washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

For some timely Democratic presidential campaign horserace analysis, check out ricochet.com’s podcast interview, in which conservative Washington Post columnist Henry Olsen and TDS contributor Ruy Teixeira discuss in-depth the outcome of the New Hampshire primary and the possible trajectories of the candidates leading up to the contests in Nevada, South Carolina and beyond. Among Teixeira’s observations: “When you look at this budget, it’s a matter of political malpractice that the current candidates don’t seem to find much time to focus on it. But given the right candidate, I think the amount of ammunition here is enormous.”

“Despite all the democratic socialist hype, the moderates retain the edge inside the Democratic tent,” Bill Scher writes at Politico. “Moderate candidates gave Democrats the House majority in 2018. Single-payer health care has taken a beating on the debate stage over the past seven months—and coughing up the details of the proposal proved to be a political third rail for Elizabeth Warren’s campaign. In fact, moderation may be on the rise with grassroots Democrats; comparing the New Hampshire primary exit polls four years ago to last night, the share of voters who identify as “moderate” went up 9 points to 36 percent, while those who see themselves as “very liberal,” went down 5 points, to 21 percent…So why are moderates struggling to unite? The big moderate divide in 2020 is not about any major policy dispute, but between those who respect insider experience and those who are inspired by outsider energy…Advocates of outsider candidates have the stronger electability argument, which Buttigieg regularly articulates: “Every single time my party has won the presidency in the last 50 years, it’s been with a candidate who was new on the national scene, hadn’t spent a lot of time in Washington, and represented a new generation of leadership.” This covers the last three Democratic presidents—Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Except for the “new generation” part, it applies to Donald Trump as well.”

“However, two factors complicate Buttigieg’s case,” Scher continues, “One, he is pushing the limits of what can constitute a credible outsider candidate. He’s not a southern governor, or a first-term senator, or even a businessman/TV star, but a small-city mayor. Two, as Klobuchar put it in the last debate, “We have a newcomer in the White House, and look where it got us.” If Americans tend to elect the opposite of the sitting president, as many believe, does it make sense to put up another newcomer, when Democrats want to argue that Trump is in way over his head?…The insider-outsider divide helps explain why Klobuchar was the main beneficiary of the pummeling Biden took in New Hampshire. Compared to the final alignment totals in Iowa, Buttigieg’s share of the vote in New Hampshire (with 97 percent counted) was basically stagnant, ticking down 0.7 percent. Klobuchar, however, jumped almost 8 percent, suggesting a resistance among some moderates to an outsider candidate.”

In his post, “There is hard data that shows that a centrist Democrat would be a losing candidate” at salon.com, Keith A. Spencer draws insights from Thomas Piketty’s paper, “Brahmin Left vs. Merchant Right: Rising Inequality & the Changing Structure of Political Conflict (abstract here),” to explore the implications for the political moment in the U.S. As Spencer writes, “nominating centrist Democrats who don’t speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism’s ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a “bifurcated” voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between…Piketty’s paper is an inconvenient truth for the Democratic Party. The party’s leaders see themselves as the left wing of capital — supporting social policies that liberal rich people can get behind, never daring to enact economic reforms that might step on rich donors’ toes. Hence, the establishment seems intent on anointing the centrist Democrats of capital, who push liberal social policies and neoliberal economic policies.”

Memo to all those who are worried about Democratic candidates starting class warfare: That train has already left the station. See for example, “Trump Hires Union Busters to Oversee Unions” by Brian Young in Trades & Union Digest, which notes, “Within the Department of Labor, there is a section that is devoted to providing oversight to labor unions. It is responsible for auditing financial disclosures and investigating officer corruption…Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, has hired two new people to work in this oversight role who has a long history of working against unions. Rusty Brown, worked as a union-avoidance consultant. He helped to decertify a union of 27,000 home care workers in Minnesota and pushed the Labor Department to investigate a prominent Texas worker center that was a vocal critic of dangerous conditions in the construction industry. He will begin work in the Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS)…The other hire, Trey Kovacs will work as a “special assistant” to OLMS. Kovacs previously worked at the Competitive Enterprise Institute where he advocated for treating worker centers more like labor unions, requiring them to file detailed financial statements and oversight. He has also accused the department of dragging their feet on expanding union financial disclosures. According to his bio, Kovacs writing focuses on the adverse effects of public sector unions. He has written in support of ending the Obama-era Joint-Employer Rule, advocated for the end to exclusive representation for public sector unions, and claimed that eliminating union time would save veterans’ lives at the VA.”

Democrats Who Use Twitter Are More Likely to Be Liberal: Pew Research Center found support for Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders among that group,” David Cohen writes at AdWeek. Cohen reports that Pew surveyed 6,077 U.S. adults who identify as Democrats or Democratic-leaning Independents, and he notes that “Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who use Twitter are more likely to support Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) or Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), while former Vice President Joe Biden did not fare well among that group, according to Pew Research Center…However, it did not bode well for Sanders that 40% of Democrats on Twitter who said they are not registered to vote or unsure of their registration status tapped him as their first choice…”Sanders was the most-followed candidate among Democrats on Twitter, at 21%, trailed by Warren (16%), Biden (11%) and South Bend (Ind.) Mayor Pete Buttigieg (10%)…Former President Barack Obama was the most followed major political figure within this group, at 48% of Democrats on Twitter, followed by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (21%) and President Donald Trump (13%).

Cohen notes further, “Pew found that 56% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents on Twitter described their political views as liberal or very liberal, compared with 41% of non-Twitter-using Democrats…The think tank said 65% of Democrats who don’t use Twitter believe it is more important for a Democratic candidate to seek common ground with Republicans, even if it means conceding on some issues, while just 54% of Twitter-using Democrats felt the same way, with 45% preferring a candidate who will push hard for the policies his or her party wants.”

Speaking of ads, the wizards at AdWeek should be agog at the embarrassment of riches placed at the feet of the Democratic party this year, especially in the ever-increasing tally  of video clips of Trump, McConnell and Lindsey Graham contradicting themselves to a ridiculous extent on a vast range of topics, including impeachment, pre-existing health conditions, Trump’s integrity, Russia, Social Security, Medicare and others. Dems seem to have a sort of laissez faire attitude about attack ads — leave it up to the individual campaigns, which is a pretty dicey approach. So far, Bloomberg alone has risen to the challenge of vigorous, high quality attack ads, and you may have noticed that it has served him well. No other candidates have the dough for such a commitment. But it would be good for Bloomberg and Steyer to support Democratic senate candidates by kicking in a couple billion for ads and front-porch canvassing, which has also proven effective. Maybe invite Soros, Turner, Lucas and Spielberg to do likewise.


Yglesias: Why Dems Should Stop Freaking Out About Sanders

Somebody had to do it, and Vox’s Matthew Yglesias rises to the challenge of confronting Sanders phobia head on in his article, “Mainstream Democrats shouldn’t fear Bernie Sanders: He’d be a strong nominee and a solid president.” Yglesias tries out a ‘calm down, let’s reason this out’ approach in discussing the very real possibility of Sanders winning the Democratic nomination for president, and writes:

Sen. Bernie Sanders’s win in New Hampshire following his quasi-win in Iowa dashes the Democratic Party establishment’s big hope of the past four years — that he’d just fade away…Alarm, clearly visible in a range of mainstream Democratic circles over the past several weeks, is now going to kick into overdrive.

But this frame of mind is fundamentally misguided. For all the agita around his all-or-nothing rhetoric, his behavior as a longtime member of Congress (and before that as a mayor) suggests a much more pragmatic approach to actual legislating than some of the wilder “political revolution” rhetoric would suggest…On the vast majority of issues, a Sanders administration would deliver pretty much the same policy outcomes as any other Democrat. The two biggest exceptions to this, foreign policy and monetary policy, happen to be where Sanders takes issue with an entrenched conventional wisdom that is deeply problematic.

Yglesias points out that “Sanders comes with a strong electoral track record in practice, and he brings some unique assets to the table as someone who appeals precisely to the most fractious elements of the anti-Trump coalition.” But Yglesias notes further,

The specter of “socialism” hangs over the Sanders campaign, terrifying mainstream Democrats with the reality that when asked about it by pollsters, most Americans reject the idea. Given that Sanders himself tends to anchor his politics in Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal, it seems as though everyone involved would be better off if he labeled himself a New Deal Democrat and let us revert to the normal pattern where Republicans call mainstream liberals “socialists” and liberals push back rather than accepting an unpopular label.

It is remarkable that in 2020, the socialist boogeyman still has staying power. Certainly the fear-monger in-chief will make the most of it to crank up turnout. But are genuine swing voters really that gullible? Won’t the fear-mongering get stale after months of it? Is Sanders adept enough to confront the accusations and persuade enough voters to support his candidacy anyway?

