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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Nathaniel Rakich’s “Foreign Policy Doesn’t Usually Affect Elections. Could Iran Be Different?” at FiveThirty Eight explores the political fallout of Trump’s Iran mess, and notes, “First, most political science research has found that foreign policy doesn’t significantly affect people’s votes. But this isn’t always the case. For example, foreign policy can have more of an impact when it’s a big part of the national conversation and when the two parties have clearly contrasting positions on it — two conditions that this Iran episode could meet.” Rakich adds, “it’s rare for a primary candidate to be experienced in foreign policy. But this year, we have such a candidate in former Vice President Joe Biden. And two recent polls say that Democratic primary voters do trust him the most on foreign policy.”

In Adition, Rakich notes, “According to CNN, nearly half (48 percent) of Democrats and Democratic leaners said they thought Biden could best handle foreign policy; Sen. Bernie Sanders came in second place with just 14 percent. And in a poll taken immediately after the strike that killed Soleimani, HuffPost/YouGov found that 62 percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners trust Biden on Iran, although Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren weren’t too far behind, with 47 percent trusting each of them (respondents were allowed to select multiple candidates they trusted).” However, “Someone like Sanders, who has been critical of Biden’s vote to go to war with Iraq, could seize the upper hand if the primary becomes a question of who is the most anti-war.”

As for which party is perceived as more qualified to address foreign policy crises, Rakich writes, “The GOP has long been seen as better than Democrats at protecting the country from external threats, according to Gallup polling. However, the gap has narrowed during the Trump era (as of 2019, 50 percent trusted Republicans, and 44 percent trusted Democrats), and other polls suggest Trump himself is not very well trusted on foreign policy…factors like the seriousness of the event, whether the country is already fatigued by war, the president’s approval rating before the event, and the level of media coverage of the event can all influence the size of the rally-around-the-flag effect, or even whether there is one at all…But if elite opinion splits along partisan lines — as it is doing so far on Iran — then so will public opinion.”

Even though Mitch McConnell is reportedly setting up highly-partisan impeachment trial rules and procedures, “There is one bright spot for Democrats: Their position is currently more popular than McConnell’s,” Amelia Thomson-Deveaux writes at FiveThirtyEight. “According to our recent poll with Ipsos, a majority of Americans think it would be better if the upcoming trial included new witnesses who could potentially shed light on Trump’s conduct, while only 39 percent said it would be better to keep the focus solely on the evidence introduced in the House hearings, without calling new witnesses…Binder said Democrats can try to force votes on whether to call witnesses as the process moves forward, too, which could keep the spotlight on the issue. But ultimately, once the articles of impeachment are transmitted to the Senate, disputes over fairness in the impeachment trial will mostly be decided by majority rule. That might not be the kind of trial most people are used to — but it’s the one the Constitution mandates. And it means even after the trial starts, the debate over how rules and witnesses will likely be far from over.”

Democratic candidates may find some useful talking points in “Trump got suckered by Iran and North Korea: He’s pushed Iran closer to going nuclear — and spurred an arms race in North Korea, Russia, and China” by disarmament expert Jeffrey Lewis at Vox. As Lewis notes, Trump’s foreign policy is “not a strategy, in the sense of a plan that matches resources to objectives, or even a philosophical outlook…It’s ultimately a pose — one that can be struck at a rally with thousands of screaming fans or posted on an Instagram account for the Department of Swagger…It is remarkable that, across the board, Trump’s strategies of pressure and bullying have resulted in no tangible agreements — no deal with Kim Jong Un, no meeting with Iran’s leaders, and no arms control deals with either the Russians or the Chinese…Trump will undoubtedly claim that all is going well — he is a master of creating a crisis and then claiming victory when he cleans up his own mess. He has already claimed to have solved the North Korean nuclear problem, and, no doubt, he will crow over the killing of Iran’s Soleimani. But each of these situations has gotten worse while he has been in office, not better. His supporters can rationalize his methods, but they can’t invent results that don’t exist.”

Thomas B. Edsall has a heads up warning for Dems in his NYT column, “Trump Wants Law and Order Front and Center: The president and his allies are trying to make Democratic plans to reform law enforcement a potent campaign issue.” As Edsall writes, “Unexpectedly, the 2020 presidential campaign is drilling down on petty crime and homelessness. Donald Trump and his Republican allies are reviving law-and-order themes similar to those used effectively by Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew in the late 1960s and early 1970s to demonize racial minorities…Turning the decarceration movement into a 2020 campaign issue fits into Trump’s go-to strategy of inflaming divisive conflicts, especially those involving disputed rights — particularly those benefiting minorities — in order to activate racial resentment, to mobilize his core voters and to goad swing voters into lining up against the Democratic Party.” However, Edsall writes, “While Trump’s strategy was successful in 2016, it is by no means clear that this strategy will work as well in 2020.”

In “Republican Edge in Electoral College Tie Endures,” Kyle Kondik writes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “If no candidate gets to 270 Electoral College votes, the U.S. House of Representatives would pick the next president…The House has not had to pick a president in nearly two centuries. In the event of such a tiebreaking vote, each state’s U.S. House delegation would get to cast a single vote. The eventual president would need to win a majority of the 50 state delegations…Republicans control 26 delegations and Democrats control 23, with one tie (Pennsylvania). That is a slight improvement for Democrats from this time last year, although that improvement is based on a fluke and may not endure…The GOP remains favored to control a majority of House delegations following this November’s House election.”

Majority Froward may have found the issue that can rid the U.S. Senate of Susan Collins. As Simone Pathe reports at Roll Call, “Majority Forward, the nonprofit arm of the Senate Majority PAC, which is aligned with Senate Democratic leadership, is hitting Collins over prescription drug costs with a statewide six-figure TV and digital ad campaign beginning Tuesday…While Majority Forward’s first Maine ad hit Collins for not holding town hall meetings, this one goes after her for taking $1.4 million from the drug and insurance industries, citing data from the Center for Responsive Politics…“Thousands of Mainers are forced to cut their medications in half just to get by,” the narrator says in the ad, which launches Tuesday, as viewers watch an elderly man use a knife to saw his pills in two. “But Susan Collins voted against measures that would have lowered the cost of prescription drugs…”“Collins should work for Mainers, not donors,” the ad says.”

At The Hill, Brent Budowsky shares an idea that will warm the hearts of progressives, coast to coast: “Bloomberg should give $1 billion to Democrats.” As Budowsky elaborates, “Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg should take one of the greatest pro-democracy actions in the history of democracy and donate $1 billion to register Democratic voters, protect voting rights of minorities, mobilize young people and women, support Democratic campaign committees, and back Democratic candidates for the House, Senate and critical statewide offices…Such an enormous donation would give an additional boost to candidate recruiting. With control of both houses of Congress so vital to the future of the nation, party leaders and activists should go all-out to draft candidates such as Steve Bullock in Montana and Stacey Abrams in Georgia to run in vital and winnable Senate elections…Such an enormous donation will dramatize the great urgency and high stakes of this election. It could inspire more super-wealthy Democrats such as Tom Steyer and others to make dramatic donations. It could inspire prominent leading Democrats, such as former President Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama, to do dramatically more to elect Democrats than they are doing today.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. pjcamp on

    I live in Georgia. Stacey Abrams is too damn full of herself to run for something as trivial as Senate. She sees it as beneath her.


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