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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

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No Matter Who!

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Vote Blue! No Matter Who.

VOTE BLUE!

No Matter Who.

“Vote Blue, No Matter Who” do-it-yourself t-shirts and bumper stickers–just call your local, unionized print shop and ask for an estimate. They can contact editors@thedemocraticstrategist.org for the artwork.

Vote Blue No Matter Who bumper sticker

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No matter who.

“Vote Blue, No Matter Who” do-it-yourself t-shirts and bumper stickers–just call your local, unionized print shop and ask for an estimate. They can contact editors@thedemocraticstrategist.org for the artwork.

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The Daily Strategist

April 5, 2020

Why Democrats Postponed the Convention But Didn’t Make It “Virtual”–Yet

Sometimes big political decisions are made that seem a little odd until you explore the internal logic. That’s how I assessed the big news this week about the 2020 Democratic National Convention at New York:

Here are several explanations for the decision to move the date instead of bagging the whole atavistic event in favor of a long-distance show for TV and social media.

1. Because they could

Yes, the postponement of the Olympic Games might make it seem strange to go ahead with a different (if vastly smaller and less complex) high-profile live event. But it also opened up new scheduling territory. The original July dates for the DNC were based on giving a wide berth to the Games. Now Democrats can snuggle right up to the August 24 start date for the Republican Convention without trying to draw eyeballs away from the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. And if the pandemic (and the fear of big gatherings) somehow fades by then, they can go ahead and party like it’s 2019.

2. They don’t want to give the GOP an advantage

Even as Democrats talked about going virtual, Republicans were insisting none of their plans had changed: “No way I’m going to cancel the convention,” Trump has told Fox News’ Sean Hannity. “We’re going to have the convention, it’s going to be incredible.”

Conventions have traditionally been worth a significant bounce for each party’s presidential candidates. They typically canceled each other out, but the possibility of Republicans having their big four-day live TV show after Democrats had bagged or curtailed their own did not seem advisable to those planning the Milwaukee event. If, of course, Republicans do look at the epidemiological evidence and radically modify their plans for Charlotte, Democrats will do the same in a Milwaukee Minute.

3. A lot of local money depends on a live convention

National political conventions are massive undertakings by the host city, which in turn expect massive benefits from the many thousands (an estimated 50,000, initially) of people who attend the event and eat and drink and pay premium rates for lodging and transportation. Now that Milwaukee, like every other American city, is facing a deep and immediate recession, a huge live convention in August seems perfectly timed in terms of a much-hoped-for rebound, as local leaders tell the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

“Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett called the decision ‘absolutely the right move’ by the organizers and the Democratic National Committee.

“’It underscores the commitment that they have made to Milwaukee,’ he said. ‘It underscores the commitment they have made to Wisconsin and it is my hope that by having it in August it will be a much needed shot in the arm for our restaurants, hotels and other businesses.’”

Sharply cutting back on the in-person aspects of the convention before it’s absolutely necessary would be a bummer for the host city, and that in turn could cast a pall over the residual events.

4. Nobody wants to offend Wisconsin

And speaking of palls cast, Democrats haven’t for a moment forgotten why they picked Milwaukee for their convention in the first place: the belief that Wisconsin will be one of the key states — and perhaps the key state — that will determine the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. Scrubbing the party’s big party there would likely be a buzzkill for Wisconsin Democrats and could even alienate swing voters:

“Part of the narrative that comes out of a convention also involves the host city and state. A potential casualty if there is a virtual convention would be the visibility Milwaukee and Wisconsin stand to gain from the convention and the political message Democrats want to send by choosing Wisconsin — that the party is laser-focused on a part of the country it neglected in the last presidential race.”

Being literally afraid to set foot in Milwaukee would not be a good look for Democrats, even if it’s for public-health reasons everyone can understand.

5. It’s Joe’s party now

It’s no coincidence, of course, that the decision to postpone the convention (without changing its nature — so far at least) came almost immediately after Joe Biden began urging that course of action. Perhaps his DNC friends were whispering to him to move in that direction, but in any event, as the presumptive presidential nominee, Uncle Joe is on the brink of assuming complete command of convention planning. It’s essentially a turnkey operation ready to bow before the imperial will of the candidate whose name will be uttered a thousand times once the opening gavel drops.

Delaying the convention also gives Biden’s people more time to impose control over the proceedings, which is handy since the coronavirus has also greatly postponed the moment when he officially clinches the nomination.

