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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Matthew Yglesias opines at Slow Boring: “Now that all the races are resolved, the 2022 midterms were pretty clearly the most catastrophic defeat yet for mobilization theory. As Nate Cohn explained in detail in the New York Times last Thursday, Republicans decisively won the turnout battle in key states, even while losing the preponderance of important races. Most years require an in-the-weeds effort to parse whether mobilization or persuasion mattered more because they both point in the same direction (a subject we’ll return to), but this year there was no such dilemma. Differential turnout explains less than 0 percent of Mark Kelly, Raphael Warnock, or Catherine Cortez Masto’s wins — it was an R-leaning turnout year, but they all won….We don’t yet have the same level of visibility into exactly who voted in Pennsylvania, where Democrats had an even better performance in statewide races. But we do know that comparing 2020 to 2022, the PA county with the largest turnout decline was the city of Philadelphia. That’s what you would expect to see if PA had the same turnout dynamics as those other six states, and it would be very unusual for a trend to hit all six states that we have full data for and not represent a national trend….Democrats won key races by persuading a small but nonzero number of Republicans to vote for them….Democrats’ current majority rests on the backs of Sherrod Brown, John Tester, and Joe Manchin, all of whom represent Trump states and face very steep re-election battles in 2024. It’s also notable that there aren’t a lot of targets that are clearly better than Ohio. In 2022, North Carolina, Florida, and Texas were all closer than Ohio. But Florida’s politics seem to have moved further to the right since then, Democrats have come up decidedly short in the last two North Carolina Senate races, and Texas remains a pretty firmly red state….Once you give up on the magical idea of mobilizing the base instead of finding ways to make swing voters like you, it’s easier to see that there actually isn’t a tradeoff here anyway. In other words, you should absolutely try to maximize the turnout of sporadic voters who are likely to vote for you. But there’s no reason to believe there’s a tension between that goal and trying to appeal to swing voters, because the boring truth is that sporadic voters are less politically engaged and less ideological than non-voters….Democrats really did do badly in most Georgia races in November. That’s how we know so precisely that Warnock won thanks to crossover voters. Taken on the whole, Democrats flopped on both turnout and vote choice. Warnock himself just did really well.” Put a little differently, it’s a false choice between turnout mobilization and persuasion. Winning campaigns do both well enough.

In his article, “in “Georgia’s Election Laws Couldn’t Stop Raphael Warnock,” at The Washington Monthly, Bill Scher writes “African American turnout in yesterday’s runoff election appears to have been robust and decisive. While we don’t have final demographic numbers yet, we can compare early vote data from all four Georgia elections over the past two years. Black voters composed 31.9 percent of the runoff early vote, precisely one point more than the January 2021 special election runoff. (Warnock won his first runoff by two points, and according to The New York Times estimate, he will win this time by three.) The Black share of the December 2022 runoff early vote is also higher than their share in November 2022 (29.1 percent) and November 2020 (27.7 percent)….if the point of Republican restrictive voting laws in Georgia and elsewhere was to suppress the vote to such an extent that Democrats couldn’t win, the plan failed. In states with strict voter ID laws that don’t allow for alternatives such as signed affidavits, this year, Democrats won hard-fought governor’s races (Arizona, Wisconsin, and Kansas) and Senate races (Arizona and Georgia). Democrats also performed well in swing states with non-strict voter ID laws, such as Pennsylvania and Michigan, keeping both governorships and winning key congressional races. Perhaps most importantly, Democrats needed to succeed in voter ID states to maintain control of the Senate, and they did….In short, everything both parties have told themselves about election laws—at least in regards to which parties are helped by restrictive and expansive reforms—has been proved wrong repeatedly. Voter ID laws don’t suppress voters, regardless of the intent behind them; academic research has shown that they boomerang and galvanize the voters thought to be targeted for suppression….In fact, after absorbing the 2022 midterm results, Republicans appear to be increasingly aware that instead of disparaging early voting, they should be competing for early voters.” Another point that fits under Scher’s title is that Atlanta’s activist community poured it on again for Warnock. Nobody outworks them, and without them, Warnock would have lost. And they don’t focus only on Black GOTV; they worked in close coalitions with other demographic groups, including Latinos, Asian-Americans and persuadable whites, including suburban soccer moms and and young white women, who had a lot at stake.

