washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

Voters of a certain age should appreciate Charles Pierce’s Esquire article, “There’s an Awful Lot of ‘Cull the Herd’ Rhetoric Floating Around These Days: Ron Johnson joins the parade of people to whom my response is: You first.” Pierce writes, “I know we’re all slowing down and stuck in our houses, but I don’t think it’s time for U.S. senators to go all wiggy on existential questions. This is especially true in the case of Ron (Shreds of Freedom) Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin. He took to the pages of USA Today and encouraged us all to liberate ourselves through profound, patriotic, fatalistic gibberish…What is the senator getting at, exactly? There’s an awful lot of discreet “culling of the herd” realism floating around in the public rhetoric these days, and there’s also an occasional episode in which somebody seems to be putting it into practice, discreetly, in one way or another…Now that this particular president* has decided that a mere 100,000 to 200,000 dead will be a personal triumph on the scale of V-E Day, I find this attitude more than a little disturbing. My response remains unchanged: You guys first.”

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall explains why “Covid-19 Is Twisting 2020 Beyond All Recognition: The coronavirus crisis will determine whether Trump is a one-term president, but it may reshape the social order far more.” Edsall’s article is loaded with anti-GOP talking points, including: “When the best-case scenario predicts 100,000 to 240,000 deaths, the pandemic reminds us just how important it is who holds the reins of power. This is especially the case when one crucial question will be whether widespread suffering, panic and economic collapse will destabilize the American political system and the fragile consensus-based social order that underpins it, both of which have been under strain for some time.” Edsall quotes Jonathan Haidt, a professor of psychology at N.Y.U.: “If we had good leadership — a president who could unify the country and turn our shared adversity into social solidarity, trust, and cooperation, then we could look to past national crises such as World War II and the boost it gave to social capital…We don’t have that. In fact, a marker of our political sickness is that taking the virus seriously has become itself a marker of tribal identity.”

However, Edsall also quotes UNC political scientist Marc Hetherington, who observes, “that “this moment holds the potential to resuscitate negative feelings that Americans have about government…If the government actually succeeds in keeping the carnage to a minimum, it is unlikely to change much. Americans already think government can do this. If, however, the government doesn’t succeed — and I think there is every reason to think it will struggle with these problems — it has the potential to further undermine trust in government. People already don’t trust it to redistribute money and provide certain services, which is bad. If they come to think it is not competent to keep us safe, it will be even worse, much worse…Republicans have internalized what used to be just a political strategy, which increases the chances that government will fail.” That cynical approach to campaigning seems to have infected their approach to governing. In 2016, the party nominated a complete political amateur, pointing up just how little governance means to the party. And, of course, Trump has failed to fill vacancies in key areas like the C.D.C., disbanded the pandemic task force in the N.S.C., and all sorts of other stuff.” Edsall add, “The result, Hetherington wrote, is a government “characterized by poor leadership at the cabinet level and hollowed out expertise at the department level,” sharply increasing the “chance that government simply can’t come through right now.”

Another potent observation unearthed by Edsall, this one by M.I.T. economist David Autor, who notes that it would be “easy to tell a story in which this episode causes Americans to remember that their government is indispensable for marshaling expertise, coordinating emergency measures, guarding public safety, serving as an insurer of last resort, calming financial markets, and generally shepherding its citizens through an extraordinarily challenging time.” However, Autor adds, “After four decades of successful Republican effort to starve the U.S. government of resources and demonize its experts, our government is in fact less competent, less well prepared, and less agile than it used to be. Perhaps this event would have restored our faith in government were the government deserving of that faith. The picture is mixed at best, so far.”

You may have heard some progressive grumbling that Democratic front-runner Biden is being eclipsed by NY Governor Cuomo’s excellent television presentations addressing the coronavirus crisis. But there’s no good reason why Biden should be the only Democrat presenting an image of compassion and competence, in stark contrast to Trump’s constant fumbling. In fact, the more Democratic leaders who project an image of responsible, well-informed leadership, the better it is for Democratic candidates for all offices, not just the presidency. At The Daily Beast, Matt Lewis weighs in and notes, “Joe Biden should social distance even more,” Lewis writes. “Citing a decades-old observation called the Feiler faster thesis, my former colleague Mickey Kaus recently argued that news cycles have sped up and that humans can process information quicker than most people realize. “Biden can wait until September, or whenever the conventions are, and then, he can gin up a huge publicity ‘Biden for president’ campaign,” Kaus said. “He doesn’t have to be omnipresent in our attention now in order to do that, then.” Lewis suggests Biden should “reemerge tanned and rested after Labor Day…Laying low may be Joe Biden’s best strategy—and it’s one that wouldn’t be possible were it not for social distancing.”

At FiveThirtyEight, Nathaniel Rakich writes that “the biggest Senate news of the last couple months came in the longer-shot Democratic pick-up opportunity of Montana, where Gov. Steve Bullock’s entry has shaken up the race. Bullock was considered to be the only Democrat who could put this red state in play, and his announcement caused nonpartisan handicappers to move the race from “Solid Republican” to “Lean Republican.”…According to Morning Consult, Bullock has a +21 net approval rating (approval rating minus disapproval rating) and at least 83 percent of Montanans are able to form an opinion of him (approval rating plusdisapproval rating). This gives him a leg up against incumbent Republican Sen. Steve Daines (who has just a +16 net approval rating and at least 78 percent name recognition, according to the same poll).”

Rakich also notes that “handicappers still rate Arizona as a toss-up, but there’s an increasingly strong argument that Democrats are actually favored despite the state’s Republican lean. Five polls of Arizona’s U.S. Senate race have been conducted so far in March, and Democrat Mark Kelly led Republican Sen. Martha McSally in all five. His average lead was 7 percentage points…Even a small systematic polling error in Arizona could mean that McSally is actually ahead (most of those Kelly leads are within the margin of error). However, Kelly also has the advantage of being a monster fundraiser — he took in more than $20.2 million in 2019. McSally raised only $12.6 million.”

“In North Carolina,” Rakich adds, “former state Sen. Cal Cunningham, who had the support of the DSCC, won the Democratic primary with 57 percent of the vote. That sets up a close general election with Republican Sen. Thom Tillis: A survey by Democratic firm Public Policy Polling claims Cunningham is ahead, while Tillis’s pollster gave the incumbent the lead.” NC’s other Republican Sen. Richard Burr is getting roundly slammed for his insider trading shenanigans. But he is not up for re-election this year, like Tillis. Here’s one of Cunningham’s ads:

 


Political Strategy Notes

Matthew Yglesias reports at Vox, “Speaking on Meet The Press Sunday morning, former Vice President Joe Biden called for widespread invocation of the Defense Production Act to not only meet the need for ventilators but also to scale up production of “masks and gowns … and shields and all the things our first responders and doctors need.”…“Why are we waiting?” Biden asked, “We know they’re needed.”…The Defense Production Act would allow the federal government to essentially conscript America’s domestic manufacturing capacity into making more of these supplies…The Trump administration has thus far been reluctant to invoke the act, suggesting that to do so would create a Venezuela-like economic situation. In practice, however, it’s the administration’s inability to get the virus under control that’s creating an unprecedentedly rapid economic collapse, and anything that helps bolster the public health situation will almost certainly improve the economy as well.”

From E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s column, “Trump’s quarantine con should be the breaking point” at The Washington Post: “If you doubted that President Trump’s approach to the coronavirus crisis is all about him — about getting a few hours or a few days of blaring headlines and then manically moving on to some other empty gesture that he can claim is “strong” — his threat on Saturday to quarantine the New York region tells you all you need to know…The man who fleeced innocent souls through what the conservative National Review called the “massive scam” of Trump University is applying the same hucksterism to a situation where thousands of lives are at stake…The quarantine caper ought to be the straw that breaks the hustler’s back.”

At FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver explains that “blue states are hardly alone in what is becoming a nationwide epidemic. Jefferson Parish, Louisiana — which went for Trump by 15 percentage points in 2016 — has a death rate about equal to that of Manhattan. And as terrifying as the hospital situation is in New York City, hospital capacity is also under strain in states such as Michigan and Georgia…Overall, although the number of detected cases is higher in blue states, the number is increasing at a more rapid rate in red states.1 Moreover, blue states have conducted more tests per capita than red states, so — given that the large majority of coronavirus cases remain undetected — the lower rate of cases in red states may partially be an artifact of less testing…Nine of the 10 states that have seen the most rapid increase in coronavirus from Monday to Thursday are states that voted for Trump in 2016, led by Texas, where the number of reported cases increased by 297 percent…On average, states that voted for Trump saw a 119 percent increase in cases over this 3-day period, as compared to an 88 percent increase in states that voted for Hillary Clinton (plus the District of Columbia).”

One of the big questions being bandied about at this political moment: Why is Sen. Bernie Sanders not dropping out? Among the most frequent answers are: that his ego can’t let go of the limelight; that he’s pissed-off about Biden stealing the momentum and hoping for a sudden Biden train-wreck etc. These explainations are based on the ‘Sanders is just a selfish guy’ meme. Here’s a more balanced take: Sanders is smart enough to know that Biden is going to be the Democratic nominee, but wants to seize the moment to promote an all-inclusive public health care system. At CNN Politics, Chris Cillizza observes, “He has been advocating for unapologetically liberal policies his entire political life and rightly recognizes this will probably be his last, best chance to ensure they get a full hearing in front of his party, the public and the de facto presidential nominee in Biden.” But dropping out now and announcing his endorsement of Biden would get buried by coronavirus news. His endorsement might actually help Biden more a little later, rather than sooner.

Could Sanders not dropping out now hurt Biden’s prospects for defeating Trump? Yes, if Sanders conducts a divisive, hard-hitting campaign attacking Biden. Sanders must know that he is not going to get the same level of media attention in the months ahead. The press knows it’s over and that the lack of any winner-take-all delegates states in 2020 makes Biden’s nomination a done deal, barring a total melt-down on his part. The hope is that Sanders doesn’t want to go down in history as the bitter guy who helped re-elect Trump. Unlike the drop-outs, however, Sanders has 918 delegates (Warren is 3rd with 82) and a much larger constituency than they did. Giving him more time to work through a process for endorsing the former Vice President seems reasonable. All indications suggest a heavy voter turnout in November. Whatever path Sanders choses in the weeks ahead, party unity in November should be his north star.

In her article, “What Do Progressives Do Now? Progressives are eager to use the coronavirus crisis to convince Joe Biden—and millions of other Americans—of the necessity of major reforms,” Elaine Godfrey writes at The Atlantic, “Sanders, who still hasn’t dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination, has effectively converted his presidential campaign into a coronavirus-messaging apparatus, and he is holding regular broadcasts with other progressive lawmakers, including Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Pramila Jayapal, to explain how the current crisis demonstrates the need for Medicare for All. “As we do everything possible to grapple with this crisis … it is also appropriate to ask ourselves how we got here and what this says about the financial and economic structure of our country,” Sanders said in a live-streamed video Wednesday night. “People are understanding that there is something wrong that we are the only major country on Earth not to guarantee health care to all as a human right.”

“Progressives will be carefully monitoring shifts in Biden’s policy positions to see whether their efforts are having an impact,” Godfrey continues. “Already, Biden has announced his support for Sanders’s plan to make public colleges free for some students, and he’s endorsed Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposal to fix America’s bankruptcy system. But it’s not enough, progressive leaders say. If he “is serious about attracting progressives and the Obama coalition—which included young people—he needs to articulate a bold policy agenda that meets the scale of the crisis people are experiencing right now,” Maurice Mitchell, the director of the Working Families Party, told me.”

Godfey argues further, “At the end of this pandemic, more Americans will view the government as capable of solving big societal problems, progressives argue. New emergency-aid legislation dramatically expands paid sick and family leave for millions of workers and suspends work requirements for food assistance, two agenda items progressives have long supported. And the $2 trillion stimulus package that the president just signed into lawwould provide a $1,200 direct payment to most American adults—similar to the Freedom Dividend championed by former presidential candidate Andrew Yang—and another $250 billion in unemployment-insurance benefits. “There’s going to be an amazing shift where we recognize the impact government can have on our lives for the better,” says Charles Chamberlain, the executive director at Democracy for America, a progressive political-action committee.”

Mark Joseph Stern writes at slate.com: “We know that this cannot be our final bill,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi declared shortly before her chamber passed a $2 trillion stimulus package responding to the economic impact of COVID-19. She’s right: The measures passed so far are plainly insufficient to ward off an economic and humanitarian catastrophe. Pelosi has already laid out her requestsfor the next phase of legislation, which includes more funding for state governments and increased SNAP benefits. But her plan is missing something crucial: legal protections for Dreamers, who are poised to lose their DACA status in the coming weeks…These Dreamers are on the front line of the battle against COVID-19, and they are indispensable. Health care workers keep getting infected with the coronavirus, and hard-hit states fear they will run out of doctors and nurses to treat patients…At this perilous moment, stripping work permits from 27,000 health care workers would be catastrophic. It would jettison critical personnel from the American health care system at a time when it needs all hands on deck…If Congress wants to save as many lives as possible while propping up the economy, protecting Dreamers should be its first priority in future negotiations…Congress should not save Dreamers just because it’s good policy. Congress should save Dreamers because we need them to survive.”


Political Strategy Notes

Regarding the big difference between the coronavirus stimulus plans being advocated by Republicans and Democrats, Joan McCarter notes at Daily Kos: “One Democrat details the problems with the Republican bill as of now: no strong worker protections, with language that says corporations must keep employees “to the extent possible,” allowing them to keep bailout money and still fire workers, the Democrats would offer loan forgiveness to companies that keep at minimum of 90% of employees; the corporate bailout fund has “virtually no restraints,” and is all up to Mnuchin to determine—which means the Trump Organization could be getting bailed out with these funds by the Trump administration, as if he hasn’t profited enough off the taxpayers at this point; “very weak buybacks restrictions” to keep corporations from using any of the funds to buyback stocks, rather than pump money into operating expenses—and those restrictions that can be waived by Mnuchin; they would impose just a 2 year limit on corporations increasing executive compensation; the assistance to airlines is all in loans rather than grants, which could result in tens of thousands of layoffs (the industry unions want grants)…”We are the ones who are on the front lines fighting the virus,” Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, told the Washington Post. “Our entire economy depends on relief focused on workers. We must keep everyone in their job and connected to their health care.”…As of Sunday morning, Pelosi says she’s not on board. “From my standpoint, we’re apart,” she told reporters. Schumer concurs. “I’m just going to tell you that we need a bill that puts workers first, not corporations,” he told reporters.” The hope is that the Senate will vote today at noon.

In his article, “GOP Stimulus Plan Is a Trillion-Dollar Trump Re-Election Fund” at The Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky writes, “It’s revolting to watch these Trump press conferences…The president of the United States standing up there in the midst of this crisis—we started March with 89 cases; as I write, on March 19, we’re above 11,000—picking fights with the press, still insistently saying “Chinese virus,” taking credit for things he didn’t do, bragging about how it would all be much worse if he hadn’t banned travel from China.” As for Republiocans in congress, Tomasky adds, “But to watch these people, who’ve spent 40 years policing the Government Is Evil beat, see that now we need government after all exposes the lie that’s been at the heart of conservative rhetoric for two generations…This campaign is going to be about this, period. The virus. When the Biden campaign hits the air with commercials about Trump disbanding the National Security Council pandemic unit, how many people are going to vote on what Hunter Biden did six years ago?”

Could Biden’s Weakness With Young Voters Hurt Him In The General Election?” Perry Bacon, Jr. addresses the question at FiveThirtyEight and responds, “According to exit polls from recent elections and polling data from this year, the answer is, not necessarily…First, Biden is likely to win voters under 45 by double digits against Trump. The former vice president would have two big advantages: He’s a Democrat, and he’s running against Trump. Democrats have won the under-45 vote in every recent election — even in cycles that were terrible to mediocre for the party overall, such as in 2010, 2014 and 2016…Furthermore, the cohort of Americans under 40 includes significantly more Asian, black and Latino people than the cohort over 40 — all Democratic-leaning groups. But even younger white people tend to vote for Democrats at higher rates than their older counterparts…Hillary Clinton won the under-45 vote by 14 percentage points in the 2016 general election, according to exit polls, a margin similar to that won by then-President Barack Obama four years earlier.1 But in the 2018 midterms — essentially a referendum on Trump’s performance even though he wasn’t on the ballot — Democrats won voters under 45 by 25 points...All that said, a potential problem for the Democrats with Biden at the top of the ticket is not that younger voters will back Trump but that they might either stay home or vote third-party.”