6. The convention can always “go virtual” later

Postponing the convention may simply mean kicking the can down the road a month in making the fateful decision to sadden nostalgic Democrats and the population of Milwaukee by “going virtual” with significant elements of the convention — or just scaling everything back. I’d be shocked if contingency planning for a very different kind of convention isn’t quietly under way (probably among Republicans as well), even as the DNC trumpets sound the charge toward an event just like the ones that made Joe Biden the vice-presidential nominee in 2008 and 2012. So don’t be surprised, if it turns out to be just too risky to kick it old school in Milwaukee on August 17, that the Democratic Party will have a fully developed plan B before the first balloon order is canceled.


Teixeira: Biden and White Noncollege Voters (II)

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

Yesterday, I noted that Biden’s strong primary performance owed a lot to how well his did with white noncollege voters. But that’s the primary; what about the general election? How does Biden fare against Trump among this demographic relative to how well (which was very poorly) Clinton did against Trump in 2016?

Here I compare States of Change data from our analysis of the 2016 election with data from the UCLA/Lucid/Democracy Fund Voter Study Group survey. The survey interviews 6,000 respondents a week; I pool the date from the beginning of the year (almost 60,000 registered voters to date). What the data show overall is that Biden is delivering as advertised in terms of performance among white noncollege voters.

Data below show first the 2016 States of Change white noncollege margin for a given state, then the 2020 Nationscape margin among that demographic in that state and finally Biden’s relative white noncollege performance compared to Clinton’s in 2016.

National: -=31 Clinton 2016, -16 Biden 2020, +15 Biden difference

Arizona: -27 Clinton, -20 Biden, +7 Biden
Florida: -30 Clinton, -20 Biden, +10 Biden
Michigan -21 Clinton, -7 Biden, +14 Biden
Minnesota, -21 Clinton, -5 Biden, +16 Biden
North Carolina: -51 Clinton, -39 Biden, +12 Biden
Ohio: -32 Clinton, -16 Biden, +16 Biden
Pennsylvania: -29 Clinton, -17 Biden, +12 Biden
Wisconsin: -19 Clinton, –5 Biden, +14 Biden

It’s always important to remember that, while there were many deficiencies to Clinton’s performance in 2016 relative to Obama in 2012, by far the biggest and most consequential was the massive shift away from Democrats among white noncollege voters, particularly in the Midwest. While it’s a long way to November, these data tell an encouraging story about Biden’s ability to repair a lot of the damage among this demographic in 2020. That will take him far in his bid to unseat Trump in 2020–and probably help the Democratic ticket all over the country.


Teixeira: Biden and White Noncollege Voters (I)

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

One quite obvious pattern from the primaries as the race narrowed to Biden vs. Sanders was how well Biden was doing among white noncollege voters–a group Sanders had hoped to make his own. Geoffrey Skelley on 538 has an excellent breakdown of the primary voting results that highlights this striking development. Below are some excerpts from Skelley’s article. Tomorrow, I will use the Nationscape data to take a look at whether Biden’s good performance among white noncollege voters holds in state general election trial heats.

“Biden held onto much of the turf that Clinton won in 2016, but he also captured a lot of territory that Sanders carried four years ago. We found that much of Biden’s success can be explained by his dominance in areas with larger shares of white voters without a college degree….

The difference between Biden and Clinton’s performance is most obvious in areas with sizable shares of white voters who don’t have a college degree… the larger the share of a county’s population that is white without a college degree, the better Biden tended to perform compared to Clinton, even when Biden’s vote share in that particular county was smaller than Clinton’s.

Exit polls also underscore this trend, especially if we look at the race once the candidate field had winnowed after the February contests. In the 10 states that voted in March for which we have both 2016 and 2020 exit poll data,5 Sanders edged out Clinton among white voters without a college degree in 2016, 54 percent to 44 percent. But in 2020, Biden beat Sanders, 40 percent to 33 percent in those same states.

Even though we don’t have complete exit poll data from Michigan, the result there may best capture just how much ground Biden made up with white voters without a college degree, compared to Clinton’s performance with this group in 2016. Four years ago, Sanders won the state by about 1 point in a huge upset. He carried 73 of 83 counties while winning 57 percent of white voters without a college degree, per the 2016 exit poll. But in 2020, Biden won every county in Michigan en route to beating Sanders by nearly 17 points. The partial Michigan exit poll also found the former vice president won a majority of white voters without a college degree.”


