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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

From “Biden Has 78% Chance of Winning Presidency, Forecasters Say: They raise his chances 3 percentage points a day after a tumultuous debate” by Peter Coy at Bloomberg Businessweek: “Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is a strong favorite to be elected, according to professional forecasters. They raised his probability of victory by 3 percentage points a day after a wild debate in which President Trump repeatedly interrupted Biden and moderator Chris Wallace, while the former vice president called Trump a clown, a liar, and a racist…Good Judgment Inc. says the median estimate of its team of forecasters as of Sept. 30 was that Biden had a 78% chance of victory, up from 75% on Sept. 29 and the highest figure since Aug. 18. In February the unchosen Democratic presidential candidate was given less than a 40% chance of victory. Since then the forecasters have steadily upped their estimates of victory for the Democrat, who we now know is Biden. His chances peaked at 82% in late July. There’s been little change since…The election forecasting model of poll aggregator FiveThirtyEight, released Sept. 30, also gives Biden a 78% chance of winning the Electoral College—78.4%, to be precise. The methodology is different, so it’s pure coincidence that they came up with the same probability…The overnight increase in Biden’s victory chances was not attributed specifically to the debate, but it seems likely to have played a big part in the forecasters’ reassessment, since it was the biggest political event of the past 24 hours.”

According to Vox’s Andrew Prokop, “CBS News and YouGov have been tracking respondents in battleground states, and they were able to quickly contact some of those respondents and ask those who watched the Tuesday debate what they thought. Overall, 48 percent said Biden won the debate, while 41 percent said Trump won, and 10 percent said it was a tie. As CBS elections and survey director Anthony Salvanto pointed out on air, this was pretty close to the support for each candidate going in…Kabir Khanna of the CBS News Election and Survey Unit also points out that 42 percent of debate watchers said they thought worse of Trump afterward, and 24 percent said they thought better of him. In contrast, 32 percent said they thought worse of Biden, while 38 percent thought better of him…CNN and SSRS also conducted an instant poll of debate watchers, and they found a more lopsided margin in Biden’s favor. Sixty percent of their respondents thought Biden won, while 28 percent thought Trump won.”

Another Vox writer, Matthew Yglesias, writes, “A new poll by Data for Progress provided exclusively to Vox shows that viewers thought Democratic nominee Joe Biden decisively won Tuesday’s first presidential debate against President Donald Trump, by a 52-39 margin…The poll surveyed debate watchers but then weighted the demographics of the survey group to the population of likely voters in November. Most pollsters don’t do this, which ends up skewing their results toward Democrats because left-leaning college graduates are disproportionately likely to watch debates…But even with the more Trump-friendly weighting, the poll shows a clear win for Biden and, not coincidentally, a fairly overwhelming sense that Biden’s conduct during the debate was more presidential.”

Ella Nilsen reports that “Joe Biden smashed his single-hour fundraising record after the first presidential debate: Biden raised nearly $4 million in one hour after the debate” at Vox and notes, “At the end of a bruising first presidential debate on Tuesday night, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s campaign announced yet another fundraising milestone…The campaign saw $3.8 million raised between 10-11 pm ET during the debate, breaking its own record for the amount raised in a single hour, according to campaign officials. A couple of hours later, Democratic National Committee officials announced the party had its best fundraising hour on record from 11 pm-12 am ET, although party officials did not say how much was raised.”

Ezra Klein, also at Vox, notes a change in Biden’s position on two crucial issues: “…When moderator Chris Wallace asked Biden to “tell the American people tonight whether or not you will support either ending the filibuster or packing the Court,” Biden refused. “Whatever position I take on that, that will become the issue,” he replied.” In the past, Biden has voiced skepticism about ending the filibuster and expanding the court. But now that Mitch McConnell has abandoned any semblance of bipartisan fairness in filling Supreme Court vacancies, there is no good reason for Biden to hold on to the  outdated hope that Republicans will act fairly. In addition, demographic changes are proceeding in a favorable direction for Democrats at an exponential rate, so this may be their only chance to restore balance to the high court, especially considering that Trump’s appointees are pretty young. Klein concludes, “The question shadowing Biden’s campaign is whether his oft-voiced nostalgia for the Senate that was, will render him paralyzed by the Senate; that is, whether he will be too attached to a past era in American politics to make the decisions necessary to govern well in this one. Early in the campaign, I was reasonably sure it would. I’m less so now.” Of course everything depends on Democrats winning both the presidency and a senate majority.