Ronald Brownstein explains why “Red and Blue America Aren’t Experiencing the Same Pandemic: The disconnect is already shaping, even distorting, the nation’s response” at The Atlantic: “In several key respects, the outbreak’s early stages are unfolding very differently in Republican- and Democratic-leaning parts of the country. That disconnect is already shaping, even distorting, the nation’s response to this unprecedented challenge—and it could determine the pandemic’s ultimate political consequences as well…A flurry of new national polls released this week reveals that while anxiety about the disease is rising on both sides of the partisan divide, Democrats consistently express much more concern about it than Republicans do, and they are much more likely to say they have changed their personal behavior as a result. A similar gap separates people who live in large metropolitan centers, which have become the foundation of the Democratic electoral coalition, from those who live in the small towns and rural areas that are the modern bedrock of the GOP.”

Brownstein cites recent polls indicating a wide disparity: “A national Gallup poll released Monday, for instance, found that while 73 percent of Democrats and 64 percent of independents said they feared that they or someone in their family might be exposed to the coronavirus, only 42 percent of Republicans agreed. That 31-percentage-point difference dwarfed the gap in February, when slightly more Republicans (30 percent) than Democrats (26 percent) said they were concerned…Other surveys have found comparably stunning differences. In an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday, Republicans were only half as likely as Democrats to say that they planned to stop attending large gatherings, and just one-third as likely to say that they had cut back on eating at restaurants. In an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll released Tuesday, just over half of Republicans said the threat from the virus had been exaggerated, compared with one in five Democrats and two in five independents…In a nationwide Kaiser Family Foundation poll released the same day, about half of Democrats and Democrat-leaning independents said the outbreak had disrupted their life at least some, according to detailed results provided to me by the pollsters. But only one-third of Republicans and those who leaned Republican agreed. About half of Democrats said they had changed travel plans and decided not to attend large gatherings. In both cases, less than one-third of Republicans agreed.”

“Government responses have followed these same tracks,” Brownstein adds. “With a few prominent exceptions, especially Ohio, states with Republican governors have been slower, or less likely, than those run by Democrats to impose restrictions on their residents. Until earlier this week, Donald Trump downplayed the disease’s danger and overstated the extent to which the United States had “control” over it, as the conservative publication The Bulwark recently documented. Conservative media figures including Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity likewise insisted for weeks that the media and Democrats were exaggerating the danger as a means of weakening Trump. Several Republicanelected officials encouraged their constituents to visit bars and restaurants precisely when federal public-health officials were urging the opposite…This divergence reflects not only ideological but also geographic realities. So far, the greatest clusters of the disease, and the most aggressive responses to it, have indeed been centered in a few large, Democratic-leaning metropolitan areas, including Seattle, New York, San Francisco, and Boston. At Thursday’s White House press briefing, Deborah Birx, the administration’s response coordinator, said half of the nation’s cases so far are located in just 10 counties. The outbreak’s eventual political effects may vary significantly depending on how extensively it spreads beyond these initial beachheads.”

Brownstein notes further, “If the virus never becomes pervasive beyond big cities, that could reinforce the sense among many Republican voters and office-holders that the threat has been overstated. It could also fuel the kind of xenophobia that Trump and other GOP leaders, such as Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, have encouraged by labeling the disease the “Chinese virus” or the “Wuhan virus.”…Conversely, the charge that Trump failed to move quickly enough may cut more deeply if the burden of the disease is heavily felt in the smaller communities where his support is deepest. Most medical experts believe that, eventually, the outbreak will reach all corners of the country, including the mostly Republican-leaning small towns and rural areas that are now less visibly affected…“There’s no reason to think that smaller communities will be protected from it,” Eric Toner, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told me. “It may take longer for it to get there, but as long as there are people coming and going … the virus will eventually find its way to rural communities as well.”

For a bit of good news, check out “All is not lost: These groups are fighting Trump’s environmental deregulations—and winning by Besame on behalf of Daily Kos Community Contributors Team. As Besame, writes, “In December 2019, NRDC [National Resources Defense Council] announced the filing of their 100th lawsuit against the Trump administration in 1,000 days…NRDC has won 92% of the 61 cases resolved either by court decision or by withdrawal of the proposed change. Other victories resulted in a banning seven cancer-causing food additives, blocking an Executive Order allowing oil and gas leases in the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, and stronger protection for the endangered rusty patched bumblebee. Cecilia Segal, an attorney on NRDC’s litigation team, sums up their successes, “I started my job at NRDC five days after Trump’s inauguration and immediately got to work on our lawsuit against the president’s disastrous 2-for-1 Executive Order and our fight to stop the Keystone XL pipeline. Our Trump defense work hasn’t slowed down since—but the hard work is paying off.”

Democratic governors take note: Kentucky’s new Democratic Governor Andy Beshear is getting high marks for his response to the coronavirus crisis. The title of Erin Keane’s salon.com article, ““Govern me, daddy”: Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear a clean-cut sex symbol for the coronavirus age: People are now lusting after Kentucky’s “hot Mr. Rogers” because of his calm and empathetic leadership,” sums it up. Keane also notes, “During Beshear’s daily talks — a sort of Fireside Chat for the Facebook Live era — the governor gets visibly emotional about the sacrifices Kentuckians are making with regard to their livelihoods, extended family contact and religious practices in order to help flatten the curve. He mourns the Kentuckians who have died from the virus (there have been three fatalities so far). He talks openly and directly about why mental health is important too, and why empathy and caring for others is non-negotiable. He coaches folks applying for unemployment about processes and deadlines and reinforces that there’s no stigma in filing for assistance. When needed, he scolds. On Saturday, Beshear all but shamed a company by name that bragged about offering employees six weeks of unpaid sick leave. “Please don’t be that organization that acts like you’re doing something great when your people need so much more from you,” he said. He’s not mad; he’s just disappointed. And constituents stuck at home, anxious and restless, are getting extremely horny for this big dad energy.”


Political Strategy Notes

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has some messaging tips addressing the health care crisis, which Democratic candidates up and down-ballot may find useful in his article, “Coronavirus Outbreak Proves There Is No Public Health System in the US” at Common Dreams: “Instead of a public health system, we have a private for-profit system for individuals lucky enough to afford it and a rickety social insurance system for people fortunate enough to have a full-time job…Even if a test for the Covid-19 virus had been developed and approved in time, no institutions are in place to administer it to tens of millions of Americans free of charge…Healthcare in America is delivered mainly by private for-profit corporations which, unlike financial institutions, are not required to maintain reserve capacity. As a result, the nation’s supply of ventilators isn’t nearly large enough to care for projected numbers of critically ill coronavirus victims unable to breathe for themselves. Its 45,000 intensive care unit beds fall woefully short of the 2.9 million that are likely to be needed…There is no public health system in the US, in short, because the richest nation in the world has no capacity to protect the public as a whole, apart from national defense.”

In similar vein, Leon Fink writes at Dissent: “Our current healthcare system, with its chaotic and motley mix of private and public insurance systems—along with tens of millions of uninsured—is wholly inadequate to the current crisis, which requires, above all, coordination and universalism. What we need is socialized medicine. The poor and uninsured—including millions of undocumented workers—deserve care. And if they are not invited into the system of health protection, then no one is truly protected…The coronavirus arrived too late to help either Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, the only two candidates for U.S. president who had prioritized universal access to healthcare. Sanders, the dogged champion of socialized medicine, has supported the right program for decades. But perhaps we need to reconsider his terminology. Likely in an effort to overcome opposition government-run programs, he frames his call within a language of individual rights—everyone has a right to healthcare…Today, we need not just “rights” but a strong public apparatus that is up to the task of governing. Our public health, like our response to climate change, is a social, collective imperative. The impact falls most heavily on low-wage workers and the most vulnerable among us—their welfare and recovery must be priorities—but the consequences reach into every sector of society. And only a powerful, administrative state that dispenses expert authority for the good of all can do the job.”

