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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In his post, “Will This Be An Asterisk* Election?* It takes something unusual for the president’s party to do well in the midterms,” Nate Silver writes at FiveThirtyEight: “Democrats started out with 222 House seats following the 2020 election, four more than the number required for a majority. According to our model, there’s a 7 percent chance that Democrats wind up with fewer than 222 seats after November but still enough seats to maintain a narrow majority. Meanwhile, there’s a 13 percent chance that they actually gain seats.1 Those numbers combined give them their 20 percent chances….Time for a quick historical gut check. In 19 midterm elections since World War II, the president’s party lost fewer than five seats in the House once, in 1962. And they gained seats twice, in 1998 and 2002. That means three out of 19 times the president’s party would have a successful enough midterm to keep the House, or 16 percent of the time. That squares pretty well with our model’s 20 percent estimate….Silver discussess the exceptional midterms, and adds, “….all these elections featured some sort of special circumstance: the Great Depression, the Cuban missile crisis, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the first impeachment of a president in 130 years. But such a definition is inherently fuzzy as you can potentially retrofit almost any political or news development to constitute a “special circumstance,” in the same way that almost every election gets called “the most important election of our lifetimes.”Immediately after the court overturned Roe, Democrats began to gain ground on the generic congressional ballot, which asks voters which party they’d support in an election, and it’s now translated into some electoral successes, too. In Kansas last week, voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot initiative that would have allowed the legislature to restrict abortion in the state amid very high turnout. And in Minnesota this week, Republicans won a special election in the 1st Congressional District by only 4 percentage points, a district that Trump won by 10 points in 2020. Likewise, on June 28, just a few days after Roe was overturned, Republicans won a special election in Nebraska’s 1st District by only 5 points in a district that Trump carried by 15 points.3It’s not just the courts, either. Republicans are also aggressively exercising power through state governments, especially on abortion, gay and transgender rights and education policy. And although voters don’t regard Jan. 6 as an event as important as Sept. 11 — public opinion about it is also much more polarized — it’s a reminder that Republicans can also potentially seek to achieve power through extralegal means….If nothing else, Democratic voters have no shortage of motivation to turn out: Many feel as though their basic rights are being threatened, something a party’s voters ordinarily aren’t concerned about when it controls both the presidency and Congress. The “enthusiasm gap” often accounts for much of the presidential party’s disadvantage at the midterms, but it’s not clear it exists this year after Roe was overturned….All that said, Republicans are still fairly clear favorites to keep the House. Notably, President Biden is quite unpopular despite a modest improvement in his approval ratings, whereas FDR, JFK, Clinton and GWB were all popular at the times of their midterms. The public still has very negative views about the economy and the direction the country is headed in, and that’s usually rough for the party in power to overcome….But the circumstances of these midterms are also potentially unusual, with high uncertainty, and that’s why Democrats keeping the House is a thinkable outcome.”

At The Cook Political Report, the newly-appointed Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, Amy Walter writes thaT “the data is giving us mixed signals. Despite these favorable winds, Biden’s job approval rating remains mired under 40 percent. Americans remain deeply pessimistic about the economy and Biden’s handling of it. The one improvement in fortunes for Democrats has been the generic ballot which shows Democrats making up significant ground over the last few weeks. And, as my colleague David Wasserman has noted, better-than-expected showings by Democratic candidates in NE-01 and MN-01 House specials mean “we’re no longer living in a political environment as pro-GOP as November 2021….At the start of the summer, Republicans had a 2 point advantage on the generic congressional ballot. Today, the two parties are basically tied (Democrats up 0.1 in the FiveThirtyEight average)….polling taken this month and last by Monmouth found a ‘generic Democrat’ running anywhere from 11 to 14 points better among independent voters than Biden’s job approval ratings with these same voters. For example, the most recent Monmouth poll found a Democrat pulling 47 percent of the vote from independent voters — which is 14 points higher than Biden’s anemic 33 percent job approval rating with these voters. A late July Quinnipiac poll, which found Republicans ahead by just one point on the generic ballot question (44 to 43 percent), also found Democrats doing 12 points better among independents than Biden’s anemic 23 percent….Overall, Democrats were winning independent voters in the most recent Monmouth survey by 6 points (47 percent to 41 percent). The July Quinnipiac poll showed Democrats losing independent voters by 9 points (35 percent to 44 percent). …So, how are Democrats able to defy political gravity with independent voters? And, can they sustain it?…. First, not all those who disapprove of Biden are taking out their frustration on his party. One pollster told me that his most recent polling showed “Dems winning generic Congress ballot among ‘somewhat disapprove’ of Biden by 17 points. That’s what is keeping Dems competitive in Congressional ballot generically….Another is that independent voters are simply fed up with both parties and, as such, aren’t focusing their frustration at just the party in charge….Overall, however, Republicans can take heart in the fact that the top issues for independent voters remain inflation and the economy — issues for which they give Biden very low marks, and say they trust the GOP more. And, while things are improving on the economic front, they still aren’t great.,,,Vulnerable Democratic Senate candidates have been raising gobs of money and spending it liberally to raise their bonafides with independent voters. But, at the end of the day, they can only control so much. They have been able to fly above Biden’s dismal ratings thus far, but once the GOP ad assault has been underway for a while, we’ll find out whether they can continue to defy political gravity.”

“Notice something here: Whether you support everything Biden, Schumer and Pelosi did or not, it was all about workaday government as we understood it before Trump brought his destructive psychosis to the center of our politics,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes in his Washington Post column, “Trump’s angry wailing is loud. Biden’s governing is louder.” Dionne adds, “The surest sign that the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago was not part of some fiendish political plan? The last thing the White House wanted was an event that would relegate Biden’s victories — on climate, health care, tech policy, prescription drug prices, taxes and major new assistance for veterans — to second or third place in the news cycle….If Attorney General Merrick Garland had been operating in Biden’s immediate partisan interests, he would surely have delayed the quest to bring top secret documents back under government control by a week or two….If there were dramas, they were about substantive disagreements between center and left over what should be in a bill, how fast change should happen, which problems took priority. It was a debate over what democratic government should be doing for citizens, not a spectacle orchestrated by one terribly needy man….Predictions about Trump’s future are risky, and mine have never been particularly good. But at the risk of wishful thinking, what we have just gone through might finally give pause to Republicans — not the extremist politicians who embrace Trump’s authoritarianism, but the rest. You sense that at least some of them realize they leaped way too fast to denounce Garland and the FBI before understanding that the search in Mar-a-Lago was motivated by amply justified fears for our nation’s security….Joe Biden will never seize the public stage the way Trump does. He will never galvanize mobs, inspire frenzied loyalty — or encourage his supporters to embrace and defend lies. That happens to be why Biden was elected. At the end of a consequential week, those who voted for him can feel pretty good about themselves.”

As memes go, this is a dilly worth sharing:

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