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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In “Forget DeSantis. Whitmer and Shapiro are defining the future,” Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes: “Here’s my vote for the values that Americans endorsed in the 2022 elections: reasonableness, democracy, governing, progress and freedom. Here’s what they voted against: extremism, Trumpism, culture wars and intolerance….Okay, let’s stipulate that all this applies north of the Florida state line. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, the top draft pick of those longing for Trumpism without Donald Trump, swept to a landslide victory there by playing on all the divisive themes his mentor-turned-enemy thought he had patented. No wonder Trump is going crazy….But in large parts of the nation, voters formed what Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) called an “exhausted majority,” desperate to move on to problem solving. Ryan, alas, lost his Senate race to J.D. Vance in Ohio, but two nearby Democratic victors on Tuesday effectively carried this banner and stand as the antithesis of DeSantis-ism….Meaning that every gushing story about DeSantis should be balanced by pieces about Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan and Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania….Like DeSantis, both Democrats won landslides in states that Trump carried in 2016. Both had coattails for down-ballot Democrats. Both linked progressive objectives, staunch support for the labor movement, a moderate tone and pragmatism about governing. Both showed how to isolate far-right culture warriors and broaden what you might call the live-and-let-live coalition….So don’t get too obsessed with a Trump-DeSantis rumble rooted in a tired, old cultural politics. “Fix the damn problems” is the sound of the future speaking.”

“Control of the House of Representatives remains unclear as of Sunday morning, as Republicans appear to have an edge but a path to a Democratic majority remains,” Andrew Prokop writes at Vox. “To win a majority, a party needs 218 seats. The totals for several close contests and races with many uncounted mail ballots remain in flux. But currently, Republican candidates lead in 221 districts and Democrats lead in 214….So to hold their majority, Democrats need to gain the lead in four House races where Republicans are currently ahead — as well as holding on to their own leads, some of which are quite narrow….A Democratic takeover is probably not the likely outcome at this point, but it is possible. One contest where a Republican previously led, in Maryland’s Sixth District, flipped to Democrats Friday, when Rep. David Trone (D) was called the winner. There are several other uncalled contests, particularly in California, where only 60 percent or so of the vote has been counted and tallies of the remaining mail ballots could change the leads….The catch is that Democrats’ small leads in other close races are far from secure….a lot would still have to go right for Democrats for the GOP’s takeover to be thwarted.” Prokop identifies the key districts to watch, and concludes, “If some of these Democratic leads slip away in favor of Republicans, it’s possible the House will be called for the GOP relatively soon. But if Democrats hang on here and start gaining ground in contests where Republicans are up, House control could take weeks to determine, as California and other states deal with the slow process of processing and counting many thousands of mail ballots. Buckle up.”

So, “Why Did Democrats Do So Well in the Midterms?,” Matthew Cooper asks, then writes at the Washington Monthly, “Let’s look at turnout as a factor in the Democrats staving off utter disaster. Almost 47 percent of eligible voters went to the polls, which is slightly lower than in 2018, when it topped 49 percent, but still high. If Roe galvanized the pro-choice majority, you would expect higher turnout than four years ago, when Roe was threatened but still the law….If the election were all about abortion, you might expect to see an explosion of turnout in states with abortion on the ballot. But if you look at states where the legal-abortion ballot initiatives fared well, turnout was lower than or the same as in 2018….There was a spike in youth turnout, and it was strongly Democratic. The Tufts University Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement found that 27 percent of those critical 18- to 29-year-olds showed up at the polls. That rate is lower than the national average, which is to be expected, but higher than usual, though still lower than 2018. Youth made up 12 percent of all votes in this midterm, still short of 2018, when they were 13 percent.” Cooper notes further, “We still can’t be sure why young voters moved left. Did they vote more Democratic because of abortion rights, or was it the combination of Dobbs and other issues—say, the Biden administration’s student loan forgiveness or the GOP’s less-than-enthusiastic support of LGBTQ rights? It will take time and more in-depth surveys of voter files or data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey’s Voting and Registration Supplement, due next year, to make more sense of it. Keep in mind that the 18–29 cohort becomes more Black and brown every year, more so than the rest of the population, and that alone could account for some of the leftward movement.” It seems plausible that many swing voters decided that Democracy and bodily autonomy were keepers. But, in light of the so-so turnout Cooper notes, I’m also wondering about the dog that didn’t bark — conservatives who were disenchanted with both parties and stayed home.

At Brookings, Elaine Kamarck shares some revealing observations about three states that have dominated headlines during the last few days. “Over time, states change their partisan make-up. Although this is a complicated process, most of it is due to people moving into a state and bringing their partisan leanings with them….Arizona used to be a reliably Republican state and yet, to Trump’s surprise and to the surprise of nearly every pundit in America, he lost that state in 2020. Today, it is the fourth or fifth most popular state in the union to move to—based on census data and on very interesting data from the U-Haul company—which tracks moves….A large number of the people moving to Arizona are from California. For many of them, Arizona offers a lower cost of living, lower taxes, lower housing costs, less traffic, and good schools plus natural beauty….Not surprisingly there are a lot of Democrats among these California transplants….Georgia is right up there with Arizona in terms of the number of people moving there. Atlanta has been an economic powerhouse for some time now. As one professor put it—Atlanta is part of the “growth” South not the “stagnant” South….People from around the country and the world have been moving there making it the center of Democratic politics in the state. In fact, as Professor Charles Bullock, a political scientist at the University of Georgia says: “We know that the strongest Republican voters are people who’ve been in Georgia more than 20 years… Individuals who have been in Georgia less time are more likely to be Democratic.”….Finally, Nevada, like Arizona and Georgia, has seen in-migration that is making it a more competitive state. Like Arizona, most of the new residents are coming from California. In Washoe County, home of Reno, Nevada, the new Tesla plant and other high-tech businesses are attracting people from the San Francisco Bay area who are bringing with them their famously deep blue politics. Meanwhile, Las Vegas, the state’s largest city, is a powerhouse of job creation, ranking behind only three other metro areas in the United States with the fastest growth in job postings. At the presidential level, Nevada has been Democratic since 2008, and its consistently high job growth seems likely to cement that tendency with voters from California….we can expect very close presidential and Senate elections in these states in the next few years. However, if the trends keep going, these states may end up as reliable wins in the Democratic column in future election cycles.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Victor on

    Democrats underperformed in states reliant on Hispanics reliant on tourism jobs (so the Covid effect still lingers, now translating via crime also).


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