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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Pete Galuszka’s WaPo op-ed “Virginia’s sudden turn to progressivism,” includes this encouraging note: “…Long-dormant Democrats are planning to challenge 45 Republican state legislators, including 17 whose districts voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. In 2015, Democrats didn’t bother showing up to run in 44 of 67 races.”

In addition to that good news, Ed Kilgore reports in his New York Magazine post, “VA Governor’s Race Is Good Test for Post-Trump Election Strategy” that “In terms of the kind of smaller, off-year electorate we can expect in November, it is significant that Clinton nearly matched Trump among white college graduates, those most likely to show up in non-presidential elections, while Trump won the more marginally participating white non-college graduates by a massive 71/24 margin. If this kind of education gap occurs in the Virginia governor’s race, particularly if white working-class voters stay home in significant numbers, a GOP win will be very difficult to produce.”

“On the Senate side, Democrats told CNN they see opportunities to message directly to older voters in states with 2018 elections such as Arizona, Nevada, Florida and Maine…Republican Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Dean Heller of Nevada are of particular interest to Democrats. Both their states have a sizable number of senior voters, and were fertile ground for Clinton — she won Nevada and lost Arizona by just 4%. Voters 65 and older backed Trump over Clinton nationally by 7% in 2016, according to exit polls. In Arizona, that number was a more stark — 13%. But in Nevada, Clinton won seniors by 5%…Florida and Maine, meanwhile, are two of the oldest states by population…Democrats are hopeful that concerted messaging will mean their candidates — both Senate and House — could turn out seniors, a reliable voting bloc even in off-year elections. On average, voters over 65 make up close to 20% of voters in midterms, more than their share in presidential elections.”– from Dan Merica’s “How Democrats will use the GOP health care bill against Republicans in 2018” at CNN Politics.

Kyle Kondik’s “Initial 2018 House Ratings” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball notes: “Democrats argue that with the right candidates they can put several Trump-friendly heartland districts into play, such as those held by Reps. Andy Barr (R, KY-6), Mike Bishop (R, MI-8), Bob Gibbs (R, OH-7), and Alex Mooney (R, WV-2). That seems like a significant stretch, but perhaps one or more of these districts makes it onto our competitive list depending on the emergence of strong candidates and the national environment. For what it’s worth, Democrats say that they are seeing considerable interest from candidates in a wide range of districts who are inspired to run by the Trump presidency. Whether those candidates actually run, and whether they can perform in red districts, is an open question, although Democrats did have success in some GOP-leaning districts in their 2006 midterm victory…Overall, though, voters’ perceptions of Trump and congressional Republicans will loom large next year — or at least history suggests those factors will be important. If perceptions are neutral or broadly positive, the GOP should have little trouble keeping the House. If they are negative, the House will be in play, and some of those Likely Republican districts — the districts that truly will make or break the GOP House majority — might start to slip away.”

Reid Wilson reports at The Hill: “More voters cast ballots in November’s elections than when President Obama won reelection in 2012…About 139 million Americans, or 60.2 percent of the voting-eligible population, cast a ballot in November’s elections, according to data compiled by the U.S. Elections Project. That compares with 58.6 percent of eligible voters who turned out in 2012…Nearly 3 in 4 voters in Minnesota turned out to vote in November’s elections, a rate higher than in any other state. Last year marked the eighth time in the past nine elections that Minnesota notched the highest turnout in the nation. Clinton won the state’s 10 electoral votes by a slim 45,000-vote margin…More than 70 percent of voters turned out in Maine, New Hampshire, Colorado and Wisconsin, all states where both presidential campaigns invested heavily. Turnout hit 69 percent in hotly contested Iowa, and more than two-thirds of voters cast ballots in Massachusetts, Oregon, Maryland and Virginia…Researchers from the group Nonprofit Vote, which promotes voter participation and policies that will increase turnout, said states where more people showed up shared one of two similarities: They were either battleground states, or they allowed voters to register and cast ballots on the same day…Voter participation in the 15 states with same-day registration laws on the books was 7 percentage points higher than in states where voters have to register weeks before Election Day. In battleground states, turnout hit 65 percent, 5 points higher than in nonbattleground states.”

At The American Prospect Miles Rapoport notes that the aforementioned study also reveals that “Three additional states—California, Vermont, and Hawaii—will offer same day registration in 2018, bringing the total to 18. There are some variations in the law among the states. Most offer registration opportunities up to and including Election Day, while two states (North Carolina and Maryland) offer them only during the early voting period…Connecticut and Illinois, the two most recent SDR adopters (neither of them battleground states) had the highest increases in turnout between 2012 and 2016, at 4.1 percent and 4 percent, respectively…The three states that offered all mail elections were all in the top 12 states. Colorado (fourth), Oregon (eighth) and Washington (12th). Colorado is particularly significant because it combines the ballots mailed to every voter with the additional option of Election Day centers that allowed people to vote in person, and to register and vote using SDR.”

In his Boston Review article “How People Vote,” U.C. Berkeley philosophy professor Niko Kolodny writes “Just as we are struggling to understand Brexit, Trump, and a string of electoral surprises in Europe, along comes a book that seems to make sense of it all, with a new theory of why people vote the way they do. “The primary sources of partisan loyalties and voting behavior,” Christopher H. Achen and Larry M. Bartels argue in Democracy for Realists, “are social identities, group attachments, and myopic retrospections.” Their thesis challenges the received “folk theory,” as they call it, which assumes that policy preferences and ideology account for voter behavior…Voters “myopically” ignore long-term performance. They reelect incumbents if things are going well right before the election and cast them out if not.”

It looks like senate Democrats are going to anchor their case against confirming Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court in his anti-worker rulings, reports Bridget Bowman in her Roll Call article, “Senate Democrats Preview Their Case Against Gorsuch: Supreme Court nominee cast as foe of workers.” As Bowman writes, quoting Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer: “Judge Gorsuch may act like a neutral, calm judge,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer. “But his record and his career clearly show he harbors a right wing, pro-corporate, special interest agenda.” The strategy could be viewed as part of an effort to reclaim the Democratic Party’s identity as the champion of the rights and interests of the working-class.

There is lots of grumbling about Rachel Maddow’s reporting of the Trump tax return story. And yes, the foreplay was a little long compared to the payoff, his 2005 tax return. But credit Maddow with providing a solid analysis, enhanced by top tax analyst, David Cay Johnston. Much of the big media whining about the report had more to do with jealousy about Maddow’s soaring ratings. As Erik Wemple puts it in his Washington Post column, “It bears noting that “The Rachel Maddow Show” is starting to best Fox News in a key television rating metric. That is a big deal in the media world. Could we be witnessing the coalescence of the Trump opposition into a bona fide cable-news audience — one that a channel like MSNBC can cultivate? And could the freakout from Hannity, Kurtz & Co. signal that Fox News is very, very worried about this prospect?”

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