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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Perry Bacon, Jr. reports at FiveThirtyEight that “Several polling firms released surveys of Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in April. Former President Barack Obama carried all four states in 2012. Trump flipped all four in 2016 (as well as Ohio and Iowa, neither of which has much recent polling.) And Biden appears to lead in all four now. (North Carolina, which has gone Republican in both of the last two cycles, was also polled pretty often in April, with Trump and Biden looking basically tied there.)…at the moment, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are very close to the national tipping point — so they’re likely to be among the more determinative states this November.” However, noes Bacon, “Trump is likely to look stronger when pollsters start limiting their results to “likely voters.” Most of the April surveys in these four states were conducted among registered voters or all adults, two groups that include some people who may not vote in November…Fox News, Ipsos and Public Policy Polling all recently polled several swing states. All three found Biden had a larger lead in Michigan and Pennsylvania than in other swing states they surveyed (Florida for Fox, North Carolina and Wisconsin for PPP, Wisconsin for Ipsos.)”

Ruy Teixeira notes on his Facebook page, “Texas? Georgia?…Well, I wouldn’t get too frisky here. But there are two new polls out of TX and GA; the former shows Biden ahead of Trump by 1, while the latter has Biden only behind Trump by a point. No internals on the GA poll, so not much to comment on there, other than I’d have to see a lot more similar polling before I’d see GA as truly being on the edge between Trump and Biden. The TX poll has some internals available and encouragingly they show Biden with a much larger margin among Hispanics than Hillary had in the state in 2016 (47 vs. 26 points). However, Biden’s deficit among whites is basically the same as Clinton’s, about 40 points. I find it hard to believe that Biden can take the state or even make it very close without compressing that deficit…That said, it’s certainly worth keeping an eye on both these states as we move forward.”

Harry Enten explains why “Democrats are slight favorites for Senate control” at CNN Politics: “To gain Senate control from Republicans in November’s elections, Democrats will need a net gain of three seats (if former Vice President Joe Biden holds onto his lead over President Donald Trump and claims victory) or four seats (if Trump wins)…An early look at the data finds that Democrats are the slightest of favorites to take back the Senate. The chance Democrats net gain at least 3 seats is about 3-in-5 (60%), while the chance they net gain at least 4 seats is about 1-in-2 (50%)…The Democrats are doing fairly well not because they’re overwhelming favorites in any one or a select number of seats. Rather, it’s that they have a non-negligible to good chance in a lot of seats. Although Democrats only hold 12 of the 35 seats up, they have at least a 1-in-20 (5%) shot in 25 seats…They hold about an 8-point lead on the generic ballot. That’s about the same as it was in 2018, when it was 7 points, and about double what it was in 2016. Based on past trends, this large advantage suggests that races that may look like tossups right now are forecasted to move toward the Democrats over the course of the year.”

Enten continues: “Right now, Democrats are clear favorites in three seats Republicans currently hold: Arizona (Sen. Martha McSally), Colorado (Sen. Cory Gardner) and Maine (Sen. Susan Collins). They’re favored to defeat incumbents between about 2-in-3 times (65%) to three in four times (75%) in these states. All three are in states that were decided by 5 points or less in the 2016 presidential election, and where the national environment is helping the Democrats. The limited polling in Arizona and Maine also point to Democrats being ahead by a small margin.” However, ” Republicans are heavily favored in Alabama. Democratic Sen. Doug Jones won a shocking victory in a 2017 special Senate election. The polling and strong Republican tilt of the state indicate that Republicans should win this race about 6-in-7 in seven times (85%)…If Democrats are going to net gain three seats while losing in Alabama, their best shot to get that additional pickup is in North Carolina. This is another state that was determined by less than 5 points in the 2016 presidential election, and where Republican Sen. Thom Tillis has actually been running slightly behind Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham in an average of polling. Cunningham wins a little bit north of half the time (55%), though it’s best to regard this one as a tossup…The lack of Republican pickup opportunities again point why Democrats have a real shot of wrestling control: Democrats simply have a wider playing field.”

As former Vice President Biden ponders his choices for a running mate, a new group called The Committee to Draft Michelle Obama is making a case for the former First Lady, who was the “most admired woman in the world” in a YouGov poll taken less than a year ago. Supporters hope that there may be some wiggle-room in her statement, “I’ll say it here directly: I have no intention of running for office, ever,” as  she wrote in her best-selling memoir, “Becoming.” The group believes it would be hard for her decline if asked to join the ticket by Biden, who is a close friend of the Obamas. Biden has stated that his running mate will be a woman, and he is also being urged to select an African American woman. Only two Democratic women have 8 years of experience living in the White House and Mrs. Obama would also bring a younger, energetic feel to the ticket, as well as some bipartisan credibility. In addition, she has been thoroughly vetted. Asked if he thought Mrs. Obama would be a good running mate, Biden said, “I’d do that in a heartbeat if I thought there was any chance.”

“What should bring moderates and progressives together is an idea put forward long ago by the late social thinker Michael Harrington: “visionary gradualism,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes in his opinion essay, “Progressives and moderates: Don’t destroy each other” in the Washington Post. “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.”

Dionne continues, “A vibrant left has always been a central component of any successful era of social reform. By offering plans and proposals on what Harrington called “the left wing of the possible,” socialists, social democrats and left-liberals have redefined the political playing field…Moderates who think of themselves as problem solvers should welcome the left’s initiatives as part of a process of legitimizing the very act of public problem solving. Only when this happens can a real contest begin over how fast and how far we can move at any given moment.”

“The main reason crises don’t produce lasting change in social policy seems to be that people quickly forget or turn their attention elsewhere, so their beliefs and preferences snap back to where they were before the emergency.,” Lane Kenworthy argues in Foreign Affairs. Kenworthy, author of Social Democratic Capitalism, writes “Examining public opinion data going back to the early 1970s, the sociologist Lindsay Owens and I have found that recessions tend to have only temporary effects on Americans’ attitudes on a wide range of economic, social, and political issues. In addition, economic downturns cause some people to worry about their own financial well-being rather than the welfare of others, as the political scientist Ronald Inglehart has documented. And welfare state opponents and deficit hawks invariably warn against new public spending, arguing that the country can’t afford to take on additional debt.” Is Kenworthy underestimating the shelf-life of the fear factor in the current economic crisis as a force for lasting health care reform, or the relationship between public opinion and the actions of congress?

Kenworthy continues, “Temporary expansions of the safety net thus rarely become permanent. Time and again during downturns, the federal government has intervened to help people who lose their jobs and to rejuvenate the economy—by extending access to unemployment benefits, making stimulus payments, and declaring payroll tax holidays, loan payment delays, and more. But these temporary measures nearly always end once the economy recovers…When public social programs have been enlarged for good, it has tended to happen via the ballot box: progressive parties in government, not crises, make lasting social policy…Unless a new Democratic majority in the Senate is willing to do away with the filibuster, new social spending likely would have to be passed via the reconciliation procedure, which per Senate rules can be used only once a year…If the pandemic pushes us closer to social democracy, it will be because it boosts the electoral fortunes of the political party currently out of power, which happens to be one that’s already inclined to expand the social safety net.”

2 comments on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Victor on

    Also, the account of the role of LBJ and FDR in pushing policies ends up being an indirect criticism of the Obama/Biden approach to advocacy.

  2. Victor on

    Moderates and progressives can’t be brought together when moderates have decided to embrace Red Scare type frameworks.


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