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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In her column, “New July 2020 Electoral College Ratings,” Amy Walter notes at The Cook Political Report, “This election is looking more like a Democratic tsunami than simply a Blue wave. President Trump, mired in some of the lowest job approval ratings of his presidency, is trailing Biden by significant margins in key battleground states like Pennsylvania (8 points), Michigan (9 points), and Wisconsin (9 points). He’s even running behind Biden in his firewall states of Florida and North Carolina…We’ve made changes to our Electoral College ratings to reflect this reality…Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Nebraska’s 2nd district move from Toss Up to Lean Democrat…Maine, once in Lean Democrat, moves to the safer Likely Democratic category…Georgia has joined Arizona, North Carolina and Florida in the Toss Up column, although, at this point, Biden would be slightly favored to win at least Arizona and Florida…Maine’s 2nd district has moved from Likely Republican to a more competitive Lean Republican…These moves alone push Biden over the 270 electoral vote threshold (to 279).”

“One of the biggest unknowns, however,” Walter continues, “is voting itself. As we’ve seen this spring and early summer, most states are not prepared for an onslaught of absentee ballots. And confusion about how/where to vote could impact turnout. Moreover, if voters start to sense that the race for president is a blow-out, will they be more willing to split their tickets to ensure a ‘check and balance’ in Washington next fall? At least one Republican I spoke with, however, was wary of a check and balance working this year, telling me that “people are looking for a restart and a reset.” That includes down-ballot candidates as well as the president.”

Also at The Cook Political Report, Charlie Cook discusses the roles of key demographic groups in the election and writes, “It’s among white voters that things get more interesting. The first thing to note is that their overall share of the electorate is shrinking at a fairly rapid rate, dropping about 2 percentage points every four years, from 74 percent in 2008 to 72 percent in 2012 and 70 percent in the last election—something that Republicans should keep in mind…Among those four quadrants of white voters, split by gender and level of educational attainment, Trump won the support of white men with less than a four-year college degree (17 percent of the 2016 electorate) by a 49-point margin (72 to 23 percent) in 2016. He has led Biden by anywhere from 25 to 44 points in polling over the past two months. This is Trump’s base; only among self-described Republicans, conservatives, and evangelicals does he do better.”

“The next-best group for Trump,” Cook adds “is white women with less than a four-year degree. They also made up 17 percent of the 2016 electorate, siding with the Republicans by a 28-point margin (62 to 34 percent). This group has strayed from the Trump camp since 2016; most recent polling has him ahead by somewhere between 5 and 15 points…White men with college degrees come next, again with 17 percent of the 2016 vote. Then, they voted for Trump over Clinton by 15 points (54 to 39 percent). But public polling in the current race has been all over the map. The early June PBS/NPR/Marist College poll had Biden up by 2 points (47 to 45 percent), the May and June Fox News polls had Trump up by 8 (51 to 43 percent) and 10 percent (50 to 40 percent). A late June PBS/NPR/Marist poll as well as March and May ABC News/Washington Post polls had Trump up by 12 points and 4 points, respectively.”

Further, Cook notes, “White women with college degrees give Trump the least support of the four white quadrants. They made up 20 percent of the electorate in the last presidential election, going for Clinton by a 6-point margin. This year, they’ve been siding with Biden by 20- and 30-point margins…The Trump forces will obviously put considerable resources into getting out the vote of white men without college degrees; the Biden campaign will put the same kind of resources into African Americans, Latinos and white women with college degrees. The battlefield will be the persuadable college-educated men and women without degrees.”

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall probes the roots of political polarization in 2020, and shares observations from several studies, including: “Jaime Settle, a political scientist at the College of William and Mary, has also explored the ambiguities of heritability of psychological traits with political consequences. “While there is a consistent pattern that ideology is heritable, the direction of partisanship typically has not been found to be heritable,” she wrote in an email. However, she continued, “My expectation is that the sorting in American politics that occurred in the post-Civil Rights Era has changed that. Thus, partisanship today might show up to be heritable, but it would be a statistical artifact of the consequence of the alignment of ideology and partisanship…Our ideological labels in America have become identities as much as statements about our political beliefs. In the parlance of political scientists, people have much stronger symbolic ideologies than operational ideologies. The intractability of polarization is because of the alignment of many of our social identities, an argument that Lily Mason [author of Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identitymakes, and the reason “culture war” issues resonate so much is that they are much more threatening to people’s layered identities.””

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. provides an insightful assessment of the recent Supreme Court ruling “that allows even publicly traded corporations — not just family-owned companies — to deny their female employees this coverage if they have religious objections.” Dionne argues: “Given that more than two-thirds of Americans believe, in principle at least, that private health insurance plans should cover contraception, it’s strange that we can’t seem to settle the matter. You would think a functioning democracy could work this issue out in a reasonable way that respected the rights of women as well as the rights of those with religious objections to contraception…in dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, asked exactly the right question: “May the Government jettison an arrangement that promotes women workers’ well-being while accommodating employers’ religious tenets and, instead, defer entirely to employers’ religious beliefs, although that course harms women who do not share those beliefs?”…ultimately, it will be for the voters to decide whether we want leadership that seeks reasonable and durable settlements of divisive cultural questions. Doing so will help us move on to such pressing concerns as getting everyone health coverage in the first place.”

“Over the last few decades, Georgia has gone from a swing state to reliably GOP. But it’s now looking like a genuinely competitive state again,” J. Miles Coleman and Nials Francis write in “States of Play: Georgia – Once-dominant Democrats need formerly Republican suburbs to come through for them in 2020” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball. “Democrats have made major inroads in both urban Atlanta and its suburbs, but their gains have been somewhat blunted by the sharp Republican trend in other parts of the state…In the state’s regular Senate election this year, we’re downgrading Sen. David Perdue’s chances. We now have both Georgia’s seats rated as Leans Republican…Looking to November, Georgia seems poised to receive attention from both sides, up and down the ballot. While it does seem to be shifting more into the purple state category, if Biden carries the state, he would likely already be over 270 electoral votes. With one, or both, of its Senate races likely heading to a runoff, political junkies could have Georgia on their minds even after the November general elections. Finally, Georgia’s two competitive House seats speak to the rapid pace of changes that parts of the state have seen. In 2016, the Crystal Ball rated both GA-6 and GA-7 as Safe Republican. After nearly a full term of the Trump presidency, Democrats are favored to hold the former and have at least an even money chance to flip the latter.”

From “Biden-Sanders taskforces unveil proposals for party unity” at msn.com: “US presidential hopeful Joe Biden on Wednesday unveiled proposals crafted with supporters of his progressive ex-rival Bernie Sanders as the Democratic Party prepares to release its platform at next month’s national convention…The recommendations include more ambitious environmental timelines than those in Biden’s initial climate proposal, such as eliminating carbon pollution from power plants by 2035…They also include criminal justice reforms that take on added significance in the wake of the May killing of African-American man George Floyd by Minneapolis police…The proposals home in on the coronavirus pandemic and aim to end the disadvantage that blacks, Latinos, Native Americans and women “have suffered disproportionately due to the COVID-19 pandemic and President Trump’s recession,” and have received less than their fair share of economic relief…The task forces on climate change, health care, the economy, immigration, education and criminal justice reform came together in May to forge a roadmap for defeating Trump, and to engage voters who supported more progressive candidates in the primary race including Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren…”Though the end result is not what I or my supporters would have written alone, the task forces have created a good policy blueprint that will move this country in a much-needed progressive direction and substantially improve the lives of working families,” Sanders said in a statement.”

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