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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

At Vox, Li Zhou answers a question many Democrats have been wondering about, “Can executive actions save Democrats in the midterms?” As Zhou writes, “In recent weeks, progressives have issued a dire warning for Democrats. If President Joe Biden doesn’t try to get more done via executive action, they argue, voters won’t turn out because they’ll feel like the party hasn’t delivered for them….“If the president does pursue and start to govern decisively using executive action and other tools at his disposal, I think we’re in the game,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) told New York magazine in an interview this week. “But if we decide to just kind of sit back for the rest of the year and not change people’s lives — yeah, I do think we’re in trouble.”…In March, the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) unveiled a slate of 55 executive actions they’ve recommended Biden take, including canceling student debt, changing rules around overtime pay so more workers are eligible for it, and reducing prescription drug prices.” Zhou opines, “When it comes to mobilization, progressives are correct. Democrats need to do more to energize their base after the party failed to pass the expansive social spending legislation and voting rights protections they promised to advance in 2020. Given their narrow majority in the Senate and the impasse they’ve faced there, it’s possible executive action might be the only route Democrats now have for certain policy changes.” However, “Whether executive action will be enough to stem their overall midterm losses, though, is unclear.” Zhou adds, “Executive actions could help rally many of the Democratic voters who’ve become disillusioned with the party’s leadership, though experts note that they’ll have to make sure these efforts don’t turn swing voters away. “Executive actions that relate to the economy historically have the potential to boost participation of the president’s base,” says the Brookings Institution’s Nicole Willcoxon.”

If you were wondering, “How Big Is the House Playing Field?,” Amy Walter has some answers at The Cook Political Report: “This week, Democratic and Republican campaign operations acknowledged that the House playing field is expanding. The NRCC added another 10 House districts to its already robust list of 72 Democratic-held targets. And on the Democratic side, the House Majority PAC announced it would be reserving nearly $102 million in advertising in a whopping 51 media markets for the fall campaign….Currently, RealClear Politics shows Republicans ahead by 3.6 points in the generic ballot tracker. If that holds up through Election Day, it will represent a 6.6 percent positive shift to Republicans from 2020 (Democrats won the national House vote by 3.1 points in 2020)….So, what would a 6.6 point shift to the right look like? At a very crude level, we could say that it would shift the 2020 vote margin in every CD, about 7 points more Republican. So, forample, a district that Biden carried 52 percent to 45 percent (+7) would become a jump ball (50-50) in 2022. Or, a better way to think of it is that any district that Biden carried by less than 7 points would be in danger of flipping to the GOP….The good news for Democrats is that (at this point) there are only 21 districts where Biden’s margin was fewer than seven points. Even if we expand that universe to include districts Biden carried by 8-10 points, that universe of potentially vulnerable Democratic-held seats expands only slightly….However, the good news for Republicans is that they currently hold eight of those 21 seats that Biden carried by less than seven points. In other words, it would make some of the most vulnerable GOP-held districts’s, like Rep. Don Bacon’s Omaha-based NE-02 (Biden +6) and Rep. Dave Schweikert’s Phoenix-based AZ-01(Biden +1.4), tougher for Democrats to pick off. But, these are “holds,” not flips, which lowers the ceiling for GOP gains….Another factor that may cap GOP gains is that Democrats don’t have to defend many Trump-won districts. Right now, Democrats represent only six districts (AZ-02, IA-03, WI-03, PA-08, ME-02, and OH-09) that Biden did not win. In 2018, Republicans were defending four times as many districts that Hillary Clinton had carried in the 2016 election.”

Sam Brodey writes that “Democrats are left to turn to that time-honored security blanket for the party in charge: pork projects” at The Daily Beast. “Thousands of so-called “earmarked” projects like these, scattered across hundreds of districts, were included in Congress’ $1.5 trillion annual spending bill that passed earlier this month. And Democrats believe they can spin this cash—which was a political liability not long ago—into a viable election backup plan….Earmarks—rebranded as “member-directed spending”—returned this year for the first time in over a decade, and they couldn’t have come at a better time for Democrats.’ Some House Democrats have been “advertising their earmark achievements as well, taking out Facebook ads, scheduling town halls with constituents, and appearing at countless ribbon-cuttings and huge check hand-outs. That could be just a preview of what’s to come for Democrats heading into the midterm season. Several party aides and operatives told The Daily Beast that lawmakers in challenging races should tout their earmark wins everywhere as often as possible….Martha McKenna, a Democratic strategist and campaign ad maker, said Democrats should “definitely” run on their earmarks—and, in general, should be “louder and more aggressive” in claiming credit for their local wins….“In a world where independent voters are turned off by partisan bickering, if we can cut through that and say, ‘This is a project your local Democrat got done and here’s the impact,’ that should be a message that cuts through,” McKenna said.”

Writing at The American Prospect, Jon Walker warns that “if Republicans win in 2022, Democrats are unlikely to win another trifecta for at least another decade, if not longer. In addition, if millions of people feel they have been burned by making the mistake of choosing to use the Democrats’ health care program, public opinion of the program could take a big hit. The ACA’s favorable rating has improved by five points since Democrats enhanced the subsidies, but remains at 58 percent, owing in part to implacable opposition from the right wing. Those numbers will likely rocket downward if the subsidy enhancements expire….On a separate track, previous pandemic relief measures included a “continuous coverage” option that gave states higher shares of Medicaid funding. Those changes end if the administration ends the public-health emergency created by COVID-19. The emergency could end as soon as this summer, according to published reports, which would instantly allow states to cull their Medicaid rolls and throw 12 million people, by one estimate, off public health insurance. Build Back Better would have stepped down the increased payments to states slowly, kept a small portion of them in place, and made it harder for states to disenroll lots of beneficiaries in one shot. But with Build Back Better dead, that’s gone too, imperiling millions of Medicaid patients, again just before the midterms….If Democrats miss the opportunity to permanently fix Medicaid and the ACA subsidies, it might not be possible to ever rebuild trust in the ACA or in the Democrats’ brand as the party of health care. It will be very hard to sell slowly building on the ACA if Democrats prove they can’t be trusted to ever do that.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Martin Lawford on

    “Several party aides and operatives told The Daily Beast that lawmakers in challenging races should tout their earmark wins everywhere as often as possible.” Absolutely right. A positive campaign spotlighting Democrats’ constructive member-directed spending would be the perfect answer to the racist attack ads the Republicans will undoubtedly use.


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