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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Some hopeful and sobering numbers from the Texas primary, flagged in Alex Seitz-Wald’s post, “Democrats hope biggest Texas midterm primary turnout in 15 years starts national wave” at nbcnews.com: “Democratic turnout was up 84 percent from the last midterm primary, in 2014, while Republican turnout increased about 14 percent, according to data from the secretary of state’s office. GOP turnout was the highest since the 2010 midterm…It also was a big night for female candidates — more than half of the nearly 50 women running won their primaries or advanced outright to runoffs in May, the Associated Press reported…Republicans still easily outnumbered Democrats at the polls on Tuesday and in early voting — 1.54 million to 1.04 million — underscoring just how difficult it will be for Democrats to take the country’s second-largest state, even in what is shaping up as a strong year for the party.” But the GOP edge doesn’t mean that Dems can’t pick off a couple of House seats.

Also at nbcnews.com, David Wasserman’s “Is Texas turning purple? A look at the midterm numbers” put it this way: “With nearly all votes counted, total votes cast in the Democratic primary surged 85 percent over 2014’s tally, compared to a 14 percent increase on the GOP side. However, the Republican primary still accounted for 60 percent of all primary turnout…Democrats’ enthusiasm gains over 2014 and 2010 were especially pronounced in wealthy inner suburbs of Houston and Dallas, where Trump is uniquely unpopular. That’s good news for Democrats’ hopes of unseating GOP Reps. John Culberson and Pete Sessions, neither of whom have faced competitive races this decade. Their districts handily voted for Mitt Romney in 2012, but in a surprise, Hillary Clinton narrowly carried both districts in 2016…And Democrats’ new Senate nominee, Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a former punk rocker who represents El Paso, showed he still has work to do to consolidate his own party before he faces Cruz. He demonstrated far less appeal among his own party’s voters in places like Beaumont (34 percent), Laredo (42 percent) and Dallas (58 percent) than he did in liberal Austin (87 percent).”

Emily Gooden and Rachel Scott report that “National Democrats stick with aggressive primary strategy despite Texas results,” a policy that many feel hurts Democratic hopes for unity in November. Regarding the DCCC opposition to Laura Moser in the  Democratic primary for TX-7, Scott and Gooden write, “National Democrats are vowing to stick with their strategy of aggressive involvement in primary elections, even after their interference in a Texas House race seemed to boost the candidate they came out against – setting up more potential battles in advance of the May run-off…And while parties have interfered in primaries in the past to help ensure the candidate they see as the strongest to win in November becomes the nominee, the public way the DCCC stepped into the Texas race caused concern.”

NYT’s Michael Tackett reports that “Blue-Collar Trump Voters Are Shrugging at Their Tax Cuts,” and notes that “The white working-class voters in the industrial Midwest who helped put Mr. Trump in the White House are now seeing the extra cash from the tax cut, the president’s signature domestic policy achievement and the foundation for Republican election hopes in November…But the result has hardly been a windfall, economically or politically. Other workers described their increase as enough for a week’s worth of gas or a couple of gallons of milk, with an additional $40 in a paycheck every two weeks on the high side to $2 a week on the low. Few are complaining, but the working class here is not feeling flush with newfound wealth.”

In his syndicated NYT column, Nobel Prize for Economics laureate Paul Krugman weigh’s in on Trump’s trade war: “It’s true that trade deficits can be a problem when the economy is depressed and unemployment is high. That’s why I, like many other economists, wanted us to take a tougher stance on Chinese currency policy back in 2010, when we had around 9 percent unemployment. But the case for worrying about trade deficits, like the case for running budget deficits, has largely evaporated now that unemployment is back to 4 percent…So we can’t “win” a trade war…A cycle of retaliation would shrink overall world trade, making the world as a whole, America very much included, poorer. Perhaps even more important in the near term, it would be highly disruptive…..Never mind the net loss of jobs from a full-scale trade war, which would in the end probably be a relatively small number. The point instead is that the gross job losses would be huge, as millions of workers would be forced to change jobs, move to new places, and more. And many of them would suffer losses on the way that they would never get back. Oh, and companies on the losing end would lose trillions in stock value. So the idea that a trade war would be “good” and “easy to win” is surpassingly stupid.”