M4A (Medicare for All) is not the same thing as a functional public health care system, but it’s looking more like a step in the right direction. No doubt some supporters of Bernie Sanders are wondering where his campaign would be, had the Covid-19 pandemic started a couple of months earlier. No one should be too surprised if Biden moves more decisively towards a national health care system in the weeks ahead. But the real fight may be in the U.S. Senate. Former congressman/MSNBC anchorman Joe Scarbrough writes in The Washington Post that Sanders could play a pivotal role now: “If Sanders has that ability to shape the national debate and bend history toward a more just future, then that opportunity is awaiting him on the floor of the U.S. Senate, and not in an empty studio fighting a lost cause by streaming irrelevant campaign speeches…I choose to believe that Sanders will put his constituents and his country first, suspend his campaign and begin in earnest the battle before us all. That fight will be waged more on Capitol Hill than through a presidential campaign that, in effect, ended weeks ago.” In addition to his M4A bill, Sanders, more than any other Senator, has the credibility to advance reforms that can move America towards a functional public health care system.

Charles Pierce shares some salient thoughts on Sanders’s contributions to our current political dialogue at Esquire: “The two presidential campaigns Bernie Sanders has run have cleared the biggest space for progressive ideas that our politics has seen since the Great Society. His 2016 campaign opened 2020 up to progressive ideas and candidates. Now, in extremis, we are seeing the results of that clearing. Good god, the two parties are fighting in Congress over how much Free Money! each of us is going to get. That Bernie Sanders was able to run as strongly as he did in two campaigns is part of the reason for that, and it’s just pigheaded to deny that…it has been a long time since unapologetic liberalism got a serious unequivocal hearing in one of our two major political parties. Bernie Sanders, in his own characteristically grumpy and stubborn way, has forced that issue, and now he’s done so at a time of serendipitous crisis as well. History is going to reckon seriously with him. So should we all.”

At The Guardian, Ady Barkan argues, “Coronavirus crisis: paid sick leave is a start to our collective security as a nation” and observes, “we should not let a crisis go to waste. Some of our most fundamental, bedrock public programs were a product of immense crises and challenges, social security chief among them. Today, we could not imagine life without it. With the heightened threat coronavirus poses to the elderly, where would we be if social security and Medicare were not guaranteed to them? We must look back on this crisis and say the same of guaranteed paid sick leave, in addition to a raft of social protections that will allow us to weather this challenge: such as expansions of social security and unemployment benefits, new direct payments, moratoriums on foreclosures and evictions, student loan debt cancellations, and decisive steps toward a Medicare for All system that can protect everyone – fully and equally – in a crisis like this.”

Alan I. Abramowitz has some bad news for Republicans in his post, “A Coronavirus Recession Could Doom Trump’s Reelection Chances” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball. Abramowitz tempers his conclusions with caveats, while observing, “With major sectors of the economy grinding to a near-standstill due to the pandemic, many economic forecasters are now predicting that the U.S. will experience a major downturn in economic growth in the current quarter that could continue for at least the next two quarters. Some forecasters are predicting a major recession with the economy shrinking by 5% or more in the second quarter of 2020. That’s significant because, in many election forecasting models, including my own “time for change” model, economic growth in the second quarter is a key predictor of the election results…Based on the results of presidential elections since World War II with running incumbents, a president with an upside-down approval rating and an economy in recession would have little chance of winning a second term in the White House. If President Trump’s net approval rating remains where it is now or declines further, and if the recession is severe, with real GDP shrinking by three points or more in the second quarter, the result could well be a defeat of landslide proportions.”

Also at Crystal Ball, Louis Jacobsen’s “One-Party Dominance Extends to Statewide Elected Offices: Up-and-coming candidates from the wrong party in one-party states, like Pete Buttigieg, don’t have much practical chance for statewide advancement” should be of interest to Democrats concerned about leadership development in the party. Jacobsen notes that “For talented young political prospects who belong to the minority party in states dominated by one party, the path to statewide advancement is rocky…In 34 of the 50 states, a single party controls all of the statewide elected offices…Only four states have a relatively balanced mix of Republican and Democratic statewide officeholders.” Of course, Buttigieg and other promising Democrats in these states can emulate the example of Hillary Clinton, who moved to a liberal state and was elected a U.S. Senator.

Ruy Teixeira notes of the tweet below, “There’s Something Wrong With This Poll But I Can’t Quite Put My Finger On It….”


What Should Sanders Get…Besides Out?

Tuesday’s primary results should convince even die-hard Bernie Sanders supporters that former Vice President Biden is going to be the Democratic nominee for president. Now comes the problematic choice that Sanders, his campaign and his supporters must face: What should Sanders do to serve the causes he championed and the country he loves?

It would be helpful if the more contentious social media Bidenistas would tone down their “Bernie should just quit” mantra. Do we really have to remind them that any presidential campaign that wins more than 40 percent of the delegates in primaries and caucuses has earned some respect? What is not going to happen is Sanders and his supporters quietly pledging their wholehearted fealty to Biden, while getting nothing in return.

The Democratic presidential contest is not a football game in which you annihilate your adversary then gloat about it. Here’s hoping the Bernie-haters among Biden supporters get the clue. Fortunately, Biden, unlike the current President, is mature enough to understand that successful politics is about bringing people together.

As Harold Meyerson observes in his article, “Biden: The Leader as Follower: Over the past few days, the Democratic front-runner has begun inching leftward, since he’s realized he needs to in order to beat Trump” at The American Prospect:

For those who want to see the Democratic nominee dispatch Donald Trump in November, and those who want to see the Democratic nominee move to a more progressive position, there was good news yesterday—only, it didn’t come during last night’s debate. It came before the debate began, when Joe Biden’s campaign announced he’d shifted his position on free public college. Previously, Biden had supported tuition-free education only at two-year community colleges. Now, he supports it at four-year public universities and colleges as well, for every student whose annual family income doesn’t exceed $125,000—a position his debate-stage rival, Bernie Sanders, staked out several years ago, and has improved upon since.

The move was of a piece with Biden’s decision on Saturday to support Elizabeth Warren’s proposal for making bankruptcy far less onerous for middle-class Americans—a clear turnaround from Biden’s zealous promotion of the very onerous bankruptcy legislation he helped turn into law in 2005, which made it almost impossible for people to get out from under medical and other forms of debt.

In other words, the Biden campaign has figured out that in order to win in November, he has to do more to win over progressive voters and voters under 50—so long as that requires embracing positions that are widely popular.

Well, the campaign has sort of figured that out. Partially. Sometimes.

Biden has also inched a bit leftward on the leading issue of health care reform. He understands that there is a large contituency for Medicare for all, and perhaps an even larger one for Medicare for all who want it. Those constituencies are not going to quietly embrace a more timid health care reform package, especially in light of the Coronavirus crisis. (The bumper sticker version: “Don’t like ‘big government’? Next time you want to stop a pandemic, call your insurance company.”)

Yet, Sanders supporters should also not expect too much. Biden is more moderate than their candidate, and he did win by large margins in many states. They too should be fair-minded and realistic enough to tone down the residual acrimony. ‘Sore loser’ is as bad a look as ‘sore winner.’

Sure, there are specific ‘gets’ that many Sanders supporters would welcome, such as Warren as veep, other left-leaning Dems in the cabinet, a more progressive party platform, or changes in party delegate rules. But policies are the core concern of the Sanders movement, and any bridges Biden can build in that regard will help unify Democrats in November.

So it’s time for adult supervision among all of the 2020 presidential candidates and their supporters. Democrats are in an exceptionally-good position at the moment to unify and win back the White House, control of congress and a bunch of state governments — if the party’s grown-ups will rise to the challenge.


Political Strategy Notes

From the assessment of upcoming Democratic presidential primaries by Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “There are no signs things will get better for Sanders next week, when four more large states vote: Arizona, Florida, Illinois, and Ohio. Sanders has never shown any strength in Florida, and Biden should rout him there. Sanders lost Illinois narrowly and Ohio not-so-narrowly in 2016. Biden’s sweep of both Michigan and Missouri’s counties suggests we should expect something similar in their regional neighbors. Sanders carried much of downstate Illinois and also some of the Chicago collar counties in 2016. The results so far this year suggest he won’t replicate that. Sanders has done better out West, and he has also done well with Hispanic voters, which gives him a glimmer of hope in Arizona. But Arizona also has a lot of older voters and well-off suburbanites, high-turnout groups that have been flocking to Biden.”