Political Strategy Notes

Voters of a certain age should appreciate Charles Pierce’s Esquire article, “There’s an Awful Lot of ‘Cull the Herd’ Rhetoric Floating Around These Days: Ron Johnson joins the parade of people to whom my response is: You first.” Pierce writes, “I know we’re all slowing down and stuck in our houses, but I don’t think it’s time for U.S. senators to go all wiggy on existential questions. This is especially true in the case of Ron (Shreds of Freedom) Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin. He took to the pages of USA Today and encouraged us all to liberate ourselves through profound, patriotic, fatalistic gibberish…What is the senator getting at, exactly? There’s an awful lot of discreet “culling of the herd” realism floating around in the public rhetoric these days, and there’s also an occasional episode in which somebody seems to be putting it into practice, discreetly, in one way or another…Now that this particular president* has decided that a mere 100,000 to 200,000 dead will be a personal triumph on the scale of V-E Day, I find this attitude more than a little disturbing. My response remains unchanged: You guys first.”

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall explains why “Covid-19 Is Twisting 2020 Beyond All Recognition: The coronavirus crisis will determine whether Trump is a one-term president, but it may reshape the social order far more.” Edsall’s article is loaded with anti-GOP talking points, including: “When the best-case scenario predicts 100,000 to 240,000 deaths, the pandemic reminds us just how important it is who holds the reins of power. This is especially the case when one crucial question will be whether widespread suffering, panic and economic collapse will destabilize the American political system and the fragile consensus-based social order that underpins it, both of which have been under strain for some time.” Edsall quotes Jonathan Haidt, a professor of psychology at N.Y.U.: “If we had good leadership — a president who could unify the country and turn our shared adversity into social solidarity, trust, and cooperation, then we could look to past national crises such as World War II and the boost it gave to social capital…We don’t have that. In fact, a marker of our political sickness is that taking the virus seriously has become itself a marker of tribal identity.”

However, Edsall also quotes UNC political scientist Marc Hetherington, who observes, “that “this moment holds the potential to resuscitate negative feelings that Americans have about government…If the government actually succeeds in keeping the carnage to a minimum, it is unlikely to change much. Americans already think government can do this. If, however, the government doesn’t succeed — and I think there is every reason to think it will struggle with these problems — it has the potential to further undermine trust in government. People already don’t trust it to redistribute money and provide certain services, which is bad. If they come to think it is not competent to keep us safe, it will be even worse, much worse…Republicans have internalized what used to be just a political strategy, which increases the chances that government will fail.” That cynical approach to campaigning seems to have infected their approach to governing. In 2016, the party nominated a complete political amateur, pointing up just how little governance means to the party. And, of course, Trump has failed to fill vacancies in key areas like the C.D.C., disbanded the pandemic task force in the N.S.C., and all sorts of other stuff.” Edsall add, “The result, Hetherington wrote, is a government “characterized by poor leadership at the cabinet level and hollowed out expertise at the department level,” sharply increasing the “chance that government simply can’t come through right now.”

Another potent observation unearthed by Edsall, this one by M.I.T. economist David Autor, who notes that it would be “easy to tell a story in which this episode causes Americans to remember that their government is indispensable for marshaling expertise, coordinating emergency measures, guarding public safety, serving as an insurer of last resort, calming financial markets, and generally shepherding its citizens through an extraordinarily challenging time.” However, Autor adds, “After four decades of successful Republican effort to starve the U.S. government of resources and demonize its experts, our government is in fact less competent, less well prepared, and less agile than it used to be. Perhaps this event would have restored our faith in government were the government deserving of that faith. The picture is mixed at best, so far.”

You may have heard some progressive grumbling that Democratic front-runner Biden is being eclipsed by NY Governor Cuomo’s excellent television presentations addressing the coronavirus crisis. But there’s no good reason why Biden should be the only Democrat presenting an image of compassion and competence, in stark contrast to Trump’s constant fumbling. In fact, the more Democratic leaders who project an image of responsible, well-informed leadership, the better it is for Democratic candidates for all offices, not just the presidency. At The Daily Beast, Matt Lewis weighs in and notes, “Joe Biden should social distance even more,” Lewis writes. “Citing a decades-old observation called the Feiler faster thesis, my former colleague Mickey Kaus recently argued that news cycles have sped up and that humans can process information quicker than most people realize. “Biden can wait until September, or whenever the conventions are, and then, he can gin up a huge publicity ‘Biden for president’ campaign,” Kaus said. “He doesn’t have to be omnipresent in our attention now in order to do that, then.” Lewis suggests Biden should “reemerge tanned and rested after Labor Day…Laying low may be Joe Biden’s best strategy—and it’s one that wouldn’t be possible were it not for social distancing.”

