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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In his Poltico post, “Democrats surging on eve of pivotal special election: Republicans have deployed the full machinery of the party to avoid defeat in the final special election before the midterms.” Alex Isenstadt writes that the Republicans are extremely worried about losing OH-12 to the young Democratic candidate Danny O’Connor. In addition to Trump and Kemp campaigning in the district for the lackluster GOP candidate Troy Balderson, “The Republican National Committee has opened two offices in the district, launched a $500,000-plus get-out-the-vote effort, and dispatched one of its top officials, Bob Paduchik, who ran Trump’s 2016 Ohio campaign. And outside conservative groups, led by a super PAC aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan, have dumped more than $3.5 million onto the TV airwaves, far outpacing Democrats…The all-out push underscores the GOP’s trepidation about the final special election before the midterms. A loss, following startling Republican defeats in Pennsylvania and Alabama, would offer more evidence that a blue wave is on the horizon…Those worries intensified on Saturday morning when, just hours before the rally, Trump took to Twitter to attack NBA legend LeBron James, an Ohio favorite son who recently opened a public school in Akron for at-risk youth.” The latest Monmouth University poll indicates a statistical tie between the candidates, and Trump’s aproval rating in the district is 46 percent, down from 52 percent in 2016.

At The New York Times, Alexander Burns writes, “Most polling for both parties has shown a slim advantage for Mr. Balderson, 56, an auto dealer-turned-state legislator with a wooden public demeanor. But Republicans see his position as precarious in a season when Democrats are voting with passionate enthusiasm. And Democratic attacks on Mr. Balderson — for telling the Columbus Dispatch newspaper that he might support raising the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare — have wounded him…That there is uncertainty about Tuesday’s election to begin with is a source of grave anxiety for Republicans, and even victory might not allay it. The district has elected Republicans to Congress for decades and favored Mr. Trump in 2016 by 11 percentage points, surpassing his powerful margin statewide…And Mr. O’Connor, the Democrat, has attempted to channel a nonthreatening kind of indignation, trumpeting broadly appealing themes like protecting government-backed retirement benefits, rejecting corporate donations and promoting “new leadership” in Washington.”

A Danny O’Connor Ad:

“Most strategists and analysts say this November’s midterms will be determined by turnout. According to this view, whichever party more fully energizes its partisans will come out on top. New data, though, shows this common wisdom has it exactly backward. It’s the voters who sit between the two parties, not the party bases, who will choose which party wins…That’s a surprising finding from the most recent Democracy Fund Voter Study Group poll. This biannual poll, which asks thousands of Americans their views on issues, personalities and voting intentions, has been querying the same people their views going back to 2011 (in the polling world, this is known as a longitudinal survey). That means it is large enough and has the right sort of questions to do what most polls can’t: report accurately on small groups within the overall electorate…These dynamics will be on clear display in Tuesday’s special election in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District. The seat is split between an affluent, educated core that has loads of Romney-Clinton voters (Delaware and Franklin Counties) and five small-town and rural counties that have lots of Obama-Trump voters…The Democrat Danny O’Connor’s campaign has skillfully played to this divide. His ads emphasize working across the aisle to find common ground and note that “we need new leadership in both parties.” Winning control of the House and Senate means Democrats have to fight on Republican turf, and that means talking to Romney-Clinton and Obama-Trump voters. How well they can talk to both at the same time — and how well Republicans do among the same groups — will determine whether we see a blue wave or another case of Democratic despair.” — From “The Voters Who Will Decide the Midterms,” a New York Times op-ed by Henry Olsen, editor of the “Flyover Country” section at UnHerd.com, is the director and a co-founder of the Voter Study Group.

