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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Harry Enten explains why “Donald Trump still shows some strength in the Midwest heading into 2020” at CNN Politics: “…Trump may be able to do exactly what he did in 2016: win the Electoral College, despite losing the popular vote…There were four states where Barack Obama performed better than he did nationally in 2012 that Hillary Clinton then lost in 2016: Iowa, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. If Clinton had won Michigan, Pennsylvania and either Iowa or Wisconsin, she would have won the Electoral College…Iowa and Wisconsin are the most likely to continue to cause heartache for the Democrats in 2020. A loss in both of these states would cause the Democratic nominee to fall short in 2020, if she or he carries all the states Clinton won, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Enten cites polls and evidence showing that “The midterm results from Iowa and Wisconsin generally back up the idea that they are to right of the nation…If the Democratic nominee does, in fact, lose Iowa and Wisconsin, she or he will have to win in a state that hasn’t voted to the left of the nation in the past few cycles in order to win the Electoral College. That may not be such an easy task.”

David S. Bernstein has a different warning for Democrats in his Politico article, “Trump’s Secret to Victory in 2020: Hispanic Voters: Yes, it’s true: The man who wants to build a wall to keep out immigrants is winning over just enough Latinos to get re-elected. Unless Democrats figure out how to stop him.” Bernstein writes, “When President Donald Trump tweeted, on January 20, that he had reached 50 percent approval among Hispanic-Americans, most fair-minded observers reacted with skepticism, if not outright disbelief…So, when even the pollsters responsible for the data Trump was touting—Marist Institute for Public Opinion, for NPR and “PBS NewsHour”—cautioned of the high margin of error for that subset, and a possible over-sampling of Republicans, many on the left promptly dismissed it as an anomaly…In theory, the rosy predictions that once gave rise to chest-beating liberal books like “The Emerging Democratic Majority” are proving true: 2020 will be the first U.S. election in which Hispanics make up the largest racial or ethnic minority in the electorate, according to the Pew Research Center. Pew estimates that 32 million Hispanics will be eligible to vote—a full 2 million more than eligible black voters and more than 13 percent of the electorate. Hispanics figure to constitute at least 11 percent of the national vote, as they did in 2016 and 2018.”

Bernstein continues, “Many expected Hispanics to vote overwhelmingly against Trump in 2016. A Latino Decisions poll conducted just before the 2016 presidential election found Trump had the support of just 18 percent of Hispanics. But the actual figure was 28 percent, which—given Trump’s incendiary rhetoric about immigrants—some analysts and pundits refused to believe from exit polls until further studies confirmed it. That was just as good as Mitt Romney, as the 2012 Republican nominee, did with Hispanics—and it was enough to help Trump squeak an Electoral College victory…Now, here’s the brutal truth for Democrats: If Hispanic Americans are in fact showing surging approval of Trump, he could be on his way to matching or exceeding the 40 percent won by George W. Bush in his 2004. If Trump does 12 percentage points better than his 2016 numbers with the growing Hispanic vote, it pretty much takes Florida, Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina off the table for Democrats, who would need to sweep Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to reach the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the White House…the eventual Democratic nominee can’t simply assume that Hispanic voters will flock to the polls to prevent Trump’s second term. If anything, the challenge for the party looks tougher than in 2016—when it arguably cost them the White House.”

Ruy Teixeira’s post, “Trump Approval Ratings in 2020 Swing States” at the Optimistic Leftist notes that “Gallup has issued its average approval ratings by state for 2018, based on their very large sample tracking poll. It’s definitely worth a look. Short story: in states that are likely to matter in 2020, Trump’s approval ratings are pretty bad. Doesn’t mean he can’t win of course, but approval ratings are a pretty good guide to potential support, so it definitely suggests a challenge for the incumbent President…Caveats: these are average 2018 ratings; Trump may be higher across the board by November, 2020 (or not, his approval have varied within a very narrow band throughout his Presidency). He is already a bit higher this year than he was at the end of 2018. Also, Gallup approval ratings are of all adults not registered or likely voters. This may be of particular significance in a state where there are large numbers of adult noncitizen Latinos or Asians.” Teixeira shares ratings for  “swing states from low to high Trump approval,” including: Colorado, Minnesota 39; Nevada, Virginia 40; Texas 41; Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin 42; Arizona, Florida 43: Georgia 44; Iowa, North Carolina 45; and Ohio 48. Teixeira says he “was particularly struck by the “Rustbelt 3″–Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin–who put Trump over the top in 2016, all being at exactly 42 percent.”