Charlie Cook disses the expand the court idea as ‘left wing’ folly at The Cook Political Report, writing that “It’s those who want to expand the Supreme Court so they can plug in a liberal majority, quite possibly the dumbest thing that Franklin Roosevelt proposed in his 12 years as president.” However, some  historians have argued that, while FDR failed to expand the high court (mostly because of southern Democrats who no longer dominate the party), the strategy did ultimately help him get some more favorable high court rulings. But all that was 83+ years ago, and today’s Democrats don’t have a lot of options between increasing the size of the Supreme Court and accepting Mitch McConnell packing the court with right-wing ideologues. If anyone has a good idea regarding what Democrats should do if Republicans get a 6-3 Supreme Court majority, now would be a good time to share.

In his Politico article, “How Democrats Could Pack the Supreme Court in 2021.” Jeff Greenfield mulls over the pros and cons of increasing the size of the Supreme Court and provides this stark assessment of the do-nothing approach for Dems: “If a new Democratic president and Senate are taking power just after a blatant GOP power grab in the face of the electorate’s choice, any reluctance on the part of Biden or a Senate Democrat would face the full fury of the Democratic base. Steve Bannon once famously said that, in politics, “We [the Right] go for the head wound, and your side has pillow fights.” If there’s a Supreme Court seat or two to avenge, the pillow-fight approach might end. Apart from the hunger for political payback, a conservative court shaped by Mitch McConnell would mean the all but certain death of the Affordable Care Act, the potential overturn of Roe v. Wade, and a generation of judicial hostility to the core ideas of the Democratic left.” Not to mention the consequences of rulings on a range of important economic issues, including worker rights, deregulation and consumer protection.

Regarding alternative reforms, Greenfield adds, “There are several alternatives that have been debated in legal and academic circles: They range from giving each political party five justices, who would then choose five more; to limiting the terms of judges so that every president gets two picks; to making all 180 federal appeals court judges members of the court, with panels of nine chosen at random to rule on all matters, including which cases the court would take up. (This change would require only legislation; proposals for limiting the terms of justices would require amending the Constitution.)…They all have the quality of careful thought and the nonexistent possibility that any of them becomes reality in the midst of a full-blown constitutional brawl. And if Congress pushes through a restructuring of the court on a strictly partisan vote, giving Americans a Supreme Court that looks unlike anything they grew up with, and unlike the institution we’ve had for more than 240 years, it’s hard to imagine the country as a whole would see its decisions as legitimate.” Yet the size of the U.S. Supreme Court has been changed a half-dozen times in U.S. history, always with a lot of howling, and the Republic has survived.

3 comments on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Tom sinclair on

    Isn’t there a way that congress can pass legislation and stipulate that the scotus can’t rule on it? Except very specific areas laid out by the constitution. I’ve heard this tossed around.

  2. Joseph Zainea on

    If the Dems take the senate and the presidency, they should enact a “court reform” bill that would limit the number of service years for all federal judges to 18 yrs. (+/-) and increase the SCOTUS to eleven members to recoup the thefts of 2016 and 2020. The Dems would have the moral high ground and voter support on that move. To make all that happen though, the filibuster would have to be gotten rid of when new senate rules are enacted as first order of business in the new Congress.

    • Martin Lawford on

      To enact term limits for federal judges would require a Constitutional amendment. Packing the Supreme Court could be done by legislation, but a Court which can be packed by the Democrats can be repacked by the Republicans and will be.


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