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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Stephen Collinson explains why “A week like no other looms in American politics” at CNN Politics: “After a brief respite over the weekend, senators will return to President Donald Trump’s Senate trial on Monday to hear closing arguments from Democratic House impeachment managers and the President’s legal defense team…Hours later, and after months of exchanges on the campaign trail, Democratic voters finally begin their search for a candidate to make Trump a one-term President in Monday night’s Iowa caucuses…The commander-in-chief will hit back the next night, weaving a narrative of prosperity at home and strength abroad, as his reelection pitch reaches new intensity in his annual “State of the Union” address…And then after finally breaking their own enforced silence with speeches from the floor, senators will Wednesday undertake their gravest possible duty in voting on whether to make Trump the first impeached President to be ousted in US history. Spoiler: Republicans will ensure that Trump is acquitted of high crimes and misdemeanors and will leave it up to voters to decide his fate.”…“But it is unusual for three events with the potential to set the tone of a crucial campaign and the political year ahead to unfold in such a compressed time frame — one that encapsulates the sense-scrambling reality of Washington in the bewildering Trump era…The next three days will reveal the political forces shaping the nation’s present — like Trump’s relentless dominance of the Republican Party and the desperation of Democrats to consign him to a single term…They will also unleash chain reactions that will shape the run up to November’s election and will reflect divisions widened by impeachment.”

“In Monday’s contest,” Ronald Brownstein writes at The Atlantic, “the Democratic candidates will be more reliant on metro areas—particularly those with large numbers of young adults and white-collar suburbanites—than even four years ago: Among the state’s 99 counties, just seven will award 53 percent of the delegates at stake…These changes create the most obvious challenge for former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who are relying heavily on older and more establishment voters based in rural communities and smaller cities. Bigger turnout in college towns like Iowa City, the home of the University of Iowa, will benefit Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont—though critics complain that the rules of the caucus are designed to undercut the clout of college towns. Bigger turnout in the white-collar suburbs around Des Moines, Iowa City, and Cedar Rapids could primarily benefit Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg—though both Biden and Klobuchar are hoping to remain competitive in those areas too.”

Brownstein adds, “None of the cities in Iowa is that large by national standards: The Des Moines metro area has about 650,000 residents. Still, the trends in the state are familiar in two ways: First, the largest urban areas are fueling its population growth. The seven Iowa counties that will award the most delegates at the caucus are Polk (Des Moines), Linn (Cedar Rapids), Johnson (Iowa City), Scott (Davenport), Black Hawk (Waterloo), Story (Ames), and Dubuque. But the big three—Polk, Linn, and Johnson counties—are the ones most propelling the state’s growth: Since 1990, they have accounted for fully two-thirds of Iowa’s modest total population increase of 375,000…The second trend is a growing urban-rural divide: Like elsewhere, Iowa Democrats are losing ground in rural areas, even as they pick up voters in metro areas.”

Brownstein notes further, “With the latest Iowa polls indicating a close contest, the result on caucus night may come down to whether turnout is close to the roughly 170,000 who voted in 2016 or whether it matches or even exceeds the record 240,000 who voted in 2008. Among Iowa observers, the general consensus is that Biden, who is dependent on more moderate, older Democrats who regularly attend the caucuses, has his best chance to prevail if turnout falls on the lower end of that range. But if the total vote surges, Biden “could just get swamped,” Rynard told me…A big turnout on Monday will almost certainly underscore how thoroughly the Democratic center of gravity in Iowa has shifted toward the state’s largest population centers. But how such an elevated turnout divides between young people and college-educated suburbanites could ultimately decide which candidate leaves the state with the most powerful tailwind.”

Regarding the Iowa caucuses, Amy Walter writes at The Cook Political Report, “Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who has been moving up in Iowa polling, is closing out with a pragmatic pitch to voters: “Klobuchar can unite our party and perhaps our nation…She knows how to get things done.”…Primary voters, however, rarely reward the ‘practical’ choice. What gets someone to the polls — especially to a caucus on a Monday night in the dead of winter — is passion. But, we also know that Democratic primary voters have been telling us for months that their number one priority is beating Trump. Iowa has always prided itself on its sophisticated voting electorate. Woe to the candidate who thinks he or she can drop into Iowa unprepared for serious discussions about ethanol or the cost of soybeans. But, go there today, and you’ll hear voters discussing which Democrat is best positioned to win Pennsylvania or Michigan more than you will overhear talk about which one best understands Iowa issues. We will learn on Monday night if Trump — and the prospect of beating him — will supply the energy and passion that biography or policy once did.”

In his column, “Bloomberg’s Moment May Arrive,” Charlie Cook observes, also at The Cook Politial Report: “In my mind Joe Biden is still a fragile front-runner, with somewhere between a 40 and 50 percent chance of winning the nod. There are those who would bestow the title of front-runner on Bernie Sanders, who currently is polling in first place in both Iowa and New Hampshire. My hunch, however, is that he would have a hard time going the distance, for reasons I’ll get to in just a moment. My odds for Michael Bloomberg are in the 20-25 percent range, with the remaining 30-35 percent spread out between Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, or someone else. To be clear, these aren’t shares of the vote, but chances to win. I know I’m bullish on Bloomberg; this is definitely a contrarian view, but one that might make some sense…The profile of Bloomberg voters is that they’re 50 or older, college-educated, and somewhat centrist. Well, you have just defined the supporters of Biden, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar as well. If none of those three are thriving, what do you think will happen?”