Yglesias notes that, “in current head-to-head polling matchups with Donald Trump, Sanders does well and is normally winning. Skeptics worry whether that lead will hold up against the sure-to-come cavalcade of attack ads from Trump. It’s a reasonable concern.” Yglesias adds that Sanders has “separated that idealism from his practical legislative work, which was grounded in vote counts. He voted for President Barack Obama’s Children’s Health Insurance Program reauthorization bill in 2009, and again for the Affordable Care Act in 2010. He voted for the Dodd-Frank bill and every other contentious piece of Obama-era legislation.”

“It’s fine if you want to be annoyed that Sanders’s self-presentation as a revolutionary who will sweep all practical obstacles aside is at odds with his reality as an experienced legislator who does typical senator stuff in a typical way,” Yglesias writes. “But there’s no reason to be worried that Sanders is a deluded radical who doesn’t understand how the government works…Some of his ideas are not so good, but it’s important to understand that on the vast majority of topics, the policy outputs of a Sanders administration just wouldn’t be that different from those of a Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg administration. Whether a new president promises continuity with Obama or a break with neoliberalism, the constraints will realistically come from Congress, where the median member is all but certain to be more conservative than anyone in the Democratic field.”

However, “On foreign policy, by contrast, the president is less constrained, and Sanders’s real desire to challenge aspects of the bipartisan foreign policy consensus makes a difference. He’s much more critical of Israel than most people in national politics, he’s a leading critic of the alliance with Saudi Arabia, and he’s generally skeptical of America’s expansive military posture…These ideas are coded as “extreme” in Washington, where there’s significant bipartisan investment in the status quo. But polls show that most voters question the narratives of American exceptionalism, favor a reduced global military footprint and less defense spending, and are skeptical of the merits of profligate arms sales…Nobody should have illusions about Sanders somehow unilaterally ushering in a bold new era of world peace, but he is by far the most likely person in the race to push back against expansive militarism — and that’s worth considering.”

In his concluding summation, Yglesias writes that “Sanders’s record is not nearly as scary as many establishment Democrats fear. His “revolution” rhetoric doesn’t make sense to me, but he’s been an effective legislator for a long time, and he knows how to get things done — and how hard it is to get them done.” Also,

Some of his big ideas are not so hot on the merits, but it’s not worth worrying about them because the political revolution is so unrealistic. And on a couple of issues where the next president will probably have a fair amount of latitude, Sanders breaks from the pack in good ways. He’s perhaps not an ideal electability choice, but his track record on winning elections is solid and his early polling is pretty good. There’s no particular reason to think he’d be weaker than the other three top contenders, and at least some reason to think he’d be stronger.

A Sanders presidency should generate an emphasis on full employment, a tendency to shy away from launching wars, an executive branch that actually tries to enforce environmental protection and civil rights laws, and a situation in which bills that both progressives and moderates can agree on get to become law…That’s a formula the vast majority of mainstream Democrats should be able to embrace.

Yglesias doesn’t address some legitimate concerns, such as Sanders’s’ policies on fracking, which won’t help Dems in the pivotal swing state of Pennsylvania. Sanders also embraces voting rights for all incarcerated people, which Trump-heads will spin into ‘Look, he wants to give terrorists and killers voting power.’ Then there is the equally-distorted ‘open borders’ meme, in which Sanders and other liberal Democrats are characterized as strewing welcoming roses in the paths of undocumented hordes crosssing our southern borders. But it may be that those who buy into these two exaggerations are probably not going to vote for the Democratic nominee anyway.

Yglesias’s strongest argument is that any Democratic nominee, not just Sanders, is going to present some serious problems, and Democrats are going to have to prepare for vicious attacks from Trump’s campaign regardless of who leads our ticket. Whoever Dems nominate is going to face a relentless and unprecedented assault, including nasty personal accusations. Our 2020 nominee has to be tough and well-prepared, and so far, Sanders looks like he can handle it.


Political Strategy Notes

In his article, “Trump’s Biggest Vulnerability” His lies about health care at the State of the Union signal just how weak he is on the issue” at The Atlantic, Ronald Browstein writes, “he repeatedly lied about his administration’s unrelenting efforts to gut the Affordable Care Act. To Democrats, Trump’s determination to surround his health-care record with what Winston Churchill once called a “bodyguard of lies” clearly signaled that the president recognizes how vulnerable his record could prove this fall…Because people see health care as so central to both their personal well-being and their financial well-being, health care stands out as Trump’s No. 1 vulnerability,” says the longtime Democratic pollster Geoff Garin. “The simplest way for people to understand the Trump economy is that whatever wage increases they are getting are smaller than the increases in their health-care premiums and out-of-pocket health-care costs.”

Brownstein continues,  In an Associated Press/National Opinion Research Center survey last month, just 38 percent of Americans said they approved of his record on health care—a grade that has stayed relatively stable since he took office—compared with 56 percent who approved of his handling of the economy, the highest of his presidency…The latest monthly health-care poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation drilled down further into those views. In the survey, just about a third of adults gave Trump positive marks for dealing with preexisting conditions, the ACA, and prescription-drug costs. Detailed results provided to me by Kaiser showed that two key groups of swing voters shared this deep skepticism of Trump’s health-care record. A majority of college-educated white men disapproved of how Trump has handled each of the three issues. And while white women without a college degree—a group that could decide the Rust Belt states that tilted the 2016 election to Trump—broke against him more narrowly on the ACA and preexisting conditions, just 31 percent of them gave him positive marks on prescription-drug costs.”

“The Republican pollster Gene Ulm told me,” Brownstein notes, “that easing those doubts about his handling of health-care issues is crucial for Trump’s reelection prospects. “No president would be in the game without people believing the economy is getting better than it was,” Ulm said. But for “the next cluster of voters” beyond those immediately drawn to him, “it’s the cost of health care, prescription drugs, and the whole cluster of premiums, co-pays, [and] out-of-pocket expenses” that matter most…And on those fronts, the best measure of Trump’s anxiety was his mendacity in describing his record on Tuesday night…Trump, not for the first time, flatly lied about his efforts to revoke the ACA’s protections for those with preexisting conditions. Not only is his administration currently in federal court seeking to invalidate the entire ACA, but in 2017 he endorsed Republican proposals in Congress to effectively erase those protections by allowing insurance companies to charge people who have greater health needs more. “It’s notable that the president feels the need to say he’s protecting people with preexisting conditions,” Levitt says, “but the facts just don’t back that up.”

“Trump has talked about confronting prescription-drug costs since his 2016 campaign,” Brownstein adds, “when he embraced the long-standing Democratic idea of allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower prices with drug companies. But amid opposition from the pharmaceutical industry, and Republicans leery of an aggressive federal role in health care, he renounced that proposal…Democrats, meanwhile, have picked up the mantle, putting it at the center of the H.R. 3 legislation that the House passed in December. (That was the bill House Democrats were alluding to when a group of them rose to chant “H.R. 3” during Trump’s State of the Union address.)..The GOP-led Senate hasn’t taken up the bill, but the public’s intense focus on drug costs makes it possible that Trump will offer some proposals on the issue before Election Day. That’s why it’s so essential for Democrats to more sharply define the terms of debate right now. “It is really important for Democrats to set the bar on the drug-pricing issue at whether someone supports or opposes giving Medicare the power to negotiate,” Garin warns.”

“Trump’s religious supporters, most of whom preach the most conservative versions of Christianity, either don’t realize or don’t care that they are ratifying what so many young people have come to believe about religion: that it is nothing but a cover for conservative politics,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes in his syndicated Washington Post column, “Political idolatry is the enemy of religious faith.” Dionne adds that “it is far more about identity than faith, that it upholds a static traditionalism rather than a living tradition…Thus do 4 in 10 Americans under 40 declare that they have no religious affiliation whatsoever. They are far from devoid of profound moral commitments, and some of them still think of themselves as spiritual. But organized religion just doesn’t speak to them anymore…I acknowledge you have every right to be suspicious that I’m as inclined as anyone to see faith as blessing my own politics. Nonetheless, Romney showed us how religion is most usefully invoked in public life: when it prompts self-doubt rather than self-celebration, when it encourages us to build solidarity with those unlike us and when it promotes dissent rather than conformity.”

So, given the current political landscape, “Was Impeachment a Mistake?” Robert Kuttner, co-editor of The American Prospect addresses the question: “There is no evidence that the impeachment will hurt Democrats in November, and some evidence that it helped. During the entire investigation, polls scarcely moved. To the extent that public opinion shifted at all, it moved very slightly in the direction of favoring Trump’s removal from office, especially among independents…As a sheer matter of politics, there is one strong benefit. Depending on whom you include, between seven and eleven Republican Senate incumbents are up for re-election in swing states next November…Their vote to excuse Trump’s dictatorial behavior by refusing to convict will force them to answer extremely damaging questions during the campaign. These include Cory Gardner of Colorado, Martha McSally of Arizona, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and Susan Collins of Maine. McConnell himself, up for re-election, has approval ratings in his home state of Kentucky of just 37 percent…Whether or not Trump is re-elected, Democratic control of the Senate is crucial for maintaining a semblance of democracy in America. So no, impeachment did not remove Trump, and may not even have damaged him. But it had to be done, and could yet produce major benefits for the Democrats and the country.”

