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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Amy Walter observes at The Cook Political Report, that “the hand-wringing from some in Democratic circles that Biden needs to ramp up his public presence, lest he be ‘forgotten’ or overshadowed by Democratic Governors like Andrew Cuomo or Gretchen Whitmer, is unnecessary and misses the point…in a national crisis, the attention is trained on the person in charge and not the person who wants to replace him or her. This scenario works to Biden’s benefit. Even before this horrible virus hit the United States, Biden’s best opportunity to win in November was dependent on making the contest a referendum on Trump…Biden doesn’t need to spend as much time attacking and defining the president when he’s getting a lot of help from outside groups like Priorities USA and other SuperPACs…More important, Biden’s goal isn’t to be a more ‘exciting’ alternative to Trump but to be the opposite of Trump. Biden isn’t going to be a ratings superhero. He’s not going to pack stadiums to the rafters with supporters. His message is basically this: I’m pretty boring but steady and competent. That may not work every year, but it is well-suited for a time of chaos and confusion…”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. has a warning for Democrats: “One of the frustrations of being Biden these days, said the Washington Democrat close to him, is being asked during a media appearance what he is doing to be more visible on the media. Biden made light of such irritation when he told MSNBC’s Yasmin Vossoughian on Monday: “Well, thanks for giving me the time. So they don’t wonder where I am.”…But that question’s plaintiveness also suggests that if Democratic panic is premature, complacency is more dangerous. In 2016, both Trump’s opponents and (ironically, perhaps) the media underestimated the enormous value of his ability to command wall-to-wall coverage. Even when he peddles outright falsehoods, Trump’s version of events often penetrates widely before it’s even fact-checked. Trump can change his story so fast that it’s hard to keep up with him…Democrats, including Biden, would be foolish to let Trump dominate the discussion of what needs to be done to lift the country up after the coronavirus threat ebbs…Trump’s foes, in other words, need to chill out and buck up at the same time. Overestimating Trump feeds his power. But underestimating him leads to political ruin.”

Charlie Cook writes, also at The Cook Political Report: “Of course, the presidential race will be determined not by the national popular vote but by the Electoral College. If only we had more high-quality polls from the half-dozen most hotly contested states—Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—we could make a better judgment. Until then, we have to look at the national polls. Since Democratic votes are less efficiently allocated than Republican ones, is the Democrat far enough ahead nationally to translate his support into 270 electoral votes? To be sure, he may need a cushion of 4 percentage points…We obviously can’t know how deep this recession will be or how long it will last, much less its impact on Trump. Many assume it will give him a strong headwind. I prefer to say it will deprive him of the tailwind that he has enjoyed until now…There is no question in my mind that there are plausible paths for Trump to win 270 electoral votes. It isn’t an easy or wide path, but it is there. Working in his favor, his campaign will be a million times more competent than it was four years ago. He will also have far more money than he did last time, although money in politics is not determinative (just ask Michael Bloomberg).”

Columnist/radio host Dean Obeidallah writes in “Trump’s infrastructure tweet makes Democrats look bad. The party of FDR needs to step up: With the coronavirus crisis pushing our economy toward a cliff, it will likely take a Democratic president, or at least Democratic policies, to save America (again.)” that “Democrats, generally speaking, subscribe to the philosophy that the federal government should be expanded and used as a tool to help Americans in times of need. In contrast, one of the policy pillars of the modern-day GOP is shrinking the role of the federal government. Now is not the time for Democrats to be cautious — Democratic leaders need to lean hard on their ideological roots. They need to channel the spirit of FDR and champion sweeping, large-scale federal programs that can help Americans by creating jobs and investing in our nation…Yet, stunningly, it’s President Donald Trump who is now taking the lead by proposing an FDR-style massive infrastructure program. This week Trump tweeted in support of his infrastructure proposal: “It should be VERY BIG & BOLD, Two Trillion Dollars, and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our Country!” Of course, the challenge for Democrats is to make sure such an investment actually creates jobs at a living wage, instead of a  multi-billion dollar gift to corporations, and that it is financed as much as possible by taxes on large companies and the wealthy, instead of the middle class.