Some quick takes from Sunday night’s Democratic presidential debate: “The debate changed nothing, but at the end of the evening Joe Biden was sitting on the cusp of the Democratic nomination” (Lloyd Green)…”It’s hard not to wonder what the debate would be like if Warren were on the stage, since she came out with an infectious-disease plan in response to the coronavirus back in January”  (Amelia Thomson-Deveaux)…”This was by far the best debate because it involved just two candidates and they disagree on a lot. They represent the two dominant ways of thinking within in the Democratic Party. I wish this kind of debate had happened when the results of the primary weren’t basically already decided and many people will feel uncomfortable heading out to vote. (Perry Bacon, Jr.)…”Well the first 40 minutes were substantive and on point but now it’s like two old frenemies with coronavirus cabin fever arguing about decades-long misunderstandings and perceived personal slights” (Amanda Becker)…”This debate took a first step to bringing the Democratic party together, and it reminded the general electorate that competence is at hand. Especially when Biden names a female running mate, as he pledged” (Art Cullen).

Regarding the big news of the debate, front-runner Biden cemented a female running mate into the mix, and speculation is already in overdrive. On other occasions, Biden has mentioned as possible picks: Sen. Kamala Harris; former GA. State Rep. Stacy Abrams; Sen. Jeanne Shaheen; Sen. Maggie Hassan; and former U.S. Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates. Other frequently-mentioned possibilities include: Sen. Elizabeth Warren; Gov. Gretchen Whitmer; Sen. Amy Klobuchar; Rep. Val. Demings;  Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto; and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham; Biden has also said he would nominate an African American woman to the U.S. Supreme Court at first opportunity.

Alexander Sammon explores “How to Win Concessions From Candidate Biden: The left—beginning with Sanders and Warren—should push him on both policy and personnel” at The American Prospect. Sammon observes, “You’d be hard-pressed to identify Biden’s agenda for the presidency. His policy-driven contributions during the many-months-long debate circuit were largely nonexistent. While his website features a sprawling mosaic of “bold ideas,” it’s tough to know how committed he is to any of them, given how infrequently he’s brought them up during his sporadic stump speeches, press scrums, and public appearances. The one thing we know for sure is his commitment to a return to much of Obama-era thinking, to a degree of political normalcy: the return of the “Obiden Bama” Democrat, as he calls it, perhaps with more spending on social programs… He’s nothing if not malleable. As Sanders again spearheads the fight for the platform, for which the first real battle will happen Sunday night on the debate stage, it’s certainly worth pushing for personnel concessions as well…Biden desperately needs the grassroots and youth support of the party’s progressive wing if he wants any hope of defeating Trump, and those groups should push for major influence over the Biden cabinet— and Biden policy—when the moment for horse-trading arrives.”

Also at The American Prospect, Harold Meyerson’s “Whither (Not Wither) the Post-Bernie Left” includes this insight: “Should Biden be elected, it’s not likely that he will come to power with his own mass grassroots organization, as Barack Obama did only to let it decay and disappear. What organization there will be, if the left—and I mean an expanded left, including such groups as Indivisible and a number of unions—sticks together, will be a mobilized left wing of the Democratic Party. Such a coalition can serve to block the return of Wall Street to the kind of power it exercised in the Clinton and Obama administrations, as my colleague Bob Kuttner outlines in an article the Prospect posted today. But it can also be a source of left pressure on Biden policy, as Deepak Bhargava suggests in an article in The Nation. After all, the landmark advances of the New Deal were in many ways a response to worker uprisings, and those of the Great Society a response to the civil rights movement. That, of course, requires this generation’s left to view a Biden presidency as an arena of struggle where victories will be possible, not the unalterable enemy that some on the left may regard it. The labor left backed Franklin Roosevelt when he enacted the reforms they supported, as the civil rights movement backed Lyndon Johnson when he did the same.”

Despite varied claims about ‘Bernie Bros’ voting for Trump, the most realistic estimate is that about “12 percent of people who voted for Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries voted for President Trump in the general election. That is according to the data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study — a massive election survey of around 50,000 people.” Some reasons to believe it will be a much smaller figure in 2020 include: 1. Those 2016 Bernie to Trump voters couldn’t know how bad Trump would be; 2. Biden may be less objectionable to many voters than was Hillary Clinton; 3. Retirement investments may not recover much by November; 4. Trump’s firing of the CDC’s pandemic response team last year looks increasingly like a national security disaster.

Is postponing elections because of the pandemic justified? That’s what they are doing in Georgia, as Kelly Mena and Diane Gallagher report at CNN Politics: “Georgia elections officials will postpone the March 24 presidential primary to May 19 because of the coronavirus, becoming the second state in the nation to delay a vote in the race for the White House due to the pandemic, according to Walter Jones, a spokesman with the Secretary of State’s office.” Yes, a lot of poll workers are elderly and having people packed together in long lines is even a worse idea in a pandemic. But you can’t blame Georgia Democrats for being a bit suspicious that Georgia’s Republican leaders don’t want people voting when they are pissed off about mismanagement of a public health emergency. However, the postponement could also mean more pro-Democratic voters will cast ballots on May 19.

Charlie Cook has some sobering math for Democrats in a current column at The Cook Political Report: “The Cook Political Report on Monday released its updated Electoral College Ratings, with six states in the Toss Up column: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, the three Frost Belt states that effectively determined the 2016 election; but also three Sun Belt states of Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina. With Democrats having 232 electoral votes either Solidly, Likely, or Leaning in their direction, their candidate needs 38 of the 102 electoral votes in the Toss Up column, while Trump, with 204 electoral votes in his column, needs to win 66 out of that same 102.”

All Politics Is Local: Why Progressives Must Fight for the States” by Meaghan Winter explains how Democrats have “ceded control of state governments to the GOP, allowing them to rig our political system and undermine democracy itself. After the 2016 election, Republicans had their largest majority in the states since 1928, controlling legislative chambers in thirty-two states and governor offices in thirty-three. They also held both chambers of Congress and the presidency despite losing the popular vote.” Winter shows how Democrats and progressives “have spent the past several decades betting it all on the very risky and increasingly foolhardy strategy of abandoning the states to focus on federal races…For the American public, the fallout has been catastrophic…Republican lawmakers have diminished employee protections and healthcare access and thwarted action on climate change. Voting rights are being dismantled, and even the mildest gun safety measures are being blocked.” It has resulted in extreme abortion bans, undermining gun control to gutting unions,.” The New York Review of Books  credits Winter’s book “with remarkable clarity and tenacity.”


Political Strategy Notes

In “Joe Biden Now Has A Clear Path To Be The Democratic Nominee,” Geoffrey Skelley writes at FiveThirtyEight: “Biden’s hot streak will likely burn into next week with four delegate-rich contests in Florida, Illinois, Ohio and Arizona. Sanders had less than a 1 in 10 shot of victory in any one of those states before yesterday’s vote, according to our forecast, and the same was true for Georgia, which votes on March 24. As of 2 a.m. Wednesday, Biden had added 64 net delegates to his lead over Sanders with Tuesday’s contests, and now has 806 pledged delegates to 662 for Sanders, according to ABC News. If Biden wins around 60 percent of delegates in contests moving forward — roughly his share yesterday — he will be close to a pledged delegate majority by late May and a shoo-in to have a sizable plurality. The point is, Sanders’s path to the nomination — barring something very unexpected happening — is almost nonexistent.”

Nicole Narea reports at Vox that “Former Vice President Joe Biden won big with black voters in Michigan, the state with the largest delegate trove on Tuesday, and in Missouri and Mississippi, according to CNN exit polls. Black voters supported Biden at rates of 66 percent in Michigan and 72 percent in Missouri — states where he reaped double-digit victories over Sanders. And in Mississippi, where black voters made up 69 percent of the electorate, they backed Biden over Sanders nearly 9 to 1.” Sanders’s failure to secure a healthy share of African American votes was never about policy – one can make a very strong argument that his policy proposals were in most respects more beneficial to Black American communities than Biden’s or that of any other candidate. But Biden’s edge came from his connection to African American leaders and communities, amplified by President Obama’s trust in him and the Clyburn endorsement. Biden’s unique ability to connect with all kinds of people on a human level also served him well, while Sanders’s persona seemed more distant and chilly in comparison.