At FiveThirtyEight, Nathaniel Rakich writes that “the biggest Senate news of the last couple months came in the longer-shot Democratic pick-up opportunity of Montana, where Gov. Steve Bullock’s entry has shaken up the race. Bullock was considered to be the only Democrat who could put this red state in play, and his announcement caused nonpartisan handicappers to move the race from “Solid Republican” to “Lean Republican.”…According to Morning Consult, Bullock has a +21 net approval rating (approval rating minus disapproval rating) and at least 83 percent of Montanans are able to form an opinion of him (approval rating plusdisapproval rating). This gives him a leg up against incumbent Republican Sen. Steve Daines (who has just a +16 net approval rating and at least 78 percent name recognition, according to the same poll).”

Rakich also notes that “handicappers still rate Arizona as a toss-up, but there’s an increasingly strong argument that Democrats are actually favored despite the state’s Republican lean. Five polls of Arizona’s U.S. Senate race have been conducted so far in March, and Democrat Mark Kelly led Republican Sen. Martha McSally in all five. His average lead was 7 percentage points…Even a small systematic polling error in Arizona could mean that McSally is actually ahead (most of those Kelly leads are within the margin of error). However, Kelly also has the advantage of being a monster fundraiser — he took in more than $20.2 million in 2019. McSally raised only $12.6 million.”

“In North Carolina,” Rakich adds, “former state Sen. Cal Cunningham, who had the support of the DSCC, won the Democratic primary with 57 percent of the vote. That sets up a close general election with Republican Sen. Thom Tillis: A survey by Democratic firm Public Policy Polling claims Cunningham is ahead, while Tillis’s pollster gave the incumbent the lead.” NC’s other Republican Sen. Richard Burr is getting roundly slammed for his insider trading shenanigans. But he is not up for re-election this year, like Tillis. Here’s one of Cunningham’s ads:

 


2020 Congressional Landscape Tilting Blue

Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, political life goes on, and so this week I wrote about the House and Senate landscape at New York:

At FiveThirtyEight, Nathaniel Rakich has conducted an overview of Senate races, and concludes that Democrats have a marginally better — though still limited — chance of picking up the three or four (depending on who controls the tie-breaking vice-presidential vote) net seats needed for control in 2021:

“The most competitive Senate races remain unchanged from late last year — there haven’t been any significant developments in Colorado or Maine, for example, that have dislodged them from their too-close-to-call status. Instead, the biggest Senate news of the last couple months came in the longer-shot Democratic pick-up opportunity of Montana, where Gov. Steve Bullock’s entry has shaken up the race. Bullock was considered to be the only Democrat who could put this red state in play, and his announcement caused nonpartisan handicappers to move the race from ‘Solid Republican’ to ‘Lean Republican.'”

The November special election for a Republican-held Senate seat in Georgia is another potential Democratic pickup opportunity, given the potentially vicious GOP intraparty maneuvering involving Doug Collins and recently appointed senator, Kelly Loeffler. And as Rakich notes, in Arizona, Democrat Mark Kelly is beginning to look like a slight favorite against another appointed senator, Martha McSally.

If the Senate landscape is looking slightly bluer but still tinged red, COVID-19 has more decisively affected House races, as Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman explains:

“As the COVID-19 outbreak forces more states to delay spring primary and runoff dates, it’s had another, more subtle effect: it’s all but frozen the House recruitment process in place and curtailed fundraising, benefiting incumbents and candidates who had already built large war chests and disadvantaging recent entrants. On the whole, that boosts Democrats, the party on defense this cycle.

“Republicans need a net gain of 18 seats to win the majority back. But of the 30 House Democrats who represent districts President Trump carried in 2016, 11 still didn’t have a GOP challenger with more than $200,000 in the bank at the beginning of 2020. In fact, the median Democrat in these 30 seats ended 2019 with $1.8 million on hand to just $247,000 for the median leading Republican challenger.

“Amid self-quarantines and massive 401k losses, it’s going to be next to impossible for the parties to convince fence-sitting would-be candidates to jump into races and spend most of the year asking for money. That’s bad news for Republicans, who still have a few glaring recruitment holes.”

In his own ratings, Wasserman has moved four freshman Democrats — Laura Underwood of Illinois, Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, Antonio Delgado of New York, and Ben McAdams of Utah — from toss-up races to Lean D.

