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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

From Thomas B. Edsall’s latest New York Times opinion column: “Stan Greenberg, a Democratic pollster, suggested in an email that the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturning Roe v. Wade was a crucial factor in the escalation of conflict within Republican ranks. This split became evident within weeks of the decision in the abortion rights vote cast by a majority of the electorate in Kansas, a red state, in an August referendum. In the Kansas governor’s contest, “moderate Republicans rebelled against an extreme pro-life, anti-tax, antigovernment conservative, allowing Democrats to win the governorship,” Greenberg wrote….Polling conducted by Democracy Corps, Greenberg said, shows that “moderates are Republicans because of race and immigration, but they are more pro-choice and pro-A.C.A. (the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare), and they are providing a base of voters and support for Republican leaders who are starting to shake up the party.”….During the current session of Congress, Greenberg wrote, “I bet that there will be 10 to 20 Republicans who will work with Democrats to pass important legislation. And they will be empowered by the state examples and the perception that McCarthy is just in the pocket of the Tea Party and Trump Republicans.”

Edsall also notes some trends toward GOP moderation at the state level, including: “At the start of this year, Derek Merrin — a hard-edged anti-abortion conservative supportive of so-called right-to-work laws — was assured victory in his bid to become speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives….Merrin had won majority support from the 67-member Republican caucus in the 99-member Ohio House. His ascent would have marked a significant shift to the right in a state Republican Party known traditionally for its centrism….On Jan. 3, however, when the full Ohio House met to pick a speaker, Merrin was defeated by a bipartisan coalition of 32 Democrats and 22 Republicans, a rarity in this polarized era. The coalition supported a less conservative, less confrontational Republican, Jason Stevens, who told the House after his victory, “I pledge to respect and to work with each and every one of us to address the many concerns of our state.”….Let’s look at a third state, Pennsylvania — where the determination of control in the state House of Representatives awaits the results of special elections for three vacancies. Here, enough Republicans joined with Democrats in a bipartisan vote on Jan. 3 to make Mark Rozzi, a centrist Democrat, speaker of the House….“The commonwealth that is home to Independence Hall will now be home to this commonwealth’s first independent speaker of the House,” Rozzi told his colleagues after the vote. “I pledge my allegiance and my loyalty to no interest in this building, to no interest in our politics. I pledge my loyalty to the people of the commonwealth.”…In Ohio and Pennsylvania, the House speaker can, with some restrictions, set the legislative agenda.”

At FiveThirtyEight, Alex Samuels ponders “What Will New Leadership In Congress Mean For Democrats?,” and writes: “House Democrats officially elected New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries to be their leader this past weekend, coalescing around a fresher face as the new Republican majority took control. The new top three leaders will consist of Jeffries, Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark, who will serve as the new minority whip, and California Rep. Pete Aguilar, who will chair the Democratic caucus….While all of these changes are noteworthy, Jeffries, in particular, makes history as the first Black politician to lead any major party in Congress. At 52, he also marks a stark generational shift for House Democratic leadership following two decades under Nancy Pelosi, who is leaving the position at 82 years old….Jeffries still has a choice to make: Will he use his new mantle to advocate for more progressive policies or continue the unspoken tradition of past rising Black political leaders and move more toward the middle?…And while he’s more liberal than most fellow House members, according to DW-NOMINATE, a political-science metric that uses roll-call votes to measure the ideology of members of Congress, Jeffries has tried to assert his independence from the party’s left wing, saying in 2021, “There will never be a moment where I bend the knee to hard-left democratic socialism.” Jeffries is clearly not a guy who is going to die on any ideological hill. But his bell-ringer speech debut as leader of the House Democrats made it clear he is also not a guy who is going to take any guff from the Republican majority. It’s a pretty good look for House Dems.

Looking ahead to the 2023 governor’s races,  J. Miles Coleman observes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball “While it’s easy to begin looking towards the 2024 election cycle, 3 states will have gubernatorial contests this year…. In Kentucky, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear remains personally popular, but he will be running in a red state with a large GOP bench….Louisiana and Mississippi should be easier contests for Republicans. Term-limited Gov. John Bel Edwards (D-LA) will be hard for Democrats to replace, while Mississippi, where Democrats have not won a gubernatorial contest this century, will also be an uphill fight for them….The initial ratings for these 3 races are Leans Democratic for Kentucky, Safe Republican for Mississippi, and Likely Republican for Louisiana….Of the 3 states seeing governors races this year, Kentucky will likely see the most vigorous 2-party competition. Four years ago, Kentucky voters ousted an unpopular governor from a popular party. This year, the Bluegrass State will weigh whether to keep a popular governor from an unpopular party….Though the status of abortion in Kentucky is being settled in the courts, from a purely electoral perspective, the anti-Amendment 2 vote may provide something of a template for a Beshear win this year. The state’s 2 largest counties, Louisville’s Jefferson and Lexington’s Fayette, both voted over 70% against the amendment — in 2019, Beshear himself received about two-thirds of the vote in each of those large counties. (Those are the pockets of dark blue on the map.) The 3 northernmost counties, which are in Cincinnati’s orbit, also voted, in aggregate, against Amendment 2. Beshear’s overperformance in northern Kentucky was key to his 2 previous statewide wins. It is hard to transfer every element of a referendum to an actual partisan contest, but a similar vote in Kansas last summer presaged Gov. Laura Kelly’s (D-KS) victory in another red state….Considering the governor’s personal popularity and the potential for uncertainty in the Republican primary, we are starting Beshear off as a slight favorite and calling the Kentucky contest Leans Democratic.” Coleman also provides a detailed analysis of the Guv races in MS and LA.

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