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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Minimum Wage on Ballots May Hold Dems’ Senate Majority

It’s too late to put any more minimum wage measures on Nov. 4 ballots, but signs are that it’s a good way for Dems to go, looking forward. As Sarah Burnett writes in an AP story:

Looking to motivate younger people, minorities and others in their base to go to the polls on Nov. 4, the party has put questions on the ballot in five states asking voters whether the minimum wage should be increased. The issue is also a near-constant topic on the campaign trail, as Democrats work to identify themselves as stalwarts for the middle class and to paint Republicans — who typically oppose raising the wage because they say it will lead to job cuts — as uncaring.
In one state, Illinois, the campaign to support the minimum wage would not actually raise the wage. The ballot question is non-binding and would only ask voters their opinion.
But for getting out the vote, the issue is “a winner with everybody in our state,” said Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, who said he urged party leaders to put it on the ballot. “So encouraging people to vote that issue when it came to the ballot questions, and contrasting Democratic positions with Republican positions, I thought was a worthy issue for this election campaign.”

Burnett notes that Republican candidate for IL Governor of Bruce Rauner “admitted he’d made a mistake after video surfaced of him saying he was “adamantly, adamantly against” increasing the minimum wage,” and now says he supports it. But his Democratic opponent Gov. Quinn’s campaign is playing the “adamantly” video clips repeatedly.
Minimum wage hike questions on the ballot could also help Dem Senate candidates s in Alaska, Arkansas and South Dakota, where Republicans have opposed it. In Nebraska the hope is that it will help Dems win a Republican-held congressional seat.
Burnett adds,

Minimum wage proposals tend to be popular even in conservative states, said John Matsusaka, a University of Southern California economist who studies public ballot issues. All 10 of the statewide measures considered since 2000 have passed, he said…Although ballot initiatives generally increase turnout by about 1 or 2 percent, Matsusaka said, it’s less clear how they affect candidates on the ballot.

In today’s polarized politics across the U.S., with so many close races, anytime Democrats strongly support a hugely popular measure like a minimum wage hike and their opponents oppose it, Dems should try to put it on the ballot wherever it is possible. To do otherwise would be political negligence.
And if Democrats retain majority control of the U.S. Senate it’s quite possible that these minimum wage measures on ballots will have played a pivotal role.

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