SemDem probes “What Florida Democrats can learn from Virginia … and why they need to” at Daily Kos and offers some strategy suggestions, including, “Long-term investments in pink and red counties can make a dent in Republican dominance in those areas, and they will be critical for victory in 2020… Florida will be lost again if red counties, like Pasco County, are allowed to drive up 50,000 vote margins…Look at Virginia: Just a few years ago, as one candidate put it, the rural western region was written off as hopeless by the state Democratic Party. That started changing in 2015, thanks to the work of several groups. One such group, 90 for 90, was organized by lawmakers and the Chesterfield County Democrats to register voters, encourage voter participation, and recruit candidates outside of the Democratic strongholds. Another initiative, started by Sen. Tim Kaine in 2017, banded multiple rural candidates together to pool resources, share consultants, and create operational support for campaigns across the rural districts. One of these candidates was Daily Kos’ own Beverly Harrison. Although she lost her election, Harrison found success in her work on the successful state campaign to get Virginia to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment…The goal was to build relationships within rural areas, and identify and focus on issues those communities care about, like broadband access and farming. The renewed care that the Virginia Democrats showed these neglected areas paid dividends right away: The GOP suddenly realized that it could no longer rely on these areas it had formerly depended on to retain its majority.”

SemDem notes also that “The Haitian American population in South Florida has grown to over 300,000 strong, expanding their political clout. Scott appeared at a major Haitian American religious event, the Haitian Evangelical Crusade, in Greenacres, Florida; he ran ads in Haitian Creole. Never mind that Rick Scott strongly supports a president who called Haiti a “shithole.” All any of the Florida Democratic candidates had to do was make an effort—at least show up. They didn’t, and we lost every major race by razor-thin margins…Contrast this with the new East Asian and Indian immigrants in Virginia. The situation there was reversed: The Virginia GOP had a tremendous opportunity to get a foothold in these immigrant communities, as these voters spoke positively about the GOP’s rhetoric on taxes and on family values. Yet the Virginia Republicans made very little effort to reach out and counter Trump’s constant, vile attacks on immigrants. That got noticed…It was the Virginia Democrats who welcomed them, visited year-round, and listened to their needs. They didn’t just assume that immigrant communities would fall in line behind Democrats because of Trump’s hatred. It’s as if the Florida Republicans and the Virginia Democrats are following the same playbook, and it’s working for both. In Virginia, immigrant communities turned out in droves and helped Democrats capture the trifecta.” Democrats should also note that Florida has more eligible African-American voters than any other state. Even a modest increase in Black turnout in Florida can make the difference on November 3rd.

To close out this edition of Political Strategy Notes, Nancy LeTourneau reports some good news for Democrats at The Washington Monthly: Although the “Democrats in disarray” crowd is having a field day. As someone who tends to chafe at conventional wisdom, I thought I’d go against the grain and bring you some good news about Democrats. Almost no one is noticing that the party has successfully implemented a 50-state strategy when it comes to fundraising…Howard Dean is the one who popularized the idea of a 50-state strategy back in 2005. What most people don’t know is that in promoting that idea, he was posing a direct challenge to the Democratic “establishment” of his day. Prior to his chairmanship of the DNC, the party was the focal point for fundraising and its leadership doled money out to candidates in a top-down strategy based on who they thought would be viable. Very little of that money was spent to support state parties or candidates in red states or districts that were deemed to be unviable.” Citing “the emergence of ActBlue as the powerhouse of online grassroots fundraising,” LeTourneau writes, “What we have is a Republican Party that has become increasingly dependent on large donations from outside groups and a Democratic Party fueled by grassroots donations directly to candidates. That is how a 50-state strategy is attempting to level the playing field in the era of Citizens United.”


Political Strategy Notes

In “What Is Next for the Democrats” at The Hill, Former DCCC Chairman Steve Israel writes, “The question for Democrats becomes what next? Should they keep driving down the twisting path of investigations and spurned subpoenas? Or should Democrats slam the brakes on their constitutional responsibility, two words Senate Republicans can no longer say with a straight face, to conduct real oversight of the administration?…The answer is to keep exposing the misdeeds of Trump, while opening a new front on the kitchen table issue of health care in Congress and on the campaign trail. It seems counterintuitive, but Democrats are in a decent, though imperfect, strategic political environment. They have thoroughly discredited acquittal…But harping on inappropriate, impeachable, and illegal behavior will not be enough for Democrats. They will have to exploit one of the greatest electoral vulnerabilities of Trump, which is health care. In a recent poll by Navigator Research, 56 percent of the voters surveyed trust Democrats in Congress over Trump when it comes to health care. This is the largest gap so far in this poll. A poll by Fox News Channel found 54 percent of voters disapprove of how the president is doing on the key issue of health care.”…Maintaining protections for people with preexisting conditions has been a relatively strong platform for Democrats. A poll by the Kaiser Foundation last November found that 62 percent of the public opposed the Supreme Court overturning the protection. In the same poll, conducted just before the 2018 midterm elections gave Democrats a House majority, 75 percent of Americans surveyed thought it was “very important” for the Affordable Care Act to maintain protections for people with preexisting conditions.”

From “What Swing Working-Class Voters in Battleground States Are Thinking” by Marcia Brown at The American Prospect: “Almost half of “persuadable” voters think that President Donald Trump has made no difference in their lives since his term began, according to new survey results of working-class communities in the battleground states of Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin released today by Working America, an advocacy arm of the AFL-CIO…The report also indicated that those who voted third-party in 2016 are now “more than twice as likely to pick the Democratic nominee as they are to stick with a third party.” Also notable is that 86 percent of those who supported Hillary Clinton in 2016 say they will support the 2020 Democratic nominee, but only 77 percent of those who voted for Trump in 2016 will vote for him again…The survey turned up pervasive cynicism toward the president’s tax plan passed in 2017. Working America says this shows “surprising potential for voter persuasion against him.” Even among the Republicans whom the group interviewed, only 40 percent had a positive view of Trump’s tax legislation. Writing Monday in the Financial Times, liberal pollster Stanley Greenberg noted that “slashing tax rates for corporations and the top 1 per cent was the last straw” for many such voters. The disfavor toward the tax cut crossed the urban-rural divide: “Regardless of the type of community where voters live,” the report states, “the tax law is overwhelmingly unpopular…In his column, Greenberg observed that “the shift against Mr. Trump among working people [in the 2018 midterm election] was three times stronger than the shift in the suburbs, where the Democrats were poised to flip seats.”

The Democratic response to Trump’s SOTU:

In Thomas B. Edsall’s New York Times column, “If Bernie Wins, Where Will He Take the Democratic Party?,” he writes, “The next step is the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 11, where Sanders currently has a strong 8.6 percentage point lead, according to RealClearPolitics. If Sanders wins New Hampshire, there will almost certainly be an establishment-led drive to block him from the nomination.” Edsall cites “Republican efforts to demonize Sanders, which are certain to start in earnest if he becomes the nominee,” and adds, “Sanders stands out among the leading Democratic presidential candidates in that none of the others have accumulated as many potentially debilitating liabilities as he has over 50 active years in politics…Sanders’s positioning on the far left has been crucial to mobilizing pluralities of Democratic primary and caucus voters. But many studies show that in general elections, the nomination of more extreme candidates has alienated moderates and driven up voting for the opposition — in this case the Republican Party…

However, notes Edsall, “Sanders’s ascendancy in the nomination fight places the Democratic Party in a double bind. Not only is he potentially a dangerously weak general election candidate but, if an Anybody-But-Bernie movement materializes and successfully defeats him at the convention, Sanders supporters — more than backers of any other major candidates — are likely to bolt on Election Day and vote for either a third-party candidate or even Trump (as many Sanders supporters did in 2016), or sit out the contest altogether. In 2016, more than 7 million votes were cast for third-party candidates, more than enough to have given the election to Hillary Clinton…A January 22-23 Emerson College survey asked Democratic primary voters “will you vote for the Democratic nominee even if it is not your candidate?” 87 percent of Joe Biden supporters said yes, as did 90 percent of those backing Elizabeth Warren and 86 percent of those aligned with Pete Buttigieg. 53 percent of Sanders supporters said yes, 16 percent said no, and 31 percent said they were undecided.”

