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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In “Joe Biden Now Has A Clear Path To Be The Democratic Nominee,” Geoffrey Skelley writes at FiveThirtyEight: “Biden’s hot streak will likely burn into next week with four delegate-rich contests in Florida, Illinois, Ohio and Arizona. Sanders had less than a 1 in 10 shot of victory in any one of those states before yesterday’s vote, according to our forecast, and the same was true for Georgia, which votes on March 24. As of 2 a.m. Wednesday, Biden had added 64 net delegates to his lead over Sanders with Tuesday’s contests, and now has 806 pledged delegates to 662 for Sanders, according to ABC News. If Biden wins around 60 percent of delegates in contests moving forward — roughly his share yesterday — he will be close to a pledged delegate majority by late May and a shoo-in to have a sizable plurality. The point is, Sanders’s path to the nomination — barring something very unexpected happening — is almost nonexistent.”

Nicole Narea reports at Vox that “Former Vice President Joe Biden won big with black voters in Michigan, the state with the largest delegate trove on Tuesday, and in Missouri and Mississippi, according to CNN exit polls. Black voters supported Biden at rates of 66 percent in Michigan and 72 percent in Missouri — states where he reaped double-digit victories over Sanders. And in Mississippi, where black voters made up 69 percent of the electorate, they backed Biden over Sanders nearly 9 to 1.” Sanders’s failure to secure a healthy share of African American votes was never about policy – one can make a very strong argument that his policy proposals were in most respects more beneficial to Black American communities than Biden’s or that of any other candidate. But Biden’s edge came from his connection to African American leaders and communities, amplified by President Obama’s trust in him and the Clyburn endorsement. Biden’s unique ability to connect with all kinds of people on a human level also served him well, while Sanders’s persona seemed more distant and chilly in comparison.

For now, however, Sen. Sanders says he is going to stay in the race and is looking forward to clashing with Biden on Sunday at a CNN-Univision debate, Gregory Krieg, Ryan Nobles and Annie Grayer report at CNN Politics. “Sanders’ decision to continue his campaign despite the growing odds against him is likely to anger Democrats outside progressive circles, who on Tuesday night began to openly clamor for a quick end to the contest. Biden was largely deferential in his speech and appeared to offer Sanders an off-ramp. But the Vermont senator, after a night of deliberations with his innermost circle, opted to fight on — and make his case at least one more time to Democratic voters.” It will likely be Sanders’s swan song. Some Democratic leaders, including Rep. Clyburn, have called on Sanders to quit. But he understandibly feels that he has earned at least a one-on-one match-up with the front-runner. After that, it’s unlikely that many voters will be paying Sanders much attention, and his endorsement of Biden seems inevitable.

At Politico, Gary Fineout reports, “Joe Biden is in line to deliver a knockout punch to Bernie Sanders in Florida in Tuesday‘s Democratic primary, according to a new poll that gives the former vice president a staggering 44-point lead over his opponent…Biden is lapping Sanders in voter support, with support from 66 percent of likely Democratic primary voters to 22 percent for Sanders, according to a University of North Florida poll taken March 5-10…The poll of 1,339 Democratic likely voters “paints a bleak picture for the Sanders campaign.” The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus 2.5 percent…Three other states also will vote on March 17: Illinois, Ohio and Arizona. In Florida, more than 728,000 Democrats already have cast ballots…Winning Florida, a state with a moderate and older electorate, was always an uphill climb for Sanders. The Vermont senator lost to Hillary Clinton in the state by roughly 30 points four years ago.”

What kind of effects could the Corona virus pandemic have on U. S. elections? Thurgood Marshall, Jr. and Steven Okun explore this question at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and write that “The spread of COVID-19 has already begun disrupting plans across the world. Congress must begin thinking about how it could potentially disrupt the upcoming presidential election…Measures taken to prevent the spread of disease could come into conflict with voting…The closer the election gets, the harder it will be for both parties to set aside partisan considerations and agree to take actions in the name of the greater good of the nation.” Marshall and Okun notes that “some poll workers did not show up because of fears of the new coronavirus according to the Travis County (Texas) clerk’s office…And what happens if people go to the polls but are concerned about that the voting machines may be contaminated with the virus?…“One of the things we’ve had to caution voters about is don’t get Purell on the ballots; it makes them stick,” said Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, per the Austin American-Statesman.” Nobody knows how long the pandemic will last. But it might make sense for states to enact emergency legislation to institute a mail-in paper ballot system similar to that of Oregon.

