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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Former DCCC Chair Rep. Steve Israel says it plain in his article, “Democrats Don’t Need a National Message” at The Atlantic: “A message that resonates in downtown Brooklyn, New York, could backfire in Brooklyn, Iowa—which happens to be located in a Republican district that’s now highly competitive…Democrats weaken our connection with voters when we’re presumptuous enough to speak for every voter from Trump World Tower in Manhattan to a Trump-won congressional district in Kansas…The fact is that a national message works best in presidential-election years. The party’s nominee is the “messenger in chief,” building a national brand that unifies base and swing voters, donors, activists, volunteers, canvassers, and down-ballot candidates. A midterm election cycle, by its very nature, is fragmented, with hundreds of different campaigns with hundreds of individual candidates.” Israel says a “bottom-up approach is a better solution than a message imposed by party leadership. Democratic activists would be wise not to debate nouns and verbs, and instead give candidates their freedom of speech.”

At The Hill, Megan Keller reports that “A new poll from CBS News Battleground Tracker shows Democrats winning 222 seats in the House if the midterm elections were today, in large part because of party support among women…The tracker, released Sunday, marks a three-seat increase from the tracker’s estimates earlier this summer. Women told CBS that they plan to vote for a Democratic candidate by a 12-point margin…According to the tracker, 89 percent of women voters polled said their 2018 vote is at least as important as a presidential election, while one in five respondents said it is even more important. Democratic and independent women are more than twice as likely to view the midterms with urgency than female Republicans, CBS found…The tracker polled 4,989 registered voters in 57 competitive congressional districts between Aug. 10–16. It has a margin of error of 1.8 percent.”

New York Times op-ed columnist Michelle Goldberg calls out the “pernicious double standard on politicians who owe money,” now being deployed against Democratic candidates like Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacy Abrams and Randy Bryce, who is running for Paul Ryan’s seat in the House. Goldberg explains that Bryce and Abrams are being attacked for their personal debts, which are pretty modest, compared to the debts of many prominent Republicans, and she notes: “Donald Trump, by contrast, has had six business bankruptcies. There are several administration officials who, like Abrams, owed tens of thousands of dollars in back taxes when they were hired, including Justin Clark, head of the White House’s Office of Public Liaison…Then there’s Kemp, Abrams’s opponent, a multimillionaire who is being sued for allegedly failing to repay a $500,000 loan used to buy supplies for an agricultural company he invested in. It says something about the racial and class politics of owing money that Republicans nevertheless feel safe attacking Abrams for her debt, most of which she accrued putting herself through school and helping to care for family members in crisis.” A key take-away is that Democrats shouldn’t waist too much time defending their debts, when Republicans almost always provide fat attack targets with their own questionable financial practices.

“A new survey of nearly 10,000 American adults shows that the strong economy is rallying Republicans and maybe swaying some independents,” write Ben Casselman and Jim Tankersley in The New York Times. “But many voters still aren’t feeling the benefits of robust growth, and the tax overhaul passed last year looks as likely to hurt Republicans at the polls as help them…The data, from a survey conducted in early August for The New York Times by the online polling firm SurveyMonkey, paints a more complex picture than strategists and pundits of either political stripe usually portray. And it helps explain why, out on the campaign trail, candidates have tended to tread lightly when it comes to talking about the economy…Asked how their finances have changed over the last year, Americans are twice as likely to say they are better off than worse off, and they are even more optimistic about the future…Americans’ confidence hasn’t risen since the start of the year. And their outlook for the next 12 months has actually slipped a bit in recent months. Other surveys, showing a similar pattern, have found that anxiety about a trade war has made some Americans less upbeat about the future.”

