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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In their New York Times article, “‘They Can’t Wait to Vote’: Energized Democrats Target Dominant G.O.P. in Statehouses,” Alexander Burns and Alan Blinder write: “As national Republicans dig in to defend their majorities in Congress in the midterm elections, party leaders across the country have grown anxious about losses on a different front: state legislatures…Over the last year, Democrats have snatched away Republican seats in more than a dozen special legislative elections from Seattle and Tulsa, Okla., to Atlanta and Miami, in many cases electing female and minority candidates with strong turnout on the left.” Burns and Blinder quote Matt Walter, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee: “What we have seen in the special elections is a significant spike in the interest, engagement, spending and energy by the liberal Democrats and progressive movement,” Mr. Walter said, adding: “The spending is real. The organizational prowess is real. And the energy is real.” However, “In many of the biggest purple states, however, Democrats must overcome huge Republican majorities and forbidding legislative maps…Though Republicans have thin majorities in a few states, like Colorado and Minnesota, the party is entrenched by gerrymandering across most of the Midwest and has long controlled Sun Belt prizes like Florida and Arizona.”

Bret Stephens nails it succinctly in his NYT article, “Devin Nunes’s Nothingburger“: “The larger inanity here is the notion that the F.B.I. tried to throw the election to Clinton, when it was the Democrats who complained bitterly at the time that the opposite was true…Trump won the election. How that represents evidence of a sinister deep-state conspiracy is a question for morons to ponder. As for Devin Nunes, he has, to adapt an old line, produced evidence of a conspiracy so small. In modern parlance we’d call it a nothingburger, but the bun is missing, too.”

As Washington Post deputy editorial page editor Ruth Marcus sees it:

E. J. Dionne, Jr. characterizes the Nunez nothingburger thusly: “A blatant McCarthyite hit piece that breaks little new ground, it cherry-picks from troves of information to feed a dangerous narrative: Even if special counsel Robert S. Mueller III gets the goods on Trump — on Russian collusion, money laundering, obstruction of justice, or all three — the facts won’t matter because the inquiry was driven by partisanship…And its underlying premise is laughable. To imply that the FBI’s leadership is a nest of left-wing Hillary Clinton sympathizers is as absurd as declaring that a majority of Philadelphians were rooting for the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.” As Dionne puts it, the Nunes memo “simply showed how petrified Trump and his backers are of a comprehensive probe.”

At The American Prospect, Paul Waldman envisions a chaotic outcome after the Muellar probe is completed: “And what will happen when Robert Mueller’s investigation nears its end? Mueller has already indicted Trump’s campaign chairman and turned two Trump advisers (George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn), who agreed to plead guilty to minor charges and tell what they know. How will Republicans in Congress and the conservative media react to the charges Mueller raises, when Trump’s entire presidency is threatened?…We know already: They’ll go positively bonkers. Yes, they’ll argue that the whole thing can be ignored, which is part of what the Nunes memo was about: discrediting anything to do with the Russia investigation so Trump’s followers will already have their fingers in their ears when Mueller finishes his work. But the more serious the charges are and the more systematic the case Mueller makes against Trump, the more they’ll lose their minds. This was just a preview.”

“I think the Mueller investigation will blow through this flimsy excuse for an argument like a train through a willow tree,” writes Charles Pierce in his Esquire post, “‘Nothingburger’ Doesn’t Do This Memo Justice.” Pierce continues, “But the damage it will do to congressional oversight of the intelligence community—a dubious proposition on its best day, which was not Friday, god knows—will be long-lasting and far-reaching…Meanwhile, everybody involved in Friday’s burlesque, from Devin Nunes to Carter Page to the president* himself, knows full well that the Russian ratfckers are gearing up for the 2018 midterms.”

Alex Seitz-Wald discusses the downside of having too many candidates in “Democrats are having a banner recruiting year — and it could cost them” at NBC News: “Across the country, Republicans are salivating and Democrats are sweating their too-much-of-a-good-thing problem as the party’s chief asset in this year’s congressional elections, a bumper crop of strong recruits, is proving to be a liability too…Nationwide, an unprecedented 156 Democratic challengers had raised at least $5,000 by the third quarter of last year, according to a tally by the Campaign Finance Institute. That number was just 47 at this point in the last election. And before the GOP wave in 2006, the party had just 97 recruits, while Democrats had only 63 challengers before their 2006 blowout.That’s great for Democrats in many ways, and competitive primaries have been shown to increase engagement and turnout in November. But crowded primaries can also waste money, sow internal divisions, push candidates to the ideological extremes, and tarnish whoever emerges from the melee.” Jungle primaries can be a problem when there is a bumper crop of candidates. But the upside is that stronger candidates are likely to rise.

Columnist Paul Krugman explains why Trump has such a poor track record when it comes to appointments and personnel: “A remarkable number of Trump appointees have been forced out over falsified credentials, unethical practices or racist remarks. And you can be sure there are many other appointees who did the same things, but haven’t yet been caught…Why is this administration hiring such people? It surely reflects both supply and demand: Competent people don’t want to work for Mr. Trump, and he and his inner circle don’t want them anyway…The Trump administration is a graveyard for reputations: Everyone who goes in comes out soiled and diminished. Only fools, or those with no reputation to lose, even want the positions on offer.”

“Democrats are just about as likely as Republicans to say they plan to vote in this year’s congressional elections, a break from the two previous midterm elections, in which Republicans were significantly more inclined to vote, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted in January,” reports Scott Clement at The Fix…”Just over half of Democratic-leaning registered voters, 51 percent, say it is “more important to vote” this year than in previous elections, compared with 34 percent of Republican-leaning voters who say the same.” However, “Two Democratic-leaning groups that have turned out at lower rates in past years also express tepid interest in voting this year. Fewer than half of registered voters ages 18-39, 46 percent, say they are certain to vote, compared with 68 percent of voters ages 40-64 and 77 percent of seniors. And nonwhite voters are nine points less likely than white to say they plan to vote (56 percent to 65 percent).”

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