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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

At Maddowblog Steve Benen reports: “One need not be a political expert to know what issues Republicans see as their strengths. If it were up to GOP leaders, the public conversation would focus entirely on inflation, border security and crime — not because the party has solutions to any of these challenges, but because polls tend to show that voters favor Republicans more than Democrats on these issues….That said, there are plenty of issues that favor Democrats, most notably health care. A recent national survey from NBC News found the party with a 23-point advantage over the GOP on health care, which is one of the reasons Republicans generally avoid the subject….It was against that backdrop that Donald Trump apparently thought it’d be a good idea to publish this message to his social media platform on Saturday morning, telling Americans that he’s “seriously looking at alternatives” to “Obamacare.” The former president went on to complain about Republican senators who failed to “terminate” the Affordable Care Act in 2017, concluding, “[B]ut we should never give up!”….The public comments coincided with a written statement from the president’s re-election campaign. “Forty million people — more than 1 in 10 Americans — have health insurance today because of the Affordable Care Act and Donald Trump just said he would try to rip it away if he returns to power,” spokesperson Ammar Moussa said. “He was one vote away from getting it done when he was president — and we should take him at his word that he’ll try to do it again….“That means letting insurance companies deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions like diabetes, cancer, or asthma; kicking college kids off their parents’ coverage the moment they graduate; leaving a job once again resulting in a loss of coverage; premiums skyrocketing; and middle class families suffering. Donald Trump’s America is one where millions of people lose their health insurance and seniors and families across the country face exorbitant costs just to stay healthy. Those are the stakes next November….If Democrats were to have literally written a script for Trump to follow, they probably would’ve had the Republican pick a fight over the future of the ACA. It was awfully generous of him to play along for no apparent reason.”

“The problem for Biden is that Republicans have shown themselves over time to be brilliant at setting campaign narratives,” Colorado Sun columnist Mike Litton writes. “And the narratives that Biden is too old, that the economy sucks, that the border situation is in crisis make the job fairly easy….Trump may be slightly ahead in the polls, but no one is really running against him yet. The Republican pretenders, other than Chris Christie, have to be provoked to even mention him. It took Nikki Haley days — and only after she was asked — to note that Trump’s use of  “vermin” may not have been the best choice of words. I don’t think Ron DeSantis ever commented on it…. Even Biden has been trying to make the campaign about his own successes, which is the usual strategy for an incumbent. But there are two incumbents in this race. And what we know is that whenever Trump is on the ballot, voters inevitably choose between the candidate who is Trump and the candidate who’s not Trump….The candidate who is Trump is campaigning as a would-be strong man, as a democracy-defying defendant facing 91 charges in multiple courtrooms, as an immigrant basher who promises to round up undocumented immigrants by the millions, as the president who appointed the Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade….That should be enough, but we learned in 2016 how these things can go….The way to beat Trump is to remind voters that he is Trump, as Biden did four years ago. A younger, more vibrant Democrat could probably have done that better. But at this point the question is not whether it’s time for Democrats to panic, but what they do to make sure Biden can pull off that trick, and beat Trump, one more time.”

Has No Labels Become a Stalking Horse for Trump?,’ NYT columnist Thomas B. Edsall asks, and writes, “After its founding in 2010, the group was praised by moderates in both parties as a force for cooperation and consensus. Now, however, No Labels is a target of criticism because of its plan to place presidential and vice-presidential nominees of its choosing on the 2024 ballot — a step that could tip the outcome in favor of Donald Trump if he once again wins the Republican nomination….No Labels officials contend that their polling suggests that their ticket could win….Numerous factors exacerbate the suspicion that whatever its intentions are (or were), the organization has functionally become an asset to the Trump campaign and a threat to the re-election of Joe Biden….Leaks to the media that prominent Republican donors, including Harlan Crow, Justice Clarence Thomas’s benefactor, are contributing to No Labels — which is well on its way to raising $70 million — suggest that some major donors to No Labels see the organization as a means to promote Republican goals….No Labels, in turn, has declined to disclose its donors, and the secrecy has served to intensify the concern that some of its contributors are using the organization’s plan to run a third-party ticket to weaken the Biden campaign….“No Labels,” Representative Abigail Spanberger, Democrat of Virginia, declared, “is wasting time, energy and money on a bizarre effort that confuses and divides voters and has one obvious outcome — re-electing Donald Trump as president.”….An NBC survey in September found that the presence of third-party candidates on the ballot would shift the outcome from a 46-to-46 tie to a 39-to-36 Trump advantage over Biden.”

“Equally important,’ Edsall adds,  “NBC also found that the strongest appeal of third-party candidates is among constituencies Biden must carry, including voters pollsters call persuadable; low-income, working-class and middle-class voters of color; and voters who said they “somewhat” disapproved of Biden….In the media, the potential No Labels candidates most commonly mentioned are Senator Joe Manchin, Democrat of West Virginia, who is 76 and recently announced his retirement from the Senate, and Larry Hogan, who is 67 and a former Republican governor of Maryland. The organization could also pick someone outside politics, including a military or corporate leader….Many Democratic leaders and organizations — including Nancy Pelosi, a former House speaker; state Democratic chairs; Third Way, a Democratic think tank; and advisers to President Biden — contend that a No Labels candidate in the race would probably doom Biden’s chances of re-election….No Labels is gearing up to pick a third-party presidential ticket without the constraints and safeguards of primary elections and caucus contests….William Galston, a Brookings Institution senior fellow and one of the 2010 founders of No Labels, resigned from the group this year in protest over the group’s plan to run presidential candidates….Over Galston’s objections, No Labels began “in 2022 to explore the possibility of an independent bipartisan ticket,” he wrote in an email to me. He objected, he said, “not only because I thought this plan had no chance of succeeding but also because I believed that anything that could divide the anti-Trump coalition was too risky to undertake.”….Ultimately, Galston continued, he decided he “did not want to be associated with a venture that I believed (and continue to believe) will increase Donald Trump’s chances of re-entering the Oval Office.”….I asked Fred Wertheimer, the founder and president of Democracy 21, a campaign-finance-reform organization, for his assessment. “In my view,” he replied, “when No Labels started qualifying in various states to be on the ballot to run a presidential candidate, they were functioning as a political organization under I.R.S. law and should have registered as such under section 527 of the I.R.S. code and disclosed their donors.”

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