washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

How are Trump’s recent comments urging the congresswomen of ‘the squad” to go back to where they came from polling? At Daily Kos, Hunter explains that “Two thirds of Americans call Trump’s racist tweets ‘offensive;’ a majority call them ‘un-American’“. Hunter notes that “The American public, aside from Republican members of Congress, isn’t going to take nonsense on this one. In a new USA TODAY/Ipsos poll, Americans are calling Donald Trump’s racist weekend tweets “offensive.” And in a result Trump and his allies might be more pointedly concerned about, 59% of Americans are calling Trump’s racist tweets “un-American.”…That is not to say that a majority of self-identified Republicans aren’t standing by Trump. After all, 57% say they agree with Trump’s tweet for his targeted non-white, American-citizen congresswomen to “go back” to their “original” countries. But those Trump allies are overwhelmed by widespread public revulsion by Democrats and independents. Women, in particular, found the tweets offensive by a three-fourths majority…The poll underscores, yet again, just how far the Republican base has drifted from the rest of America’s beliefs and morality.”

With respect to the same poll, Catherine Kim notes at Vox that “A new poll indicates why GOP members are reluctant to chastise the president. Although a USA Today/Ipsos poll found that a majority of people, 68 percent, saw Trump’s tweets as offensive, there was a stark partisan divide: 93 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independents found the tweet offensive, while only 37 percent of Republicans did, according to the poll, which was released on Wednesday…Only 45 percent of Republicans found telling minorities to “go back where they came from” to be a racist statement, which starkly contrasts with the 85 percent of Democrats who think that way…While 88 percent of Democrats found the president’s tweets “un-American,” only 25 percent of Republicans felt the same way. The difference became more evident when people were asked if it was American to “to point out where America falls short and try to do better.” Fifty-two percent of Republicans found those who criticized American to be un-American, while only 17 percent of Democrats agreed….Following the uproar surrounding Trump’s racist comments, support for the president among Republicans rose by 5 percentage points to 72 percent, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Tuesday. The same could not be said for his support among other groups: His net approval rating dropped by 2 percent among Democrats…Overall approval of his performance in office remained at 41 percent, while 55 percent disapproved, the same as last week.”

In FiveThirtyEight’s panel discussion, “Will ‘The Squad’ vs. Pelosi Be A Big Problem For Democrats In 2020?,” Perry Bacon, Jr. observes, “My own, non-data judgement, is yes, Democrats would be slightly better off if AOC and her allies were less prominent in the run-up to the 2020 election. Why? Because having issues of race and identity (like immigration policy and four very liberal, female people of color) being central to the presidential election is hard for Democrats. They have become the party of people of color but most voters are white and this is especially true in key swing states (in particular, Michigan and Wisconsin). Also, Trump is likely to run a 2020 campaign about race and identity that raises the question of who should represent America–forcing voters to take sides…Pelosi, I assume, does not want the 2020 election to be seen by the public as a battle between AOC’s vision of America (even if Biden is the Democratic nominee) and Trump’s vision of America. And I think she is right to be concerned about that. This is not a new challenge for Democrats. Hillary Clinton was probably not helped by the rise of Black Lives Matter preceding the 2016 election, and backlash to the civil rights movement arguably helped Richard Nixon win the 1972 election.”

Chris Cillizza explains “Why Trump so badly wants 2020 to be all about socialism” at CNN’s ‘The Point’:”In the Pew poll, which was done earlier this spring, 84% of Republicans and lean Republicans said they have a negative view of socialism. That number included 63% of Republicans who said they has a “strongly” negative view of it…How do you convince those soft(er) Republicans to be for Trump in 2020 despite their misgivings? You find an issue that you can brand the other side with that makes the choice in 2020 between someone you have doubts about and someone that you believe will fundamentally undermine the capitalist system that has, to borrow a phrase, made America great…You getting it now?  If the choice in 2020 is between Trump and and a Democrat, he likely loses. If it’s between Trump and a Democrat-who-is-really-a-Socialist, he has a hell of a lot better chance at a 2nd term.”

“If Trump does as well or even better in his base areas than he did in 2016, and the Democrats do not improve on their suburban numbers, then the president will almost surely be reelected,” Martin Longman writes at The Washington Monthly. “This is still not all that likely to happen in my view for the simple reason that Trump has lost support throughout his four years in office. He cannot depend on people to vote for him on the assumption that he’s going to lose anyway. He’s not a (ha, ha) joke or protest candidate anymore. He won’t get the considerable bloc of people who always vote against the incumbent regardless of party. He won’t automatically get the historically anti-Clinton suburban vote either, since there will be no Clinton on the ballot. More than this, Trump has definitely lost support among moderates, particularly well-educated folks from the professional classes. He’s going to do worse with South Asians, East Asians, Latinos, and blacks than he did four years ago. He’s not beginning this race at the starting line with his opponent. Despite the advantages of incumbency, he is starting from the rear…Nixon did not suffer from most of these disadvantages in 1972. He would have been difficult to defeat no matter who the Democrats nominated or what they promised on the campaign trail. Trump is not looking at potentially winning 49 states. He’s looking at trying to win twice while losing the popular vote.”

Nathaniel Rackich brings good news for Dems, also at FiveThirtyEight: “One of the strongest signs of a blue wave in the 2018 election was the green wave that preceded it: Democratic candidates running in that cycle raised googobs of money (a highly technical term). So in addition to indicators like the generic congressional ballot and special election results, the second-quarter fundraising reports filed this week with the Federal Election Commission are another clue as to whether Democratic momentum will carry forward into 2020’s congressional races. And while it’s still early in the election cycle, it looks like fundraising is once again a bullish indicator for Democrats’ success, at least in the Senate…In competitive Senate elections — those that the three major electionhandicappers rate as anything other than solid red or blue1 — Democrats have raised $34.1 million in total contributions in the first six months of 2019, and Republicans have raised $29.3 million…That gap is especially troubling for the GOP because there are eight Republican incumbents running in those 14 races, and incumbents usually raise more money than challengers early on. While Democrats have only four incumbents running, they’ve raised more than four times as much as their Republican challengers in those races. And in the two open-seat races, Democrats are outraising Republicans $1.9 million to $763,771.”

“California Sen. Kamala Harris, former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are in a close race in California, according to a new Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday,” Grace Sparks writes at CNN Politics. “The poll shows Harris at 23%, Biden at 21% and Sanders at 18%. The difference between the candidates’ numbers are within the poll’s margin of error…Beyond the top three, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren sits at 16%…The race has tightened since a Quinnipiac April survey found Biden, who had not yet formally announced his candidacy, besting the other contenders with 26% of Democratic voters in the Golden State; in that poll, Sanders was at 18%, Harris 17% and Warren 7%…Harris and Warren have both surged since that survey, while Biden has dropped and Sanders has remained steady.”

Oliver Willis notes that “Mitch McConnell is so unpopular only 9% of his campaign cash came from his home state” at shareblue.com. “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell only received 9% of his reelection campaign donations from his home state of Kentucky, reflecting poorly on his popularity there…The biggest blocks of contributions during the period came from two global financial services firms based in New York: 29 people with Blackstone Group made contributions totaling $95,400; and 14 executives of KKR & Co. are listed as giving a combined $51,000,” the Louisville Courier-Journal reported on Wednesday…”The lack of home state dollars could give potential challengers an opening to criticize McConnell as out of step with the state,” the Center for Responsive Politics, who compiled the embarrassing data on McConnell, noted.”

The stereotype of military veterans as supporters of war takes a big hit in a new Pew Research poll. As Adam Weinstein explains at The New Republic: “The “Long War” that began on September 11, 2001, added to veterans’ already-outsize role in the American narrative. Worship of military service has become an indispensable cog in every politician’s and corporation’s endearment strategy. But on the actual subject of war, almost no one in mainstream politics is actually listening to “the troops.”…That’s the main takeaway from the Pew Research Center’s latest rolling poll of U.S. veterans, published Thursday, in which solid majorities of former troops said the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria were not worth fighting. The gaps between approval and disapproval were not even close to the poll’s 3.9 percent margin of error; barely a third of veterans considered any of those conflicts worthwhile: “Among veterans, 64% say the war in Iraq was not worth fighting considering the costs versus the benefits to the United States, while 33% say it was. The general public’s views are nearly identical: 62% of Americans overall say the Iraq War wasn’t worth it and 32% say it was. Similarly, majorities of both veterans (58%) and the public (59%) say the war in Afghanistan was not worth fighting. About four-in-ten or fewer say it was worth fighting…Veterans who served in either Iraq or Afghanistan are no more supportive of those engagements than those who did not serve in these wars. And views do not differ based on rank or combat experience.” The only meaningful variation pollsters found among vets was by party identification: Republican-identifying veterans were likelier to approve of the wars. But even a majority of those GOP vets now say the wars were not worth waging.”

