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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Take a peek at the Cook Political Report’s “2023 Cook PVI℠: District Map and List (118th Congress),” which provides a measure of the “partisanship” of each of America’s 435 congressional districts. As the report notes, “In August of 1997, the Cook Political Report introduced the Cook Partisan Voting Index (Cook PVI) to provide a more accurate picture of the competitiveness of each of the 435 congressional districts. With the 2022 PVI release, we made a slight change to how we calculate PVI scores: instead of using a 50/50 mix of the two most recent presidential elections to assess partisanship as we had done in the past, we switched to a 75/25 weighting in favor of the more recent presidential cycle. Using the updated formula, we are now re-releasing PVI scores for every Congress since the 105th (1997-1998).” Hover your mouse/finger over any congressional district in their interactive map, and the pop-up tells you the number of the district, the name of the incumbent, his or her party identification and the 2023 PVI. For the “118th Congress District Map and List (2023-2024)….The 2023 Cook PVI scores were calculated following the 2021 round of redistricting, using 2016 and 2020 presidential election results. They are identical to the PVI scores released in 2022.” For example, the PVI for NC-12 (incumbent Alma Adams) is D+13, meaning the district leans Democratic by 13 points, based on the results of the 2020 and 2016 presidential elections, weighted for the more recent 2020 results. One of the most competitive districts in the U.S., IA-3 (incumbent Republican Zach Nunn) has a PVI of R+3. Glancing at the interactive map, we learn such tidbits as the mountain west states of UT, CO and NV have no deep red districts, while most of the land in PA’s districts are in deep red territory. NM is bathed in light blue, with no red districts, while GA’s Democratic strength is heavily concentrated in metro Atlanta. The 2023 hover map is a freebie, but access to PVI charts before 2016 runs through a paywall.

Some nuggets from “The last 48 hours revealed the GOP’s intractable 2024 dilemma: Trump and pro-lifers own the Republican Party. That’s bad for its political future” by Zack Beauchamp at Vox: “First, Donald Trump was formally indicted in New York — a move by prosecutors that appears to have unified the party around him, cementing his already rising poll numbers and making it harder to imagine the GOP ever moving on. This is despite the fact that 60 percent of Americans approve of the indictment, and he remains politically toxic among the majority of Americans….Second, Republicans lost control of the Wisconsin Supreme Court in an off-year election — a campaign where abortion was “the dominating issue,” per University of Wisconsin political scientist Barry Burden. The repeal of Roe v. Wade brought back an 1849 state law, never technically repealed, that banned abortion at all stages of pregnancy (with an exception for the mother’s life). Janet Protasiewicz, the liberal candidate in the Supreme Court race, openly campaigned on her support for abortion rights. She won by a comfortable margin in a closely divided state — yet another sign that strict abortion bans are seriously unpopular….Third, the Florida Senate on Monday approved a six-week ban on abortion — a bill pushed and supported by Gov. Ron DeSantis. The GOP’s most plausible non-Trump candidate has now tied himself to one of its most unpopular policy positions with a proven capacity to power Democratic electoral wins….“Banning abortion without any exceptions is probably as unpopular, or more unpopular, as defunding the police,” David Shor, a leading Democratic data analyst, told me last year. After Dobbs, “abortion went from being a somewhat good issue for Democrats to becoming the single best issue.”

Piling on here, Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. notes, “The victory of liberal Milwaukee Judge Janet Protasiewicz over conservative Dan Kelly was nonpartisan in name only. Her win ratified the importance of the two issues that helped Democrats block a Republican wave in November: abortion rights, in the wake of Dobbs, and the battle for democracy, in the wake of the Trump presidency. Protasiewicz prevailed by 11 points a state Joe Biden carried in 2020 by less than one. And in a bitter Chicago race for mayor, Brandon Johnson, a little-known county commissioner six months ago, edged out former schools executive Paul Vallas, who expected to ride deep anxieties about crime into City Hall….Both are Democrats, but Johnson painted Vallas as a closet Republican who had once said he would convert to the GOP and had been heard calling the impeachment effort against Donald Trump “a witch hunt.”….Wisconsin was a case of exceptional Democratic unity and mobilization. Protasiewicz not only overwhelmed Kelly in the Democratic strongholds of Milwaukee and Madison but also held down his margins in traditionally Republican areas.” But Dionne also observes that “In what may be the key message from both contests, [WI Democratic Party Chair Ben] Wikler argued that Democrats needed to address the crime issue directly in order to pivot to the broader messages on which they can win elections….“The essential thing for Democrats is to make clear that they care about public safety and then to make clear which candidate takes freedom seriously,” he said. “You have to do both things. The right-wing argument about crime only works if it’s not effectively neutralized.”

Just after the euphoria for liberal Democrats following the big win in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race and the Chicago Mayor’s election, comes a big bummer, the flipping of North Carolina’s state legislature into a veto-proof majority for Republicans.  The party-switcher in this instance is NC State Rep. Tricia Cotham, who won her last election as a Democrat by 20 points in Charlotte’s ‘burbs. At CNN Politics, Dianne Gallagher and Devon M. Sayers note that “Cotham’s switch could have major implications for lawmaking in the Tar Heel State. Republicans already held a supermajority in the North Carolina Senate. Cotham’s flip gives them 72 seats in the state House – and enough votes in both chambers to override any veto from Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.” Cotham trotted out the predictable blah blah about how the Dems no longer rep her pristine values. Cotham, whose mother, Pat Cotham, was a DNC member and whose ex-husband, Jerry Meek, was chair of the state Democratic Party, was first appointed by Democratic Governor Mike Easley to fill a seat vacated by a retirement in the state legislature in 2007. NC’s Democratic Party Chair Anderson Clayton commented that ““HD112 is a 60% Democratic district….And they did not choose to elect a Republican. They chose to elect a Democrat.” In the past, she claimed to support abortion access, voting rights reforms and a doubling of the minimum wage, all of which are opposed by state Republicans. There is usually a power politics and/or other lucrative reward behind the stated reason for a decision to switch political parties, but it often takes a while before it becomes clear.  There are always some careerists who more interested in their own success than the public good sprinkled among razor-thin majorities, particularly in state legislators. Unfortunately, there are no recall provisions in NC law.

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Victor on

    No mention so far of the Chicago Mayoral race? Isn’t it at least partially representative of the dynamics inside the Democratic coalition?


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