On the other hand, Edsall adds, “There are election analysts, including a number of conservatives, who say that they believe that Sanders would be a credible nominee with a good chance of beating Trump.” He quotes Matthew Yglesias, who says “The Vermont senator is unique in combining an authentic, values-driven political philosophy with a surprisingly pragmatic, veteran-legislator approach to getting things done. This pairing makes him the enthusiastic favorite of non-Republicans who don’t necessarily love the Democratic Party, without genuinely threatening what’s important to partisan Democrats…At the end of the day, Sanders’s record is not nearly as scary as many establishment Democrats fear. His ‘revolution’ rhetoric doesn’t make sense to me, but he’s been an effective mayor and legislator for a long time” Edsall concludes, “Now it may be that the country is ready to elect as president a 78-year-old angry democratic socialist calling for revolution. But if I were a partisan whose top priority was to bring the Trump presidency to an end, I would not bank on it.”

Nate Silver shares some insights from FiveThirtyEight’s post-Iowa forecast: “Now that we finally have some clarity on Iowa’s results — with 86 percent of precincts reporting — we’ve turned our primary model back on, including its estimates of the potential fallout from Iowa…The model shows former Vice President Joe Biden’s chances of winning a majority of pledged delegates being halved — from 43 percent before Iowa to 21 percent now…Who gains from Biden’s decline? Well, a little bit of everyone. The model thinks Iowa was more good news than bad news for Sen. Bernie Sanders…His chances have advanced to 37 percent, from 31 percent before Iowa, making him the most likely person to achieve that majority…Pete Buttigieg’s chances are also up, to 6 percent from 4 percent before…Buttigieg still has his work cut out for him in building a broader coalition; it’s going to require a big bounce in states and among demographic groups where the former mayor is not currently strong…Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s majority chances are also slightly up, according to our model, having improved to 10 percent from 5 percent before. That’s because in a more chaotic field, with at least one of the front-runners (Biden) potentially falling back into the pack, her roughly 15 percent of the vote in national polls could eventually give her some opportunities, even though none of the next three states look especially promising for her.”

Janell Ross reports “Tidal wave of voter suppression’ washes over states, lawyer says” at nbcnews.com: “States across the country have, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision striking down part of the Voting Rights Act, moved swiftly and repeatedly to reshape almost every element of voting. Lawmakers are using a variety of race and age-neutral measures with explanations as pragmatic as cost and as prudent as election security. Now, with Election Day less than 10 months away, a range of lawsuits are pending or have recently been resolved challenging what Marc Elias, a lawyer working for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, described as “nothing short of a tidal wave” of voter suppression targeting black and young voters…“We are seeing stark levels of voter suppression efforts,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the National Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said. “In a post-Shelby world, the burden falls to citizens and civil rights groups to monitor and challenge all that is going on. But what’s really made this worse is what’s happening at the Justice Department. “…States are engaging in aggressive voter roll purges, polling site closures and uneven voting resource allocations that, in some cases, violate the law, Clarke said.”

Ross provides detailed updates on current voter suppression campaigns underway in a number of states: “In Texas, officials in mostly white Waller County, citing cost concerns, announced that they would not make an early voting site available on the campus of a historically black university. Then the state passed a law effectively requiring other communities to take similar action…A Tennessee law threatens third-party groups that register citizens to vote with criminal penalties if they make mistakes on forms or the forms arrive incomplete. The state’s governor, a Republican, said the law will make elections fairer…And in Florida, state lawmakers overrode the results of a ballot initiative restoring voting rights to felons who have completed their sentences. Lawmakers who opposed the initiative insisted it was up to them to define what constitutes a completed sentence…months after more than 1.6 million Florida residents with felony convictions regained the right to vote, Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislatureimplemented a law requiring that individuals pay fines and fees associated with their convictions before being able to vote.”


Iowa Mess Robs Winner – Whoever That Is – of Election Night Victory Buzz

From “Vote-reporting mess leaves Iowa with no victor on caucus night” by Stephen Collinson at CNN Politics:

Amid anger, chaos and confusion, candidates took to the stage at their caucus headquarters one by one — at a time when the victor would normally be expected to bask in the spoils — to give versions of their stump speeches before heading on to the next contest, in New Hampshire next week…The logjam threatens to rob the eventual winner of the caucuses of some of the early bounce from their victory and is a poor look for a party trying to prove it is up to taking on Trump’s fearsome political machine. It might offer candidates who do worse than expected some cover and is already raising questions about Iowa’s place at the front of the presidential calendar…The campaigns are livid.

So much for the town hall glorification vibes Iowa has milked so enthusiastically in recent years — a much tougher sell going forward. Presidential candidates, their staffs and media have roamed the state for the last year, spending millions of dollars and boosting the state economy enormously. That tradition may now be toast, if future Democratic presidential candidates have their wits about them. Ditto for the Democratic Party.

The top Democratic candidates gave variations of their stump speeches to fill the dead time while the TV networks were caught flat-footed. Sen. Amy Klobuchar was the first to seize the opportunity to grab some freebie national publicity. She rose to the occasion and delivered a pretty good speech. The other candidates followed Klobuchar, but struggled to match her energetic delivery.

As Collinson writes, “One candidate, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, made a shrewd move to fill the political vacuum and gave a pseudo-victory speech — grabbing the television spotlight in the absence of results giving other more favored candidates the win…We know there are delays, but we know one thing — we are punching above our weight!” Klobuchar said.”

All in all, whoever did worse than expected in the caucuses won the night, because their loss and their opponent’s victory will be overshadowed by reportage of the Iowa mess, and much of the public will likely shrugg off the tally as tainted by incompetence. Somewhere, former Mayor Bloomberg is glad he didn’t waste time in Iowa.

The explanations for the screw-up, including a knee-jerk quick denial of outside interference, were nearly as lame as the vote and delegate counting process. With benefit of hindsight, the whole process was way too complex, with its metrics for “viability,” “preference cards,” “re-alignment” and “state delegate equivalents” — requiring lots of ‘splaining. Dems should not overlook one obvious lesson: keep it simple.

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes called it a “Rube Golberg machine.” Esquire’s Charles Pierce said the disaster ought to be the “death knell” for Iowa’s caucus, which is inherently anti-democratic. Even before the vote count mess, former Senator Clare McCaskill criticized the caucus as “designed by Republicans” and discouraging participation. CNN commentator Ronald Brownstein said it shows that “caucuses have outlived their usefulness.”

Republicans, of course, will be piling on with the snarky one-liners. Dems will remind them that they  won’t even hold primary elections in many states, denying some of their presidential candidates any consideration at all.

But the unavoidable question for other state Democratic parties this morning: Would it be wise to adopt a hand-count ballot system pretty damn quick?

All of the candidates were surely glad to close their election night speeches with “On to New Hampshire” — and they really meant it.


Political Strategy Notes

Stephen Collinson explains why “A week like no other looms in American politics” at CNN Politics: “After a brief respite over the weekend, senators will return to President Donald Trump’s Senate trial on Monday to hear closing arguments from Democratic House impeachment managers and the President’s legal defense team…Hours later, and after months of exchanges on the campaign trail, Democratic voters finally begin their search for a candidate to make Trump a one-term President in Monday night’s Iowa caucuses…The commander-in-chief will hit back the next night, weaving a narrative of prosperity at home and strength abroad, as his reelection pitch reaches new intensity in his annual “State of the Union” address…And then after finally breaking their own enforced silence with speeches from the floor, senators will Wednesday undertake their gravest possible duty in voting on whether to make Trump the first impeached President to be ousted in US history. Spoiler: Republicans will ensure that Trump is acquitted of high crimes and misdemeanors and will leave it up to voters to decide his fate.”…“But it is unusual for three events with the potential to set the tone of a crucial campaign and the political year ahead to unfold in such a compressed time frame — one that encapsulates the sense-scrambling reality of Washington in the bewildering Trump era…The next three days will reveal the political forces shaping the nation’s present — like Trump’s relentless dominance of the Republican Party and the desperation of Democrats to consign him to a single term…They will also unleash chain reactions that will shape the run up to November’s election and will reflect divisions widened by impeachment.”

“In Monday’s contest,” Ronald Brownstein writes at The Atlantic, “the Democratic candidates will be more reliant on metro areas—particularly those with large numbers of young adults and white-collar suburbanites—than even four years ago: Among the state’s 99 counties, just seven will award 53 percent of the delegates at stake…These changes create the most obvious challenge for former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who are relying heavily on older and more establishment voters based in rural communities and smaller cities. Bigger turnout in college towns like Iowa City, the home of the University of Iowa, will benefit Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont—though critics complain that the rules of the caucus are designed to undercut the clout of college towns. Bigger turnout in the white-collar suburbs around Des Moines, Iowa City, and Cedar Rapids could primarily benefit Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg—though both Biden and Klobuchar are hoping to remain competitive in those areas too.”

