There’s an interesting op-ed in the Washington Post today: none other than Markos Moulitsas of Daily Kos invades the MSM to fire a shot across the bow of the Good Ship Hillary, suggesting that her (a) apparent disdain for the netroots, and (b) her identification with the D.C. Democratic Establishment, could imperil her presumed presidential candidacy in 2008.Now I don’t presume to know a lot about the interactions, positive, negative or neutral, between Team Hillary and netroots worthies; I’ll take Markos’ word for it that Clinton’s advisors haven’t been giving bloggers and other cyber-activists a lot of love. I’ll also play into the thought experiment that Clinton is definitely running for president; I’m not so sure, but obviously it could happen.But I do think Markos misses something important in drawing a direct parallel between Hillary Clinton and those “D.C. Establishment” candidates who got thrown off-balance by Howard Dean in 2004. Best I can tell from staring at polls for quite some time, Hillary Clinton has broad and deep support and approbation among actual, grassroots, rank-and-file Democrats around the country, based on many years in the brightest spotlight. Going into the 2004 race, there was no candidate with this kind of catholic appeal or folk-legend visibility, and that’s one reason why Dean’s incandescent campaign broke through so quickly (and perhaps one reason it collapsed when the contest got into the serious, vote-getting phase). I’m perfectly willing to agree that netroots support specifically, and activist support generally, is important, but in the end, it’s all about votes.Maybe I’m wrong and Markos is right on that score, but the part of his op-ed I have to take greatest issue with is the familiar argument that Hillary is handicapped by her husband’s role in the decline of the Democratic Party and the election of George Bush. We’ve all heard this litany before: Clinton never got more than 50% of the popular vote (nor did the previous three Democratic nominees, or for that matter, two of the three prior to that); Democrats lost Congress during Clinton’s presidency (a process any political scientist will tell you had been building for decades, and that began slowly reversing during the last three cycles of the Clinton years); and of course, the usual stuff about Clinton’s “third way” policies alienating the all-important activist base (which is probably why he was wildly popular with most activists when he left office, and why so many of them still pine for someone like him). And even Markos concedes that Clinton produced “eight years of peace and prosperity,” which ought to make the Clinton name a bit less poisonous than this column suggests.In any event, Markos’ op-ed is a pretty faithful reflection of the attitudes toward HRC you see steadily circulating around the blogosphere like a breeze through a wind farm. So it’s probably very useful for those who read WaPo but don’t know blogs from hogs to catch a whiff of it today.
TDS Strategy Memos
Latest Research from:
By Ed Kilgore
Pouring over the details of the gubernatorial recall election in California, some significant patterns emerged, as I noted at New York:
The overwhelming defeat of the effort to recall California governor Gavin Newsom was a big victory for a Democratic Party that has had its troubles lately. With the margin of victory for the “no on recall” campaign roughly doubling the already-robust advantage shown in pre-election polls, the earlier scare that the recall threw into the ranks of the Golden State’s dominant party dissipated entirely. With about three-fourths of the expected vote now counted, “no” leads “yes” by a 63.8 to 36.2 margin (which could get even larger if the usual pattern of last-cast mail ballots leaning Democratic manifests itself once again).
The “no” vote was remarkably close to Joe Biden’s performance in California in 2020 (he won 63.5 percent). Given the extreme partisan polarization that underlay the recall vote (exit polls showed 89 percent of self-identified Republicans voting “yes” and 94 percent of self-identified Democrats voting “no”), that means the partisan patterns of the presidential race were reduplicated to a remarkable extent in a non-presidential special election, where Democrats often experience a “falloff,” particularly when they control the White House (and in this case, the governorship). That’s great news for California Democrats, and not a bad sign for Democrats nationally, who are bracing for the midterm losses the “White House Party” typically suffers.But in assessing the implications of the results, it’s important to look back at what happened down ballot in California in 2020, while looking ahead to the most critical 2022 battleground, the fight for control of the House. Of the 13 net House seats Republicans gained in 2020, four were in deep-blue California. There is no likely path for Democrats to hang onto House control in 2022 without flipping some or all of those lost seats in one of their strongest states.
Precisely because of the reduplication of the 2020 patterns, there’s really nothing about the recall returns that suggests Democrats are sure to claw back some House seats in California. Two of the four seats Republicans flipped in 2020 (with Asian-American women Young Kim and Michelle Steele as candidates) were centered in Orange County. While “no” won in Orange, the recall race there was closer than the Biden-Trump contest of 2020. A third battleground seat was the one Republican David Valadao won in a very competitive section of the San Joaquin Valley. The recall improved on Trump’s 2020 performance in every county in his district (e.g., Trump won 55 percent in Kings County, but “yes” on recalling Newsom won 63 percent). These results could reflect an intensifying alienation of this heavily agricultural area from Sacramento’s environmental and water-supply policies. Or it could reflect a drop-off in Latino turnout that could spell disaster for Democrats in close 2022 races. Either way the recall numbers should give pause to Democratic optimism about midterm House races.
One study of 2020 returns in California showed Latino turnout trailing non-Latino turnout by about 10 percent. One mail-ballot tracker for the recall showed the turnout gap between Latinos and non-Latino white voters swelling to 20 percent. Youth turnout for the recall was also terrible, exit polls suggest. Yes, these are constituencies that are difficult to mobilize in special elections. But that’s also true of midterm elections, which is a problem Democrats in California and elsewhere need to solve.
The bottom line is that Newsom won the Democratic and Democratic-leaning elements of the California electorate by strongly encouraging partisan polarization via his lavishly funded campaign. This was the obvious smart strategy in this heavily Democratic state. It’s less clear the same strategy will work wonders downballot for Democrats in 2022, which they probably will not have a big financial advantage and shifts in public opinion away from the presidential winner may have settled in, as they did for the last three presidents. Even if Democrats hang onto their monopoly of statewide offices and their super-majorities in the state legislature, any failure to make progress in House races could contribute to the much-dreaded moment when Californian Nancy Pelosi hands over her gavel to Californian Kevin McCarthy, and the Democratic trifecta that gives Biden a chance to implement his agenda comes to an end.