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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

At The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein writes about “The Voters Abandoning Donald Trump: According to previously unpublished findings, the blue-collar whites at the core of his coalition have lost faith over his first year in office.” Brownstein observes, “Previously unpublished results from the nonpartisan online-polling firm SurveyMonkey show Trump losing ground over his tumultuous first year not only with the younger voters and white-collar whites who have always been skeptical of him, but also with the blue-collar whites central to his coalition…These findings emerge from a cumulative analysis of 605,172 interviews SurveyMonkey conducted with Americans in 2017 about Trump’s job performance. At my request, Mark Blumenthal, SurveyMonkey’s head of election polling, calculated Trump’s average approval rating over the last year among groups of voters segmented simultaneously by their race, gender, education level, and age. That extra level of detail, not available in conventional polls because their samples are too small, offers a more precise picture of Trump’s coalition…In the 2016 election, exit polls found that Trump’s best group was whites without a four-year college degree; he carried 66 percent of them. But his approval among them in the 2017 SurveyMonkey average slipped to 56 percent. In 2016, whites with at least a four-year college degree gave Trump 48 percent of their votes. But in the 2017 average, just 40 percent approved of Trump’s performance, while a resounding 60 percent disapproved.”

Harry Enten writes at FiveThirtyEight: “Overall, in the 10 midterm elections since 1978, the average Republican turnout advantage has been about 3 percentage points. In other words, the GOP does about 3 points better, on average, among midterm voters compared with whatever their margin is vs. Democrats among all registered voters. In short, Republicans have a midterm turnout advantage…There’s a second important force at work during midterm elections, however. The Republican turnout advantage is either exacerbated or all but canceled out depending on which party controls the White House.”

“A lesson from the Alabama Senate race, where Priorities USA spent $1.5 million on digital advertising, was that basic positive advertising worked. Doug Jones introduced himself to voters, talked about his record and his values, criticized his opponent Roy Moore where necessary. But Jones didn’t make the race about Trump. That took care of itself, because Trump is all anyone can talk about, anyway…It’s a simple formula: Jones took an affirmative, middle-class-focused message to both the Democratic base as well as persuadable voters. [Chief strategist for Priorities USA, a Democratic super PAC, Guy] Cecil believes it can be replicated in red states, blue states, state house districts, and city council races. “Democrats have micro-targeted ourselves into oblivion,” he said. “This is not about being efficient. This election should be about expanding the growth map, expanding the races and expanding our way of thinking about communicating to people. When people feel uneasy about the chaos and the ongoing churn of politics, having something that is positive and rooted in your values becomes more important.” — from “Uneasy About the Chaos: As Democrats Prepare for a Bloodbath, A Novel Strategy Emerges:  2018 may be a wave election, but recent races in the south suggest it will take more than anti-Trump mania to run the board.” by Peter Hamby at Vanity Fair.

NYT columnist Paul Krugman argues that Republican opposition to key Medicaid provisions are rooted in sadistic tendencies, more than political considerations. “But is it really about the money? No, it’s about the cruelty. Over the past few years it has become increasingly clear that the suffering imposed by Republican opposition to safety-net programs isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. Inflicting pain is the point…Republican foot-dragging on CHIP, like opposition to Medicaid expansion and the demand for work requirements, isn’t about the money, it’s about the cruelty. Making lower-income Americans worse off has become a goal in itself for the modern G.O.P., a goal the party is actually willing to spend money and increase deficits to achieve.” Read the column to see how Krugman supports his case.

At Politico, Mark Oppenheimer explores “How to Turn a Red State Purple (Democrats Not Required),” focusing on the efforts of a small group of young Democratic activists in Alaska. Subtitled “A tiny group of political renegades is transforming one of the reddest states in the country through a surprising strategy: ignoring their own party. Could it work elsewhere?,” Oppenheimer notes the enactment of ” Measure 1, a referendum that passed in November 2016 and which automatically registers all Alaskans to vote when they submit their application for the oil dividend. Since everyone wants their oil dividend, this reform should get Alaska to near 100-percent voter registration in 2018—and the new voters are likely to be relatively poor, more heavily Democratic, and sympathetic to a progressive income tax. Meanwhile, Anchorage’s reputation as a diverse, progressive city, the oil recession, and the state’s coming marijuana economy—pot shops are slowly opening around the state, after a 2014 ballot measure legalized pot sales—are likely to skew the population more liberal.”

“Democrats have opened up a massive 17-point advantage in generic ballot polling for the House ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, according to the latest survey from Quinnipiac University,” reports Jonathan Easley at The Hill. “When voters were asked if they would rather see Republicans or Democrats win control of the House in 2018, 52 percent said Democrats, while 35 percent said Republicans. Thirteen percent were undecided…Those findings give Democrats a greater advantage than most other recent polls. According to the RealClearPolitics average, Democrats have a 12-point advantage in the generic ballot.”

At Truthdig, Mandy Velez documents “Surprising Ways Voter Suppression Hurts Women,” including: caregivers; Women who are poor or work hourly wage jobs; women who are abused; students; and disabled and older women. Further, “Voter ID laws alone account for an estimated 34 percent of women who could be turned away from the polls for not having the right documents, according to the National Organization of Women. Because 90 percent of women change their names when they get married, they often have different names on their identification documents.”

“It’s not that I’m pessimistic about the Democrats’ overall position next year,” writes Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight. “On the contrary, I think most political observers had, until recently, been slow to recognize just how bad things had gotten for Republicans. But the Senate map is really tough for Democrats, with 26 Democratic seats in play next year (including a newly opened seat in Minnesota after Al Franken announced his intention to retire) as compared to just eight Republican ones. Moreover, five of the Democratic-held seats — the ones in West Virginia, North Dakota, Montana, Missouri and Indiana — are in states that President Trump won by 18 percentage points or more…Just how bad is this map for Democrats? It’s bad enough that it may be the worst Senate map that any party has faced ever, or at least since direct election of senators began in 1913. It’s bad enough that Democrats could conceivably gain 35 or 40 seats in the House … and not pick up the two seats they need in the Senate…Don’t believe me? Check out the race-by-race ratings put forward by independent groups such as the Cook Political Report, Inside Elections1 and Sabato’s Crystal Ball. They suggest that Democrats are more likely to loseSenate seats next year than to gain them — and that while there’s a plausible path to a Democratic majority, it’s a fairly unlikely one.”

At Vox, Matthew Yglesias has a revealing update on Arizone politics in 2018, which includes this encouraging assessment: “Arizona Democrats suddenly find themselves with a plausible shot at picking up a Senate seat, a House seat, and the governor’s mansion in what’s historically been a solidly red state…Republicans currently have 51 Senate seats, with Dean Heller’s race in Nevada almost certainly Democrats’ best chance to pick one up and the Flake seat in Arizona coming second. The race could, thus, very literally be the pivot point on which control of the Senate (and thus Trump’s ability to continue stocking the judiciary with Republicans) hinges — though, of course, to pull it off, Democrats need to defend a lot of incumbent Democrats in red states…Arizona is at the center of the shifting sands of American politics. In the face of a large and growing Latino population, the state’s Republican Party appears to be shifting away from the Flake/McCain tradition of immigrant-friendly Republicanism and toward the Arpaio/Trump brand of white grievance politics.”

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