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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In “Ro Khanna Psychoanalyzes His Own Party” the Silicon Valley congressman, who is one of the sharpest thinkers of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, is interviewed by Puck’s Tara Palmer. Some excerpts: “Ro Khanna: I’ve had very good conversations with the White House. I’m hoping they will act on some of them. In addition to some of the ones I mentioned in the Times op-ed, I think having a temporary export ban would go a long way to reducing prices, and here’s how I know that: we did it before 2015. But if you look at the unfortunate explosion that happened in Louisiana, where natural gas was not able to be exported right after that, you had a massive decline in price in the United States. So there are tools that we have….Every day he [President Biden}has to be talking about the economy, the economy, the economy. He needs to be talking about prices and what he’s doing to lower prices. He needs to talk about what he’s going to do to put money in the pockets of Americans who are struggling. He needs to go much more aggressively against big oil and their price gouging. And he needs to mobilize the government in ways on baby formula. I mean actually start buying the baby formula from Europe. Tell the F.D.A. that if it’s safe enough for European babies, it’s safe enough for American babies. Start funding mass production of critical supplies. Give an Oval Office address on the semiconductor shortage, asking why we’re not passing this bill in Congress?….I think we need to spend 80 percent of our time, 90 percent of our time, talking about the domestic economy, and what we’re doing. I respect his foreign policy on Russia and his leadership, but I think that the key is to be talking about the economy, the economy, the economy….I would like him to see him be much bolder on economic policy and more focused on it, more imaginative. ”

Khanna continues, “I’m supporting the president. I believe everyone should try to strengthen the president because I fully expect him to run. It does us no good in my view to speculate on alternatives when he’s clearly said that he’s running….I think there’s a lot of talent in the party. Maybe other people could beat Trump, but I don’t think that they are going to beat Joe Biden in the primary….But to become president you have to have a vision, and you have to connect with people at an emotional level. Trump had a dystopian vision: They industrialized you, they shipped your jobs offshore, I’m going to bring them back! Now, he didn’t deliver, but I don’t see DeSantis, in my view, as having an emotional connection with the electorate. I think Biden could speak much more about how he’s going to improve the lives of people in Pennsylvania and Michigan and Wisconsin….We can pay attention to the state legislatures in a way that we haven’t. We need to pay attention to grooming a new generation of young law students, like The Federalist Society, but on our side. We need to take judicial appointments much more seriously. Hillary Clinton was right that even if you disagreed with her, not voting for her was giving up the Supreme Court.”

Harry Enten reports that “Democrats get bounce in polls after Roe v. Wade is overturned” at CNN Politics: “Last week, Monmouth University released its latest survey results on the generic congressional ballot. Among registered voters, Republicans still led by 2 points, 48% to 46%. The result closely matches the average of recent polls, which has Republicans with a 1-point advantage on the generic ballot, which usually asks respondents some form of the following question: “If the elections for Congress were held today, would you vote for the Democratic or Republican Party?”….The latest Monmouth result, though, marked an improvement for Democrats who had trailed 50% to 43% when the university last polled on the generic ballot in May….Normally, I’d dismiss movement from one poll to the next as statistical noise. These two Monmouth results are within the margin of error of each other….But a look at all polling shows the same thing: Democrats have been gaining on the generic ballot since Roe was overturned….By my count, there have been eight different pollsters who ask about the generic ballot and conducted a poll before and after the Supreme Court found there was no federal constitutional right to an abortion. Every single one of them found Democrats doing better in their poll taken post-abortion ruling compared with the one taken pre-abortion ruling. The average shift was about 3 points in Democrats’ favor….This 3-point change may not seem like a lot, and it could reverse itself as we get further away from the ruling. Still, it puts Democrats in their best position on the generic ballot in the last six months.”

In “Maybe Dobbs Did Change The Race. We’ll Need More Time To Know For Sure,” Nate Silver takes a similar view at FiveThirtyEight: “Usually, the generic ballot is a noisy measure, and if you know nothing about what’s causing the changes, the best empirical strategy is to be quite conservative in updating the average. If the polls move by several points and there’s no real underlying cause, it’s probably just noise….After all, most people — even most people who vote in congressional elections — are not following the news intensely on a day-to-day basis. Cable news ratings, for instance, reflect a tiny fraction of the American population: The most-watched cable news program is seen by something like 1 percent of Americans on a typical night….So, in figuring out whether shifts in a polling average represent signal or noise, the model averages out lots of times when there’s nothing much going on and a fewtimes when there is. The safe bet is usually “probably mostly noise, awaiting more evidence of signal.”….But given that we do have a huge story on our hands, let’s do a direct before-and-after comparison. Six pollsters1 have released generic ballot polls both before and after the Dobbs decision.2 All six of those polling firms have shown a shift toward Democrats. On average, Democrats trailed by 1.3 points in the pre-Dobbs version of these polls but led by 1.5 points in the most recent ones, a shift of almost 3 points toward the party….If this persists, then our generic ballot average — and also our midterm model — will eventually catch up and move toward Democrats. Of course, that might not happen. The change could still be a statistical quirk. Or it could be temporary, an artifact of partisan nonresponse bias. That is, if Democrats are more engaged than Republicans by news of the Supreme Court’s decision — and there’s evidence to suggest they are — they may be more likely to respond to polls for some period of time, at least until the next news story takes hold. Then again, if Democrats are more motivated than Republicans to vote by the decision, that could help them in a real way in November, too….Bottom line: Most of the time, polling averages are exceptionally useful, but be wary of using them in ways in which they weren’t intended. The FiveThirtyEight generic ballot polling average is designed to be conservative and slow-moving and not really equipped to deal with breaking-news developments.3 That our generic ballot polling average is steady in reaction to the news doesn’t really prove anything either way, then. But because of the Dobbs decision, there may be some electoral upside for Democrats beyond what our model currently shows.”

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