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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In her Washington Post column, “The corruption of the GOP is complete: So what’s Plan B?,” Jennifer Rubin writes: “Four weeks from this Wednesday (the day after the midterm elections), sorry, will commence the lead-up to the 2020 presidential race. Any Republicans thinking of challenging President Trump because they recoil from the party of Trump is, I hate to break it to them, out of luck. The party wants the mocking cruelty, the attacks on the press and on women, the protectionism and the white nationalism. These things define it…Respectful and clean government, values-based leadership of the free world, responsible stewardship of the environment and a commitment to reform are no longer on the GOP agenda. The Trump sycophants, every bit as incoherent and bullying as the president, run the place.

“A number of Republicans running for governor or senator in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, including several who hitched their wagon to Trump’s political movement, are behind in polls by double digits, a remarkable turnabout in swing states that were key to the president’s 2016 victory,” Michael Scherer and Robert Costa write in “In Trump country, Republican candidates this year fall flat” in The Washington Post. “If current polling averages hold, Democrats will maintain all their Senate seats in those states, pick up a handful of House seats and, in some cases, retake the governors’ mansions. In nearby Iowa, a state Trump won by nearly 10 points, the Democratic candidate for governor was running about even with the Republican governor in a Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll. Polling this week found Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) trailing his Democratic opponent, Tony Evers…The dramatic shift has forced political strategists to reevaluate their post-mortem lessons from the 2016 election, while raising new questions about Trump’s staying power in 2020. Democratic strategists, who worried that Iowa and Ohio were slipping away from them in presidential years, are now heartened and have begun to return their attention to the traditional bellwethers.”

Scherer and Costa add further that, “We have lost millions of members of our party in the last year,” said John Weaver, a Republican adviser to Ohio Gov. John Kasich and a Trump critic, reflecting on how Trump’s bid split the party. “A MAGA candidate who runs as a junior member of the walking dead and wins the primary is going to find themselves shot in the general election…Trump’s decision to renegotiate trade agreements with Mexico and Canada, and to start an escalating tariff war with China, have muddled the political fallout in the Midwest, even though the economic effects have been relatively pronounced. Rising steel and aluminum prices, falling soybean prices, and new restrictions on car imports have sparked a wave of headlines in the region about layoffs and struggling farmers.”

At The Plum Line, Greg Sargent writes that “it is necessary to say that, yes, some leftist protesters have gone too far. Yes, generally speaking, it’s bad to chase people out of restaurants, and it’s bad to menace people, and it’s bad to bust up property. Yes, there is a real distinction between legitimate if angry and raucous political dissent and true mob action. But as Brian Beutler says, Republicans are elevating isolated examples of the latter in bad faith — to distract from the true source of the illiberal and authoritarian forces that have been loosed upon the land…Those “lock her up” chants aren’t taking place in some sealed-off TV universe that has no connection to Trump’s ongoing degradation of the rule of law and efforts to stoke civil discord. They are high-profile manifestations of the illiberal and authoritarian forces that constitute the real danger to civil peace and democracy right now.”

“Democrats’ position in the contest for the House of Representatives is the best it’s been since June, but they remain dependent on turnout of less frequent voters, as well as winning over Trump voters from 2016…If the elections were held today, Democrats would stand to win 226 seats (more than the 218 needed for a majority) with Republicans winning the remaining 209,” write Kabir Khanna and Anthony Salvanto at cbsnews.com. “The margin of error on each of these estimates is plus or minus 14 seats, which means that there’s still the prospect of Republicans retaining control. This range of possible outcomes in the model is wider than it was this summer. Many key races are extremely close, and it wouldn’t take much movement from where things stand now to swing many seats in either direction…Our Democratic seats estimate has slowly but steadily ticked up since we launchedthe CBS News/YouGov Battleground Tracker this summer. Our current estimate is four seats higher than it was in August, by which time candidates had been nominated to the general election in most districts. This uptick can be explained by a higher share of Trump voters crossing over to the Democrats. While this group is small in absolute terms (it’s 8 percent of Trump voters nationally), it is larger than the share of Clinton voters supporting Republicans this year (about 3 percent) and has grown since August.”

Ronald Brownstein explains in “The Epicenter of Republican Vulnerability in the House” at The Atlantic that “the trade-off Trump is imposing—is measured in the danger gathering for House Republicans in swing districts, primarily in white-collar suburbs, where the party can’t win just by increasing GOP turnout and instead must appeal to a broader range of voters. That risk extends beyond just the Clinton-Republican districts: Democrats are seriously contesting more than two dozen House seats that narrowly voted for Trump in 2016, though the increased GOP energy evident after Kavanaugh could push some of those seats out of reach. The epicenter, then, of the GOP’s House vulnerability remains the 25 Republican-held districts that rejected Trump for Clinton from the outset.”

“The Democrats’ map in the House is fairly robust,” notes Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight, “because they aren’t overly reliant on any one type of district. (This stands in contrast to the Senate, where most of the battlegrounds fit into a certain typology: red and rural). While House battlegrounds are somewhat whiter, more suburban and more educated than the country overall, there are quite a few exceptions — enough so that Democrats could underperform in certain types of districts but still have reasonably good chances to win the House. This differs from Hillary Clinton’s position in the Electoral College in 2016, in which underperformance among just one group of voters in one region — white working-class voters in the Midwest — was enough to cost her the election.”

“A 2016 Survey of the Performance of American Elections found that 30 percent of registered youth did not vote because they said they couldn’t get to the polls,” notes Gabrielle Gurley at The Amerian Prospect. “Inadequate transportation was the third most-cited reason for not showing up, placing just behind disliking the candidates and issues and being too busy or having a conflict like work or school…Some urban and suburban voters can experience polling place access challenges that affect turnout if they live in areas underserved by transit or are plagued by traffic congestion. Rural voters often have higher turnout rates, since traffic is not a factor in getting to a polling place—provided they own a vehicle…Twelve states, including Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, New Mexico, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah, use vote centers, designated locations where any registered voter can go and vote even if they don’t live in the area. Vote centers, for instance, can make life easier for registered voters by enabling them to vote near their worksite when they can’t make it home. They are also cheaper for states and localities to operate. California (where nearly half the electorate votes by mail) will adopt vote centers this year in Madera, Napa, Nevada, Sacramento, and San Mateo counties.”

David Atkins writes at The Washington Monthly: “The conventional wisdom just under a month from election day is that Republicans are poised to hold or even expand their Senate majority, even as they likely give up the House majority. Conventional wisdom is often wrong, but all available evidence based on the polling seems to suggest it’s on target at the moment. It’s possible, of course, that there is a massive wave of Democratic votes that is being undercounted by traditional polling methods, but it would be unwise to stake serious predictions on it…It seems incontrovertible at this point that the battle of Judge Kavanaugh has both helped and hurt Republicans. On the downside for them, the majority of Americans are upset by Kavanaugh’s confirmation and want to see continued investigations into allegations of assault and other misbehavior. On a broader level, resistance to conservative policies and tactics has never been fiercer and more adamant than it is today, mostly due to the extremism and cruelty that is now so obviously inherent to movement conservatism. Millennials, women and people of color are overwhelmingly determined in their opposition to the Republican Party, nor is that likely to change in the near future.”

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