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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

My big takeaway from the GOP “presidential” debate is that Dems should start preparing for the Trump-Haley ticket, if they haven’t already done so. Three of the four remaining candidates, despite their claims to the contrary, are really auditioning for the veep slot. Former SC Governor Haley may still be harboring some grand delusions that she could top the ticket, with all of her current buzz and cash infusion. But in her gut, she knows that the most realistic scenario is for her to run as Trump’s second. Trump needs her badly, and they both know it. The bad news for Dems is that she is a formidable debater, who has a sharp sense of when to attack and when to pull back, and she might give some swing voters just enough gender cover to vote for the GOP ticket, despite their unpopular war on abortion rights. Even former Gov. Christie – the only Republican candidate with enough integrity to reject election denial – is criticizing her very delicately. He no doubt sees her as a good running mate in the highly unlikely event that he wins the GOP presidential nomination. And she would help to rebalance his bellowing persona. Hence Christie’s slashing attack on Ramaswamy for the latter’s broadside blasts against Haley. Florida Governor DeSantis would also love to run with Haley, with visions of sunbelt solidarity dancing in his unsmiling head. Yes, Kamala Harris could slice, dice and shred her in an extended debate. But few voters will cast their ballots based on the outcome of that confrontation. Haley is nonetheless highly vulnerable because of her positions on abortion, all of which impinge on women’s personal freedom and reinforce Trump’s bragging about how he got rid of Roe v. Wade, and will try to do the same for the Affordable Care Act. Haley’s policies may cancel out whatever benefit she brings to the GOP ticket.

Margaret Carlson takes another view in “Haley’s Comet,” written before the debate, and observes at The Washington Monthly: “Haley is also helped by the fears of Republican partisans alarmed that an increasingly unhinged madman could win the nomination, sending the party to a cataclysmic defeat next year. She’s also helped by the fears of Republicans and independents, alarmed that an increasingly unhinged madman could win the nomination and the presidency, sending the country into a cataclysm. These Planet Earth Republicans will go with whoever has the best chance to topple Trump, braying that he will act out his dreams of a dictatorship….At a briefing by a super PAC aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Republicans got a “wake-up call” that more people, including Republicans, had moved into the “pro-choice camp” and to adapt accordingly. Frank Luntz, the consultant known for Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America and changing the lexicon of swapping levies on estates for ominous “death taxes,” was impressed by Haley’s abortion rhetoric. He deemed hers “the best Republican answer on abortion” and urged others to follow. “The GOP would be stronger if they used her language.”….The Carolina Contortionist is not just comfortable in her five-inch heels; she’s comfortable in her heels perched on a fence. She’s for a six-week ban. She’s for a 20-week ban. She’s for no national ban! She loves Trump. She hates Trump. She often says he was the right president at the right time, the man who appointed her ambassador to the United Nations and who sincerely believed he had won the 2020 election….But on the other hand, he’s an unelectable criminal defendant. She swore she wouldn’t run against Mar-a-Lago Mussolini—until she announced she would. She said she wouldn’t support him for president should he be the party’s nominee—until she raised her hand in the affirmative at the first debate, even if, by next summer’s convention, he’s a convicted felon. Later, she allowed that she might pardon him.” Carlson ends her rant with a quote from Woody Allen, ““One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction.” Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”

Check out “Democratic decline in the United States: Strategic manipulation of elections,” in which Vanessa Williamson writes at Brookings: “Last week, the Supreme Court heard another case about whether a state’s new maps constitute racially discriminatory gerrymandering, and a federal judge barred former president Trump from attacking witnesses, prosecutors and court staff involved with his federal trial for election subversion. It is a good time to reflect on how the states and the courts are ensuring (or failing to ensure) free and fair elections in the United States. Unfortunately, strategic manipulation has become a recurring feature of U.S. elections, and there are good reasons to doubt whether the courts will adequately protect voting rights as we head into the 2024 election season….Distinct from “voter fraud,” which is almost non-existent in the United States, election manipulation includes election procedures that make it harder to vote (like inadequate polling facilities) or that reduce the opposing party’s representation (like gerrymandering). These kinds of maneuvers have become increasingly common and increasingly extreme in recent years — but only in some states….Political scientist Jake Grumbach has developed the most comprehensive and rigorous measure of state-level electoral democracy, the State Democracy Index (SDI), which takes account of factors like polling place wait times, red tape voter registration procedures, and gerrymandering. The SDI quantifies the divergence occurring between U.S. states. In 2018, 17 states had a higher SDI than they did during the period from 2000 to 2010, indicating a stronger democracy in those states. The other states, however, have seen their SDI decline — some by a very substantial margin….Though there have been legal consequences for many of those who participated in the 2020 election subversion efforts,” Williamson concludes, “and though the 2022 elections occurred without major incident, Americans should remain vigilant in the face of ongoing threats to election integrity.”

Democrats should hope it is true that “Issues, not candidates, are motivating young voters: Abortion is at the center of young people’s political engagement,” as Monica Potts writes at 538. Potts explains, “For young voters, key issues like abortion may matter more to their vote than who’s at the top of the ticket in 2024. While Democrats worry that President Joe Biden might be losing support with millennials and Gen Z, policy questions, rather than candidates, have taken center stage for young political activists and could be one of the biggest factors driving young people to the polls….The November election offered a preview of how the issue of abortion could motivate voters, as Ohio saw unusually high turnout following grassroots organizing around Issue 1, the ballot initiative to enshrine abortion rights into the state’s constitution….Young voters strongly favored the Ohio abortion rights initiative, with 77 percent voting to pass it, according to exit polling. That wasn’t such a surprise: Polls have shown consistently higher support for abortion rights among young voters, especially young women. This support made a difference in 2022 as well, when many credited concern over abortion rights with boosting Democrats to better-than-expected midterm results despite Biden’s low approval ratings. When asked about which issues influenced their vote, abortion was the top choice for voters under 30, according to an analysis of Edison Research National Election Pool exit poll data by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, or CIRCLE, at Tufts University. Those who supported access to abortion strongly preferred Democratic candidates….Another interesting finding from the CIRCLE analysis was that 59 percent of voters under 30 said President Biden was “not a factor” in their vote in 2022, more than any other age group. They were also most likely to say his policies “made no difference on the country.” While Biden wasn’t on the ballot in the midterms, it’s possible that even in a presidential election year, approval or disapproval of the job he’s doing may not matter as much to young voters as the issues they care about….Young voters are also likely to be motivated by issues like gun control and climate change, two issues that have also inspired high-profile youth activism in recent years.” Potts does not address the opinions of young voters regarding foreign policy issues, perhaps because they will focus increasingly on domestic policies that directly affect their lives as we approach the 2024 election.

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