“While it’s not yet mathematically impossible for him to win, Sanders would need to amass more than 60 percent of the remaining delegates to clinch the nomination — a mark he’s only hit in two states this year, Nevada and his home state of Vermont,” Holly Otterbein writes at Politico. “His path is so narrow that some of Sanders’ senior aides have even advised him to consider dropping out, though not everyone in his inner circle feels the same way, according to people familiar with the situation…Another possible reason for not explaining his long-shot course to victory: it depends on something his staff and allies have for the most part only whispered about — an epic Biden collapse.” Articulating such an unseemly hope would be an extremely bad look for the Sanders campaign. They are fast reaching the point where staying in could damage Sanders’s’ influence as the leading advocate of Medicare for All, which is gaining traction in the coronavirus crisis, according to a recent Morning Consult poll.

Otterbein adds that “In recent weeks, Sanders has retooled much of his campaign to focus on the coronavirus and workers’ rights — both markings of a candidate running a message candidacy rather than a true race against Biden. He has raised more than $3.5 million for coronavirus aid, while ceasing to actively raise money for himself. He has also used his email list and social media accounts to drive up support for Walmart and Amazon employees fighting for protective equipment and additional benefits during the pandemic…But managing even a successful message campaign at this moment could prove difficult, given that the coronavirus death toll and response efforts are commanding nearly all of the media’s attention. Last weekend, CNN and ABC canceled tentative appearances with Sanders.” There is no reason why Sanders could not formally drop out and strongly support Biden, but continue to urge Biden to move closer toward Medicare for All. Indeed, he might even get better media coverage by shedding the ‘sour grapes’ critique.

Nathaniel Rackich notes at FiveThirtyEight that “Biden needs some Sanders primary voters to support him in November, since Sanders has won about 31 percent of the national popular vote so far. But he doesn’t need every single one…Some Sanders-or-bust voters might stay home in November; that happens to some degree in every election…Sanders voters don’t fit that description. According to a recent Morning Consult poll, 82 percent of Sanders supporters say they would vote for Biden in the general election, and just 7 percent said they would vote for Trump. And Quinnipiac University found that 86 percent of Sanders voters would vote for Biden, 3 percent would vote for Trump, 2 percent would vote for someone else, 4 percent wouldn’t vote, and 5 percent didn’t know who they’d vote for.”

In his update on Democratic prospects for winning a U.S. Senate majority, Kyle Kondik writes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “First of all, we’re moving the special election in Arizona from Toss-up to Leans Democratic this week. Likely Democratic nominee Mark Kelly (D), a former astronaut who is the husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), has consistently led appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) in polling, and not just by a little: four surveys in March showed Kelly up anywhere from five to 12 points, a better margin than Biden enjoys in the state (he has led Trump there in polling, but by smaller margins)…We are also moving Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) from Leans Republican to Toss-up. We’ve resisted this change for a while, but it’s become apparent to us that Collins is in for a very close race, even if she may retain a lead at this precise moment. Her likeliest opponent is state House Speaker Sara Gideon (D).

Kondik adds, “There is one positive rating change for Republicans. We have not been very impressed by Democratic recruitment for both Senate races in Georgia, and we’re upgrading Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) from Leans Republican to Likely Republican. We’re also tempted to move the Senate special election there to Likely Republican, but we’re going to hold off in light of the potential for appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) to be damaged by recent reporting that she benefited from a stock sell-off before the markets took a dive as the coronavirus pandemic emerged, prompting accusations of a form of insider trading…Assuming that Republicans defeat Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), which we see as likely, Democrats need to win at least four currently Republican seats to get to a 50-50 tie in the Senate, which the incoming vice president would break…We have Democrats favored in two Republican seats, Arizona and Colorado. Then there are two genuine Toss-ups, Maine and North Carolina, followed by Leans Republican states Iowa and Montana, along with the Georgia Senate special. These states are where the Senate majority will be won, in all likelihood.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. pjcamp on

    The Sanders or Bust crowd underscores what I keep arguing every four years — regardless of what the country as a whole does, the Democratic Party should mandate across the board ranked choice voting. If nothing else, that has the psychological effect of a greater number of people feeling that they got some of what they want in a candidate they can live with.


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