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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Democratic Senate candidates are doing well as their 2018 campaigns begin to crank up. As Ed Kilgore notes at New York Magazine, “The Democrats running in all those 2016 red states are by and large doing better than one might expect when it comes to job-approval ratings from their constituents. And the numbers do not invariably correlate to the presidential strength of the two parties in each state, either…Then we come to Democratic senators in states that Trump carried much more narrowly — indeed, narrowly enough that the usual midterm pushback against the party controlling the White House might erase any presumed GOP advantage entirely. All are in favorable territory…”

Alex Roarty of McClatchydc.com explores why “Liberals fume at Democratic establishment for refusing to take more risk,” and notes a debate about the role of the Democrtic Congressional Campaign Committee in the recent special congressional election in Kansas, in which a Democratic candidate lost in a bright red district by less than 7 percent: “The DCCC will continue its longstanding and failed model of helping only most favored candidates until grassroots disgust makes that stance untenable,” said Jeff Hauser, a longtime progressive strategist. “Taking `chances,’ especially in a cycle which might well prove to be a wave, should be the DCCC’s default approach.”…Democratic allies of the DCCC have argued that running TV ads in the Kansas district would do more harm than good because Republicans could have used them to argue that Thompson was a tool of the national party – a potent criticism in a conservative area. They also say that calls for the party to help with mail or field staff would have taken months of preparation for a race nobody knew would be competitive until last week. (The DCCC did not conduct a poll of the race until days before the election.)..Democrats in Washington – at the Democratic National Committee and the DCCC, which is House Democrats’ campaign arm – flatly reject the charge that they did anything wrong in Kansas, arguing that involvement from the national party would have been counterproductive and an unwise use of scarce resources. For many reasons, moving the needle in a district this conservative is difficult for a group like the DCCC.”

Trump’s gloating tweet, “Great win in Kansas last night for Ron Estes, easily winning the Congressional race against the Dems, who spent heavily & predicted victory!” was met with the following tweet from Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight: “Estes underperformed Trump’s margin by 20.3 points. If every district behaved like that, Dems would gain 122 (!) House seats next November…They’d also win Senate races next year in Texas, Utah and Mississippi (plus Arizona and Nevada).”

As political observers fix on the GA-6 House race, Kyle Kondix has this to say about it at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “We’re calling GA-6 a Toss-up, a designation we applied to the race roughly two weeks ago after the National Republican Congressional Committee sounded the alarm bell and started aggressively spending money in the district. That’s in addition to the millions the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Super PAC that is close to Speaker Ryan, has also spent in the district. Since then, Ossoff’s huge fundraising has come to light, as have early voting statistics that seem to indicate heavy Democratic interest in the race (although Republicans, who have more candidate choices and thus perhaps waited longer to vote, are catching up)…So there’s a lot of uncertainty about the outcome: Polling, typically spotty in House races, generally shows Ossoff in the low 40s. If that’s all he gets in the first round of voting, and the combined Republican vote is over 50%, one would assume that Ossoff’s general election opponent would start with the upper hand: After all, the first round results are better than any poll — they are actual voting results that can be a preview of the runoff on June 20, if there is one. However, if Ossoff’s vote and the scattered votes for the four other Democratic candidates add up to a total approaching 50% (say, 45% or more), it may indicate that the runoff should be quite competitive. Obviously, a first-round win by Ossoff would be noteworthy because he would have exceeded Clinton’s 46.8% 2016 share significantly — and blown recent previous Democratic House performance in the district out of the water. Another factor: As of now, Ossoff and Democrats have not been attacking the Republicans because it’s anyone’s guess how the first round will play out, while outside GOP groups have been hammering Ossoff, hoping to drive down his numbers (and while Ossoff has been running lots of positive ads on his own behalf). Ossoff and national Democrats may be preparing to drop the hammer on whichever Republican emerges from the first round, again assuming Ossoff does not win outright on Tuesday. In other words, the dynamic changes on Tuesday in advance of a possible runoff: The GOP survivor goes from running against his or her fellow partisans to running against Ossoff, while Ossoff can shift into attack mode because he would have a clear opponent.”

According to a new CBS News poll (conducted 4/7-9), “More than half of Americans are worried about President Donald Trump’s ability to handle the situation with North Korea’s nuclear program, according to a new CBS News poll…Fifty-six percent of respondents described themselves as “uneasy” about Mr. Trump’s capabilities, while 39 percent said they were “confident” in his ability…On the plus side for Mr. Trump, a growing number of Americans say that he is not “too friendly” toward the Russian government. Forty-eight percent now say his approach to Russia is “about right,” and only 35 percent say he is too friendly. In February, that number was 43 percent.”

Yet, Claude Brodesser-Akner  of the NJ Advance Media for NJ.com reports, “A new poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind found that 69 percent of New Jerseyans believe Trump is not releasing his tax returns “because they would show his close financial ties to political business figures in Russia.” Forty-four percent believe this to be “possibly true,” while 25 percent say the statement is “definitely true…The FDU poll found whatever New Jerseyans believe about Trump and Russia, it’s sharply informed by their party affiliation…Four-in-ten (39 percent) of Garden State Democrats believe it’s “definitely true” that Trump is hiding a close connection to political and business figures in Russia.Just four percent of Republicans believe the same.”

NYT columnist Nicholas Kristof taps into the insights of top experts of nonviolence and comes up with advice for the anti-Trump resistance. His key points: “First, advocates are often university-educated elites who can come across as patronizing. So skip the lofty rhetoric and emphasize issues of pocketbooks and corruption. Centrist voters may not care whether Trump is riding roughshod over institutions, but they’ll care if he rips them off or costs them jobs….Second, movements must always choose between purity and breadth — and usually they overdo the purity. It’s often possible to achieve more with a broader coalition, cooperating with people one partially disagrees with. I think it was a mistake, for example, for the Women’s March to disdain “pro-life” feminists…Third, nothing deflates an authoritarian more than ridicule. When Serbian youths challenged the dictator Slobodan Milosevic, they put his picture on a barrel and rolled it down the street, allowing passers-by to whack it with a bat…In recruiting for the Trump resistance, Stephen Colbert may be more successful than a handful of angry Democratic senators. Trump can survive denunciations, but I’m less sure that in the long run he can withstand mockery.”

“Bill Bishop, co-author of the book “The Big Sort” and a founder of The Daily Yonder, makes the case that the political split in America is not an urban-rural divide. Instead, he argues, it is between the largest cities and the rest of America. In an email, Bishop noted that…outside of cities of a million or more — and really outside of the 56 central city counties of these large metros — Democrats lose….This applies not only to presidential races, but to the House as well. In a piece for The Daily Yonder, Bishop wrote that “Democrats don’t have a ‘rural problem.’ They have an ‘everywhere-but-big-cities problem’.” He provided data on the pattern of partisan victory in 2014 House races on a scale from super urban to very rural. Democrats won a majority of districts only in the most urban counties, while Republicans won two out of every three in very rural districts.” – from Thomas B. Edsall’s New York Times op-ed column, “Reaching Out to the Voters the Left Left Behind.”

At some point, the ‘worst flip-flopper ever‘ designation has got to cost votes.

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