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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In her CNN  Opinion article, “Democrats can’t keep ignoring this vital campaign issue,” Jen Psaki, White House communications director during the Obama administration, writes, “Few Democrats want to talk about the possibility of a liberal vacancy. After all, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the oldest justice at age 87, is an icon who broke through gender barriers to become one of the most influential and committed progressive voices on the Supreme Court in history. As a proud owner of a “Notorious RBG” shirt, I get it. But remember, she and Justice Stephen Breyer, another liberal member of the court in his 80s, cannot be justices forever…And if Republicans are talking about this, Democrats should be, too…I was the communications director in the White House when then-President Barack Obama nominated Garland. We naively thought that someone who had been confirmed to the DC Court of Appeals with 76 votes in the Senate would face some opposition — but would ultimately be confirmed…But Democrats should also turn that bitterness into action — and take a lesson from Trump and McConnell, making the next Supreme Court vacancy a centerpiece of the 2020 election. Unlike in 2016, when the Garland nomination was not mentioned during the Democratic National Convention, it should get top billing this year.”

Psaki continues, “Democrats should be clear that confirmation of another Trump judge could be the death knell of the Affordable Care Act, which Trump is currently asking the Supreme Court to overturn. In other words, they should make this vote the 2020 version of the ACA-repeal votes that contributed to the downfall of so many Republican members of Congress in 2018…Anyone voting to confirm a Trump nominee is voting to kick tens of millions of Americans off their health care in the middle of a pandemic that’s reminding families everywhere how important access to care really is…And Democrats should not let Senate decorum get in the way. It’s basic campaign 101 — when a candidate is down, you don’t let up. You deliver the clear knockout punch…Finally, Democrats can’t hem and haw for weeks. Democratic Senate candidates should announce the stakes of this election immediately and begin to mobilize grassroots opposition, putting vulnerable Senate Republicans in the hot seat.”

At The Cook Political Report, Charlie Cook writes that “While it is still a bit more likely than not that Republicans hold onto either the White House or the Senate, the chances of Democrats scoring a trifecta is at least one-in-three and going up. Very roughly speaking, both the presidential race and the Senate are 50-50 bets, while the odds for Democrats holding the House are very high and rising…Given that Democratic incumbent Doug Jones’s reelection hopes appear completely futile, Democrats had to run the table and beat McSally, Gardner, Collins, and Tillis to win a Senate majority—and that was predicated on their party winning the White House as well; otherwise, they would have to unseat yet another Republican…But adding Loeffler and Daines gives Democrats a couple of other paths to a majority. Now, new Republican polling shows the elected incumbent in Georgia, David Perdue, in a difficult race. The open Kansas seat is looking very problematic with a filing deadline now just two weeks away. Even challenges to Sens. Joni Ernst, Mitch McConnell, Lindsay Graham, and Dan Sullivan are drawing attention.”

Domenico Montenaro reports at npr.org that a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds that “A majority of Republicans (56%) would rather cast their ballots in person than by mail (42%), whereas 61% of Democrats and 53% of independents prefer voting by mail this November…The most likely to want to vote by mail were white women with a college degree (64%), whites with a college degree (62%), those who live in the West (62%) and Democrats (61%). Western states have been voting by mail for many election cycles…Among those most likely to say they want to vote in person are Republicans (56%), those in the South (45%), white women without a college degree (44%), those 45 and older (44%), whites (42%) and people without a college degree (40%)…Some 10% say they do not intend to vote, which the pollsters indicate is about what would be expected, but the groups with the highest percentages of members who say they won’t vote cut across key pillars in both parties: Gen Z and millennials, ages 18 to 38 (19%); Latinos (16%); suburban men (13%); those without a college degree (13%); white men without a degree (12%); and African Americans (11%).”

A CBS/YouGov poll conducted April 28-May 1 shed some light on public attitudes toward potential  running mates for the likely Democratic presidential nomineee, Joe Biden. “Democrats/Democratic Leaners” poll respondents were presented a list of frequently-mentioned potential Vice-Presidential running mates, and then asked “if Joe Biden were asked to pick a Vice Presidential running mate right now, which one of those should he pick?” Elizabeth Warren led the pack with 36%, followed by: Kamala Harris (19%); Stacy Abrams (14%); Amy Klobuchar (13%); Susan Rice (4%); Val Demings, Tammy Duckworth and Gretchen Whitmer (3%); Catherine Cortez-Masto (2%); Michelle Lujan-Grisham, Tammy Baldwin and Sally Yates (1%). Asked “If she wanted to run, should Joe Biden Pick Michelle Obama as his Vice-Presidential selection?,” 64% of the respondents said ‘Yes,’ while 36% said ‘No.’

Franklin Foer has a warning for Dems at The Atlantic: “The Russians have learned much about American weaknesses, and how to exploit them. Having probed state voting systems far more extensively than is generally understood by the public, they are now surely more capable of mayhem on Election Day—and possibly without leaving a detectable trace of their handiwork. Having hacked into the inboxes of political operatives in the U.S. and abroad, they’ve pioneered new techniques for infiltrating campaigns and disseminating their stolen goods. Even as to disinformation, the best-known and perhaps most overrated of their tactics, they have innovated, finding new ways to manipulate Americans and to poison the nation’s politics. Russia’s interference in 2016 might be remembered as the experimental prelude that foreshadowed the attack of 2020…What sort of operation could Russia execute in 2020? Unlike Ukraine, the United States doesn’t have a central node that, if struck, could disable democracy at its core. Instead, the United States has an array of smaller but still alluring targets: the vendors, niche companies, that sell voting equipment to states and localities; the employees of those governments, each with passwords that can be stolen; voting machines that connect to the internet to transmit election results.”

