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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Navalny Assassination Underscores ‘GOP Soft on Putin’ Meme

Kelly Eleveld explains why “Democrats have an opening as Trump rolls over for Putin at Daily Kos: ”

It’s worth remembering here that, despite Trump’s bromance with Putin, the vast majority of Americans have no love for Russia. In fact, last year, Gallup found Russia’s favorability rating among Americans was at an all-time low of 9%, as former Obama White House aide Dan Pfeiffer noted in his “Message Box” Substack.

Newly released polling from Pew Research Center also found that 74% of Americans view the war in Ukraine as important to U.S. national interests, including 43% who describe it as “very” important….The combination of Russia’s abysmal favorability rating, Americans’ understanding that the fate of Ukraine has implications here at home, and Putin’s likely role in Navalny’s death—his biggest political threat at home—leave Trump and Republicans more vulnerable than ever to attack on the issue.

Eleveld urges that “Biden and Democrats should keep rallying around Navalny’s death, Putin’s thuggery, and Trump’s cowardice. For House Republicans, failure to act on the Senate-passed aid package will likely play terribly in the 17 Biden-won districts they need to hold in November to keep control of the House.”

In “Schism over Russia drives Republicans apart” at CNN Politics, Zachary B. Wolf notes that “In recent days, Haley has made passionate arguments about the need for the US to stand up to autocrats and bristled at Trump’s attempt to compare himself to Alexey Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who died in jail.”

Further, notes Eleveld, “And on Tuesday, the Biden administration said it plans to announce a new sanctions package against Russia on Friday over Navalny’s death.” Quite a contrast from Putin’s lapdog. As Eleveld writes, ” Biden is taking charge, using the tools at his disposal to hold Putin to account, while Trump is whining on the national stage and promising to give Putin free rein “to do whatever the hell they want” to our NATO allies.”

It’s too early in the ’24 election campaign to assess whether the Navalny assassination will continue to deepen the divide among Republicans leading up to the election. But Democrats certainly can get plenty of video footage showing beloved Republican leaders, including Presidents Eisenhower and Reagan and Republican presidential nominee John McCain warning Americans – and their fellow Republicans – to be wary of the malevolence of Russian leaders. Hell, Reagan called the Soviet Union, which Putin wants to restore under his control, “the evil empire.”

The conventional wisdom is that foreign policy doesn’t win or lose elections because the economy overshadows all international concerns, although historians can name a few exceptions. But the steady improvement in  economic indicators just might give Democrats enough room to make what they can of the GOP’s shamefully epic cave to Putin, and pick up a point or two in key swing states.

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