At PowerPost, Vanessa Williams reports that “Voting rights activists in Georgia say they will launch a petition drive in an effort to collect enough signatures of registered voters to block a proposal to close more than two-thirds of polling precincts in a predominantly black county ahead of this fall’s general election…“You don’t solve problems of accessibility for people with disabilities by reducing access for people without disabilities,” said Andrea Young, executive director of the Georgia ACLU, which wrote a letter to the board stating that the closures would be a violation of the Voting Rights Act because it would have a negative effect on African American voters. The group noted that African Americans make up more than 96 percent of the voters at one of the polling places slated for closure…Unsure whether the board will be persuaded by the arguments for keeping the polling places open, some activists will try to stop the plan by using a state law that forbids the closure of voting sites if 20 percent of the registered voters in the affected precinct object to the change. The county currently has just over 4,000 registered voters…Several groups, including the Georgia Democratic Party, Common Cause and the NAACP, have called on Kemp to step down from his position as secretary of state while he runs for governor. They says it is a conflict of interest for him to make decisions about election laws and procedures while he’s seeking the state’s top elected job. Kemp has said he will stay in the office until his term ends in January.

It’s crickets time for Republican elected officials, who are nervous about Trump’s latest binge of race-baiting, report Ashley Parker, Seung Min Kim and Robert Costa at The Washington Post. “As Trump immersed the nation in a new wave of fraught battles over race, most GOP lawmakers tried to ignore the topic altogether. The studied avoidance is a reflection of the enduring reluctance of Republicans to confront Trump’s often divisive and inflammatory rhetoric…The Washington Post reached out to all 51 Republican senators and six House Republican leaders asking them to participate in a brief interview about Trump and race. Only three senators agreed to participate: Jeff Flake of Arizona, David Perdue of Georgia and Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only black Republican in the Senate…Trump’s critics within the party fear that, in an increasingly diverse nation, the president is reopening wounds many Republicans had sought to heal.” Is it too much to hope that the media will keep the heat on Republican midterm candidates regarding Trump’s racist pandering? Maybe. But it’s up to Democrats to hold Republican midterm candidates accountable for their cowardice in refusing to speak out against Trump’s racism.

From Julian Zelizer’s “Nancy Pelosi is under fire, but ousting her isn’t the answer” at cnn.com: “…If the goal is to eliminate the bogeyman whom the GOP uses to motivate its base, then some Democrats have a badly mistaken idea of what the modern Republican Party is all about and how contemporary politics works. The truth is that regardless of who leads the Democratic Party, Republicans will demonize and characterize them as socialists who want to import radical policies to the United States…If House Democrats decided to pressure Pelosi into stepping down and replaced her with someone from the center of the party, the Republican attacks would not change one iota and they would probably still be pretty effective. The new Democratic leader would be characterized as being just as much of a liberal extremist who threatened the nation, and Republicans would capitalize on their vast media echo chamber to support their point of view. Even if the new speaker were a moderate legislator, like US Rep. Conor Lamb, Republicans would be decrying the nonexistent dominance of the far left…The question for Democrats should not really be if Pelosi offers Republicans too easy a target but rather how their party can be tougher in convincing voters why continued Republican control of Congress threatens vital public policies and the institutions of democracy.” Another argument would be that American democracy is under unprecedented attack by a foreign power, with the aid and support of the Republican President, and Dems need an experienced Speaker to organize the only institution which can prevent it — if the Democrats win a House majority in November.

A pro-Democratic strategic voting campaign is bubbling up in Arizona, where a group called  “Red and Gold” has invested nearly $1.7 million attacking front-runner, U.S. Rep. Martha McSally in the Republican U.S. Senate primary. Even more interesting, the group is directing much of its pitch to senior voters. “The ads center on McSally’s support of a Republican bill that would have allowed insurers to charge older adults more through a so-called “age tax,” notes Yvonne Wingett Sanchez at The Arizona Republic. ‘Red and Gold’ believes that McSally would be the strongest opponent for Democratic front-runner U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema. But also, McSally has blundered badly in supporting the ‘age tax,’ given thee importance of Arizona’s senior voters, who turn out at a higher rate in Midterm elections than do younger voters. Arizona has a higher percentage of seniors, 15.9 percent, than 40 other states.

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