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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

At The Weekly Standard, David Byler addresses the question, “Can Sherrod Brown Take Back the Working Class Vote in Ohio? His Senate race is a test of whether Obama-Trump voters are reliable Republicans.” Byler writes that “For decades, Ohio has been a political bellwether—a quadrennial swing state that often voted for the winning presidential candidate. But in 2016, something odd happened—Ohio jerked sharply to the right, giving now President Trump an eight-point win despite his two-point national popular vote loss. Some Republicans hoped that Trump’s win was a sign of permanent shift that would allow them to unseat progressive Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown in 2018…But a new Baldwin Wallace poll is throwing some cold water on those hopes…Baldwin Wallace found that Brown leads two possible Republican challengers, Jim Renacci and Mike Gibbons, by 12 and 10 points respectively…According to the poll, 13 percent of Trump voters favor Brown. Some of those voters may be the much discussed Obama-voting white working class Democrats that Trump won over in 2016. Ohio is flush with those voters…More broadly, it might be worth thinking of these Obama-Trump voters not as reliable Republicans but as possible swing voters. They have, after all, swung from Obama to Trump recently and have reasons to vote for either party (cultural commonality with Republicans and economic agreement with Democrats).”

Yet more evidence that voter enthusiasm is high among rank and file Democrats. “Democrats turned out for Illinois’ primary in higher numbers than the left-leaning state has seen for a midterm election in more than a decade, deciding several hotly contested races and signaling the November election could be even tougher than usual for the GOP,” report Sara Burnett and Sarah Zimmerman of Associated Press. “More than 1.2 million people voted in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. That was nearly double the number who cast Republican primary ballots and a roughly 25 percent increase over 2010, the last time Democrats had a competitive gubernatorial primary.”

The gang at FiveThirtyEight addresses a question of interest to political strategy wonks and Democratic headhunters looking for potential senate candidates in 2020: “Which U.S. House Race Is The Best 2018 Bellwether?” At one point Clare Malone makes the case for CA-45: “It’s held by Republican Mimi Walters, but Hillary Clinton won it by 5 percentage points in 2016. It’s in the general Los Angeles area, and it has the suburban voter types who I think are the sort that we’ve seen be more persuadable to the Democratic side in the special elections we’ve had since President Trump’s election. I’m interested in that particular group of voters this year and think the California 45th would give me a decent handle on them if it were the only race I were allowed to know the result of.” Nathaniel Rakich agrees with Malone that CA-45 is “the ideal test case” for guaging college-educated voter trends. Other districts noted in the article include ME-2, IL-6, TX-32, TX-7, CA-25, NY-19, OH-12, KY-6 and VA-10.

In her Newsweek article, “We need Stronger Labor Unions to protect the Middle Class,” Sharon Block, executive director of the Labor and Worklife program at Harvard Law and a former member of the NLRB,  shares some disturbing statistics: “Its failure can be summed up in one surprising statistic : the percentage of American workers who are members of unions is lower now than before the NLRA passed. ..Think about that; workers were more likely to be union members (13.2 percent) when they had no right to do so than they are now (10.7 percent) after more than 80 years of having a federally protected right. This decline is having a dramatic effect on all American workers – because the decline in union density suppresses wages for all workers, it accounts for about one-third of income inequality over the past several decades.” Block suggests amending The National Labor Relations Act, which “pre-empts ” – any state or local law that even arguably affects the rights covered by federal law…One big way to change labor law would be to allow states and even cities to enact their own rules for the future of the labor movement.”

Syndicated columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. reports on “the outrage created by the invasion of an estimated 50 million Facebook accounts for the ultimate benefit of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign,” and adds, “we have a right to worry about the ability of a researcher to use voluntary answers to a survey of 270,000 Facebook users to “scrape” information on 50 million people, later used by Trump’s campaign. We have a right to be outraged about Facebook’s failure to inform users that their data had been harvested. “They keep saying, ‘Trust us, we can take care of our own people and our own website,’ ” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “Well, that’s not true.” She and Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., have called for Judiciary Committee hearings, and Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia also called on Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify before Congress.” It’s one thing for a political campaign to have your phone number, Dionne argues. “But no campaign is permitted access to your hopes, fears, worries, passions or day-to-day business,” which they can get from you Facebook posts.

