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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Despite all of the legitimate gripes about social media’s influential conservative bias (see Musk, Elon and Zuckerberg, Mark, for example), TV still rules when it comes to political ads. A couple of quick takes from Amy Walter at the Cook Political Report underscore television dominance: “….Traditional advertising (TV and cable), made up 73% of all ad spending in 2022 – But, CTV, Connected TV, has become a bigger share of the political advertising market, representing 12% of all ad spending this cycle. CTV is defined as a device that plugs into your TV (or is part of your TV) that allows you to stream content (think Roku or Apple TV). (AdImpact)….2022 was the most expensive midterm on record for TV ad spending. According to the campaign ad tracking firm AdImpact, the 2022 political cycle was the most expensive midterm election on record, with over $8.9B spent, more than doubling the $3.9B spent during the 2018 midterms. In fact, this year’s midterm spending was just $119M shy of 2020, the most expensive political cycle of all time….However, according to Wesleyan Media Project, while spending on advertising in House and Senate contests was up 10 percent compared to 2018, the volume of TV ads (the number of ads run) “does not break historical records in all cases.” It was 2020, not 2018, that saw the highest volume of TV ads in races for the House and Senate. In House races this cycle, writes the Wesleyan Media Project analysis, ad volumes cycle-to-date were down 7 percent from 2020 and in Senate races the volume was down 35 percent from 2020. “In general, though, ad volumes in congressional races since (and including) 2018 are higher than in the three previous elections in 2012, 2014, and 2016.”

In their op-ed, “Latino voters are still in search of a working-class agenda” in The Los Angeles Times, Republican strategist Mike Madrid and Democratic analyst Lucas Holtz write: “The education divide that has defined American politics over the last three election cycles has begun to appear in the country’s largest blue state, California. Democrats have captured and retained greater shares of college-educated voters in metro areas, but it has come at the expense of losing rural and blue-collar voters to the Republican Party….For California, this trade-off has had the effect of Democrats flipping down-ballot House seats in suburban places like Orange County and northern Los Angeles County but losing races in the rural Central Valley. It could also exacerbate ethnic, class and geographic tensions within the Democratic Party….In California, as with other states with large Latino populations, the educational realignment has become intertwined with Latino voters’ political shift to the right. California’s 17 most heavily Latino congressional districts (where a Republican and Democrat both ran in 2022) have an average college education rate 20% lower than the rest of the state. Every one of these districts swung right from the 2020 presidential election to the 2022 midterms, with an 11.2% aggregated shift. All but one of these 17 districts swung right from the blue wave of 2018 to this year’s 2022 midterm election. There were three competitive, toss-up districts among these 17, each of which Biden won in 2020 and Republicans managed to win this year….Republicans won seven of California’s 10 most competitive congressional districts in 2022, and Latino voters had an outsize impact in the outcomes of almost every one of these 10 districts….The backlash to the Supreme Court overturning Roe vs. Wade, the recent memory of the Uvalde school shooting and the constant drumbeat of MAGA extremism may have been enough to keep swing Latino voters in the Democratic column, but these issues become less motivating as Latino voters are disproportionately affected by rising living costs, steep housing prices and the employment damage done by the pandemic.”

Associated Press reporters  Ayanna Alexander and Gary Fields make the case that “Black voters have been a steady foundation for Democratic candidates for decades, but that support appeared to show a few cracks in this year’s elections….Republican candidates were backed by 14% of Black voters, compared with 8% in the last midterm elections four years ago, according to AP VoteCast, an extensive national survey of the electorate….In Georgia, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp more than doubled his support among Black voters to 12% in 2022 compared with 5% four years ago, according to VoteCast. He defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams both times….If that boost can be sustained, Democrats could face headwinds in 2024 in Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, where presidential and Senate races are typically decided by narrow margins and turning out Black voters is a big part of Democrats’ political strategy….It’s too early to tell whether the 2022 survey data reflects the beginnings of a longer-term drift of Black voters toward the GOP or whether the modest Republican gains from an overwhelmingly Democratic group will hold during a presidential year.” There’s no denying that Republicans are making some small, but potentially-significant gains with Black and Latino voters. Sharon Lure notes at U.S. News that “According to [Univ. of California researcher Robert] Fairlie’s analysis of the census data, the number of Black small-business owners was 28% higher in the third quarter of 2021 than it was pre-pandemic, compared to 19% for Latino business owners and 5% for white and Asian business owners.” Would it help Democrats if they  reviewed and updated their policies to benefit and win support from more small business entrepreneurs?

Paul Glastris explains “How Democrats Won More Rural Votes in 2022” at The Washington Monthly: “Instead of relying on out-of-district volunteers to canvas with scripted messages, [Wisconsin State Senator Jeff] Smith and other successful rural Democrats deploy locals or knock on doors themselves and let voters lead the conversation. They also buy ads in and give interviews to small-town newspapers and radio stations, even if those outlets are arch-conservative.” Noting that The Washington Monthly has been advocating similar strategy for a long time, WaMo Editor-in-Chief Gastric adds, “The overall aim is not to win the majority of rural voters—that’s virtually impossible these days for a Democrat—but to minimize their losses in these areas while getting the maximum number of their core Democratic supporters to vote….other Democratic candidates listened to what Johnson and other party critics had to say about the need to fight for rural votes. The most famous is Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senator-elect John Fetterman, who performed better than Joe Biden in 2020 not only in the suburbs but also in small, rural towns, as well with a strategy he dubbed “Every County, Every Vote.” The state’s newly elected Democratic Governor Josh Shapiro also ran hard in rural counties and did even better there than Fetterman. In Colorado, U.S. Senator Michael Bennet won reelection in a 15-point blowout, thanks partly to the Democrat’s better-than-expected showing in rural areas. And in Michigan, robust results in rural districts plus a new legislative map helped Democrats take control of both houses of the legislature for the first time in 40 years.”

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