washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

In Ruy Teixeira’s op-ed “The midterms gave Democrats clear marching orders for 2020” in The Washington Post, he shows why Democrats must do just a little bit better with white non-college voters: “Where Democrats succeeded, how did they succeed? And where they failed, how did they fail? The formula for success in the Upper Midwest seems clear: Carry white college graduates, strongly mobilize nonwhite voters, particularly blacks, and hold deficits among white non-college-educated voters in the range of 10 to 15 points. Unlike Hillary Clinton in 2016 (she was obliterated among white non-college-educated voters in state after state), Democrats in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota got all three parts of the formula right in the midterms…Brown in Ohio got it right, too. According to exit polls, he carried white college graduates by five points and lost white non-college-educated voters by a mere 10 points. Cordray lost white non-college-educated voters by 22 points. In a state where white non-college-educated voters make up well more than half the electorate, that was enough to sink him…Success against Trump in 2020 in the Upper Midwest will depend on repeating this formula. The necessity to keep down deficits among white non-college-educated voters, especially in rural and small-town areas, will be hard with Trump on the ballot. But the 2018 results show Democrats the way in the Upper Midwest.”

Teixeira continues, “The Southwestern success formula: Carry or come close to carrying white college graduates; gain strong turnout and support from nonwhites, particularly Latinos; cap the deficits among white non-college-educated voters in the low 20s. Democrats can get away with higher deficits among white non-college-educated voters because the nonwhite share of voters in these states is much higher than in the Midwest…In 2018, this formula worked in Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and in the Arizona Senate race, with notably strong Latino support, but it failed in the Texas Senate race. Why? O’Rourke also drew strong Latino support, and his performance among white college-educated voters was quite good for a Democrat in Texas. But his deficit among white non-college-educated voters was a disaster: O’Rourke lost these voters by 48 points, according to the exit polls.” In the south, Teixeira notes, “Democrats need to be competitive among white college-educated voters in Florida, while avoiding deficits among white non-college-educated voters that reach into the 30s. In Georgia, Democrats must keep their deficit among white college-educated voters under 20 points and stop their white non-college-educated deficit from ballooning out of control…in Florida, the deficit among white non-college-educated voters was 30 points or a little higher and, in Georgia, the same deficit was a yawning 65 points. Whittle down those deficits, maintain nonwhite-voter mobilization and reasonable competitiveness among white college-educated voters, and Democrats have a path to victory in these key Southern states.”

“Beyond the failure of moderates,” writes Vann R. Newkirk in “The Democrats’ Deep-South Strategy Was a Winner After All” in The Atlantic, “the most compelling evidence for the viability of a progressive strategy comes from farther down the ballot. Across the country, progressive ballot initiatives fared surprisingly well. Indeed, measures against gerrymandering, in favor of medical marijuana, in favor of higher minimum wages, in favor of Medicaid expansion, and in favor of criminal-justice reform received broad bipartisan support in several states, and actually outperformed Democrats running for statewide office. In Florida, even as Gillum conceded early, Amendment 4—a ballot initiative restoring the right to vote to more than 1 million people in Florida who were previously disenfranchised due to felony convictions—passed a 60 percent vote threshold and will become law. Gillum championed that amendment…Medicaid expansion, the main policy foundation of Abrams’s campaign, passed on ballot initiatives in Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah; minimum-wage hikes—part of all three of the Democratic darlings’ platforms—won in Missouri and Arkansas. Voters in Colorado, Michigan, and Missouri moved to take gerrymandering out of the hands of politicians. Other significant criminal-justice reforms passed in Florida and Louisiana…What this means is that though Gillum and O’Rourke may have lost—and Abrams may be on her way—voters across the country, even some in deep-red states, are amenable to the kinds of policies that the Democratic trio championed. And support for these policies is likely even stronger than Tuesday’s results show. Medicaid expansion polls well nationally and in states that haven’t adopted it, as do minimum-wage increases. The mechanisms needed to fund those programs aren’t quite so beloved, but as Tuesday showed, voters are voluntarily choosing to implement progressive reforms and to pay for them.”

