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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In his article, “The Missing Piece in Biden’s Convention Speech: The Democratic Party took a gamble by not delivering a more targeted economic message to working- and middle-class families,” Ronald Brownstein writes at The Atlantic: “The event did not deliver a concise critique of Trump’s economic record or offer a tight explanation of Biden’s plans to improve the economic circumstances of middle-class families. Though Biden ran through an extended list of policy goals on issues including job creation and climate change during his address, he offered vanishingly little detail about how he would achieve them—though, in fact, he’s delivered a series of detailed speeches laying out his agenda…Yet unless Biden can win across a wide range of Sun Belt states, he’s unlikely to reach 270 Electoral College votes without improving at least somewhat among working-class white voters in the key Rust Belt states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. And analysts have long observed that many older Latino and African American voters in particular are more motivated to turn out to the polls by concrete plans to improve their life than by broad promises of confronting discrimination….even most Democrats agree that he might still squeeze out an Electoral College majority by maximizing margins and turnout among his core group of older, rural, non-college-educated white voters in a few closely balanced states. If he does, Democrats may again rue the choice not to direct a more targeted economic appeal at the voters Trump is relying on most.”

At The Cook Political Report, Amy Walter addresses a critical quetion for the 2020 elections, “Can Biden Undercut Trump’s Continued Advantage on the Economy?” Walter writes that “Third Way has been doing extensive research and data modeling in the swing states of Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Using data from the analytics firm Catalist, Third Way did a deep dive on these four states to estimate how many people are likely to vote and for which party in suburban counties (and urban and rural ones, too) this year. What they found was that Democrats “are in position to win majorities in the Michigan and Pennsylvania suburbs, which would set them up to win both states. Democrats should get close or just reach a majority in the Florida, North Carolina, and Wisconsin suburbs, which would put them in a dead heat with Republicans in these states.And Democrats are on target to win a majority in Arizona’s suburbs, but preliminary estimates still show Republicans with a slim advantage statewide. But additional analysis is needed for Arizona.”…In other words, writes Ryan Pougiales, senior political analyst for Third Way, “The battleground suburbs are where 2020 will be won or lost.”

Walter notes further that a survey of likely voters in Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin indicates that “when it comes to handling the economy, these swing state suburbanites give Trump a decent 48 percent approval rating. ..These voters think the economy is in bad shape, and don’t expect it to get better anytime soon. Just 30 percent rate the economy as good today, and only 33 percent think it will be better in November. ..But it is that lack of optimism about the economy that worries Third Way. “Voters with the lowest expectations for a recovery,” they write, “may be most impressed by marginal economic progress.”…Under the current unemployment rate (11 percent), Biden had a 9-point advantage (37 percent to 28 percent)…But, if the unemployment rate were to drop to 8 percent, a number we’d normally consider unreasonably high, support for Biden and Trump is evenly divided (35 percent Trump to 34 percent Biden)…While these suburban voters “don’t see Biden in the same vein as say, an AOC,” said this strategist, “they worry about the party moving too far left on issues like taxes.”…To keep Trump from getting the upper hand on the economy, says the Third Way, “Democrats’ best counter is that the economy can’t get on the right track until we address COVID-19—and Trump has shown he can’t handle the virus.”

Anticipating the GOP convention message, E. J. Dionne, Jr. warns at The Washington Post, “…if there is one pesky polling number for Democrats, it is Trump’s slight advantage on the matter of which candidate will better handle the economy. Here is where his attempt to tie Biden and Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) to the “far left” will do double duty…The obvious Trump play is to social conservative and racial backlash voters. If the Democrats painted an optimistic picture of a country that could achieve racial justice and national unity, Trump will paint a dark caricature (my color choice is not accidental) of a country facing disorder and chaos under the Democrats….American Carnage Redux is one side of the case Trump wants to make. The other is classic Republican propaganda on economics, aimed at more affluent voters, again particularly suburbanites. Attacks on Biden’s nonexistent “leftism” will be tied to made-up claims that he will boost taxes to confiscatory levels and, in embracing reforms to capitalism, new public programs and bold steps on climate change, will weaken an already ailing economy.” However, Dionne concludes, “In 2016, Trump was unencumbered by the responsibilities of office. In 2020, he has a dismal record to defend — or evade. And the nastier his convention’s message becomes, the more he will reinforce the implicit promise of the Democratic convention: of a calm, less divided country that is normal again.”