Brownstein adds, “None of the cities in Iowa is that large by national standards: The Des Moines metro area has about 650,000 residents. Still, the trends in the state are familiar in two ways: First, the largest urban areas are fueling its population growth. The seven Iowa counties that will award the most delegates at the caucus are Polk (Des Moines), Linn (Cedar Rapids), Johnson (Iowa City), Scott (Davenport), Black Hawk (Waterloo), Story (Ames), and Dubuque. But the big three—Polk, Linn, and Johnson counties—are the ones most propelling the state’s growth: Since 1990, they have accounted for fully two-thirds of Iowa’s modest total population increase of 375,000…The second trend is a growing urban-rural divide: Like elsewhere, Iowa Democrats are losing ground in rural areas, even as they pick up voters in metro areas.”

Brownstein notes further, “With the latest Iowa polls indicating a close contest, the result on caucus night may come down to whether turnout is close to the roughly 170,000 who voted in 2016 or whether it matches or even exceeds the record 240,000 who voted in 2008. Among Iowa observers, the general consensus is that Biden, who is dependent on more moderate, older Democrats who regularly attend the caucuses, has his best chance to prevail if turnout falls on the lower end of that range. But if the total vote surges, Biden “could just get swamped,” Rynard told me…A big turnout on Monday will almost certainly underscore how thoroughly the Democratic center of gravity in Iowa has shifted toward the state’s largest population centers. But how such an elevated turnout divides between young people and college-educated suburbanites could ultimately decide which candidate leaves the state with the most powerful tailwind.”

Regarding the Iowa caucuses, Amy Walter writes at The Cook Political Report, “Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who has been moving up in Iowa polling, is closing out with a pragmatic pitch to voters: “Klobuchar can unite our party and perhaps our nation…She knows how to get things done.”…Primary voters, however, rarely reward the ‘practical’ choice. What gets someone to the polls — especially to a caucus on a Monday night in the dead of winter — is passion. But, we also know that Democratic primary voters have been telling us for months that their number one priority is beating Trump. Iowa has always prided itself on its sophisticated voting electorate. Woe to the candidate who thinks he or she can drop into Iowa unprepared for serious discussions about ethanol or the cost of soybeans. But, go there today, and you’ll hear voters discussing which Democrat is best positioned to win Pennsylvania or Michigan more than you will overhear talk about which one best understands Iowa issues. We will learn on Monday night if Trump — and the prospect of beating him — will supply the energy and passion that biography or policy once did.”

In his column, “Bloomberg’s Moment May Arrive,” Charlie Cook observes, also at The Cook Politial Report: “In my mind Joe Biden is still a fragile front-runner, with somewhere between a 40 and 50 percent chance of winning the nod. There are those who would bestow the title of front-runner on Bernie Sanders, who currently is polling in first place in both Iowa and New Hampshire. My hunch, however, is that he would have a hard time going the distance, for reasons I’ll get to in just a moment. My odds for Michael Bloomberg are in the 20-25 percent range, with the remaining 30-35 percent spread out between Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, or someone else. To be clear, these aren’t shares of the vote, but chances to win. I know I’m bullish on Bloomberg; this is definitely a contrarian view, but one that might make some sense…The profile of Bloomberg voters is that they’re 50 or older, college-educated, and somewhat centrist. Well, you have just defined the supporters of Biden, Pete Buttigieg, and Amy Klobuchar as well. If none of those three are thriving, what do you think will happen?”

Kyle Kondik takes a look ahead at “The Road to Milwaukee: How the Democratic Primary Will Unfold” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and writes, “These early contests will get loads of attention throughout the month, although the dirty little secret is that, together, they only account for a pittance of the delegates that will be awarded in the primaries and caucuses. There are 3,979 of them up for grabs in 57 contests, with 1,991 required for a majority…Every year, there is a Super Tuesday, this year on March 3. But it may be more appropriate to look at the March 3-March 17 span as “Super Two-weeks.” A flood of contests bookended by two ethnic holidays — Illinois’ Casimir Pulaski Day (celebrated in honor of a Polish Revolutionary War hero the day before Super Tuesday on March 2) and St. Patrick’s Day on March 17 — may effectively decide the nomination…By the end of the Super Two-weeks, more than 60% of all the delegates will have been awarded. There may be a clear leader at that point who could be effectively impossible to catch given the Democrats’ proportional delegate allocation rules, or no clear leader at that time, making it hard for any candidate to capture a majority of the delegates by the end of the nomination season.”

At Daily Kos, Chris Reeves writes, “As the Iowa caucus comes to a close on February 3, we begin to really gear up for New Hampshire on Tuesday, Feb. 11. Eight days doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but eight days can make a huge difference in where campaigns are and what potential resources are available to them. Campaigns leaving Iowa without delegates will be seen as wounded, mortally so. While some campaigns—thinking specifically of Bloomberg and Steyer—could proceed as long as they wish as vanity campaigns from those who can self-fund, other candidates will find that fundraising and staff support will quickly fade post-Iowa if they do not perform well…The story out of Iowa will happen in a few stages. First, we’ll get the results, but then we will find out which candidates can hold together enough staff and donors to stay active. Some campaigns will absolutely close down. Some will thin themselves, focusing whatever they have left on New Hampshire. Others will just wait and see. Winning campaigns will staff up and start to push more chips into the table to try and play to win.”

From E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s column, “Progressives and moderates: Don’t destroy each other” at The Washington Post: “The Democratic campaign was destined to entail an argument about the party’s direction for the next decade. Is this election about restoration, after the madness of Trump’s time in office? Or should the accent be on transformation, to grapple with the underlying problems that led to Trump’s election in the first place?…Like so many of the binaries in politics, the restoration/transformation optic captures something important but is also a false choice. The country can’t simply pick up where it left off before Trump took office. The radicalized conservatism that dominates the Republican Party will not go away even if he is defeated. The inequalities of class and race that helped fueled Trump’s rise have deepened during his presidency. You might say restoring the norms that Trump threatens requirestransformation. And the majority that opposes Trump is clearly seeking a combination of restoration and transformation…What should bring moderates and progressives together is an idea put forward long ago by the late social thinker Michael Harrington: “visionary gradualism.” The phrase captures an insight from each side of their debate: Progressives are right that reforms unhinged from larger purposes are typically ephemeral. But a vision disconnected from first steps and early successes can shrivel up and die. Vision and incremental change are not opposites. In our nation’s history, the two have reinforced each other — for example, in protecting the environment, achieving social security for the elderly and assistance to the unemployed, protecting civil rights, and expanding health insurance coverage. This lesson will apply for any new Democratic president, no matter which wing of the party she or he represents.”


Political Strategy Notes

What direction should Democratic strategy take if Republicans block witnesses from the Senate impeachment trial? In terms of messaging, Sen Kamala Harris’s comment that “there cannot be a true acquittal if there has not been a fair trial” is a good start. Taking a step back and looking at 2020 senate campaign strategy, a GOP witness shutdown would also give Democratic senate candidates additional leverage in close races. Republican obstruction of witnesses slimes their own party. They will undoubtedly hope that the damage fades by November; Indeed they are betting on it. How that pans out depends to a great extent on how well Democratic candidates, activists and especially the media remind voters of GOP witnesss obstruction in the months leading up to November 3rd. In races against the very few Republican senators who voted for witnesses, Democratic opponents will focus more on their final votes to let Trump off in a trial that banned witnesses. Meanwhile, Democratic ad-makers should get busy compiling video footage of Republicans squirming on camera as they try to justify their complicity in naked obstruction of justice. That ought to make genuine Constitutional conservatives of a once-great political party cringe in shame.

Alan I. Abramowitz explains the “Democrats’ Dilemma: Ideology, Electability, and the 2020 Presidential Nomination in Iowa and the Nation” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and notes, “The evidence displayed in Table 3 provides some empirical support for the belief of many Democrats that Biden has a better chance of defeating Trump than Sanders. On average, Biden outperforms Sanders in matchups with Trump nationally and in 11 of 12 potential swing states for which polling data are currently available. The difference is slightly larger in the swing state polls than in the national polls. And the differences between the two Democratic candidates are generally small. Thus far, in the national polls and in most of the swing states, including the three that were critical to Trump’s Electoral College victory in 2016 — Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — both Sanders and Biden are leading Trump…The fact that the differences in general election performance between Biden and Sanders are fairly small, especially in the national polls, is not surprising given the deep partisan divide that exists over the incumbent. A presidential election with a running incumbent like 2020 is largely a referendum on the incumbent. The vast majority of Democratic voters would be expected to support any of the leading Democratic challengers over Trump.”

Table 3: Polling averages of Biden and Sanders vs. Trump

Abramowitz is author of “The Great Alignment: Race, Party Transformation, and the Rise of Donald Trump.”

