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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

At Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Kyle Kondik surveys the upcoming Governor’s races for 2017 and 2018 and observes, “More than four-fifths of all Americans live in states holding gubernatorial elections over the next two years. Two states, New Jersey and Virginia, will elect governors in 2017, and 36 other states will hold their elections next year. That includes nine of the 10 most populous states…the 2017-2018 slate of governors provides many opportunities for Democrats. Republicans currently control 33 of 50 governorships, while Democrats hold only 16 (there’s one independent, Bill Walker of Alaska). Of the 38 governorships being contested over the next two years, Republicans already hold 27 and Democrats control 10 (Walker is also up for reelection). Additionally, and here’s where the statistics about the power of gubernatorial incumbency come into play, many of these governorships will be open-seat races. Neither New Jersey nor Virginia will have an incumbent on the ballot in November, and next year roughly half or slightly more of the gubernatorial races will be open seats (a few incumbents are still deciding whether to run again)…As we head into the Trump era, history tells us that the president’s party often loses ground up and down the ballot over the course of his term. That extends to state-level offices: Every post-World War II president, starting with Harry Truman, saw his party lose net governorships from when he took office to when he left office. The average loss during the postwar presidencies is 11. It seems likely, though far from guaranteed, that Republicans will lose net governorships during Trump’s presidency: That’s partially because of history and partially because the Republicans already control a lofty 33 governorships, their highest total in the postwar era.”

Some revealing statistics from Sue Sturgis at Facing South: “According to a Harvard Medical School study, number of North Carolinians who are dying each year because of the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid: 1,100Number of Americans who stand to lose health care coverage if ACA’s Medicaid expansion provision is scrapped: 11 millionProportion of Americans who support allowing states to expand Medicaid under ACA: 8 in 10Proportion of Trump voters who do: 2/3.”

WaPo’s Aaron Blake reports on new polling data: “Quinnipiac is the first high-quality pollster to poll on Trump twice since the election. And while its poll in late November showed his favorable rating rising from 34 percent to 44 percent, that number has dropped back to 37 percent, which is about where it stood for much of the campaign. That’s tied for Trump’s worst favorable rating in a poll since his election. And a majority – 51 percent – now have an unfavorable view of him…While 41 percent thought he would be a better leader than President Obama, it’s now 34 percent. While 52 percent thought he would help the nation’s economy, it’s now 47 percent. While 40 percent thought his policies would help their personal financial situation, it’s now 27 percent. While 53 percent thought he’d take the country in the right direction, it’s now 45 percent.”

For a revealing round-up of the effects of voter suppresion in the 2016 election, check out Gabrielle Gurley’s American Prospect post, “Voter Suppression Works Too Well: The Republicans’ quest for a permanent political majority culminated in mammoth voter suppression in 2016. The 2018 midterm election promises both to embolden these efforts and energize resistance.” But also read Greg Palast’s “The Election was Stolen – Here’s How…” for an informative look at “Crosscheck,” the GOP’s voter purge operation, which Palast and others believe to be the most effective disenfranchisement strategy. 

Heather Digby Parton’s salon.com post, “Donald Trump’s new Russian scandal: We don’t know how much is true — but we know James Comey behaved shamefully” underscores an important point. After Sen Ron Wyden asked Comey in a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee “Has the FBI investigated these reported relationships, and, if so, what are the agency’s findings?,” Parton reports “Comey responded by saying, “I would never comment on investigations, whether we have one or not, in an open forum like this. So I really can’t answer it one way or another.” Considering his notorious behavior with respect to the Hillary Clinton email server investigation, this naturally elicited some incredulous reactions, notably from Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, who followed up quickly by asking if Comey planned to answer Wyden’s question. And when Comey repeated his statement, King archly replied, “The irony of your making that statement here — I cannot avoid.” Parton adds, “Then Comey attempted to cover his gaffe by saying that he is known to be “politically tone-deaf” and then patted himself on the back, saying that was “how it should be.” But he has given the appearance of a blatant double standard on this ever since it was revealed that the FBI knew about alleged Russian interference and Comey refused to divulge it prior to the election, citing ethics rules barring the FBI from interfering in elections.” It looks like there will be no legal or political accountability for Comey. But he has certainly earned the shame of his name being forever tainted as a betrayer of the nonpartisan integrity that should be a pillar of law enforcement in America.

4 pieces of evidence showing FBI Director James Comey cost Clinton the election.” While many factors should be taken into account in analysing Clinton’s Electoral College defeat and what Democrats must to to improve their chances in the next election, the authors make the most compelling case yet, based on polling data, that Comey’s  statement was pivotal.

At The Week, Ryan Cooper faults Democrats, with the exception of Al Franken, for wimping out on their responsibility to be tough and relentless at the hearings on Jeff Session’s nomination to be Attorney General. As Cooper arguees, “When facing someone like Sessions, the objective should not be to graciously allow him to defend his long record. It should be to attack, to undermine, and to humiliate. Find the most embarrassing parts of his record, and hammer him on them, with the objective of producing the most hilarious and cringeworthy soundbites, as Trump did to Jeb Bush.”

It really does seem that Democrats have to be more assertive and project more quotable soundbites to prevent Trump from dominating the news in a way that shrinks Dems’ image down to a litter of yapping  Chihuahuas nipping at the heals of a Great Dane. Paul Kane’s “Democrats still grappling with how to navigate the new normal of a Trump news cycle” at PowerPost explores the problem further: “In almost any other political orbit, Wednesday would have been a great day for Democrats. Republican nominees to be secretary of state and attorney general were under fire, other Cabinet nominees’ hearings were delayed and no one could explain when exactly the Republican-controlled Congress or incoming administration would repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act…While Trump did not completely blot out a busy news day on Capitol Hill, he became the sun, the moon and the stars. He consumed the news, and he made it all about himself…That didn’t make it a good 24-hour news cycle for Republicans. But it didn’t quite feel like Democrats were in control, either…Democrats have spent much of their time after their election defeat focusing on how to plot a new course on messaging — how to sell their ideas in the media and to the broader general public. That gets difficult when Trump goes full Trump — not just wandering into treacherous areas that few political figures like to go, but then seemingly enjoying the street fight with his opponents and the media that typically ensues.”

It can be done, but Nathaniel Rakich explains why “It’s Really Hard To Block A Cabinet Nominee” at FiveThirtyEight, and notes, “Cabinet nominations tend only to fail when dragged down by scandal or impropriety.”

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