For now, however, Sen. Sanders says he is going to stay in the race and is looking forward to clashing with Biden on Sunday at a CNN-Univision debate, Gregory Krieg, Ryan Nobles and Annie Grayer report at CNN Politics. “Sanders’ decision to continue his campaign despite the growing odds against him is likely to anger Democrats outside progressive circles, who on Tuesday night began to openly clamor for a quick end to the contest. Biden was largely deferential in his speech and appeared to offer Sanders an off-ramp. But the Vermont senator, after a night of deliberations with his innermost circle, opted to fight on — and make his case at least one more time to Democratic voters.” It will likely be Sanders’s swan song. Some Democratic leaders, including Rep. Clyburn, have called on Sanders to quit. But he understandibly feels that he has earned at least a one-on-one match-up with the front-runner. After that, it’s unlikely that many voters will be paying Sanders much attention, and his endorsement of Biden seems inevitable.

At Politico, Gary Fineout reports, “Joe Biden is in line to deliver a knockout punch to Bernie Sanders in Florida in Tuesday‘s Democratic primary, according to a new poll that gives the former vice president a staggering 44-point lead over his opponent…Biden is lapping Sanders in voter support, with support from 66 percent of likely Democratic primary voters to 22 percent for Sanders, according to a University of North Florida poll taken March 5-10…The poll of 1,339 Democratic likely voters “paints a bleak picture for the Sanders campaign.” The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus 2.5 percent…Three other states also will vote on March 17: Illinois, Ohio and Arizona. In Florida, more than 728,000 Democrats already have cast ballots…Winning Florida, a state with a moderate and older electorate, was always an uphill climb for Sanders. The Vermont senator lost to Hillary Clinton in the state by roughly 30 points four years ago.”

What kind of effects could the Corona virus pandemic have on U. S. elections? Thurgood Marshall, Jr. and Steven Okun explore this question at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and write that “The spread of COVID-19 has already begun disrupting plans across the world. Congress must begin thinking about how it could potentially disrupt the upcoming presidential election…Measures taken to prevent the spread of disease could come into conflict with voting…The closer the election gets, the harder it will be for both parties to set aside partisan considerations and agree to take actions in the name of the greater good of the nation.” Marshall and Okun notes that “some poll workers did not show up because of fears of the new coronavirus according to the Travis County (Texas) clerk’s office…And what happens if people go to the polls but are concerned about that the voting machines may be contaminated with the virus?…“One of the things we’ve had to caution voters about is don’t get Purell on the ballots; it makes them stick,” said Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, per the Austin American-Statesman.” Nobody knows how long the pandemic will last. But it might make sense for states to enact emergency legislation to institute a mail-in paper ballot system similar to that of Oregon.

Political analyst Rachel Bitecoffer sees Democrats blowing a major self-branding opportunity in an interview by Chauncey DeVega at salon.com. As Bitecoffer explains, “Democrats have never responded with a positive version of their own brand. Instead, the Democrats present themselves as being “moderate.” The Democrats should be saying, “Hey, this is why economic liberalism is better for you, white working class.” Instead of presenting their values in a positive way and standing by them, in these swing states the Democratic candidates come out and say, “Well, I’m not like those other Democrats. I’m a fiscal conservative.” In fact, the record of fiscal conservatism in America is not a good one…Donald Trump is basically doing what Democrats are incapable of. Donald Trump understands that the American voter is disengaged, disinterested, thinks about images and stories and not about policy in a serious way, and is highly subject to emotion. Donald Trump and his team feed that dynamic. Whereas the Democratic candidates and leaders keep having — or at least they think they are having — big, deep policy discussions with each other.” Contrary to polling and ballot evidence thus far, Bitecofer argues, “Those who oppose Bernie Sanders and think he could doom the party are overlooking how Bernie Sanders is the one presidential primary candidate who can negate Donald Trump’s populist advantage in terms of messaging. It is probably a major disadvantage to go into the general election with a Washington establishment candidate such as Joe Biden.”

As the only Democratic presidential candidate who promotes health care reform that includes coverage for everyone, Sanders deserves credit for advancing the debate in a more humane direction. Joseph Zeballos-Roig writes that, in an open letter published on Tuesday, twenty of the nation’s leading economists argued in favor of Medicare for All. “They argue that existing research suggests there would be massive savings and it would reduce waste in healthcare…There’s been too much loose talk that Medicare for All is unaffordable. What’s really unaffordable is the current system,” signatory Gerald Friedman said in an interview…”We believe the available research supports the conclusion that a program of Medicare for All (M4A) could be considerably less expensive than the current system, reducing waste and profiteering inherent in the current system, and could be financed in a way to ensure significant financial savings for the vast majority of American households,” the economists wrote in the open letter…”Most important, Medicare for All will reduce morbidity and save tens of thousands of lives each year,” the group of economists said.”

Zeballos-Roig notes that “Among the letter’s signatories are prominent progressive economists like former Labor secretary Robert Reich; Jeffrey Sachs, a leading expert on poverty; Gabriel Zucman and Emmanuel Saez, two professors at the University of California, Berkeley, who laid outplans for a wealth tax; and Darrick Hamilton, a professor of economics at the Ohio State University and a pioneer in economic inequality research…Medicare for All is the signature plan of Sen. Bernie Sanders, the remaining progressive candidate in the Democratic primary. It would set up a new government health insurance system that provides comprehensive benefits to Americans and toss out deductibles, co-pays, and out-of-pocket spending. Private insurance would be eliminated as well.”

It’s fortunate that the timing of the Corona virus outbreak had little effect on the outcome of the Democratic presidential primaries. Had it hit the U.S. a few weeks earlier than it did, it might have had a more significant impact by shrinking crowds at political events and affecting debate about the health care reform policies of the Democratic presidential candidates, though possibly in a good direction. The outbreak has strongly underscored how “wildly unprepared” the nation’s institutions are for this kind of public health crisis, in terms of available medicines, public hygiene and medical research. The crisis also underscores how underfunded our public health care “system” is compared to that of other nations. When it is over, it will be interesting to see how well different nations and political systems performed in addressing the pandemic.


Political Strategy Notes

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes that “it would be a shame if Warren’s failure obscured what her candidacy actually achieved. When she was riding high, her popularity reflected something important: a widespread appreciation for her as a solutionist. She was willing to build a candidacy on detailed initiatives aimed at solving problems voters care about.Her political reform proposals were state-of-the-art and dovetailed well with H.R. 1, the big voting rights and campaign finance bill passed by the Democratic House. Her plan for universal access to child care was practical and answered an enormous need. Her bill of rights for gig economy workers spoke to radical changes in the nature of employment. Her emphasis on the dangers of monopoly and the need for new approaches to antitrust were part of a much larger trend toward challenging economic concentration…And while her wealth tax aroused controversy, it changed the direction of the tax debate. In one form or another, higher levies on the very wealthy will now be part of any debate over how to raise government revenue that will be needed to pay for new programs and narrow Trump’s deficits…Yes, sexism hurt Warren, and so did her own mistakes. She proffered “big structural change” to a party that mostly just wants to beat an abominable incumbent. But her agenda is not going away. And neither is she.”

In his article, “To Beat Trump, Democrats May Need to Break Out of the ‘Whole Foods’ Bubble” at The Cook Political Report, David Wasserman notes, “Last summer, Senator Elizabeth Warren electrified huge crowds at rallies in Seattle, Austin and New York. The events had one thing in common besides her populist pitch for “big structural change.” At each stop, her trademark selfie lines were less than a mile from a Whole Foods Market, a Lululemon Athletica and an Urban Outfitters…These high-end retailers and brands, popular with urban millennials and affluent suburbanites alike, are increasingly correlated with which neighborhoods are trending blue. The drawback for Democrats? Just 34 percent of U.S. voters — and only 29 percent of battleground state voters — live within five miles of at least one such upmarket retailer, and the Democrats’ brand is stagnant or in decline everywhere else…Once dominant in labor halls, Democrats are more ascendant than ever near galleria malls. But the reality for Democrats is if they aren’t able to stop their slide in less elite locales, President Trump’s advantage in the Electoral College could further widen relative to the popular vote…In fairness, Ms. Warren and the other top 2020 contenders are spending more of their time and energy seeking to woo voters in less cosmopolitan settings. They have no choice: Sixty-nine percent of U.S. voters live closer to a Cracker Barrel, Tractor Supply Company, Hobby Lobby or Bass Pro Shops location than to one of those high-end brands.”