Most of the media coverage of the current Democratic presidential race has lately focused on front-runner Biden and Sanders. Elizabeth Warren has lost some support recently. But she is still a formidable candidate in key swing states. Richard Parker makes the case for Warren at The Nation, and notes, “Warren has also been consistently effective in helping elect other Democrats—allies a president will desperately need. In 2018 alone, she raised $8 million for congressional candidates, then personally called all 172 of them to offer her support and went on to meet with 61 of them face-to-face to lay out how to best deploy that support. She firmly grasps the reality the media’s relentless, monocular focus on the presidential race misses: that in order to deliver bold change, the next president will need a Congress that shares (rather than checkmates) an agenda with the White House…Her opposition to Wall Street’s endless predations has also been consistent, courageous, and persuasive—and tied directly to her recognition that 40 years of growing income and wealth inequality won’t be reversed without the reregulation of finance…She played public and behind-the-scenes roles in crafting the still-unused powers of the Dodd-Frank Act to tame Wall Street and in creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Washington’s first new (and under the Democrats, demonstrably effective) regulator since the New Deal…In her skill and dedication campaigning for other candidates; in doggedly shepherding tough, controversial bills through Congress; and in constructing a significant federal agency from scratch, Warren has demonstrated her ability to both win elections and govern.”

At Roll Call, Jacob Fischler provides some insights about the urgency of Democrats getting more pro-active in the fight against Repubican gerrymandering: “The state legislative campaign arms of both parties said wins in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin would help win congressional majorities for the next decade. Those six states send a total of 116 representatives to the U.S. House — more than a quarter of the entire voting body. Republicans outnumber Democrats in their combined delegations, 69-46, with one vacancy in Wisconsin…Both chambers of the legislature in all six states are now held by Republicans, and all empower their legislatures to draw congressional district lines…The first election cycle of a decade carries added importance because the winners will use the new census to draw district lines, which generally stay in place for 10 years. By percentage, the closest chamber to flipping is the Pennsylvania House, where Democrats would need to win 4.9 percent of seats now vacant or held by Republicans for a majority. The greatest gap is in the Georgia Senate, where Democrats would have to flip 14.3 percent of all seats…Matt Harringer, a spokesman for the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which focuses on state legislatures, said the party was caught off-guard in the 2010 cycle, when Republicans spent heavily in state races and netted close to 700 seats nationwide…The DLCC said on Jan. 16 it would spend $50 million on what it called its “Flip Everything” campaign. And at least one Democrat-aligned group, Swing Left, is also spending in state legislative races, choosing targets based on redistricting.”

Regarding redistricting opportunities in Texas, Fischler notes, “The Texas House, for example, hasn’t seen a Democratic majority in 18 years. The party would need to pick up nine seats this cycle to change that trend…Texas’ size — it’s the largest not to use an independent commission for its maps — and projected growth make it critical for both parties this cycle…If Democrats can successfully make the Lone Star State a battleground, it will help the party outside the state’s borders as well, forcing Republicans to draw resources from other competitive states…“When Republicans are going to be forced to defend Texas and spend millions and millions of dollars there, it makes it harder for them to spend in a place like Minnesota,” Harringer said…Patrick Rodenbush, a spokesman for the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, pointed out that a number of suburban congressional seats have trended blue the last few cycles, further helping the effort to take over the Texas house…Flipping a chamber in Texas, as in Florida, Georgia or Wisconsin, would break a Republican trifecta — control in both legislative chambers and the governor’s office. In all states but Minnesota, one party controls both legislative chambers going into the 2020 elections.”

Fischler adds, “Flipping a chamber in Texas, as in Florida, Georgia or Wisconsin, would break a Republican trifecta — control in both legislative chambers and the governor’s office. In all states but Minnesota, one party controls both legislative chambers going into the 2020 elections…Ballot-box battles represent one front of an expanding struggle over legislative maps, as both parties have stood up their own organizations to fight for better maps for their side. That may involve courtroom battles, advocacy for state initiatives or political campaigns. For instance, the NDRC’s separate foundation filed the state court suit that resulted in North Carolina’s new maps…Democrats don’t even have to flip entire chambers in some cases to increase their power over maps. In Kansas, the DLCC is aiming to flip enough seats to break GOP supermajorities in each legislative chamber. Such a win would give Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly real veto power, without the possibility that her veto could be overridden on party-line votes…In Ohio, a new redistricting process requires that at least half of both parties vote for the new lines in order for them to go into effect. Rodenbush said that means that every seat Democrats gain there matters, even if they don’t flip the entire chamber.”

“A few months back, Republicans held a secret meeting to plot their strategy for gerrymandering America’s congressional and legislative districts after 2020. It was attended by nearly 200 GOP lawmakers from across the country. But now, leaked audio of the meeting is exposing the GOP’s grand strategy and outlining exactly what they have planned to make this takeover happen…In the recordings, Republicans exchanged tips for disguising illegal racial gerrymandering from the courts and discussed lying to the public about their true intentions. But their intentions couldn’t be clearer: The GOP is prepared to carve up the country and silence Democratic voters for another 10 years…a list of Republicans who were at that meeting was also leaked – and we have a chance to defeat some of them in elections this year, stopping right-wing gerrymandering plans in their tracks…Brett Kavanaugh and the conservative Supreme Court knew exactly what they were doing when they greenlit right-wing partisan gerrymandering last summer – and now, Republicans are already preparing to lock Democrats out of power for another decade, if they get the chance.” — From a Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) e-blast. Those who want to help the DLCC fight gerrymandering, can do so right here.


Political Strategy Notes

When the Democratic presidential campaigns first got underway, there was chatter about making worker rights a leading issue in the 2020 election. It  seemed like a good idea — adults spend half their M-F waking hours on the job. But somehow, perhaps as much because of Trump’s mastery of distraction as anything else, the concept devolved into a drive-by talking point for a few candidates. Those who still think it’s a promising approach for awakening more of America’s 100 million non-voters should read “An SOS Call for America’s Workers: The new Clean Slate report alerts the public and policymakers about the dismal state of worker power and worker voice” by Steven Greenhouse at The American Prospect. Greenhouse, author of “Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past, Present, and Future of American Labor,”  spotlights a new report, “Clean Slate for Worker Power: Building a Just Economy and Democracy,” which could serve as a useful resource for Democrats who want to address worker discontent in their campaigns.

Greenhouse notes recommendations from the Clean Slate Report, including “Give workers the power to elect 40 percent of the members of corporate boards. Moreover, corporate boards would need a supermajority to approve decisions with the biggest impact on workers…Require employers to engage in industrywide or sectoral bargaining once 5,000 workers or 10 percent of an industry’s workforce (whichever is smaller) petition for such bargaining. (The secretary of labor would help define which employers are in which industrial sectors.)…Require employers to bargain over a far wider set of issues. Under current law, unions generally can bargain over only wages and working conditions. The report recommends that unions be allowed to bargain over, for example, their company’s contribution to global warming or its violations of consumers’ privacy or the difficulties its workers and the greater community face finding affordable housing. The report says unions should also have the power to invite community groups to join them at the bargaining table.” Securing any of these reforms will require a Democratic landslide in November, which Democratic federal, state and local candidates should be calling for at every opportunity.

Thomas B. Edsall’s NYT column, “Why Trump Persists” probes the effects of political ambivalence among Democratic voters, and writes “What difference does it make if liberals and Democrats are more ambivalent than conservatives and Republicans?…For one thing, it means that in elections that are increasingly negative, ambivalent partisans — Democrats in this case — will be more vulnerable to attacks designed to generate conflict, to weaken enthusiasm and to increase the likelihood of nonvoting. President Trump and the proponents of the Republican Party he dominates are certain to do all they can to capitalize on this vulnerability…Most importantly, Democratic ambivalence, in a year when high turnout is mandatory, reflects the larger problem facing a political party that is now focused on its shared animosity to Trump. That animosity may or may not be enough to propel its presidential candidate to victory, but the inherent tension between different sectors of the center-left coalition over ideological, economic and social issues — not to mention glaring levels of intraparty income inequality — calls into question exactly what common ground holds the Democratic coalition together. How common is it?”

From Robert Kuttner’s “The Pocketbook Issues Are Still the Democratic Road to Victory: And backing off the ‘identity’ issues will achieve nothing but mush,” also at The American Prospect: “The 2016 election in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin was so close that Democrats only need to win back a tiny fraction of Trump voters and they will win the election. And without a compelling stand on pocketbook issues, watering down support for racial justice or reproductive rights will gain the Democrats little…There are just enough Democrats who win in swing states by putting pocketbook issues first—yet without backing off the social justice issues—to show that this can be good politics. Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown is Exhibit A. Montana Governor Steve Bullock is Exhibit B. These progressive Democrats are not unicorns, and we need more to follow their example…That’s why it makes political sense for the Democrats to nominate a populist economic candidate such as Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders. Any Democrat will be tarred with the brush of being a cultural lefty—soft on immigrants, gays, and minorities; ignoring the rights of the unborn and gun owners—even if they try to disavow it. Only if the message on economics is compelling does it stand a chance of breaking through the cultural prejudices…Democrats also need African Americans and Hispanics to turn out big time. Disdaining their aspirations as mere “identity politics” is a lethal wet blanket in those communities…It isn’t easy to thread this needle, but it is necessary and possible given compelling leadership.”

