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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

“The campaign for Virginia governor has divided voters along demographic lines highly reminiscent of last November’s presidential election, according to a New York Times Upshot/Siena College poll on Sunday, and the Democrat, Ralph Northam, holds a modest three-point lead over the Republican, Ed Gillespie, 43 percent to 40 percent,” reports Nate Cohn at The Upshot. “White voters without a college degree backed Mr. Gillespie by a 40-point margin in the poll, 63 percent to 23 percent, while nonwhite voters backed Mr. Northam by a similar margin, 65 to 17. Mr. Northam holds roughly a 10-point lead among college-educated white voters, enough to give him the edge statewide…The Democratic strength among well-educated voters — and the robust Democratic turnout in the primary for this race — gives the party more strength among high-turnout voters than has been the case in recent elections.”

Ball Kyle Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley, two of the top experts on Virginia politics, address “Signs and Portents” regarding Tuesday’s elections and offer this assessment of recent polling in VA: “Polls in the commonwealth have been all over the place. While most show a Northam lead, the spread is huge, ranging from a Hampton University poll showing Gillespie up eight points to a Quinnipiac University poll showing Northam up 17. If anything, one cannot accuse the pollsters of “herding” together at the end: There are going to be at least some pollsters who finish far from the eventual margin. Steve Shepard of Politico has noticed that many pollsters surveying Virginia have used polls based on calling people on voter lists, as opposed to random digit dialing calling a larger universe of people. The voter list polls, which mimic the techniques used by campaigns, find a narrower range of horse race predictions, from Gillespie by one to Northam by seven. That’s roughly the range of the internal campaign polls we’ve heard about throughout the race…The RealClearPolitics average puts Northam’s lead at about 3.5 points — not big enough to consider him more than a modest favorite, and only then because the small polling lead may be reinforced by the generic advantages any Democrat might have in this race…”

For those who will be looking for clues about Democratic prospects in next year’s midterm elections, Paul Kane has a tip in his article “Virginia’s election serves as a road map for 2018 congressional races” at PowerPost: “If [GOP gubernatorial nominee] Gillespie posts, for instance, a better-than-expected margin in the district of Rep. Barbara Comstock (R), that will reinforce such a position and lead to many more ads attacking “sanctuary cities” next summer and fall…If [Democratic nominess] Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam wins the district by a substantial margin, Democrats will feel much better. Comstock’s is one of 23 Republican-held districts that favored Hillary Clinton in last year’s presidential election. There are an additional 13 GOP-held seats in districts that previously voted for Obama but did not favor Clinton, and 14 more where either Obama or Clinton received at least 48 percent of the vote.”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. explains the stakes in tommorrow’s election for Governor of Virginia: “A Northam victory would send a signal to the country that President Trump is a severe drag on the GOP, especially if it were combined with Democratic pickups in the legislature. This would bolster the forces trying to contain Trump’s abuses and give heart to those doing the organizing work against him at the grass roots…It would tell Republicans in Congress that coddling and imitating Trump carry a high cost while strengthening Democratic efforts to recruit strong candidates for the 2018 midterms…A win by Gillespie would convey exactly the opposite message. It would ratify the Republican candidate’s vile and dishonest campaign tying Northam to felons and criminal gangs. This, in turn, would lead to more ugly racial and anti-immigrant appeals by GOP candidates next year. The party would decide that playing around with a few of Trump’s more hateful themes was the way to go…Gillespie decided he could win only by injecting Trump’s poison into his campaign. The antidote to noxious politics of this sort is to defeat it.”

Ed Kilgore underscores the pivotal importance of turnout in Virginia tomorrow: “Turnout could well be the deciding factor. While turnout among African-American voters in Virginia does not fall off as much in non-presidential races as it has done in many other states, the white percentage of the smaller off-year electorate is typically higher: 72 percent in 2013, and 78 percent in 2009, as opposed to 67 percent in 2016.”

The choice Alabama voters face in the upcoming (Dec. 12th) special election for U.S. Senator couldn’t be more clear, as Sean Sullivan explains in his update, “Doug Jones’s tricky two-step in deep-red Alabama: Exciting Democrats and winning over Republicans, too” at PowerPost: “In an unexpectedly competitive Senate race that both national parties are watching closely, [Democratic nominee Doug] Jones is trying to pull off a challenging and at times conflicting two-step. In a state where Democrats make up less than a third of the electorate, Jones must turn out as many of them as he can — and win over enough Republican voters, too…The result has been a strategy that includes criticizing Moore, casting himself as a pragmatist and making a direct appeal to the Democratic base by embracing some liberal positions — and touting his role prosecuting two Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a black church in Birmingham in 1963, killing four girls…The Dec. 12 special election for the seat once held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions will mark the first Senate election of Trump’s term. At a moment of intensifying partisan rancor, it will test the public’s appetite in the heart of Trump country: Do the voters of Alabama want a bridge-builder in Congress, or a rabble-rouser in the president’s mold?”

Meanwhile, right-wing fake news media is posting headlines linking the Texas massacre shooter to Antifa, on the eve of Tuesday’s elections. But SNOPES says that’s bullshite.

Democrats should get some encouragement from Dante Chinni’s Wall St. Journal article, “Poll Shows Trump Sliding Among White Working-Class Voters,” which notes, “The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll found signs that President Donald Trump’s support is eroding in important segments of his base: white Americans without a four-year college education and self-described white working-class voters…Mr. Trump won the non-degree group by more than 30 percentage points in the 2016 election, making it a core source of support. In the new poll, his job approval dropped 7 points in that group, falling to 51% in October from 58% in September. Among self-described white working-class respondents…”

Robert Draper’s New York Times Magazine article, “A Post-Obama Democratic Party in Search of Itself,” includes this assessment of Democratic prospects in 2018: “…Nine months into Trump’s presidency, the chances of the Democrats’ retaking the House are much better. Multiple polls in recent months have shown generic Democratic candidates beating generic Republicans by as many as 15 points — a spread that, in past elections, correlatedwith winning more than enough seats for the Democrats to gain a House majority next year. And if they do, the consequences will be enormous. A Democrat-controlled House in 2019 would very likely derail the Republican legislative agenda. It could also conceivably set the stage for impeachment proceedings against the president — a move that many Democrats have openly proposed for months now.”

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