Most obviously, we are in the kind of insane cycle where everything could change between now and November, with the most politically important variables (themselves significantly affected by public-health and economic developments) being Donald Trump’s job approval rating and the capacity of the states to pull off a competent general election with something approaching the high turnout everyone expected before COVID-19 arrived. At this point we don’t even know for sure that the presidential nominees will be healthy as the campaign gets geared up. But it will matter a lot which party controls Congress next year, and whether either has the kind of trifecta that can make governing much easier as the country — God willing — moves beyond the current crisis.


Galston: Public Supports Robust Government Response to COVID-19

At Brookings, William A. Galston reports that “Polling shows Americans see COVID-19 as a crisis, don’t think US is overreacting.” As Galston writes:

As soon as the novel coronavirus began spreading across the country, some pundits—and on occasion President Trump—alleged that health experts and the media were exaggerating the problem and that policy makers were responding with measures that the American people would not tolerate. The high-quality survey research published in recent days makes it clear that the people don’t agree. They believe that we face a national emergency and that all the steps taken during the past few weeks are reasonable and proportionate. As of now, moreover, there is no evidence—none—that these measures have pushed the people past their breaking-point into non-compliance or revolt.

Galston provides “a summary of the key findings from three wide-ranging surveys conducted by Economist/YouGov, the Pew Research Center, and the Washington Post,” and notes:

Eighty-one percent of the people say that the Covid-19 pandemic has created a “national emergency” (Economist/YouGov). Sixty-six percent believe that it is a “major threat” to the health of the U.S. population, 88% say that it is a major threat to the economy (Pew), and 57% say that the country is “at war” with the coronavirus (Economist/YouGov). Only 3 in 10 say that the threat has been exaggerated for political reasons (Economist/YouGov).

About three-quarters of Americans are concerned about an outbreak in their communities (Economist/YouGov). Nearly 7 in 10 express the fear that they or a member of their family will catch the disease, and about two-thirds say that the disease will push the U.S. into a recession or that we are already in one. One-third of all households have already experienced layoffs or pay cuts, and the impact has been even higher for lower-income and less-educated individuals (Pew).

Galston notes further that “The surveys find a remarkably high degree of support for the measures public officials have mandated in response to Covid-19, even the measures that have massively disrupted daily life.” He adds that, “40% or more of Americans believe that we are underreacting to the Covid-19 threat, compared to 25-30% who believe that we are overreacting and about one-quarter who think that our reaction has been about right (Pew, Economist/YouGov). The country is split down the middle on the effectiveness of our efforts to contain the coronavirus, with 47% saying that the battle is going well and 46% that it is going badly. Only 4 in 10 Americans think that we were adequately prepared for this crisis, while 6 in 10 say that we were not (Economist/YouGov).”

For those who are wondering how the crisis affects public views about the role of federal, state and local governments in addressing the crisis, Galston notes, “On the one hand, a plurality of Americans (43%) say that the federal government should be in charge, compared to 27% for the states and just 9% for localities (Economist/YouGov). On the other hand, they express more confidence in state and local officials than they do in the federal government.”

Galston cites the likelihood that “sustained public support for tough public health measures will increase” if the CARES Act keeps most people employed and busines bankruptsies are limited. He concludes that “the American people are backing an increasingly robust response to the COVID-19 epidemic, even when it limits their customary liberties, they expect this restrictive regime to continue for at least another few months, and they seem prepared to tolerate it—for how long, nobody really knows.”


Teixeira: The Dog That Didn’t Bark: The Case of Trump’s Approval Ratings

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

It should not surprise people that Trump’s approval ratings have risen some. Rally effects in times of national crisis are very common. What should surprise people is how little they’ve gone up. Since February 29, when the first US coronavirus death was reported and the first travel restrictions were announced, his aggregated approval rating on 538 has risen 2.5 points, from 43.3 to 45.8. If you date it somewhat later, closer to mid-March and the national emergency declaration, the rise is a bit over 3 points.

By historical standards, this is a very small rally effect. Presumably this reflects the fact that the overwhelming majority of Trump disapprovers are set in their judgments and perhaps a sense that some aspects of his response to the crisis have been far from optimal (as polling data suggest). Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth Poll, does a good job of putting Trump’s “surge” in context:

“Fact 1: Donald Trump’s job rating is at an all-time high.

Fact 2: Donald Trump has not received the same approval “bump” as past presidents in a crisis.

