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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Writing at The Upshot, Nate Cohn sees a couple of rays of hope for Democratic candidate Doug Jones in the Senate special election in Alabama: “It’s not easy to come up with recent favorable precedents for Democratic victories in the Deep South. Perhaps the best involves David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican who managed to lose the governor’s race by 12 points in 2015. Mr. Obama lost Louisiana by 17 points in 2012. Mr. Vitter was dogged by a prostitution scandal from nearly a decade earlier…Democrats fared well even though neither Mr. Vitter nor Mr. Moore in 2012 was as weak as Mr. Moore is today. Now, national political conditions are plainly more favorable for the Democrats. And this is a special election, when surprising results are a little more common….Another promising precedent for Democrats happens to be Mr. Moore himself. He won by only four points in his 2012 campaign for Alabama chief justice, and that was without the sexual harassment allegations that have shaken his current Senate campaign. It was the worst performance by an Alabama Republican running for statewide office since 2008.”

“It’s amazing to write, and there’s time for our outlook to change, but here goes: A Democrat is now a narrow favorite to win a Senate special election in Alabama,” write Kye Kondik and Geoffrey Skelley at Sabato’s Crystal Ball. “We’re changing our rating of the Dec. 12 special election from Likely Republican all the way to Leans Democratic…Polls, already close before the really bad stories about Moore began appearing about a week ago, seem to have tightened further, with Jones even leading in some. For instance, Politico’s Alex Isenstadt reported on Wednesday that the National Republican Senatorial Committee — no friend of Moore’s even before the sexual misconduct stories broke, to be sure — has Moore down 51%-39% to Jones in its polling. However, we’re not sure how useful polls will be in this race: Anticipating turnout in a special election like this is very hard. What we do know is 1.) Last week’s elections and special elections conducted throughout the year have shown high levels of Democratic enthusiasm in both liberal and conservative jurisdictions; 2.) Jones is likely to have a big resource advantage in this race — he’s already outspent Moore 11-to-one on TV ads, according to Advertising Analytics — with national Republicans staying away from Moore; and 3.) Moore may have trouble preventing poor Republican turnout given his horribly damaged candidacy.”

Politico’s Gabriel Debenedetti and Daniel Strauss outline a three-part path to vicotry for Democratic senate nominee Jones: “…He does have a path. Here’s how it looks, according to interviews with nearly a dozen Democrats within and near Jones’ team since Moore was hit with accusations of pursuing — and in two cases abusing — teenage girls. First, create a permission structure for alienated Republicans who are skeptical of Moore — primarily those who voted against him in the GOP primary — to cross the aisle. At the same time invigorate the base, especially African-Americans, who make up over a quarter of registered voters, according to the Alabama Secretary of State’s office. And finally, keep the national Democratic Party and its despised brand as far out of the picture as possible, while still benefiting from its money.”

At Inside Elections, Nathan L. Gonzales has an update, “Ten Thoughts after Democrats’ Big Wins in Virginia,” which includes this observation: “Don’t rely too much on the national generic ballot and presidential job ratings. Those numbers can help describe the national political mood, but we don’t have national elections. The presidential race and Senate majority is fought on a state-by-state level, while the House is a district-by-district battle, and President Trump is not uniformly liked or disliked around the country. Trump is doing better in the types of districts Democrats need to win for a majority. And even if you had a model which predicted the number of seats Republicans will lose, you still have to look at a district level to know precisely which seats will fall to the Democrats. For example, John Katko represents one of 23 congressional districts Clinton carried but is held by a Republican. According to Tuesday’s results, he would lose next November. But Democrats don’t have a credible challenger against him.”