Political analyst Rachel Bitecoffer sees Democrats blowing a major self-branding opportunity in an interview by Chauncey DeVega at salon.com. As Bitecoffer explains, “Democrats have never responded with a positive version of their own brand. Instead, the Democrats present themselves as being “moderate.” The Democrats should be saying, “Hey, this is why economic liberalism is better for you, white working class.” Instead of presenting their values in a positive way and standing by them, in these swing states the Democratic candidates come out and say, “Well, I’m not like those other Democrats. I’m a fiscal conservative.” In fact, the record of fiscal conservatism in America is not a good one…Donald Trump is basically doing what Democrats are incapable of. Donald Trump understands that the American voter is disengaged, disinterested, thinks about images and stories and not about policy in a serious way, and is highly subject to emotion. Donald Trump and his team feed that dynamic. Whereas the Democratic candidates and leaders keep having — or at least they think they are having — big, deep policy discussions with each other.” Contrary to polling and ballot evidence thus far, Bitecofer argues, “Those who oppose Bernie Sanders and think he could doom the party are overlooking how Bernie Sanders is the one presidential primary candidate who can negate Donald Trump’s populist advantage in terms of messaging. It is probably a major disadvantage to go into the general election with a Washington establishment candidate such as Joe Biden.”

As the only Democratic presidential candidate who promotes health care reform that includes coverage for everyone, Sanders deserves credit for advancing the debate in a more humane direction. Joseph Zeballos-Roig writes that, in an open letter published on Tuesday, twenty of the nation’s leading economists argued in favor of Medicare for All. “They argue that existing research suggests there would be massive savings and it would reduce waste in healthcare…There’s been too much loose talk that Medicare for All is unaffordable. What’s really unaffordable is the current system,” signatory Gerald Friedman said in an interview…”We believe the available research supports the conclusion that a program of Medicare for All (M4A) could be considerably less expensive than the current system, reducing waste and profiteering inherent in the current system, and could be financed in a way to ensure significant financial savings for the vast majority of American households,” the economists wrote in the open letter…”Most important, Medicare for All will reduce morbidity and save tens of thousands of lives each year,” the group of economists said.”

Zeballos-Roig notes that “Among the letter’s signatories are prominent progressive economists like former Labor secretary Robert Reich; Jeffrey Sachs, a leading expert on poverty; Gabriel Zucman and Emmanuel Saez, two professors at the University of California, Berkeley, who laid outplans for a wealth tax; and Darrick Hamilton, a professor of economics at the Ohio State University and a pioneer in economic inequality research…Medicare for All is the signature plan of Sen. Bernie Sanders, the remaining progressive candidate in the Democratic primary. It would set up a new government health insurance system that provides comprehensive benefits to Americans and toss out deductibles, co-pays, and out-of-pocket spending. Private insurance would be eliminated as well.”

It’s fortunate that the timing of the Corona virus outbreak had little effect on the outcome of the Democratic presidential primaries. Had it hit the U.S. a few weeks earlier than it did, it might have had a more significant impact by shrinking crowds at political events and affecting debate about the health care reform policies of the Democratic presidential candidates, though possibly in a good direction. The outbreak has strongly underscored how “wildly unprepared” the nation’s institutions are for this kind of public health crisis, in terms of available medicines, public hygiene and medical research. The crisis also underscores how underfunded our public health care “system” is compared to that of other nations. When it is over, it will be interesting to see how well different nations and political systems performed in addressing the pandemic.

3 comments on “Political Strategy Notes

      • MartinLawford on

        Staff, most wrong-word errors are innocuous. If a man writes “tow the line” when he means “toe the line” or “shoe-in” when he means “shoo-in”, the spell checker won’t object and most people will know what he means. Once in a while, though, a wrong-word error turns into a malapropism. Only proofreading, not a spell checker, can save you from referring to a man as a poof when you meant to call him a prof.


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