Mark Schmitt, whom I hold in great esteem, has a long post up at TAPPED on the question of whether Hillary Clinton’s ace card in the 2008 presidential race is her hidden support among women, even those who don’t agree with her on major issues.Mark’s actually responding to a blogospheric exchange with one Linda Hershman, who published a Washington Post op-ed piece basically arguing that women are too apolitical, and too politically irrational, to get the job done for HRC. Mark effectively demolishes Hershman’s condescending and anectdotal take on female political engagment, but also, perhaps overcompensating, disputes the Mark Penn/James Carville hypothesis that women will go for HRC more than for any other candidate with similar policy views. Indeed, he suggests Penn and Carville are playing into the same gender stereotypes as Hershman.I just can’t agree with Mark here, and not because I think women are more inclined than anyone else to indulge, on the margins, in identity voting, but because I don’t think they, unlike everyone else, are entirely immune to it.My empirical evidence here is less about HRC’s polling numbers than about history.Anyone who’s looked at Catholic voting trends over the decades recognizes that Al Smith, and more spectacularly, John F. Kennedy, benefitted from massive and disproportiate support from Catholic voters who had no other apparent reason for voting for them. Jimmy Carter would not have been elected president in 1976 without huge southern identity support in states that went heavily Republican before and after his presidency. Bill Clinton won less overwhelming, but still crucial support in the South for the same reasons. And if you compare voting levels and margins in South Florida between 2000 and 2004, it’s pretty apparent that the Gore-Lieberman ticket got into overtime in no small part because of Lieberman’s ethnic appeal to Jews.I understand that HRC arouses intense opposition from some outspoken women who view her as a feminist archetype they reject, or inversely, in some cases, as too subordinate or forgiving towards her husband. But JFK was also controvesial among Catholics; many clergy deplored him as too secular. It didn’t much matter when it came to the ballot box.The bottom line is that you don’t have to get into invidious gender stereotypes to understand that yes, HRC, as the first really viable female candidate for president, is likely to get votes from women that aren’t just a function of policy agreements or political alignment. And since unlike JFK or Carter or Lieberman, she represents a category of Americans that is a majority, not a minority in the electorate, I wouldn’t personally be too quick to underestimate the impact of identity voting in her case.
TDS Strategy Memos
Latest Research from:
By Ed Kilgore
Like most California political junkies, I’m already looking forward to a vibrant 2024 Senate race. I wrote up the latest development at New York:
In the conservative imagination, California is sort of an evil empire of leftism. It’s where white people have been relegated to a minority for decades; where tree-hugging hippies still frolic; where Hollywood and Big Tech work 24/7 to undermine sturdy American-folk virtues; where rampaging unions and arrogant bureaucrats make it too expensive for regular people to live.
But in truth California’s dominant Democratic Party has as many mild-mannered moderates as it does fiery progressives. One of them, Dianne Feinstein, has held a Senate seat for over 30 years. As the 89-year-old political icon moves toward an almost certain retirement in 2024 (though she now says she won’t announce her intention until next year), another ideological moderate has just announced a bid to succeed her. Los Angeles congressman Adam Schiff, though, has an asset most centrist Democrats (those not named Clinton or Biden, anyway) can’t claim: the rabid hatred of Donald Trump–loving Republicans, giving him the sort of partisan street cred even the most rigorous progressives might envy.
It’s why Schiff begins his 2024 Senate race with something of a strategic advantage. The first-announced candidate in the contest, Congresswoman Katie Porter (also from greater L.A.), is a progressive favorite and more or less Elizabeth Warren’s protégé as a vocal enemy of corporate malfeasance. Another of Schiff’s House colleagues, Oakland-based Barbara Lee, has told people she plans a Senate run as well; Lee is a lefty icon dating back to her lonely vote against the initial War on Terror authorization following September 11. And waiting in the wings is still another member of California’s House delegation, Silicon Valley–based Ro Khanna, who is closely associated with Bernie Sanders and his two presidential campaigns.
Obviously, in a Senate race featuring multiple progressives, the national-security-minded Schiff (who voted for the Iraq war authorization and the Patriot Act early in his House career) might have a distinct “lane,” particularly if he draws an endorsement from Feinstein. (Schiff is already suggesting his campaign has her “blessing.”) But he may poach some progressive votes as well by emphasizing the enemies he’s made. Indeed, his campaign’s first video is mostly a cavalcade of conservatives (especially Donald J. Trump) attacking him.
It’s probably not a coincidence that Schiff is announcing his Senate bid immediately following his expulsion from the House Intelligence Committee by Speaker Kevin McCarthy for his alleged misconduct in investigating Russia’s links with Trump and his campaign (and in making the case for Trump’s impeachment). Schiff was also a steady prosecutorial presence on the January 6 committee that McCarthy and most Republicans boycotted).
Complicating the contest immeasurably is California’s Top Two primary election system. Schiff and his Democratic rivals will not be battling for a party primary win but for a spot in the 2024 general election, given to the top two primary finishers regardless of party affiliation. The Golden State’s Republican Party is so weak that it might not be able to find a candidate able to make the top two in a Senate primary; two Democrats competed in two recent competitive Senate general elections in California (in 2016, when Kamala Harris defeated Loretta Sanchez, and in 2018, when Feinstein trounced Kevin DeLeon). If that’s the case, though, it’s unclear which Democrat might have the edge in attracting Republicans. Porter’s campaign is circulating a poll showing she’d beat Schiff in a hypothetical general election because Republicans really hate Schiff despite his more moderate voting record.
For all the uncertainties about the 2024 Senate field, it is clear that the two announced Democratic candidates will wage a close battle in one arena: campaign dollars. Both Schiff and Porter are legendary fundraisers, though Porter had to dip deeply into her stash of resources to fend off a tougher-than-expected Republican challenge last November. Big remaining questions are whether Lee can finance a viable race in this insanely expensive state with its many media markets, and whether Khanna, with his national Sanders connections and local Silicon Valley donor base, enters the contest. There are racial, gender, and geographical variables too: Until Harris became vice-president, California had long been represented by two Democratic woman from the Bay Area. With Los Angeles–based Alex Padilla now occupying Harris’s old seat, 2024 could produce a big power shift to the south and two male senators.
In any event, nobody is waiting around for Feinstein to make her retirement official before angling for her seat, which means a Senate race that won’t affect the partisan balance of the chamber at all (barring some wild Republican upset) will soak up a lot of attention and money for a long time. At this early point, Schiff’s positioning as the moderate that Republicans fear and despise looks sure to keep him in the spotlight.