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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

NYT reporters and editors preview tonight’s Democratic presidential candidate debate in Milwaukee. “Hillary Clinton’s campaign just started airing a powerful ad in South Carolina highlighting her record of fighting for criminal justice reform and decrying “systemic racism.” I’ll be watching to see if — and how — Mrs. Clinton brings up race and gender issues as she seeks to restore a solid base after losing big to Mr. Sanders in New Hampshire,” says Nick Corasaniti in one overview.
Josh Putnam’s “A Glossary of National Convention Delegate Allocation” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball provides a much-needed guide for us perplexed primary watchers.
The Feb. 20 Nevada caucuses aren’t getting as much media play as did NH or the upcoming SC primaries (Feb 27). But “It really is the first test there is of how effective you are going to be in mobilizing the Democratic coalition in a general election,” says Rebecca Lambe, senior strategist for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of NV. It’s a smaller state than SC, but has more delegates than NH. NYT’s Adam Nagourney reports that “This state is as racially diverse as Iowa and New Hampshire are not: About 20 percent of the Democratic electorate is Hispanic, and 13 percent African-American. Over 95 percent of Vermont, his home state, is white.” The state is considered a Clinton stronghold, but the Sanders campaign, hoping to benefit from NV’s same-day registration, is committing resources to make it a fight.
And here’s why the NV polls are not much help in predicting the outcome.
SC is considered Clinton country, as well. But most of the media interest will likely be in the Republican race, where it could be Bush’s last stand, or alternatively, his comeback moment. We’ll see how much clout dropout Sen. Lindsey Graham has with his Bush endorsement, although Gov. Terry Branstad’s squiring Christie around in Iowa didn’t help him much. It’s early yet, but 2016 doesn’t seem like a great year for successful endorsements.
The ‘Trump is the GOP’s Frankenstein’ theme has gotten a pretty thorough workout across media platforms during the last year. But Nicholas Kristof’s latest column offers several well-stated insights about it, including “Republican leaders brought this on themselves. Over the decades they pried open a Pandora’s box, a toxic politics of fear and resentment, sometimes brewed with a tinge of racial animus, and they could never satisfy the unrealistic expectations that they nurtured among supporters.”
At The Fix Phillip Bump explains why “Democrats may have an enthusiasm problem in 2016,” and notes “The Republicans had more voters in both Iowa and New Hampshire than did the Democrats.” But Darrell M. West, director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution describes turnout for both parties as “healthy,” presaging a high-turnout election in November.
E. J. Dionne, Jr. notes of Hillary Clinton’s image problem: “…A woman who can be charming and engaging outside the context of politics has offered neither a crisp explanation for why she’s running nor a persuasive answer to those who see her as untrustworthy. And her burden is formidable: She must readjust her candidacy without seeming to be contriving a new personality for new circumstances.” The need for a “crisp explanation” makes sense. Candidates really need a compelling sentence or two, perhaps a soundbite, about their reason for running as opposed to a windy laundry list. Jack Olsen, a frequent TDS commenter, has a perceptive observation about this difference between Clinton and Sanders messaging thus far. As for the “untrustworthy” problem, a strategy to contradict the overstated ‘soft on Wall St’ critique might help.
At The Atlantic Ronald Brownstein addresses her challenge in his article “Can Hillary Clinton Convince Voters They’re Not Settling? The former secretary of state will have to shift her strategy as she faces her surging Democratic rival, Bernie Sanders.” Brownstone argues, “Clinton wants to present herself as a doer who can produce incremental progress, while her opponent offers unachievable dreams. The problem is that, as in the 2008 race, this positions her as the dour chaperone at the party, offering half-measures while glumly raining on the transcendent change her opponent promises…That’s hardly an inspirational message–particularly for the younger voters who have flocked to Sanders in stunning proportions across Iowa and New Hampshire…Even after her New Hampshire collapse, Clinton still has significant advantages, particularly predominant support among minority voters. But if Sanders continues to drive the campaign argument, those defenses will face increasing strain.”

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