Political Strategy Notes

Democrats tend to think of Florida as a red state, and it is a ‘do or die’ state for Trump. But sometimes, it’s more instructrive to think in terms of swing counties. “If history is any guide, whichever way Pinellas county voters swing next November will decide if Trump wins another four years in the White House,” Richard Luscombe reports in The Guardian. ” The heavily populated county at the western end of Florida’s I-4 corridor has backed every winning presidential candidate, five Republicans and four Democrats, since 1980, the anomaly of the 2000 election excepted. It was also the largest of only four Florida counties, out of 67, that swung to Trump in 2016 after supporting Obama in the two previous contests…“The county is a swatch of America. In St Pete, you could easily be in California – they lean left big time. In the north part of the county there are a lot of retirees, people who are older, more conservative, and in the middle you have this mix, the older population and young families, who are 30s to 50s…“We’ve pushed south Pinellas, I believe, strongly to be blue, and the middle part is now leaning really blue. And we’re going to turn the north part of this county purple. That’s our plan to deliver Pinellas in 2020.”

Another swing county in a different state may also decide the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. Tom McCarthy writes, also at The Guardian: “In the two and a half years since Trump became president, his bedrock of support has not shifted. People who love Trump still love Trump. But life has changed in Northampton county, Pennsylvania, one of those crucial swing counties nationwide that voted twice for Barack Obama before flipping for Trump – and which could decide whether Trump gets a second term…the electorate in Northampton has changed. While some older voters have died, new residents – commuters, retirees, warehouse industry employees – have moved in, and a flood of new voters has entered the field, with turnout among young voters tripling from the midterm elections of 2014 to the midterm elections of 2018…If Trump wins here in 2020, he has a great shot at retaking the state of Pennsylvania, and at recapturing the White House, political analysts say. But if Trump loses here, he might become the first one-term president since George HW Bush.” In 2018, “That turnout drove huge gains for Democrats in the Pennsylvania state legislature, while the Democratic governor won re-election with 57% of the vote. In a US senate race, the incumbent Democrat beat a virulently anti-immigrant Trump cutout by 13 points.”

From “Notes on the State of Politics” by Larry J. Sabato and Kyle Kondik at Sabato’s Crystal Ball:

Map 1: Crystal Ball Senate ratings

In yet another Guardian article, Lloyd Green sheds light on the stakes in a Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare: “The latest polls tell us that half the country views “Obamacare” as “mostly a good thing”, while fewer than 40% disagree with that proposition. Since the ACA’s enactment in 2010, the hostility surrounding the law has markedly abated. In fact, voters have come to particularly appreciate those ACA provisions that mandate coverage for pre-existing conditions, and coverage for dependent children up to the age of 26. By the numbers, almost seven in 10 Americans “do not want to see” the supreme court overturn protections for pre-existing conditions…On the other hand, if the ACA and its protections were struck down, the consequences could be grave. The Urban Institute reports that “the number of uninsured people in the US would increase by 19.9 million, or 65%”. In fact, the effects in swing-state America could be even more devastating, both on the personal and political planes…All things being equal, the ranks of uninsured would more than double in Michigan and Pennsylvania. Florida would probably see a jump in uninsured by two-thirds. As for Wisconsin and Texas, the figure would swell by one-third. In other words, ACA repeal would be a dagger in the chest of the most purple of states. Were Trump to lose any three of those states, he would be forced into unplanned and early retirement.”

Romesh Ponnuru underscores the pivotal importance of the High Court’s ruling on the ACA in “Winning the Obamacare Suit Would Be a Disaster for Republicans” at Bloomberg Opinion: “There’s an important bit of contingency planning that Republicans have neglected to do. Neither in the White House nor on Capitol Hill are they prepared for the possibility that their lawsuit against Obamacare will succeed…Most observers don’t expect the courts to strike down the law, and Tuesday’s oral arguments in a New Orleans federal courtroom didn’t change many minds. If the suit is successful, however, it will create an acute problem for a lot of people. Insurers will again be able to discriminate against people with chronic conditions. Many states’ budgets will be thrown into turmoil as Washington stops covering most of the tab for the expansion of Medicaid coverage to households just above the poverty line. People who get their insurance through Obamacare’s exchanges will stop receiving the tax credits that make it affordable…If the Affordable Care Act were to lose in court, and Congress and the president failed to agree on legislation afterward, Americans would go through the largest disruption in health-care arrangements that Washington has ever imposed.”

At FiveThirtyEight, Geoffrey Skelley argues that “the Bluegrass State is probably too red to elect a Democratic senator at the moment, barring some unexpected development…while McGrath might be one of the best candidates Democrats can put up against McConnell, it will still be mighty difficult for her to actually win in ruby red Kentucky.” He also writes, however, “Is it possible? Sure. It would take nearly everything to break McGrath’s way, though. For one, the national environment would need to be reallybeneficial for Democrats — probably even more Democratic-leaning than the 2018 cycle was. Maybe McGrath can get help from a strong Democatic presidential nominee. And it’s not like McConnell himself is invulnerable: He has a poor approval rating in his home state, despite its strong GOP lean. The most recent Morning Consult data pegged his approval rating at just 36 percent compared with 50 percent who disapprove of him, making him the most unpopular senator in the country.”

Kentucky may still be political fool’s gold for Democrats, but at least McGrath has collected a lot of it — at record amount, actually. As Matthew Rozsa notes at salon.com, “Amy McGrath, the former fighter pilot vying for the Democratic nomination to run against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in Kentucky next year, raked in $2.5 million in the first 24 hours of her campaign…McGrath’s team confirmed the sky-high figure to NBC News, which campaign manager Mark Nickolas said represents the most ever raised by a Senate campaign in its first day. The campaign noted that more than $1 million of that total was donated within the first five hours of its announcement, and the average donation was $36. The previous record was the $1 million netted by former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly when he announced his candidacy for the Senate in Arizona earlier this year, according to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee…The entirety of the $2.5 million in donations came in the form of online contributions, with checks and promised contributions not being counted in that figure.”

Nathaniel Rakich shares a revealing chart regarding secoond choices in the Democratic contest for the party’s presidential nomination, also at FiveThirtyEight:

Sen. Bernie Sanders has a novel twist on presidential campaign endorsements. Gregory Krieg reports at CNN Politics: “Sen. Bernie Sanders has long bathed in the antipathy of his political enemies. Now, he’s using their unkind words to bolster his progressive credentials in the heat of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary…The Sanders campaign on Wednesday unveiled a new page of “anti-endorsements” on its website — a list of a dozen wealthy businessmen and one centrist think tank — who have publicly criticized him and his agenda…In a speech last month, Sanders quoted President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who once said of his industrialist rivals, “They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred.” Throughout the campaign, Sanders has channeled that sentiment, highlighting attacks from wealthy adversaries and establishment figures in fundraising pitches and stump speeches. Their opposition, Sanders argues, is evidence that he can be trusted to fight against their interests, whether it means taxing Wall Street or agitating for higher wages at companies like Walmart…”It should come as no surprise that corporate CEOs and billionaires have united against our movement. These people have a vested interest in preserving the status quo so they can keep their grip on power and continue to exploit working people across America,” Sanders said in a statement following the rollout. “We welcome their hatred.”

Amy McGrath Gives Dems High-Profile Challenger to Beat McConnell

There is some good news from the Bluegrass State. In their article, “Amy McGrath answers Democratic groups’ prayers in Senate bid against McConnell,” Karl Evers-Hillstrom and Jessica Piper explain at opensecrets.org:

Amy McGrath, a former Marine fighter pilot and unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Congress in Kentucky last year, will try to unseat Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2020.

Much to the delight of Democratic groups that have been furiously recruiting McGrath for months, the likely Democratic nominee announced her decision to run Tuesday morning with a video slamming McConnell as someone who has “turned Washington into something we all despise.”

Notorious for rejecting bills passed by the Democratic-led House, McConnell has become the boogeyman for Democratic candidates and groups alike. Democratic presidential candidates cited the Republican leader as the ultimate roadblock on the debate stage last month, while liberal groups prominently feature McConnell in solicitations and attack ads.

