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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Is the great winnowing of presidential candidates happening to soon, or right on time? Put another way, is 14 month out from the presidential election (less for the primaries) to soon for TV networks to dismiss presidential candidacies?  Chris Cillizza reports at CNN Politics: “At the moment, 10 candidates — out of the 21 still running — have met the qualifications (130,000 individual donors, four national or early-voting state polls at 2% support or more) to make the debate stage in Houston on September 12. ..The simple fact is that if you are running for president but can’t make it onto a debate stage that 10 of your fellow candidates made, it’s going to be very, very hard to justify staying in the race all that much longer. How do you go to donors and ask them to give — or give more — to a candidacy that is, by the Democratic National Committee’s standards, not in the top 10 most viable? And if you can’t raise money, how do you pay your staff and run a real campaign?…(Side note: This standard doesn’t really apply to Tom Steyer, who has the personal wealth to continue to fund his campaign for as long as he chooses.)” Remember, however, that candidates disqualified for the September debates could theoretically come back and qualify for the debates in October.

Regarding the shape of the current Democratic presidential race, Kyle Kondik writes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball that”Warren’s rise, from 4% to 16%, is the kind of change that any half-decent poll would suggest is statistically significant. That does not mean she is leading — Biden still clearly is, based on the bulk of the data — or even necessarily that she has surpassed Sanders for second place. But she is also, along with Sanders and Biden, one of the frontrunners, a group that at the moment is hard to expand beyond three…That said, we also cannot necessarily make the assumption that the shape of the race is set in stone — months remain until Iowa votes in early February. Harris has shown the potential to climb higher, and may yet again. Some of the low-polling candidates — like Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) or Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) — may yet get their moment. Remember, for instance, the 2012 Republican race: While Mitt Romney ended up winning, at this point of the race he was trailing Rick Perry, and the two contenders who would become Romney’s chief rivals — Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich — were combining for only about 7.5% of the vote. Of course, that’s a share of the vote that Klobuchar and Booker (now combining for only 3%) would envy, but it also does show at least the potential for low-performing candidates to break out later in what has become a long slog of a nomination process. The hope of a moment in the sun is sustaining many of the candidacies right now, although we’ve already started to see some candidates fall by the wayside, and expect to see more.”

In his NYT column, “We Aren’t Seeing White Support for Trump for What It Is: A crucial part of his coalition is made up of better-off white people who did not graduate from college,” Thomas B. Edsall writes, “The 2020 election will be fought over the current loss of certainty — the absolute lack of consensus — on the issue of “race.” Fear, anger and resentment are rampant. Democrats are convinced of the justness of the liberal, humanistic, enlightenment tradition of expanding rights for racial and ethnic minorities. Republicans, less so. This may well prove to be a base-vs.-base election, but even so the outcome may lie in the hands of the substantial proportion of the electorate that is undecided — 7 percent according to Pew. And if Democrats want to give themselves the best shot of getting Trump out of the White House, it is toward these voters that they must make concerted efforts at pragmatic diplomacy and persuasion — and show a new level of empathy.”

At Mother Jones, Kevin Drum mulls over Edsall’s article and observes “Working-Class Men Have Lost Nearly $20,000 Over the Past 40 Years” and observes, “College-educated men haven’t been doing great: their incomes have been treading water for the past 40 years. But men with only a high-school diploma have simply cratered: their incomes have dropped by nearly $20,000 since 1973. Trump appeals to the white segment of this group with his racial demagoguery because he has no real economic message for them and neither do Democrats…The white working class may not be essential to Democrats these days, but it’s unquestionably a group that has suffered a lot in recent decades and would be receptive to a genuinely populist economic appeal—including, but not limited to, a truly full-throated commitment to unionization. It’s no wonder that Elizabeth Warren is making the inroads that she is.”

Again at CNN Politics, Cillizza explains “How the surprise resignation of Johnny Isakson could change the 2020 Senate math,” and notes, “Georgia Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson’s announcement Wednesday that he will resign from the chamber at the end of the year is just the sort of break Democrats hoping to retake the majority next November badly needed…Here’s why: Isakson wasn’t up for reelection again until 2022. And had he run again, he would have been tough to beat given his long service to the state. But now, his seat will be on the ballot in 2020, not 2022. And whoever Gov. Brian Kemp (R) appoints to fill the immediate vacancy will have — at best — a year to convince voters that he or she deserves to serve out the final two years remaining on Isakson’s term. (Also worth noting: The electoral record of appointed senators is not so good.)…Republicans will now have 23 seats to defend in November 2020 as compared to just 12 for Democrats. Prior to Isakson’s surprise announcement on Wednesday, the Cook Political Report, a non-partisan campaign handicapping service, rated just three GOP seats as “toss up”: Arizona, Colorado and Maine. Widening the aperture, Cook rated 7 more seats — including Georgia Sen. David Perdue’s — as potentially competitive. Democrats, on the other hand, had just four total seats rated by Cook as even marginally competitive with Alabama as the only one, at the moment, in real danger.”