Recent shifts in the president’s job approval have been met with “either alarms or fist pumps,” as one reporter put it to me. But we really have to keep this in context. We have become so accustomed to the fact that Trump’s numbers never move all that much, that we accept that as the norm. The current crisis is just an exceptionally stark example of that.

To put this in perspective, if this were any other president, we would expect job ratings to have swung almost instantaneously by at least 10 points. George W. Bush got a nearly 30 point bump after 9/11. John F. Kennedy saw a double-digit hike in his already high ratings during and after the Cuban Missile Crisis. Even Jimmy Carter got a 25 point bump in 1979 when Americans were taken hostage in Iran.”

It’s worth noting that all of the spikes alluded to by Murray featured the US against some other country in the world in a national security context. Despite Trump’s attempt to cast himself as a “wartime” president, it is obvious that the virus crisis has a different character–it’s a disaster, not a matter of national security.

Murray concludes:

“There’s a body of literature about the psychological need to rally around a leader in times of crisis, which is why the bigger research question for a student of public opinion is why that effect isn’t bigger right now rather than finding explanations for the few people who have become more positive toward the president.

Part of the explanation is certainly down to Trump’s inability to project a more inclusive, non-partisan persona as well as a steady hand on how his administration is tackling this situation. Part of the explanation is the failure of opposition leaders to signal to their followers that they should get behind the president (which admittedly is difficult for them to do as Trump’s rhetoric continues to lambast those who don’t show due deference to him).

Basically, the current times are blowing away a lot of the political theories about what typically happens in a time of crisis. And that, to me, is the more important public opinion story right now.”

It’s also worth noting the Trump’s small bump doesn’t seem to be having much impact on Trump-Biden trial heat measurements. The just-released Fox News Poll has Biden ahead of Trump, 49-40. This includes a shockingly low advantage for Trump among noncollege whites–a mere 13 points.

Finally, the Navigator survey has been running a tracking poll on Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. They now find him underwater on this measure (down 13 margin points in a week; graphic below).

These measures all suggest the unusually modest nature of Trump’s gains in public perception. We shall see if recent measures taken (such as the CARES Act) yield larger benefits for him. But so far, the change in Trump”s approval rating is more “the dog that didn’t bark” than much of a game-changer.


Teixeira: The Turnout Tale of the 2020 Primaries

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

J. Miles Coleman of Sabato’s Crystal Ball has a terrific deep dive on turnout patterns in the 2020 primaries with lots of nice maps. His summary points:

“–With very few exceptions, statewide turnout in the 2020 Democratic primary has been higher than 2016.

— Suburban areas have seen some of the sharpest turnout increases — though these areas tend to have higher population growth, they’ve also trended blue in general elections, perhaps a positive indicator for Democrats looking to the fall.

— Meanwhile, some rural areas that have been trending away from Democrats in places like North Carolina and Oklahoma saw turnout lag behind 2016.

— While Bernie Sanders seems to have a stronger opponent in Joe Biden than he did with Hillary Clinton, Sanders’ prospects may have been hurt by partisan realignment since 2016.”

His conclusion on political implications, which I think is very reasonable.

“One clear pattern…is that the geographic trends in the Democratic primary are lining up with the contours of recent general elections. Greater turnout in suburbs has buoyed Joe Biden’s prospects and given us an idea of what the Democratic coalition may look like in November — the bigger question will be if that coalition is good for 270 electoral votes, particularly if Democrats continue to lose ground in areas outside major metro areas. That Biden did significantly better than Hillary Clinton in outstate areas in many states may also be an encouraging sign for the fall, but — again — primaries are not general elections, and the overall movement away from Democrats in these kinds of places showed up in the turnout patterns in some states as well.”

That is indeed the dynamic that will decide the 2020 election.


Political Strategy Notes

Matthew Yglesias reports at Vox, “Speaking on Meet The Press Sunday morning, former Vice President Joe Biden called for widespread invocation of the Defense Production Act to not only meet the need for ventilators but also to scale up production of “masks and gowns … and shields and all the things our first responders and doctors need.”…“Why are we waiting?” Biden asked, “We know they’re needed.”…The Defense Production Act would allow the federal government to essentially conscript America’s domestic manufacturing capacity into making more of these supplies…The Trump administration has thus far been reluctant to invoke the act, suggesting that to do so would create a Venezuela-like economic situation. In practice, however, it’s the administration’s inability to get the virus under control that’s creating an unprecedentedly rapid economic collapse, and anything that helps bolster the public health situation will almost certainly improve the economy as well.”