Wasserman adds, “But it wasn’t always this hard for Democrats. In the 1990s, millions of less religious middle-class heartland voters opted for Democrats, in part because they viewed Republicans as the party of rich people and “Bible thumpers” who wanted to impose their moral values on the country. Today, many of those same voters might feel they have even less in common with liberal arts graduates in trendy ZIP codes willing to pay $14 for a half liter of avocado oil, $59 for a recycled tie-dye sweatshirt, $158 for yoga tights or $1,449 for a smartphone.”

“It’s cultural arrogance,” said the veteran Democratic strategist James Carville, who now teaches at Louisiana State University,” Wasserman notes. “On taxing the rich, health care, Roe v. Wade,” he added, “we’re in the majority on all these issues. But in this country, culture trumps policy. The urbanists — voters think they’re too cool for school. And voters pick it up.”…His advice to today’s Democrats: “If you want to win back loggers in northern Wisconsin, stop talking about pronouns and start talking more about corruption in Big Pharma…But the challenge for Democrats is that relatively few voters, especially in Electoral College battleground states, live in these upmarket bubbles…Consider that in the most recent presidential election, 53 percent of all California voters and 57 percent of all Massachusetts voters lived within five miles of a current Whole Foods, Lululemon, Urban Outfitters or Apple Store location. But in electoral battlegrounds, just 33 percent of voters in Florida, 32 percent in Pennsylvania, 24 percent in North Carolina, 20 percent in Wisconsin and 19 percent in Michigan did.”

Wasserman concludes, “Many Democrats who succeeded in 2018 — such as the Marine veteran Conor Lamb in a Pennsylvania House race, the water rights lawyer Xochitl Torres Small in a New Mexico House race and Senator Sherrod Brown, a longtime opponent of job outsourcing, in his re-election in Ohio — had profiles that appealed across this chasm. But it remains to be seen whether the Democratic presidential nominee will be someone whose background and message can bridge the gap…Most Americans have already chosen sides for the November election, and it’s easy to believe there isn’t all that much sorting left to do. It’s also easy to view the divide as purely urban versus rural. But something all eight of the retailers in this article have in common is a growing presence in the suburbs. That should serve as a reminder that when it comes to elections, not all suburbs look or behave alike …To beat Mr. Trump, Democrats will probably need a nominee who can relate to people in the modest suburbs of Harrisburg, Pa.; Eau Claire, Wis.; and Fayetteville, N.C. — not just the chic suburbs of San Francisco, Dallas and Washington, D.C.”

At The Daily Beast, Max Sawicky takes on the prevailing pundit consensus to explain “Why the Democratic Race Isn’t Close to Over,” and notes, “First, Joe Biden’s personal appeal is still in doubt. At this stage, more of it derives from who he isn’t—Donald Trump—than who he is. His strongest support has been from a demographic—African-Americans—for whom his actual record is uninspiring, to say the least. He can’t draw a crowd on a sunny day, while Bernie is still packing them in like nobody’s business. ..Second, Biden’s strength so far rests substantially on delegates from states that Democrats are not likely to win in November: Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, Alabama, South Carolina, and Oklahoma. Democrats in those states certainly have a right to a voice in the nominee. As the weeks pass, those wins will seem less impressive…The states that matter are the ones we all know: Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida. The Sunshine State is probably lost to Sanders, but it’s premature to write him off in the other four. If he wins two of them, we’re back to a horse race. ..Third, while Super Tuesday voters certainly pulled the lever for Joe, they seem to have liked Bernie’s ideas. Exit polls in Maine, Tennessee, North Carolina, Texas and California, for instance, found significant support for, and in some cases strong majorities of Democratic voters evincing a favorable view of, socialism. The rising socialist tendency is also reflected in polling on Medicare For All, Sanders’s signature platform proposal.”

Sawicky continues, “Fourth, the general strength of left-leaning sentiment may foretell a deficit of enthusiasm in November for a Biden-led ticket. Doubts as to Biden’s claim of superior electability will almost surely build once more as additional states run primaries. Even where Biden wins, a narrow victory accentuates doubts as to his electability, and consequently his progress in subsequent primaries. He has to win decisively in blue states to demonstrate his ability to lead the party. So far, he has done that in only three blue states – Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Virginia…Another potential pitfall for Biden is the aura of inevitability that is settling around his campaign, one that can give rise to complacency and tactical blunders. It is worth noting that Biden’s South Carolina victory was had without benefit of any surfeit of organization, funding, or beneficent external intervention. Immediately after Nevada, Biden was perceived as a spent bullet.”

Nate Silver isn’t having any of that in his article, “After Super Tuesday, Joe Biden Is A Clear Favorite To Win The NominationSanders has a window, but it’s small” at FiveThirtyEight. As Silver explains, “As mentioned, Biden will probably get a bounce in the polls as a result of his Super Tuesday wins. The model’s guess (accounting for its projected Super Tuesday bounce for Biden and the effects of Bloomberg and Warren dropping out) is that he’s currently ahead by the equivalent of 6 or 7 points in national polls. So although momentum could shift back toward Sanders later on, it may get worse for him in the short run…There aren’t that many delegates left after March. Some 38 percent of delegates have already been selected. And by the time Georgia votes in two-and-a-half weeks, 61 percent of delegates will already have been chosen. So even if Sanders did get a big, massive momentum swing late in the race, it might not be enough to allow him to come back, with only about a third of delegates still to be chosen.”

In addition, Silver writes, “Some of Sanders’s best states (California, Nevada) have already voted, and the upcoming states generally either aren’t good for him or have relatively few delegates. In fact, given how broadly Sanders lost on Super Tuesday — including in northern states such as Minnesota, Massachusetts and Maine — it’s hard to know where his strengths lie, other than among young progressives and Hispanics, who are not large enough groups to constitute a winning coalition in most states. Conversely, it’s easy to identify places where Sanders will likely lose badly to Biden. Our model has Biden winning a net of about 85 delegates over Sanders in Florida on March 17, where Sanders’s polling has been terrible, and a net of about 35 delegates in Georgia, which votes on March 24…..Finally, even if Sanders does come back, it might merely be enough to win a plurality rather than a majority of delegates. We project that roughly 150 delegates — or about 4 percent of the total of 3,979 pledged delegates available — belong to candidates who have since dropped out or to Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, even after accounting for the fact that statewide delegates are reallocated to other candidates once a candidate drops out.2 That creates an additional buffer that will make it harder for Sanders to win a majority.”


Political Strategy Notes

Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman put the Super Tuesday results in perspective at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, noting “That Joe Biden swept the South was not that big of a surprise; that he won states outside of it was…The overall delegate math is unclear and may very well have ended up close on Super Tuesday, but Bernie Sanders needed to come out of it with a significant lead. He didn’t do that…With Biden likely to win more big victories in the South, Sanders has to win some of the big upcoming Midwestern states — Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio — to keep pace.”

Arguing that “Donald Trump is the Democrats’ Best GOTV,” at The Cook Political Report, Charlie Cook writes that “The other thing that Biden lacked that literally, every other candidate had more of than he did: money and organization. Sanders and Warren had invested in field operations and the early vote for months. Bloomberg, of course, spent more than $500 million on TV ads and campaign infrastructure. But, in the end, Biden had the more powerful GOTV operation: Donald J. Trump. Democrats want to beat Trump. Biden is the guy who is most likely to do it. The end.”