E. J. Dionne, Jr. makes it plain in his WaPo column, “The electoral college is in trouble” that “Defenders of such a departure from one-person, one-vote say that if Democrats run up big leads in a few states and regions — especially California but also, say, New York, Illinois and New England — that shouldn’t count. Their strained claim is that a president is somehow more “representative” of the country if he wins by eking out tiny margins in several Midwestern states. This transforms our democracy into a casino. If you narrowly hit the right numbers in some places, you take the pot…What they are really defending, without explicitly saying so, is the idea that states with a higher percentage of white, non-Hispanic voters should have a disproportionate influence on who becomes president…in addition to being undemocratic, the electoral college encourages a particularly odious politician with no interest in uniting the country to do all he can to promote minority rule…Our founders admitted that the electoral college system they created in the original Constitution was defective by altering it with the 12th Amendment in 1804 . It’s time we followed their lead in showing the same willingness to scrap a system that is sending us headlong into a national crisis.”

Writing in the Boston Review, Lenore Palladino shares some perceptive observations that Dems can use in talking points in her article, “RIP Shareholder Primacy,.” Palladino explains that “shareholder-focused corporations are not laws of nature, nor does that governance model accurately reflect today’s business dealings. This misguided focus is the result of decades of flawed theory in economics and law. It stems from an incorrect analysis of the relationships between shareholders, employees, management, and the corporation itself. And it is based on a flawed theory of the underlying economy: that markets work perfectly, and the heavy hand of government must get out of the way…This ideology has caused immeasurable harm. The singular focus on stock price means that wealth is extracted by a small number of shareholders while those who work to produce that wealth are squeezed to the bone. Large corporations operating in this way so dominate U.S. political, economic, and social life that it is difficult for most of us to remember that the rules that shape corporate governance are democratically determined—that we, the electorate, can actually change them.”

Democrats should read “Latinx voters are leaning Democratic in 2020 battleground states: They could be a force for Democrats next year, but the party needs to make sure its outreach keeps up” by Li Zhou at Vox. Zhou writes, “A new poll of Latinx voters has some potentially good news for Democrats: According to the survey, voters in battleground states are souring on Trump and open to other options in 2020…Whether that translates into an election-changing dynamic, however, remains to be seen. After all, the party hasn’t exactly had a great track record on executing successful Latinx mobilization strategies, and such efforts will be important to drive voters to the polls…The survey, conducted by Equis Labs, an organization dedicated to studying the Latinx electorate, included more than 8,000 Latinx voters in several highly competitive states such as Arizona, North Carolina, and Florida…Per the results, Latinx voters favor a Democratic candidate over Trump at this point in the election cycle, though that sentiment was more muted in certain states like Florida, where Republicans have historically had a strong foothold among Cuban Americans. Between 10 percent and 20 percent of voters across every state were also undecided.”

Zhou continues, “Expected to make up 32 million voters nationwide in 2020, including 23 percent of eligible voters in Arizona, 20 percent in Florida, and 19 percent in Nevada, Latinx voters are a theoretically pivotal demographic for the upcoming election. The survey, however, cautions that they aren’t a uniformly Democratic voting bloc, unlike African American voters, for example, who tend to vote pretty overwhelmingly for Democrats. The universe of Latinx voters has historically been more ideologically diverse, driven by factors including religion…Clinton wound up winning 66 percent of the Latinx vote, while Trump took 28 percent of it, according to a national exit poll. This breakdown is roughly in line with Latinx voters’ overall voter affiliation, though it has been contested by some polling experts…The 2018 midterms indicated a more dramatic shift. Turnout in the midterms spiked from 27 percent in 2014 to 40 percent in 2018. And Latinx voters supported Democratic candidates in the general election by a slightly higher margin: 69 percent voted Democrat compared to 29 percent who voted Republican.”

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