washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In “Working-Class Joe,” Robert Kuttner warns at American Prospect: “Biden’s several public-investment laws serve as a full-employment act for the building trades, extending into much of the next decade. In Biden’s TV ads, how about a real-life construction worker, and a real-life autoworker, telling what Biden has done for them and why they support him. How about a stressed parent telling how much difference the Child Tax Credit made in their lives, and why a vote for Biden and a Democratic Congress is a vote to restore and extend it….“Our House, Senate, and state legislative candidates are significantly outperforming Biden and make every branch competitive in 2024,” pollster Stan Greenberg told me. “The polling in the battleground states shows him running significantly better than 2020. Critically, he can run stronger if he stops talking about their accomplishments and makes the election a future choice with the Republicans, on the very same issues he has been speaking about.”….Getting this right is urgent. The most recent Washington Post/ABC poll, if accurate, suggests the risk of a catastrophe in 2024 for Democrats. Not only is Biden’s approval rating down to 37 percent favorable and 56 percent unfavorable. His rating on the economy is even worse, 30 percent positive to 64 percent negative….The Post poll is something of an outlier. It shows Biden trailing Trump by ten points while other polls show the race as a dead heat. And it shows Trump as more popular now than when he left office. It even shows that more voters hold Democrats than Republicans responsible for the budget impasse….But even if the Post poll overstates these trends because of sample error, there is a useful warning here. The Trump years are remembered by many voters as better than the Biden years—no inflation, low interest rates, no war in Ukraine, no pandemic until 2020. This is grossly unfair, but life is unfair; and Trump will work to maximize this perception.”

Trump is weaker among independents than Republicans in primary polls,” Geoffrey Skelley notes at Five ThirtyEight: ” Primary polling suggests that Trump is not performing as well among Republican-leaning independents and unaffiliated voters who plan to vote in the GOP nomination race as he is among self-identified Republicans. And past Republican presidential primaries have demonstrated that independent voters can make up a significant chunk of the electorate in early voting states and, if their preferences differ markedly from Republicans, can influence outcomes….To be clear, Trump usually leads among independent voters in primary polls — just by smaller margins than he does among self-identified Republicans. In what may be an obvious point, his large advantage among Republicans matters a great deal considering far more Republicans will vote in the GOP contest than independents (or Democrats, for that matter). During the competitive periods of the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Republican presidential primaries, around 70 to 75 percent of primary and caucus voters identified as Republican, according to ABC News’s aggregate exit poll data, while about 20 to 25 percent identified as independent or something else (5 percent or fewer identified as Democrats). But if the Republican race does tighten in the next few months, the preferences of independent voters could matter, particularly in New Hampshire, which has one of the largest blocs of unaffiliated voters of any state in the country….Throughout the campaign, we’ve seen Trump perform better among Republicans than among GOP-leaning independents in primary polls. For instance, a May 2023 Quinnipiac University poll found Trump attracting 60 percent among Republicans, but just 46 percent among Republican-leaning independents. Earlier this month, Quinnipiac found Trump pulling in 67 percent of Republicans, compared with 47 percent of GOP leaners. And across national surveys conducted since Aug. 1 with available crosstab data, we usually saw a meaningful gap in support for Trump between Republicans and independents….We’re also seeing the split between Republicans and independents in state-level polling, too, which is important because parties don’t use a nationalprimary to determine their nominees. Instead, they employ a sequential, state-by-state process in which the places that vote first influence — sometimes more, sometimes less — the elections that follow. So if the race becomes more competitive than it is right now, independents who cast a ballot in the GOP primary could influence the outcome, especially in independent-rich New Hampshire.”

From “Democrats Are on a Winning Streak That Could Transform Our Politics” by John Nichols at The Nation: “In the past few days, Democrats have secured majority control of the Pennsylvania House and moved within one seat of ending Republican control of the New Hampshire House. Those wins are not aberrations. They are the latest measures of a nationwide blue wave that has seen Democrats outperform expectations in 24 of 30 special elections for open state legislative seats this year. Legislative contests that were once considered local or regional races are being nationalized, as concerns about abortion rights and voting rights—two issues that are up for grabs in statehouses—are putting Republican candidates in a perilous position….in recent years, Democrats have begun to pay more attention to down-ballot races. At the same time, as the GOP has lurched toward right-wing extremism, Republicans have struggled to defend positions that a lot of voters find indefensible….That’s changing the game for Republicans, who are suddenly on a serious losing streak….On average, according to a fresh assessment by the data crunchers at FiveThirtyEight, Democrats are finishing 11 points better than the historic voting patterns of their districts would have predicted. That doesn’t mean that they are winning every race; sometimes, they are merely closing the gap in heavily Republican districts. But in other cases, Democrats are flipping Republican seats and raising the prospect that they will take control of legislative chambers that are currently controlled by the GOP….What’s going on? Why, at a point when Democrats are fretting about President Joe Biden’s weak poll numbers and about the prospect of losing the Senate in 2024 contests that are weighted against them, are the party’s candidates doing so well in state legislative races?….GOP candidates find themselves in far more precarious positions than casual observations of Biden’s low approval ratings might suggest….The polls may be concerning, but actual election results are not just looking good for the party. They’re looking excellent.”

Walter Shapiro has encouraging words for Democrats in”Yes, the Polls Are Bad for Biden. But Republicans Still Have It Much Worse” at The New Republic, including: “The Republican Party is fast becoming the political version of the 1962 Mets. On every front, they are booting easy double-play ground balls and missing bases with Marvelous Marv–like abandon. From embodying chaos theory in the House to genuflecting before the Great God Trump in the presidential race, Republicans can’t get a handle on how to play the game of politics. They have forgotten that it’s all about winning elections, not catering to the self-indulgent fantasies of the party’s right-wing base….let me advance a contrarian notion that isn’t quite a prediction: Maybe the willful self-destructiveness of the Republican Party will finally catch up with them. Sooner or later, American politics will give us an old-fashioned blowout election. And while I don’t minimize potential Democratic problems such as Biden’s age, dwindling enthusiasm among Black and Hispanic voters, and stubborn skepticism of the president’s economic record, a case can be made that the handicappers and railbirds are underestimating the consequences of the GOP’s embrace of funeral-pyre politics….Not only is a government shutdown virtually inevitable on October 1, but there is also scant evidence that the House Republicans can claim that they tried to do anything to avert it….Since 1995, the GOP has triggered three major federal work stoppages, all of which ended with a full-scale Republican retreat and dismal poll numbers. This time around, the House Freedom Caucus rebels don’t even have an articulate set of demands, just primal rage. They are barely even paying lip service to past justifications of shutdowns, namely the need to rein in federal spending….For a political party that has made a fetish out of portraying the Democrats as weak on national security, the Republicans will be hard-pressed to shout, “Support the troops,” when a government shutdown means that two million military personnel will receive delayed paychecks….Republicans are likely to bet the presidency on the nutcase notion that swing voters will be attracted to the spectacle of the former president in the dock.”

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