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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In his Washington Post column, “Don’t define Biden’s victory down,” E. J. Dionne Jr. writes, “Myths often grow out of mistaken first impressions. So it needs to be asserted unequivocally that President-elect Joe Biden’s victory is far more substantial than the conventional take would have it and more revelatory about the future than Donald Trump’s election was four years ago…Biden rebuilt the Democrats’ blue wall even as he extended the party’s reach in the South and Southwest….It was, as Biden has said more colorfully in other contexts, a big deal….But because Democrats did not win all they hoped for in the House, Senate and state legislative races, the magnitude of what happened last Tuesday is being defined down. And so many who oppose Trump simply can’t believe that more than 70 million of their fellow citizens would vote to reelect such a profoundly flawed man…Now, look at what Biden achieved. He won the vote with 75 million ballots — more than any presidential candidate in history — and enjoys a lead of more than 4 million that is likely to grow substantially….Biden’s margins in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are comparable to Trump’s in 2016 while his margin in Michigan is more than 10 times larger. The former vice president could win as many as 306 electoral votes, exactly Trump’s 2016 haul….Yet there is no clamor for Republicans to get to know “the Biden voter,” no call on conservatives to be more in touch with the country they live in….Democrats have won a popular vote majority in three of the last four presidential elections; Republicans have won the popular vote only once in the last 28 years. The country is changing in ways profoundly challenging to the GOP and the right. They’re the ones who should start worrying about being out of touch.”

Nate Silver puts it this way in his post, “Biden Won — Pretty Convincingly In The End” at FiveThirtyEight: “It’s not a landslide, by any means, but this is a map that almost any Democrat would have been thrilled about if you’d shown it to them a year ago. Biden looks to have reclaimed the three “blue wall” states — Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin (ABC News has announced that Biden is the “apparent winner” in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin1) — that were central to Hillary Clinton’s loss. He may also win Arizona (he would become the first Democrat to do so since 1996) and, in the opposite corner of the country, Georgia (the first Democratic winner there since 1992). Additionally, Biden easily won Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District, which could be a thorn in the side of Republicans going forward. He also ran far ahead of Clinton in rural northern states such as Maine, Minnesota and New Hampshire….Extrapolating out from current vote totals, I project Biden winning the popular vote by 4.3 percentage points and getting 81.8 million votes to President Trump’s 74.9 million, with a turnout of around 160 million.” Silver also notes, “But Democrats underperformed in the U.S. House, where they’ve lost almost every toss-up race that has been projected so far and Republicans have made a net gain of five seats and counting. It also appears as though Democrats will underperform in the House popular vote relative to the presidential vote and the generic ballot, where Democrats led by about 7 percentage points. That looks like a significant polling miss (although the House popular vote can take a long time to finalize). In that sense, the election could be described as more of a repudiation of Trump specifically than of Republicans writ large.”

Jessica Taylor notes at The Cook Political Report: “Ultimately, the blue tsunami, a blue wave or even a blue tide didn’t materialize. Not even a green tsunami of cash could push Democrats across the finish line in the races they needed. Public and many Republican polls were off, but Democratic private polling was even more wrong. Some GOP polls showed several close races, but given the climate few strategists expected those races would ultimately break their way. Our final projection was a Democratic gain of between two and seven seats, but we expected it to be on the higher than the lower end. Instead, Democrats have only currently netted one seat, after flipping Colorado and Arizona — consistent with our Lean Democrat ratings —but also lost, as expected, Alabama….Like 2016, surveys failed again to capture the Trump base that did show up on Election Day, while Democrats got their voters to cast ballots early or by mail. And with most polling stopping a week or so before Tuesday, that late surge may not have been captured fully, though some Republicans say there were some signs. Additionally, the millions of dollars the Senate Leadership Fund raised and spent in the final weeks of the race surely made a perhaps determinative difference.”

“Just four days after the election,” John Cassidy writes in The New Yorker, “Democratic politicians and activists are still coming to terms with a result that bitterly disappointed many of them, despite Joe Biden’s victory in the Presidential race. In a heated private conference call on Thursday, centrist and progressive members of the House Democratic caucus jostled over who or what was to blame for the Party’s unexpectedly weak showing in congressional races. (With a number of contests still to be called, the G.O.P. has already made a net gain of five seats.) At the local level, there is also a lot of sparring over why the Party failed in its bid to gain control of legislatures in a number of big states, including Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Texas…The first step in any political inquest is to figure out exactly what happened. The Democrats’ struggles in local and statewide races will take more time to unpack, but there are data already available about the race at the top of the ticket that can offer some insight into what happened in 2020. Even here, however, there isn’t much agreement…“I think all of their estimates are pretty suspect,” Ruy Teixeira, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, told me on Friday. Citing an example, Teixeira pointed out that, although other estimates have suggested that at least seventy per cent of the 2020 electorate was white, the exit poll came up with a figure of sixty-five per cent. “Not on this planet, not in this election,” Teixeira said….”The theory that Biden would win, to a great extent, because he could reduce the white, non-college deficit turned out to be true,” Teixeira said. “He just didn’t win by as much as people wanted. Plus, people have trouble getting their minds around the fact that to go from minus thirty-two to minus twenty-five is just as good as going from plus seven to plus fourteen. And if the former group is bigger, it is actually better.”

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