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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Following his impressive SOTU, President Biden has hit the campaign trail with an equally-popular message and a sharply-focused attack against his predecessor. As Alex Gangitano reports in “Biden rallies crowd by citing Trump’s remarks on Social Security cuts” at The Hill,  “President Biden rallied a crowd in Milwaukee Wednesday by citing former President Trump’s recent remarks suggesting he’s open to cuts to Medicare and Social Security….“Just this week, Donald Trump said cuts to Social Security and Medicare are on the table. When asked if he’d change his position, he said quote, there’s a lot we can do in terms of cutting, tremendous amount of things we can do. End of quote,” Biden said….“I want to assure you, I will never allow it to happen,” he added during a visit to the critical swing state of Wisconsin….Biden vowed Wednesday to protect the entitlement programs….“I won’t cut Social Security; I will not cut Medicare. Instead of cutting Social Security and Medicare to give tax breaks to the super wealthy, I’m going to protect and strengthen Social Security and Medicare to make the wealthy begin to pay their fair share,” Biden said….The Biden campaign promptly dropped an ad with Trump’s comments and then launched an effort in battleground states to hold more than a dozen press conferences before Friday, all focused on entitlement programs, the campaign first told The Hill….“Many of my friends on the other side of the aisle want to put Social Security on the chopping block,” Biden said in the address. “If anyone here tries to cut Social Security or Medicare or raise the retirement age, I will stop you.”

In “New Study: Where Are All the Left Populists?” the editors of Jacobin write: “The political left is struggling with working-class voters around the world. In the United States, the Democratic Party has lost more of its support in election after election since 2012. Is there anything that can be done to stop the bleeding or even reverse the trend?….In 2023, with Jacobin and YouGov, the Center for Working-Class Politics (CWCP) published Trump’s Kryptonite, a studythat sought to provide some answers to this basic question. We designed a unique survey experiment that asked participants to choose between hypothetical pairs of candidates. We found that candidates who deployed populist messaging, who advocated bold progressive economic policies, and who came from working-class backgrounds were more likely to win support among working-class voters….With the help of a team of research assistants, we built a novel, comprehensive dataset on the 966 candidates who ran in Democratic primaries and general elections for the House and Senate in 2022. Using text from candidates’ campaign websites, we documented their campaign rhetoric, policy platforms, demographic characteristics, and class backgrounds. We were thus able to identify, among other things, candidates who our past research suggests would be effective at winning working-class voters: those who employed populist rhetoric, proposed progressive economic policies, or held working-class occupations prior to their political careers….More than anything else, our findings reveal just how few Democratic candidates actually meet these criteria.”

The Jacobin editors continue, “Despite the appeal of forceful, anti–economic elite messaging to the demographics that Democrats desperately need to reach — such as working-class and rural voters — few Democrats actually employ this kind of messaging. Even fewer run on bold progressive economic policies such as raising the minimum wage or a jobs guarantee. Finally, working-class candidates were extremely rare — 2 percent to 6 percent of candidates, depending on the measure — and those who did run were typically marginal primary candidates or ran Hail Mary general election campaigns in deep-red districts….How did progressives, populists, and working-class candidates fare when they did run? In short, quite well. Candidates who used economic populist rhetoric won higher vote shares in general elections, especially in highly working-class districts, rural and small-town districts, and districts where the majority were white and not college educated. We also find that Democratic candidates running on economically progressive policies were more successful overall than other candidates, especially in majority-white, non-college-educated districts….Democrats face little downside from running more working-class candidates in general elections, and a large potential upside…..Economic populists performed especially well in districts with majority-white, non-college-educated populations and in highly working-class districts. Their average vote shares were, respectively, 12.3 and 6.4 percentage points higher than other candidates’ in such districts. Economic populists also performed better than other candidates in rural and small-town districts, where their average vote share was 4.7 percentage points higher….You can read the full report here.”

From “Notes on the State of Politics: March 13, 2024: Assessing the new House landscape as redistricting is (probably) over; looking ahead to next week’s down-ballot Ohio and Illinois primaries” by Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Alabama: Somewhat surprisingly, the U.S. Supreme Court in last year’s Allen v. Milligan decision upheld Section Two of the Voting Rights Act, which can prompt the creation of majority-minority districts in places that can accommodate them based on certain criteria. A court-imposed map created a second Black majority seat in the state, which should cut the state’s 6-1 Republican delegation to 5-2….Louisiana: Allen v. Milligan effectively opened the door to a new map in Louisiana, too, and eventually the state legislature created what amounts to a heavily Democratic district, which should have the effect of reducing the GOP edge from 5-1 to 4-2….Georgia: Another case in the style of Alabama and Louisiana was decided in Georgia, but the Republican-controlled state legislature simply rearranged districts in the Atlanta area to create an additional Black majority district that won’t otherwise upset the partisan makeup of the state’s congressional delegation, currently 9-5 Republican….North Carolina: The state’s then-Democratic state Supreme Court imposed a map that resulted in a 7-7 tie in the delegation in 2022. Republicans took control of the state Supreme Court, which then re-opened the door to the GOP-controlled legislature re-imposing a partisan gerrymander. Republicans converted two Safe Democratic seats and one very competitive seat won by a Democrat in 2022 into three Safe Republican seats, and they also changed a northeast North Carolina district held by first-term Rep. Don Davis (D, NC-1) from one that Joe Biden carried by 7.3 points to just Biden +1.7….New York: After the state’s highest court imposed a map to replace an aggressive Democratic gerrymander in 2022, state Democrats got a more liberal version of the same court to re-open the state’s convoluted redistricting process. The end result was a mildly better map for Democrats, with potentially the most impactful change coming in Rep. Brandon Williams’s (R) Syracuse-based NY-22, which went from Biden +7.5 to Biden +11.4….So, who won? Probably Republicans, but only modestly….This is because the pro-Democratic changes in Alabama, Louisiana, and New York do not, together, offset the pro-Republican changes in North Carolina.”

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