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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In her article, “How Democrats can use Biden’s $1.9tn Covid relief to win the midterms,” in The Guardian, Joan E. Grever writes that “the passage of the relief bill may also be the Democratic party’s best chance of keeping control of both chambers of Congress after next year’s midterm elections. Democrats are hoping that the aid it brings can help them avoid the historical trend of the president’s party losing congressional seats in the midterms following his election….There is little room for error too, given Democrats’ narrow majorities in both chambers of Congress. Republicans need to flip just five seats to take control of the House, and a loss of a single Senate seat would cost Democrats their majority in the upper chamber. Such losses would seriously hobble Biden’s ability to enact his agenda….Democratic groups are helping with Biden’s victory tour, flooding the airwaves to remind voters in battleground states where those $1,400 direct payments came from. American Bridge 21st Century, a progressive political action committee, has announced a six-figure ad buy focusing on the impact of the relief package. The first ad, which featured a special education teacher talking about how the legislation would help schools reopen, started airing in Pennsylvania as Biden visited the state on Tuesday. “This is a law that is going to help people’s lives across the board, and something that is this holistically comprehensive on the policy side is also going to be holistically popular for the midterms,” said Jessica Floyd, the president of American Bridge….competing messaging campaigns from the two parties represent the start of a months-long competition to define the beginning of Biden’s presidency in the court of public opinion. The winner of that competition will probably walk away with control of Congress. “Part of our job is not to let people forget that Democrats put together a bill that is hugely popular now,” Floyd said. “Our job is to keep it popular and also point out for the coming months that every single Republican in Congress voted against it. I think keeping both of those facts top of mind starts today.”

Can Biden’s COVID-19 Relief Bill Help Democrats Avoid A Midterm Defeat?” Alex Samuels responds at FiveThirtyEight: “Successfully running on a strong economy in 2022 with voters penalizing the Republicans who voted against sending relief to millions of Americans. But they also raise questions of how much stock we should be putting into Republican support of the bill, given the inroads the party has made with lower income voters and those without a college degree in recent presidential elections. In particular, how can Democrats win back whitevoters who fall into this camp?….The answer is, of course, complicated. But Biden and Democrats’ calculus, so far, seems to be pushing New Deal-esque policies and an economic message that aims to resonate with more working- and middle-class voters. And according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, the relief package is expected to benefit low- and middle-income households the most. They found households making $91,000 or less would receive 70 percent of the tax benefits from the plan. This stands in stark contrast to the impact of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act under former President Donald Trump, where nearly half of the cuts went to households in the top 5 percent….the potential effects of the bill can’t be overstated: If the relief package is able to kickstart the economy and help lower-income voters financially, Biden and other Democrats might be able to reap the electoral benefits of this bill — perhaps even avoiding the “shellacking” that the president’s party typically sees in midterm elections.”

In “The real causes of the border crisis — and the real remedies,” The Chicago Tribune’s Steve Chapman shares a couple of ideas for how the Biden Administration could address the crisis on the soutbhern border: “There are alternative remedies, such as letting more foreigners in through authorized channels….Today, the worldwide backlog of applications for green cards is at 5 million. Many recipients have to wait 10 years or more to be admitted. Cato Institute analysts David Bier and Alex Nowrasteh reach this startling conclusion: “At no time in American history has immigration been as legally restricted as it is currently.”….For the moment, the Biden administration has the task of coping with the border crisis while dismantling the inhumane practices of its predecessor. In the longer term, it could relieve pressure on the border by increasing refugee admissions and allotting more slots to the Central American countries that have produced so many migrants….It could create a program for guest workers from Mexico and Central America, as proposed by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Biden has already moved to restore the Central American Minors Program to provide “a safe, legal, and orderly alternative to the risks incurred in the attempt to migrate to the United States irregularly.”….Giving people an avenue to come here legally in order to keep them from coming illegally? A crazy idea, but it just might work.”

At The Cook Political Report, Charlie Cook observes, “One of the most intriguing questions going into next year’s Senate races is which party will be playing offense and which will be content to defend. History argues that Democrats will be on defense and Republicans on offense; exposure argues the opposite way, that Republicans will play defense while Democrats look to pick off seats….But it is also important to separate first-term midterm elections from those in a second term. While the difference in the House is negligible, (23 losses for the former and 20 seats for the latter), in the Senate it is massive. The first-term average loss by a president’s party is only one seat; in second-term midterms, that average swells to seven seats—a distinction with a real difference….Let’s put history aside for a moment and look at exposure, or how many seats a party must defend. The GOP has 20 seats up to just 14 for Democrats—numbers which make the case that Republicans may end up on defense. Worse yet for Republicans, five of those 20 seats are open, whereas thus far Democrats have zero open seats to worry about. Over the last 20 years, 86 percent of Senate incumbents seeking reelection have won. Incumbents’ worst year since 2000 was a 78 percent win rate; the best, 91 percent. So you’d much rather defend a seat that’s occupied than one that’s not.”

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