In Nate Cohn’s “Weak Spots in Democrats’ Strong Midterm Results Point to Challenges in 2020” at The Upshot,” he writes that “Democrats can muscle their way through those disadvantages with a big enough win, like their seven-point advantage in the House popular vote. But white voters without a degree are overrepresented in the most important Midwestern battleground states. The most straightforward alternative for Democrats goes through Florida, which probably gave Republicans their most promising results last week.” Cohn adds, “To win the presidency, Democrats will probably need at least one of Florida, Arizona or Michigan, or else they’ll most likely need to win a state where they lost more decisively in 2016 — like North Carolina, Georgia or Texas. Democrats fell short, or seemed on track to fall short, in prominent races in those three states last week.”

“With the results of the November midterm elections, we have officially witnessed the end of Rubinomics,” Chris Hughes writes at The Nation. “Former Treasury secretary Bob Rubin was the ringleader of an incremental, neoliberal economics ascendant in the Democratic Party in the 1990s and through the Obama years. The Rubin school oversaw the deregulation of banking and finance, free-trade agreements with insufficient worker and environmental protections, and the dismantling of core parts of the safety net with Bill Clinton’s “welfare reform” of 1996…A new cohort of candidates this year chose to run on a clear, unapologetic economic progressivism as good politics and good policy. A new analysis found that two-thirds of the incoming Democratic freshman class in Congress campaigned on some form of Medicare for All or the expansion of Social Security. Nearly 80 percent campaigned on tax credits that benefit working families or on rolling back Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy. The election showed that the percolating economic progressivism of newly elected Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley was not just a flash in the pan—it’s a politics that works at the ballot.”

“Things are looking up for the Democrats, who are poised to grow their House majority in 2020,” Alex Shephard observes in his article, “Don’t Blow This, Democrats: Impeaching President Trump will only help the Republican Party” at The New Republic: “From infrastructure to health care (including Medicare for All), the party’s policy agenda is broadly popular. They may not regain the Senate until 2022, due to yet another unfavorable map in 2020, but impeachment talk would only make that harder, as polling suggests it would turn off the rural voters they need to win back seats in states like Ohio. In the meantime, the odds are only growing that the economic recovery will sputter, feeding the growing backlash against Trump and Republicans. And the GOP under Trump seems intent on appealing only to white men, a demographic that shrinks by the year.”

Some statistics from The Center for American Women in Politics: “A record number of women will serve in the U.S. Congress in January 2019, according to the Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), a unit of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers…In the 116th Congress, at least 125 (105D, 19R, 1 pending) women will serve overall, increasing the percentage of women in Congress from 20% to 23% at minimum. That includes the 124 (105D, 19R) women who have already been declared winners, as well as a guaranteed seat for a woman in an undecided all-female contest in the House (CA-45). There are five additional House races featuring a woman candidate that also remain too close to call (CA-39, GA-7, NY-22, NY-23, UT-4)…At least 102 (88D, 13R, 1 pending) women will serve in the U.S. House (previous record: 85 set in 2016), including a minimum of 43 (42D, 1R) women of color. Women will be at least 23% of all members of the U.S. House, up from 19.3% in 2018…At least 23 (17D, 6R) women will serve in the U.S. Senate (previous record: 23), including 4 (4D) women of color. Women will be at least 23% of all members of the U.S. Senate, matching women’s current level of Senate representation…9 (6D, 3R) women have already won races for governor in 2018.”

A pretty good video primer on voter purging from vox.com:

Congratulations to Carol Anderson on her book, “One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy” making the Washington Post’s “Best Books of 2018” list: According the the summary blurb, “In a kind of sequel to her book “White Rage,” Anderson examines voter suppression tactics since the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that, she argues, account for the precipitous decline of black voters in the 2016 election. According to the Emory professor, that drop-off was not a one-time anomaly but rather evidence of a systemic hijacking of our democracy that involved purging voters, gerrymandering, instituting voter ID laws, closing polling places and preventing felons from voting. Her bleak conclusion: “In short, we’re in trouble.” Bloomsbury.” A longer review by Timothy Smith is here.