A former marine fighter pilot, Lt. Col. McGrath lost her 2018 mid-term campaign for KY-6 to Republican incumbent Andy Barr by a margin of 3.2 percent — but in a district Trump won by 15 percent in 2016. Evers-Hillstrom and Piper note further,

With so much Democratic focus on defeating McConnell, McGrath will likely find substantial financial support again in 2020. Ditch Mitch, a PAC solely dedicated to beating the Republican leader that raised $1.1 million in the second quarter of 2019, released a statement Tuesday that it was “all in” on McGrath’s Senate bid. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee will likely spend heavily on the race, given that Democratic leaders encouraged McGrath to run.

Call it a long-shot. McConnell will also be extremely well-funded, as Piper and Evers-Hillstrom add that Majority Leader McConnell, who is married to Trump’s Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, received 77 percent of his funding from out-of-state donors during 2013-2018. He raised $5.3 million in first quarter of 2019 and “raised more than $21 million when he won reelection in 2014, garnering 56 percent of the vote over Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.”

Yet some analysts believe that McConnell may be vulnerable to an upset in 2020, as the poster-boy for GOP gridlock, who angered many moderates with his refusal to give President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland even a meeting, much less a fair hearing. McConnell has also boasted about his continuing role as an uncompromising obstructionist regarding anything Democrats support. His arrogance may be wearing thin.

In their book, “American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper,” political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson blame McConnell as instrumental in transforming the GOP into a “party geared increasingly, not to governing, but to making governance impossible.” Under McConnell’s “leadership,” the GOP has repeatedly threatened to force the U.S. into debt default, with McConnell calling it “a hostage that’s worth ransoming.” It’s not hard to envision some effective attack ads slamming McConnell as the ‘Godfather of Gridlock’ in government.

McConnell’s family and his campaign have also benefitted from some unsavory financial dealingsLance Perriman notes further at Political Dig:

The New York Times reports that Chao has blatantly leveraged her position in Trump’s Cabinet to benefit her family’s shipping business, the Foremost Group. In 2017, she had planned a visit to Beijing, ostensibly on government business, and has also arranged for members of the family to attend government meetings. This so alarmed the U.S. embassy that staffers there got in touch with the State Department to find out how to handle it.

Never let it be said that McConnell himself isn’t doing his part to ensure the corruption of the Republican Party. You will recall that he was personally responsible for the government not warning the public about Russian interference — and remains committed to blocking all election protection bills in the Senate, even those sponsored by Republicans. And he isn’t one to turn down voting-machine lobbyist money, either.

There is some evidence that McConnell’s popularity with Kentucky voters is slipping. Tal Axelrod reports at The Hill that a survey by Public Policy Polling for the ‘Ditch Mitch Fund’ in February found that “About 33 percent of registered Kentucky voters polled approve of the job McConnell is doing, while 56 percent disapprove and 11 percent are unsure. Additionally, 32 percent think McConnell “deserves to be reelected,” and 61 percent think it’s “time for someone new.”

So far there are two other Democrats running for their party’s nod to challenge McConnell, Steven Cox and Jimmy Ausbrooks, but McGrath is the most well-known candidate at the moment. Whoever becomes McConnell’s Democratic opponent will certainly have plenty of ammo for what may be the marquee senate battle of 2020.

McGrath’s introductory ad:

Political Strategy Notes

From Ella Nilsen’s “Republicans dominate state legislatures. That decides political power in America” at Vox: “Republicans now have total control of 30 state legislatures — both the House and Senate — compared to just 18 by Democrats. Just two states, Minnesota and Alaska, have split chambers…The Democratic Party and DLCC flipped eight state chambers in 2018 and broke Republican supermajorities in three other states. Post says they’re planning to expand on that in 2020, with a targeted list of 12 states:

  • Arizona: Democrats are two seats away from taking a majority in the state House and three seats away from a majority in the Senate.
  • Florida: Democrats are 14 seats away from a majority in the state House.
  • Georgia: Democrats are 28 seats away from taking a majority in the state House, but they’re hoping to gain seats in 2020.
  • Iowa: Democrats are four seats away from a majority in the Iowa state House.
  • Kansas: Democrats are trying to break Republican supermajorities in both chambers; Democrat Laura Kelly won the governor’s seat in 2018.
  • Michigan: Democrats broke a Republican supermajority in the state Senate in 2018 and are four seats away from flipping the chamber.
  • Minnesota: Democrats are two seats away from a majority in the state Senate. They won control of the state House in 2018.
  • North Carolina: Democrats are six seats away from taking control of the state House.
  • Pennsylvania: Democrats broke a Republican supermajority in the state Senate in 2018. They are 9 seats away from a majority in the state House, and four seats away from a majority in the state Senate.
  • Texas: Democrats are nine seats away from a majority in the Texas state House.
  • Virginia: Democrats are two seats away from a majority in the state House of Delegates, and two seats away from a majority in the state Senate as well. Elections are coming up in 2019.
  • Wisconsin: Democrats are three seats away from a majority in the Wisconsin state Senate.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s historic legacy and impressive accomplishments can only be diminished by her making divisive comments about other Democrats. It’s hard enough for Democratic primary candidates to avoid the circular firing squad, without party leaders getting drawn into a pointless snarkfest.

In his New York Times column, “Trump Needs His Base to Burn with Anger,” Thomas B. Edsall comments on the futility of Democrats spending too much effort on converting Trump’s persuadable supporters: “John Kane, a political scientist at N.Y.U. and a co-author of a new paper, “Ingroup Lovers or Outgroup Haters? The Social Roots of Trump Support and Partisan Identity,”…described Trump’s lock on a key set of voters: “For Republicans that absolutely loathe and detest” such progressive constituencies as minorities, immigrants and members of the LGBT community, Kane wrote, “an appeal from Democratic Party elite is likely to be dismissed out of hand.”…Among Republicans more sympathetic to these liberal groups, Kane continued, “the share that could, under any circumstances, actually vote for a Democrat is quite small, below 10 percent, and this is likely concentrated among those who only weakly identify with or lean toward the Republican Party.”

At The Daily Beast, Eleanor Clift warns “Embracing Medicare for All Will Put the Democratic Party on Life Support: Yes, Medicare for All polls well—until people learn details, when support craters. Democrats must steer clear of this disaster waiting to happen.” Clift explains: “Taking away something that millions of people like is never a good idea. With health care the top issue for voters, “Talking about Medicare for All hands the Republicans an ICBM, a nuclear warhead they can fire in different directions,” says Matt Bennett, a co-founder of Third Way, a moderate Democratic group. There’s the cost, $32 trillion over 10 years, according to the left-leaning Urban Institute. The payroll tax would likely be doubled, and the choice of private insurance ended or severely restricted. Republicans would have a heyday stoking generalized anxiety about an empowered federal government, or worse, when they’re in charge they could cut back the program.”

Meanwhile movements for Medicaid expansion are gathering momentum. Rebekah Barber reports at Facing South that “state legislatures refused federal money to expand Medicaid, leaving 2 million people nationwide in the coverage gap, meaning they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to qualify for ACA Marketplace premium tax credits. And 90 percent of those in the coverage gap live in the South, where just five states have expanded Medicaid under the ACA.” Barber reports on active Mediucaid expansion movements in the southern states, including Virginia, where Medicaid expansion took place this year under the leadership of Democrats and West Virginia, Kentucky and Louisiana where Democratic governors have used executive orders to expand coverage. Barber adds that “That leaves the Southern states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas without expanded Medicaid programs. But there are efforts underway in some of those states to change that.”

For a data-rich profile of today’s Democratic rank and file — those who will pick the party’s presidential nominee — check out Michael Tomasky’s article, “The Rules of the Game” in The New York Review of Books, which notes, “I asked Alan Abramowitz, the esteemed electoral demographer at Emory University, and he shared with me some numbers from the 2017 Pew Political Typology Survey, which he describes as being based on “a very large and high-quality sample” (the Pew numbers include Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents)…Democrats in the Pew survey skew younger than their Republican counterparts. About 43 percent are under forty, and just 12 percent are over seventy (the numbers for Republicans in those categories are 32 and 17 percent, respectively). A rather remarkable 56 percent are female. Just 54 percent are white, as opposed to more than 70 percent of Democrats on social media, with blacks and Latinos constituting 19 percent each (Republicans are 81 percent white). Of four designated income levels, the most represented by far is the lowest, under $30,000, at 36 percent. Likewise, of four designated education levels, the most represented by far is high school or less, at 37 percent—although interestingly, 15 percent of Democrats have graduate degrees, while only 8 percent of Republicans do. About a third of Democrats don’t express a religious affiliation, which means two-thirds of them do, which again is quite different, at least in my experience, from Twitter Democrats, who seem for the most part irreligious…What’s really arresting, however, is that—again according to the Pew numbers—only 46 percent of these Democrats describe themselves as very liberal or liberal. Another 37 percent call themselves moderate, and fully 15 percent—of Democrats—say they’re conservative.”