David Wasserman shares some revealing batteleground states statistics, also at The Cook Political Report, including “African American voters account for roughly 12 percent of eligible voters nationally, and they account for a substantial share of the vote in six of the seven states Trump carried by 5 points or less in 2016: Florida (15 percent), Georgia (32 percent), Michigan (13 percent), North Carolina (22 percent), Pennsylvania (10 percent) and Wisconsin (6 percent)…An NBC News/Cook Political Report analysis of census and election data from these states shows that the decline in African American turnout and Democratic support from 2012 to 2016 was probably enough to tip at least Michigan and Wisconsin — and possibly Florida and Pennsylvania — to Trump…Amping up African American enthusiasm could pay particular dividends for Biden in Wisconsin, where the Clinton campaign spent scant resources and turnout in Milwaukee plummeted. But even in states like Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, where Black turnout was more robust, there were 397,000, 488,000 and 370,000 eligible Black voters, respectively, who failed to turn out last time.”

Wasserman argues further that Biden’s choice of Kamala Harris on the Democratic ticket looks like  winner: “An early August GWU/Battleground Poll found that Harris had a similar net favorability among 18-to-29-year-old voters (38 percent favorable to 34 percent unfavorable) to Biden (51 percent to 46 percent), and a higher net favorability among 35-to-44-year-old voters (44 percent to 33 percent) than Biden (49 percent to 47 percent)…The GWU/Battleground poll found Harris’ favorability in the Midwest at 46 percent to 31 percent, higher than her national favorability and much higher than Vice President Mike Pence’s favorability in the Midwest (35 percent to 53 percent)…At least initially, at a time when voters desire racial unity and give Trump awful marks on his handling of race relations, it’s hard to see Harris as anything other than a plus for Biden. After all, Biden already has a good track record running on a national ticket with an African American attorney in a first term as senator from a blue state.”

At FiveThirtyEight, Nathaniel Rakich and Meredith Conroy explore the effectiveness of progressive groups, as measured by the success of their endorsees, and write: “Thanks to an increasingly powerful progressive campaign apparatus, there’s no question that the left is now an established player in the Democratic Party. But is it strong enough to rival the political muscle of the party establishment?…To find out, FiveThirtyEight has once again tracked hundreds of endorsements in every Senate, House and governor primary completed so far this year (through Aug. 18). We looked at the win-loss records of the endorsees of eight key Democratic influencers: progressive groups Indivisible, Justice Democrats, Our Revolution and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee; progressive figures Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders; and two arms of the national Democratic Party, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.2 The result is the most complete picture yet of which wing of the party is doing better at the ballot box…And while the progressive upsets may have grabbed all the headlines, the numbers say the party establishment is still king of the hill. Of the 217 Democratic incumbents who ran in the primaries we analyzed, 214 won or advanced to the general election…in the 17 primaries where progressives (candidates endorsed by at least one of these six entities) went up against an incumbent, the progressive-backed candidate lost 14 times. (Newman, Bowman and Bush were the only exceptions.)”…”All told, the progressive group with the best win rate so far in primaries without an incumbent is Indivisible; they’ve endorsed 10 candidates in those races, and nine of them have advanced. Our Revolution has the worst win rate of the progressive endorsers we looked at, but they’ve also backed more candidates than the other groups; of the 14 candidates they endorsed, five have advanced to the general. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Courage for Change PAC has a win rate of 50 percent (4 for 8).”

Pam Fessler and Elena Moore report that “More Than 550,000 Primary Absentee Ballots Rejected In 2020, Far Outpacing 2016″ at NPR: “An extraordinarily high number of ballots — more than 550,000 — have been rejected in this year’s presidential primaries, according to a new analysis by NPR…That’s far more than the 318,728 ballots rejected in the 2016 general election and has raised alarms about what might happen in November when tens of millions of more voters are expected to cast their ballots by mail, many for the first time…..Election experts said first-time absentee voters are much more likely to make the kinds of mistakes that lead to rejected ballots. Studies also show that voters of color and young voters are more likely than others to have their ballots not count…Most absentee or mail-in ballots are rejected because required signatures are missing or don’t match the one on record, or because the ballot arrives too late

“Even with limited data,” Moore and Fessler write,  “the implications are considerable. NPR found that tens of thousands of ballots have been rejected in key battleground states, where the outcome in November — for the presidency, Congress and other elected positions — could be determined by a relatively small number of votes…For example, President Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 by almost 23,000 votes. More than 23,000 absentee ballots were rejected in the state’s presidential primary in April. More than 37,000 primary ballots were also rejected in June in Pennsylvania, a state Trump won by just over 44,000 votes…The numbers are also significant because of large partisan differences in how Americans plan to vote this fall. Democrats have expressed more interest than Republicans in voting by mail — 47% to 28% in the Democracy Fund/UCLA survey. Forty-eight percent of those who intend to vote for Joe Biden say they will use mail-in ballots, compared with 23% of Trump supporters…Pennsylvania, one of the states where the extent of rejected mail-in ballots might well determine the outcome of the election, is planning an ad campaign soon, urging people who have applied for absentee ballots to return them immediately, so they don’t risk having them not count because they arrived too late.”

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