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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

The race for Georgia governor is set with Democrat Stacy Abrams running against Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who won the GOP nomination on Tuesday. Sue Halpern’s article, “Trump, Election Hacking, and the Georgia Governor’s Race” at The New Yorker raises very disturbing questions about Kemp’s integrity as Georgia’s chief vote counter, as well as what his ‘shotgun ad’ indicates about his mental health: “Georgia is one of only five states that uses voting machines that create no paper record, and thus cannot be audited, and the Center for American Progress has given it a D grade for election security. But, when D.H.S. offered cybersecurity assistance, Kemp refused it… a group called the Coalition for Good Governance sued Kemp and other state officials for failing to insure a fair election, free from interference. They asked, among other things, that the court invalidate the special election. (Handel took her seat in Congress the week after the election.) The suit was filed on July 3rd [2017]. Four days later, the servers at the Center for Election Systems were wiped clean…On August 9th, less than twenty-four hours after the case was moved to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, all the data on the Center’s backup servers were destroyed as well.” Abrams’s impressive margin in her Democratic primary victory indicates that she knows how to run an effective campaign. For those who want to help her level the playing field against Kemp’s corporate domors, here’s her ActBlue page.

Georgia has another contest of potential national importance, Democrat Lucy McBath’s campaign to unseat Karen Handel in GA-6. McBath has a decent chance here as a strong progressive and gun safety advocate in a year when it is a high-profile issue — she is the mother of a 17-year old son, Jordan Davis, who was killed in a horrific shooting by a white man. McBath’s Republican opponent, Handel, is another former Secretary of State (2007-09), who ran a suspicious project to purge “non-citizens” from the voter rolls, which provoked lawsuits by the Georgia ACLU and the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund. In addition to the incidents noted above questioning the conduct of Handel and Kemp in the office of the Georgia Secretary of State, it should be noted that the low-key Democrat Jon Ossoff received 48.1 percent of the vote in the first round election in his 2017 campaign to win the district — Handel got 19.8 percent in the first round and won the run-off by a margin of 51.7 to 48.2 percent. One Ossoff campaign worker noted that “We registered over 86,419 voter registration forms…and 40,000 of them are missing. And you know what they told us? “We don’t know what you’re talking about. What forms?” It seems that Georgia Democrats have a unique ‘Drain the swamp’ messaging opportunity in support of both the McBath and Abrams campaigns. Here’s Lucy Mcbath’s ActBlue page.

Michael Wear, author of author of “Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About the Future of Faith in America,” argues that “Democrats are entirely too focused on abortion” at The Monitor. “…Conservatives are primarily responsible for making “Supreme Court” another term for abortion politics. Now, Democrats are approaching the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh with the same singular focus. As MoveOn’s Washington director told the Associated Press, when it comes to Trump’s nominee, “the essential message is Roe.”…And yet voters and Democrats’ constituents have a broader set of constitutional concerns. Voting rights, immigration, workplace protections, environmental law and affirmative action are going to be at the mercy of the justices. …Does it help the party to make abortion rights such a predominant subject? Does it even help the pro-choice cause?…Kavanaugh’s confirmation battle may only make matters worse for Democrats. If the message the party delivers during the Senate hearings is single-mindedly focused on Roe and abortion rights, it may discourage support and turnout in many competitive districts crucial to switching the House and Senate from red to blue. (I’m thinking about states in the Southeast, the Rust Belt and Midwest, and even the Mountain West.)…Senate Democrats should forcefully test Kavanaugh’s fitness for the bench. But to the extent the Kavanaugh hearings are going to be a policy referendum, let’s be sure the nation hears from a party that is interested in more than just the fate of Roe v. Wade.”I think Wear is overstaing the case. Very few Democratic candidates are single-issue campaigners; it’s more that major media provides weak coverage of the other issues because they are too busy chasing Trump’s distractions du jour.

Regarding the current epidemic of hand-ringing about whether the Democrats are moving left too fast or holding on to the centrist policies too tightly, Ositu Newanevu shares some insights at slate.com, including “What do we actually know, nonanecdotally, about what kind of economic policies American voters want? For many years, Third Way has made a habit of waving around poll data showing very few Americans identify as liberals. “At the national level,” William Galston and Elaine Kamarck wrote in a report for the group called “The Still-Vital Center,” “self-identified liberals constitute barely one-fifth of the electorate; in most states, they are nowhere near a plurality—let alone a majority.” This has long been true. It has also long been true that when asked about specific proposals and political values, American voters are far more economically liberal than the numbers on ideological self-identification suggest.” Nwanevu comes down on the side of the Dem left critique. Looking at the bigger picture, a vigorous debate about whether policies are too far left or too centrist serves the cause of a healthy party, unlike the Republicans, most of whom cower in the shadows at every inane tweet by their unhinged leader.