Kyle Kondik takes a look ahead at “The Road to Milwaukee: How the Democratic Primary Will Unfold” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and writes, “These early contests will get loads of attention throughout the month, although the dirty little secret is that, together, they only account for a pittance of the delegates that will be awarded in the primaries and caucuses. There are 3,979 of them up for grabs in 57 contests, with 1,991 required for a majority…Every year, there is a Super Tuesday, this year on March 3. But it may be more appropriate to look at the March 3-March 17 span as “Super Two-weeks.” A flood of contests bookended by two ethnic holidays — Illinois’ Casimir Pulaski Day (celebrated in honor of a Polish Revolutionary War hero the day before Super Tuesday on March 2) and St. Patrick’s Day on March 17 — may effectively decide the nomination…By the end of the Super Two-weeks, more than 60% of all the delegates will have been awarded. There may be a clear leader at that point who could be effectively impossible to catch given the Democrats’ proportional delegate allocation rules, or no clear leader at that time, making it hard for any candidate to capture a majority of the delegates by the end of the nomination season.”

At Daily Kos, Chris Reeves writes, “As the Iowa caucus comes to a close on February 3, we begin to really gear up for New Hampshire on Tuesday, Feb. 11. Eight days doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but eight days can make a huge difference in where campaigns are and what potential resources are available to them. Campaigns leaving Iowa without delegates will be seen as wounded, mortally so. While some campaigns—thinking specifically of Bloomberg and Steyer—could proceed as long as they wish as vanity campaigns from those who can self-fund, other candidates will find that fundraising and staff support will quickly fade post-Iowa if they do not perform well…The story out of Iowa will happen in a few stages. First, we’ll get the results, but then we will find out which candidates can hold together enough staff and donors to stay active. Some campaigns will absolutely close down. Some will thin themselves, focusing whatever they have left on New Hampshire. Others will just wait and see. Winning campaigns will staff up and start to push more chips into the table to try and play to win.”

From E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s column, “Progressives and moderates: Don’t destroy each other” at The Washington Post: “The Democratic campaign was destined to entail an argument about the party’s direction for the next decade. Is this election about restoration, after the madness of Trump’s time in office? Or should the accent be on transformation, to grapple with the underlying problems that led to Trump’s election in the first place?…Like so many of the binaries in politics, the restoration/transformation optic captures something important but is also a false choice. The country can’t simply pick up where it left off before Trump took office. The radicalized conservatism that dominates the Republican Party will not go away even if he is defeated. The inequalities of class and race that helped fueled Trump’s rise have deepened during his presidency. You might say restoring the norms that Trump threatens requirestransformation. And the majority that opposes Trump is clearly seeking a combination of restoration and transformation…What should bring moderates and progressives together is an idea put forward long ago by the late social thinker Michael Harrington: “visionary gradualism.” The phrase captures an insight from each side of their debate: Progressives are right that reforms unhinged from larger purposes are typically ephemeral. But a vision disconnected from first steps and early successes can shrivel up and die. Vision and incremental change are not opposites. In our nation’s history, the two have reinforced each other — for example, in protecting the environment, achieving social security for the elderly and assistance to the unemployed, protecting civil rights, and expanding health insurance coverage. This lesson will apply for any new Democratic president, no matter which wing of the party she or he represents.”

2 comments on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Candace on

    The Trump presidency has been about transforming the country, existing in a constant state of opposition to previous norms that were what most Americans liked about the U.S. So we are now in a sinking ship and need to get back to some solid ground in order to live .
    That’s how I think of restoring the country. The most immediate need is to remove the pirate captain yes, but then undo the damage he and his pirates have done so the United States survives, is not overthrown by criminals, serving another country and/or dissolves into Civil War 2

    Going back to the Trump/pre sinking ship days feels more like what the progressive candidates want because in order for you to believe they are the best person for the job and will be able to manage whats coming from the gop and pass their agenda, you have to pretend trump and the current state of the gop as well as our government doesn’t exist.
    And if you are all about your agenda and you can’t get it passed, what remains? What else do you got to give? How will you govern? How persuasive are you?

    the gop will fight to stop any democratic president from repairing the country and so allowing the United States government to be a force of good is definite no. If you don’t recognize obstacles or that you might not achieve perfection it feels like you, progressive candidate, aren’t being straight with us, or you’re unprepared for the opposition and obstruction you’re likely going to experience. which in all does not feel like a stabilizing force of leadership to choose for this country.

  2. Victor on

    It’s too bad that Dionne’s article adopts a framework that will turn off many progressives. The left is not preoccupied with Clinton and Obama the way the press and Hillary are obsessed with Bernie.

    Everyone accepts the need for gradual changes. What is not accepted it beginning with Republican talking points as the starting point and Overton window for politics.


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