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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

E, J, Dionne, Jr. explains why “Joe Biden must go left and right at the same time” in his Washington Post syndicated column: “Here’s one reason understanding the trajectory of the 2024 campaign will be so complicated: President Biden is running as both a conservative and a progressive. He must be both to win….Before card-carrying members of the right protest my characterization of Biden as “conservative,” they should consider who is carrying the banner for the most basic conservative impulse of all: preserving the nation’s institutions….Even at the level of economic self-interest, some well-off conservatives might lay aside their concerns that Biden wants to raise their taxes, preferring stable governance to the chaos a new Trump term would portend. The stock market’s bullish performance under Biden might push some of them in this direction….The opening Biden has with pro-institution conservatives was underscored by an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll published Wednesday. It found that on a variety of institutional questions, Democrats were united while Republicans were divided, providing Biden with many wedges to drive into the GOP coalition….Democrats, by contrast, were far more united against rule-breaking, against religion in government policy and against granting a president immunity. Unsurprisingly, nearly all saw Biden as the legitimate election winner….Biden is also getting a lot of help from Trump, whose wild and often hate-filled daily pronouncements will continue to shake many Tory souls. An AP/NORC poll late last month was revealing: While 43 percent were “extremely” or “very” fearful about a second Trump administration, only 31 percent harbored such fears of a new Biden administration….Biden’s vocation in this campaign is to show that “safe” can go hand-in-hand with “progressive.” When it comes to making this argument, some of the knocks on Biden — that he doesn’t provoke “excitement” and maybe even his age — could prove to be his major assets.”

“Adam Carlson, a former Democratic pollster, has been updating a useful spreadsheet aggregating the crosstabs of national polls and comparing them to what happened in 2020,” Kyle Kondik writes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball. “Across nine polls in March—including some of the ones we noted above—Carlson’s average found Biden up 3 points on Trump among those aged 65 or over, compared to a Trump win of 4 points with that bloc in 2020 based on an aggregate of analyses of the 2020 electorate (including the Catalist report, which we cited above, along with a Pew Research Center analysis and the AP/Fox News VoteCast)….Biden won the national popular vote by 4.5 points in 2020, while the March polling Carlson aggregated showed a Trump lead of 1.5 points. So the polls show the oldest voters getting about 7 points bluer but the overall electorate getting 6 points redder. This is where Biden’s weaknesses with, for instance, young voters and Black voters are making a difference—in Carlson’s polling aggregate, Biden was doing 15 points worse with young voters and 29 points worse with Black voters than he did in 2020. We do think there are reasons to be skeptical of these huge Republican swings among these subgroups based on history and other factors, as I wrote back in November on young voters and Abramowitz wrote last week on Black voters. But there also are reasons to be skeptical of Biden’s overperformance among older voters, too. Part of that is the history—particularly recently, one would not expect the 65+ cohort to vote to the left of the nation in a presidential election….Younger cohorts appear to be likelier to disagree with Biden on how he has handled the situation in Gaza, for instance. It also may be that some economic challenges, like higher interest rates imposed by the Federal Reserve to fight inflation, are felt more by younger people trying to enter the housing market as opposed to older people who are more established. More broadly, the aforementioned New York Times/Siena poll found that 65 and over respondents were less pessimistic about the economy than the 18-29 group (38% of the former said economic conditions were excellent or good, while just 14% of the 18-29 group said the same). There could be many other legitimate explanations for a real shift in how voter preferences are changing among age groups—the patterns of the past do not always project the future.”

