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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

‘You go, Greitens’ has to be the unofficial rallying cry of Missouri Democrats, who hope the redolent mess Missouri’s Republican Governor, Eric Greitens has created for his party will reverberate up and down ballot. As Ed Kilgore explains in his New York Magazine column, “The clock is ticking not just for Greitens but for his fellow party members who don’t want to go into a general election season with this millstone around their necks (all members of the Missouri House and half of the Missouri Senate are up for reelection this year). That is particularly true of the GOP’s putative nominee in the critical fight to take down Senator Claire McCaskill: Attorney General Josh Hawley, who has investigated Greitens himself and called for his speedy resignation.”

In her article, “How Democrats can make Trump chaos a midterm issue” at The PlumLine, Helaine Olen notes that “a poll released Wednesday by Politico and Morning Consult found a growing majority of voters who say Trump is presiding over a disorganized White House, with 62 percent agreeing the administration is either very or somewhat chaotic…This could become a major issue in November’s midterm elections…That chaos percentage is actually up from two months ago, when only 54 percent agreed with the statement. The increasing tendency of voters to believe the Trump administration is something of a shambolic mess gives Democrats yet another cudgel with which to go after Republican congressional candidates in the upcoming fall elections — that is if they strike the right tone.” Olen says that attacking Trump’s character and lack of accomplishments is a “less than effective strategy,” but “The way the White House is run — and its results — offer Democrats multiple opportunities to make their case. Take, for instance, the ongoing Russia investigation or the appalling awfulness of any number of the president’s appointments, such as the seemingly never-ending scandals involving Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. While the public might not be totally focused on these stories, Democratic candidates can still use them to point toward the failure of House and Senate Republicans to properly do their jobs…In other words, Democratic candidates can make the case that leaving Republicans in control of Congress is both enabling and contributing to the chaos emanating from the White House.”

Regarding that aforementioned Politico and Morning Consult poll, Politico’s Steven Shepard writes that “A strong majority of voters say President Donald Trump’s administration is running chaotically after Trump’s pick for veterans affairs secretary, White House physician Ronny Jackson, withdrew his name from consideration last week, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll…More than 3 in 5 voters, 62 percent, say Trump’s administration is running very or somewhat chaotically — nearly twice as many as the 32 percent who say it’s running very or somewhat well…Nearly half of voters, 49 percent, say the Trump administration has done a poor job when it comes to hiring and retaining qualified people — roughly twice as many who say the Trump administration has done an excellent or good job combined.” Puzzling that this number isn’t higher, considering the ever-lengthening list of Trump appointees and associates who resign under public pressure or desert to save their hides.

Matthew Walther’s article in The Week, “Why a GOP midterm shellacking would be good for Trump” taps into another promising vein for Democrats — not just campaigns and candidates, but also rank and file Democrats — to mine. Walther, a conservative writer, is interested in helping Trump and the Republicans by ridding them of the burden of the unruly and chaotic House. But what Dems should do is change the last word of Walther’s title to “America,” and work the argument that a midterm shellacking would restore some neeeded balance and sanity to our politics, which just might appeal to some swing voters and moderate Repubicans. Focus groups often reveal a consistent group of voters who distrust any party having too much control. It’s one of those points that often gets taken for granted, but ought to be emphasized to create buzz that can translate into votes.

Normally it would be a little early to start talking about who is going to be the next Democratic Speaker of the House of Representative. But, since the Republicans are making Nancy Pelosi a big theme of the 2018 elections, it’s a front and center issue Democrats are being forced to address in their campaigns.  David Weigel and Paul Kane address the nuances of the Pelosi dilemma in their PowerPost article, “‘We need some new blood’: Many Democrats call for next generation of House leaders.” Among their observations, “So far, 10 Democratic candidates have said they would oppose Pelosi’s return to the speakership, while at least another 10 have conspicuously declined to express support for her, according to interviews with several candidates and a Washington Post review of statements collected by Republicans…This clamor for change at the top underscores the generational tensions within the House Democratic caucus as younger lawmakers look to replace not only Pelosi but also two other septuagenarians — Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), 78, and Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), 77.” The recent Ipsos/Reuters poll indicating Democratic erosion among younger voters may feed concerns among Democratic House candidates about aging Democratic leaders in congress.

But nobody is going to argue that Pelosi’s age has diminished her fighting spirit. At Vox, Ella Nilsen notes “House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has made it clear she isn’t going to leave a “blue wave” up to chance in 2018…“I hope for a wave, but I believe you make your wave,” Pelosi said at a February Austin American-Statesman editorial board meeting. “This is a cold-blooded, strategic, focused campaign to win the Congress for the American people. We don’t waste time. We don’t waste energy, we don’t waste resources.” Fighting spirit is good, but predictions of victory in winning the speakership again can be twisted by Republicans to portray Democrats as arrogant. Also, notes Nilsen, “Pelosi, a formidable fundraiser in her own right, has smashed her own records. She raised $16.1 million in the first quarter alone, and $66.7 million for the entire cycle — about $1 million more than she did in 2016.” Nilsen’s article is an instructive read for other reasons, well-encapsulated in her title, “The Democratic establishment’s controversial meddling in 2018 primaries, explained: The case for and against national Democrats intervening in primaries.

New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait has a an insightful post about corruption in the House under Speaker Paul Ryan’s reign. From Chait’s concluding paragraph: “Ryan has played an invaluable role covering up and enabling Trump administration scandals. When he says his party needs to keep control of the House to prevent subpoenas, he is both promising the cover-ups will continue if his party keeps its control of government, and expressing his clear belief that he opposes any level of independent oversight of the Executive branch.” Democrats have a potent card to play in noting corruption under Republican leaders, and Chait’s column does a great job of distilling it for mass consumption.

Also at Vox, Dylan Scott has some thoughts on “The 6 Senate seats Democrats could maybe, possibly win from Republicans: The opportunities for Democrats to gain ground in the Senate, ranked from most to least likely.” Scott charts a very narrow path to Democratic victory in Nevada, Nebraska, Mississippi, Texas, Tennessee and Arizona. Back on earth, Scottt notes “Democrats have a tall order in the 2018 Senate elections. They have to defend 10 seats in states that Donald Trump won — and on top of that, if they want to reclaim control of the Senate, they have precious few opportunities to take seats from Republicans…At this point, Democrats need more or less a straight flush to win the Senate: They have to hold those 10 seats, some of which are in very hostile territory, and then pick off two states from Republicans.”

 Years from now political scientists will still be studying the rapid success of the movement for acceptance of same-sex marriage, which was succinctly noted in Walt Hickey’s FiveThirtyEight ‘Significant Digits’ column: “A majority of residents support the right of same-sex couples to get married in 44 states. The exceptions are Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, West Virginia, Louisiana and North Carolina. Only in Alabama do a majority of residents oppose same-sex marriage. That 44 states is up from 30 states in 2014. [Public Religion Research Institute].”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Victor on

    If anyone in the Party is going to meddle in primaries then the following are unacceptable:

    1) non-public selection criteria;

    2) systematic discrimination against or favoritism for any of the wings of the party;

    3) criteria based exclusively on fundraising ability;

    4) discrimination based on race, gender or sexual orientation/identity;

    5) early picking of winners when there are several viable candidates;

    6) inconsistent application of the criteria.

    Maybe it is time for the Party to reconsider the use of caucuses along with primaries. Caucuses could be used to weed really non-viable candidates.


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