

A complicated series of judicial decisions in Florida could have changed the state’s dynamics in 2024, and I wrote it all up at New York:

Not long ago, Florida was considered the ultimate presidential battleground state. It determined the outcome of the 2000 election, and as recently as 2012 it was carried by a Democrat, Barack Obama. But after being won twice by Donald Trump, as Republicans swept every statewide elected office and increased their grip on the state legislature and congressional delegation, Florida is now perceived as decidedly red-tinged. Nevertheless, as Joe Biden’s 2024 campaign ponders a path to 270 electoral votes complicated by poor polling in key 2020 states like Arizona and Georgia, Florida’s 30 electoral votes remain tempting. That’s particularly true after the Florida Supreme Court simultaneously let a six-week abortion ban take effect while clearing the way for a November ballot initiative aimed at overturning it. The very next day, the same court cleared a November ballot initiative to legalize recreational cannabis use as well.

Florida could theoretically become ground zero for a national Democratic strategy of making popular anger over abortion restrictions the big game-changer for 2024, offsetting economic unhappiness, border-security worries, and concerns about Biden’s age. As my colleague Gabriel Debenedetti has pointed out, ballot measures have become a turnout-booster for Florida Democrats: “In three of the last four election cycles, the party’s turnout appeared to be helped by ballot initiatives — on broadening medical marijuana laws in 2016, on restoring voting rights for felons in 2018, and on raising the minimum wage in 2020.”

But is Florida likely to be close enough in 2024 to make this issue-driven reach for a win feasible? That’s not entirely clear. Perceptions of Florida’s trajectory are being heavily affected by the 2022 midterm blowout that gave Ron DeSantis a landslide 19-point reelection win. But at the presidential level, the red tide in the Sunshine State has been less dramatic, if still highly significant. Obama carried the state by a mere 0.9 percent in 2012 and then Hillary Clinton lost it by 1.2 percent four years later. Trump’s margin then increased to 3.3 percent in 2020, though the Biden campaign did not really target Florida. Demographically Florida has been a haven for tax-leery white retirees, including the blue-collar folk who have been trending Republican, and it’s also Exhibit A in the much-discussed Latino voter surge toward the GOP (much of it driven by conservative Cuban American and South American immigrants, with some drift among Puerto Ricans as well).

Public polling of the 2024 general election in Florida has been sparse, but two polls taken in March both show Trump with a solid if not overwhelming lead (six points per St. Pete Polls and seven points according to Redfield & Wilton Strategies).

There’s no question the twin abortion and cannabis ballot initiatives should be appealing to Democratic constituencies in Florida (especially the crucial youth vote). And the state’s 60 percent requirement for approval of state constitutional amendments means those votes will be tantalizingly close and heavily publicized. It’s also likely that the abortion policy fight will attract serious national money, with some perhaps coming from ultrawealthy Democratic Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker, who is already donating heavily to abortion ballot initiatives in Arizona and Nevada.

On the other hand, past ballot-measure fights in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade in 2022 have had a debatable effect on partisan-turnout patterns. Pro-choice forces have won them all, but often by attracting pro-choice Republican voters who still support their party’s candidates despite its anti-abortion positioning. The relatively late timing of Florida’s imposition of a near-total abortion ban (it was enacted last year but held up in the courts until this week’s judicial decision) could make the ballot fight in the state especially intense and accordingly dangerous for the Republicans responsible for this denial of basic rights.

Perhaps the best way to characterize Florida’s status in the presidential race right now is that it’s on the Biden campaign’s watch list and could move near the top if (a) subsequent polling looks promising and (b) other states counted on to win the president an Electoral College majority appear problematic. Even if it’s a reach, Team Biden would enjoy making a relatively cash-strapped Trump campaign devote precious resources to defending the 45th president’s home turf.