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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

It’s unclear as of this writing how long Hillary Clinton’s pneumonia diagnosis will prevent her from campaigning and we can expect Republicans will try to amp up doubts about her health. Gabrielle Debenedetti writes at Politico that she is in high demand by Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate, and “Democrats’ fight for Senate control is dicey enough that both Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and his expected successor, Chuck Schumer, have been directly urging the nominee’s campaign to start piling more resources into the battle for control of the chamber. She will, after all, need a Democratic Senate to get anything done come January, Reid has insisted…The senators have been making the case that the candidate’s cash-rich political operation — the hub for party money and resources in 2016 — should start playing a greater role to ensure she has at least two years to move legislation through the Senate before Democrats face a brutal 2018 map, according to people familiar with the discussions…Democrats need to win four seats to take control of the Senate, and they are currently in a good position to do so: They seem likely to win Republican-held seats in Illinois and Wisconsin and are favored in Indiana, too. Up to eight other Republican seats are in play, with only one Democratic seat — Reid’s — currently looking like a toss-up.”

At The Plum Line Greg Sargent reports on a focus group of suburban Philadelphia white women, “a mix of mostly “soft” Democrats and a few Republicans and independents” organized by Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg on behalf of Women’s Voices Women Vote Action Fund. Sargent was most struck by the low regard they had for GOP nominee Donald Trump, noting “these voters appeared entirely closed off to reconsidering Trump, describing him and his public statements in the harshest of terms: Liar. Narcissist. Egotist. Racist.” The women were selected because they were possible ‘ticket-splitters,’ to determine whether their feelings about Trump would affect their votes down-ballot. Sargent observes that PA’s Republican Senator Pat Toomey thus far seems to have escaped becoming collaterall damage of the Trump campaign. “They were reluctant to blame the GOP for Trump’s rise or to see Toomey through a Trumpian prism,” writes Sargent. “Others noted specifically that Toomey has not backed him, either, and that seemed to mean a lot to them. Indeed, one sentiment I heard expressed was that as long as GOP officials didn’t endorse Trump, they deserved to be evaluated as independent of him.”

Will Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson’s “What is Aleppo?” comment brand him as a lightweight, not a serious alternative for voters who want a president who is up to speed on international affairs? Before the comment Johnson was receiving some favorable reviews from a few Republicans, like Romney. Johnson may lose some of them, while other of his supporters will simply not vote for President and some may now vote for Clinton. It’s hard to imagine many Johnson supporters switching back to Trump. Johnson’s “What is Aleppo?” moment was not a ‘gotcha’ set-up. MSNBC’s Mike Barnicle was clearly anticipating a substantive answer to his question about the world’s most urgent humanitarian crisis when he asked it. Before the incident some polls indicated Johnson drew slightly more from Clinton than Trump. Whatever ‘spoiler’ potential he had before the gaffe is probably gone:

What about Clinton’s “deplorables” gaffe? Republicans will try to leverage the hell out of it as an example of class elitism. But those who would get hustled by that meme are likely already supporting Trump. I doubt it will drive many swing/undecided voters to Trump. In the long run, notes Phillip Bump at The Washington Post, it may even call more attention to the fact that he welcomes racists. Clinton has said what she needs to say about it, and, when asked for further comment, she could use the opportunity to publicize Trump’s anti-worker record.

Florida’s Democratic Senate candidate Parick Murphy, who has comparatively low name-recognition, is  now campaigning as a “scrappy underdog” moderate against Republican Senator Marco Rubio. Calling Rubio Senator No-Show is one way to remind Florida voters that Rubio has the U.S. Senate’s worst attendance record and is ripping off taxpayers by not showing up for work. Murphy could also pound away at Rubio’s brother-in-law mess, the way Rubio waffled on his decision to run again, and use video footage of Rubio’s deer-caught-in-the headlights, water-jar moment in ads. Florida likes moderate Democrats, and, with good ads, Murphy can win.

I agree with the conclusion of authors Matt Grossman and David A. Hopkins in their Monkey Cage post that “no single theory of party organization can accurately define both U.S. parties. They’re organized differently; they appeal to voters differently; they nominate candidates and seek policies differently.” Credit Democrats with at least trying to represent the interests of a majority of Americans, while the GOP exists primarilly as an instrument of obstruction in service to the rich. For Democrats to become a full-fledged progressive party like some in other countries, however, they will need much stronger local structure, party-building and candidate recruitment.

Theo Anderson’s In These Times post “The Stories We Live By: Why the White Working Class Votes Conservative” reviews Arlie Russell Hochschild’s “Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right” explores the roots of discontent among white workers, primarilly in the south. Anderson observes that “government is perceived as the greater evil, coddling and giving breaks to the people who get ahead without putting in the hard work—the “line cutters,” in the shorthand that Hochschild uses, or the “takers” in the epithet favored by the Tea Party. This makes conservatives’ sense of loss double-barreled: Industry destroys their land and their health, while government and progressivism shatter, they believe, the old moral frameworks and rules of fair play. The result is a vicious cycle of dysfunction. Anti-government anger leads to deregulation of industry, which is then free to inflict more havoc, which intensifies the sense of loss and anger, which is then directed primarily at the government.”

From Matt Fuller’s HuffPo post, “Are Democrats Blowing Their Chance To Take Back The House?“: “There are just over 50 congressional districts held by Republicans with a PVI of R+4 or better, and seven seats even have a Democratic rating. In a year when Trump is the nominee, many of those R+4 districts could go for Clinton. And that’s before considering that districts with even more favorable PVIs could go for her too…the DCCC notes that PVI isn’t always the best indicator of a seat’s vulnerability. The DCCC has its own rating system, the Democratic Performance Index, which better takes into account the demographics of a district and voter willingness to break with the top of the ticket…Split-ticket voters have been disappearing in politics. The number of districts that went for one party for president and the other for the House reached a 92-year low in 2012 ― 5.7 percent…But a national average isn’t really the best way to look at the race for the majority. Clinton could severely run up the score in some areas, and still, with so many of these districts neatly carved out in the GOP’s favor, Republicans could hold on to the House.”

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