Tomasky continues, “Now consider some more numbers. Last November, Gallup asked Democrats and Republicans if they’d like their party to be more moderate or more (respectively) liberal or conservative. Republicans and Republican-leaning independents wanted their party to be more conservative, by 57 to 37 percent. But among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, the numbers were 54 percent more moderate, and 41 percent more liberal…In other words, overall, and contrary to much of what one sees on the cable networks, the Democratic Party is still a liberal-to-moderate party. Add to this what appears to be an emphasis among the rank and file on choosing the candidate who seems most likely to beat Donald Trump, and one can readily see why Joe Biden shot to the top of the polls after announcing that he was running. The party’s base seethes with hatred for Trump, but it doesn’t necessarily want a radical program of change—which it will not get in any case, since Mitch McConnell seems likely to remain the Senate majority leader. It just wants to win, rid the republic of this curse, and worry later about what comes after. To such people, a former vice-president and establishment figure who might be able to win back those famous lost voters of 2016 looks, for now, like the safe choice.”

Lest we forget how the stage was set for the current mess, Paul Waldman writes in “How Florida 2000 Created Our Modern Dysfunction: It’s when the GOP learned that winning washes away all your sins” at The American Prospect that “There was no reckoning, no comeuppance, no price to be paid. Bush proceeded through the highs and lows of his presidency, among other things appointing two justices to the Supreme Court. And when Barack Obama got elected, Mitch McConnell and the rest of congressional Republicans mounted a strategy of unceasing obstruction, including shutting down the government, threatening the faith and credit of the United States of America, and slowing Obama’s ability to fill judicial vacancies to a crawl, culminating with their theft of a Supreme Court seat…Their punishment for all that? The Oval Office in the hands of Donald Trump, quite possibly the single most morally repellent human being to ever sit there, and yet another Republican who became president while losing the popular vote. In other words, no punishment at all…It turns out that when winning is all that matters to you, you can win quite a lot.” What should Democrats have done? Maybe the better questions are what should the media have done and what should progressive activists have done? Raised a lot more hell about it is one answer. Looking forward, a Democratic landslide which can establish election by the popular vote is the best response. 

From Michelle Chen’s “Hardhats vs. Hippies”: How the Media Misrepresents the Debate Over the Green New Deal” at In These Times: “Backing the Green New Deal is a way to extend union support for working people beyond wages and benefits, because the Green New Deal is a social contract to form the foundation of a sustainable economy. From a practical standpoint, as a dwindling labor movement strives to remain relevant to the working masses, there simply is no bigger bread-and-butter issue than our land, air, water and health…It is shortsighted for the media to present labor’s skepticism toward the Green New Deal as akin to the far-right’s climate skepticism. Globally, a consensus is crystallizing on the left: There is no future in which workers are not on the frontline of climate-driven social transformation, either as survivors, or as agents of change.”

Political Strategy Notes

“No issue contributed more to the Democrats’ gains in the 2018 midterm elections than the party’s defense of the Affordable Care Act, particularly its provisions protecting patients with preexisting medical conditions,” explains Ronald Brownstein in his article, “The Most Critical Argument Democrats Will Have in 2020” at The Atlantic. “In exit polls during the 2018 election, nearly three-fifths of voters said they trusted Democrats more than Republicans to protect consumers with preexisting conditions. Those voters backed Democrats in House races by a crushing margin of 89 percent to 4 percent. The polling found that the issue was especially important in helping Democrats regain some ground among white women without a college degree, whose support for President Donald Trump was critical to his victories in the three Rust Belt states that effectively decided the 2016 election: Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Democrats are optimistic that Trump has provided them a comparable opportunity again in 2020 by repeatedly pledging that he will try again to repeal the law if he’s reelected.”

Brownstein continues, “But polls have consistently found that most Americans oppose eliminating private health insurance. In a January survey by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, just 37 percent of Americans supported a national Medicare for All plan with a ban in place. In a CNN survey released this week, only 21 percent of all Americans said they preferred a national health-care plan that would eliminate private insurance. Such results have prompted alarm from many Democrats—especially but not exclusively centrists—that running in 2020 on a platform of eliminating private insurance could neutralize the advantage Democrats have achieved on health care by defending the ACA…The sheer magnitude of eliminating private insurance is difficult to overstate. Fully 181 million Americans receive health coverage through their employers, according to census figures. Employer-provided coverage is the source of insurance for the vast majority of well-educated voters on whom Democrats now rely.”

“In the January Kaiser survey,” Brownstein adds, “a solid 57 percent majority of self-identified Democrats said they would still support a Medicare for All system if it eliminated private insurance. But in the more recent CNN survey, which was conducted entirely after last week’s debates, just 30 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents said they preferred a “national health insurance program for all Americans” that would “completely replace private health insurance.” A much larger group of Democrats and leaners, 49 percent, said they would prefer a national program that does “not completely replace private health insurance.” The rest either did not want to create a national health-care system in the first place or said they did not know what system they would prefer…In that CNN poll, eliminating private insurance did not attract plurality support from any large group within the Democratic coalition. A system that banned private insurance drew support among Democrats from just 33 percent of whites and 26 percent of nonwhites; 27 percent of men and 32 percent of women; and 37 percent of self-identified liberals and 24 percent of self-identified moderates and conservatives. Only among two groups—whites without a four-year college degree and adults younger than 45 years old—did nearly as many Democrats support eliminating private insurance as maintaining it. The idea was especially unpopular among Democrats older than 45, with just 22 percent supporting it and 52 percent opposing it.”

At The Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky notes, “the lower reimbursement rates to hospitals under Medicare will mean that many hospitals would face financial crises and might close. How do you think that will play in swing House districts, where 30-odd Democrats will be struggling to hold onto their seats, being forced to defend this position if someone who holds it wins the nomination? And on top of that, there’s the question of the millions of people who work in the private-insurance business. Unemployment could spike in hundreds of decent-sized towns in the country, local economies noticeably disrupted…I’m just talking about raw politics in the context of a presidential campaign (and, let’s not forget, a simultaneous congressional campaign in which it’s imperative that Democrats keep their House majority, which means they need to hold the swing districts they carried last time). And in raw political terms, these positions stand to lose the Democrats votes. Lots of votes…Health care was the Democrats’ best topic in 2018. It should be their best topic again. Let’s hope they don’t make it their worst.”

In their article, “Can Democrats Stop McConnell and Trump’s Quiet Regulatory Takeover?” at The American Prospect, Jeff Hauser and David Segal write “the judiciary is not the only terrain upon which Trump and McConnell have deployed metaphorical nuclear arms. Beneath the radar, they are also trampling norms to reduce the influence of Democratic appointees at critical independent agencies which protect consumers, workers, and the broader economy. And while Democrats are waking up to the consequences of Republican court-packing, they have required prodding to even notice this other right-wing takeover. Until Democrats recognize these hardball tactics from Trump and McConnell, they are unlikely to develop a legal or political plan to confront them…Democrats need to be elevating Trump and McConnell’s devious stealth nuclear option right now. In the short run, if Republicans blow up the norms surrounding these appointments, they should be forced to own the reputational consequences rather than quietly proceed…In the long run, Democrats running for president must decide whether or not to return to bipartisan norms of the past…Blithely forgetting the current slow-walking of minority agency appointments, rather than applying consequences to Republicans for Trump and McConnell’s partisan undermining of independent agencies, would only encourage more such extreme actions by Republicans in the future.”

At The Washington Monthly, Tabitha Sanders explains “How Democrats Can Really Win Back Power: The party has long neglected its candidates for local office. Amanda Litman wants to change that.” As Sanders writes, “In 2019 alone, Run For Something has endorsed nearly 200 candidates running for positions ranging from the school board to the state house. Winning local seats, [Founder Amanda] Litman believes, is the key to rebuilding the Democratic Party in the long-run…While the national party has invested millions in local races, it is focused narrowly on candidates for legislative seats. The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), for instance, allocates resources to all 50 state parties but puts a special emphasis into states “where increasing Democratic representation of post-2020 redistricting is crucial.”…In other words, these traditional engines of Democratic mobilizing have left a vacuum at the local level that Litman wants to fill. In turn, she may just be creating an infrastructure to maintain Democratic power in states and cities—and the country—for decades…Republicans have invested much more heavily into winning locally. The Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) spent $40 million on state races between 2015 and 2016. Its counterpart, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), spent roughly $17 million on similar races during that same cycle, according to someone familiar with the group’s spending…Litman, who has knocked on doors in red districts for candidates her organization has endorsed, was surprised when Republican voters told her in the run-up to last year’s midterms that they had never met a Democrat asking for their vote before.”

