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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Perry Bacon, Jr. explains “What John McCain’s Death Means For The Senate” at FiveThirtyEight: “…his Arizona Senate seat probably won’t stay vacant for long. Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona will appoint McCain’s replacement, and the Republican can select someone as soon as he wants. I expect him to land on a replacement within the next two weeks, maybe even sooner…I expect Ducey to pick a caretaker because the Arizona GOP is dividedbetween a more establishment wing (Ducey) and a more tea party one (former sheriff Joe Arpaio). It would be smart politics for Ducey to avoid irritating one of those groups by choosing someone not seeking a long-term Senate career…there has been little evidence that any Republican senator is willing to oppose the Kavanaugh nomination, so he probably already has the 50 votes required.”

PowerPost’s David Weigel spotlights the primaries in Arizona and Florida today. With respect to the Democratic contenders for the Florida governorship, Weigel writes, “Democrats, who lost two close, bitter races to Scott, have their most crowded primary in decades. Two wealthy candidates, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and investor Jeff Greene, have led the field in spending, with Greene promising Democrats that he could pour millions of dollars into down-ballot races…Polls, however, have shown a close three-way contest between Levine, former congresswoman Gwen Graham and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum. Graham, who built a moderate record during one term in Washington, has been the focus of the most negative ads; Gillum, who is running to the left of the field and who rallied with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), has surged in the final days. But at least 1.6 million voters cast ballots before Election Day, which could help Graham.” Regrding House races, Weigel notes that “there are tight races in four districts where Republicans have retired or left to seek other offices…Democrats are cautiously optimistic about competing for the 6th and 15th, which Barack Obama lost narrowly in 2012 but which swung toward Trump in 2016. But Democrats are most bullish on their chances in three South Florida districts where Latino and suburban voters, once reliably Republican, abandoned the GOP in 2016. Their top target is the Miami-based 27th District, where Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is retiring and where voters rejected Trump by 20 points.”

Arizona is more of a mess, dealing with the fallout of Sen. McCain’s death and President Trump’s diss of the late senator. Weigel observes that Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is likely to win the Democratic nomination for Senate. However, “The Democrats’ gubernatorial primary has been more fractious, with former state education official David Garcia favored after a campaign in which he has talked about creating statewide universal health care and “replacing ICE with an immigration system that reflects our American values.” As for the House contests, Weigel cites a bitterly fought Democratic primary for the 2nd district. In Oklahoma, most of the Democratic interest is in the 5th congressional District, “which overlaps some of the areas where they [Democrats] have made surprising special election gains since 2016 — and where Trump won just 53 percent of the vote.”

University of Southertn California professors Abby K. Wood and Christian R. Grose have a post  “How will the Michael Cohen and Duncan Hunter scandals affect the November election? Here’s what our research finds” at The Monkey Cage. Among their findings: “Do voters care about campaign finance violations? Yes. In new research, we argue that campaign finance violations inform voters’ views about the elected official’s character. Members of Congress who were randomly audited and found to have violated campaign finance law fared about 5 percentage points worse in their general elections than incumbents who were not. So it may be no surprise that once elected officials are tarred with campaign finance violations, they also attempt to win back voters’ trust…The FEC’s randomization is key to our study, as it creates an ideal natural experiment for empirical analysis. Randomization allows us to say that the campaign finance revelations violations caused the change in vote share.” The authors acknowledge that “since Watergate involved campaign finance shenanigans — may have been sensitive to those violations in particular.” However, “Our current political climate has enough parallels to the Watergate era that we suspect voters will react negatively to campaign finance violations again. We will find out Nov. 6.”

Some perceptive and very troubling insights from NYT columnist/Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, which ought to energize Democratic voter registration and turnout campaigns coast-to-coast: “The fact is that the Republican Party is ready, even eager, to become an American version of Law and Justice or Fidesz, exploiting its current political power to lock in permanent rule…the modern G.O.P. feels no allegiance to democratic ideals; it will do whatever it thinks it can get away with toentrench its power…if Republicans retain control of both houses of Congress in November — we will become another Poland or Hungary faster than you can imagine…Now it’s clear that there are no limits: They’ll do whatever it takes to defend Trump and consolidate power…We’re suffering from the same disease — white nationalism run wild — that has already effectively killed democracy in some other Western nations. And we’re very, very close to the point of no return.”

Jennifer Hansler has a cautionary note for Democrats in her post, “Influx of Puerto Ricans in Florida may not turn the tide for the midterms, experts say” at CNN Politics: “Hispanic voter registration has increased by more than 100,000 voters since the 2016 election, although it is unclear how many of those are Puerto Ricans. The Florida Division of Elections told CNN it does not have specific statistics on Puerto Rican voters…What is less clear is if and how Puerto Ricans who have resettled in Florida will vote in Florida’s primary election on Tuesday and then in the general election in November.” However, “We are nearly seeing presidential election year numbers of Latinos registered,” he told CNN. Of the 22,600 people Mi Familia Vota said it has registered this season, more than 11,500 are of Puerto Rican descent…We would not be able to hit these numbers in a midterm year without the influx of Puerto Ricans to Central Florida,” [Mi Familia Voa field director Esteban] Garces said.

Harry Enten explains why “Win or lose, Beto O’Rourke will help Texas Democrats,” also at CNN Politics: “If you look at the House map, there are arguably at least six Texas House races that are going to be competitive this fall. These include Texas 2nd, Texas 7th, Texas 21st, Texas 23rd, Texas 31st and Texas 32nd…It’s been shown in academic literature that states where there are competitive Senate races tend to have higher turnout in House races than states that don’t (once you control for other factors)…Texas could use the turnout boost. With the exception of Hawaii, no other state had a lower turnout rate of its voter eligible population in 2016 than Texas. Just 52% of all eligible voters cast a ballot two years ago.”

In his Washington Post article, “Democrats need to start taking voting rights seriously,” Noah Beriatsky makes a case for a national ‘big package’ voting rights reform bill which includes measures like lowering the voting age, automatic voter registration, standardizing early and mail voting, full voting rights and representation for Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, prevent politically-motivated closing of polling places, ex-felon enfranchisement and other needed measures. “While such policies have been discussed here and there, Democrats could find new focus by grouping them under a single comprehensive umbrella. Policy proposals aren’t just concrete plans, they are statements of values and statements of purpose. The point isn’t just to pass any one law. It’s to set benchmarks and moral standards. Right now, the United States behaves as if it doesn’t believe that every person has the right to vote. We need ambitious policy proposals not just to change that but also to help convince people that it needs to change.” Eventually, when Democrats regain congressional majorities and the White House, the time may be ripe for passing a comprehensive voting rights reform package. The idea would be to better brand Democrats as the party that actually values democracy. Until then, Democrats should eagerly pass whatever piecemeal voting reforms are possible.

Kyle Kondik has a Sabato’s Crystal Ball update on races for the U.S. House, nationwide: “We are making 12 ratings changes; 10 in favor of Democrats, two in favor of Republicans… if one believes the Democrats are favored in the race for the House — and we do, although we don’t think the result is locked in concrete — then something in the political environment needs to change, in a positive way, for Republicans to regain the advantage. The Cohen/Manafort news was not thatAfter today’s changes, there are 205 seats rated Safe/Likely/Leans Democratic, 198 Safe/Likely/Leans Republican, and 32 Toss-ups, of which 30 are currently controlled by Republicans and two are currently controlled by Democrats…With 205 seats now at least leaning to the Democrats, that essentially means the floor for Democratic gains this year would be 11, and that’s assuming Republicans win every Toss-up, which we’re reasonably confident won’t happen.”

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