Vox’s Dylan Scott explores O’Connor’s growing support, and notes, “Even if he’s skeptical of single-payer, O’Connor talks a lot about expanding access to health care. In his campaign office, almost every sign adorning the walls is about stopping the GOP war on Medicaid or protecting the Affordable Care Act. His mom is a cancer survivor, and he is focused on protecting preexisting conditions. Balderson, the Republican in the race, opposed Ohio’s Medicaid expansion and is running on repealing Obamacare…“I haven’t seen a [single-payer] proposal that’s gonna move the needle, whether it’s budgetarily or coverage-wise,” he said. “I think voters here are more focused on protecting their access now, not the political jargon and all these catchphrases that have been poll-tested and are proposed by people in Washington, DC..But where O’Connor differs from moderate Democrats of the past — and from Republican now — is he refuses to entertain cuts to Social Security and Medicare; his campaign ads hit Balderson over GOP proposals to do so. He’s proud of his F-rating from the National Rifle Association.”

“Politics is regularly described in terms of “left” vs. “right,” observes E. J. Dionne, Jr. in his syndicated column, “Forget left and right. This is what will determine the midterms” at The Washington Post. “But other binaries can be more relevant. “Forward” vs. “backward” often define a choice facing an electorate better than the standard ideological categories. And the most powerful faceoff of all may be “reform” vs. “corruption.”…Much commentary on the 2018 midterm campaign has focused on a drift or a lurch left in the Democratic Party, the measurement of the port-side tilt varying from analyst to analyst. In fact, more moderate progressives have done very well in the primaries so far, but Democrats are certainly less enamored of centrism than they were during the 1990s…What is missed in this sort of analysis is that many, maybe most, of us don’t think in simple left/right terms, and countless issues are not cleanly identified this way. The same is true of elections. When the returns are tallied in November, the results may be better explained by the reform/corruption dynamic than any other.”

Further, adds Dionne, “The advantages of the corruption issue are (1) “corrupt” really is the right word to describe the Trump administration; (2) a concern over corruption transcends philosophical dispositions; and (3) the failure to “drain the swamp” is one of President Trump’s most obvious broken promises. Instead, Trump has turned the swamp into an immense toxic-waste dump. The stench emanates from Cabinet officials driven from office by egregious behavior and from Trump’s own violations of long-standing norms limiting business dealings by presidents and their families…But the corruption issue goes beyond meat-and-potatoes sleaze. Our democracy itself is in danger from the overpowering influence of money on our politics, unchecked foreign intervention in our elections and an increasing willingness of Republicans to bias the system in their favor through gerrymandering and restrictions on access to the ballot.”

“The single-payer Democrats are on the ballot in red and blue states and from California, where Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is the heavy favorite to win in November, to Massachusetts, where Democrat Jay Gonzalez believes the issue will give him an opening against a popular Republican governor,” writes David Weigel at PowerPost…“There are going to be bills about this in dozens of states,” said Sam Munger, a spokesman for the liberal State Innovation Exchange who added that there has been a surge of single-payer legislation since the start of 2017. “Ninety percent of those bills won’t go anywhere, but people are pushing the spectrum of debate. Expanding health care, however they want to do it, is one of the top-testing messages we see in polls…While Democrats running for the House and Senate talk about Medicare for all in aspirational terms, as a post-Trump national goal, liberal candidates for governor suggest that their states could quickly become laboratories for universal coverage.”

Sher Watts Spooner explains why “2018 is the year of Democratic women—but not only candidates” at Daily Kos: “The elections in 2018 are turning out to be the Year of the Woman, but it’s not just women candidates running as Democrats. It’s women voting in big numbers. It’s women donating money to candidates—lots of money. More than anything else, it’s about women having their voices heard…No longer are women candidates afraid to speak out on all issues. They’re proud of touting their military service. And they’re also not afraid to talk about a double standard for women candidates…Suddenly the media are full of stories about the number of Democratic women running and winning primaries. About how the midterms could feature a record gender gap between men and women voters. About how women are establishing “giving circles” to make sure candidates are funded and to give more interested women a way to get involved.” Spoonoer quyotes a CNN story: “In the average poll since June, Democrats are leading among women by an average 20-percentage point margin compared to trailing among men by 6 points. If this holds, this would be the largest margin that Democrats would win women by in a midterm election since at least 1958…One clear advantage of doing better among women voters though is that they almost always represent a larger percentage of the electorate than men do.”

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