Political Strategy Notes – Election Update Edition

FiveThirtyEight’s Nathaniel Rakich provides an update on “The 16 Races That Are Still Too Close To Call,” which notes “As things stand right now, Republicans have picked up two seats in the Senate, but that net gain could be anywhere from zero to three when the races in Arizona, Florida and Mississippi get resolved…Of the 12 unresolved House races, Democrats lead or look like they’re in good position in nine of them…the gubernatorial race in Georgia remains uncalled — not because Democratic former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams has a chance at taking the lead, but because Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp needs to win at least 50 percent plus one vote in order to avoid a rematch with Abrams in a Dec. 4 runoff.” It looks like we can add the Florida Governor’s race to this list, now that additional votes have Democrat Andrew Gillum approaching recount range.

Among the many revealing observations from Ed Kilgore’s “The 2018 Electorate Wasn’t All That Different. It Just Voted Differently” at New York Magazine: “The example that jumps off the page in reading the exits is voters over 65. Republicans won them 57-41 in 2014, but only 50-48 in 2018. That’s about the same margin as in 2006, the last Democratic “wave” election, before the tea party movement-driven realignment of the electorate made “old” all but synonymous with “Republican.” White college graduates shifted from 57-41 Republican in 2014 to 53-45 Democratic this year. By contrast, white voters without a college degree changed marginally, from 64-34 Republican to 61-37. White women didn’t trend as massively Democratic in 2018 as some of the anecdotal evidence suggested, but did go from 56-42 Republican to 49-49 this year. The 2014 exits didn’t provide a breakdown by race, gender, and education-level, but given the relatively low change in the vote of non-college educated white voters generally, you can figure this year’s 59-39 Democratic margin among college-educated white women was a pretty big shift.”

While at New York, also check out Kilgore’s three “All the Key Results” posts on the Senate, House and Governors races, which provide some background nuggets for individual races, posted as the stories broke. Among the upsets of 2018, Kilgore notes of Democrat Kendra Horne’s ‘shocker’ victory in OK-5 over incumbent Republican Steve Russell that “The race in this Oklahoma City-based district that Trump carried by double-digits was rated Likely Republican by the Cook Political Report.” For Max Rose’s NY-11 upset of Republican incumbent Dan Donovan on Staten Island, Kilgore writes “Pollsters figured that the former district attorney and Staten Island borough president would be able to beat back a “blue wave” in a district that went for Trump by nine points in 2016. But army veteran Max Rose rode Democratic mobilization (and, possibly, gentrification-induced shifts in the district’s demography) to a narrow win.”

Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin roll out the demographic breakdown of the vote at The Center for American Progress web page, noting that “the overall House popular vote shifted from +6 Republican in 2014 to the current estimate of +7 for the Democrats this election…Notably, women went heavily for Democrats, with a +19 margin in the NEP exit polls, while Republicans had a +4 margin among men. Comparable figures for 2014 were +4 for Democrats among women and +16 for Republicans among men. The gender gap is alive and well…Turning to the white vote, these exit polls indicate that Democrats lost the white congressional vote by 10 points this election, a substantial improvement over their 22-point loss in 2014. Among nonwhites, Democrats improved their margin among Hispanics from +26 to +40 across the two elections, from +79 to +81 among blacks overall (with black women at +85 in 2018), and from a mere +1 among Asians to +54 this election. Again, we await further data to evaluate these changes, but this is the story told by the NEP exit polls…While possibly affected by changes in methodology, these exit polls indicate a very strong pro-Democratic shift among white college voters, improving from a 16-point deficit in 2014 to an 8-point advantage in this election. Democratic performance also improved among white noncollege voters but only modestly, moving from a 30-point deficit in 2014 to 24 points in 2018. Other data indicate that Democrats did particularly poorly among white noncollege voters in the South…White college women were particularly good for the Democrats, supporting their candidates by a 20-point margin; white college men gave Republicans a 4-point advantage. White noncollege men were the worst for the Democrats—they lost this group by a whopping 34 points. Democrats did better among white noncollege women, losing them by a comparatively modest 14 points…Young voters may not have increased their share of voters but, according to the NEP exit polls, they were very pro-Democratic this year, increasing their support for Democratic candidates from +11 in 2014 to +35 this year. Notably, the 18- to 24-year-old group, which now includes a healthy share of post-Millennials—the pro-Democratic Millennials’ successor generation—actually voted more Democratic (+37) than the 25- to 29-year-old group (+33).”

