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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Political Strategy Notes

Some salient points from Kyle Kondik’s “Electoral College Rating Changes: Half-Dozen Moves Toward Republicans in What Remains a Toss-up Race” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Today we’re making a half-dozen changes to our Electoral College ratings, all of them benefiting the Republicans. These moves don’t significantly change our overall outlook, which is that we don’t really see a clear favorite in the presidential race, but they do better align our ratings with that overall outlook….Map 1 shows the updated ratings, which now show 251 electoral votes at least leaning toward the Republicans and 241 at least leaning toward the Democrats. Four states are Toss-ups: Arizona and Nevada in the west and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in the Industrial North.

Map 1: Crystal Ball Electoral College ratings

….Our general assumption is that Biden is going to perform at least a little better in November than polls are showing now, much like Donald Trump generally performed better in November of both of his election years than what late spring polling suggested. Biden probably has a little bit more base consolidation to do than Trump—we may actually be seeing some of that in the wake of Trump’s conviction on business record falsification charges in New York a couple of weeks ago. To be clear, that doesn’t make Biden a favorite in our eyes—again, we just don’t see a favorite….Pennsylvania, the native state of President Biden and one of the states that helped nudge Donald Trump over the finish line in 2016 before flipping back blue in 2020, goes from Leans Democratic to Toss-up. This reduces, from 260 to 241, the number of electoral votes at least leaning to Democrats in our ratings. We also are making a concurrent move in the Senate race there, moving Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) from Likely Democratic to Leans Democratic. We think Casey will likely do better than Biden, but not overwhelmingly better, so it makes sense to make these moves in tandem (we’ll say more about this race and the overall Senate picture in a future issue). Pennsylvania moves to Toss-up but we are keeping Michigan as Leans Democratic; Michigan is generally more Democratic than Pennsylvania in presidential elections (that has been the case in each of the last seven elections)….Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, which together basically decided both the 2016 and 2020 elections, seem likeliest to be the deciders in 2024 as well.”

In “An unexpected generational realignment is scrambling the 2024 election,” Zachary B. Wolf writes at CNN Politics, in 2020, “Biden’s margin among younger voters — he got 65% of voters ages 18-24 — helped him overcome the fact that Trump got 52% of older voters, who accounted for more than half the electorate….Voters under 30 haven’t preferred the Republican since 1988, when George H.W. Bush defeated Democrat Michael Dukakis in a landslide. Voters over the age of 65 haven’t preferred the Democrat since 2000, when Al Gore lost the election despite getting more votes than Republican George W. Bush….But the old rules don’t seem to apply in this year’s presidential election, where both candidates are old men and their fitness to serve is a top issue. Older voters are gravitating to Biden, and younger voters are taking a look at Trump….A new Marist poll in the battleground state of Pennsylvania, for instance, showed a tight race overall with Trump at 47% and Biden at 45%, a within-the-margin-of-error difference….Trump is making inroads with voters of color and is nearly even with Biden among voters under 45 in that poll. But older voters have gone in the opposite direction, and instead of favoring Trump, are nearly split in the Marist poll….It’s a trend that extends to other states. In a nationwide Quinnipiac University poll released in May, Biden and Trump split younger voters, but Biden has an edge among voters 65 and older….They also write that “in 2024, baby boomers now make up a wide majority of the senior vote for the first time — an enticing demographic shift the Biden campaign is seizing upon in Michigan and across the country.”….CNN’s Ronald Brownstein noted last year that older voters were more likely to approve of Biden’s job performance and argued that some of his policy wins, like pushing for lowering drug costs in Medicare, appeal directly to seniors….Whatever the reason, if Biden is to overcome questions about his age to keep his job, it will be with help from people his own age.”

In another close Biden vs. Trump race, Black and Latino voters could make the difference,” David Lauter writes at The Los Angeles Times. “Two weeks after Donald Trump’s conviction on multiple feloniesrelated to the payment of hush money to a porn actress, we have a pretty good sense of the political impact: It has hurt him, but not much….In the average of public polls maintained by the FiveThirtyEight website, for example, Trump’s edge over President Biden has dropped by 0.8 percentage pointssince the jury verdict was announced….That’s a very small shift, but it comes in a very tight race: The polling average now finds the two candidates almost tied — 41% for Trump, 40% for Biden….Pollsters have to guess which voters will actually cast ballots this fall; we can’t know for sure. All polls also come with a degree of uncertainty, reflected in their stated margin of error. In statewide races, it’s normal for polls to miss the final results by 4-5 points. There’s no way to know in advance which side the error will help….Polls are also a snapshot, and lots of events could have an impact between now and November. The list starts with the scheduled June 27 Biden-Trump debate and continues through Trump’s sentencing on July 11, his pick of a running mate, the two party conventions, a second debate in September and undoubtedly other developments that can’t be known in advance….In 2020, Biden carried 25 states, the District of Columbia and one Nebraska congressional district, which splits its electoral votes. He ended up with 306 electoral votes to Trump’s 232….Biden currently can count on 19 of those states plus D.C., with a total of 226 electoral votes….Georgia, which Biden carried last time, currently leans toward Trump. Five other Biden-carried states — Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — are competitive. Together, they have 61 electoral votes….”

Lauter continues, “Of the 25 states Trump carried, all but one remain solidly in his favor. The exception, North Carolina, leans in his direction. Democrats have hopes of making it competitive, but that’s not the case now….To get to the 270 needed for victory, Biden needs to nail down 44 electoral votes beyond what he can currently count on….His best shot, current polls suggest, would be to carry the three competitive northern industrial states. Together, they would give him precisely what he needs. In all three, recent polls show a very tight race….All that sounds very familiar: The election will likely be settled by small margins in Wisconsin, Michigan and, especially, Pennsylvania — exactly as it was in both 2016 and 2020….But there’s a twist this time. Trump won in 2016 by appealing to the grievances of conservative white Americans. This time, his advantage over Biden comes by virtue of support from Black and Latino voters….Biden still wins both groups, but his margins have shrunk significantly from four years ago….A new poll from Marist College of voters in Pennsylvania illustrates the point. The poll finds Trump ahead, barely, in a state that Biden carried in 2020 and that both candidates need this year….What’s changed is that Trump gets 23% of Black voters, compared with only 7% whom he won in 2020, according to exit polls….As in Pennsylvania, white voters in Arizona haven’t moved — Trump wins among them by about 9 points, the poll found. What has changed since Biden narrowly won the state is that he’s only winning Latino voters by eight points — less than half his margin from four years ago….the key question, as political analyst Ron Brownstein has written, may be “whether Trump can sustain his support among non-Whites while offering … a bristling message and agenda on race-related issues” that energizes his white, conservative core supporters….Trump repeatedly has called for mass deportations of immigrants in the country without legal documentation — a group that’s heavily Latino — as well as reinstitution of stop-and-frisk police tactics that many cities have abandoned because they led to civil rights violations….Those policies are not popular — except with Trump’s base. A lot of voters, especially younger ones, who are just now starting to tune in to the campaign, haven’t heard much about them. Democrats will be working overtime during the next several months to make sure that changes.”

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