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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes – Democratic Midterm Primary Super Tuesday

“The night’s biggest headline,” writes Ronald Brownstein at The Atlantic, “was that the Democrats appear to have placed candidates for November in all of the California congressional districts where they feared being locked out by the state’s unusual top-two primary system. That unexpected outcome—reinforced by the party’s success at nominating its preferred candidate in each competitive seat in New Jersey—means the Democrats still have an opportunity to recapture the House this fall, primarily by winning seats in states that voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016…After their apparent success in California, Democrats can come close to retaking the House majority just by sweeping away the last remaining Republicans in otherwise Democratic-leaning states…At the same time, Republicans are positioned to defend or expand their majority in the Senate if they can beat some of the 10 Democrats defending seats in states that voted for Trump over Clinton. The GOP has chosen strong challengers in those states that have selected nominees so far, a pattern that continued Tuesday with the victory of Montana state auditor Matt Rosendale, the favorite of party and conservative-group leaders, for the Republican Senate nomination against Democrat Jon Tester.”

Democratic voter turnout in southern California was significantly increased over the 2014 midterm elections. As Brownstein explains, “”Overall, the California primary generated a very modest turnout: Though the final vote count will increase the total, the secretary of state reported Wednesday that only about one in five registered voters participated. But Democratic candidates on Tuesday tallied significantly more votes in each of the crucial LA-area seats than their counterparts did in 2014, the last midterm primary…For instance: Democrats on Tuesday amassed nearly 37,000 votes in the congressional district north of Los Angeles held by Republican Steve Knight. That compares to only about 20,000 votes in 2014. The overall increase was similar in Democrat Gil Cisneros’s win in the Orange County seat that Republican Representative Ed Royce is vacating…None of these LA-area districts are sure things for Democrats in November, and the primary results underscored the party’s continuing challenge of mobilizing young and minority voters in midterm elections. But the big Democratic-turnout gains around Los Angeles underscore how far the party can progress toward retaking the House just by channeling the resistance to Trump in the places that have been most dubious of him from the start.”

Brownstein notes, further, “The Cook Political Report’s nonpartisan rankings show that many of the Democrats’ top House opportunities are concentrated in blue states; among the seats that Cook rates as toss-ups or leaning toward the Democrats are five in California; three in New Jersey; two each in New York, Illinois, and Minnesota; and one each in Colorado, Virginia, and Washington. Cook rates another five seats in Pennsylvania, which Trump carried by only about 40,000 votes, as toss-ups or Democrat-leaning. Democrats also have a more long-shot chance at 10 GOP-held House seats in Clinton states that the Cookrankings rate as Republican-leaning…For Democrats, those blue-state seats may be more promising than their comparable openings in otherwise red states (such as the suburban seats around Dallas, Houston, and Atlanta), simply because the overall local environment remains so much more hostile to Trump.”

G. Elliot Morris, a data journalist for The Economist, offers a graph-rich, daily-updated midterm prediction at his blog, The Crosstab. The latest: “In my projection of the Election Day vote share, based on polls of the generic ballot and the swing toward Democrats in special elections, the Democratic Party is ahead, winning by 8.8% of the vote share on average. The margin of error is roughly 6% points…Democrats earn a median of 227 seats in our simulations of the 2018 midterms. This may differ from the strict predictions below because of the larger number of Lean Republican seats than Lean Democratic seats in the current Congress. Effectively we are saying that the below number is an ideal estimate, meant to give you context as to which seats are competitive, but that we expect Democrats to overperform expectations based on the assessment of our error in past predictions…Democrats have a 62.9 percent chance of winning a House majority on November 6th, 2018.” Morris’s methodology: “My forecast of the election day vote works in three stages. First, I average all of the generic ballot polls with an algorithm designed to produce the most predictive average for each week in the cycle. Second, I use that average to predict the most likely election day polling average for Republicans, Democrats, other parties and undecided voters. Finally, I combine the projected Democratic margin in election day polls with Democrats’ average performance in special elections between 2017 and 2018 to predict the outcome of the vote on election day.”

Noting Morriss’s analysis, Brownstein’s article and other sources, Ruy Teixeira adds in his FB post, “Democrats Looking Good for House Takeover, “The primary results from this Tuesday indicate that the Democrats remain in a good position to take back the House this November. They avoided the dreaded top two “lockout” in key California House races and now are positioned to compete in all the races where they have a chance to win. Primaries in other states like New Jersey produced strong candidates for the fall…Just how good are the Democrats’ chances of taking back the House at this point? The Economist model is now at 68 percent. Another model (linked to below) from G. Elliott Morris’ Crosstab site has Democrats’ chances at 63 percent. The recently-rolled out CBS Battleground Tracker model has it close to even with a slight Democratic advantage. Ditto Nate Cohn at the NYT. Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball has it pretty much even-steven…Hold on to your popcorn! But this Tuesday definitely keeps the Democrats on track.”

