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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In “Why 2024’s vibes are so perplexing: ‘Everybody thinks they’re losing’,” Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes: “Gross domestic product grew at an astonishing annual rate of 4.9 percent in the third quarter of 2023…Inflation was tamed without any sign of a widely predicted recession. Unemployment is at 3.7 percent, and real incomes are 2.7 percent above their January 2021 levels, meaning wage increases are outpacing price increases. If someone had shown you these numbers on the day Biden was inaugurated, you might have predicted he would be cruising into a Ronald Reagan-style “Morning in America” reelection campaign….Explaining why he’s not has spawned a growing subspecialty in the world of commentary — and a new word: “vibecession.” Coined by economics educator Kyla Scanlon, it refers to how people feel the country is in recession despite all that good data….If you wonder why there is so much political discontent, look no further than a year-end YouGov survey, which found that both liberals and conservatives believe the country is moving the wrong way — meaning away from their own views. Forty-four percent of liberals said U.S. politics had moved further to the right over the past decade; only 16 percent said things had moved leftward. Among conservatives, 55 percent said politics had moved to the left, while only 15 percent saw a move rightward. (Moderates, appropriately, were split about evenly.)…Democratic pollster Guy Molyneux captured the mood. “Everybody thinks they’re losing,” he told me….For Biden, there is still hope that interest rates will start coming down and the good economic news will finally sink in. He and his party will need to neutralize the issues of crime and immigration without splitting themselves asunder or feeding the worries they are seeking to quell.”

At Brookings, Dionne explains why “For Biden, youth vote polling is a warning, not the apocalypse,” and observes: “An analysis of the 2022 exit polls by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University found that in 2022 U.S. Senate races, Democrats got 70% of the youth vote or more in Arizona, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania and 60% or more in Georgia, Nevada, Ohio, and Wisconsin….Commenting on this year’s off-year elections, Semafor’s Jordan Weissman offered a pithy take on X underscoring the same point: “At the moment, young people hate the Democratic party, except on election day.”….None of this means that Biden and the Democrats should ignore recent polls suggesting trouble for Biden among young voters in matchups against Donald Trump….Daniel Cox, director of the Survey Center on American Life and a senior fellow in polling and public opinion at the American Enterprise Institute, pointed to basic reasons for a certain skepticism toward presidential polls this far out from Election Day, especially among young voters “who mostly do not pay attention to politics at this early stage.” Many of these surveys, moreover, have relatively small samples of young Americans. Cox observed that some of the surveys might reflect the likelihood that “young conservatives were more committed to Trump than young liberals were to Biden.”….The difficulty of gauging exactly where young voters stand was underscored in the fall 2023 Harvard Youth Poll conducted by the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School. It is one of the best ongoing surveys of young voters. Conducted between late October and early November, it found that Biden enjoyed a 10-point lead among all adults under 30, a 15-point lead among young people who said they were registered to vote, and a 24-point lead among the most likely voters. This advantage matched Biden’s lead over Trump in the 2020 exit polls. Your view of where Biden stands might depend on which of these numbers you focus on….Cox’s conclusion is that some of the recent findings are not “apocalyptic” but should “alarm” the Biden campaign, nonetheless. That’s the right attitude: The Biden campaign should not panic, but it should be worried — and act on that worry….I agree with my colleague Bill Galston that economic concerns are a major part of this story, and the Biden campaign needs to deal especially with prices to win back support both among the young and in the broader electorate. Its economic messaging needs a lot of improvement….I have been pushing for some time for what we’ll update as the Next Generation Act of 2023. It could include job training for a rapidly transforming economy; new stabs at student loan forgiveness and wider access to higher education, including community college; comprehensive childcare and early education; and seed money, similar to provisions of the GI Bill, for young people to buy homes and start their own businesses. This could be linked to a much larger national service program.”

Steven Shepard explains “Why a Trump conviction might not save Biden’s reelection” at Politico: “Take last week’s Wall Street Journal poll. Trump led Biden by 4 percentage points in a head-to-head matchup, 47 percent to 43 percent. The race shifted only slightly, to a 1-point Biden lead, among respondents who were also asked what they would do if Trump were convicted in either of the two federal cases, either for unlawfully possessing classified documents or conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election….Since only about half of the respondents were asked about a hypothetical Trump conviction, the two results aren’t directly comparable. But they suggest a massive swing against Trump is unlikely. And the margins are small: With just a 1-point lead in a hypothetical Trump conviction scenario, Democrats can’t rely on a small post-conviction swing tipping the race….And that’s if he’s even convicted before the election. Though Trump’s 2024 calendar is littered with planned trial dates up and down the Eastern Seaboard, there’s no guarantee that those cases won’t be pushed until after Election Day….Last month’s New York Times/Siena College poll asked likely voters in six Biden-won swing states who said they weren’t supporting him — a collection of Trump voters and those who said they were undecided — what they would do if Trump “were convicted and sentenced to prison but were still the Republican nominee.”….Most of them would still vote for Trump, but 5 percent of the likely electorate across those swing states said they would vote for Biden under that circumstance. That’s potentially enough to tilt the race to the Democratic incumbent — but it’s not guaranteed, especially with Biden already trailing….Most of that 5-point shift came from voters who were undecided or preferred another candidate in the initial Biden-Trump contest. The New York Times/Siena crosstabs also suggest young voters and independents who hadn’t picked Biden before were slightly more likely to say they would vote for him if Trump were convicted….There are a few polls that suggest a Trump conviction could be more significant, but they mostly gloss over the polarization of the electorate. In a Reuters/Ipsos poll this month, 64 percent of Americans said they would at least somewhat agree with the statement that Trump “should not run for president” if he’s convicted of a crime. But saying he shouldn’t run is a far cry from saying they wouldn’t vote for him with only a limited number of choices on the ballot.”

Political commentators talk a lot about “swing states.” But what puts the ‘swing’ in states very often comes down to particular counties. In “Where is the competition in 2024? Here are the places to watch in next year’s race for the White House” at USA Today, Savannah Kuchar spotlights five counties across the U.S. which could decide the 2024 presidential election. Her list includes: Maricopa County, AZ; Erie County, PA; Kent County, MI; Miami-Dade, FL; and Dane County, WI. She probably should have added Gwinnett or Cherokee County, GA. But here’s her take on Erie County, PA, which could be the most important county for swinging the most electoral votes: “Located in the northwestern tip of Pennsylvania, Erie County has swung back and forth for Democrats and Republicans in recent elections, leaving the question of who voters there will go for in 2024…. Four years after former President Barack Obama won the county with a commanding lead, Trump secured a victory in the state in 2016 by less than a point and in the blue-collar county by 2 points….Erie County flipped yet again, though, in 2020, going for Biden 50% to 49%….As many expect a Biden-Trump rematch in 2024, Americans may have to stay up for the outcome in Erie next election night.” Whatever the outcome of the 2024 elections, we can be sure that TV stations in these counties, especially Erie, are going to rake in some huge political ad revenues.

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