In that same spirit, Sarah Larson’s “The Wilderness,” Reviewed: Can a Partisan Podcast Save the Democratic Party?,” also at The New Yorker, plugs Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau’s current project. Larson writes, “So much oxygen is consumed by Trump that it can be hard, for Democrats, to focus on that other problem: the Democratic Party. Democrats lost not only the 2016 Presidential election but, in the past six to eight years, some nine hundred seats nationwide. “The Wilderness,” Favreau’s ambitious new podcast about the Democratic Party, seeks to address that problem. It’s a fifteen-part series, narrative and documentary in form (it’s co-produced by Two-Up, of “36 Questions” and “Limetown”), that provides context about the Party and soul-searching about what Democrats should do next. It will conclude a few weeks before the midterms, giving newly motivated door-knockers and phone-bankers ample time to absorb its lessons. “It’s a show about us, about being honest with ourselves as Democrats,” Favreau says in an episode. “We have a lot to learn and a shitload of work to do.”

In her post, “Obama may be the only one who can heal the Democratic Party. But his presence could cost it votes” at nbcnews.com, Ashley Pratte mulls over the pros and cons of using the former president in midterm campaigns,” and comes up with this: “…Although Trump’s victory could be seen as a complete repudiation of Obama’s policies and his time in office, it’s possible that only the return of the still-popular former president could heal the party’s rifts from 2016 and help it return to power.” On the other hand, “There is one problem with keeping Obama at the helm of the Democratic Party — even if it is only behind the scenes — and that’s the fact that nothing energizes Republicans more than their distaste for Obama and his policies. If Republicans run on the idea that Obama is the puppet master (whether it be through his direct counsel or through his political committee, Organizing For Action), it will be enough to mobilize their own base and turn out the vote.” But Obama-haters were going to vote Republican anyway, and very few are going to think “I wasn’t going to vote, but since Obama out there again, I think I will.” Also, most Democratic candidates are smart enough to use the president when and where he can help. And lastly, Obama’s “Miss me yet?” star is rising every day, even among some who voted against him.

The Upshot staff has a fun, interactive map, “Political Bubbles and Hidden Diversity: Highlights From a Very Detailed Map of the 2016 Election” that provides a “A 90-second tour of 14 big cities.” The map “lets you explore the 2016 presidential election at the highest level of detail available: by voting precinct” and, “On the neighborhood level, many of us really do live in an electoral bubble, this map shows: More than one in five voters lived in a precinct where 80 percent of the two-party vote went to Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton. But the map also reveals surprising diversity…The election results most readers are familiar with are county maps like the ones we produce at The Times on election night. But votes are cast at a much finer unit of geography — in precincts, which may contain thousands of voters but in some cases contain only a handful. Our previous election maps contained results for about 3,100 counties; here we show results for more than 168,000 voting precincts.” It’s not hard to see how campaigns can improve their broadcast media ads using the map. Explore and learn.

Chris Cillizza argues that “Every sign is pointing to a Democratic wave in November” at CNN’s The Point: “While many of the more than four dozen Democratic challengers who outraised their GOP incumbent opponents are already in targeted races, others remain on the periphery of the landscape of what are commonly accepted as competitive districts. But if the horizon continues to slide toward Democrats, some Republican House members who may not think they are in trouble right now could find themselves suddenly vulnerable. And if their Democratic opponent already has enough money in the bank to run ads and ensure voters know they have a choice, it could be curtains for people who no one is even thinking about possibly losing right now…Add it all up — and throw in the weight of history that suggests the President’s party loses, on average, 33 seats in midterm elections — and you have a devil’s brew for Republicans….”Think it’s safe to say the odds of a D House takeover have never been higher this cycle,” tweeted National Journal politics editor Josh Kraushaar. “Time is running out for Rs to turn things around.”

If you know any younguns who are interested in getting into political campaign work, suggest they read “2018 Rising Stars” at Campaigns & Elections. The article features 22 one-paragraph profiles of young political activists (ten of them Democrats). The article notes that “Rising Star recipients have climbed to the heights of politics, launching dozens of successful consulting firms and serving at the highest levels of state and federal campaigns.” Here’s a sample entry: “Tara McGowan, Democrat, Founder and CEO, ACRONYM and Lockwood Strategy.With her new ventures, ACRONYM and Lockwood Strategy, Tara McGowan is helping progressive campaigns and organizations on the left to run more nimble and innovative digital programs. In just over a year, Lockwood has doubled in size and played a leading role in helping Democrats to major 2017 wins up and down the ballot in Virginia. Among the innovation already emerging from McGowan’s new venture: a first-of-its-kind online voter registration program with a custom built, end-to-end registration and relational organizing platform, a digital organizing tools assessment designed to help campaigns and organizations break through vendor marketing speak to more effectively utilize the digital resources available in the Democratic tech space, and a multi-million dollar digital-only effort to flip over 100 state legislative seats blue in the midterm elections this fall.”

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