From “Women Won Big In Tuesday’s Primary Elections” by Willa Frej at HuffPo: “A record-breaking number of women are running for ― and winning ― spots on ballots in this year’s primary elections. Of the 92 women who participated in Tuesday’s eight primaries, at least 36 of them have emerged victorious…The overwhelming majority of women who ran were on the Democratic side of the aisle, she said, where they have a high likelihood of winning this fall if they’re running in largely Democratic districts…More than 500 women have so far filed to run in primaries this year, according to the Center for American Women and Politics. That number represents a 67 percent jump from 2016. More than 110 of those women have won their races, 30 of them in California alone. Most of the women running are Democrats, although one-third of Republican women running have also won their races…Many of these women credit President Donald Trump’s election and the potency of the Me Too movement with fueling their desire to run.” Stephanie Schriock, president of EMILY’s List explained, “All that energy, which is still building, is going to lift Democrats up and down the ballot,” she said. “Women will be the reason Democrats win the House in November.”

NYT political reporters Carl Hulse and Jonathan Martin put it this way: “Democrats enhanced their prospects for winning control of the House with Tuesday’s coast-to-coast primary results, skirting potential calamity in California and lining up likely gains in New Jersey and possible victories in Iowa and New Mexico.” However, “But among the ballots that have been counted so far*, votes for Democratic candidates outnumber those for Republicans in only one district, the 49th, in Tuesday’s open primary elections…Republicans avoided their own worst-case scenario as well, securing a spot in the California governor’s race, which should help bring G.O.P. voters to the polls this fall to vote for their party’s House candidates. Republicans missed a slot on the ballot to challenge Senator Dianne Feinstein’s re-election bid, but a shutout in both California’s Senate race and its contest for governor could have severely depressed conservative turnout…Republican voters also chose strong candidates in Southern California for the showdown in November.”

In their post, “Top takeaways from 2018’s biggest primary night,” David Siders, Natasha Korecki, Carla Marinucci and Steven Shepard report at Politico that “The blowback for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and other national Democrats who maneuvered in California’s House primaries was fierce. But as the votes were tallied Wednesday morning, it appeared that the party’s multipronged strategy — attacking Republicans, taking sides among Democrats and cajoling some other candidates to drop out — had paid off…if there’s a Democrat on the ballot in each of California’s 53 House districts in November, the party establishment in Washington will likely see its primary efforts as worth all the trouble.” It also appears that Democratic candidate for California Governor Gavin Newsom pulled off a modified version of ‘the McCaskill template,’ as the authors note: “Newsom and his supporters, hoping for an easy race against Cox instead of a difficult one against a Democrat, had aired ads reinforcing Cox’s conservative credentials for Republican voters.” Newsom’s win and his highly-likely ascension to the governorship of our largest state makes him a top ‘rising star’ in Democratic politics, as well as Tuesday’s biggest winner.

We’ll conclude this edition of Political Strategy Notes with this shamelessly optimistic excerpt from Michael Scherer’s “Democrats strengthen hand in seeking control of House, even if odds of a blue wave are diminishing” at The Washington Post: ““They have enough seats in play and enough quality candidates in those seats to win the majority,” said Nathan Gonzales, who handicaps House races for Inside Elections. “Democrats have done a good job of turning enthusiasm into a large number of candidates, of turning enthusiasm into fundraising,” Gonzalez said. “But now they have to turn that enthusiasm into votes because that is what is going to matter in November.”…Voters have cast primary ballots in 32 of the 56 Republican-held House districts most vulnerable to a Democratic takeover, according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. Of the 28 races that have been called, Democratic women have won in half the districts, with women leading the Democratic ticket Wednesday afternoon in one of the four remaining seats still being counted in California. The party’s nominees in these crucial districts also include six military veterans and seven nominees who are black, Latino or Asian…The winners include new political stars such as Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot running in Lexington, Ky., and Mikie Sherrill, a Navy pilot and former prosecutor running in northern New Jersey…Democrats also have benefited from a rare unity between the party’s wings. A predicted liberal Democratic rebellion has not materialized at the polls, in part because mainstream candidates have shifted to the left on policy.”

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