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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

From “Democrats Should Run Against the Supreme Court:  And they should take on more than the overturning of Roe v. Wade. They ought to campaign against the whole Trump-enabled, rights-stealing, gift-taking conservative supermajority” by David Atkins at The Washington Monthly: “Shortly after a Manhattan jury convicted Donald Trump of 34 felonies, Speaker of the House Mike Johnson made a curious plea on Fox News. He begged the Supreme Court to intervene on Trump’s behalf. Johnson didn’t claim that Trump was innocent. He didn’t claim that Trump did nothing wrong or did not commit crimes. Instead, the Louisiana Republican simply gestured at vague “abuses of the system” and said he expected the highest court in the land to step in because he “knew some of the justices personally.”….If this feels wrong, that’s because it is. Johnson’s Hail Mary suggestion to his personal friends on the Supreme Court to help Trump evade accountability for his crimes is yet another illustration of the damage that the far-right Supreme Court is doing to the fabric of American democracy. After all, even if the justices ignore the speaker’s plea, they have already dawdled so long on presidential immunity that they have ended any possibility that Trump could be tried for the January 6, 2021, insurrection before election day….Especially after the Court issued its Dobbs decision overturning a half-century of abortion rights, a majority of Americans are incensed about the justices’ behavior. Fixing the Court ought to be a centerpiece of the fight against the far right’s assault on democracy.” In addition to the scandals around Justices Alito and Thomas, “there is the court’s extremist political lurch. The majority of the Court’s conservative jurists were appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote. One was installed by an unprecedented refusal to allow Congress to vote on a Democratic president’s nominee until a Republican was in the Oval Office. The result is a 6-3 hyper-conservative majority that is rapidly tilting the country’s legal framework in favor of corporate power and Christian dominionism….As a result, the Court has become deeply unpopular, with over 60 percent of Americans disapproving of its job. This comes at a time when the judiciary arguably has more power over Americans’ lives than at any other time. Research shows that most voters believe the Court is conspiring to protect Trump on his immunity claims and that opportunities exist for candidates to run on opposition and reforms to the Court….the more the presidential election is a referendum on Joe Biden, the less likely Democrats will prevail. The more it is a referendum on Donald Trump and the Court, the likelier it is that the MAGA Christian nationalist movement will be stopped at the ballot box….The battle for the White House will likely be won or lost among lower-information and less engaged voters whose understanding of the mechanisms of political outcomes can be tenuous at best—and most of whom currently support Trump. An astonishing 17 percent of voters blame Joe Biden for the loss of abortion rights in Dobbs….There is a significant opportunity to educate voters on what Trump has done to them by putting extremists on the court where they are unaccountable, free to take back long-held rights and enrich themselves as well.”

Some insights from Thomas B. Edsall’s NYT essay, “Trump Would Be Long Gone if Only We Could ….” “A central predicament of President Biden’s campaign is how to persuade voters to abandon Donald Trump. “In 2012 the Obama campaign turned a nice guy, Mitt Romney, into a piece of crap,” Steve Murphy, a co-founder of the Democratic media firm MVAR Media, told me. “You can’t do that to Trump because everybody already knows he’s a piece of crap.”….Not only do voters know that Trump is a liar and corrupt, narcissistic and venal; his supporters have repeatedly found ways to slide past his liabilities….Kabir Khanna, the deputy director of elections and data analytics for CBS News, emailed me in response to my inquiries concerning the problems facing Democrats who seek to attack Trump….“Part of the issue for Democrats,” he wrote, “is that views of Trump are pretty well established for most of the electorate. Most people know what they think of him. Perhaps the best an opposition campaign can hope to do is raise the salience of certain issues, policies or aspects of his leadership style.” Edsall quotes TDS managing editor Ed Kilgore, who warned at New York magazine “No one should expect Trump to self-destruct or persuadable voters to wake up some morning and realize what a terrible man he is.” ….In April, before the verdict, Republicans were decisively against a felon becoming president, with 17 percent in favor and 58 percent opposed (and the remaining 25 percent not sure)….After the conviction, Republicans flipped, with 58 percent in favor of a felon becoming president and 23 percent opposed (and 19 percent unsure)….John Ganz, a political analyst and the author of the new book “When the Clock Broke: Con Men, Conspiracists and How America Cracked Up in the Early 1990s,” captured this aspect of Trump in “The Shadow of the Mob: Trump’s Gangster Gemeinschaft,” an essay posted last week on Ganz’s Substack, Unpopular Front….For Ganz, one comment in particular from an African American operations manager who participated in a Times focus group session conducted hours after the New York jury found Trump guilty provided an instructive case study: “Trump represents a shock to the system. His supporters don’t hold him to the same ethical standards. He’s the antihero, the Soprano, the “Breaking Bad,” the guy who does bad things, who is a bad guy but does them on behalf of the people he represents.”

