At Politico Ally Mutnick and Sarah Ferris report that “Rebranding rift guts Blue Dog Dem ranks: Nearly half the members of the influential centrist coalition are letting themselves out after a failed push for a name change designed for a new era.” As Mutnick and Ferris explain, “Congress’ influential Blue Dog Coalition is getting chopped nearly in half after an internal blow-up over whether to rebrand the centrist Democratic group….Seven of the 15 members expected to join the Blue Dogs this year, including Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.), are departing after a heated disagreement over a potential name change for the moderate bloc. For now that’s left the Blue Dogs with seven, all male members — their smallest roster in nearly three decades of existence. One freshman member remains undecided….At the core of some of the breakaway Blue Dogs’ demands was a rechristening as the Common Sense Coalition that, they argued, would have helped shed the group’s reputation as a socially moderate, Southern “boys’ club.” Blue Dogs have long stood for fiscal responsibility and national security, issues with broad Democratic appeal, but some members felt the name had a negative connotation that kept their colleagues from joining. A majority of other members disagreed, saying they saw no reason to toss out a longstanding legacy….Those tensions came to a head earlier this month as Blue Dog members met for a lengthy debate over the reboot that culminated in a secret-ballot vote to reject the new name, according to interviews with nearly a dozen people familiar with the situation, on both sides of the dispute. Shortly after that vote, Reps. Ed Case (D-Hawaii); David Scott (D-Ga.); Rep. Brad Schneider(D-Ill.); Lou Correa (D-Calif.), Spanberger and Sherrill all left the group.” Here’s hoping the moderates will still be able to work together to insure their influence helps create the mix of policies that can lead Dems to a stable majority.
Speaking of political branding, I was among those who relished the ‘GOP in disarray’ theme the media amped up during the House speakership follies. Turns out, however, that the Republican brand wasn’t all that popular even before McCarthy and Santos became their new poster boys. As Nathaniel Rakich reports at FiveThirtyEight, “Twenty-one percent of respondents said Republicans exhibited stronger leadership than Democrats in Washington in a November 2022 Ipsos poll. And the same pollster showed no significant change after the speaker vote: Nineteen percent said the GOP showed stronger leadership in January 2023….Civiqs maintains a running tracker of whether registered voters have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the Republican Party, and it has remained steady at 64 percent unfavorable, 26 percent favorable since Dec. 22, 2022….Similarly, every week, YouGov/The Economist asks Americans whether they have a favorable or unfavorable view of Republicans in Congress. Between Jan. 2 and Jan. 9, their favorable rating barely changed (from 37 percent to 36.5 percent), and their unfavorable rating slightly ticked up (from 56.7 percent to 58.9 percent)….Finally, Republicans in Congress remained a net of 15 percentage points underwater with registered voters before and after the speaker vote, according to Morning Consult. Interestingly, though, opinions of McCarthy got worse after the vote. His net favorability rating was -20 points on Dec. 29 and -26 points on Jan. 8, even as his name recognition improved slightly between the midterm elections and the speaker election….According to Ipsos, almost half of adults (49 percent) did not follow the speaker election news at all or followed it “not so closely.” A similar 42 percent felt that the fight over the speakership had very little to do with their daily lives….Another reason could be that Americans were already so cynical about Congress that the chaos of early January made them nod and say, “Yup, sounds about right.” In the HarrisX/Deseret News survey, 56 percent of registered voters thought that the dispute was just “politics as usual.””
In “What the Progressive Wing of the Democratic Party Has Planned Next,” Larry Cohen, former president of the Communications Workers of America, DNC member and Board Chair of Our Revolution, writes at In These Times: “While Republicans now control the U.S. House, which stifles prospects for any major Democratic legislation over the next two years, progressives are not slowing their efforts to transform U.S. politics. Both in Congress and through internal Democratic Party decision-making, progressives are building on lessons learned during the first years of the Biden administration to grow their power. This effort includes using their expanding congressional ranks to push progressive policy and when necessary challenge Democratic Party leadership, build progressive majorities in state-level parties and change internal rules to ban dark money in primaries….The most dramatic changes in progressive party reform over the past year can be seen in the growth of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC). After the November 2022 midterms, the caucus now claims an all-time high of 103members — nearly half of all House Democrats….In the past, the CPC has been criticized for failing to deliver on progressive goals and including members not fully committed to achieving them. However, since reforming internal CPC rules in 2020 to create more unity and enforce members voting as a bloc, the caucus has proven to be increasinglyinfluential in the party. Along with such policy wins as including $1,400stimulus checks and expanded unemployment benefits in 2021’s American Rescue Plan, the CPC has helped shape the Democrats’ national priorities and economic playbook under the leadership of Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).” Cohen goes on to share more successes and note a couple of failures, and adds: “What happens inside the Democratic Party and inside party caucuses of elected Democrats is frequently ignored by progressives, who are generally more comfortable protesting and working solely outside the party. Of course, protest is essential, and new party-building is fine. But for those of us who believe we must fight in every possible way to advance progressive issues and win real power, we ignore party reform at our peril, even as we demand broader electoral reforms, such as fusion and ranked-choice voting, proportional representation and more.”
Lest progressive Dems get too optimistic, however, Kyle Kondik shares “Initial Senate Ratings: Democrats Have a Lot of Defending to Do” at Crystal Ball, and explains: “How we see the Senate to start – Democrats have considerably more exposure than Republicans in this cycle’s U.S. Senate races — a point made plainly clear in our initial ratings of the 2024 Senate races….First of all, there’s just the basic math. There are 34 Senate races slated for next year so far — 33 regular contests, plus a special election in Nebraska, where newly-appointed Sen. Pete Ricketts (R) will be back on the ballot to defend the unexpired term left behind by Ben Sasse (R), who resigned to become the president of the University of Florida….Democrats are defending 23 of these seats, while Republicans are defending just 11. That Democratic tally includes the 3 states with independents who caucus with the Democrats: Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Angus King of Maine, and Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The races for next year are shown in Map 1:
Kondike concludes, “Democrats overcame a difficult environment in 2022 and netted a Senate seat in large part because of their ability to court persuadable voters and turn races that could have been referendums on Democrats into, instead, choices between candidates. They will need to do that again in a presidential year, particularly in the otherwise unfavorable states of Montana, Ohio, and West Virginia.”
I looked at the numbers on that Ipsos poll. Sure, 21% think Republicans are stronger leaders. Not good. But Democrats only score 3% higher so it is nothing to write home about.
Democrats shooting themselves in the foot on the energy transition and immigration: