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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In Georgia, the emerging Democratic strategy to win the governorship is all about in-person, early voting. As the Associated Press explains, “Stacey Abrams, Georgia Democrats’ nominee for governor, is launching an intensive effort to get out the vote by urging potential supporters to cast in-person ballots the first week of early voting as she tries to navigate the state’s new election laws….The strategy, outlined to The Associated Press by Abrams’ top aides, is a shift from 2018, when she spent generously in her first gubernatorial bid to encourage voters to use mail ballots. It also moves away from Democrats’ pandemic-era emphasis on mail voting, a push that delivered Georgia’s electoral votes to President Joe Biden and helped Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff win concurrent U.S. Senate runoffs to give Democrats control of Capitol Hill….Republicans, including Abrams’ opponent, Gov. Brian Kemp, answered in 2021 with sweeping election changes that, among other provisions, dramatically curtailed drop boxes for mail ballots, added wrinkles to mail ballot applications and ballot return forms, and made it easier to challenge an individual voter’s eligibility. But it also expanded in-person voting….“It’s self-evident we have to have a big early vote in-person,” said Abrams campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo, arguing the new mail ballot procedures make it risky for Democrats to rely too heavily on that option. “What’s not self-evident,” Groh-Wargo continued, “is how the hell you do that….Beginning Sunday, the Democrat’s campaign will ask supporters to commit to vote at in-person polling sites during the first week of early voting, which opens Oct. 17. The campaign will send digital commitment cards to targeted supporters via email and texts, with direct mail to follow. Field workers will ask voters to fill out commitment cards, with 2 million households slated for in-person visits. And the Abrams campaign will make pledge cards a standard part of its campaign events….“A lot of our constituencies are ‘persuasion voters,’” Groh-Wargo said. That doesn’t mean swing voters, she said, because they’re not choosing between Abrams and Kemp — they’re deciding whether to back Abrams or not vote at all.”

In. “Will The Polls Overestimate Democrats Again?” Nate Silver writes at FiveThirtyEight: “As Democrats’ prospects for the midterms have improved — they’re now up to a 71 percent chance of keeping the Senate and a 29 percent chance of retaining the House, according to the 2022 FiveThirtyEight midterm election forecast1 — I’ve observed a corresponding increase in concern among liberals that the polls might overestimate Democrats’ position again, as they did in 2016 and 2020. Even among commenters who are analyzing the race from an arm’s-length distance, there sometimes seems to be a presumption that the polls will be biased toward Democrats….The best version of this argument comes from Other Nate (Nate Cohn, of The New York Times). He pointed out in a piece on Monday that states such as Wisconsin and Ohio where Democratic Senate candidates are outperforming FiveThirtyEight’s fundamentals index — like how the state has voted in other recent elections — were also prone to significant polling errors in 2020. Cohn’s analysis is worth reading in full….As I mentioned, the Deluxe version of our forecast gives Democrats a 71 percent and 29 percent chance of keeping the Senate and House, respectively. But the Deluxe forecast isn’t just based on polls: It incorporates the fundamentals I mentioned earlier, along with expert ratings about these races. Furthermore, it accounts for the historical tendency of the president’s party to perform poorly at the midterms, President Biden’s mediocre (although improving) approval rating and the fact that Democrats may not perform as well in polls of likely voters as among registered voters….By contrast, the Lite version of our forecast, which is more or less a “polls-only” view of the race, gives Democrats an 81 percent chance of keeping the Senate and a 41 percent chance of keeping the House.” Silver goes on to issue a 7-point rebuttal to the argument that recent polls have a pro-Democratic bias. It’s a smidge wonky, but a good read for all political junkies.

A couple of House seat ratings change in favor of Democrats, both in New Hampshire. At Sabato’s Crystal Ball, J. Miles Coleman reports, “Pappas, who now starts the general election campaign with $3 million in the bank, is still in for what could be a challenging race, but we feel comfortable calling him a modest favorite. So NH-1 moves to Leans Democratic.” Coleman adds that for NH-2, “we are holding our rating for it as Leans Democratic….While the map retains 2 competitive districts, we now have both in the Leans Democratic category. Aside from the results of last night’s primaries, where Republicans didn’t seem to put their collective best foot forward, this is also because of the improving national environment for Democrats. On the latter point, it may be worth noting that, with abortion becoming an increasingly salient issue this cycle, New Hampshire is, by some measures, among the states most supportive of abortion rights.” In. his article, “Rating Change: Kuster’s NH-02 Moves from Toss Up to Lean Democrat,” David Wasserman writes at The Cook Political Report, “Sometimes meddling in the other side’s primaries works; other times it backfires. In the case of New Hampshire’s 2nd CD, Democrats’ gambit worked. In a gift to Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster (NH-02), underfunded pro-Trump Republican Bob Burns toppled GOP leaders’ star recruit, moderate Keene Mayor George Hansel, 33%-30% — a result that wouldn’t have been possible if not for $569,000 spent by a liberal Super PAC propping up Burns.”

How Hopeful Should Democrats Be About the Midterms?” Benjamin Wallace-Wells addresses the question at The New Yorker: “The Trump-era realignment poses a different challenge for Democrats. Their voting base and candidates mostly share political aims; the problem is that there simply may not be enough working-class Democratic voters to form a majority in key districts and battleground states. In response, Biden-era Democrats have mostly trusted that the threat of Trump will keep their educated base intact, while focussing on targeted material support for working-class voters: generous pandemic-relief checks and cheaper prescription drugs. This was, essentially, why Biden was picked as the nominee in the first place—he had support among voters without college degrees that the other candidates simply could not match….But the Democrats have also got a bit lucky. In the most competitive Senate races, their candidates are especially adept. The list includes Mark Kelly, the former astronaut, in Arizona; Mandela Barnes, the first Black lieutenant governor in state history, in Wisconsin; and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, who has won three statewide races in Nevada. But Democratic prospects hinge especially on their candidates in the two Senate seats most likely to flip: Senator Raphael Warnock, the pastor of Martin Luther King, Jr.,’s church, in Georgia, and Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, the cargo-shorts-wearing former mayor of the blue-collar city of Braddock, in Pennsylvania. Both Warnock’s and Fetterman’s biographies insulate them somewhat from the Republican line that Democrats are out-of-touch élitists….Much like the Republicans, the Democrats have responded to education polarization by following a path of least resistance, theorizing that they do not need to change their commitments on abortion, climate policy, student-debt relief, and L.G.B.T.Q. rights in order to maintain a majority. This strategy has put enormous pressure on their swing-state candidates, who, in order to win in November, will likely need to secure the support of many voters who disapprove of Biden’s performance as President—without being able to distinguish themselves from the White House ideologically. A recurring question in American politics, given the electoral map’s bias toward rural areas, is how Democrats will seek to win in moderate and conservative places. Liberals might be heartened by the approach of Warnock, Fetterman, and the class of 2022, who are more forthrightly progressive on both economic and social issues and rely on their personas and the extremism of the Trump-era Republicans to make a broader appeal. But, for their politics to stick, those politicians, running in states that are not especially progressive, need to win.”

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