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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

We’re not going to put lipstick on a pig named Pollyanna here, But Laura Barron-Lopez writes in “Team Biden gets some pep in its step after months of taking it on the chin” at Politico: “Don’t call it a comeback. Seriously, don’t. But for the White House, the breakthroughs they had last week represent major progress. And after the few months they’ve had, they’ll take it….In the span of four days, the president signed his bipartisan infrastructure bill into law and saw the second piece of his landmark economic package pass through the House. The Food and Drug Administration authorized Covid-19 booster shots for all adults, and the administration announced a new purchase of 10 million treatment courses of the Pfizer antiviral Covid-19 pill. All this, while government reports show strong gains in the number of jobs across the labor market….But there is a desire among Democrats for the White House to move even more aggressively should the social spending bill ultimately pass through Congress. In particular, they want the administration to target Republican governors and lawmakers who try to take credit for new projects in their state made possible by funding approved in either Biden’s Covid-relief plan from earlier this year or the recently signed infrastructure bill. They also want to see the president explain to voters that some of the benefits will take time to dole out….“I’ve made this point to the administration … a lot of it’s going to depend on managing expectations” said Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), the retiring chair of the House Budget Committee, noting the lag-time in implementation of many of the programs that will be funded in the bill. “We have to get much more ruthless” with Republicans.”

Despite all of the hard cheese Dems have been served in recent months, it appears that they have a decent chance to win the governorship of Texas, as Geoffrey Skelley explains at FiveThirtyEight:  “[Republican Governor Greg] Abbott’s approval slide has a few causes. First, his handling of the pandemic has received a lot of criticism from all corners in the state, and a late September poll from Quinnipiac University found more Texas voters (50 percent) disapproved of his handling of the pandemic than approved (46 percent). Second, Texas voters seem to still be disappointed by his administration’s response to the winter storms this past February and the failure of the state’s power grid. Earlier this month, a survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of the University of Texas-Austin and The Texas Tribune found that 60 percent of Texas voters disapproved of how state leaders and the legislature had dealt with the reliability of the grid, which was the highest disapproval mark for any issue asked about in the poll. Finally, Abbott’s numbers may have also suffered in the aftermath of the Texas GOP’s push to essentially ban abortions and to allow the concealed carry of handguns without a permit — both being pieces of legislation that Abbott signed into law. A Dallas Morning News/University of Texas-Tyler poll from early September found that 50 percent of registered voters opposed permit-less concealed carry, while the Quinnipiac survey found 53 percent disapproved of Abbott’s handling of abortion.” Skelley points out that most horse-race polls give Abbot a slight edge over Democrat Beto O’Rourke at this early juncture. But Democrats ought to be able to win some swing voters who are disgusted with Abbot’s incompetent Covid response and his disastrous handling of the winter storms Texas experienced. A Democratic win of the governorship of the nation’s 2nd largest state would take a lot of the sting out of the Virginia loss.

In “What Beto O’Rourke has to overcome in Texas,” Nicole Narea writes at Vox: “he governor’s race isn’t going to be about convincing partisans already entrenched in their views to switch sides. It’ll be about turning out each party’s base while wooing moderates and independents, said James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin….O’Rourke hasn’t had trouble inspiring voters to show up for him; he helped fuel an 18 percent increase in turnout in 2018. This time, he has the opportunity to mobilize an estimated 7 million Texans who didn’t vote in 2020….Registering and turning out new voters may be more difficult than in the past; Texas now has one of the most restrictive voting laws in the country passed by state Republicans earlier this year. The bill imposes a slew of new restrictions on 24-hour polling locations, drive-thru voting, voting by mail, and sending voters mail-in ballot applications. Opponents of the law have argued that it will disproportionately impact voters of color, who helped fuel O’Rourke’s 2018 campaign and who he’d again need to win the governor’s race….One issue that has emerged as an early flashpoint is O’Rourke’s comments on guns during a Democratic presidential debate in 2019. “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” he said when asked about his position on mandatory buybacks of assault-style weapons in the wake of a deadly mass shooting in El Paso….O’Rourke told the Texas Tribune that he isn’t backing down from his position, arguing that responsible gun owners can “vigorously protect that Second Amendment right and also protect the lives of those around us.”….That seems to be in line with public opinion: A 2019 UT Tyler poll found that more Texans — about 49 percent — supported mandatory buybacks of military-style assault weapons than the roughly 29 percent who opposed it. But troubling for O’Rourke is the fact that independents were less favorable toward buybacks, with just 39 percent supporting them and roughly a third opposing them.”

Narea adds, “Abbott set off on a misleading quest to construct a border wall on his own (the taxpayer funds he’ll use for the effort are enough for only a few miles of wall, at most) and has falsely claimed that migrants are behind Covid-19 surges. On Monday, he went to court to challenge the Biden administration’s requirement that all companies with at least 100 employees ensure their workers are vaccinated or undergo weekly testing….Those kinds of policies have built loyalty among Republicans, but there are also cracks starting to show in Abbott’s candidacy. A September 28 Quinnipiac poll found that his job approval rating had fallen to 44 percent, its lowest since 2018, and 51 percent said he did not deserve reelection, up from 48 percent in June. That’s largely due to overwhelmingly negative perceptions among Democrats and divisions among independents, with 43 percent approving and 47 percent disapproving. Still, Abbott remains more popular than Cruz was during his race against O’Rourke — in 2018, the senator had a 39 percent approval rating….Those numbers, however, may mean Abbott will have a tougher primary than O’Rourke. He’s already facing challenges from high-profile candidates, including former Texas Republican Party chair Allen West, with his most important challengers coming from his right. If he wins the Republican nomination — as he is expected to — he would be a formidable but not unassailable opponent.” O’Rourke’s campaign may be one of the few statewide races next year, in which Democrats can hope to mobilize a substantial young voter turnout. If O’Rourke can generate some enthusiasm with Black voters and reverse the Latino trend toward Republicans, he has a chance. And if Democratic ads do a good job of spotlighting Abbot’s gross mismanagement of the Texas power outages, they may be able to flip enough white working-class voters to help defeat Abbott.”

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