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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

It’s only one poll, but your jaw-dropper of the day is the headline “McConnell’s approval rating sinks to 6 percent: Monmouth poll” reported by Filip Timotija at The Hill. It doesn’t matter much for 2024, in that Mitch’s seat will not be contested next year. But dare we hope that he will retire soon and Democratic Governor Beshear will appoint his successor? Not bloody likely. Dare we hope, even more extravagantly, that his tanking approvals  presage a growing discontent with his party’s leadership, even in red states? Naahh. Most likely, voters are  concerned about his recent “freezes,” which, let’s face it, does not bode well for leaders of a certain age (including Trump?). Timotija explains “McConnell garnered a 60 percent disapproval rating among American adults in the poll, with an approval rating of 6 percent. He is the only member within congressional leadership to have a negative score among fellow Republicans, accumulating a 10 percent approval and a 41 percent disapproval rating….McConnell, 81, who is up for reelection in 2026, has not stated if he will run again. The Kentucky lawmaker, who won his seventh term in 2020, has frozen up twice this year while taking questions from reporters.” Timotija notes low approval rates (21 percent) for both Senate Majority Leader Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY). So Dems should probably save the high-fives for later. But don’t chalk it all off to a longing for ‘fresh faces,’ either, since “The new House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) kicks off his tenure with 17 percent approval and 31 percent disapproval rating among all American adults in the poll.”

Still, it would not be a huge stretch to infer from that poll that many voters, despite their doubts about Democrats, are not all that much enamored with Republican leadership. For yet another reminder of what the Republicans have done for America, check out “Clarence Thomas Faces Backlash for Complaining About Supreme Court Pay” by Andrew Stanton at Newsweek. Get out your hankies when reading “Thomas is again facing criticism after ProPublica’s latest report. The article published Monday alleged Thomas hinted in discussions with Republican lawmakers in 2000 he may resign unless Congress authorized a raise….The Supreme Court has faced myriad ethics concerns in recent months after ProPublica reported that Thomas and other justices accepted vacations and luxury gifts from GOP megadonors for decades without disclosure to the court. Thomas had allegedly accepted gifts ranging from private jet flights and private school payments from donor Harlan Crow, prompting calls for his resignation. The court last month adopted an ethics code amid outrage over these scandals….Thomas at the time received a salary of $173,600. However, he was among the least wealthy members of the Supreme Court, allegedly owing “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in debt and had “grown frustrated with his financial situation,” according to the report.” No word yet on whether his high-roller buddies will ante up an Xmas bonus to supplement his paltry income. And don’t hold your breath waiting for Thomas to actually quit during a Democratic Administration.

Take heart, Dems, because there are “5 ways New York Democrats could reshape the race for the House,” according to Bill Mahoney, writing at Politico. As Mahoney observes, “Democrats won the court fight. Now they’ll look to win the redistricting war….New York’s top court Tuesday handed Democrats a victory in a lawsuit over the state’s congressional lines, ordering the restart of a redistricting process that will eventually put the maps in the hands of the Democratic-dominated state Legislature….There’s a chance the lines might not be as ambitious as some Democrats are hoping: While the Legislature can now redraw the maps, lawmakers also need to guard against an inevitable Republican lawsuit alleging an illegal gerrymander….Since both sides want to avoid two years of legal battles, any change might be relatively minor — perhaps just tweaking a couple of neighborhoods in the five districts Democrats lost by narrow margins in 2022 and hoping the party fares better in a high-turnout presidential year….But there will be plenty of pressure from Democrats, including House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, to make sweeping changes to help the party.” Mahoney digs into the minutae of redistricting relevant New York communities and neighborhoods, and comes up with the five alternatives. He concludes, “Mapmakers will need to decide whether they want to swing for the fences again, drawing three districts that appear friendly to Democrats, but none of which is a lock. Or they could try to squeeze as many Democrats as possible into one or two districts to hopefully ensure at least some success in the region….One major factor that might influence their thinking is the result of the special election to replace Rep. George Santos on Feb. 13….If the map-making process drags on long enough, state legislators could know if Democrat Tom Suozzi has won the special election. That would ensure that boosting Suozzi’s reelection efforts in November would be a centerpiece of their strategy on the entire island.”

In “How can Democrats persuade the voters they need?,” Errin Haines writes at 19thnews.org “Among the challenges the campaign faces is not just whether Black voters will turn out for them, but whether some of them will turn out at all….The Biden-Harris administration has had mixed results on key priorities for Black voters, coming up short on passing federal legislation on voting rights, gun reform and criminal justice, but securing record funding for historically Black colleges, record low unemployment and the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court….Presidential and other campaigns have to do this work, but it’s an organizing model that is getting a new member. The new Renegade Collective is focused on the South — where most Black Americans live and vote — both for 2024 and for the longer term. It’s made up of a group of political strategists who helped Stacey Abrams build the winning coalition that flipped Georgia from red to blue in 2020 and 2022….Organizers with the Abrams team were among those who bucked the traditional turnout-focused campaign strategy of chasing more reliable voters who could be counted on to show up on Election Day. Instead, they looked to expand the electorate by focusing on “low-propensity” voters, people who didn’t participate regularly in the electoral process and who were mostly seen by campaigns as not worth the effort or outreach….This included Black voters who were previously unregistered or otherwise less engaged, but it was also about putting together a coalition that was multiracial, intergenerational, both rural and urban, and largely disaffected. An approach that centered their priorities — and not the candidates — was the persuasion argument that helped deliver seismic political victories for Democrats in Georgia in 2020 and 2022….“I’m of two minds: On the one hand, the Abrams coalition did put together, twice, something that was really remarkable in terms of registration, grassroots organizing and education,” said Fordham University political scientist Christina Greer. “They also had a candidate that was once-in-a-generation, in a state that already had a lot of organizing infrastructure, a number of HBCUs, a civil rights legacy and demographic shifts in a state that helped Democrats.”

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