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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

“If there’s one state in the nation you can call MAGA country, it’s Iowa,” Heather Digby Parton writes at Salon. “It’s something like 95% white, older than most states, extremely rural and the Republican Party there is as conservative as it gets. And yet, 40% of the voters who came out voted for someone else. Yes, sure, a good many of them voted for Trump-plus and Trump- X (DeSantis and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy), but nearly 20% of them voted for the daughter of immigrants positioned as the “moderate ” in the race. Recall, Trump beat Joe Biden statewide by 53% in 2020. He won the Republicans by an even smaller majority on Monday. That is not a good sign….Only 110,000 people turned out, which comes out to about 15% of registered Republicans. This means that he only won 7% of GOP voters in the state of Iowa, a MAGA stronghold. Considering that this is the beginning of his supposed big comeback, that’s pretty underwhelming….The Des Moines Register poll which was released last weekend showed some other rather surprising numbers about the Republican electorate in Iowa. It found that if Trump is the nominee 11% said they would vote for Joe Biden while another 14% said they would vote for a third party candidate or someone else. That adds up to 25% of the party saying they will vote for someone else in the general election. That seems worth pondering. And we hear constantly about how all these criminal and civil proceedings just make his base love him more, but even more concerning for the Trump campaign should be the fact that according to the entrance polls, 32% of caucus participants believe that if Trump is convicted he will be unfit for the presidency.”

Parton continues, “All this does raise the question: Why are the national polls so close?….In the last few months, the polls have shown Trump and Biden neck and neck within the margin of error. You would think that if there was really a substantial faction of Republicans and GOP-leaning Independents who aren’t going to vote for Trump it would be showing up. But remember, the data we’ve been discussing was all from Iowa, a state that has been inundated with campaign ads and personal appearances by the Republican candidates for the past year. Unlike the rest of the country, they’ve been forced to pay attention to this race. They are the canaries in the coal mine….As evidence of how important this is, CNN reported that “the majority of undecided voters simply do not seem to believe – at least not yet – that Donald Trump is likely to be the Republican presidential nominee.” If you’re reading this you probably find that to be absurd. He’s the front-runner! But most of America has tuned out the Trump show since he left office. When they realize that he’s going to be the nominee and the show is unavoidable again, they are going to see what at least a quarter of Iowa Republicans and all of Iowa’s Democrats have been seeing these past few months and it’s not pretty. Let’s just say, that show has not aged well….Sure, Trump won Iowa and he’s highly likely to win New Hampshire and all the rest of the states as well. The Republican Party establishment will back him to the hilt and he’ll have plenty of money to wage his campaign. But there are some very big cracks in his coalition and they are becoming more and more pronounced. Remember, if the election is close, as it may very well be, it would only take a small number of GOP and Independent defections in the right states to put the country out of this misery at long last.”

Food and gas costs are frequently cited as pushing the public’s concerns about inflation. Could the increase in out-of-pocket spending for health care also be a leading cause of President Biden’s low approval ratings? According to Caitlin Owens at Axios, “Families with workplace health insurance may have missed out on $125,000 in earnings over the past three decades as a result of rising premiums eating into their pay, according to a new JAMA Network Open study….While employers, rather than workers, typically bear the brunt of rising health insurance costs, the study is further evidence that rising premiums are costing workers through wages they would have otherwise received….Premium growth has long outpaced wage growth, meaning that health insurance has become a larger and larger part of workers’ total compensation as employers pay out more in health benefits….a larger percentage of total compensation for low-income workers — who are disproportionately people of color — than those with higher incomes….Employer insurance has gotten more and more expensive as health care itself has gotten more expensive — the average workplace health plan last year cost $24,000 for family coverage, with employers covering about three-quarters of the cost, according to KFF….Although workers most directly feel the impact of their health care spending through out-of-pocket costs, economists have long argued that soaring premiums have suppressed wage growth….In 1988, health care premiums on average accounted for 7.9% of a worker’s total compensation, which includes wages and premiums. By 2019, that had increased to an average of 17.7%, the study found.”

The Biden campaign has handled its share of incoming flak during the last year for its sunny view of economic trends. Despite the common wisdom that their optimism is not justified, there is some new polling data which suggest otherwise.  In “Americans are actually pretty happy with their finances” by Felix Salmon at Axios Markets. writes, “Americans overall have a surprising degree of satisfaction with their economic situation, according to findings from the Axios Vibes survey by The Harris Poll….That’s in spite of dour views among certain subsets of the country — and in contrast to consumer sentiment polls that remain stubbornly weak, partly because of the lingering effects of 2022’s inflation….The Axios Vibes poll has found that when asked about their own financial condition, or that of their local community, Americans are characteristically optimistic….GDP growth is the highest in the developed world, inflation is headed back down to optimal levels, and consumer spending keeps on growing….63% of Americans rate their current financial situation as being “good,” including 19% of us who say it’s “very good.”….Americans’ outlooks for the future are also rosy. 66% think that 2024 will be better than 2023, and 85% of us feel we could change our personal financial situation for the better this year….That’s in line with Wall Street estimates, which have penciled in continued growth in both GDP and real wages for the rest of the year…. 77% of Americans are happy with where they’re living — including renters, who have seen their housing costs surge over the last few years and are far more likely than homeowners to describe their financial situation as poor….The survey’s findings were based on a nationally representative sample of 2,120 U.S. adults conducted online between Dec. 15-17, 2023.”

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