Dave Wasserman, the U.S. House editor for the Cook Political Report and a contributor to NBC News has a warning for Democrats, expressed in his interview by Isaac Chotiner in The New Yorker: “You can easily flip the coin and make the case that many Trump voters, particularly white men without college degrees, did not turn out in 2018 because Trump was not on the ballot. And there is real risk for Democrats that those voters are the largest drop-off universe from 2016 to 2018, and will return in 2020. So I am not convinced that 2018 signals a trend toward Democrats in 2020, especially because Trump has proven he is better than anyone else at incinerating his opponents’ images…there was also a decline in African-American participation in those states versus 2012, and that is another key to 2020….And if I wanted to know the turnout rate for one demographic in 2020 for the sake of predicting the result, it would be African-American voters under forty.”

At New York Magazine, Ed Kilgore has some perceptive comments on how the next Democratic presidential debates could be quite different, including: “…The Detroit events may be the last chance lower-tier candidates have to achieve some sort of “breakout moment,” worth its weight in gold as a generator of earned media and campaign contributions…To put it another way, the time for candidates to introduce themselves to the media and the voting public is rapidly expiring. In Detroit, it will be a matter (particularly for the bottom-feeders) of demanding attention via contrived rhetorical stunts and perhaps sharp conflict. In any event, talk of “winners and losers” may change to judgments of “survivors and casualties.”

Democrats looking for a visual edge for debates with younger opponents should consider this:

How Important is the Age of Democratic Candidates?

According to an Pew Research Center opinion survey of 10,170 respondents, including 5,675 Democrats and Democratic leaners, “Nearly Half of Democrats Say the Best Age for a President Is ‘In Their 50s’.”

Drilling down, the survey, which was conducted April 29-May 13, 2019, also found:

When asked about the ideal age for a president, most Democrats say they prefer someone in their 40s through their 60s, with nearly half (47%) saying the best age for a president is “in their 50s.”…Two of the Democratic Party’s best-known candidates, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, are in their 70s, yet only 3% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say this is the best age range for a president. And just 6% say it would be ideal for a president to be in their 30s.

Breaking the data down by age of poll respondents:

The survey also finds that, in general, younger Democrats are more likely than older Democrats to prefer that a president be in their 30s or 40s. A majority of Democrats ages 18 to 29 (55%) say it is best for a president to be in their 30s (13%) or 40s (42%). Among Democrats in their 30s, 40% say it is best for a president to be in their 30s or 40s, while 30% of those in their 40s say this. But among Democrats 50 and older, 12% view these as the ideal ages for a president.

For Democrats – apart from those 18 to 29 –the preferred age for a president is in the 50s. Although Democrats who are 70 and older are more likely than those in other age groups to say it is best for a president to be in their 60s (33% say this), nearly half (47%) say the 50s is the ideal age. Among Democrats 70 and older, just 4% say it is best that a president be in their 70s.

So which Democratic candidates might benefit by these findings? Back in February, The National Review’s Jim Geraghty put together a feature entitled “The Age of Democratic Presidential Candidates,” which provides the ages of most of today’s candidates on election day:

Vermont senator Bernie Sanders: 79 years, 1 month, 26 days.

Former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg: 78 years, 8 months, 20 days.

Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren: 71 years, 4 months, 12 days.

Former attorney general Eric Holder: 69 years, 9 months, 9 days.

Washington governor Jay Inslee: 69 years, 8 months, 25 days.

Former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper: 68 years, 8 months, 27 days.

Ohio senator Sherrod Brown: 67 years, 11 months, 25 days.

Potential independent candidate and former Starbucks CEO Howard Schulz: 67 years, 3 months, 29 days.

Former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe: 63 years, 8 months, 25 days.

Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar: 60 years, 5 months, 9 days.

New York City mayor and notorious groundhog killer Bill de Blasio: 59 years, 5 months, 26 days.

Maryland congressman John Delaney, who really exists: 57 years, 6 months, 18 days.

California senator Kamala Harris: 56 years, 14 days.

New Jersey senator Cory Booker:  51 years, 6 months, 8 days.

Former mayor and HUD secretary Julian Castro: 46 years, 1 month, 20 days.

Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard: 39 years, 6 months, 22 days.

South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg: 38 years, 9 months, 15 days.

Scratch non-starters Bloomberg, Schultz, Brown, McAuliffe and Holder from the list, and add Eric Swallwell (38), Marianne Williamson (67), Steve Bullock (54), Seth Moulton (40), Tim Ryan (47), Andrew Yang (45) and Michael Bennet (45), each of whom will be a year older on election day.

“To get a sense of the generational difference,” Geraghty adds, “when Joe Biden was first elected to the Senate, Buttigieg, Gabbard, and Castro had not been born yet and O’Rourke was two months old.” At least we can credit Democrats with decent age diversity. But yes, let’s remember that Sen. Sanders got more support from young voters, than Trump and Clinton combined, though his support from younger voters slipped in a recent Morning Consult poll.

If the Pew survey findings hold even roughly, Democrats may have a problem if the front-runners in the primaries are in their seventies. For one thing, having an older presidential nominee also makes the selection of the vice presidential candidate more strategically-important than usual.

I like Biden, Bernie and Warren, and I believe all three would make excellent presidents. And let’s remember that mature judgement and experience can be a critical asset for a president, despite Rep. Swalwell’s “pass the torch” debate mantra. Age can provide strengths, as well as weaknesses. But that much-disparaged concept, “electability” can’t be easilly dismissed, even though nobody seems to be able to define it.

Thinking ahead, however, I’m less concerned about election day 2020, than the first Tuesday of November 2024, when two of the current leading Democratic presidential candidates will be in their 80s. That re-elect could be a tough sell for Dems, particularly if the Republicans field a young, energetic candidate.

Of course, chronological age doesn’t necessarily measure physical or mental health. But it wouldn’t be a bad thing for Democratic voters to think a bit about 2024 in making their choices. Democrats are in good positon to win the white house and congressional majorities for the forseeable future. Giving more thought to an 8-year strategy can’t hurt.

Political Strategy Notes

So how will the 2020 electorate differ from 2016? At The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein notes that “the nonpartisan States of Change project released new forecasts on the unrelenting diversification of the electorate. The new projections, released yesterday, estimate that noncollege whites, the core of Trump’s base, will decline two percentage points in 2020 as a share of all voters (from 44 percent in 2016 to 42 percent), while minorities, who strongly lean Democratic, will grow by two points (from 26 to 28 percent) and college-educated whites, who are now divided closely between the parties, will remain stable at 30 percent. Through 2036, the project expects those working-class whites to shrink to a little more than one-third of all voters, while minorities will rise to match them.”

Is Kamala Harris peaking too soon? Her positive debate buzz is translating into a fund-raising bonanza. “Donations flowed to Harris from 63,277 people, nearly 60 percent of which were first-time donors. The average donation was $30. Her previous largest day was $1.5 million after launching.” But the bad news is that she is now the target of choice for her competitors, several of whom are highly-skilled debaters. There will be a candidate winnowing soon, in terms of meeting rising standards for inclusion on the next big stage debate. Harris’s ‘law & order’ track record would serve her well in the general election, but it could be a problem in some primaries. What she has accomplished is presenting an image of a nominee who is tough enough to bring it to Trump.

Meanwhile, At Vox, Gabriela Resto-Montera reports that “Harris now polls at 12 percent, up 6 points from the previous week. This puts her in third place alongside Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who also polled at 12 percent, a one percent dip compared the previous week (a change within Morning Consult’s margin of error). Warren and Harris now stand behind Sen. Bernie Sanders — his support stands at 19 percent…Joe Biden remains in the lead with 33 percent; however, his support saw a decline nearly as steep as Harris’s rise — he lost 5 points following the debates. Some of this erosion of support may have been Harris’s gain, and a segment of Biden’s base does view the California senator in a positive light: 15 percent of Biden backers said they would pick Harris as their second choice choice of candidate…Biden maintains the highest favorability rating among likely voters at 71 percent, with Sanders trailing him at 67 percent. Warren came in third at 63 percent, and was followed by Harris with 55 percent.”