Democrats and other liberals and progressives who identify with the economic ‘left’ should read Nathan Robinson’s Current Affairs interview with Jessica Burbank, a “commentator who appears on The Hill’s Rising, co-hosts the Funny Money podcast, and now hosts her own online news program called Weeklyish News. Jessica is also big on TikTok, where she produces remarkable short videos communicating left political and economic ideas, such as this one on the power relationship between workers and bosses or this one on Elon Musk.” In many of her videos, Burbank, who comes from a working-class family, role-plays both sides of arguments between bosses and workers. Here’s an excerpt of Burbank’s comments in the interview from “How to Communicate Left Ideas to Gen Z” at Current Affairs: “I put myself really into the shoes of the person who holds these views that are very different from my own. I think it’s helped me consider my beliefs from a bunch of different perspectives and test them and come up with more persuasive explanations for things that I already talk about regularly. And so, doing the back and forth, it actually ended up being so much faster than if it was just me talking at the camera….People embrace populism because they’re kind of ripe for it. They don’t like the elites, and they don’t like the way they communicate. And so, I think another thing is that people are ready for it, and I think we have this opportunity where people are gravitating towards populism….I don’t think meeting people where they’re at right now is by knocking on their door because when someone comes to your door, you just want to get back to resting and scrolling on TikTok again. You’re not really meeting someone where they’re at. They mind it when they answer the door. They think, how can I get back to my television? How can I get back to my leisure time and consume entertainment? And so, meet people where they’re at, and if I put my organizer cap on, it is scrolling TikTok. That is where they’re getting information….I left a huge nonprofit, People’s Action, which was founded coming out of the labor movement, and they have member organizations in every state. I felt like if I was on the phone all day, or if I was creating a list for a mass text, we were engaging people less than my posts on TikTok. And so, when I left to pursue media, I actually didn’t feel like I was leaving organizing. I felt like I was going to the heart of it….I think people absorb a lot more value and information through comedy than anything else. I think it’s such an important tool. If you really care about your idea getting communicated, can you make it funny?”

With abortion and weed on the ballot in Florida, speculation grows that Democrats may be able to win the state’s electoral votes, which they lost by less than 4 percent of the state’s popular vote in 2020. Democrats suffered a proper drubbing in the ’22 midterms, as GOP turnout reached 67 percent, compared to an unimpressive 52 percent for Dems. Gov. DeSantis and Sen. Rubio were re-elected by healthy margins. But there are other reasons that Florida may be in play for Democrats in November. In “Clawing Their Way Back to Relevance,” Ramendra Cyrus writes at The American Prospect: “Florida homeowners pay the country’s highest average home insurance premiums. In 2023, the average annual premium was $6,000, 42 percent more than in 2022, according to the Insurance Information Institute.” In addition, DeSantis lost some luster as a result of his failed presidential candidacy and “the Florida GOP is also in disarray after a sex scandal and rape allegations forced the removal of the state party chairman.” Also, “In January, Democrat Tom Keen clinched a victory in the state House race for District 35, which includes sections of Orlando, Florida’s fourth most populous city. Both Democrats and Republicans showered dollars on this race, but Republicans outspent the Democrats 2 to 1. In the end, Rep. Keen narrowly took the seat by roughly two percentage points….In 2023, Donna Deegan, a Democrat and a longtime local television anchor, became the first female mayor of Jacksonville, the state’s largest city. Until this “major upset,” Jacksonville had been the largest city in the country with a Republican mayor. Deegan, a Jacksonville native, was able to pull together a bipartisan coalition to win the highly contested race. Deegan stressed her desire to promote greater transparency in the mayor’s office and to restore a sense of community after last year’s racial unrest in the city. She beat her Republican opponent by four percentage points.” Cyrus adds that “DeSantis and the GOP’s grip on power in Florida may have reached its zenith. Anger over developments on issues like abortion and insurance has given the Democrats an opening. But the Florida Democratic Party can’t adopt a scorched-earth approach to seats they have no chance of winning. In 2024, it’s all about the long game—setting the table for future gains. “Democrats have less room for error, that’s for sure. “You have to be smarter with things,” says Isbell, the political consultant. “It will force the Democrats to be strategic about which races they’re going to target.” Even if Democrats lose in Florida again this year, more effort put in to organizing could pay off in the next midterm and presidential elections.

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