In his article, ““Shit-Life Syndrome,” Trump Voters, and Clueless Dems” in Counterpunch, Bruce E. Levine, author of Resisting Illegitimate Authority: A Thinking Person’s Guide to Being an Anti-Authoritarian―Strategies, Tools, and Models, provides this nugget of strategic insight: “Getting rid of Trump means taking seriously “shit-life syndrome”—and its resulting misery, which includes suicide, drug overdose death, and trauma for surviving communities…Here in Ohio in counties dominated by shit-life syndrome, the Dems would be wise not to focus on their candidate but instead pour money into negative advertising, shaming Trump for making promises that he knew he wouldn’t deliver on: Hillary has not been prosecuted; Mexico has paid for no wall; great manufacturing jobs are not going to Ohioans; and most importantly, in their communities, there are now even more suicides, drug overdose deaths, and grieving families…You would think a Hollywood Dem could viscerally communicate in 30 seconds: “You fantasized that this braggart would be your hero, but you discovered he’s just another rich asshole politician out for himself.” This strategy will not necessarily get Dems the shit-life syndrome vote, but will increase the likelihood that these folks stay home on Election Day and not vote for Trump.”

Chris Cillizza writes about the possibility of “A Bernie Sanders Sweep” at CNN Politics, and observes, “New Hampshire polls conducted by CNN/University of New Hampshire and NBC/Marist College and released Sunday morning show Sanders with leads of nine and seven points in the Granite State. And in Iowa, a new New York Times/Siena poll puts him up eight points…Sanders’ edge in New Hampshire has been steadier and larger; he has an average five-point lead, according to the Real Clear Politics polling average of all surveys. In Iowa, Sanders is in an effective dead heat with Biden in the RCP average…The last time one candidate won both Iowa and New Hampshire in a Democratic presidential primary fight was 2004 — and Kerry cruised to the nomination following those twin wins.” My main question about a Sanders nomination: Would he get clobbered for being repeatedly branded a “Socialist,” or would that get stale by November and not matter much? It would be helpful to know what percent of 2016 Democratic voters say they would not vote for him under any circumstances, even though that could change in his favor the months ahead.

But any Democratic presidential nominee will likely be called a “socialist” by the Republicans in an unprecedented tsunami of political ads. An accused Democratic nominee could deploy the ‘Truman defense” —  “Republicans call anything that helps people ‘socialism,'” and there are plenty of examples of Republicans calling popular reforms socialism, including Medicare and Social Security. Also say “I don’t do ‘isms.’ That’s your hang-up. I support whatever helps Americans have  better lives.”

Despite the recently-improved polling numbers for Sen. Sanders, former Vice President Biden is still polling well a week out from Iowa. There has been some recent buzz that Sen. Kamala Harris may soon endorse him, despite her giving Biden a hard time in the first presidential debate. Primary season selection of a vice presidential running mate may come off as a tad gimmicky. But a Biden-Harris ticket could help him with turnout of African Americans, women and younger voters. It would also make Biden look good as a leader who doesn’t marinate in grudges, in stark contrast to the current White House occupant. in the post-war period, veep selections haven’t helped much, with the exception of  JFK’s choosing LBJ. But McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin and McGovern’s Eagleton pick (before he selected Shriver) probably hurt. Nowadays a veep candidate’s home state may matter less than her demographic background.

Some of the latest statistics from the Center for American Women and Politics about women candidates for the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives in 2020: 41 of 63 women candidates for 29 U.S. Senate seats are Democrats. Of the 536 women candidates running for House seats in 290 districts, 339 of them are Democrats running in 242 districts. At present, there are 26 women Senators, 17 of whom are Democrats. There are 101 women House members, including 88 Democrats. While Democrats are doing much better than Republicans in terms of fielding women candidates for congress, there is plenty of room for Democrats to benefit from more women candidates.


Political Strategy Notes

From “Democrats lose impeachment votes but hatch a strategy” by Lauren Fedor and Courtney Weaver at The Financial Times: “The first day of Donald Trump’s impeachment trial may have stretched late into the night, but that did not mean there was any doubt how the session would end: in vote after vote, Democrats were defeated in their effort to subpoena documents and witnesses the White House has repeatedly refused to congressional investigators…Even though the party-line votes were foregone conclusions — no moderate Republican, including those who had signalled they were open to hearing from new witnesses, backed the amendments — Democrats appeared to be trying to do something other than just accessing emails, memos and text messages. They were building a political case that the president’s party was complicit in a cover-up…on Tuesday, it quickly become a refrain among House managers, Democratic senators, presidential candidates and the Democratic National Committee.”

Sean Collins’s’ “The latest impeachment polling reflects America’s deep polarization” at Vox notes that “Ahead of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate, a new poll finds Americans remain split on whether the president ought to be removed from office — with a very slight majority, 51 percent, saying he should be removed…That national poll, conducted by SSRS for CNN and released Monday, found little change in opinion on the matter of impeachment and removal. In November, as the impeachment inquiry was in full swing, the same survey found 50 percent of Americans advocating for Trump’s impeachment and removal. That number dipped slightly in SSRS’s December survey, to 45 percent, before rebounding to where it currently stands…That number mirrors the 51 percent an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released Tuesday found believed Trump encouraged election interference…A 538 meta-analysis of impeachment polling has found that, as of January 20, 84 percent of Democrats want Trump removed from office, but only 7.8 percent of Republicans feel the same. Americans who identify as independents reflect the split SSRS found of all Americans — 43 percent said they support removal…House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has pointed to polling like SSRS’s most recent work in advocating for having new witnesses at the trial. Citing a Washington Post/ABC News poll on ABC’s This Week in mid-January, Pelosi said, “Over 70 percent of the American people think that the president should have those witnesses testify.”

Give it up for Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff, who not only made an impeccable factual case for convicting Trump in the Senate impeachment hearings, but also got rave reviews for his stirring call to senators to honor their oaths of office. Schiff eloquently blasted McConnell’s obstruction of witnesses and evidence and urged the senators to stand up for democracy and America’s security. At Alternet, Cody Fenwick provides “5 of the strongest moments from Adam Schiff’s opening statement of Trump’s impeachment trial.” Here’s a video clip of Schiff’s presentation fropm Time:

Syndicated columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. explains why “Why Democrats owe a debt to Mitch McConnell” in The Washington Post: “By working with Trump to rig the trial by admitting as little evidence as possible, McConnell robbed the proceeding of any legitimacy as a fair adjudication of Trump’s behavior. Instead of being able to claim that Trump was “cleared” by a searching and serious process, Republican senators will now be on the defensive for their complicity in the Trump coverup…It gets worse. Thanks to assertions by Trump’s lawyers that he did absolutely nothing wrong, an acquittal vote, as The Post editorialized, “would confirm to Mr. Trump that he is free to solicit foreign interference in the 2020 election and to withhold congressionally appropriated aid to induce such interference.” Is that the position that Republican Sens. Susan Collins (Maine), Cory Gardner (Colo.), Thom Tillis (N.C.) and Martha McSally (Ariz.), among others, want to embrace as they run for reelection this fall? Good luck with that.”

In his article, “The Democrats’ strategy conundrum: a ‘movement’ or a coalition?” at The Hill, Bill Schneider writes, “The division in the Democratic Party today isn’t so much about ideology. It’s more about strategy: Should the party be a coalition or a movement? What’s the difference? A coalition brings together voters with diverse interests who agree on one thing: President Donald Trump has to go. There’s just one test: “If you support the party’s candidate — for whatever reason — you’re one of us. No further questions.”…Supporters of a movement are expected to agree on everything. For the conservative movement, that means the entire conservative agenda, from taxes to abortion to immigration to climate change. Disagree on anything, and you can be declared a heretic and expelled from the movement…The Democratic coalition can include liberals who despise Trump’s policies. It can include ordinary voters who are offended by Trump’s behavior. It can include conservatives who believe Trump has betrayed the conservative cause. It can include voters of all persuasions who object to Trump’s governing by deliberately dividing the country.”

“Democrats are homing in on a strategy they hope will bring new rural voters into the fold through hyperlocal economic messaging and by venturing into parts of the country they ignored in the run-up to the 2016 election,” Jonathan Easley and Reid Wilson write in their article, “Democrats plot new approach to win over rural voters” at The Hill….There’s a coordinated effort among the House Democratic campaign arm, presidential candidates and liberal outside groups to address the party’s rural blind spot by finding new ways to speak to white working-class voters and rural black voters in key battleground states and districts in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Illinois and New York…Democrats believe they’re making inroads with the white working-class voters in the Rust Belt who broke late for President Trump in 2016 through an ad campaign showcasing stories from disappointed voters who are local to the region.”

