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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Nate Silver explains why “The Political Environment Might Be Improving For Democrats” at FiveThirtyEight: “As was the case when we launched the forecast a month ago, the Deluxe version of FiveThirtyEight’s midterm model still rates the battle for control of the Senate as a “toss-up.” But within that category there’s been modest, but consistent movement toward Democrats. Their chances of winning the Senate now stand at 55 percent. That’s up from 47 percent from forecast launch on June 30. It’s also up from 40 percent in a retroactive forecast dated back to June 1….This is matched by Democrats’ improved position on the generic congressional ballot, which asks voters which party they would support in a congressional election. Democrats are now essentially tied with Republicans in our generic ballot polling average, after having trailed by 2 to 3 percentage points over most of the late spring and early summer.

At The Cook Political Report, Amy Walter observes, “Over the last couple of weeks, there’s been a shift in opinion among many political professionals about Democrats’ chances in the midterm campaign. They point in particular to improvement for Democrats in the generic ballot poll question (which party would you like to see control Congress?), as well as recent Senate polls which show incumbent Democrats significantly outpacing Biden’s job approval ratings in their respective states….The explanation for this seeming disconnect between the president’s weak approval ratings and stronger showings for Democratic House and Senate candidates seem to be driven by a few factors: a post-Dobbs energizing of the Democratic base, weak and/or flawed GOP senate candidates, and the January 6th hearings. In other words, the media focus has increasingly been centered on issues that are harmful for the GOP. …Yet, there’s nothing new about a late summer ‘reassessment’ of midterm assumptions. In fact, like clockwork, the out-party right about now starts to fret that their advantage is slipping, while the in-party sees green shoots springing from a barren landscape….But, have things really improved for Democrats? The most recent polls measuring the generic preference for Congress have shown a Democratic advantage of anywhere between 4 to 6 points. Overall, the generic ballot average in RealClearPolitics is a narrow R+2.2. So, suppose you compare Biden’s net job approval rating of -17 (39 percent approve minus 56 percent disapprove) to Republicans’ one to two-point advantage on the generic ballot? In that case, it looks as if Democrats are outpacing the president by 15 to 16 points. But, what if you looked at Biden’s overall job approval number (39 percent) and compared it with the vote share a Democrat is getting in the generic ballot (43 percent). Looking at it that way, a Democrat is outpacing Biden by a much smaller 5 points. And historically, that’s about the average margin that candidates of the in-party have been able to over-perform the president….Democratic candidates will also need a certain percentage of independent voters to support them. And, those independent voters not only deeply disapprove of Biden, but they are also more focused on the economy and inflation.”

From “Do Senate Republicans have a candidate problem?” by Adam Wollner at CNN Politics: “More than half (55%) of registered voters in Pennsylvania view Oz, a celebrity doctor, unfavorably, while just 35% view him favorably, according to Fox’s polling. By comparison, Fetterman, currently the state’s lieutenant governor, is viewed favorably by 49% of voters and unfavorably by 34%. Perhaps the most alarming number for Oz: only 67% of Republicans hold a favorable view of him….Walker isn’t in quite as rough of shape, but his favorability rating is also under water: 43% of Georgia voters view him favorably, and 48% view him unfavorably. Warnock breaks about even at 48% favorable and 47% unfavorable. Broken down by party, 82% of Republicans hold a favorable view of Walker, while 93% of Democrats hold a favorable view of Warnock….In both states, the Democrats are managing to outpace their Republican opponents even as President Joe Biden’s favorability rating sits just north of 40%….These are far from the first warning signs that have come up for Oz and Walker. Oz has faced scrutiny about his residency from the start of his campaign. For Walker, there have been revelations he had three children with women he was not married to, questions over his past business ventures and repeated verbal gaffes. Plus, both are raising far less campaign cash than their Democratic counterparts….And these are far from the only Senate candidates Republicans are concerned about. In Ohio, a state Biden lost by 8 points in 2020, GOP nominee J.D. Vance was outraised by a 9-1 margin in the second quarter and has made a long string of controversial comments….The GOP’s Senate headache could get even worse after next Tuesday’s primaries. In Arizona, which will host one of the country’s marquee Senate races this fall, Blake Masters has embraced former President Donald Trump’s unfounded election fraud claims. Republicans also fear that scandal-plagued former Gov. Eric Greitens would put deep-red Missouri’s Senate seat in play if he emerges as the party’s nominee.”

In “The Democrats’ Rural Problem” Kaleidoscope Munis and Robert Saldin write at The Washington Monthly: “Over the past two decades, Democrats have hemorrhaged support in the countryside. As recently as 1996, President Bill Clinton carried more than 1,100 rural counties in his reelection bid—about half the nation’s total. In 2008, Barack Obama’s haul of rural counties plummeted to 455 while he cruised to an easy win nationally. By 2020, a Democratic pulse could barely be detected in rural America. Joe Biden only won 194 rural counties. The collapse continues. Last year, Glenn Youngkin carried Virginia’s 20 least populous counties by 27 points on average in his gubernatorial bid, a 12-point improvement for the GOP over 2017….A handful of Democratic strategists and politicians with roots in the heartland have been trying to ring the alarm. For instance, Senator Jon Tester’s memoir, Grounded: A Senator’s Lessons on Winning Back Rural America, details how he balances his day job in Washington with running a farm in rural Montana, and offers his party a series of “lessons on winning back rural America” that include showing up and actually campaigning hard in rural areas. Similarly, Illinois Representative Cheri Bustos and her political adviser, Robin Johnson, have written a series of reports concerning the “ground game” of Democrats who have been successful in rural and working-class districts that Trump carried….A handful of Democratic strategists and politicians with roots in the heartland have been trying to ring the alarm. For instance, Senator Jon Tester’s memoir, Grounded: A Senator’s Lessons on Winning Back Rural America, details how he balances his day job in Washington with running a farm in rural Montana, and offers his party a series of “lessons on winning back rural America” that include showing up and actually campaigning hard in rural areas. Similarly, Illinois Representative Cheri Bustos and her political adviser, Robin Johnson, have written a series of reports concerning the “ground game” of Democrats who have been successful in rural and working-class districts that Trump carried….The latest entry in this burgeoning genre comes from a Democratic state senator from Maine, Chloe Maxmin, and her campaign manager, Canyon Woodward. (Maxmin has decided not to run for a second term. She had previously served one term in the Maine House.)…In Dirt Road Revival, the authors offer what they consider a “tough-love letter” to their party. The book provides a good overview of how the Democratic abandonment of rural America has been bad for the party and the country. Maxmin and Woodward chronicle the decision by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, following the 2010 midterm disaster, to disband working groups dedicated to rural politics. They chart how Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign neglected rural voters and review Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer’s myopic attempt to rationalize the problem by proclaiming that “for every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia, and you can repeat that in Ohio and Illinois and Wisconsin.”

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