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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Ronald Brownstein’s “From a Republican ‘tsunami’ to a ‘puddle’: Why the forecast for November is changing” at CNN Politics sheds some fresh light on Democratic midterm prospects. As Brownstein writes, “It was a referendum. Now it’s a choice….For political professionals in both parties, that’s the capsule explanation for why the Democratic position in the midterm elections appears to have improved so much since summer began….with evidence suggesting more voters are treating the election as a comparative choice between the two parties, operatives on both sides are bracing for a closely contested outcome that could include an unusual divergence in results for the House and those in Senate and governor races….”It feels to me to be more like a shallow red puddle that we’re walking through, rather than a tsunami of sorts,” says Republican strategist John Thomas….Earlier this year, the debate between the parties centered on inflation, the economy, crime, immigration and President Joe Biden‘s stalled legislative agenda in Congress — all issues that motivated the Republican base and alienated many swing voters from Democrats. But a series of dramatic events over the past few months have elevated an entirely different set of issues: gun violence, threats to democracy, climate change and, above all, abortion rights….”The conversation in the nation has changed,” says Michael Podhorzer, former chief political adviser to the AFL-CIO and chair of the Analyst Institute, a collaborative of progressive groups that conducts extensive public polling….That shift in the conversation, he argues, is “reminding the 81 million people who voted against Trump in 2020″ about why they turned out to oppose him and increasing the odds that more of them will show up again in 2022….”We have even heard people in focus groups say, ‘prices go up and down, but I can’t prevent myself from being raped and not being able to have an abortion,'” she [Fernandez Ancona] said. “The idea that something everyone had is now being taken away is so strong it’s overriding” other concerns.”….Particularly noteworthy is that a recent Pew Research Center surveyfound congressional Democrats leading among voters who somewhat disapproved of Biden’s performance, while the NBC survey found them essentially breaking even with those voters. That’s a remarkable divergence from recent experience: the opposition party won about two-thirds of voters who somewhat disapproved of Trump in 2018 and former President Barack Obama in 2010, according to exit poll results provided by the CNN polling unit.”

In more downers for wingnuts news, Jeff Singer reports that “Sarah Palin loses Alaska’s lone House seat to a Democrat in a special election upset” at Daily Kos. As Singer writes, “Alaska election officials carried out the instant-runoff process Wednesday for the Aug. 16 special election for the state’s only House seat, and former Democratic state Rep. Mary Peltola has scored a dramatic pickup for her party by defeating Republican Sarah Palin 51-49….Peltola, who will replace the late GOP Rep. Don Young, will be the first Democrat to represent the Last Frontier in the lower chamber since Young won his own special election all the way back in 1973. The new congresswoman, who is of Yup’ik ancestry, is also set to become the first Alaska Native to ever serve in Congress….Peltola’s victory on such red turf, though, looked improbable before the polls closed two weeks ago. Indeed, national Democrats didn’t even commit serious resources to the contest, a decision the former state representative called “bizarre” just before Election Day. Peltola, however, benefited from voters’ lingering apathy toward Palin, whom the Anchorage Daily News last year described as “nearly invisible within the state” and “almost entirely absent from Alaska politics” since she resigned the governorship in 2009….Republicans, though, will have the chance to regain this seat in a few months. Peltola, Palin, and Begich, as well as Libertarian Chris Bye, will be on the ballot again in November for another instant-runoff election, and the dynamics could be very different for this second round.”

From “Male Politicians Haven’t Noticed How Angry Women Voters Are” by Dahlia Lithwick at slate.com: “One analysis of the Kansas’ voter registration list showed that in the week after Dobbs, more than 70 percent of newly registered voters in that state were women. Those numbers, according to an Upshot analysis of 10 states with available voter registration data, show consistently higher registration for women after the Dobbs leak in May. As Jennifer Rubin recently noted, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that, “62 percent of women registering since Dobbs registered as Democrats, 15 percent as Republicans and that 54 percent were younger than 25.” And a Pew Research Center poll indicates that “a majority of registered voters (56 percent) say the issue of abortion will be very important in their midterm vote, up from 43 percent in March.” Tom Bonier, CEO Of TargetSmart recently posted on Twitter: “We are seeing early signs of what could lead to a huge increase in women voting in November. …This surge is young and female.” Both Mitch McConnell and RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel are panicking about the GOP’s odds in Congress, directly connected to fundraising around abortion….I have a lot of theories about why nobody should be surprised that women are friggin’ furious right now, which include, as Mark Joseph Stern has been arguing all summer, the increasingly horrifying tales of women, disproportionately on teenagers and victims of violence, left to suffer from sepsis, refused prescriptions and denied treatment for ectopic pregnancies, and ever more horrors. And yet, the forced birth Republicans continue to insist that none of this is happening, or that journalists and physicians are making it all up….And as President Biden warned this week, Democrats losing Congress will mean that abortion is in peril everywhere.”

Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman share “Senate Rating Changes: Arizona, Pennsylvania to Leans Democratic” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Are we being too friendly to Democrats by moving Arizona and Pennsylvania off Toss-up? Quite possibly. On the other hand, you could argue we’re being too friendly to Republicans in at least one state: Wisconsin, where Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (D) has posted surprising leads in several independent polls — even in the typically GOP-friendly Trafalgar, which found Barnes up 2 points a couple of days ago (although such a small lead might as well be a tie). Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) continues to struggle with favorability. As Marquette University Law School pollster Charles Franklin points out, Johnson entered the 2016 cycle more anonymous than he is now — he scored an upset victory that year by winning over ambivalent voters. Now, as more voters have firm opinions of him, Johnson’s favorables are not impressive. But we still ultimately favor Johnson in a state where Republicans do not appear likely to be at a spending disadvantage and where they appear to have ample opportunity to paint Barnes as left-wing. Wisconsin’s Senate race remains Leans Republican, to us….So we only have 2 Toss-ups right now, the seats that Sens. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) are defending. We don’t have much of a handicap in either at the moment. But we think both are legitimately close enough that we wouldn’t be surprised if the GOP sweeps both. This is why we still see the Senate as an overall Toss-up even though, based on our current ratings, Democrats only need to win one of these Toss-ups for a majority and Republicans need to win both (because Democrats only need 50 seats for a majority thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’s tiebreaking vote, whereas Republicans need an outright majority of 51).”

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