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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In his article, “Forecast Model Suggests Democratic Gains Likely in 2018 Gubernatorial Contests” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, political analyst Alan I. Abramowitz deploys a “A forecasting model that has produced accurate predictions of the results of midterm U.S. House elections” to assess prospects for Democratic candidates for governor in 36 states. Among his observations: “The president’s party typically loses gubernatorial seats in midterm elections — this has been true in 14 of 18 midterm elections since World War II. The average loss for the president’s party has been just over three seats. However, these elections have produced a wide range of outcomes for the president’s party, from a gain of eight seats in 1986 to a loss of 11 seats in 1970. Noting that “Republicans will be defending 26 of the 36 seats that are up for election in 2018,” Abaramowitz crunches the data in his forecasting model along with “FiveThirtyEight weighted average of recent polling results,” and envisions “a net Democratic gain of around nine governorships with a two-thirds probability that the gain would be between six and 12 seats.”

At The Fix, “Want to know if Democrats can take back the House? Keep an eye on this Orange County race” By Amber Phillips spotlights a Republican-held district (CA-39), “a typical, affluent suburban Republican district that went for Clinton over President Trump by nearly nine points.” that has drawn a number of impressive Democratic challengers, and notes “If House Democrats are going to ride an anti-Trump wave to power, California could be where it starts. Across the nation, there are 23 House Republicans sitting in districts that Hillary Clinton won. Seven are in California…House Democrats’ campaign arm has set up a team in Irvine, its first headquarters in the state since 2000, to try to knock out at least nine California Republicans in their efforts to take back the House…“There are Republicans who represent the Orange County that existed 20 years ago,” said Drew Godinich, the Western press secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Godinich spoke to The Fix fresh off the plane from Washington to move to California. “The area has diversified, gotten younger and has gotten more socially progressive, and these Republicans don’t represent Orange County.”

Writing at CNN Politics, Ronald Brownstein exposes Trump’s strategy to distract the press and public with cultural controversies from his already broken promises to defend Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Citing Trump’s “gamble” that “that cultural affinity can trump economic self-interest for the older and blue-collar white voters central to the coalition that elected him,” Brownstein observes, “The key economic signal that Trump offered last week was his unreserved embrace of the stalled Senate effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, despite abundant evidence those older and working-class white voters would be among the biggest losers in all of the Republican replacement plans. That decision underscored Trump’s conversion to the long-standing drive by the Congressional GOP — especially House Republicans allied with Speaker Paul Ryan — to systematically retrench the social safety net, despite Trump’s conspicuous campaign promises to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid…One day before the vote, the administration issued a flurry of decisions rolling back transgender and gay rights. Speaking just hours after the vote, Trump braided a blistering attack on undocumented immigrant gang members (who he repeatedly labeled “animals”) with a plea for unshackling law enforcement from what he called “pathetic” big city mayors…Those twin initiatives marked an escalation of cultural conservatism aimed directly at many of those same older and blue-collar whites’ fears that they are being eclipsed by the hurtling demographic and social changes remaking American society.”

PowerPost’s David Weigel reports on the new Democratic initiative to reclaim fair trade as a major component of the party’s agenda: “Trade is at the core of our economic agenda,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement, ahead of a planned 11:30 a.m. launch of the trade policies. “We’re going to propose a better deal for American workers — one that puts their well-being at the center of our trade laws, not just the bottom line of huge corporations. Our trade laws have shortchanged American workers for far too long, and we Democrats are aiming to change that.” The initiative includes an “independent trade prosecutor,” an “American Jobs Council,” pean;ties for ourtsourcing and preferential federal funding for American companies and jobs.

