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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Are Biden’s strategic assets for 2024 being undervalued? “In a perfect world, we would not have a presidential election between two men who were born in the WWII era,” Heather Digby Parton writes at Salon. “It’s 2023 and it’s past time to pass the torch. But we are where we are and there are strong reasons to take a breath and realize that Joe Biden is going into this campaign with some serious advantages that would be stupid to toss aside….First of all, the power of incumbency cannot be underrated. In the past 11 presidential elections with incumbent candidates, only 4 were unseated. Both the Clinton and Obama re-elections that everyone was so worried about were helped immensely by the fact that there was no primary and they already had fundraising bases and successful campaign experience….It takes a while for people to catch up to economic good news and Biden has a good story to tell on that front. Reagan, for instance, was underwater in approval in August of 1983 before “Morning in America” and his 1984 landslide re-election. (I’m not suggesting that will happen with Biden — it’s a different world today — it’s just another illustration of how quickly things can improve.)….And there are some other issues in Biden’s favor that are extremely salient at this time such as abortion rights and the attack on democracy, which adds up to a powerful critique of Trump and the authoritarian assault by the Republican party. (Government shutdowns and idiotic impeachments will only help illuminate their extremism) After all, Biden is facing a man who is going to be on trial during most of the campaign next year and could be running as a convicted felon. Yes, his followers will stick with him through it all but the idea that Biden’s age will trump Trump’s criminal status is to suggest that otherwise normal people will prefer an old man who is also a criminal to an old man who has done a good job as president. It’s possible but I’m not convinced it’s likely….It’s in the Democratic DNA to be nervous nellies. And maybe that’s a good thing. It means they won’t be complacent and will work hard to win the election. For the most part it’s paid off in presidential politics for the past 30 years. But it’s 14 months before the election. Nobody should be losing any sleep just yet.”

Ronald Brownstein explains “Why ‘Middle-class Joe’ Biden may need upscale voters more than ever in 2024” at CNN Politics: “Biden’s opportunities with upscale voters are widening because polls show that, compared to working-class voters, they are more likely to view Trump as a threat to American democracy, as well as more likely to support abortion rights. Simultaneously, Biden’s position with working-class voters is eroding largely because they are expressing the most frustration and strain over the economy and inflation….Biden’s opportunities with upscale voters are widening because polls show that, compared to working-class voters, they are more likely to view Trump as a threat to American democracy, as well as more likely to support abortion rights. Simultaneously, Biden’s position with working-class voters is eroding largely because they are expressing the most frustration and strain over the economy and inflation….Biden has some important assets in trying to recapture support from working-class voters, including a moderating trend in inflation, increasingly visible effects of the investments triggered by the trio of big laws he passed in his first two years, and a big campaign budget to saturate the handful of swing states with television advertising burnishing his economic record….But so long as daily necessities in the fall of 2024 cost more than they did when Biden took office – a highly likely outcome – he faces the probability that most Americans, especially those operating on limited incomes, will remain discontent with his economic leadership. If there is a winning coalition for a second Biden term, it may rely on convincing voters who don’t believe the president has delivered for their interests to vote for him anyway because Trump (or another GOP nominee) represents an even greater threat to their values. And that dynamic, almost inevitably, could tilt Biden’s coalition even further toward upscale voters.”

“In the 2020 election,” Brownstein continues, “Biden ran several percentage points better than Hillary Clinton did in 2016 among voters with at least a four-year college education and carried a solid majority of them, according to each of the three data sources cited most often about the results: the exit polls conducted by Edison Research for a consortium of media organizations including CNN, the “validated voters” study by the Pew Research Center, and the estimates by Catalist, a Democratic targeting firm, based on analysis of voter records….That advantage among better-educated voters was enough for Biden to overcome Trump’s narrow edge among all voters without a college degree, according to all three sources. Generally, the analyses showed Biden in 2020 slightly gaining compared to 2016 among White voters without a four-year college degree (though Trump still won them decisively) and Trump gaining somewhat among non-White voters without a college degree (though Biden still carried them decisively)….Compared to his vote share in 2020, Biden’s standing today is weaker among almost every key group in the electorate. But his numbers are especially bleak among voters with less education. In the latest CNN national poll conducted by SSRS, only about one-third of all adults without a degree (and only one-fourth of non-college White adults) said they approved of his job performance as president. Among college-educated adults, Biden’s standing was much more respectable: just over half of them approved of his performance (including just under half of the college-plus Whites.)…not surprisingly, frustration over high prices is especially acute among voters with fewer resources and less financial cushion, which generally include those with less education. “Nobody likes spending more, but the degree to which you can absorb inflation, those at the higher end of the economic scale have less difficulty doing so,” said Democratic pollster Jay Campbell, who studies economic attitudes as part of a bipartisan team that conducts surveys for CNBC….Biden’s ads are emphasizing the slowdown in inflation over recent months. But as Campbell points out, moderating inflation only means prices are rising less quickly; it doesn’t mean prices are returning to their levels before the Covid-19 pandemic. All voters, but especially those of moderate means, are acutely aware of that distinction, Campbell says.”

Brownstein hones in on the economic strategy Biden needs to win next year: “Democratic pollster Geoff Garin says the 2022 midterm elections offer Biden a blueprint for closing that gap. Despite widespread concern over the economy then, he notes, multiple winning Democratic Senate and governor candidates in key swing states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Arizona won anyway, partly by focusing on tangible actions they had taken to help families confront costs, such as the provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act allowing Medicare to bargain for lower drug prices….“When you get into the compare and contrast part of the campaign, Biden has a good story to tell about actions he has already taken and things he will do moving forward to lower prices for people,” Garin argues. “The contrast that Biden is setting up between growing the middle class and trickle-down economics is a good framework for next year.”….Still, Biden will likely face stubborn limits on his ability to win an argument about the economy next year so long as many voters feel that they have less money left at week’s end….Tulchin, the pollster for Sanders, predicts Biden’s effort to make a case for his economic performance “will only have limited impact because he’s an incumbent and people aren’t feeling better off.” Instead, Tulchin says, “The way you win elections as an incumbent is you disqualify your opponent.”….Like most Democrats, Tulchin believes Biden’s best weapons to disqualify Trump, if the two face off again, will be abortion and the fear that Trump would unleash “chaos” if he returned to the White House. And for all Biden’s focus on recapturing non-college voters, those are arguments that inherently detonate more powerfully among those with advanced education – whose support “middle-class Joe,” as Biden called himself at the Labor Day rally in Philadelphia, will likely need more than ever next year to secure another term.” Perhaps a related message could help give Biden – and Democrats – some much needed traction: “Trump and his party have divided, exhausted and paralyzed America.  The only way to restore our national vitality and move forward is a landslide defeat for them in 2024.”

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. RememberUSAlways on

    You’ve underestimated the 2024 media landscape.

    White Republicans will not be able to escape the daily TV RICO trial out of Georgia. The media silo will be diminished as Fox Corporation is paying out hundreds of millions in legal challenges to investors and victims of Trump’s “big lie”.

    The same “big lie” creates a massive gap in trust for Republican leadership as their ability to form coherent arguments is reduced to near zero. They will be forced with a primary choice that will define Republicans ever after.

    Biden still wins.


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