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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

If this doesn’t work, what will? At Politico, Gary Fineout reports, “Florida Democrats see a possible path to winning America’s once-foremost battleground state: Abortion and marijuana….National Democrats had all but written off Florida as a lost cause — a former purple state turned solid red by the MAGA movement and Gov. Ron DeSantis. But key party leaders in the state, desperate to turn things around in 2024, are confident that citizen initiatives dealing with abortion rights and recreational marijuana legalization could fuel turnout and boost the party’s chances….“It will have a transformative impact on the election,” said former state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an Orlando Democrat who was swept out of office last year amid Florida’s red wave and is now running for the state Senate….When Democrats gathered in Miami Beach this month to raise money and strategize about 2024, they were buzzing about the prospect of what such high-profile citizens initiatives could mean. Republicans, they said, could suddenly find themselves at a disadvantage….Democratic volunteers and paid canvassers will help gather signatures for the pot and abortion amendments when they go out into the field….There’s no guarantee right now that either the abortion rights or recreational marijuana initiative will make the 2024 ballot. The pot amendment, funded almost entirely by the marijuana giant Trulieve, has already gotten over 1 million signatures, more than enough to qualify. But Florida’s conservative-leaning Supreme Court still needs to approve the initiative and state Republican Attorney General Ashley Moody has asked the high court to reject the measure….Organizers for the abortion rights initiative, which would create a constitutional amendment banning restrictions on abortion before about 24 weeks, say they have gathered more than 400,000 signatures and are on pace to reach one million in the next couple of months. If approved, it would block Florida’s current ban on abortion at 15 weeks of pregnancy and this year’s six-week ban, which remains in limbo until the state Supreme Court decides on a legal challenge to the bans….The hope is also that the abortion and marijuana initiatives will provide an incentive for infrequent voters to turn at the polls. And even if it’s not enough to help Biden win Florida — which Trump won in 2020 — it may make a difference in down-ballot contests.” At present 26 states allow some form of ballot initiative.

Talking Points Memo Editor Josh Marshall provides a fresh take on the “Is Biden too old to run for president?” issue, and writes: “If you’re a Democrat into politics mostly as an observer, Joe Biden’s been carrying the torch for three years. You cheer his victories, of which there have been quite a few. You smack down the unfair criticisms. You share Dark Brandon memes when he pulls a rabbit out of a hat. You’re invested. Certainly not everyone is. But it’s in the nature of partisanship that most are. And by definition the people serving under Biden almost certainly are. And they’re in power….All of this applies almost infinitely more when you’re actually in the midst of the reelection campaign. We can imagine an alternate universe in which a few months after taking office Biden announced that because of his age and the unique mission of the 2020 election he wouldn’t run for reelection. A key reason this doesn’t happen is because people elect a president to be president and a huge amount of a president’s power is bound up in the expected reelection campaign. Have that announcement and I can close to assure you there’s no infrastructure bill or Inflation Reduction Act. It’s not just announcing you won’t seek reelection. It’s basically announcing you’ll barely be in power during your first term….In any case, now we’re in the midst of the campaign. Does it worry you that concerns about Biden’s health could weaken his reelection bid? Yes? Well me too. But certainly the best way to weaken Democratic chances of holding the White House is to suddenly kick off a totally open primary contest, very late on the calendar, with a host of strong and eager contenders and no clear standout winner….Throwing this debate wide open again with no warning would be about the best way imaginable to wrongfoot the party going into a general election and greatly increase the chances of defeat. And this doesn’t even get into the separate though related issue of racial and gender inclusion. Should it be another white man? That’s a tough sell. Can it be easily denied to the black woman who is the incumbent vice president and has the position that would normally have the inside track on the succession?” We could also ask, if Biden quits, will it look like he is caving to ageist prejudices? Would this piss off high-turnout senior voters enough for a big bunch of them to stay home on Election Day, or worse?

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes about the downer vibe the GOP has successfully deployed to darken the public’s perception of President Biden’s victories. No, it’s not a majority of American voters; but it could be a big enough slice of the electorate to do the needed damage. Dionne writes, “Republicans might be damaging their long-term prospects with extremist tactics, but Democrats must confront an unhappy reality: The GOP’s merciless personal and ideological warfare, particularly in the House, is making it much harder for President Biden to sell his achievements….The poisonous nature of our politics nurtures a sense of exhaustion with public life that works against any incumbent, especially one trying to convince voters that the government is making their lives better. As members of the party that believes in public action, Democrats are especially hurt by a mood of frustration and cynicism….The GOP’s efforts to insert often unsupported accusations into the news cycle muddle Biden’s comeback campaign. “If you’re Biden, you have a really good story to tell,” [pollster Geoff] Garin told me, “but it’s almost impossible to communicate effectively in this media environment.”….”Biden is also consciously rebuffing Reagan’s trickle-down economics, arguing that government intervention in the economy is essential to “growing the middle class,” the magic words meant to appeal to the diverse coalition the president needs to assemble….If Biden is to have a recovery akin to Reagan’s, his campaign will have to reverse the perceptions of the two parties and dispel 2022’s memories….This will not be an easy climb.” Of course the real progenitor of the “exhaustion” is Trump, who has done more to make U.S. politics a bickering hellscape than anyone. It’s not just the volume; it’s the relentless echo chamber, trying to blame all discontents on Biden and Democrats.

Dionne continues, “A Morning Consult poll this month found 68 percent of Americans saying the country is on the wrong track; only 32 percent think it’s on the right track….The promising news for Biden is that the “right track” number was up eight points from about a year ago, and it rose 13 points among Democrats, from 41 percent to 54 percent….Preventing this trend from taking hold is why Republicans are doing all they can to accentuate the gloomy. If their over-the-top attacks on Biden make you want to give up on politics, GOP leaders will be able to declare “mission accomplished.”….Getting this message across is vital, said Navin Nayak, president of the liberal Center for American Progress Action Fund. His group’s research shows Republicans have a “built-in, decades-long advantage as the party that’s focused on the economy that makes it harder for Democrats to break through.” Democrats, he added, “don’t talk enough about the economy,” and their economic goals are unclear to voters…..Democrats have to do a better job of confronting the  GOP propaganda and pinning the “divisive” label on Republicans. Dems must also brand the Republicans as phonies, who show up at ribbon-cutting events for projects they voted against. Big media is doing a good job of publicizing Trump’s responsibility for the January 6th mob violence/coup attempt, his confiscation of top secret documents and his outrageous phone call urging the Georgia Secretary of State to “find” enough votes to flip the Electoral College. But big media is not good at holding the Republican Party accountable, partly because they are afraid of appearing one-sided. It falls to Democrats to do more to place blame on Republicans who are enabling Trump. They must say that in interviews. Crank up the volume and the frequency of political ads, craft irresistible memes for social media and script sound bites that will be repeated because they are catchy. Brand the GOP as corrupt whiners. They will provide the material. The trick is to do all this while making substantial, steady, positive leadership the Democratic brand. It’s a tall order. But it must be filled. Such a messaging campaign doesn’t have to persuade everyone, just enough swing voters.

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