From Ari Berman’s “Here’s Why Texans Had to Wait Six Hours to Vote: The state closed a record 750 polling places from 2012 to 2018” at Mother Jones: “While voters in California also faced delays due to a shortage of polling locations and problems with new voting technology, the longest waits took place in Texas, particularly in Houston’s Harris County, where the population is 43 percent Latino and 19 percent black…Texas’ troubles weren’t just a case of bureaucratic incompetence or aging election infrastructure: The long lines were also by design. As my colleague Sam Van Pykeren noted last night, from 2012 to 2018, Texas counties shuttered 750 polling places—more than any other state. The closures disproportionately harmed Democratic and minority voters. “The 50 counties that gained the most Black and Latinx residents between 2012 and 2018 closed 542 polling sites, compared to just 34 closures in the 50 counties that have gained the fewest black and Latinx residents,” according to a recent analysis in The Guardian…Texas was allowed to close these polling places because of a 2013 Supreme Court decision gutting the Voting Rights Act that enabled states with a long history of voting discrimination like Texas to take such actions without federal approval. All together, states previously subject to such supervision have shut down 1,688 polling locations from 2012 to 2018, according to a report by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.”

At The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein writes, “Stanley B. Greenberg, a veteran Democratic pollster, argued that Super Tuesday’s results establish Biden as the clear front-runner for the nomination at the convention in July….“Sanders has made no effort to reach out beyond his voters, his movement, his revolution,” Greenberg said. “It just has not grown. It is an utterly stable vote that is grounded in the very liberal portion of the Democratic Party, but he’s so disdainful of any outreach beyond that base. He seems content to just keep hitting that drum.” Brownstein notes that “big showdowns are looming over the next two Tuesdays in Florida, Arizona, and a quartet of Rust Belt battlegrounds: Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, and Michigan…But if Biden wins next week in Michigan, one of Sanders’s most significant victories four years ago, the rationale for the senator’s candidacy could quickly become murky.”

Brownstein continues, “Sanders failed on almost every front to enlarge his coalition. He faced a sharp recoil from groups that have long been the most skeptical of him, including African Americans and older voters. Biden, conversely, received exactly the kind of consolidation among black voters that his campaign had hoped for after his strong performance in South Carolina: He carried about three-fifths or more of African American voters in Virginia, North Carolina, Texas, and Alabama and a majority in Tennessee, according to the exit polls. Outside of Vermont, Sanders faced cavernous deficits among voters 45 and older, who composed a clear majority of the electorate in most states.”

“Biden reversed Sanders’s previously consistent advantage among white voters without a college degree,” Brownstein adds. “That latter breakthrough could be especially important for Biden in the upcoming midwestern states, where blue-collar white voters constitute a larger share of the Democratic primary electorate than in most places. A poll from Michigan released last night showed Biden pulling past Sanders there, even before the Super Tuesday results…In 2016, Sanders won Michigan on the strength of a solid 15-point advantage among those working-class white voters. To keep them in his corner, he’s likely over the next week to stress his opposition to free-trade agreements that his rival supported, such as the now defunct North American Free Trade Agreement.

Brownstein notes further: “The reversal among white voters without a college degree was equally striking. During his 2016 race, Sanders carried most of them, according to the cumulative exit-poll analysis, and he won most of them in each of the first four states this year too. But last night showed that Sanders now has genuine competition: The exit polls found that Biden carried most of them in Virginia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Alabama, Massachusetts, and Minnesota, while Sanders won them in Texas, Vermont, Colorado, and California. (The two split them closely in North Carolina.)”

The good news from Montana, from The Week: “Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) is reportedly now inclined to run for the state’s Senate seat, which is occupied by Trump ally Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), three Democratic officials told The New York Times. Bullock, whose term limits prevent him running for governor again, has long maintained he wasn’t interested in the Upper Chamber, partially because he views himself as an executive (he briefly ran for president last year), but also because he reportedly didn’t want to put a strain on his family by commuting between Montana and Washington every week…But Democrats kept pushing in the hopes that Bullock’s popularity as a Democrat in his red home state could help flip at least one Senate seat blue as the party tries to reverse the 53-47 Republican majority in 2020.”

Cal Cunningham, an Army veteran and former state senator, will take on Sen. Thom Tillis (R) in what’s expected to be an extremely competitive North Carolina Senate race this fall,” Li Zhou reports in “This North Carolina Democrat will try to unseat Thom Tillis this fall: The state is one of Democrats’ biggest targets come November” at Vox. “Cunningham beat out a slate of opponents, including progressive state Sen. Erica Smith, to win Democrats’ North Carolina Senate primary on Tuesday night. Viewed as a more moderate option, he’s centered his campaign on the expansion of the Affordable Care Act, opposed the Green New Deal, and garnered the backing of Senate Democrats’ national campaign arm…With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Cunningham won 57 percent to Smith’s 35 percent. Cunningham, now in-house counsel for an environmental consultancy, ran for the Senate in 2010 and lost in the runoff.”


Can Biden’s New Narrative Unify Democrats?

There is a lot of rethinking of the races for the Democratic presidential nomination going on today, as a result of Biden’s juggernaut sweeping the south and winning MN and MA, along with with the campaigns of Bloomberg, Buttigieg, Klobuchar and Steyer folding up shop. In his article, “Many young voters sat out Super Tuesday, contributing to Bernie Sanders’ losses,” Ledyard King reports on one of the most striking turnout trends, confounding many pundits:

Exit polls for several states Biden won, including  Massachusetts, Texas and a number of southern states that helped catapult the former vice president into front-runner status, found that while more young voters went to the polls this election cycle, they did not show up at the rate they did in 2016.

In Virginia, for example, more than 1.3 million voters cast ballots compared to the roughly 800,000 four years ago. But exit polls on Super Tuesday showed that the share of young voters as a percentage of the entire electorate declined in the Old Dominion, diminishing their influence as a voting bloc.”

Further, King notes, “the Vermont senator has been grabbing a smaller share of them in most cases.”

  • In Alabama, only  10% of the voters were in the 17-29 range compared to 14% in 2016. Sanders won six of every 10 of those voters Tuesday compared to 46% in 2016.

  • In North Carolina, 14% of Tuesday’s electorate were young voters, compared to 16% four years ago. Of those, 57% went for Sanders in 2020 compared to 69% in 2016.

  • In South Carolina which held its primary Saturday, young voters made up 11% of the electorate compared to 15% in 2016. Sanders won 43% of those voters compared to 54% four years ago.

  • In Tennessee, 11% of those voters showed up Tuesday versus 15% in 2016. Sanders did better among that group Tuesday winning 63% compared to 61% four years ago.

  • In Virginia, young voters comprised 13% of Tuesday’s vote compared to 16% in 2016. Sanders won 55% of those voters Tuesday compared with 69% four years ago.

King adds that “Sanders’ home state of Vermont showed a lackluster turnout of young millennials and ‘Gen Zers.’ Only 11% of the state’s electorate was under 30 compared to 15% when he ran against Clinton, according to exit polls.”

Biden’s upset includes Texas, “where 15% of voters was between 17 and 29 compared to 20% in 2016″ Ditto for Warren’s “Massachusetts where the share of young voters dropped from 19% four years ago to 16% Tuesday…The common theme in all those states: Sanders fared worse this year than he did when he faced eventual nominee Hillary Clinton four years ago.”

It isn’t the first time predictions of youth turnout proved to be over-hyped. The disappointing youth turnout for Sanders was one of the key reasons for Biden’s Super Tuesday upset, but not the only one. There was Rep. Clyburn’s moving endorsement of Biden in S.C., which became a powerful rallying cry for African American voters across the south. You have to also give some credit to the candidate, whose warm brand of retail politics served him well with southerners in general. Biden’s eloquent interviews and speeches closing in on Tuesday also breathed new vitality into his campaign.

Also, don’t overlook Warren’s takedown of Mayor Bloomberg, which encouraged moderates to focus more on Biden. In addition, it looks like the socialist boogeyman turned out to be more of a zombie, who still refuses to die, at least in the sunbelt. And give it up for Biden’s campaign strategists and staff, who did a great job of marshalling a series of impressive endorsements by Bloomberg, O’Rourke, Buttigieg and Klobuchar, and just managing their candidate in general with very little money. Former Vice President Biden had a powerful personal ‘narrative’ even before Super Tuesday. Now he may have an irresistible one.

For more data-driven analysis of Biden’s sweep and prospects going forward, check out Steve Kornacki’s excellent MSNBC report, right here.