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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

At The Cook Political Report, Charlie Cook has some strategic insights Democrats ought to consider: “Sources close to the negotiations around the reconciliation bill say that the West Virginian would like to see something closer to $2.7 trillion in total new spending ($1.2 trillion for the hard infrastructure bill plus $1.5 trillion for the reconciliation measure). Including infrastructure, progressives are looking for more like $4.7 trillion total, assuming a $3.5 trillion reconciliation package. The sweet spot in between might look something like $3 trillion to $3.5 trillion. This is where progressives and the leadership must have, as we used to say in the South, a “come to Jesus moment,” a time to look down into their own souls and consider what is really important….Are progressives and the Democratic Party better off if they swallow hard and accept a $1.5 trillion total, or would they rather have zippo, which effectively is the alternative? For progressives, a thinner package would certainly be a bitter pill to swallow, having so recently entertained grand dreams of another New Deal or Great Society, initiatives addressing many of the party’s long-sought-after programs….if they hold out for a bigger number and end up with nothing, that would feed into a narrative that President Biden, his aides, and their allies on Capitol Hill are inept. Perhaps they should take a look at the president’s job-approval ratings in the most recent round of polls on specific issues, such as handling immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border, the coronavirus, and Afghanistan. Additionally, many retired or soon-to-retire baby boomers are uniquely vulnerable to inflation, the threat of which looms over the economy….Coming up completely empty-handed would feed into a narrative of ineffectiveness, if not incompetence. Context and extenuating circumstances mean little or nothing to swing voters in midterms. Midterm elections are choices, not between the two parties or sets of party leaders but between the attitudes of “time for a change” and “stay the course.”….swallowing some pride, taking what they can get, and giving themselves and Biden a trophy they can point to might be more prudent.”

In “The Case for a Smaller Reconciliation Bill,” Anne Kim writes at The Washington Monthly: “Of course, Democrats want to do it all, but drawing on a smaller canvas could be better for the party….A tighter, more focused bill is easier for the public to understand. By this point, Democrats should know that technocratic 10-point plans can’t match the primal simplicity of “Build the wall.” A large, complex bill is easier for Republicans to attack. Republican Senator John Barrasso, for example, recently slammed the Democrats’ package as “a radical freight train to socialism.” But it’s not a freight train if it has just three or four cars….Biden himself is thinking leaner as he wades into negotiations, “pushing programs whose benefits voters can easily grasp,” according to TheWashington Post. “The president is focused on having government deliver in a way that people can see and feel in their lives,” senior adviser Mike Donilon told the Post….A targeted bill would also force Democrats to focus on a few clearly defined priorities, sharpening their economic message heading into the 2022 and 2024 elections. With Biden’s poll numbers slipping, the Delta variant raging, and the economy still on uncertain footing, Democrats must make a clear-cut case for why they should keep control of Congress. (“Build Back Better” is a witty and alliterative slogan, but it’s vague and far from a clear message.)”

Also at The Cook Political Report, Amy Walter explains why the Virginia race for governor is a pretty good bellwether, looking forward to the midterm elections next year: “In 2020, Democrats carried the national House vote by 3.1 points. Given that that margin was barely enough for them to hold onto their majority, another 3 point shift toward Republicans could be politically fatal for the Democratic majority. Even so, it’s nowhere near the advantage that Republicans had in 2010. That year they won the House popular vote by almost 7 points and picked up 63 seats. …On its face, Virginia seems like the better bellwether for 2022. As my colleague Charlie Cook points out, the fact that Virginia governors are limited to just one, four-year term, means that every gubernatorial contest is an open seat — a much purer test of partisanship and the mood of the electorate than an election featuring an incumbent. And, unlike California’s recent election, Republicans have a stronger, less controversial and better-funded candidate in the Virginia gubernatorial contest.”…Virginia has also become a bluer state since 2009. Not only have Republicans not won a statewide race since then, no GOP statewide nominee for Governor, Senate or President has won more than 44 percent of the vote since 2014. …With a PVI of D+2, Virginia is bluer than the kinds of states that Democrats need to hold/win the Senate in 2022 like Wisconsin (R+2), Pennsylvania (R+2), New Hampshire (EVEN) or Nevada (EVEN)….So, given Virginia’s blue hue, can we still look to it for guidance for what 2022 may hold?…Obviously, a win by Republican Glenn Youngkin would be a big upset. Alarm bells would be ringing in Democratic campaigns all over the country that even a state that Biden carried by 10-points was vulnerable….But, even if McAuliffe wins (and we currently rate this contest as Lean Democrat), there are still some lessons we can take from this election….The most important is whether there is a suburban “snap-back” for Republican candidates now that Trump is no longer in office. For the last four years, we’ve watched as suburban areas, especially in the populous northern part of the state, have shifted their allegiance from red to blue. But, with Republicans offering a more traditional GOP nominee, with a more traditional GOP message (low taxes/tough on crime), will those voters ‘go back home’ to the GOP? I’ll be looking especially in areas that have only recently been trending to Democrats like Chesterfield County outside of Richmond and Stafford County in Northern Virginia….McAuliffe doesn’t need to hit Biden-levels in many of these suburban areas to win this November. But, for many Democrats up in 2022 (or those who want to unseat a GOPer next year), they can’t afford any slippage in Biden-level support in these types of suburban areas.”

Adam Serwer’s article, “Texas Democrats Have an Opportunity: But it’s not clear they can seize it” at The Atlantic sets the stage for a potential flip of the Texas governorship. As Serwer writes, “Texas Governor Greg Abbott has leaned into the culture war, signing laws effectively banning abortion and critical race theory, loosening gun restrictions, and approving an almost certainly unconstitutional law barring social-media companies from moderating content. He has thwarted coronavirus restrictions in a state that has seen hospitals become overwhelmed with patients and more than 6,000 deaths from the pandemic in the past month, sought to fund more border barriers, and approved new voting restrictions targeted at Democratic constituencies following the 2020 election….Actual governing has taken a back seat to the culture war. The state has done little to force energy companies to prepare for another winter storm like the one that killed hundreds of Texans in February….The Texas abortion law, which bars the procedure before most women know they are pregnant and deputizes private citizens to seek $10,000 bounties on their fellow Texans, may be too much even for many voters who otherwise consider themselves anti-abortion. The law also contains no exceptions for rape or incest—only 13 percent of Texans favor a ban that strict….The governor’s efforts to curry favor with obsessive Fox News watchers by micromanaging how cities and schools try to contain the coronavirus are unpopular, especially with so many Texans getting sick and dying, and hospitals having to delay nonemergency care….What’s unusual today is the number of Texans getting tired of the bit. For the first time since Abbott became governor, a majority of Texans disapprove of the job he’s doing.

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Maria Ferrera on

    I’m not really sure where this idea emerged that the suburbs moved to the democratic column temporarily in 2020. In Illinois and I think in Virginia, once the suburbs turned blue, there was no going back. Suburbs have become increasingly diverse and more educated that have resulted in this shift. That doesn’t seem to be reversing any time soon.


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