The NRA apparently didn’t have much clout in the Virginia election, as Fred Yang and Geoff Garin explain in their Washington Post op-ed: “…The exit poll conducted by Edison Media Research on Election Day showed that people who said gun policy was their top voting issue were as likely to vote for the Northam, the candidate who supported gun-safety measures, as for Ed Gillespie, the bearer of the NRA’s “A” rating. Seventeen percent of voters listed gun policy as their No. 1 voting issue (second only to health care), and they split their votes evenly between the two candidates. So much for the so-called “enthusiasm gap” on gun violence prevention…The finding from the exit polls corresponds to what we were seeing in our pre-election surveys for the Northam campaign. Likely general election voters in Virginia said by a margin of 55 percent to 41 percent that they favored additional laws in Virginia to regulate the sale of firearms. The support for gun-safety measures was even higher in questions that specifically addressed measures such as universal background checks. In the inner suburbs of Northern Virginia, for example, 71 percent favored additional laws such as expanded background checks. In the Roanoke media market, voters supported these expanded measures 51 percent to 39 percent.”

While the Virginia elelction got most of the media buzz, there are some insights to be considered regarding the New Jersey gubernatorial election, as Richard Eskow observes at Blog for Our Future: “[Democratic candidate Phil] Murphy’s Goldman Sachs career presented a hurdle, too, but it was not as steep. According to the same poll, 29 percent of voters thought less of him as a result, but 59 percent said they didn’t care…Despite his Wall Street background, there was no way to mistake Murphy for a centrist. His economic plan included a $15-an-hour minimum wage, guaranteed sick leave, closing the gender pay gap, and higher taxes for millionaires and corporations. He proposed a state bank to promote the public good, an excellent idea with strong support from the left. He rejected the idea of cutting pensions for New Jersey employees, saying, “The state has to stand up for its side of the bargain. Period.”..Murphy proposed a state-run retirement plan for employees of small businesses. And he embraced another left idea to reduce gender and other pay inequities by proposing that employers be banned from asking applicants about their salary history.”

Jacob Pramuk reports at CNBC Politics that “Most American voters — 52 percent — disapprove of the GOP proposals to overhaul the tax system, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday. Only 25 percent of respondents approve of the Republican effort…Sixty-one percent of voters said the plan would mainly help the wealthy. Twenty-four percent responded that it would primarily benefit the middle class, while only 6 percent said the same about low-income people…The proposals favor the rich at the expense of the middle class, 59 percent of respondents said. Only 33 percent disagreed with that statement.

The Republican tax plan is deeply unpopular — and unimportant to many Americans,” as Philp Bump explains at Post Politics: “The Kaiser Family Foundation asked Americans what Congress and the president should focus on. What’s important to address, the survey asked: Tax reform? Reauthorizing the children’s health insurance program (CHIP)? Funding the recovery from this year’s hurricanes?..More than 6-in-10 Americans said CHIP reauthorization and hurricane recovery should be a top priority. Only 28 percent said reforming the tax code should be…Nearly as many Americans (24 percent) said tax reform shouldn’t happen at all as said it should be a top priority (28 percent). It was mostly Republicans who said it should be a top priority; Republicans were about as likely to say tax reform was a top priority as they were to say repealing Obamacare or hurricane recovery were…Kaiser Family Foundation also asked about repealing the individual mandate. A majority supported the idea…until they learned what a repeal would mean. When they were informed repeal would increase premiums for those who buy their own insurance, 60 percent opposed the idea.”

In their Business Insider post “Democrats still need a strategy for left-behind areas — here’s how tech can help,” Kristal Ball and Rep. Ro Khanna (CA-7) point out that Governor-elect Ralph Northam’s landslide was based on a geographically-concentrated mandate: “…For the first time in modern history, the Democratic candidate for Governor in Virginia did not win a single precinct west of Radford, in the southwesternmost part of the state extending toward Kentucky. In the parts of Virginia struggling the most, where drug addiction is rampant, jobs are scarce and suicide is on the rise, voters just threw their lot in again with the Republican candidate by 50 and 60 point margins.” In the nation as a whole, “Just five metro areas account for half of all new net business creation. In contrast, over two-thirds of the counties in America have lost businesses over the past decade. According to the nonpartisan Economic Innovation Group, 52 million Americans live in economically depressed communities: places where the poverty rate is 27% and 42% of prime-age adults aren’t working.” Rep. Khanna and Ms. Ball urge Dems to become advocates for locating new tyechg busineses in rural areas. “…Unless the Democratic Party offers a plan for economic opportunity for twenty-first century jobs in places left behind, we will not earn a governing majority.”

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