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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

From The New York Times editorial, “Hit Pause on Brett Kavanaugh“: “Enough…With a third woman stepping forward with accusations that the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh committed sexual assault as a young man, this destructive stampede of a confirmation, driven so far by partisan calculation, needs to yield at last to common sense: Let qualified investigators — the F.B.I. — do their job. Let them interview the many witnesses whose names are already in the public record, among them Judge Kavanaugh’s close high-school friend Mark Judge, then weigh the credibility of the various claims and write a report for the White House and the Senate Judiciary Committee…To jam Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation through now, without seeking to dispel the darkening cloud over his head, would be to leave the public in doubt about his honesty and character — and to set an even lower standard for taking claims of sexual abuse seriously than the Senate did 27 years ago in considering the accusations against Clarence Thomas by Anita Hill.”

“The Kavanaugh controversy erupted as polls were already showing a threat to GOP candidates this fall, in the form of an intense backlash against Donald Trump that’s fueling unprecedented deficits among college-educated white women and energized turnout among African American women,” writes Ronald Brownstein in The Atlantic. “Democrats have positioned themselves to benefit from that energy by nominating a record number of women in House, Senate, and gubernatorial elections…Even before Ford testifies, nearly three-fifths of college-educated white women opposed Kavanaugh’s confirmation in a recent Fox News poll. And while a plurality of non-college-educated white women backed Kavanaugh in that survey, a strong performance from Ford could strain that conviction. The fierce recoil from Trump among college-educated white women is the single greatest source of Republican vulnerability in House races this year; if the party’s defenses among blue-collar white women also crack, a difficult election night could turn disastrous.”

Perry Bacon, Jr. spotlights “The 7 Senators Who Will Decide Kavanaugh’s Fate” at FiveThirtyEight. The 7 senators include 3 Senate Democrats, Indiana’s Joe Donnelly, North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp and West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, along with Republicans Tennessee’s Bob Corker, Arizona’s Jeff Flake, Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski. As Bacon writes, “47 Republicans are safe bets to favor Kavanaugh, and 46 Democrats are safe bets to vote against him. He needs at least 50 votes to be confirmed, so he needs three of the seven swing senators identified above. (A 50-50 vote would put Vice President Mike Pence in position to cast a tiebreaking vote for Kavanaugh.)” After watching Dr. Ford’s heartfelt testimony, it’s hard to imagine any of the 7  undecided senators willing to acccept the consequences of supporting Kavanaugh.

In is post, “New Poll: Kavanaugh, Trump Losing Support of Republican Women,” Ed Kilgore cites a new Morning Consult poll and writes, “there is fresh evidence that another category of voters Republicans will need on November 6 is not reacting with pleasure to the crusade for Kavanaugh: “Public support for Judge Brett Kavanaugh to fill the vacant Supreme Court seat has dropped to its lowest point since President Donald Trump nominated him in July, driven in large part by a sector of the president’s base: Republican women …[Since last week] Kavanaugh’s net support among Republicans — the share who oppose his confirmation subtracted from those who support it — dropped 11 points, with 58 percent now in support of his confirmation and 14 percent opposed. The shift was driven by an 18-point fall in support among Republican women, with 49 percent now in favor and 15 percent in opposition.”

Ruy Teixeira notes on his Facebook page that “A new USC/LA Times poll is out and it has the Democrats up by 14 points in the generic Congressional, which seems too high. But they have a lot of interesting data in their writeup, particularly in terms of shifts since the summer. The graphic below showing shifts among subgroups of women is striking. Note that the biggest shift they show is among white noncollege women, who have moved 10 margin points toward the Democrats.”

At The National Journal, Ally Mutnick writes, “Internal Democratic polling conducted in August and September revealed the party’s candidate leading or trailing by small margins in a dozen seats on the outer edges of the battlefield. And outside money is already starting to flow beyond the 50 or so districts that initially drew major TV ad reservations…“For Republicans, this is a game of Whac-A-Mole,” said John Lapp, a Democratic strategist who served as the DCCC’s executive director in 2006. “With a battleground map this big, they simply can’t be everywhere. There are competitive races in blue, purple, and ruby-red districts popping up every day.”..”Almost nobody should assume that they’re cruising,” Republican pollster Glen Bolger said. “If the president won by 10 points or less, it’s a competitive race.”

“In our polling of battleground districts, President Trump has a minus-12 approval rating among undecided voters, with 34 percent approving and 46 percent disapproving,” notes Nate Cohn at The Upshot. “He has a minus-9 approval rating among decided voters (43-52)…Decided voters want Democrats to take control of Congress by three percentage points, 49-46. Undecided voters are split, 32-32. You’ll note that a lot of our undecided voters are also undecided on these questions…This sort of goes against some conventional wisdom on midterms: Well-known incumbents wrap up a larger proportion of their voters early, while undecided voters who don’t know the challenger but who are skeptical of the incumbent and the incumbent’s party break the other way. If this were true, you would expect the preponderance of the undecided vote to lean somewhat Democratic.”

Tim Storey, the elections guru at the National Conference of State Legislatures, “estimates that with a generic-congressional-ballot-test advantage of Democrats up by 6 points, that would likely translate into a gain of close to 500 state legislative seats nationwide for Democrats. Like in the U.S. House, the curve is asymmetric, the chances of over 500 are greater than under 400,” according to Charlie Cook’s article, “A Grim Fall Awaits GOP” at The Cook Political Report. Commenting on Cook’s post, Ruy Teixeira adds, “Democrats certainly have enough of a lead on the national generic to make a 500 seat gain for the party in state legislatures seem, if anything, like a pretty conservative estimate. Data indicate that there could be as many 1,000 Republican state legislative seats where Trump’s approval rating is below 50 percent. That’s a lot of targets.”

Teixeira also notes, “No doubt many have been following the New York Times/Siena polls as they get updated in real time (a gimmick but irresistible nonetheless). Here’s a nugget from Alan Abramowitz that puts the results in a helpful context: “In 22 House districts with completed polls, 21 currently held by Republicans, most with incumbents running, Dem candidates on average lead by 0.5 points. That may be a more meaningful indicator of the state of the midterm race than the individual district results. Being tied in your own districts at this stage of the campaign signals huge problems for the GOP as district polls tend to underestimate swing in a wave election like this one.”

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