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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Democrats have tried with very limited success to make U.S. Supreme Court picks a pivotal issue in presidential elections. Perhaps Dems could do better with some targeted messaging about the importance of the far more numerous lower court picks. Conservative writer Hugh Hewitt, quoted in David Smith’s article, “How Donald Trump is weaponising the courts for political ends” at The Guardian puts the scope of the stakes in perspective: “By 2019, Trump judges will be participating in more than 15,000 decisions every year, and almost all those decisions will be the law of the land. There will be no fewer than 400 crucial case votes and dozens of signed opinions, each year, every year for most of the Trump judges.” Further, adds Smith, “With just over a year in office, Donald Trump has already appointed 21 of America’s 167 current circuit judges and intends to fill an additional 20 or more vacancies by the end of the year. He is far outpacing Barack Obama, whose 21st circuit court nominee was approved 33 months into his presidency amid gridlock in Congress. Seventeen of Trump’s nominees for district courts, most of whom replaced Democratic appointees, have also been approved by the Republican-controlled Senate…Trump’s judicial picks are profoundly shaped by the Federalist Society, a group of conservatives and libertarians who favour an “originalist” interpretation of the constitution, and the Heritage Foundation, a Washington thinktank where Newt Gingrich is a regular speaker and where Margaret Thatcher is lionised.”

“Although it is tempting for conservatives to assume that single-payer health care would be a nonstarter for most Americans, the idea polls pretty well,” concedes conservative David Thornton at The Resurgent. “A March 2018 poll from the nonpartisan Kaiser Foundation found 59 percent of Americans like the idea of Medicare-for-all. When the national health plan was made a voluntary option, the share of those in favor increased to 75 percent, including 64 percent of Republicans…Perhaps ominously for Republicans running against the idea, 74 percent of independents favored the idea of an optional national health insurance plan. The big question is how voters in swing House and Senate districts will view the idea.”

“From the rumored 2020 presidential challengers in the Senate to midterm candidates up and down the ballot, in both red and blue states and districts, the future of health care in America is shaping up as perhaps the central policy concern of 2018. The contours of the candidates’ messages might vary and, for many, the particulars of the path forward — how far, how fast — remain an open question. But there is little question, for Democrats in this cycle, which way is up…Capitol Hill, despite being home to a pair of Republican majorities, has become a stage for Democrats who, in less than two years, have rolled out at least five significant proposals for big ticket expansions of government-backed health care. That the legislation is dead on arrival in Trump’s Washington is beside the point. These are statements of intent and appeals to current and future voters…On the trail this year, candidates have swung at the issue from all angles. A scan of ads from congressional hopefuls reveals a diverse suite of tactics buttressed by a clear strategic decision to hammer Republicans over their efforts to gut Obamacare and either cut or complicate funding for programs like Medicaid.” — From “It’s health care, stupid! Democrats dig in as midterms ramp up” by Gregory Krieg and David Wright, at CNN Politics.

NYT’s Abby Goodnough reports some really good news, “After Years of Trying, Virginia Finally Will Expand Medicaid,” noting that: “Virginia’s Republican-controlled Senate voted on Wednesday to open Medicaid to an additional 400,000 low-income adults next year, making it all but certain that the state will join 32 others that have already expanded the public health insurance program under the Affordable Care Act…Republican lawmakers in the state had blocked Medicaid expansion for four straight years, but a number of them dropped their opposition after their party almost lost the House of Delegates in elections last fall and voters named health care as a top issue…Efforts to expand the program are actually gaining steam in some other Republican states. With midterm elections approaching, advocates in Idaho and Nebraska are trying to get Medicaid expansion initiatives on their ballots. Their state legislatures have repeatedly refused to expand the program. Utah’s measure officially qualified for the ballot on Tuesday, and officials in Idaho are determining whether supporters have gathered enough signatures for their question to qualify.” Virginia will soon be the poster state for showing how voting for Democratic Governors and state legislators can save lives.