If you’re interested in what the public thinks about taxes on wealth, check out ‘Other Polling Nuggets’ at FiveThirtyEight, in which Perry Bacon, Jr. notes: “More than 60 percent of Americans said that the government should pursue policies to reduce the wealth gap and that they support a 2 percent tax on wealth above $50 million, according to a survey conducted by SurveyMonkey that was published by The New York Times this week. Opinion is more divided (51 percent support, 45 percent oppose) on a marginal tax rate of 70 percent on income above $10 million a year.”

Paul Waldman writes at The American Prospect, “Democrats are already changing the entire political conversation around the economy even capitalism itself. Not only are they proposing significant tax increases on the wealthy, whether it’s higher marginal rates or a wealth tax, they’re also arguing for a fundamental reorientation of federal policy to get at the roots of inequality. Their proposals include traditional Democratic ideas like raising the minimum wage, along with a broad expansion of social supports in areas like health care and child care, and even some revision to the nature of the modern corporation to give workers a greater voice…Every one of those proposals has wide appeal to voters, and every one gives Republicans the vapors. But let’s not forget that in 2016, Donald Trump correctly surmised that despite the fact that unemployment was low and the economy was on a steady path of recovery from the Great Recession, something was fundamentally wrong. The fact that nearly anyone can get a job isn’t much to celebrate if the only jobs available where you live are at Walmart or in an Amazon fulfilment center. When Trump told voters that the system was rigged against them, he tapped into a genuine and justifiable desire for something different…Of course, what he delivered was more wealth for the wealthy and more powerful for the powerful. If Democrats can’t turn that into an effective argument for change, they ought to be in a different business.”

Looking towards 2020, Social Security reform is an issue of concern for high-turnout senior voters. “Now in control of the House, Democrats have thrown their weight behind a measure that would extend and expand the program — largely by asking high earners to pony up, along with a gradual increase in the Social Security tax rate that applies to workers’ income,” reports Sarah O’Brien at cnbc.com. “More than 200 lawmakers, all Democrats, have signed onto the Social Security 2100 Act in the House. Introduced by Rep. John Larson, D-Connecticut, the bill would require that earnings above $400,000 be subject to the payroll tax that funds the program…Currently, earnings above a certain level — $132,900 for 2019 — are not subject to Social Security taxation. This means someone who makes $132,900 pays the same amount into the program as someone earning, say, $1 million…A recent poll conducted by The Senior Citizens League of its members explored what they thought the new Congress should focus on. Boosting Social Security benefits was cited by 42 percent, followed by reducing taxation of those benefits at 31 percent (reducing prescription drug prices came in third, at 18 percent).”

Bacon also flags new Gallup poll stats on political leanings of Democrats, which finds that “An average of 54 percent of white Democrats identified as politically “liberal” during the six-year period from 2013 to 2018, according to data released by Gallup this week. That compares with 38 percent of Latino Democrats and 33 percent of black Democrats. There was also variation by education level — Democrats with postgraduate degrees were the most likely to describe themselves as liberal (65 percent), followed by Democrats with undergraduate degrees (58 percent), those who attended college but don’t have degrees (45 percent) and those with high school educations or less (32 percent).”

No matter how well Sen. Bernie Sanders does in the Democratic presidential primaries ahead, he has  shaped the debate in his Party more than anyone else. At The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein considers the strengths and weaknesses Sen. Bernie Sanders brings to the contest for the Democratic nomination in 2020, and writes “The biggest question for Sanders is whether he can expand the coalition that he mobilized in 2016—or even, in this enormous field, maintain the advantages he displayed last time. Sanders ran extremely well in 2016 with three groups. Young people topped the list: Sanders won most voters age 30 and younger in 25 of the 27 states with exit polls. Looking across the entire contest, he carried fully 71 percent of younger voters, according to a cumulative analysis of all 27 exit polls by CNN polling director Jennifer Agiesta. That was an even higher percentage than Barack Obama carried among younger voters in 2008…Sanders was also extremely strong with primary voters who identified as independents rather than partisan Democrats. He carried them in 24 of the 27 states with exit polls (losing them only in three southern states), and won nearly two-thirds of them overall in Agiesta’s cumulative analysis. He also ran very well among white men without a college degree—carrying slightly more than three-fifths of them overall—while posting a more modest advantage among their college-educated counterparts.” Brownstein also provides a detailed account of Sanders’s weaknesses.

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