At Vox, Ella Nilsen argues that “Progressive Democrats running in competitive House districts had a bad night on Tuesday: Progressive energy helped moderate Democrats win on election night. But progressive candidates weren’t so lucky.” As Nilsen eplains, “Moderate Democratic candidates were the big winners of swing congressional districts in the 2018 midterm elections, flipping most of the 28 key House districts from Republicans’ control and winning key gubernatorial races, including Michigan, Wisconsin, Kansas, and Illinois. Democrats’ net gain in the House was 26 seats…Progressive candidates flipped few of those seats. For the most part, the biggest upsets for the left occurred during the summer primaries; most of those districts were already blue and primed to elect Democrats. Many of the left-wing candidates who tested the theory of turning out their base, even in more conservative districts, lost on election night.” However, Nilsen ads, “Even with these losses, election night wasn’t a total disaster for progressives; in the House, the Congressional Progressive Caucus will likely get high-profile new members. Some of the notable wins include: Ayanna Pressley in Massachusetts’s Seventh Congressional District; Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York’s 14th Congressional District; Deb Haaland in New Mexico’s First Congressional District; Rashida Tlaib in Michigan’s 13th Congressional District; Ilhan Omar in Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District…A bright spot for progressives was Democrat Katie Hill defeating Republican Rep. Steve Knight in California’s 25th Congressional District (the race was close, but Knight conceded on Wednesday afternoon). Hill is in favor of Medicare-for-all, a key progressive litmus test.” Looks like both progressive and moderate Dems have ample bragging points.

Also at Vox, Sean Illing has an instructive interview with David Daley, author of Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy, a 2016 book about the GOP’s REDMAP strategy, which gerrymandered House districts across the nation. “What the Republicans created, Daley writes, was a firewall against the popular will of voters by carving out districts that systematically favor the GOP and neutralize support for Democratic candidates. What’s more, district lines are only drawn once a decade, in conjunction with the census, so there aren’t many opportunities to reverse them. (The next census is in 2020 and the following one will be in 2030.)..One of the big questions heading into the 2018 midterm election was whether the Democrats would gain enough power — particularly in state legislatures — to redraw some of these district lines and level the playing field. As Vox’s Andrew Prokop recently explained, Democrats have a plan to win the redistricting game, but much of it turns on winning elections.”

In the interview Daley explains, further, “What’s important to understand is that flipping the House doesn’t do anything to change who draws the maps after the 2020 census. That process, in most states, is run by state legislatures and governors. What the Democrats needed to do last night was win themselves back seats at the table for a redistricting after 2020, seats that they simply did not have in 2010…They won a handful of those seats. They appear to have won the governorship in Wisconsin, which will give Democrats a seat at the table in a state where Republicans have been able to win super-majorities in the state legislature even in years when Democrats won 175,000 more votes statewide…Democrats also won the governorship in Michigan, which is one of the key states. Michigan, however, also passed a redistricting reform ballot initiative on Tuesday night, so that the process there will be conducted by an independent commission for the first time, which is great news for reform and competition…Democrats simply got wiped out in Ohio. There were three key races on the ballot that would have given them seats at the table on the redistricting commission, and that’s the governor’s race, the secretary of state, and the state auditor, and not a single one of them even turned out to be close…What we know is that when one side has complete control of the process, the lines always end up more extreme. When both sides have a seat at the table, you end up with some semblance of a compromise. It’s not always perfect, but the maps tend to be at least slightly more representative of the state when both sides have seats at the table.”