From Kyle Kondik’s “House 2018: 26 Ratings Changes, All in Favor of Democrats at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “In addition to that ratings change, we are making 25 other changes in the House, all in favor of Democrats…No Democratic incumbent is now rated worse than Likely Democratic, a nod to the reality that in a Democratic-leaning environment it will be difficult for Republicans to dislodge many or perhaps even any Democratic incumbents, though there are a handful of Democratic open seats that are more viable Republican targets…Despite all these changes, we still think the odds of a House flip are only about 50-50, although those odds are probably generous to Republicans at this point. But we’re also cognizant of the fact that there’s still a long way to go…the expanding battlefield also illustrates that the Democrats have the potential to not just win the House, but net a significant number of seats beyond the 24 they need if conditions worsen for the Republicans.”

Tiny hands or no, Rhodes Cook writes about “Donald Trump’s Short Congressional Coattails,” also at the Crystal Ball: “Although Donald Trump is remaking the Republican Party in his image, he had among the shortest coattails of any presidential winner going back to Dwight Eisenhower. In 2016, Trump ran ahead of just 24 of 241 Republican House winners and only five of 22 Republican Senate winners…While more Republican House members are from the South than any other region, Trump’s coattails were longest in the Midwest, where he ran ahead of nine Republican House winners. Trump ran ahead of eight victorious GOP House candidates in the South, and a combined total of seven in the two Democratic bailiwicks, the Northeast and the West…with a Gallup approval rating of just 30% among independents, and barely 5% among Democrats, his role in the 2018 general election looks to be problematic…There is little doubt that the controversial Trump will be the central player of the 2018 campaign. Even while his name is not on the ballot, this year’s elections will offer a highly charged referendum on Trump and his presidency.”

“The biggest threat to Democrats in the 2018 election may be the risk of repeating their biggest mistake in the 2016 election,” Ronald Brownstein explains at The Atlantic. “That mistake was Hillary Clinton’s decision to focus almost all of her effort on convincing voters that Donald Trump did not share their values, while failing to effectively challenge his promise that he would represent their economic interests. That failure helped Trump win despite exit polls showing about three-fifths of voters doubted he had the experience or temperament to succeed as president…The comparable risk for Democrats this year is that they will be caught in an endless succession of Trump-centered battles—both cultural (guns, immigration) and personal (Russia, White House chaos)—and fail to effectively challenge the GOP claim that its tax-cut plan is benefiting average families. Republicans expect that if voters believe the party is putting more money in their pockets, even many people recoiling from Trump’s performance will still vote to maintain GOP control of Congress.

“Special election results so far this cycle are among the clearest portents of a Democratic wave in November.1 Democrats are beating their usual percentages of the vote not only in special federal elections (i.e., for the U.S. Senate and House), but also in special state legislative elections. All told, after a trio of legislative specials last Tuesday, there have now been 127 special elections in 28 states since President Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017.2 In the 95 of those races to pit at least one Democrat against at least one Republican,3 Democrats have outperformed the normal partisan lean4 of their districts by an average of 13.2 percentage points…One pattern that should worry Republicans is that Democrats appear to be running farthest ahead of their presidential candidates in red states. The top nine states on the list all voted for Trump in 2016, while eight of the bottom 12 voted for Clinton. That suggests that Democrats are indeed doing better in the conservative areas where they need to make 2018 inroads.8Specifically, special election results suggest that the white-working-class-heavy Midwest — which broke heavily for Trump in 2016 — may not be lost for Democrats after all. Democrats’ 26.2-point overperformance in Iowa, for instance, may help Democrats pick off two House seats they would probably need for the House majority.” — from “The States Where Democrats Are Overperforming Most — And Least — In Special Elections” by Nathaniel Rakich at FiveThirtyEight

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