Also at Vox, Anna North argues “The case for a woman running against Trump: When it comes to debating Trump, women have an advantage,” and notes that “this week’s debates were another reminder that not only can a woman hold her own in a debate against Trump, a woman might actually be uniquely suited to beating him…. In a June Daily Beast/Ipsos poll, 74 percent of voters said they would be comfortable with a female president, but just a third said their neighbors would. Meanwhile, as Vox’s Tara Golshan wrote earlier this month, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, two white men in their 70s, were leading in polls going into the debates, even though polls suggest that, given a choice, Democrats might prefer a candidate who isn’t an older white man…The women onstage largely showed that their experience has made them into effective debaters, easily able to shut down male opponents.”

In his post, “Yes, Democrats Are Paying Plenty Of Attention To The 2020 Election” at FiveThirtyEight, Geoffrey Skelley reports that “a new survey from the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that just 35 percent of Democrats1 said they were paying “a good deal” or “a lot” of attention to the campaign so far. Or in other words, only about one-third of Democrats are seriously following the goings-on of the campaign…But one-third seemed a bit low to me, given that other pollsters have found that Democrats care a lot about picking a candidate they think can defeat President Trump this year, so I took a look at what other pollsters have found this cycle. I found that Quinnipiac University has asked a version of this question three times so far in 2019, finding each time that Democrats are paying quite a bit of attention to the race. For example, 74 percent saidthey were either paying “a lot” or “some” attention in the most recent survey.”

In “Other Polling Bites,” Skelley notes that “A new report from the Pew Research Center shows a huge partisan gap over Americans’ attitudes toward capitalism and socialism. Republicans had sharply positive views of capitalism, with 78 percent holding a positive view and just 20 percent holding a negative one. But Democrats held mixed views: 55 percent had a positive impression while 44 percent had a negative one. Conversely, socialism was thoroughly disliked by Republicans, with only 15 percent holding a positive view and 84 percent holding a negative one. But Democrats were much more positive. Sixty-five percent had a positive impression and 33 percent had a negative one.”

For those who harbored any doubts that health care was still the number one issue, Skelley notes also that “According to a survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted just before the first Democratic debates, health care was the topic Democrats5 wanted to hear about most — 87 percent said it was very important for the candidates to talk about it. Other issues that were top priorities included: issues affecting women (80 percent), climate change (73 percent), gun policy (72 percent) and income inequality (70 percent).”

Dems should consider that this punch-out between the ‘Proud Boys’ and ‘Antifa’ may be a preview of coming attractions, and begin to develop a strategy for addressing election day violence. Antifa is active in the west and especially the northwest. But in other swing states, right-wing thugs may find little opposition, as in the Brooks Brothers Riot in 2000, when wingnut goons were flown into Miami by their Republican benefactors for the purpose of intimidating those responsible for the vote recount. Democrats were caught flat-footed, and the results have been catastrophic for the entire world, and  particularly for Dems, who would be wise to anticipate that the ‘Proud Boys’ will be organized for election day mayhem in key cities in swing states. It would be better if they were met by police, community leaders and unions than by rock-throwing radicals.

From Michael Tomasky’s “Biden Doesn’t Get It: McConnell’s Gotta Go if Democracy Is Gonna Live: This problem isn’t Democrats tacking left, or Washington dysfunction. It’s McConnell. And Democrats need to let America know” at The Daily Beast: “As long as the Democrats—presidential candidates, Senate candidates, House Democrats, whomever—run around acting like Mitch McConnell isn’t a huge impediment to progress in this country, in his way a bigger one than President Trump, and not calling him out as the one-man Berlin Wall of reaction that he is, they’re wasting everyone’s time…McConnell knows this is his role, and right now, he’s enjoying it way too much, the way he’s taken to repeatedly calling himself the “Grim Reaper” of the Senate…He, and Fox and all the Republicans, will say it’s the Democrats who are being extreme, and they’ll make it look to much of the country like it’s just your basic dysfunction again and it’s everyone’s fault. No. It’s McConnell’s fault.”

Political Strategy Notes – First Democratic Presidential Debate, Part II

In “Kamala Harris’s home run” at CNN Opinion, Paul Begala writes, “The debate soon descended into a free-for-all, with multiple politicians talking over each other. But when the smoke cleared, Kamala Harris had the first home run of the night. “Guys,” she said, “America doesn’t want to witness a food fight; they want to know how we’re gonna put food on their table.”  That’s how you create a Moment in a debate.” Harris also scored against Biden with her takedown of his recent remarks about bussing and working with segregationist Senators during the 1960s.

A panel assembled by The Guardian also gave Harris the night. But one panelist, Pulitzer Prize winner Art Cullen observed, “One of the real winners was actually Elizabeth Warren…Kamala Harris wowed early when, during shouting chaos among the 10 candidates, she reminded the other candidates that Americans “don’t want a food fight; they want to know how to put food on the table”. She was powerful, precise and put her formidable legal skills to work on camera attacking Joe Biden’s record on race and bussing…Biden worked hard to tie himself to President Obama and aggressively defend his civil rights record, but he struggled under Harris’s withering prosecutor-style cross-examination…One of the debate’s other winners wasn’t even present: Elizabeth Warren – who, along with Harris, has clearly taken Bernie Sanders’ mantle as flag-bearer for the progressive base. Sanders started the revolution, but Warren and Harris seem poised to execute it.”

You wouldn’t want to bet the ranch on any candidate at this early political moment. But Reed Richardson reports that “Kamala Harris Jumps to Second Place in Major Online Betting Markets After Debate, Biden Drops” at Mediaite: “PredictIt now shows Harris in second place for the 2020 Democratic nomination with a betting price at 19 cents, having jumped seven cents from just before the debate. She now stands at second place, just behind Joe Biden (21 cents, dropped three cents) and just ahead of Warren (18 cents, dropped three cents) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (15 cents, dropped three cents) and Mayor Pete Buttigieg (15 cents, up three cents)…Betfair also showed a strong shift to Harris, who now stands in second place there as well. Biden still leads with odds of nearly 4-to-1, but Harris is now roughly a 5-to-1 bet, with Warren just behind at 5.5-to-1. Similar to PredictIt, Sanders and Buttigieg trail the top three with odds at 7 and 9-to-1, respectively.”

“Sens. Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris raised their hands at the second night of the first Democratic presidential debate to declare they wanted to abolish private health insurance, and for the next 20 minutes, some of the other candidates on stage tried to talk them out of it.,” reports Dylan Scott in his post, “Medicare for all” vs. “Medicare for all who want it” at vox.com. “I feel strongly that families should have the choice,” Sen. Michael Bennet, who has aggressively positioned himself as opposed to single-payer, said. “That’s what the American people want.”…Bennet, former Vice President Joe Biden, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and even Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, another cosponsor of Sanders’s Medicare-for-all bill, emphasized choice again and again. They argued people should be allowed to choose whether to keep their private insurance (about 150 million Americans currently get coverage through their job) or join a new government plan. They were clearly uncomfortable with Sanders’s prescription, which would put everybody into a government plan after four years.”

Rep. Eric Swallwell scored a zinger against Mayor Pete Buttigieg. As Jessica Campisi reports at The Hill, “Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) needled Mayor Pete Buttigieg on his handling of a police-involved shooting in his hometown of South Bend, Ind., telling Buttigieg on the Democratic debate stage that he should fire the city’s police chief…While Buttigieg said he “accept[s] responsibility” for the shooting, in which a white police officer fatally shot a 54-year-old black man, Swalwell interrupted to tell the mayor: “You should fire the chief.”…“So, under Indiana law, this will be investigated and there will be accountability for the officer involved,” Buttigieg replied.“ But you’re the mayor,” Swalwell fired back…He reiterated: “You’re the mayor. You should fire the chief, if that’s the policy and someone died…As Swalwell jabbed at Buttigieg, the mayor’s facial expression quickly gained traction on Twitter. CNN editor-at-large Chris Cillizza described Buttigieg’s look as a “death stare.””

Swallwell also had a zinger for Biden disguised as praise. As Tim Dickinson reports at Rolling Stone: “Swalwell, a 38-year-old congressman from California, showed he belonged on the big stage. Talking about the need to prepare our children for the future, Swalwell rocked the crowd to sleep with what seemed like an anodyne vignette from his childhood, but then exploded to the rim, dunking on the former vice president…“I was 6 years old when a presidential candidate came to the California Democratic Convention and said it’s time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans,” he said. “That candidate was then-senator Joe Biden.”..“Joe Biden was right when he said it was time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans 32 years ago,” Swalwell added. “He is still right today.” Biden smiled, and shook his head, and seemed like he might salvage the moment. But his lame comeback only underscored how badly he’d just been posterized: “I’m still holding on to that torch,” he said.” But Swallwell’s ‘pass the torch’ zinger may have backfired, with large numbers of young voters who support Sen. Bernie Sanders, as well as seniors who support Biden.