“Extreme candidates for the House of Representatives do worse than moderates because they mobilize the opposing party to turn out to vote, according to new research from Andrew Hall and Daniel Thompson of Stanford University.mPolitical scientists and campaign experts have been divided for decades about whether candidates are successful when they win over swing voters — those who aren’t loyal to any party — or when they encourage members of their own party to show up at the polls. The research suggests that when it comes to ideologically extreme candidates, the deciding factor might be the other party’s turnout…The researchers considered elections for the House from 2006 to 2014 in which an extreme candidate and a moderate faced off in the primary. But, because districts where extreme candidates win handily are probably very different from districts where moderates win with ease, they examined only close races (in which the winner had less than a 10 percent margin of victory). They found that when the more extreme candidate won the primary, the party did far worse in the general election: Its share of votes fell by between 7 and 15 percentage points…In addition, a greater proportion of the people who turned out to vote were members of the opposite party.” — from Sahil Chony’s “Extreme candidates lose because they boost the other party’s turnout, research finds” at The Fix.

Mark Schmitt offers this cogent insight at Vox: “How did Medicaid prove to be so important in the debate over repeal? The story is more complex than just public opinion, since the key constituency was governors, not Medicaid recipients themselves. For governors, Medicaid is the single largest stream of federal funding into their budgets, which most are required to balance. While the legislation promised flexibility with federal Medicaid funds, flexibility is no substitute for predictable, adequate funding…Still, plenty of Republican governors passed up these funds between 2011 and 2017, and there was no reason to expect that governors would suddenly care. But the constituency is now large enough to matter, the opioid crisis has made the need for Medicaid funding particularly acute, and just a few key governors were enough to swing the handful of senators necessary to kill the bill.”

TNR’s Clio Chang has a tough question for Dems: “Where Are the Single-Payer Wonks? The political momentum on the left for Medicare-for-All is gaining steam. But the policy is lagging behind.” Chang writes “Among Democrats, support for single-payer has increased by 19 percentage points over the past three years. And for the first time in history, a majority of Democrats in the House have signed on as co-sponsors to Representative John Conyers’s Medicare-for-All bill…But it’s hard to deny that single-payer is an area where progressive politics has outstripped policy. Conyers’s bill is largely seen as a symbolic piece of legislation, and not only because Democrats would first have to win back Congress and the White House to even begin passing it. As Joshua Holland wrote on Wednesday in The Nation, the momentum for single-payer is “tempered by the fact that the activist left, which has a ton of energy at the moment, has for the most part failed to grapple with the difficulties of transitioning to a single-payer system…As Harold Pollack, a health policy researcher at the University of Chicago, told Holland, “There has not yet been a detailed, single-payer bill that’s laid out the transitional issues about how to get from here to there…”

Ann Jones probes a related question at The Nation, “Is State-Level Single Payer Within Reach? Scandinavian-style health care is part of at least one candidate’s platform for 2018.” Jones argues that “applying Medicare for All at the state level should be easier. And of all the states, only eight have a population greater than that of Scandinavia’s biggest country, Sweden (9 million), while 30 states have fewer residents, most far fewer, than either Denmark (5.5 million) or Norway (5.3 million). In short, the most popular argument against single-payer health care for the nation—the contention that we’re way too big for such a system—simply vanishes if you start at the state level.” Despite formidabe obstacles, “a single program launched by a single state is better than none. And it just might work. If it does, states can look to the Scandinavian toolbox for other projects. What’s more, a good idea in one state may prove contagious…”

“Democrats should make fighting monopolies the central organizing principle of their economic agenda,” Martin Longman writes in is post, “How to Win Rural Voters Without Losing Liberal Values” at The Washington Monthly. “This approach holds the promise of bringing together groups that seem inherently at odds: nativists and cosmopolitans, fundamentalists and secularists, urbanites and rural dwellers…The strongest reason to think this could work is, quite simply, that it has worked before. A century ago, agrarian populists and big-city progressives united around a common opposition to monopoly, forming a movement that dominated American politics for decades and helped deliver a broadly shared prosperity. Because the economic landscape today is strikingly similar to what it was a hundred years ago, there’s every reason to believe that the conditions are right for a similar alliance to arise again.”

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