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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

At FiveThirtyEight.com, Nathaniel Rakich has this to say about Democratic Hopes for picking up a U.S. Senate seat in Mississippi as a result of the resignation of Republican Sen. Thad Cochran: “…Cochran’s seat wasn’t scheduled to be up for election until 2020, so we’re looking at another special Senate election in the Deep South. As you might recall, Democrats have had some success with those recently. Like Alabama, a Mississippi special election will be a steep uphill climb for Democrats, but like Alabama, the seat could fall into their hands under the right circumstances. Several things would need to go right for Democrats to snag Cochran’s seat — perhaps a bad Republican candidate and a bad Republican political environment — but the 2018 Senate map offers the party such slim pickings that even a reach like Mississippi opening up counts as a meaningful shift…Under Mississippi law, Republican Gov. Phil Bryant will appoint a new senator to take over for Cochran until a special election is held this November (concurrently with the regularly scheduled midterm elections). There is a catch, though: Special elections in Mississippi are nonpartisan; that is, party affiliations aren’t printed on the ballot..In a campaign without party labels (or at least where they aren’t front and center), the lead weight that is a “D” next to one’s name is partially lifted.” Democrats have two strong potential candidates for the Senate seat, Attorney General Jim Hood and Brandon Presley — Elvis’s cousin.

Harry Enten elaborates at CNN: “To start, there is a single digit spread in Trump’s approval and disapproval ratings in the state. A December Mason-Dixon poll gave Trump just a 51% approval rating to a 43% disapproval rating among voters in the state. Gallup’s polling over the course of 2017 among adults in Mississippi put Trump’s approval rating at only 48% to a disapproval rating of 46%…These spreads are far smaller than the spread between Trump and opponent Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election…Even if we use the average generic ballot result, the fundamentals suggest Mississippi could be competitive. The CNN poll indicates it could be very competitive…Remember, Republican Roy Moore was barely ahead of Democrat Doug Jones for a US Senate seat right next door in far more Republican-leaning Alabama even before he was accused of sexual abuse. A bad candidate in Mississippi could face the same problems.”

““Should the administration opt to move forward with tariffs on steel and aluminum, American manufacturers, businesses and consumers would be forced to bear the brunt, paying more for steel and steel products,” said Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), one of the primary authors of the tax overhaul that’s central to the GOP’s reelection effort. “Such action could very well undercut the benefits of the pro-growth tax reform we fought to get on the books…Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) called Trump’s proposed tariffs a “huge job-killing tax hike.” Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) said it will “kill American jobs.” And even Trump allies Larry Kudlow, Arthur Laffer and Stephen Moore argued in a Saturday CNBC op-ed that “even if tariffs save every one of the 140,000 or so steel jobs in America, it puts at risk 5 million manufacturing and related jobs in industries that use steel.” — from “GOP fears midterm backlash from Trump’s tariffs: The clash suggests that what might be good politics for Trump might not work for the entire party”  by Rachel Bade and Burgess Everett at Politico.

Good news from the keystone state: “A new Emerson College survey reports that Democrat Conor Lamb is now out in front on Republican state Sen. Rick Saccone, ahead of next week’s special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th District. This is the first poll showing him in the lead,” reports Eric Boehlert at ShareBlue: “Lamb, a former Marine and prosecutor, leads Saccone 48 percent to 45 percent, in the closely watched contest. The poll finds that Lamb’s supporters are more enthusiastic about the election, and Lamb enjoys a higher favorable rating than his Republican opponent…All of this is rather shocking, given how deeply red the district has been in recent years. And if Lamb and the Democratic Party pull off an upset win next Tuesday, it would likely point to a political tsunami in November that could bury Trump and Republicans.”

I’m liking the opening graphs of “Texas kicks off crowded Democratic primary with enthusiasm and meddling” by David Weigel and Sean Sullivan in the Washington Post: “The congressional primary season kicks off Tuesday with the Democratic Party facing an unexpected question: Do they have too much of a good thing?..Emboldened by widespread anger with President Trump and wins in gubernatorial and Senate races last year, record numbers of Democrats are running for Congress. While this cascade of candidates reflects the high level of enthusiasm in the party out of power, it has deepened divisions, stoked fresh rivalries and prompted meddling by Democratic officials that has fueled controversy.” Sullivan and Weigel add a little later, ““The good news is that energy is not a problem,” said former congressman Steve Israel of New York, who chaired the House Democratic campaign arm. “The bad news is you’re trying to manage the energy of a nuclear weapon — there’s so much of it.”” In other words, there is overflowing positive energy for change pouring out of the Donkey Party and it’s record number of midterm candidates at this political moment, in stark contrast to the constipated bickering in the GOP about whether or not they should allow the NRA, an  out-of-control chief executive and Russian meddling in U.S. politics to tank their congressional majorities. For Dems, it sounds more like a recipe for a blue wave than a problem.