“In 2020, Wisconsin was one of Joe Biden’s most important electoral victories, as he successfully clawed back the Midwestern swing state that was narrowly won by Donald Trump in 2016,” John L. Dorman writes in “Biden is lagging in key swing states. But white non-college voters are keeping him afloat in Wisconsin” at Insider. Dorman continues, “While Democrats need to perform strongly in the liberal population centers of Milwaukee and Madison in order to win statewide elections, the party still retains a significant level of support in many rural communities. And it’s Biden’s support among white voters without a college degree — a huge voting bloc in these areas — that’s currently keeping him afloat in Wisconsin….Among the seven major swing states, Biden currently trails Trump by at least three points in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and North Carolina, according to Real Clear Polling averages….In Michigan and Pennsylvania, Biden has smaller deficits against Trump in the polling averages….But in Wisconsin, Biden is often tied with Trump in polling, or has a slim lead. And it’s the backing of many white working-class voters that has been critical for the president….The most recent Quinnipiac University poll showed Biden leading Trump by six points (50% to 44%) among registered voters, while a recent Cook Political Report survey had Biden and Trump tied at 45% among Wisconsin voters….In the Quinnipiac poll, Wisconsin voters gave Biden positive marks on issues like abortion rights and the preservation of democracy. But even on the question of who would better handle international conflicts — where Trump has opened up a lead in many recent polls — the former president only led Biden by one point (48% to 47%)….When it came to economic issues, Trump had an eight-point lead over Biden (52% to 44%) in Wisconsin, per Quinnipiac, a relatively stable number for the incumbent on an issue where he has struggled in national polling. For Biden, the Wisconsin number represents a much more positive outlook from voters compared to his standing in states like Arizona and Nevada…,Among white voters in Wisconsin, Biden actually led Trump by four points (50% to 46%) in the Quinnipiac poll. And college-educated white voters in Wisconsin backed Biden by 27 points (61% to 34%)….But among white voters without college degrees, Biden only trailed Trump by eight points (44% to 52%), a deficit that is much narrower than in virtually every other swing state….That Biden has been able to hold on to a sizable level of support from this voting bloc — despite their overall migration to the GOP — shows the uniqueness of the president’s electoral coalition in Wisconsin.”

Don’t pay too much attention to all of the hoo-ha about the Democrats’ big financial advantage in the 2024 elections. As Michael Mechanic writes in “America’s Top 100 Donors Heavily Favor Trump and the Republicans” at Mother Jones: “Donald Trump may have lost in the Manhattan court where a jury recently convicted him of 34 felonies, but there’s one place he and his party appear to be winning: in the race to snag major cash from the richest families in America….For all of Trump’s supposed grassroots appeal, as of May 1, less than one-third of contributions to his campaign committee for the 2024 election cycle had come from grassroots donors—people giving less than $200. (Campaign finance disclosures tend to lag a month or two behind.)….According to OpenSecrets, large contributors accounted for 69 percent of Trump’s $121 million total. President Joe Biden’s campaign committee, which took in $195 million, got 54 percent from large donors….More broadly, the lion’s share of confirmed contributions from the biggest political givers—the top 100 families—have flowed to Republican candidates and groups….In the “hard money” category—direct donations to candidates, which federal law caps at modest sums—Republicans took in 27 percent more from the Top 100 families than Democrats did ($85.9 million vs. $67.9 million)….But looking at all federal contributions, including “soft money,” a category that tallies the generous donations allowed to party committees and the unrestricted contributions to SuperPACs, Republicans raked in a whopping $508 million from the Top 100—triple the Democrats’ $169 million take….And this was all before Trump got convicted….Trump has vowed to go further: “We’re gonna give you tax cuts,” he told a gathering of “rich as hell” prospective donors at a December Mar-a-Lago fundraiser. Since then, he has been openly transactional in his efforts to raise cash, warning rich donors that supporting Biden will cost them, whereas the policies of a second Trump administration would further enrich them, along with corporate shareholders. (He has also solicited oil and gas executives for generous contributions, promising his administration would pursue policies in their favor.)….A river of cash has poured into Trump’s coffers since his conviction—the campaign claims it received $53 million in the first 24 hours. Which is kind of surreal, but I suppose it adds up. After all, when Trump holds a post-conviction press conference that starts with him saying, “This is a case where, if they can do this to me, they can do this to anyone,” at least some of those rich-as-hell donors no doubt imagine he’s talking directly to them.”

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