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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Among the frequently-heard comments of not-so-political friends are variations of “I’m so sick of him. I just want him to go away.” Indeed, eight years of media obsession with Trump’s every folly have made many Americans tune out at some point, including yours truly.  Voters elected FDR four times. But he didn’t bellow lies, bully talk or try to overturn duly certified elections. If you have been wondering if and when something like “Trump Fatigue” will start to make a difference, you are not alone. A quick google of “Trump fatigue” pulls up an endless stream of articles. Here are a few choice comments from them: NYT’s Katie Glueck noted last month that “Democrats are hardly alone in their political fatigue: A Pew Research Center survey last year found that 65% of Americans said they always or often felt exhausted when they thought about politics.” No doubt some of this is simply because there is a lot more media nowadays. But the phenomenon is no less real. Or, if you are wondering about the mental health aspects of Trump fatigue, check out  “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President,” the Amazon summary of which notes, “Craig Malkin writes on pathological narcissism and politics as a lethal mix. Gail Sheehy, on a lack of trust that exceeds paranoia. Lance Dodes, on sociopathy. Robert Jay Lifton, on the “malignant normality” that can set in everyday life if psychiatrists do not speak up….he has created unprecedented mental health consequences across our nation and beyond.” Sebastian Cahill writes at Business Insider, “Jared Carter, a Vermont Law and Graduate School law professor, told Insider people are tired of hearing about Trump’s actions and have been for several years….”A part of the reason Trump lost the 2020 election is people were tired of it,” Carter said, referring to Trump’s continuous scandals. “It’s exhausting, for journalists and the public to be constantly having this guy living in their minds.” Is ‘Trump fatigue’ a widespread, verifiable thing outside of anecdotal accounts? Liberals probably hear indications of it a lot. But tightly-framed polling data that reference it directly among centrists, independents and swing voters, or by education/class is scarce.

Rachel M. Cohen explains “Why abortion politics might not carry Democrats again in 2024” at Vox: “Democrats’ decision to center the overthrow of Roe is rooted largely in the massive success they’ve had running on abortion rights over the last two years, which helped them win a slew of special elections and outperform expectations in the 2022 midterms, staving off a red wave and keeping control of the US Senate. Pro-abortion ballot measures won in all seven states in which they appeared on the ballot since Dobbs, even in red states like Kentucky, Montana, and Kansas….Given this strategy’s success in the midterm and special elections, centering abortion rights seems like a safe bet for Biden in 2024. But the special circumstances of presidential elections — and the masses of voters they tend to attract — suggest this strategy is more of a gamble than it first appears….So-called “low-propensity” voters, meanwhile, are generally not following politics closely and are less likely to have gone to college. They’re unlikely to be watching Fox News or MSNBC, probably not posting any Instagram stories about the Middle East or sending money to candidates. They are often less sure about what each party stands for, but they do generally turn out to vote, partly because voting is habitual, and for many it is seen as a civic duty. These particular voters (also referred to as “infrequent” voters or “less engaged” voters) have not yet turned out since 2020, or 18 months before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade….Polling indicates that it’s these voters that Biden is now struggling with, those who cast ballots for him four years ago but now are leaning toward Donald Trump or considering staying home on Election Day. Things have grown especially dire for the president among young, Black, and Hispanic low-propensity voters. Nate Cohn, the chief political analyst for the New York Times, said in October these less engaged voters “might just be the single biggest problem” facing Biden….And for these voters in particular, abortion rights are simply not among the top issues they say they care about….First, the good news for Democrats: Low-propensity voters also support abortion rights. Broadly speaking, they even tend to identify as slightly more “pro-choice” than the rest of the electorate, according to Bryan Bennett, a pollster with the progressive polling firm Navigator. (Per Navigator’s data, infrequent voters are about 67 percent pro-choice and 27 percent anti-abortion, compared to the rest of the country that’s 64 percent pro-choice and 31 percent anti-abortion.).”