Paul Waldman addresses the point in his post, “Stop wringing your hands about the battles among Democrats” at The Plum Line: “A number of incumbent Democrats are being targeted with primaries from the left. And this development is being widely seen through the prism of the Bernie Sanders/Hillary Clinton primary fight, with some wringing their hands about how the left is becoming the new tea party and about how destructive this will be to the Democrats’ chances…The GOP has now locked itself into a version of angry white identity politics that may have prevailed in 2016 but will be increasingly unhelpful with each passing year…In other words, the tea party struggled to find the right balance between ideology and practicality, because it convinced itself that maximalism was always the best strategy. At the moment it looks like Democrats are steering a more pragmatic course. It might leave them with a few more moderates in their caucus next year, which could make opposing Trump more complicated. But it could also help them win the House — which would make it all worth it.”

Not to get too giddy about Democratic prospects in Texas — it is Texas, after all. But do check out “What to watch for in Tuesday’s Texas primaries” at cbsnews.com, which notes that,  Dems have strong candidates running for the Democratic nomination in three congressional districts, TX-7, 23 and 32 — in addition to the rising excitement Rep. Beto O’Rourke U.S. Senate candidacy is generating. Regardless of the outcome, starting tomorrow Dems will have four attractive candidates running in Texas, and much more  vitality than was the case in the previous midterm election.

If you think the gun safety movement is fading away as an issue that can give Dems an edge in the midterm elections, better think again. As Ed O’Keefe notes at PowerPost, quoting Sen. Chris Murphy’s comments at a meeting he organized to shape Democratic strategy for reducing gun violence: “Not every Democrat will run on banning assault weapons, but every Democrat should be running on background checks,” Murphy said. “Background checks is popular in every state and every congressional district. It’s a loser for Republicans everywhere. This is a universal political issue for Democrats — background checks is.: O’Keefe adds, “A congressional aide who attended the meeting said that Democrats believe that “we’re in a new period in the fight against gun violence, and this meeting was to recognize that the movement must approach elections with one voice. In order to beat the gun lobby, we need to be well funded, energized and united.” Sen. Richard Blumenthal adds, ““Never before has there been this kind of conversation so soon after a mass shooting — in a sense, it marks the emerging power of these grass-roots groups…We’re looking to them for their networks and organization.” And if Democratic candidates can tap into the emotional power represented in this cartoon in their comments and soundbites, the gun safety movement could get some significant traction come November.

At The New York Times, Farah Stockman has an excellent report on “How College Campuses Are Trying to Tap Students’ Voting Power,” which explains “It’s exciting that colleges are starting to wake up to the role that they should play to teaching people how to be citizens of democracy,” said Robert J. Donahue, associate director of the Center for Civic Engagement at Northwestern University. “Hopefully we’ll live up to the charge and start turning out more active citizens and not just scholars.”..The new emphasis on voting — among a population that tends to vote Democrat — comes as the nation gears up for a high-stakes midterm election. It is unclear whether the efforts to increase student turnout will impact the nation’s political map. Among the students who vote, many cast absentee ballots for districts where they grew up…But about three dozen House races considered competitive this year were won in 2016 by margins smaller than the number of college students living in the district…Young people who do vote tend to favor Democrats. According to a Pew Research Center poll, 58 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds either identify as Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party…Efforts to bolster student turnout have been aided by a new national study that analyzes voting behavior on campuses across the country…For the first time, schools can get detailed data on how many of their students cast a ballot, either locally or absentee, thanks to the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement, put out by researchers at Tufts University…Two college athletic conferences have begun giving out trophies to the schools with the highest voter turnout and the most improved turnout, based on the data generated by the Tufts study. A new initiative called the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge offers awards to schools that stand out in civic engagement. And this year, for the first time, Washington Monthly magazine intends to include voter turnout rates in its college rankings.”

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