In her NYT op-ed, “Democrats’ Biggest Wins Are in Statehouses: Forget Congress. State legislatures are where real progressive action is most likely to happen,” Bryce Covert writes “Democrats made strides in a number of statehouses. They seized control of seven legislative chambers, flipping the State Senates in Colorado, Maine, and New York; the House in Minnesota; and both chambers in New Hampshire. Connecticut’s Senate, previously evenly split, is now held by Democrats. They broke Republican supermajorities in Michigan and Pennsylvania’s Senates and both chambers in North Carolina…Democrats also flipped seven governorships on Tuesday. They now completely control all three statehouse branches in 13 states and Washington, D.C., compared to the seven statehouses where they held trifecta control before Election Day…These victories arguably hold the same, if not more, heft than the inroads Democrats made in Congress. At the federal level, legislative achievements have ground to nearly a complete halt in recent years…They seized control of seven legislative chambers, flipping the State Senates in Colorado, Maine, and New York; the House in Minnesota; and both chambers in New Hampshire. Connecticut’s Senate, previously evenly split, is now held by Democrats. They broke Republican supermajorities in Michigan and Pennsylvania’s Senates and both chambers in North Carolina…Democrats also flipped seven governorships on Tuesday. They now completely control all three statehouse branches in 13 states and Washington, D.C., compared to the seven statehouses where they held trifecta control before Election Day.”

Also at FiveThirtyEight, Amelia Thomson-Deveaux has some good news about coming improvements in voter access in several states: “In addition to Florida’s constitutional amendmentrestoring voting rights to many felons, several measures that could make it easier to vote were successful: Automatic voter registration passed in Nevada and Michigan, where people applying for driver’s license will now be automatically registered to vote, unless they affirmatively opt out…Michigan voters also approved several other sweeping changes to their election laws, adding same-day voter registration, making it easier to request absentee ballots, and reinstating the straight-ticket voting option that was nixed by the Republican legislature a few years ago…Maryland voters approved same-day registration.” Unfortunately, notes Thomson-Deveaux, North Carolina and Arkansas tightened up voter i.d. requirements.


Where Dems Should Go From Here

In his Washington Post op-ed, “The first five things the Democrats should do with their House majority,” Ronald A. Klain writes:

Let’s start with where the new majority should not start: investigations, accusatory hearings or impeachment proceedings. However tempting it might be for freshly empowered congressional Columbos , not a single subpoena should fly in the first 100 days.

Not, of course, because there is a shortage of things to investigate — just the opposite. The Trump administration has been the most corrupt since Ulysses S. Grant was in the White House. The administration has flouted the constitutional limit on taking moneyfrom foreigners and flagrantly disregarded the rule of law. The transgressions merit serious inquiry and long overdue accountability. Voters chose a Democratic House, in part, to impose missing checks on Trump’s excesses and to get to the bottom of the many questions raised in the past two years.

Klain argues that “Nonetheless, a Democratic majority charging out of the gate with investigative hearings would be making a mistake, for a number of reasons,” among them the fact that a good investigation takes time, loud, reckless hearings could muddle up the perception of Mueller’s nonpartisan investigation and Dems should avoid being branded as a party more concerned with investigation than needed legislative reforms.

All good points, especially the latter one. When an election is complete, the public wants to move on and expects the majority party to take the lead in securing needed legislative reforms. With House and Senate control divided between the two parties, that’s a highly problematic challenge, even more so with a Republican President. But Democrats have to do their best, or be perceived as endlessly campaigning instead of working for real change.

But let’s not forget that Americans also want clean government, and they deserve a look at Trump’s hidden tax returns. It’s not a matter of “if” his tax returns should be revealed; it’s more about when. But Dems should take care not to be perceived ‘out of the gate’ as shirking their responsibility to propose and pass needed legislative reforms.

