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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

At TPM’s Edblog Josh Marshall makes the case “Flynn Doesn’t Matter. This Is About Trump,” and notes, “Through the course of the campaign, transition and presidency, three top Trump advisors and staffers have had to resign because of issues tied to Russia. Paul Manafort, Carter Page and now Michael Flynn. Page might arguably be termed a secondary figure. Manafort ran Trump’s campaign and Flynn was his top foreign policy advisor for a year. The one common denominator between all these events, all these men is one person: Donald Trump…Is it even remotely credible that with everything that led up to it, Michael Flynn initiated and conducted this back channel on his own? Hardly.” Adele M. Stan also has some interesting observations in her post “What Does Flynn Know About Trump?” at The American Prospect.

The Flynn debacle will likely dominate today’s news, but Democrats can be forgiven quick high-fives for forcing, along with a handfull of Republicans, the poorly-vetted Andrew F. Puzder’s withdrawall from consideration as Secretary of Labor. it’s a small consolation prize for the hair’s breadth confirmation of Betsy DeVos at Education and the failure to rally enough votes to stop Tom Price from running Health and Human Services. But no one should expect Trump to now nominate a moderate for the Department of Labor. Still, anything that slows Trump’s extremist agenda is a welcome victory. Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri said, quoted in Alan Rappeport’s New York Times report, “I think when you have to put all this energy into an unreasonable nominations process, it takes away the energy that could better be used for other things.” ‘Unreasonable’ — That’s Republican for anything more rigorous than a rubber stamp. But Blunt is right about wasted Republican energy, and that’s a good thing.

Rappeport notes also that “Mr. Trump’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, is facing a revolt by E.P.A. employees scrambling to block him. Ms. Collins declared her opposition to him Wednesday.” In addition, “The Senate must still vote on the nomination of Representative Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina to be Mr. Trump’s budget director, over the loud objection of Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, who took to the Senate floor again Wednesday to accuse Mr. Mulvaney, a hard-line conservative, of being anti-military.” That vote could come today.

Rachel Maddow brings up a little matter that requires some explanation on the part of the DCCC.  “Democrats, you are not moving forward right now. You are losing ground,” says Maddow. Before he was confirmed HHS Secretary Tom Price repped this large, increasingly-diverse, suburban Atlanta district, which Trump won by just 1.5 percent in November. To cede it to Republicans would be political malpractice. Here’s the candidates line-up to date.

But Ed Kilgore notes at New York Magazine, “The biggest problem is that Democratic turnout in Georgia special elections — and really any sort of runoff — has been abysmal. That’s likely why local political analysts do not seem remotely as bullish as their national counterparts on the donkey’s odds of swiping the 6th…Having said that, if the Trump administration’s next two months are anything like its first, the prospect of an early “referendum on Trump” to smite the 45th president could generate enough money and other resources to break the mold, and enough attention to get Democrats to the polls who would otherwise never show up. But for right now, it’s the GOP’s race to lose.”

The DNC chair race is getting most of the buzz, but, for clues about Democratic strategy to win back a House majority next year, check out Simone Pathe’s “DCCC Announces 2018 Leadership Team: Expanded team includes returning members and some fresh faces” at Roll Call.

The 2018 Senate races are far more problematic for Dems. As Kyle Kondik explains at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Because independent Sens. Angus King (ME) and Bernie Sanders (VT) caucus with the Democrats, they are effectively defending 25 seats next year, while Republicans are only defending nine…There are conflicting forces at play in 2018. On one hand, the party that does not hold the White House often benefits from the midterm environment. History suggests that the Republicans’ dream of netting eight seats next year, thus creating a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority, is unlikely, even though they have many credible targets. On the other hand, the Senate map is so daunting for Democrats that just not losing any seats will require an enormous amount of effort and luck.”

Democrats can draw some encouragement from Jennifer Steinhauer’s New York Times article, “G.O.P.’s Grand Visions for Congress Now Look Like a Mirage,” which reviews the toll taken by Democratic resistance to Trump’s agenda and growing disenchantment with it among Republicans. In stark contrast, notes Steinhauer, “At this point in Barack Obama’s presidency, when Democrats controlled Washington, Congress had passed a stimulus bill totaling nearly $1 trillion to address the financial crisis, approved a measure preventing pay discrimination, expanded a children’s health insurance program, and begun laying the groundwork for major health care and financial regulation bills.”

In his Washington Post op-ed, “Just resisting Trump won’t do enough for Democrats,” Democracy Alliance founder Rob Stein makes some notable a points, including “Republicans and their allies — most notably the network of wealthy donors organized by the Koch brothers — have created formidable political operations that execute these functions with great skill and precision in more than 30 states. Democrats have permanent, well-managed and well-financed electoral capacity in less than a handful of states…This dire political imbalance contributed to the Trump victory last year. He did not need his own “ground game” in 2016. He rode to power on the voter mobilization coattails of the Republican right’s multistate political juggernaut, which maximized Republican voter turnout in every key battleground state.”

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