At FiveThirtyEight, Geoffrey Skelley and Holly Fuong report on findings from an Ipsos’s KnowledgePanel  collaboration asking 2,000 respondents “how they felt about the election, what policies the next Congress should pursue and their early views of the potential 2024 presidential candidates.” Regarding non-voters,  Skelley and Fuong report that “Among Americans who did not vote this year, 34 percent stated that they never vote in elections4 — a reminder that while turnout was high in 2022 (for a midterm) and record-setting in 2020 (for a modern presidential race), a large swath of potential voters is consistently uninvolved. Meanwhile, about 1 in 4 nonvoters felt that “none of the candidates were good options,” and another 1 in 4 “did not have enough information about the candidates and/or ballot initiatives.” Excuses, excuses. At The Hill, demographer Joseph Chamie noted last year that “The U.S. level of not voting in elections is higher than those of many OECD countries. For example, low percentages of the eligible populations not voting in recent elections where voting is not compulsory include Sweden (13 percent), Denmark (17 percent), South Korea (20 percent), and the Netherlands (21 percent). However, some countries have substantially higher levels of non-voting in recent elections than the U.S., including Switzerland 61 percent, Mexico and Poland both 51 percent, and Japan 47 percent….The major reason why 77 million Americans didn’t cast ballots in the 2020 presidential election was that they were not registered to vote. Approximately 27 percent of all Americans aged 18 years or older, numbering 63 million men and women, had not registered to vote. Those 63 million unregistered U.S. citizens account for 82 percent of those who did not vote in the 2020 presidential election. The U.S. is one of the few countries that requires citizens to register for voting separately from the actual voting….Other reasons offered by those who did not vote or failed to register to vote in the election included not being interested due to voter apathyalienation, skepticism and voter fatigue, purged voter rolls, strict ID laws, and is a hassle. Some non-voters also believed that their vote would not make a difference on the election’s outcome or the country’s policies, they did not like any of the candidates or were undecided on whom to vote.”

“A new report from Inside Elections details how, in the five closest GOP House wins, the Republicans won by a combined measly 6,652 votes,” Prem Thakker writes at The New Republic. “Republicans’ gain of any seats at all came from just 22,370 votes, the combined margin of their nine closest victories….The most razor-thin victory was Colorado Representative Lauren Boebert’s closing win over Democrat Adam Frisch. The far-right candidate, expected to win 97 times out of 100 in FiveThirtyEight’s election simulator, had won the district previously by six points. This November, she won by 546 votes—a 0.16 percent margin that triggered an automatic recount. (The Inside Elections report did not take into account Boebert’s even lower margin of victory after the recount, and we’ve updated the numbers in this piece accordingly.)….Elsewhere, in New York, the state Democrats allowed a disastrous string of losses, with two races being lost by less than one percent, including the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Sean Patrick Maloney….A combination of state party mismanagement, a lack of strong top-of-ticket campaigning from re-elected Governor Kathy Hochul, and a disadvantageous redistricting spurred by former Governor Andrew Cuomo’s appointed judges all contributed to New York Democrats’ disastrous results….In total, New York Democrats lost six races in redistricted sections that voted for Biden in 2020….Of course, Democrats won narrow races too. And these wins came not just from coasting off of attacking MAGA candidates as such, but actually doing the work of campaigning….As Slate’s Alex Sammon points out, one of Democrats’ major upsets—Marie Glusenkamp Perez’s House win in rural Washington—benefitted from a massive organic ground game. The operation came despite lackluster financial support from the DCCC (losing-candidate Maloney’s committee), which dismissed the race as a “reach.”

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