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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In “Putting Biden’s Troubles with Young Voters in Perspective: Youngest voters have been strongly Democratic in recent elections, but the president also has clear weaknesses with that group,” Kyle Kondik writes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “According to the available exit polls from the 2020 primary season, Biden generally won paltry shares of the 18-29 bloc, finishing well behind his top rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), even in states that he won handily, like South Carolina. There were 15 states with Democratic primary exit polls in 2020 that had results for the 18-29 group, as compiled by CNN; Biden won the 18-29 group only in Mississippi, a state where Biden won 81%-15% overall against Sanders (that primary was held a week after Super Tuesday, when Biden had grabbed the reins of the nominating contest following a slow start in the kickoff states). Biden won 61%-35% among the 18-29 group in Mississippi; he did not surpass 30% among that group in any other state that had an exit poll, and his support from the youngest voters was minuscule in many places, like in Super Tuesday megastates California (just 6%) and Texas (12%). Biden still won many of these states (including Texas), but it’s clear that the youngest voters would have preferred a different nominee. To the extent Biden shows weakness in his renomination bid, we would expect protest votes to disproportionately come from younger voters (this is something to monitor during the primary season). This primary weakness didn’t prevent Biden from doing well with young voters in the 2020 general election, but it is an indicator that Biden’s softness with young voters is not new….Biden’s approval with young Americans has also been weak. Back in the spring, one of the top sources of information on young voters — the Institute of Politics at Harvard Kennedy School — found Biden’s approval rating at only 36% with 18-29 year olds. A possible contributor to Biden’s weak standing with these voters may include the economy and inflation — the aforementioned New York Times polls of swing states found that among 18-29 year olds who supported Biden in 2020 in these states, just 11% thought the economy was “excellent” or “good,” compared to 89% who said the economy was “poor” or “only fair.” This was a more pessimistic economic view than older cohorts of 2020 Biden supporters. Other potential contributors could be Biden’s unsuccessful effort to forgive some student debt for tens of millions of Americans and, more recently, how Biden has handled the aftermath of the Hamas strike on Israel in early October (young people are likelier than the broader public to sympathize with the Palestinians instead of Israel)….Our own two cents is that we really doubt Trump would beat Biden with young voters, or even come that close to doing so, in an actual November 2024 election. But we also think Biden clearly has weaknesses with young voters — weaknesses that could be electorally fatal if they endure, given the highly competitive nature of modern presidential elections. Young voters could end up defecting to third party candidates at higher rates than older cohorts, and it’s also possible that some of these voters from what is already a lower-turnout group could just decide not to vote, which could have the effect of reducing whatever Biden’s margin with the group would be.”

Leah Askarinam, Holly Fuong, and Mary Radcliffe write in “Why is Biden losing support from people of color His numbers among Black, Hispanic and Asian Americans have reached a new low” at 538: “According to a basic polling average,* Biden’s approval rating is currently at one of the lowest points of his presidency. But he wasn’t always this unpopular. When he was sworn into office, Biden’s approval rating started in the high 50s, but it dropped below 50 percent in summer 2021. That overlapped with the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the delta variant of COVID-19, which seemed to put an end to Biden’s honeymoon period….Biden’s approval rating continued to decline for nearly a year, bottoming out near 40 percent in summer 2022 as inflation reached 40-year highs. But it rebounded that fall, not long after the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned federal abortion rights. Still, the president’s approval rating hovered in the low 40s through the rest of 2022 and through the first few months of 2023, and by this summer, it had started to sag again….But with which demographic groups is Biden losing the most support? We looked at the crosstabs of his approval polls to find out. Biden’s approval rating has consistently been highest among Black Americans and lowest among white Americans. But while white Americans have been lukewarm about Biden for a majority of his administration, the president is losing support at a faster clip among people of color. That’s consistent with what other sources have found: The latest New York Times/Siena College polling found signs that Biden was losing ground among Black voters. And Democrats have been warning about signs of Latino voters turning toward the GOP for years….Biden started his presidency with an 86 percent average approval rating among Black Americans, higher than any other racial group. But by July 2022, that number was down 23 percentage points, to 63 percent. That said, his approval rating among Black Americans — unlike the other three racial groups we looked at — did mildly increase ahead of the midterm elections. But since early 2023, it has dropped again to 60 percent, the lowest his approval rating has ever been among Black Americans during his presidency….Democrats need to make it clear that the 2024 election is a choice between two opposing visions, not a referendum on the Biden presidency.”

From “‘Time to Be Bold’: Advice for Democrats from a Quietly Powerful Governor: As the new chair of the Democratic Governors Association, Gov. Tim Walz has some tips for the party” by Elena Schneider at Politico: “Like many Democrats, Walz doesn’t think President Joe Biden is getting the credit he deserves on a relatively strong economy, but the campaign can still retool their message as needed….“They may — I think — rework, refine, this message, but it doesn’t change the fact that Joe Biden invested in the middle class, just like Democratic governors did, and made life more affordable,” Walz said Saturday on the sidelines of the DGA’s winter meeting in Phoenix….Regardless of what happens in 2024, the party boasts a deep bench going forward, and Walz believes the 2028 Democratic nominee could indeed be a sitting governor….“I’m biased towards governors,” he said. “But they’re proven.”….Schneider: What are the most important governors’ races next year? Walz: I think holding those races we have. I tried my hardest to get [Washington Gov.] Jay Inslee to stay again. He could be my governor forever. There, of course, and in North Carolina and Delaware, where we’re term limited with [North Carolina Gov.] Roy Cooper and [Delaware Gov.] John Carney. I think there’s a golden opportunity in New Hampshire [where GOP incumbent Chris Sununu is retiring]. I can tell you those four states are a priority, especially with our incumbent governors being term-limited….We’re not naive. This is going to be nationalized in some of these races. But governors have a much better way, and especially good ones, of bringing it back down. Andy Beshear did that and he won because of that. He stayed focused on disaster relief, about recovering, caring for people, delivering on that, so they’re going to have to explain why they’re supportive of President Trump, but I think our candidates will be out there saying, “This is the difference it makes. We’re functional, not dysfunctional. We get things done,” and I think that’ll be the message.”

Schneider continues, “Schneider: Governors like Gretchen Whitmer in Michigan and Josh Shapiro in Pennsylvania have job approval ratings that are 10, 15, 20 points better than Joe Biden. Can you explain that gap?….Walz: I think it’s not surprising to see governors do that, because we’re delivering every day. I think the constant drumbeat of dysfunction in D.C. gets attached to the president. But we all run into this. When we’re running against the generic Republican, our races are always really close, but there’s no such thing [as a generic Republican]. These guys are weird. Once they start running, their weirdness shows up, and especially with the nominee on the other side. I don’t think it’s that surprising….This is going to be a binary choice. Democracy, or what we saw with the former president. Projects, like roads getting built, or dysfunction. Pre-existing conditions being covered by health care, or having that ripped out. Those binary choices will start to become clear. They saw us act, how we acted during Covid, they saw us act on the recovery. It’ll work itself out….It’s one of our jobs to get out there and talk about it. I’ve talked to [White House infrastructure czar] Mitch Landrieu and the White House on infrastructure. Look, this is a golden age of infrastructure because of the president. Governors are the ones that are managing that — broadband expansion, removal of lead pipes. Put the signs up. Say where it came from….I wouldn’t be so bullish on Joe Biden or be so excited about it, if I saw that he wasn’t delivering. I’ve watched him deliver. We, as governors, who lived through what President Trump did not do during Covid, I’m not going back there again. Tell the story. Put some signs up for building bridges. Let us know where the money came from.”

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