From “Who Held the Floor” at FiveThirtyEight:

Number of words spoken by candidates participating in either night of the first Democratic debate

2 Joe Biden 2475
1 Cory Booker 2181
2 Kamala Harris 2147
2 Pete Buttigieg 2072
1 Beto O’Rourke 1932
2 Bernie Sanders 1676
1 Elizabeth Warren 1637
1 Amy Klobuchar 1614
1 Julián Castro 1588
2 Michael Bennet 1462
2 Kirsten Gillibrand 1421
1 Tim Ryan 1383
1 Tulsi Gabbard 1243
1 John Delaney 1060
2 Marianne Williamson 983
2 Eric Swalwell 966
2 John Hickenlooper 951
1 Bill de Blasio 881
1 Jay Inslee 875
2 Andrew Yang 594

For those who want more instant metrics, Lauren Frias shares “The 5 most interesting Google Trends from day 2 of the first 2020 Democratic debates” at Business Insider: “Google Trends tracked the debate-related search interests throughout the debate and tweeted out the most interesting stats…Google Trends ranked the 10 candidates by search interest, with author Marianne Williamson being the most searched…However, during the debate, Sen. Kamala Harris was the top trending topic in search ‘on all of Google’ in the United States…Harris brought up the topic of busing during the debate, causing a surge in search of the topic by over 3,000%.”

You can find plenty of articles parroting the common wisdom that Elizabeth Warren has eclipsed Sen. Bernie Sanders with many of the same ideas, which she shrewdly frames as capitalist reform. But Elaine Godfrey argues quite persuasively that “Bernie Sanders’s Ideas Dominated the Second Debate: Joe Biden may be the front-runner, but the senator from Vermont set the terms of the conversation” at The Atlantic: “Several of the candidates seemed to define themselves against Sanders, reflexively comparing and contrasting their agenda with his. It was a reminder of just how popular the senator from Vermont’s ideas have become since his first campaign, in 2016: His policies have dominated discussion for much of the past three years, helping pry open the Democrats’ Overton window, inch by inch…The candidates, again and again, were playing the game on Sanders’s turf. He didn’t receive the Democratic Party’s nomination in 2016, and he might not secure it in 2020. But when the issues he’s long championed are being debated before 15 million Americans, in some ways he’s already won.” And even if Sanders doesn’t make the 2020 Democratic ticket, the nominee will owe a debt of gratitude to the tough guy who compelled the Democratic Party to reclaim its progressive heritage.

Political Strategy Notes: First Democratic Presidential Debate Edition

If you watched the first Democratic presidential debates last night, you probably noticed that the excitement on the stage increased dramatically when the topic turned to health care reform. Cara Voght’s “We Just Got a Ton of Clarity on Where the Democrats Stand on Medicare for All” rolled it out at Mother Jones: “Twenty minutes into the first night of the first 2020 Democratic debate, NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt asked a straightforwards yes or no question of the field: “Who here would abolish their private health insurance in favor of a government run plan?”…Elizabeth Warren’s hand shot up immediately from the center of the stage. It was a hand many progressives had been waiting to see. The Massachusetts senator has defined her run for the White House with a bevy of detailed plans, but her stance on health care had been a bit more elusive. “There are a lot of different ways to get there,” she told the New York Times without specifically naming the single-payer plan pushed by her 2020 rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders. “‘Medicare for All’ has a lot of different paths.”…But she couldn’t have been clearer when she explained her answer from the debate stage on Wednesday night. “I’m with Bernie on Medicare for All,” she said. She added that the profit-driven private health care industry had left families rising premiums “rising premiums, rising copays, and fighting with insurance companies…Medicare for All solves that problem,” she explained from the stage.”

Voght continues, “But Warren and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio—the only other candidate to raise his hand in response to Holt’s question—were in the minority. Most of the rest of the candidates appeared to coalesce around Medicare for America instead, a universal health care plan authored by Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.). It would offer a comprehensive federal insurance option to uninsured Americans, while allowing those who have employer-provided insurance to keep it if they choose. Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke voiced support for it, noting that it would allow anyone who needs insurance to easily obtain it. “But if you’re a member of a union, and you negotiated for a health care plan that you like because it works for you and your family, you’re able to keep it,” O’Rourke said.” All the candidates on stage appeared ready and eager to flesh out their views on the topic, and there were no gaffes.

Who got to talk the most? Erin Doherty has a chart for that at FiveThirtyEight:

Number of words spoken by each candidate during night one of the first Democratic debate

Cory Booker 2181
Beto O’Rourke 1932
Elizabeth Warren 1637
Chuck Todd (moderator) 1633
Amy Klobuchar 1614
Julián Castro 1588
Tim Ryan 1383
Tulsi Gabbard 1243
Rachel Maddow (moderator) 1163
John Delaney 1060
Lester Holt (moderator) 1001
Bill de Blasio 881
Jay Inslee 875
Savannah Guthrie (moderator) 748
Jose Diaz-Balart (moderator) 377

Word counts exclude words spoken in Spanish


Other nuggets from FiveThirtyeight’s “What Went Down On Night One Of The First Democratic Debates” include Clare Malone’s “Here are my final thoughts in terms of Booker’s performance: He definitely had a strong night. He spoke the most of anyone on the stage (and seemed to get a lot of google searches) and conveyed, I think, the kind of calm competence that is core to his brand. His closing statement told the same story that his presidential announcement did, about being given the opportunity to live in the neighborhood in which he grew up because of the work of activists fighting housing discrimination against black families. Will be very interested to see what kind of poll bump he might get for this.” Also Nate Silver’s “Looks like Gabbard edged out Booker in search traffic at the end there.” Amelia Thomson-Deveaux added “I’m inclined to think that Castro is the candidate who’s done the most for himself tonight. He did really well in the immigration segment, substantive without being too aggressive. But Booker did a good job as well. And they both needed to do well tonight.”

At Vox, Dara Lind, Dylan Matthews, Ella Nilsen, Alex Ward, and German Lopez picked four winners of the debate, including Elizabeth Warren, Jualian Castro, Bill de Blasio and Cory Booker. “Warren’s performance wasn’t a breakout, but it was solid. She stuck to her core message throughout the night: advocating for dramatic, structural change to eradicate corporate corruption and redistribute wealth from the top to America’s middle and lower classes…He [Castro] got the first question of the night on immigration, a subject on which he’s one of the only candidates to have released a full campaign plan. And he used it to his advantage by connecting the border crisis and the desperation of people trying to enter the United States to the most radical proposal in that plan: repealing Section 1325 of Title 8 of the US Code, which makes it a federal misdemeanor to cross into the US without papers…It is a daring strategy to run aggressively leftward in a field that includes Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, but if anything, he [de Blasio] managed to position himself as more progressive than Warren on Wednesday night. This is supposed to be the party of working people,” he declared, in a moment that recalled Howard Dean’s promise to represent the “Democratic wing of the Democratic Party” in 2003.”…Booker got the most airtime of any candidate. If you look at the Google Trends data, Booker searches surged after his comments about gun violence…he has the rhetorical chops to express a pretty conventional version of the Democratic gun control platform in a way that feels vital and urgent.”

From “Democrats need a better answer to the Mitch McConnell question: The debate Democrats need to have: How do you win back the Senate?” by Ezra Klein, also at Vox: “In a more sensible system, the presidential candidates would be quizzed on how they would lead their party to down-ballot victory if nominated. They’d release detailed plans for organizing in purple states and crafting a message designed to carry coattails. They’d be discussing statehood for Puerto Rico and DC — which is both the right thing to do on the merits and would strengthen Democrats’ Senate competitiveness in the future. It’d be all hands on deck to take back the Senate…The reality is closer to the opposite. Part of Democrats’ Senate problem was evident onstage. Democrats would have a better chance in Texas if Beto O’Rourke or Julián Castro had chosen to take on John Cornyn. Thursday’s presidential debate will feature John Hickenlooper, the strongest candidate Democrats could have fielded in Colorado. Steve Bullock, the only Democrat with a shot in Montana, didn’t qualify for the debates, but he’s still running for president rather than Senate. Stacey Abrams passed on the race in Georgia. Some of these candidates could drop out and file for Senate, but running back to your state after flaming out nationally isn’t the strongest way to start a tough campaign.”

But I thought former Senator Claire McCaskill offered a salient observation in her post-debate comments at MSNBC, when she noted that many of the Democratic pick-ups in the 2018 midterms were achieved by ‘outsiders,’ rather than establishment politicans. She argues that the ‘outsider/insider dynamic’ is still very strong and might also provide the key to winning a Democratic majority of the U.S. Senate in 2020. Democratic head-hunters, therefore would be smart to recruit some passionate, compelling outsiders to run in key races, rather than complain about presidential candidates who have declined to run for senate.