From E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s column, “Trump’s quarantine con should be the breaking point” at The Washington Post: “If you doubted that President Trump’s approach to the coronavirus crisis is all about him — about getting a few hours or a few days of blaring headlines and then manically moving on to some other empty gesture that he can claim is “strong” — his threat on Saturday to quarantine the New York region tells you all you need to know…The man who fleeced innocent souls through what the conservative National Review called the “massive scam” of Trump University is applying the same hucksterism to a situation where thousands of lives are at stake…The quarantine caper ought to be the straw that breaks the hustler’s back.”

At FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver explains that “blue states are hardly alone in what is becoming a nationwide epidemic. Jefferson Parish, Louisiana — which went for Trump by 15 percentage points in 2016 — has a death rate about equal to that of Manhattan. And as terrifying as the hospital situation is in New York City, hospital capacity is also under strain in states such as Michigan and Georgia…Overall, although the number of detected cases is higher in blue states, the number is increasing at a more rapid rate in red states.1 Moreover, blue states have conducted more tests per capita than red states, so — given that the large majority of coronavirus cases remain undetected — the lower rate of cases in red states may partially be an artifact of less testing…Nine of the 10 states that have seen the most rapid increase in coronavirus from Monday to Thursday are states that voted for Trump in 2016, led by Texas, where the number of reported cases increased by 297 percent…On average, states that voted for Trump saw a 119 percent increase in cases over this 3-day period, as compared to an 88 percent increase in states that voted for Hillary Clinton (plus the District of Columbia).”

One of the big questions being bandied about at this political moment: Why is Sen. Bernie Sanders not dropping out? Among the most frequent answers are: that his ego can’t let go of the limelight; that he’s pissed-off about Biden stealing the momentum and hoping for a sudden Biden train-wreck etc. These explainations are based on the ‘Sanders is just a selfish guy’ meme. Here’s a more balanced take: Sanders is smart enough to know that Biden is going to be the Democratic nominee, but wants to seize the moment to promote an all-inclusive public health care system. At CNN Politics, Chris Cillizza observes, “He has been advocating for unapologetically liberal policies his entire political life and rightly recognizes this will probably be his last, best chance to ensure they get a full hearing in front of his party, the public and the de facto presidential nominee in Biden.” But dropping out now and announcing his endorsement of Biden would get buried by coronavirus news. His endorsement might actually help Biden more a little later, rather than sooner.

Could Sanders not dropping out now hurt Biden’s prospects for defeating Trump? Yes, if Sanders conducts a divisive, hard-hitting campaign attacking Biden. Sanders must know that he is not going to get the same level of media attention in the months ahead. The press knows it’s over and that the lack of any winner-take-all delegates states in 2020 makes Biden’s nomination a done deal, barring a total melt-down on his part. The hope is that Sanders doesn’t want to go down in history as the bitter guy who helped re-elect Trump. Unlike the drop-outs, however, Sanders has 918 delegates (Warren is 3rd with 82) and a much larger constituency than they did. Giving him more time to work through a process for endorsing the former Vice President seems reasonable. All indications suggest a heavy voter turnout in November. Whatever path Sanders choses in the weeks ahead, party unity in November should be his north star.

In her article, “What Do Progressives Do Now? Progressives are eager to use the coronavirus crisis to convince Joe Biden—and millions of other Americans—of the necessity of major reforms,” Elaine Godfrey writes at The Atlantic, “Sanders, who still hasn’t dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination, has effectively converted his presidential campaign into a coronavirus-messaging apparatus, and he is holding regular broadcasts with other progressive lawmakers, including Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Pramila Jayapal, to explain how the current crisis demonstrates the need for Medicare for All. “As we do everything possible to grapple with this crisis … it is also appropriate to ask ourselves how we got here and what this says about the financial and economic structure of our country,” Sanders said in a live-streamed video Wednesday night. “People are understanding that there is something wrong that we are the only major country on Earth not to guarantee health care to all as a human right.”

“Progressives will be carefully monitoring shifts in Biden’s policy positions to see whether their efforts are having an impact,” Godfrey continues. “Already, Biden has announced his support for Sanders’s plan to make public colleges free for some students, and he’s endorsed Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposal to fix America’s bankruptcy system. But it’s not enough, progressive leaders say. If he “is serious about attracting progressives and the Obama coalition—which included young people—he needs to articulate a bold policy agenda that meets the scale of the crisis people are experiencing right now,” Maurice Mitchell, the director of the Working Families Party, told me.”

