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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In addition to the damage the Ohio abortion referendum would have done if it passed to women’s rights and future referenda in the state, it also pissed away an estimated $20 million taxpayer dollars, according to Republican state senate president, Matt Huffman, on a project that was doomed to fail. But that’s probably a conservative estimate of the true economic cost of the election, because making the threshold for referenda passage 60 percent could have set the stage for cascading taxpayer costs well into the future. As Spencer Kimball reports at cnbc.com, “More than just abortion rights were at stake in Tuesday’s vote. The 60% threshold could have also threatened efforts to raise Ohio’s minimum wage to $15 through a referendum that is expected to be on the ballot in November of 2024….If approved, the wage hike would go into effect in stages, and reach $15 in 2028.” The would translate into lost tax revenues and lost disposable income for a lot of Ohio citizens. Then there is the cost of making future referenda that could save Ohio taxpayers money a bad bet. And if the measure had passed, Ohio taxpayers would surely be shelling out more millions for state and local education, medical care and welfare programs. But it is a safe bet that none of the groups who lobbied so hard for the doomed referendum would be making contributions to help cover such expenses to any state entitlement programs.

Some ‘looking ahead’ considerations on Ohio’s political future from “Don’t Look Now, But Ohio Might Be A Swing State Again” by Phillip Elliott at Time: “Ohio, objectively, has grown more partisan in recent years. Rural counties have deepened their hue of red and the urban ones have gone darker blue. But the shift leftward in Ohio’s cities is lagging others in the region. (A terrific London School of Economics political science blog explains that data here.) But the basic gist is this: Ohio’s three biggest cities—Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati—are politically closer to Des Moines and Indianapolis than reliably blue Philadelphia, and thus insufficient offsets in otherwise red states. For instance, strategists can count on 70% support for Democratic nominees in Philadelphia, while Cincinnati broke for Biden with 57% support. And, unlike other states that went blue, Ohio’s three biggest counties account for just 44% of the population; Philadelphia makes up for 57% of Pennsylvania’s population. Ohio skeptics argue there just aren’t enough voters in Ohio’s big Democratic cities to offset deficits in suburban and rural areas….Yes, but this might not be the whole story. Brown, the state’s senior Senator, is on the ballot next year, and he’s one of national Democrats’ top priorities for defense-at-all costs. Democrats can afford to lose just one of the 23 incumbent seats on the map next year and stay in power. Brown already announced he is running again, and the Republican race to challenge him is likely to become a messy affair on par with the nasty 2022 primary for the seat being vacated by Sen. Rob Portman. For Democrats facing a tough map of defending seats in Montana, West Virginia, and Arizona, any breathing room in Ohio is a welcome development….With both Biden and Brown on the ticket in Ohio in 2024, Democrats might just have a shot at breaking the Trumpist hold over the Buckeye State. The abortion-minded vote this week only adds to the optimism—perhaps ill-placed, admittedly—that Ohio may be poised to roar back to swing-state status. After all, Brown has been preaching Ohio’s competitive nature to anyone who will listen, and his ear on Ohio’s political tuning fork is as good as they come.”

FiveThirtyEight’s Geoffrey Skelley addresses a question of interest to southern Democrats, “Could A Democrat Actually Win Mississippi’s Governorship?” As Skelley writes, “Mississippi’s contest for governor will offer little primary drama because Republican Gov. Tate Reeves and Democratic Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley are all but guaranteed to face each other in November. But their impending clash will test how Republican-leaning Mississippi is, as Reeves isn’t especially popular and Presley has about as good a résumé as Democrats could hope for in the Magnolia State….First elected in 2019, Reeves is seeking a second term as governor, but his tenure hasn’t exactly attracted rave reviews. Morning Consult’s polling in the second quarter of 2023 found that he was tied for the dubious title of least popular governor in the country with a +6-point net job approval rating (48 percent of registered voters approved of him and 42 percent disapproved). Such middling ratings have been a regular thing, as Reeves has never surpassed 52 percent approval in Morning Consult’s surveys. Back in January, 57 percent of voters told Siena College/Mississippi Today that they’d prefer someone else to be the next governor, while just 33 percent backed Reeves….Presley, who I’m mandated by the journalism deities to report is a second cousin of Elvis Presley, is completing his fourth term representing the northern third of Mississippi on the state’s three-member Public Services Commission….Presley has won all four elections for his post by double digits (he was unopposed in 2019) despite his district’s sizable GOP lean: In 2020, then-President Donald Trump carried Presley’s seat by 23 percentage points. Presley’s moderate image — he describes himself as “pro-life” — and focus on less divisive issues like expanding broadband access have undergirded his success. Along those lines, Presley has made tax reductions a central feature of his campaign, including an ad in which he cuts a car in half with a metal saw to talk up his proposal to halve the state’s license plate tax.” However, Reeves does have better head-to-head poll numbers and more money. “The election is about three months away,” notes Skelley, “and Presley can’t be written off entirely, but Reeves is clearly favored.”

David Dayan explores some of the reasons why “It’s Natural That People Feel Bad About the Economy Right Now” at The American Prospect, including: “The dominant economic story in the country during the Biden presidency is the spike in inflation. While the jobs numbers are prodigious, changes in employment by definition affect a smaller number of people than the price of everything, which affects everyone….When inflation “goes away,” that doesn’t mean that every price reverts back to its previous level. For the most part, the rate of price increases just levels off. Anyone pissed off about prices at the grocery store is still going to be pissed off, because they’re still high relative to where they were in 2021. In fact, companies continued to raise prices on food in the second quarter of this year, even as supply disruptions eased. An opportunistic trend of volume dropping and profits rising, which means that companies are taking more margin per unit, has taken hold. We may finally be seeing the limits of this profit-skimming, however; Wall Street investors are starting to punish companies that aren’t increasing sales. If companies chase volume with discounts, consumers will see some relief….The main prices that have fallen already are on gas and energy, but that has ended, in part because of the ongoing heat wave, which prevents refineries from running at full capacity and increases demand for air-conditioning. The positive trends on consumer sentiment are if anything going to go down in the near term, as the most publicly visible posted prices in the country rise….It takes time for these sentiments to fade, even when the economy really has turned around. Ronald Reagan didn’t see the benefits of a stronger economy until a year or so after unemployment began to fall; Bill Clinton and Barack Obama saw the same dynamic. Those rebounds were slow, about a point a month between the summer before their re-elections and Election Day. (Obama’s was even slower, as his economy rebounded more slowly.) You could see this kind of imperceptible change for Biden, if consumer confidence continues on its upward path.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Rob H from VA on

    It would be worth spending some campaign dollars on spots in September, October and November reminding voters of this referendum and its costs, in every Ohio race anywhere on the ballot, for Senate and everything else, where the Republican candidate can be linked to support for the ballot, and use a simple slot machine or cash register animation graphic to ring up the $20 million price tag, and then switch to another animation where the register or ATM is shown dispensing bills right out into a swirling toilet bowl.


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