Here’s a messaging tip from Sen. Sherrod Brown, quoted in Seth Masket’s “What Democratic candidates’ priorities say about the party’s direction” at Vox: “Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio talked about the need to listen to workers in places like, well, Ohio. Donald Trump won in places outside of urban areas that, according to Brown, he just had no place winning. Brown explained that what Democrats need to do to win back those voters is to talk about “the dignity of work.” He said even using terms like “the Rust Belt” to describe this region is offensive to this dignity: “It diminishes what we are, and it diminishes what we do.”

In her article, “Millennials take on Trump in the midterms: Younger candidates are flooding Democratic congressional primaries — and winning” at Politico, Elena Schneider writes, “At least 20 millennial Democratic candidates are running in battleground districts, a leap over previous cycles that could remake the party’s generational divide. “I don’t recall a cycle with anything close to this number of younger candidates in recent times,” said Ian Russell, a Democratic consultant who served as the deputy executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “Notably, younger candidates who actually have a good shot at winning – raising money, running professional campaigns.” And not a minute too soon for those who are concerned about the aging universe of Democratic office-holders. “Currently, the average age of a member of 115th Congress — nearly 58 years old in the House and nearly 62 years old in the Senate — is among the oldest of any Congress in recent history, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service. The youngest member of Congress, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), will turn 34 in July.”

Juan Williams shares some revealing polling stats in his post, “Midterms will be referendum on Trump” at The Hill: “With less than six months to go to the midterm elections, Republicans think they have Democrats in an impeachment trap…Seventy percent of Democrats in recent polling from Quinnipiac University say they will vote for a midterm candidate who plans to impeach President Trump. But 84 percent of Republicans say they’re ready to oppose any candidate planning on impeachment…And overall, the Quinnipiac polling shows 55 percent of voters don’t want Democrats to begin impeachment proceedings…An April NPR/PBS/Marist survey found 47 percent voters would “definitely” vote against a candidate who campaigned on impeaching Trump while 42 percent said they would “definitely” vote for the candidate who ran on impeachment…Unless Trump fires the special prosecutor, talk of impeachment remains a sideshow. It is not going to decide the outcome in November…Trump is too big. The election will be a referendum on him.

Politicians of both parties are getting pretty creative in doing end-runs around the traditional media obstacle course, writes Sydney Ember in “Never Mind the News Media: Politicians Test Direct-to-Voter Messaging” at The New York Times: “Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Representative Sean Duffy of Wisconsin, both running this year, have started podcasts, with humanizing names like “Canarycast” and “Plaidcast.”…Representative Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat making a long-shot bid to unseat Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, is streaming his entire campaign live on Facebook. And many other politicians are now routinely Instagramming and Facebooking, tweeting and Snapchatting…These media methods have obvious appeal: Politicians can appear accessible but remain insulated from the press. They are also not altogether new. President Trump eschewed traditional television advertising during the 2016 campaign and can now overshadow even his own party’s message at the drop of a tweet. And many politicians have long made a practice of ducking reporters.” Ember notes also that Sen. Elizabeth Warren also deployed a little media jiu-jitsu when, “last year, after she was blocked from reading a letter from Coretta Scott King on the Senate floor, she live-streamed herself reading the letter instead,” and got great coverage.

In his ‘post-Memorial Day’ update on Democratic 2018 prospects, Kyle Kondik offers this assessment of Democratic chances in Governors races: “Republicans hold a 33-16-1 edge over the Democrats in state governorships. Of the 36 governorships on the ballot this year, Republicans are defending 26 and the Democrats are only defending nine, or the exact opposite of the level of party exposure in the Senate. An independent, Gov. Bill Walker of Alaska, is also on the ballot…Because of the level of exposure for Republicans in the governorships, it would be shocking if the Democrats didn’t net at least some governorships. Our current ratings show them favored to pick up three: Illinois, Maine, and New Mexico. Alaska is a Toss-up and probably represents the Republicans’ best chance to pick up a governorship. There are six other Toss-ups, all of which are open seats: Democrats are defending Colorado, Connecticut, and Minnesota, while Republicans are defending Florida, Michigan, and Nevada. We have previously suggested that the winner of this year’s gubernatorial elections probably will be the party that wins a majority of these five big states that appear competitive: Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Republicans currently hold all but Pennsylvania, where Gov. Tom Wolf (D) remains a favorite over the newly-minted Republican nominee, state Sen. Scott Wagner.”

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