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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In “Elections 2023: Democrats Enjoy a Strong Night,” Kyle Kondix and J. Miles Coleman share their thoughts on Tuesday’s election at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, including “Last night’s results have given Democrats a shot in the arm and have confounded the recent narrative about Democrats being in deep trouble next year. But it’s also true that these races in many respects differ from the election coming up next year. It may be the case that President Biden is in fact uniquely vulnerable, and that even former President Trump — himself dragged down by plenty of vulnerabilities that likely are not getting the kind of attention now that they will if he is renominated — could beat Biden. It may also be the case that polling a year out from an election is not predictive (and it often is not). Maybe the Democrats do just have an advantage now in smaller turnout, off-year elections as their base has absorbed many higher-turnout, college-educated voters while shedding lower-turnout voters who don’t have a four-year degree. Maybe the presidential year turnout will bring out more Trump voters and give the Republicans a clearer shot. About all we feel comfortable saying is that we should continue to expect the presidential race to be close and competitive — a boring statement, we know, but probably true….One other thing before we take a quick look at some more granular results: In case it wasn’t already blindingly obvious before, the abortion issue in a post-Dobbs political environment continues to be a significant advantage for Democrats. Another abortion-related state ballot issue triumphed in Ohio; the abortion issue, we suspect, helped bring southeast Pennsylvania more in line with presidential partisanship, powering the Democratic victory there; even in Kentucky, Beshear was able to run against the strong anti-abortion stance of Cameron as part of his campaign; and in Virginia, abortion rights were a huge factor in the campaign, and Democrats came out on top (albeit narrowly). Abortion is not a one-size-fits-all automatic decisive winner for Democrats in every race, but it’s clear that the Democrats are just closer to where average Americans are on the issue than Republicans, and they have used the issue to great effect in many parts of the country.”

Kondik and Coleman note further, “At the topline level, there was hardly any difference between Issue 1 in Ohio, the reproductive rights vote, and Issue 2, a ballot issue that legalized marijuana sales and use. As of Wednesday morning, Issue 1 was leading 56.6%-43.4%, while Issue 2 was doing slightly better, 57.0%-43.0%. However, the actual county-level voting patterns were notably different in some places, as the marijuana issue did less well in Northeast Ohio and some other places than the abortion rights issue but a lot better in many other parts of the state, winning several Appalachian counties ranging from east of Cincinnati to Athens, home to Ohio University (alma mater of one of the authors). We were not surprised that Athens turned in the highest “yes” vote in the state on the marijuana issue; we also could not conceal a chuckle when we saw that sparsely-populated Meigs County, Athens’s southern neighbor and home to the legend of “Meigs Gold,” narrowly backed the marijuana issue despite strongly opposing the abortion issue. Undergraduate laughs aside, we suspect that for some rural Ohio counties, backing marijuana may have been an economic issue as much as anything else. Map 2 shows the differences between the two issues at the county level.” Wherever it is possible, Democrats might do well to put both issues on the ballot a year from now.

“Tuesday’s wins will likely validate Democrats’ plans to continue to run on abortion next year, a strategy that has given them a series of almost uninterrupted wins since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer,” Zach Montellaro writes in “Why Democrats’ big Virginia win is also a victory for Biden” at Politico. “In hundreds of races since Donald Trump’s conservative Supreme Court appointments overturned Roe v. Wade, we’ve seen Americans overwhelmingly side with President Biden and Democrats’ vision for this country,” Biden’s campaign manager Julie Chávez Rodríguez said in a statement Tuesday night. “That same choice will be before voters again next November, and we are confident the American people will send President Biden and Vice President Harris back to the White House to keep working for them.”….They also show that Youngkin doesn’t have the silver bullet for solving the GOP’s electoral problems with abortion, as his operation had hoped. Youngkin’s operation poured millions into ads that said Republicans in the state would push for a 15-week ban on abortion, calling their position reasonable and casting Democrats as the ones who are extreme….Voters, evidently, did not agree….In a small way, Democrats’ wins in Old Dominion on Tuesday also makes a 2024 rematch between Biden and Trump more likely….Some big GOP donors nervous about Trump’s continued stranglehold over the party have been practically begging Youngkin, a rising star in the party, to launch a last-minute bid for the presidential nomination. The governor has steadfastly insisted he was focused on winning Virginia’s legislative elections, but pointedly he never entirely ruled out a run….,Now, Virginia voters have weighed in — and may have knocked the white knight off of his horse.”

From “Andy Beshear offers Democrats some lessons for how to win in Trump country” by Li Zhou at Vox: “Much of Beshear’s support seems to stem from his successful leadership of the state both economically and during various disasters. In the course of Beshear’s tenure, Kentucky has attained one of the largest budget surpluses in its history, much of which has gone into its “rainy day fund.” The state has also attracted major external investment projects related to battery manufacturing for electric vehicles. Additionally, voters have praised Beshear’s leadership during a series of crises including the Covid-19 pandemic, when he held nightly briefings about the status of the virus in the state; a mass shooting at a Louisville bank in which one of the governor’s “closest friends” was killed; and severe flooding that required rebuilding in many parts of Kentucky….Beshear centered much of his campaigning on the state’s low unemployment rate; a slew of business investments, including a new project from Ford; and the state relief funds that were established for communities to rebuild after devastating tornadoes and floods….Beshear also focused on abortion rights and called out Kentucky’s near-total abortion bans. In November 2022, voters in Kentucky voted against supporting a state constitutional amendment that would ban abortion. Republicans, meanwhile, put forth attacks about Biden’s leadership and Beshear’s ties to the president, argued that Beshear is to blame for rising crime rates, and criticized his vetoing a measure that would ban gender-affirming care for minors….Although Beshear touted infrastructure projects that were funded from legislation Biden previously championed — like pipes for clean drinking water — he’s put the focus on the benefits the state has gained, rather than where the money came from.”

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