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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Stephen Collinson’s article, “Pressure mounts on Trump to project unity” at CNN politics iluminates a  glaring weakness of the GOP in the 2020 campaign, alongside one of Joe Biden’s unique assets as the likely Democratic presidential nominee. Collinson reports, “President Donald Trump, appearing badly out of touch with a national outpouring of support for racial justice and shedding political support just five months before the election, is edging toward a belated call for national unity…But after spending two weeks ripping at racial wounds and painting a picture of a nation under siege from looters, domestic terrorists and radicals, he’s probably already missed his chance…Trump’s team is beginning to signal a shift that might see the President tone down the rhetoric in a bid to win back independents and moderate suburban Republicans that he needs to win in November.” This would be a very tough sale for Trump, having squandered three and a half years dividing and polarizing Americans to an unprecedented extent. And it’s not just Trump. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has marinated in scorched-earth partisanship. Together, Trump and McConnell have branded the GOP as the party of polarization, and five months won’t be enough time to turn it around. At the same time, Joe Biden’s compassionate personality, his impressive ability to reach out to disadvantaged Americans and his appeals to polarization-weary Americans to build bridges of unity instead of walls of division should serve Democrats well in November.

In his article, “Voters Unlikely to Want to Stay the Course” at The Cook Political Report, Charlie Cook puts it this way: “As far as intraparty politics, it would seem that Trump now practically owns the Republican Party, having taken it away from those who had been its establishment figures and benefactors. According to the same strategist, there are three “institutional realities” that make Trump’s success within the party and how he wins his 90 percent approval rating among Republicans time and again. He cites “the Fox et al information system, greater credibility with and support from Republican voters than almost any of the 53 Republican senators enjoy in their own states, and a Republican Party that has been accelerating its abuse of norms in response to its diminishing popularity.” I have often wondered myself what was behind Trump’s hostile takeover of a party that he had only recently joined and whether the party’s back-to-back losses to Barack Obama, a figure reviled within the tea-party movement, might have contributed to this primal scream of frustration and rebellion against the long-dominant establishment…We still have just over five months until the election, which is plenty of time for things to change. But right now, this election is not headed in a direction that any Republican can like. Moreover, events of the past two months are hardly ones that would make voters want to “stay the course” or chant “four more years.”

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall explores the possible political fallout of the protests, coronovirus pandemic and economic meltdown, and writes, “While fear of disorder and crime tend to play into the hands of the Republican Party, at least traditionally, the opposite is true of health care and economic crises, which play to Democratic strengths as the party more sympathetic to the concerns of those who are suffering…In the context of three simultaneous crises — the pandemic, the economy and nationwide protests over police brutality toward African-Americans — Trump’s attempts to assert his role as the hard-nosed embodiment of law-and-order have been undermined by the public’s harsh assessment of his leadership role during the pandemic.”

Edsall continues, “How the protests, both peaceful and violent, will play out on Nov. 3 remains uncertain. Perry Bacon Jr., a senior writer at FiveThirtyEight.com, points out that over the last decade, many whites, especially white Democrats, “have become increasingly conscious of discrimination against black Americans — particularly in the years since Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in 2012 and Michael Brown was shot and killed in 2014.”…The looting of drugstores and high-end retail — much of it videotaped and repeatedly broadcast — may undermine the strength of these emerging liberal convictions. But will that matter more than Floyd’s stark death, which also exists on tape for all to see?…Which narrative prevails in the aftermath — legitimate grievance or rapacious looting — will play a key role in determining who our next president is and how the nation will resolve the tension between grief and anger.”

Noting the mess in last week’s primaries in Maryland and Washington, D.C., E.J. Dionne, Jr. warns, “Both the District of Columbia and Maryland hoped to push as much voting by mail as possible. It was an admirable instinct during a pandemic, but it didn’t work out so well…A big problem in both places: Optimism about voting by mail encouraged election officials to slash the number of polling places and voting centers — in Washington from the normal 143 to a mere 20. In Baltimore, a city with 296 precincts, there were only six Election Day voting sites…Mail voting means that even efficient systems can take a long time to get to a final result. Mailed ballots typically count as long as they are postmarked on Election Day. This means votes are still flowing in a week or more after the election. Americans need to be prepared for the possibility that because of mail voting, we may not know the winner until well after election night. Forewarning is the vaccine against the virus of Trump’s voter fraud claims.”

“Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden doubled his lead over President Trump in the battleground state of Michigan, according to a new poll,” Rebecca Klar writes at The Hill. ” Biden leads Trump by 12 points, earning 53 percent support compared with Trump’s 41 percent, according to a EPIC-MRA poll reported by the Detroit Free Press on Sunday…Biden’s lead in the latest poll is double his 6-point lead over the president in a poll conducted by EPIC-MRA in January, when Biden had 50 percent support compared with Trump’s 44 percent…The majority of independent voters, a key bloc in the battleground state, said they are backing Biden, with 63 percent saying they support the former vice president and 23 percent saying they support Trump, the newspaper reported…The same poll found that the majority of likely Michigan voters said they were not pleased with Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic…Fifty-eight percent of likely voters gave Trump a negative rating, 41 percent gave him a positive rating, and 1 percent were undecided or refused to say, according to the report of the survey.”

Alex Thompson and James Arkin write in Politico that “The left wing has been wiped out in Senate primaries or failed to recruit at all in states across the map this year, leaving a slate of centrist candidates more in the ideological mold of Joe Biden than Bernie Sanders…Still, some take heart that at least many of the candidates in swing states are more liberal than their counterparts just a decade ago. Every Senate candidate in a major race, from Mark Kelly in Arizona to Cal Cunningham in North Carolina, supports a public option to compete with private health insurance plans. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock supports repealing the Senate filibuster so that legislation can pass with a simple majority…Even if Democrats win control of the chamber and eliminate the filibuster from Senate rules, their majority would be slim — meaning any big ticket agenda items would need the support of more moderate incumbent senators like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Synema and the incoming moderates…Party strategists argue their recruited candidates have won or are poised to win because of their fundraising power, in-state political networks and voters’ desire to back the candidate seen as most likely to unseat the incumbent Republicans.”

At Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Alan I. Abramowitz writes that “Recent polling in 13 swing states shows a consistent advantage for the presumptive Democratic challenger, Joseph Biden, over the current Republican incumbent, Donald Trump. Biden leads Trump in all 13 states, although his margin in five states is less than five points. In several of these states, the final 2016 polling overestimated Hillary Clinton’s support. However, Biden is also doing considerably better in the polls than Clinton did in the final 2016 polls in these swing states…Not only is Joe Biden doing considerably better in recent swing state polls than Hillary Clinton did in these states in the 2016 election, but he is also doing considerably better than she did in the final polls in these states. In fact, Biden’s recent polling is better than Clinton’s final poll results in 11 of these 13 states, with Minnesota and Wisconsin the only exceptions. On average, Biden is polling almost five points ahead of Clinton’s final poll results in terms of margin.” Abramowitz adds, “The recent 2020 polling results correlate much more strongly with the 2016 election results than with the final 2016 polling results…This suggests that pollsters have adjusted their sampling and weighting procedures to correct for some of the problems that occurred in 2016 in light of the 2016 results.”

Christopher Reeves shares some thoughts on “Nuts & Bolts: Inside a Democratic campaign. Creating your own frame” at Daily Kos: “The one mistake that Democratic candidates make in trying to achieve the frame is that it cannot be about just a bumper sticker. It cannot be about a big, bold refusal. Republicans respond to bumper stickers. Democratic voters want paragraphs. To convince both, you have to have both. You have to have a quick point and substance, too…In your local races, you should find signature issues you are for and discuss them first. Make them simple to understand, advance the framework, and make sure your opponent answers the questions. You also have to be prepared to show that you understand that topic, really care about it, and that it isn’t just a buzzy talking point. You do so by making sure your argument demolishes the Republican counterargument…Use your arguments at every level to snare your opponent, get them talking about issues you are advancing, and deal with the true issues on the ground rather than in hypotheticals…If you allow Republicans to spend an election cycle talking about problems they create and bad guy straw men they must defeat, you will have very little time to get your own messages out into the race and start the discussion on those issues.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Al on

    “Together, Trump and McConnell have branded the GOP as the party of polarization, and five months won’t be enough time to turn it around.”

    I hope not. At some point, the electorate should finally realize who’s been driving this polarization, and who’s been abetting it and defending it and respond to it on Election Day, wiping them out in a rout of epic proportions.


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