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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

At The Washington Post Abby Phillip reports on Clinton campaign preparations in the Rust Belt battleground, “particularly in economically struggling states that have been hit hard by global free-trade agreements”: Phillip notes, “…Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton is preparing to dispatch resources to vote-rich industrial states that have been safely Democratic for a generation…Democrats say that Clinton will need to work assiduously to court Sanders’s supporters in these parts of the country — including younger millennials and working-class voters concerned about economic fairness but also frustrated with government.”

WaPo’s Anne Gearan and Dan Balz explore the ramifications of Hillary Clinton’s personal “weaknesses” as a candidate, including “poor showings with young women, untrustworthiness, unlikability and a lackluster style on the stump. Supporters also worry that she is a conventional candidate in an unconventional election in which voters clearly favor renegades.” They quote Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who says “I bring it down to one thing and one thing only, and that is likability…To counter these challenges, Clinton is relying primarily on the prospect that her likely Republican opponent’s weaknesses are even greater. But advisers also are working to soften her stiff public image by highlighting her compassion and to combat perceptions about trustworthiness and authenticity by playing up her problem-solving abilities.” I would add that part of the problem is that Trump is hogging media coverage with his outrage du jour, which denies Clinton opportunities to showcase her likeable qualities. That won’t change. Therefore, the debates will be critical in showing which candidate is more likeable. Also, her campaign should make more extensive use of social media opportunities to show her in a favorable light.

NYT’s Michael Barbaro and Megan Twohey roll out “Crossing the Line: How Donald Trump Behaved With Women in Private,” which won’t shock the reading public, but is a pretty devastating portrait nonetheless.

Meanwhile, the Trump campaign is reportedly preparing a new round of personal attacks designed to lower the level of political discourse even further. But it will most likely backfire. As Patrick Healy reports at the Times, quoting Melanne Verveer, a longtime friend and former chief of staff to Mrs. Clinton: “She is so prepared to be president, but holding her head high and staying dignified during the campaign is probably what will help her the most…Trump is yet another way she will be tested personally — one of her greatest tests yet.” Dignity could indeed be the key here, since Trump has long ago forfeited any semblance of it on the gamble that a majority of American voters are going to be able to forget his mud-wrestling by election day. Not likely in the era of facebook and YouTube.

It’s a smallish sample and all of the usual caveats apply, but the Fayetteville Observer reports some good news from the Tarheel state for Democrats: “The Civitas Institute, a Raleigh think tank that bills itself as “North Carolina’s Conservative Voice,” released a poll in late April of key statewide races…The biggest takeaway was Republican Gov. Pat McCrory trailing his Democratic challenger, Attorney General Roy Cooper, by 10 percentage points…According to the Real Clear Politics website, Cooper is leading McCrory by an average of 4 points. The average was taken from four recent polls – three in April and one in February.” Also, “In another statewide race surveyed by Civitas poll, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, a two-term Republican, is leading Democratic challenger Deborah Ross, 37 percent to 35 percent,” well within the m.o.e.

In his New York Times op-ed, “Why Are the Highly Educated So Liberal?,” Neil Gross probes the politics of resentment, specifically attitudes of and toward post-grad educated voters. Gross warns, “It is probably right that something like a culture of critical discourse can be found in the workplaces and households and in the publications read by Americans who have attended graduate or professional school. The challenge for the Democrats moving forward will be to develop appeals to voters that resonate not just with this important constituency, but also with other crucial groups in the Democratic coalition. Some of the draw of Donald Trump for white working-class male voters, for example, is that he does not speak in a culture of critical discourse. Indeed, he mocks that culture, tapping into class resentments…Democrats may find they need to give up a little of their wonkiness if they want resounding victories. It’s not in their long-term interest to be too much what Pat Buchanan once referred to as “the party of the Ph.D.s.”

Yes, Republicans, do this. Make chaos your friend — because it worked so well for the Whigs 180 years ago.

At The Daily Beast Betsy Woodruff has a nicely-tailored summary of one of the Trump/Priebus campaign’s worst weeks yet: “Priebus’s walk of Sunday shame came in the wake of a brutal few days for Trump. The Washington Post produced audio of Trump allegedly pretending to be his own PR flack, the New York Times released a scorching report about Trump’s creepy and predatory treatment of pageant contestants and female employees. On top of that, Trump spent the week arguing that he doesn’t have a responsibility to release his tax returns and that nobody wants to look at them anyway…The tax returns–which Trump has said he will probably release at some point–are a uniquely thorny issue. When Face the Nation host John Dickerson asked Priebus whether Trump should release his tax returns, the chairman replied that voters don’t really care either way.”

Far be it from TDS to pile on and savor the pain and suffering of Republicans forced to defend the character of their nominee-apparent. And yet we must flag Paul Waldman’s chuckle-rich American Prospect post, “Spare a Thought For Those Condemned to Defend Donald Trump: It’s a soul-crushing job, but someone has to do it.” A sample: “…What is Reince Priebus supposed to do? I suppose he could say, “You’re right, we really screwed the pooch by nominating this train wreck of a candidate. This is a living nightmare”…So Republicans have to pretend that they oppose Hillary Clinton not just because she’s a liberal and they’re conservatives–which ought to be more than reason enough–but also because she’s some kind of cartoonish psychopath who would strangle your children’s puppy if she had the chance.”

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