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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Here’s hoping the usually-on-target Nate Cohn proves wrong in his Upshot post claiming that “Democrats Lack Strong Challengers for Some Vulnerable G.O.P. House Seats,” despite the record number of Democratic candidates already in motion. As Cohn notes, “Over all, there are 11 districts (out of the 50 districts that ought to be most competitive, by our estimates) where the Democrats don’t have a candidate who raised $100,000.’ Cohn’s argument comes down to the fact that too many current Democratic candidates are running in “well-educated areas” (read upper-middle-class), and too few in working-class, potentially swing districts. Further, “The enthusiasm among well-educated Democrats and the relative lack of success recruiting established politicians in working-class areas has occasionally led to an odd mismatch: affluent, liberal types running in working-class districts…The Democrats’ path to a House majority is much more challenging than it was in 2006, or than it was for the Republicans in 2010. They can’t afford to leave many districts like New York’s 24th or California’s 21st off the board.”

At New York Magazine, Ed Kilgore warns against Dems getting overconfident about Republican troubles translating into a Democratic victory in next year’s midterm elections: “…Look closely at what is happening in the competitive off-year gubernatorial election in Virginia, a state with a large African-American population and a growing Latino presence as well. Despite a pro-Democratic trend in presidential elections (Virginia has now gone Democratic in three consecutive presidential years, after going Republican ten straight times dating back to 1964), the party has suffered underwhelming election finishes in the last two non-presidential years…The potential Democratic vote in midterms probably isn’t going to show up at the polls just because the Donkey Party points at Donald Trump and says Boo!

The Atlantic’s ace Ronald Brownstein explores some of the reasons “Why the Virginia Governor’s Race Could Echo Across the Country.” Among Brownstein’s insights: “The Virginia gubernatorial contest has unexpectedly become a test case of the explosive politics of race in the Donald Trump era. The outcome could tug the Republican Party much further toward Trump-style racial provocation and polarization next year. Or it could warn the GOP that such positioning carries too high a political price among white swing voters and minorities…If minorities in Virginia fail to vote in higher numbers than usual, even after Gillespie’s racial provocations, more Republicans will undoubtedly feel emboldened to follow him down that road. Already, in New Jersey, GOP gubernatorial nominee Kim Guadagno, who’s been trailing Democrat Phil Murphy badly, is closing her campaign by unleashing her own attacks on sanctuary cities and warning of “illegal aliens” committing violent crimes. “The stakes are very high,” Torres said. “If they win in Virginia, it’s going to be very scary all around the nation.”

James Hohman of the Daily 202 says the GOP’s growing internal divisions ain’t all about Trump, despite Sens. Corker’s and Flake’s recent comments. “In fact, there are profound ideological differences within the Republican coalition that have become much more pronounced in the Trump era. Flake’s decision to not seek another term was as much about his refusal to abandon his core principles as his concern over Trump’s fitness for office.” Hohman cites a pew Reseach poll that identifies seven different issues that divide Republicans: taxes; health care, immigration; role of government; America’s role in the world; climate change; and same-sex marriage.”

“If the Republican Party under Donald Trump has no room for independent-minded conservatives, and if, in the coming years, senators like Jeff Flake and Bob Corker are replaced by fringe conservatives handpicked because of their blind loyalty to this president,” writes Democratic Sen. Chris Coons in a New York Times op-ed, “it will be too late for responsible conservatives to salvage the party they’ve built over generations…As for Democrats, there should be no sense of satisfaction in what is happening to the Republican Party. The balance of two functioning political parties has been essential to our country’s success. In fact, we should take this moment to look at ourselves in the mirror and ask: How much do our own party’s internal battles resemble the fight happening within the Republican Party? As Democrats call for independence and pragmatism from Republicans, we should be asking ourselves how tolerant we are of dissent within our own party and how much we are really willing to reach across the aisle.”

In his FiveThirtyEight post, “How Does Jeff Flake’s Retirement Change The Arizona Senate Race?,” Harry Enten argues that Democrats still have a good chance to win the U.S. senate seat of retiring Sen. Jeff Flake, who just quit with a searing attack on his party’s leader. “…it won’t be easy for Republicans to hold the Arizona Senate seat. More Arizonans dislike Trump than like him, and midterm elections are almost always tough on the president’s party. Sinema, meanwhile, is probably the strongest candidate Democrats could have hoped for.”

Thomas B. Edsall brings some statistical clarity to the present political moment in his NYT column, “The Party of Lincoln is Now the Party of Trump,” noting, “Trump’s grip on his party remains firm. A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll asked Republican voters: “Do you consider yourself to be more of a supporter of Donald Trump or more of a supporter of the Republican Party?” The answer: Trump 58, the Republican Party 38…Trump’s overall favorability ratings may be terrible (39 percent positive to 56 negative), according to a RealClearPolitics average of the eight most recent surveys, but the generic Democratic advantage is a relatively modest 9.2 percentage points. In an October 15-16 Economist/YouGov survey, Democratic voters said they planned to vote for Democratic House candidates 88-3 and Republicans said they would vote for Republican House candidates 86-3. Independents favored Republican candidates 27-22. These are not the kind of numbers Democrats need to win control of the House or Senate.”

A voter turnout tip from reporter Bill Bradley, writing at Next City: “…It’s about canvassing and knocking down the right doors. Campaigns, cities and organizations like Make the Road have to work to target everyone — particularly those without a voice. And apparently it’s about about geting the right people to knock on those right doors:It’s less about mass canvassing and more about neighborhood-by-neighborhood efforts,” writes Bradley. “We specialize in engaging people in immigrant and Latino communities,” [Daniel] Altschuler [managing director of Make the Road Action, an organization that works with working-class Latino communities] says. “And I think where we’ve been most effective is that the folks that are knocking on people’s doors are members from those communities who speak the language of those communities and are able to engage in culturally competent ways.”…Altschuler says the approach has proven effective in getting out the vote. And it’s something he has found, through his work at Make the Road, can be replicated in communities across the country.”

CNN Politics analyst Gregory Krieg focuses on the action in “9 Democratic primaries to watch in 2018.” Kreig spotlights some interesting challengers who could help revitalize the Democratic Party. The races he notes include: Feinstein’s senate seat; the Illinois, Oklahoma, New York, Maryland and Iowa governorships; Illinois 3rd congressional district; the Rhode Island Lieutenant Governorship; and Florida’s 7th congressional district.

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