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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

In “Biden’s surprise proposal to debate Trump early, explained,” Andrew Prokop explains at Vox: “Biden’s proposal for a June debate is surprising, since every presidential debate has been in September or October. We don’t know exactly what the campaign is thinking, but there are a few likely considerations.

  1. Biden is trailing in the polls right now, and usually, the trailing candidate wants to shake up the status quo somehow.
  2. Biden’s team wants to frame the election as a choice between him and Trump, rather than just a referendum on his job performance. A debate would clearly do that, putting them side by side and making clear that it really is either him or Trump.
  3. His team may hope that if Biden performs well, he could quiet voters’ concerns about his age and mental fitness.
  4. If a June debate does go poorly for Biden, there will still be ample time for him to recover. And even if Biden flops in September, too, the campaign would continue throughout October, giving time for voters’ attention to shift to other things.

RFK Jr. likely won’t be invited to the first debate: Another big question hanging over this year’s potential debates is whether third-party or independent candidates would be included — most notably, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who neither Biden nor Trump want onstage….CNN announced qualification rules for the June debate that would make it extremely difficult for RFK Jr. to qualify by then….The network said candidates must hit 15 percent in at least four national polls from approved outlets by June 20. That’s the traditional standard used for general election presidential debates. RFK Jr. has been polling at about 10 percent nationally, which is below the threshold but not too far below it….The catch, though, is that CNN also said the candidate must qualify for the ballot in states that added up to 270 electoral votes. According to Politico, RFK Jr. is currently on the ballot in only four states, and though his team’s effort to qualify in others has been going better than expected, it likely wouldn’t happen soon enough for the late June debate.”

Bill Scher writes that “Trump Promised 100% Tariffs on Chinese EVs. Biden Did It. Will It Work?at The Washington Monthly. He explains further, “The big political news today, as was the case yesterday, is Michael Cohen’s testimony in the Donald Trump hush money trial….The big policy news today is Joe Biden slapping stiff tariffs on a wide range of Chinese imports, including a striking 100 percent tariff on electric vehicles (EVs), up from 27.5 percent. You can read the White House announcement here….Is this policy a good idea? Is it crude protectionism in the mold of Trump? Is it honorably standing up for American workers? Will it help or hurt the transition to a clean energy economy? President Biden said, “”American workers can out-work and out-compete anyone as long as the competition is fair, but for too long it hasn’t been fair,” Biden said during a speech in the White House Rose Garden before unions and companies. “We’re not going to let China flood our market,” Trevor Hunnicutt and Steve Holland report at Reuters. They add that “Biden will keep tariffs put in place by his Republican predecessor Donald Trump while ratcheting up others, including a quadrupling of EV duties to over 100% and doubling the duties on semiconductor tariffs to 50%….The new measures affect $18 billion in imported Chinese goods including steel and aluminum, semiconductors, electric vehicles, critical minerals, solar cells and cranes, the White House said. The EV figure, while headline-grabbing, may have more political than practical impact in the U.S., which imports very few Chinese EVs….The United States imported $427 billion in goods from China in 2023 and exported $148 billion to the world’s No. 2 economy, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, a trade gap that has persisted for decades and become an ever more sensitive subject in Washington….Biden has struggled to convince voters of the efficacy of his economic policies despite a backdrop of low unemployment and above-trend economic growth. A Reuters/Ipsos poll last month showed Trump had a 7 percentage-point edge over Biden on the economy.” Jonathan Yerushalmy notes at The Guardian that “experts say that the new tariffs are likely a preventive measure to stop China flooding the US market with its surplus product – and by that measure they’re likely to be effective.”

In related economic news, Chris Marquette writes at Politico that “President Joe Biden’s surrogates will crisscross the country this week talking up the hundreds of billions he’s pumping into projects such as roads, clean energy, drinking water and broadband — an effort designed to draw a sharp contrast with his predecessor’s series of ineffectual “infrastructure weeks.” However, “recent polls — including one published last week by POLITICO and Morning Consult — show the message has been slow to sink in with voters. And a POLITICO analysis of the implementation of Biden’s four landmark infrastructure, climate, technology and pandemic-relief laws found that only 17 percent of the $1.1 trillion in funding that Congress provided has been spent to date, thanks in part to the time it takes to vet, approve and move so much money through myriad federal agencies, state governments and private recipients….Infrastructure Week, which begins Monday, was already an annual industry gathering and Washington lobbying fly-in before Trump’s administration borrowed the name for its unsuccessful attempts to pitch a $1.5 trillion infrastructure plan that would have offered little new federal funding. Now, Biden’s White House is embracing the real event — and dispatching stand-ins such as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, senior White House adviser Tom Perez and acting Labor Secretary Julie Su to appearances around the country….According to the new POLITICO-Morning Consult poll, many voters aren’t that familiar with the laws and don’t see the benefits in their lives yet. And, perhaps most ominously for the White House before an election, respondents gave Biden only a 3 percentage-point advantage over Trump when asked who was more responsible for improving America’s infrastructure and creating jobs.”

Political commentators who still argue that Democrats should basically ‘skip the south’ have some ‘splainin’ to do in light of newly released demographic data. At Axios, Alex Fitzpatrick observes “Atlanta, Fort Worth and Raleigh are America’s fastest-growing cities with more than 250,000 residents as of 2023, according to new U.S. Census Bureau data out today….Why it matters: Late-pandemic shifts in where Americans live are still shaking out — with big implications for cities seeing massive growth or rapid decline….By the numbers: Atlanta grew by 2.42% between 2022 and 2023, and now has 510,823 residents….Fort Worth grew by 2.23% with 978,468 residents in 2023, and Raleigh grew by 1.87%, with 482,295 residents….Losers: New Orleans (shrank -1.56%, to 364,136 residents), St. Louis (-1.55%, to 281,754 residents) and Philadelphia (-1.04%, to 1,550,542 residents)….The big picture: Southern cities dominate the list of the fastest-growing big metros, with Florida and Texas alone accounting for eight of the top 20….Between the lines: Some of America’s fastest-growing places are not cities themselves, but their outer suburbs, or “exurbs.”….”Fewer of the fastest-growing places between 2022 and 2023 were inner suburbs than in 2019 … and more were on the far outskirts of metro areas — 30, 40 and even more than 60 miles away from the largest city’s downtown,” according to a Census Bureau analysis….That’s a particularly pronounced phenomenon in the Phoenix metro area, where four exurbs made up a third of the broader area’s population growth in 2023, the Bureau says.” For 2024, Pennsylvania remains the largest swing state in terms of electoral votes – unless Biden pulls off a Florida miracle. But given these numbers, Democrats clearly have to look southward for longer-term strategy in presidential elections.

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