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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

If Democrats needed a late energizer for their midterm campaigns, in addition to the horrific Trump-stoked violence of last week, Ari Berman’s op-ed “How Voter Suppression Could Swing the Midterms” in The New York Times should help. As Berman writes, “In Georgia and other states, the question in this election is not just about which candidates voters will support, but whether they’ll be able to cast a ballot in the first place. The fight over voting rights in the midterms is a reminder that elections are not solely about who is running, what their commercials say or how many people are registered to vote. They are about who is allowed to vote and which officials are placing obstacles in the way of would-be voters…Since the 2010 election, 24 states overwhelmingly controlled by Republicans have put in place new voting restrictions, such as tougher voter ID laws, cutbacks to early voting and barriers to registration. Republicans say these measures are necessary to combat the threat of widespread voter fraud, even though study after study shows that such fraud is exceedingly rare. Many of these states have hotly contested races in 2018, and a drop in turnout among Democratic constituencies, such as young people and voters of color, could keep Republicans in power.”

Berman spotlights voter supression initiatives in Georgia, Texas, Florida, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Kansas, and concludes, “If Democrats turn out in large numbers on Nov. 6, as the early-voting data suggests is happening in some key states, it will be in spite of these barriers, not because they didn’t exist or didn’t matter…Despite rampant suppression efforts, there is some hope. In seven states, ballot initiatives would restore voting rights to ex-felons, make it easier to register to vote and crack down on gerrymandering. If these pass, we could see 2018 as a turning point for expanding voting rights, instead of an election tainted by voter suppression. But first people need to have the right to cast a ballot.”

If a frog had a glass ass, he could only jump once. But Emily Badger’s “What If Everyone Voted?” at The Upshot does include an instructive observation, which sharply underscores the importance of better Democratic GOTV in key states: “It’s impossible to know what would have happened had the people sitting out elections voted. But Bernard Fraga, an Indiana University political scientist, has tried to gauge that alternative reality using data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, which annually surveys thousands of Americans…The survey asks which candidates people preferred even if they did not vote. And if we add their preferences to the voting population in the last several elections, we get different election results…“If everybody voted, Clinton wins. If minority turnout was equal to white turnout, Clinton wins,” said Mr. Fraga, who describes these patterns in a new book, “The Turnout Gap.” Many white voters who preferred Mr. Trump sat out 2016 as well. So in this full-turnout counterfactual, Mrs. Clinton doesn’t overcome Mr. Trump’s narrow victories in Wisconsin, Michigan or Pennsylvania. Rather, she flips Florida, North Carolina and Texas.” And what if, more realistically, not everyone voted, but local activists mobilized a 10 percent improvement in turnout among African American, Latino and young voters in those 3 states?

At The National Journal, John Kraushaur notes, quoted by Ruy Teixeira, that ““Privately, Republican leaders expect to lose around 30 seats—and the House majority—but acknowledge that there could be a number of unexpected outcomes pushing those numbers higher on Election Night. That’s an all-too-realistic scenario given the supercharged liberal engagement in districts across the country, lackluster re-election efforts from unprepared GOP members of Congress, and impressive fundraising figures from even long-shot Democratic challengers…But there are many other districts where Trump won less than 55 percent of the vote that feature Democratic challengers who have gone under-the-radar…All told, that means Republicans are likely to lose around 30-35 House seats—but the potential for a larger total is higher than the likelihood they can salvage their majority.”

And if you wanna get wonky, Teixeira also flags a “Forecastapalooza!,” and notes, “The good folks at PS, one of the American Political Science Association’s journals, have made the articles from their special forecasting issue available online. These are all academic models, of course, which use a handful of variables to predict the outcome of the 2018 election. They are not continuously updated with polling information, etc, in the manner of 538 and other models on various websites….But they’re interesting and, if you can take the poli sci jargon, well worth strolling through.”

In additon to 538’s model, “Are Republicans Losing The Health Care Debate?” by Janie Velencia and Dhrumil Mehta, notes that “unfortunately for Trump and the Republican party, Democrats seem to be winning the health care public opinion battle: 53 percent of Americans said they trust Democrats to do a better job with health care than Republicans in a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll. Just 35 percent of respondents said they trusted Republicans over Democrats. Similarly, a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that Americans were more likely to trust Democrats over Republicans on specific health care issues like continuing protections for pre-existing medical conditions and reducing health care costs. Even independents have gotten behind Democrats: 60 percent placed their faith in Democrats to protect pre-existing conditions (compared to 19 percent who trusted Republicans) in the Kaiser poll.”

Anthony Adragna’s Politico headline says it well “The powerful weapon House Republicans handed Democrats: A GOP rule change handed unilateral subpoena authority to many House committee chairmen. Democrats cried foul, but now they hope to use it against Trump.” As Adragna elaborates, “House Republicans changed the rules in 2015 to allow many of their committee chairmen to issue subpoenas without consulting the minority party, overriding Democrats objections that likened the tactic to something out of the McCarthy era…Now the weapon that the GOP wielded dozens of times against President Barack Obama’s agencies could allow Democrats to bombard President Donald Trump’s most controversial appointees with demands for information. And many Democrats are itching to use it…“The Republicans have set the standard and, by God, we’re going to emulate that standard,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) told POLITICO.” Adragna notes that some Democrats are relectant to use the power, but “Many Democrats argue that Republicans have only themselves to blame for weaponizing the subpoena process, and that their own party should not unilaterally disarm now that the power has been unleashed.”

Democrat Beto O’Rourke is fighting an uphill battle in Texas to take Ted Cruz’s senate seat. But, in his article, “Here’s One Way Beto O’Rourke And Democrats Nationwide Could Win. It Won’t Be Easy: Demographics isn’t destiny in Texas. But 2018 could mark a turning point for Latino turnout” at HuffPo, Roque Planas notes this ray of hope: “…Most polls measure the preferences of likely voters, an inconsistently defined classification that ranges from people who say they’re likely to cast a ballot to people whom pollsters can confirm voted in recent elections. That makes this Texas election harder to predict. In recent years, Texas has averaged an annual increase of 100,000 new voters. But between the last presidential election and last week, when the Texas Secretary of State’s Office released its final tally, the number of new voters skyrocketed by nearly 700,000…Some of that growth benefits Cruz. Suburban counties, many of which lean Republican, saw some of the highest growth in registration rates. But the top four counties to gain voters — Harris, Bexar, Travis and Dallas — all went blue in 2016 and amassed more than a quarter-million extra voters between them. The border’s largest counties saw voter growth outpacing the state’s average as a whole. Registration in Hidalgo County, where Cambio Texas works, jumped by 7 percent.”

“The share of 18- to 29-year-old voters who say they will definitely vote has jumped from 26 percent in the run-up to the last midterm election in 2014 to 40 percent this fall, according to a new poll obtained from the Institute of Politics at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government,” Amy Garner writes in “Pushing for a ‘youth wave’: Can Democrats channel dissent into action at the ballot box?” at The Washington Post. “One driving factor: widespread support for government intervention to curb gun violence and reduce college debt and health-care costs…A national analysis by the Democratic data firm TargetSmart shows voter registration — and voting in primaries — has risen slightly nationally among young voters since the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., last February…In Pennsylvania, youth voters have made up nearly 60 percent of all new registrants, Target­Smart reported in September. The share of the electorate that is under age 30 has grown since 2017 in several key states, including Nevada, North Carolina and Florida, according to state voter registration data tracked by the firm L2. In Virginia, requests for student absentee ballots, at about 30,000, are about 50 percent higher than in last year’s gubernatorial election.”

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