“Democrats see opportunities to replicate Bustos’s success,” Easley and Wilson continue, “in rural communities elsewhere through a three-pronged strategy: an effort to talk to rural voters to find out what issues are important to them instead of assuming the same national talking points will work, hyperlocal messaging focused on kitchen table issues  and a commitment from local leaders to spending time in the community — a combination of “high-tech, high-touch” campaigning…“Rural voters in 2016 didn’t vote for us for a reason. There wasn’t enough outreach or effort to engage, and so there was a drop-off,” said Antjuan Seawright, a DCCC adviser who lives in rural Richland County in South Carolina, which is 46 percent black…After the 2016 election, a group called Focus on Rural America held focus groups with voters in Iowa who went for Obama twice before casting a ballot for Trump. They found that the new Trump voters broke late, were frustrated by the status quo, didn’t feel Democrats gave them an adequate alternative to Trump, and didn’t like being called racists or misogynists for turning away from Democrats.”

“The liberal super PAC American Bridge is plowing millions of dollars into polling, research and campaign ads in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida to win back the rural working-class voters who went for Trump in 2016,” note Easley and Wilson. “The ads feature personal stories from rural individuals explaining how they had high hopes for Trump but have been let down by his policies. The goal is to create a “permission structure” for disappointed Trump voters to come back to the Democratic side…“We’re working to find potential defectors and going door to door collecting stories and looking to recruit folks to go on camera to tell their stories, to talk about the manufacturing layoffs or farm closures they’ve experienced,” said Jeb Fain, the communications director for American Bridge. “It’s all about authenticity and the credibility of the messenger. Voters are more likely to take the message if it’s from someone nearby than a Washington super PAC.”


Political Strategy Notes

From “As Richmond braces for hate, Americans say race relations are getting worse” by  Sara Kehaulani Goo at Axios on the 35th MLK holiday: “Is the president really responsible for rising racial tension?…A majority of Americans say he is, according to a survey last year by non-partisan Pew Research Center. But the diverging views between blacks and whites and Democrats and Republicans make it seem as though they are living in different versions of America…A strong majority of blacks (73%), Hispanics (69%) and Asians (65%) say Trump has made race relations worse, compared with about half of whites (49%), according to the Pew Research Center survey released in April 2019…Majorities of blacks and Hispanics say that people are more likely to express racist or racially insensitive views since Trump was elected…More than 8 out of 10 Democrats say the president has made race relations worse; just 1% say he’s improved relations…More than a third of Republicans say Trump has made progress toward improving race relations. Just 20% say he’s made it worse.”

Commemorating MLK on the holiday, Washington Post syndicated columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. quotes from one of President Obama’s most eloquent speeches: “That the forces celebrating King prevailed spoke to a healthy intuition that cannot simply be written off as tokenism…No one championed this view more passionately than former president Barack Obama. In 2015, he offered his most powerful testimony on its behalf when he traveled to Selma, Ala., to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the “Bloody Sunday” march for voting rights…“What could be more American than what happened in this place?” Obama asked. “What could more profoundly vindicate the idea of America than plain and humble people — the unsung, the downtrodden, the dreamers not of high station, not born to wealth or privilege, not of one religious tradition but many — coming together to shape their country’s course?”

In his article, “Mitch McConnell may win the impeachment and lose the Senate” at The Hill, Albert Hunt writes that “the Kentucky Republican may turn out to be an asset for Democrats in the fall, as already competitive challengers against Republican incumbents are tying those incumbents to the Senate majority leader, not so much on impeachment but rather on his legislative role: rushing through right-wing judges and bottling up popular House-passed legislation, including crackdowns on rising drug prices, boosting the minimum wage, some campaign finance reform and pay equity for women…On most of these issues, McConnell doesn’t want his half-dozen endangered incumbents to face a vote that big financial interests, always a primary McConnell priority, oppose.”

In his post-debate poll analysis, Nate Silver notes at FiveThirtyEight that “our topline forecast is largely unchanged. Biden remains the most likely candidate to win the majority of pledged delegates, with a 41 percent chance, followed by Sanders at 23 percent, Warren at 12 percent and Buttigieg at 9 percent. There is also a 15 percent chance that no one wins a majority, a chance that could increase if Bloomberg, who has now almost caught Buttigieg in our national polling average, continues to rise.” Silver’s chart:

“What did Sanders and Warren discuss at that meeting in 2018? Who misinterpreted whom? It shouldn’t matter. This is no way to select a nominee,” David Daley writes at salon.com “Sanders and Warren are natural allies. Their supporters share overlapping policy agendas. They seem to like and respect each other personally. They’re only fighting this fiercely over ephemera to try and move a handful of voters from one column to the other ahead of a tight four-way race. Our very winner-takes-all election structure not only encourages this inane behavior, it almost necessitates it…The problem isn’t the people. It’s the all-or-nothing nature of the system. It is time to change it…Just imagine how different Sanders and Warren might campaign if we elected our leaders with ranked choice voting, and voters had the power to select their backup second and third choices to count if their first choice couldn’t win. Sanders and Warren wouldn’t be at each other’s throats, and we wouldn’t be seeing their supporters battling with snake emoji and unleashing powerful emotions about gender still raw from 2016. They’d be campaigning as a team, urging followers to support the other as a second choice…Different incentives lead to a different kind of race. When candidates also compete to be second and third choices, they play nicer and engage in less negative campaigning. They need to appeal to supporters of other candidates. They can’t risk alienating them.”

Regarding the fuss between supporters of Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Harold Meyerson writes at The American Prospect: “I’m not going to be around in 2070, but if somehow there’s any money left in my posthumous checking account, I’ll bet it all that they’ll both be remembered for initiating a sharp break with the financialized capitalism of the past 40 years, and bringing the cause of a radically more democratized and egalitarian economy into American political discourse and the highest levels of American politics. Unlike the other candidates in this year’s Democratic field, each wants to tax wealth and financial transactions, each wants to put workers on corporate boards, each wants to switch to Medicare for All (if at different speeds), each backs free universal child care and preschool, each wants to curtail hedge funds and private equity, each wants to go as far beyond Obama and the previous ideology of the Democratic Party as (to paraphrase Michael Harrington) Roosevelt went beyond Hoover. As well, each has sworn off high-dollar fundraising and depends solely on small contributions—again, unlike the other Democratic candidates…In fact, both Sanders and Warren, whatever their flaws, are daily prescribing the kinds of radical egalitarian reforms that our increasingly plutocratic nation so badly needs. Campaigns are invariably about comparisons and differences, but I hope Warren’s and Sanders’s supporters, and Warren and Sanders themselves, can remember how much, uniquely, they have in common, and how important it is that their common perspectives, under either’s banner, prevail.”

“Of course, every group of reliable Democratic voters is important,” David Edward Burke writes in his article, “Who, Exactly, Makes Up the Democratic Base?” at The Washington Monthly. “But if Democrats want to consistently win elections in 2020 and beyond, they need to think differently about who, exactly, the base is and what unites them. The foundation of the Democratic Party is not built on what we look like, but rather, on a set of ideas that reflect our shared values. As President Obama has said, we don’t need to embrace a false choice between appealing to minority voters or white working-class voters. A candidate who prioritizes and effectively speaks to the issues that most voters truly care about can do both…Even in 2016, Democratic voters were approximately 60 percent white, 20 percent black, and 14 percent Hispanic., and 45 percent of all voters were whites without a college degree. By the time a coalition big enough to win in a general election is assembled—unmarried women, black voters, Hispanic voters, millennials—the concept of “the base” is no longer effectively measured by demographic makeup…It’s also not ideologically monolithic. The Democratic party is neither overwhelmingly liberal or moderate: Self-identified liberals make up 46 percent of the party, whereas moderates comprise 39 percent, and conservatives 14 percent. Therefore, a candidate who appeals more to liberals at the exclusion of everyone else is not necessarily more likely to turn out the base than a more moderate candidate—let alone attract independents.”

“If the Democratic Party wants to turn out their voters in 2020,” Burke continues, “they should choose a nominee who speaks effectively to the priorities and anxieties of the majority of Americans. On average, voters want someone who can help lower prescription drug costs, enact sensible gun control, invest in infrastructure, and strengthen women’s rights. They shouldn’t pick someone peddling divisive policies that can turn off more voters than they turn out…Any candidate who can remain in step with most Democratic voters while not adopting more extreme policy positions will likely win over many independents and Republican-leaning voters as well. A majority of Republicans also support increasing federal spending on education, rebuilding highways and bridges, and imposing universal background checks on gun sales…What’s more, approximately one-third of Republicans support raising taxes on corporations or believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases. Trump was out of step with most Americans in pushing for a tax break for corporations and the wealthiest Americans, standing in the way of gun control, and separating immigrant children from their families. Simply put, there is a golden opportunity for Democrats to exploit those weaknesses…But to take advantage, party leaders need to stop defining its base through the prism of age, race, or gender. It’s by focusing on the issues that most Americans care about that the party will succeed in 2020. If Democrats do that, they can turn out their base and reach enough swing voters to make Trump a one-term president.”