And Vox’s Matthew Yglesias has some perceptive insights about Warren’s political agility: “Warren showed early in the debate what everyone knows — that she has a keen mind and a passion for restraining corporate power and plutocracy. But what Democrats wonder about Warren is whether she’s a winner, especially when she has to play outside her comfort zone of business regulation…Wednesday night, she did that — addressing a core worry of Bernie Sanders supporters, elegantly sidestepping an intraparty spat over immigration, and, perhaps most interestingly of all, refusing to go far left on guns even when doing so would have been an easy applause line. Warren skillfully hewed to a moderate course while still sounding like a solid progressive. It’s not easy to pull that off. And it’s what it takes to win a presidential election…Nobody doubts Warren’s passion or her intelligence. But while there’s a role in the Senate for smart policy thinkers who are fortunate to live in a safe state, to be elected president, Warren needs to convince Democrats that she’s also a smart political thinker who knows when to hold ’em and knows when to fold ’em…Wednesday night, she showed she’s ready for primetime.”

Emily Atkin explains why “The First Democratic Debate Failed The Planet: At a debate held in a sinking city, only four candidates were directly asked about the climate crisis” at The New Republic: “The climate-related questions that were finally asked of the candidates, well into the second hour of the debate, were dismal…It was, to put it lightly, a disgrace—and not just because climate change was the number one issue that Democratic voters wanted to see discussed at the debate. The debate itself was held in Miami, Florida, a city that’s literally being swallowed by the rising ocean. As the New York Times pointed out on Tuesday, “New water pumps and tidal valves worth millions of dollars are needed to keep the streets from flooding even on sunny days. Septic tanks compromised by rising groundwater leak unfiltered waste that threatens the water supply. Developers are often buying out residents of established communities, hoping to acquire buildable property on higher ground…To respond to that reality, the debate’s organizers chose to devote seven minutes to climate change, 70 minutes into a 120-minute debate, as if it were a fifth-tier issue. Similar to humanity’s overall response to climate change, it was far too little and far too late.”

Political Strategy Notes

Washington Post syndicated columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. shares some short takes on the candidate strategies for the first Democratic presidential debates beginning this week. He cautions front-runner Biden that “Thursday night is now a big deal, thanks to Biden’s unforced error in hauling his relationships with onetime senators James Eastland and Herman Talmadge out of the segregationist past…This was political malpractice. Biden’s lead in the polls is built on overwhelming support from African Americans, as my Brookings Institution colleague William Galston detailed. Yet it appeared more important to Biden to make his “I can work with everybody” point the way he felt like making it than to protect his greatest political asset: the trust and affection of black voters…He’ll have to work hard in the debate to reinforce his loyalists in the black community while showing all Democrats he has the discipline to go the distance.”

At Time, Jennifer Palmieri, a veteran Democratic debate coach, writes that “on the debate stage, the front runners will have to answer the moderators as well as face the specter of attacks from other candidates. Not that I recommend going after the other candidates in this first outing, particularly Biden. He’s the front runner for a reason–people like him. If attacks on him or his record aren’t delivered deftly, they will elevate him and make the attacker look desperate. Attacking front runners–particularly in early debates–is tricky to pull off…Start by using journalists’ interest in the lead-up to the debate to reset your message and rationale with the press. Second, lay down your best arguments in the debate, and plant some seeds for issues you want to come back to on the trail and in future debates. Third, pick a couple of moments coming out of the debate to capitalize on–great ones by you or openings from an opponent’s gaffe–to drive your message in the next few weeks. Fourth, come back in July and do it again.”

Anyone who is expecting an in-depth debate, however, is likely to be diappointed. As Peter Funt puts it in his article, “Impeachment, socialism and Biden-baiting: What to look for at the 2020 Democratic debates” at USA Today: “Fact is, the word “debate” is misappropriated in this event since genuine back-and-forth on key issues is virtually impossible with so many participants. A hint of what the mashup is likely to resemble came earlier this month at Iowa’s Hall of Fame gathering in Cedar Rapids. The 19 candidates were each given a carefully-timed five minutes to introduce themselves, and most mixed predictable anti-Trump rhetoric with a dash of progressive policy. The upshot: All 19 were in general agreement in what amounted to a lightning round. Or, as Carrie Ball of Cedar Rapids summed it up in the Des Moines Register, “It’s like a carnival.”

But the most important take-away from the debates this week may be what the debates do for the Democratic Party, not individual candidates. Although African and Latino Americans and women are not quite at parity level among presidential candidates, Dems have never had a broader showcase for the field, in stark contrast to the GOP.  Also, having  several impressive younger candidates is a big plus, even if one of the older candidates wins the nomination. As Oliver Darcy notes at CNN Politics: “”We’ll actually see all these candidates on stage together,” WaPo W.H. reporter Toluse Olorunnipa said on “Inside Politics” Sunday morning. “We’ll have a historic number of minorities, we’ll have veterans, people born in the 1940s all the way through the 1980s. It will be a very historic moment just to see that on the stage together…”Americans who tune in to the two-night debate will see something else unprecedented: multiple women candidates appearing on the debate stage at the same time,” Barbara Lee writes in an analysis piece for NBC’s Think vertical. “Research has shown that critical mass makes a difference in being taken seriously: Two or more women or minority candidates have a better shot at getting hired than one alone…”

Micah Zenko has “A Foreign Policy Cheat Sheet for the Democratic Debates” at foreignpolicy.com, in which he presents 12 questions with follow-ups, including some tough ones: “What is it exactly about these forever wars that you oppose? Is it their initial intervention decisions, how they have been conducted, that they have not been effective, that they are relatively open-ended, or something else?” and “What would be the expected roles and responsibilities of mutual defense treaty allies in your grand strategy? Would you expect they further increase their defense spending or enhance reimbursements to the United States? Would you commit to coming to a treaty ally’s defense during militarized disputes over territory that the United States does not recognize as belonging to that ally?”

Early though it is for Democrats to make hard and fast decisions about presidential campaign resource  allocation, Nathaniel Rakich’s post, “No, Florida is not redder than Texas” at FiveThirtyEight provides an instructive preview of one major choice Dems will have to make abut the southern states:

Florida is still bluer than Texas

How five presidential candidates performed against Trump in hypothetical general-election matchups in Florida and Texas vs. nationally

Biden D+13 D+9 R+4
Sanders D+9 D+6 R+3
Warren D+7 D+4 R+3
Harris D+8 D+1 R+7
Buttigieg D+5 D+1 R+4
Average R+4
Biden D+13 D+4 R+9
Sanders D+9 R+3 R+12
Warren D+7 R+1 R+8
Harris D+8 R+4 R+12
Buttigieg D+5 R+2 R+7
Average R+10


From Scott Bland’s “Democratic group’s poll shows Trump vulnerable with his base on health care: American Bridge is planning a $50 million advertising campaign targeting small-town Trump supporters and swing voters” at Politico: “The battleground-state polling is a new step in American Bridge’s plans to target Trump voters in small towns and rural areas with ads linking local events to unpopular Trump policies. The group’s president, Bradley Beychok, is not aiming to win a majority of those people in 2020. But even making modest inroads with these voters compared to 2016 would be a huge boost to the party’s hopes of beating Trump next year…“We’re trying to go from losing these segments [of voters] 85-15 to maybe 75-25,” Beychok said, acknowledging that, even if the project succeeds, the party will still likely lose that segment badly. “2018 gave us some good indications, and there’s data that these voters are attainable. But they want you to reach them and speak to them in a localized manner. You have to compete for these folks every day, and you can’t wait until the general…There’s this construct in the Democratic Party: focus on the base, or focus on white working-class voters,” Beychok said. “The idea you can’t do both is false.”

Are Democratic politicians too conflict-averse? Alex Pareene thinks so, and writes in his article “Give War a Chance: In search of the Democratic Party’s fighting spirit” at the New Republic: “The celebration of charismatic, conflict-averse uniters in Democratic-led White Houses omits a key, and punishing, shift in Democratic politics from anything resembling a viable effort to build a long-term majoritarian liberal coalition. Over the past two decades, Democrats steadily lost disaffected former supporters, while failing to consistently mobilize young or economically precarious people alienated from the entire political process, as the Republican Party increasingly became a nihilistic, anti-democratic machine designed to bamboozle a white elderly base and thwart the desires of the larger public for the sake of an entrenched oligarchy.
..All the while, Democratic leaders continue to campaign and govern from a crouched, defensive position even after they win power.”