Georgia Republicans are road-testing how cancelling an election plays with the public. As Ian Milhiser reports at Vox, “The state of Georgia was supposed to hold an election Tuesday to fill a seat on the state Supreme Court. Justice Keith Blackwell, a Republican whose six-year term expires on the last day of this year, did not plan to run for reelection. The election, between former Democratic Rep. John Barrow and former Republican state lawmaker Beth Beskin, would determine who would fill Blackwell’s seat…But then something weird happened: Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and the state’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, canceled Tuesday’s election. Instead, Kemp will appoint Blackwell’s successor, and that successor will serve for at least two years — ensuring the seat will remain in Republican hands…On May 14, the state Supreme Court handed down a decision that effectively blessed this scheme to keep Blackwell’s seat in the GOP’s hands. The court’s decision in Barrow v. Raffensperger is unusual in many regards — among other things, six of the state’s regular Supreme Court justices recused from the case, and they were replaced by five lower court judges who sat temporarily on the state’s highest court. The court’s decision in Barrow turns upon poorly drafted language in the state constitution, which does suggest that Blackwell, Kemp, and Raffensperger’s scheme was legal.” No doubt the White House will be watching,

FiveThirtyEight has a chat addressing the question, “Will 2020 Be Another Blue Wave Election Year?” Among the shared observations: Geoffrey Skelley notes, “while the generic ballot does handily favor Democrats now, it could change. (Historically, the margin has narrowed, and as we’ve said, I found that it moved 4 points, on average, between six months out and Election Day.)..Of course, there’s no guarantee it’ll move as much this time, but as I noted in an article on the 2020 House map, there are a bunch of seats Democrats are defending that Trump carried in 2016, so even a 1- to 2-point move in the generic ballot might make it tougher for Democrats to hold on to some of these more competitive seats they won in 2018.” Nathaniel Rakich rsponds, “But even if the environment changes, I’m not sure it will be in Republicans’ favor. In addition to the polling evidence, there’s a good theoretical argument for a blue wave, which is that we’ve entered an economic crisis and the incumbent president (and his party) does not do well when the economy is struggling….The unemployment rate is currently 14.7 percent, and I think most experts expect it to get even worse.” Sarah Frostenson adds, “there’s no precedent for what we might see in 2020, and as Lee wrote, “The obvious implication is that efforts to expand absentee voting in a pandemic might work differently. And maybe there will be partisan differences in who chooses to vote by mail, as we saw in Wisconsin’s primary.”

In her column at The Wisconsin State Journal, Paula Niedenthal, professor of psychology at UW-Madison, shares “2 lessons for Democrats from social psychology,” focusing on Wisconsin’s elections: “Winning elections in Wisconsin these days takes far more than persuading people to vote for a platform that polls indicate a majority already endorses anyway. In an era of extreme partisanship, winning elections also relies on learning two lessons from social psychology…One lesson is to enhance voters’ feelings of intelligence and relevance by allowing them to define the conversation. About anything. The second lesson is to take control of the communication of social norms…Gerrymandering of voting districts influences perceived norms because people use simple logic to draw conclusions. The Legislature has a Republican majority, so most Wisconsinites must vote Republican, right? Wrong. Democratic candidates in 2018 received more votes than Republicans in Wisconsin’s U.S. House and state Assembly races. But Republicans won five of the eight U.S. House seats and 64 of the 99 state Assembly seats…Democrats have been less energetic at taking control of the narrative about political norms in the state. Wisconsin has progressive roots, a strong relationship to public education and a concern for small business and agriculture. Documenting and communicating Wisconsinites’ beliefs about education, guns, natural resources, immigration and health care would go some way in correcting perceptions that have been constructed on the basis of ideology (often by the national GOP) rather than democracy…But scolding won’t work. The average Wisconsinite is intelligent and expert in some domain. Empiricists by nature, the people of this state are able to understand honest information about social norms. When they learn that most people think as they do, democracy will prevail.”

2 comments on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Candace on

    “if Joe Biden were asked to pick a Vice Presidential running mate right now, which one of those should he pick?”

    I’m hoping for Elizabeth Warren. Its a bad idea to have a different argument for the VP than what you making for the President. We need their personal strengths and experience right now specific to this time in history. No one comes close to how well matched they are to handle the most pressing needs of this country right now than these two.

    But if for some reason Warren isn’t chosen, which would be extremely disappointing, Susan Rice and Tammy Duckworth could be good because of their experience and emphasis on national security and how their communication and presence would dissolve the gop bs machine influencing the focus of the election in a way that has been very surprisingly ignored, especially considering how our national security is constantly being compromised since the gop has taken over.
    Has anyone in the Trump administration passed a background check?

    • Candace on

      “Has anyone in the Trump administration passed a background check?”

      I should really add to that but that would be a time consuming effort, for another time maybe.


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