The Trump Administration’s failure to address the crisis in Puerto Rico with a serious relief plan could have some unintended consequences that backfire badly. As Manuel Madrid writes in The American Prospect,  “Clustered along Florida’s I-4 corridor, a political bellwether for the state, Puerto Ricans in central Florida are increasingly considered a counterweight to the state’s Republican-leaning Cuban American population, over half of whom voted for Donald Trump. In the wake of Hurricane Maria, a state-provided count claimed that the number of Puerto Ricans who had settled in Florida by December 2017 could be as high as 280,000—a figure that has since been questioned by experts. A newer estimate from University of Florida economists, using school enrollments and requests for state aid as a guide, put the total closer to just 50,000. But this number could grow. Recently, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at the City University of New York released a study projecting that Puerto Rico could lose as many as 470,335 residents between 2017 and 2019. If recent trends serve as any guide, many if not most of those migrants will end up in Florida.”…“Very soon, the Puerto Rican vote will be in the driver’s seat in Florida,” says Garces of Mi Familia Vota, one of the Florida groups in discussion with the DNC. “But this work is year-round, it won’t be solved in one election cycle or just on even years.”

The appointment of John Bolton as Trump’s national security advisor can only signal an even more contentious and belligerent era for U.S. foreign policy. Heather Hurlbert explains why in her article, “John Bolton’s Incompetence May Be More Dangerous Than His Ideology” at New York Magazine: “…He seems to relish the role, going out of his way to argue that the Iraq War wasn’t really a failure, calling for U.S.-led regime change in Iran and preventive war against North Korea, and writing the foreword for a book that proclaimed President Obama to be a secret Muslim. He is a profoundly partisan creature, having started a super-PAC whose largest donor was leading Trump benefactor Rebekah Mercer and whose provider of analytics was Cambridge Analytica, the firm alleged to have improperly used Facebook data to make voter profiles, which it sold to the Trump and Brexit campaigns, among others. Recently Bolton’s statements have grown more extreme, alarming centrist and conservative national security professionals along with his longtime liberal foes.”

Geoffrey Skelley shares the good news at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Gov. Bruce Rauner (R-IL) endured a difficult night on Tuesday. Although he won his party’s primary to earn a reelection shot in November, the contest in some ways confirmed his overall weakness as the most endangered incumbent Republican governor facing the voters in 2018. As such, the Crystal Ball is moving the Illinois gubernatorial contest from Toss-up to Leans Democratic, the first time in the 2018 cycle that we have rated an incumbent U.S. senator, U.S. House member, or governor as an underdog for reelection. Rauner’s vulnerabilities are two-fold: his party base is not solidly behind him — the GOP primary made this abundantly clear — and he faces an energized Democratic Party in what is typically a blue state….With our ratings change, [Democratic nominee J. B.] Pritzker starts the general election campaign with an edge over Rauner. On top of Rauner’s intraparty problems,..At the starting gun, Pritzker holds an early advantage.”

Few will be shocked by the headline of Margot Sanger-Katz’s, “Getting Sick Can Be Really Expensive, Even for the Insured” in The New York Times. But her findings in the article helps to explain why health care reform remains a leading priority for many voters in 2018, particularly high-turnout seniors. As Sanger-Katz notes, “New research shows that for a substantial fraction of Americans, a trip to the hospital can mean a permanent reduction in income. Some people bounce right back, but many never work as much again. On average, people in their 50s who are admitted to the hospital will experience a 20 percent drop in income that persists for years. Over all, income losses dwarfed the direct costs of medical care…On average, uninsured people in the study owed the hospital $6,000, compared with only $300 for those with insurance. But the average decline in income for both groups was much larger — an average earnings hit of $11,000 by the third year. Much of that average — around 60 percent — came from people who never returned to work at all…To the authors, the lesson of the paper is that standard health insurance isn’t enough — policymakers need to think about ways to better protect people against the income risks that accompany illness.” Clearly America’s health security system should include better wage replacement insurance, sick leave provisions or and broader disability insurance — reforms that could prove popular with senior voters and thise with chronic disabilities.

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