Godfey argues further, “At the end of this pandemic, more Americans will view the government as capable of solving big societal problems, progressives argue. New emergency-aid legislation dramatically expands paid sick and family leave for millions of workers and suspends work requirements for food assistance, two agenda items progressives have long supported. And the $2 trillion stimulus package that the president just signed into lawwould provide a $1,200 direct payment to most American adults—similar to the Freedom Dividend championed by former presidential candidate Andrew Yang—and another $250 billion in unemployment-insurance benefits. “There’s going to be an amazing shift where we recognize the impact government can have on our lives for the better,” says Charles Chamberlain, the executive director at Democracy for America, a progressive political-action committee.”

Mark Joseph Stern writes at slate.com: “We know that this cannot be our final bill,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi declared shortly before her chamber passed a $2 trillion stimulus package responding to the economic impact of COVID-19. She’s right: The measures passed so far are plainly insufficient to ward off an economic and humanitarian catastrophe. Pelosi has already laid out her requestsfor the next phase of legislation, which includes more funding for state governments and increased SNAP benefits. But her plan is missing something crucial: legal protections for Dreamers, who are poised to lose their DACA status in the coming weeks…These Dreamers are on the front line of the battle against COVID-19, and they are indispensable. Health care workers keep getting infected with the coronavirus, and hard-hit states fear they will run out of doctors and nurses to treat patients…At this perilous moment, stripping work permits from 27,000 health care workers would be catastrophic. It would jettison critical personnel from the American health care system at a time when it needs all hands on deck…If Congress wants to save as many lives as possible while propping up the economy, protecting Dreamers should be its first priority in future negotiations…Congress should not save Dreamers just because it’s good policy. Congress should save Dreamers because we need them to survive.”


Crucial General Election State Struggling With Its Primary

As we head slowly and erratically towards November, I remain alert to any news about general election battleground states, so I wrote about perhaps the most crucial one at New York:

Of all the states struggling to hold elections in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, it might make sense to pay special attention to Wisconsin, which is plowing ahead with an April 7 presidential and local government primary despite all sorts of legal and logistical problems. This is the state, after all, that many analysts think could decide the presidential contest in November. And if COVID-19 still haunts voters in the fall, Wisconsin’s past heavy reliance on in-person voting (only 6 percent of ballots were cast by mail in the 2018 midterms there) could make it a source of massive controversy if turnout patterns are strange.

Wisconsin is one of the 24 states that don’t require an excuse to cast an absentee ballot by mail, but do require that voters proactively request one. Heading toward April 7, an unprecedented number of voters are doing just that, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

“As of March 16, 134,556 absentee ballots had been requested statewide. By March 19, that grew to 315,429. By March 23, it grew to 482,321. As of Thursday, the total was 699,431.”

That’s compared to 170,000 mail ballots cast in 2018. And it’s impossible at this point to tell how this will affect the shape of the electorate or the speed and fairness of vote counting:

“[T]his shift poses all sorts of questions and problems. It is potentially overloading a system never designed for mail voting. It is likely to overwhelm all the local election clerks who must process and eventually count these ballots.

“Turnout will undoubtedly be depressed by the fact that people can’t and won’t vote en masse at the polls on election day. That raises fairness issues because some types of voters may be less likely to vote by mail (younger voters, lower-income voters) than others.”

And even though the decision to move ahead with this primary was bipartisan (Democratic governor Tony Evers and the legislature’s Republican leadership), there are multiple fears the situation could distort the outcome:

As you may remember, Wisconsin has for a decade been ground zero for partisan polarization. And the primary is already the subject of at least four lawsuits seeking to modify or delay or postpone the event:

“[T]he Democratic National Committee sued last week to try to extend absentee voting. That resulted in an order that reinstated online voter registration until March 30 …

“One of the new lawsuits, led by voter mobilization group Souls to the Polls, seeks to put off the election for weeks or months. It’s in line with a lawsuit Green Bay’s clerk filed this week to postpone the election …

“[Souls to the Polls] argued problems conducting the election would fall hardest on minorities and would result in violations of the U.S. Constitution and Voting Rights Act.”

On top of everything else, a sudden shift to voting by mail could significantly slow down the vote count and publication of results. Maybe that’s no biggie on April 7, but if the presidential general election comes down to Wisconsin and the count takes days, you can imagine the wild conspiracy theories that will take wing.