Cohen continues, “Among most voters — high-propensity and low — inflation and jobs top the list of issues they say are most important to them. Among low-propensity voters in particular, Bennett told me, jobs and inflation rank even higher than among the country overall. “So the high-level takeaway is that these are deeply economically focused folks,” he said….When Navigator asked low-propensity voters which issues they feel are most important for Congress to focus on, those voters ranked inflation and jobs highest, followed by health care (34 percent), then corruption in government, immigration, climate change, crime, Social Security and Medicare, and education all between 27 and 22 percent. Only after that did 17 percent of low-propensity voters rank abortion a top issue for Congress….Danielle Deiseroth, executive director of Data for Progress, said their initial findings showedamong likely Biden-to-Trump voters that the economy was their most commonly cited important issue. “Abortion almost ranked dead last in terms of issue importance, tied with race relations and education, and just ahead of LGBTQ+ issues,” Deiseroth added….Abortion rights ballot measures won in all seven states, largely because Republicans crossed the aisle to vote for them. Looking at the crosstabs, experts found that abortion ballot measures tended to over-perform with white Republican voters and underperform with non-white Democratic voters….Another reason the strategy may still work is because by and large fewer than usual low-propensity voters may turn out in November this year, and there’s little doubt abortion rights remain a salient issue for high-propensity voters who lean Democratic….even if they don’t change their campaign focus, Democrats may benefit from their advantage with high-propensity voters. A Grinnell College survey from October found 2020 Trump voters were four points less likely to say they were definitely going to cast a ballot this year than 2020 Biden voters, and surveys from Marquette University found Biden performing better among likely voters than registered ones. Researchers I spoke with said they expect the president’s polling performance with college-educated voters and self-identified Democrats to improve as the campaign stretches on. If these voters turn out for the president, and overall turnout remains on the lower end, Biden has a better chance.”

It’s still unclear whether RFK, Jr.’s presidential candidacy will hurt President Biden or Trump more, or draw equally from both of them. But if his numbers are still in double-digit territory during the next few months, and if it appears he would hurt Democratic prospects as an Independent candidate in the general election, Democratic ad-makers will be able to mine a lot of negative material from his veep list bios. I’m getting a whiff of red herring from the recent media buzz about former quarterback Aaron Rodgers being RFK, Jr.’s front-runner. If he picks Rodgers, however, expect significant loss of Kennedy’s liberal supporters, owing to Rodgers’ alleged comments about the Sandy Hook massacre being an “inside job.” A Rodgers pick would also appear to be a doubling down on Kennedy’s anti-vaxxer rep. Former pro wrestler Jesse Ventura has some authentic political cred and was a former Governor of Minnesota. He might bring some value added for liberal voters as a result of his views favoring making recreational Mary legal, gay rights and more investment in education. But he was an avid supporter of Rep Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential run, despite Paul’s criticism of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and ugly racial comments that have been attributed to Paul, via his newsletter. Paul’s son, Republican Sen. Rand Paul is also on RFK, Jr.’s veep short list, despite having criticized the Civil Rights Act of 1964, opposed Obamacare, abortion rights and voted against restrictions on the sale of assault-style weapons. Former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who served four terms in congress and ran for president in 2020, is one of the more qualified picks on the list. But she has  political baggage that will deter liberals, including her campaigning for Republican candidates J.D. Vance, Adam Laxalt and Kari Lake against their Democratic opponents. Some liberals may like that she supported the 2016 presidential candidacy of Sen. Bernie Sanders. Andrew Yang, also a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, has had his name chucked into the RFK, Jr. short list, and he is probably the most likable and public-spirited of the bunch. Currently co-chair of the “Forward Party,” Yang’s signature issue has been the “universal basic income,” which may win some support among progressives, while arousing skepticism among ‘how you gonna pay for it?’ moderates. Yang didn’t get much traction in his presidential campaign, and he dropped out of his race for New York City Mayor.  The very latest buzz is that Nicole Shanahan is RFK  Jr.’s veep front-runner. Shanahan “does not technically have political experience. However she has donated very large sums of money to Democratic candidates,” according to Robby Soave and Briahna Joy Gray of The Hill. As a whole, it’s an uninspiring veep short list. The Biden campaign will have plenty to work with, if Kennedy’s candidacy gathers momentum.

One comment on “Political Strategy Notes

  1. Martin Lawford on

    After reporting on Trump obsessively for seven years, the media are now reporting that people are tired of hearing about Trump.


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