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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Tonight we should know the answer to a question Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. poses, “Will Kentucky’s Andy Beshear show Democrats how to win Trump Country?”  As Dionne writes, “Astonishingly, for a Democrat in a state Donald Trump carried by 26 percentage points in 2020, Beshear has become one of the most popular state chief executives in the nation….He did it with a sterling economic record — bolstered by state spending spurred in part by President Biden’s investment programs — and courtesy of an unusually personal link with voters that he forged through empathetic daily briefings during the pandemic. They were so popular that his sign-language interpreter, Virginia Moore, became a beloved celebrity in her own right, and her death this year was mourned across the state. …With polls showing Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron closing fast by rallying his party’s base with attacks on Biden, Beshear is reminding voters that this election is not about a certain white house some 570 miles away….“What you’re seeing is fear and anger, and even encouraging Kentuckians to violate that golden rule and to get one Kentuckian to hate another,” Beshear told the appreciative crowd here. “Listen, this race is about us. It’s about Kentucky. But if we can send one message to the rest of the country, it ought to be that anger politics ends right here and right now.”….It’s a lovely thought, and it’s a reason Tuesday’s gubernatorial battles in Kentucky and Mississippi matter. Neither state is likely to vote for aDemocratic presidential nominee anytime soon. But Beshear and Brandon Presley, the surging underdog Democrat in Mississippi, have shown that their party’s brand can be detoxified on hostile terrain with a focus on jobs, education and health care — and by intensely personal campaigns that encourage voters to forget culture wars and partisan loyalties.”

“The erosion of Democratic strength in rural areas, especially in Appalachia and the western reaches of the state, echoes national patterns,” Dionne explains. “The decline of the coal industry is part of the story. But so is the collapse of an infrastructure of community that once favored Democrats….“There were labor unions in these areas, there were Democratic clubs in these areas,” Contarino said. “People were hearing alternative messages.” Now, as Lainey Newman and Theda Skocpol argue in their insightful book, “Rust Belt Union Blues,” the community-binding messages come from talk radio, conservative churches and other local groups that lean right….That’s why Beshear’s pandemic briefings were so important. They allowed him to crack through those barriers by conveying empathy and cultivating solidarity across the state. “We will get through this,” he said over and over. “And we will get through this together.”….His willingness to admit uncertainty helped him develop a reputation for honesty. “They teach you never to say, ‘I don’t know,’” Beshear told the Louisville Courier-Journal in 2021. “And I had to say ‘I don’t know’ a lot.”….One other aspect of Beshear’s appeal that national Democrats might study: an open religious faith grounded in ideas quite different from those of the Christian right. “For me, faith is about uniting all people,” he told me. “It says all children are children of God. And if you’re truly living out your faith, you’re not playing into these anger and hatred games.”….Democratic state Sen. Cassie Chambers Armstrong, who represents a Louisville-based district, grew up in the foothills of Appalachian Mountains. The author of “Hill Women,” a powerful tribute to her native region’s tenacity, Armstrong said rural voters often feel “overlooked by decision-makers in the outside world.” The Democrats’ “brand problem” in rural areas, she argued, will have to be solved by local Democrats who can make a case for “how these larger policies actually impact people’s lives.”….But this is a long-term project, she added, “best done outside the election contest.”….If he prevails, Beshear could be a powerful voice in that argument. No wonder Republicans are working so hard to beat him.”

Ever wonder if  discouraged voters who are influenced to stay at home by horse-race reporting are contributing to election outcomes? At Journalist’s Resource, Denise-Marie Ordway  comments on “Projecting Confidence: How the Probabilistic Horse Race Confuses and Demobilizes the Public” by Sean Jeremy Westwood, Solomon Messing and Yphtach Lelkes at The Journal of Politics: “This paper examines problems associated with probabilistic forecasting — a type of horse race journalism that has grown more common in recent years. These forecasts “aggregate polling data into a concise probability of winning, providing far more conclusive information about the state of a race,” write authors Sean Jeremy Westwood, an associate professor of government at Dartmouth College, Solomon Messing, a senior engineering manager at Twitter, and Yphtach Lelkes, an associate professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania….The researchers find that probabilistic forecasting discourages voting, likely because people often decide to skip voting when their candidate has a very high chance of winning or losing. They also learned this type of horse race reporting is more prominent in news outlets with left-leaning audiences, including FiveThirtyEight, The New York Times and HuffPost….Westwood, Messing and Lelkes point out that probabilistic forecasting might have contributed to Clinton’s loss of the 2016 presidential election. They write that “forecasts reported win probabilities between 70% and 99%, giving Clinton an advantage ranging from 20% to 49% beyond 50:50 odds. Clinton ultimately lost by 0.7% in Pennsylvania, 0.2% in Michigan, 0.8% in Wisconsin, and 1.2% in Florida.”

Is the Israel-Gaza war changing US public attitudes?,” Shibley Telhami asks at Brookings and writes: “To probe the issue, the University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll with Ipsos asked several questions focused on the role of the United States and the perception of the Biden administration. The poll did not directly ask about attitudes toward the war itself but probed any shifts in public attitudes on the Israeli-Palestinian issue broadly….Here are three takeaways: First, public opinion on U.S. policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian issue remains divided along partisan lines, with an increasing majority of Republicans wanting the United States to lean toward Israel, while a declining majority of Democrats wants the United States to lean toward neither side. Those who want to lean toward Israel increased since last June, the last time we asked about this issue….A majority of Republicans, 71.9%, say they want the United States to lean toward Israel, compared with 47.3% in June, while a majority of Democrats, 57.4%, said they wanted the United States to lean toward neither side, a drop from 73.4% in June. A 53.6% majority of independents also wanted the United States to lean toward neither side, a drop from 71.4% in June….While those who wanted the United States to take the Palestinians’ side remained relatively constant since June, those who wanted the United States to lean toward Israel increased not only among Republicans but also among Democrats, going from 13.7% in June to 30.9% in October; it also increased among independents, going from 20.8% in June to 37.9% in October….It is notable that there was no statistically significant change in the attitudes of young Democrats (under 35). In June, 14% wanted to lean toward Israel, and this increased to 14.7% in October; 17% wanted to lean toward the Palestinians in June compared to 16.2% in October. Among young Republicans and independents, however, there were significant increases among those wanting to lean toward Israel, but also smaller increases among those wanting to lean toward the Palestinians. Overall, a majority of young Americans, 54.5%, wanted the United States to lean toward neither side.”

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