Klain goes on to propose a credible legislative agenda, incuding raising the minimum wage, strengthening the Affordabe Care Act, restoring the Voting Rights Act and other measures to protect voting rights, infrastucture initiatives and immigration reform. Later, urges Klain, for the investigations.

Dems experienced a number of bitter disappointments in marquee races, including the defeats of Beto O’Rourke’s Senate bid in Texas, Andrew Gillum’s race for Governor of Florida and Amy McGrath’s campaign for a House seat in Kentucky.

However, Democrat Tony Evers narrowly won a marquee governor’s race over Scott Walker in Wisconsin. Democrat Stacy Abrams may make it to a run-off in the Georgia governor’s race, and Lucy McBath holds a narrow lead in the GA-6 contest, one of the more interesting, yet under-reported House contests, featuring an African-American advocate of gun control nearing an upset in a predominantly white southern district. Many Dems will also cheer Laura Kelly’s defeat of the GOP’s chief voter suppression advocate Kris Kobach for Governor of Kansas and Harley Rouda’s lead over putinista Dana Rohrabacher in CA-48.

Looking toward 2020, Democrats are expecting a bumper crop of presidential candidates, including some fresh faces. California Governor-elect Gavin Newsome will get lots of presidential buzz, and  Sherrod Brown’s Ohio victory was the very first MSNBC call for the Senate.

Democrats certainly cemented their brand as the party that merits the support of women, with a record number of women Democrats who will take office in the new congress, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who calmly weathered the GOP’s hysterical attacks with impressive grace and strategic smarts.

All in all, Democrats ran an extremely good campaign in 2018, with no major gaffes or blunders. There is still plenty of room for improvement — Dems have a lot of hard work ahead in terms of securing better performance in working-class communities, rural, urban and suburban. Here’s hoping the sound strategy that won the House will help Dems win the Senate and White House, just two short years from now.


Political Strategy Notes

A key Democratic messaging point is well-expressed in Margot Sanger-Katz’s “Republicans Say They Will Protect Pre-existing Conditions. Their Records Say Something Else” at The Upshot. As Sanger-Katz explains, “It is Democrats, by passing the Affordable Care Act in 2010, who introduced meaningful protections for Americans with prior illnesses…And Republican officeholders have taken numerous actions that would tend to weaken those protections — in Congress, in states and in courts. The Trump administration introduced a sweeping new policy just last week that would allow states to sidestep Obamacare’s requirement to cover pre-existing conditions…Pre-existing conditions have been a central theme in Democratic campaigns around the country.” The rest of the article rolls out the shameful GOP record of trying to gut previous illness protection. Not a bad message to amplify in the last full day of the 2018 miderm campaign. 

From “What Americans care about ahead of the 2018 elections, mapped” by Andrew Van Dam at Wonkblog:

The Google searches map above supports the argument that most Democratic House candidates in districts in counties not colored green don’t need to say much about the so-called ‘caravan’ before the election. Dems running in districts in those green counties will have to address the immigration issue in some way, but may be able to avoid Trump’s caravan hysteria as the campaigns close, since even those districts likely have lots of voters more concerned with health care costs and GOP threats to Social Security. In any event, Dems will have to tackle the immigration issue with more credible policies after the election, when there is more time to do it justice. As New York Times reporter Brett Stephens argues, Democrats are going to have to come up with a more credible immigration policy than simply calling for more compassion, or abolishing ICE. Many Dems do so, but the party needs to unify on the issue as much as possble, hone their case and get on message.

I disagree, however, with one of the main points in Stephens’s NYT column, “Why Aren’t Democrats Walking Away With the Midterms?” — that the main reason there won’t be a blue tsunami is Democratic incompetence and naivete. In reality, the Senate map is just too brutal this year, and Stephens also undervalues the sheer power of incumbency and gerrymandering. But Stephens has a couple of insightful nuggets tucked in his column, and Dems ought to take them seriously: “Because the president’s critics tend to be educated and educated people tend to think that the only kind of smarts worth having is the kind they possess — superior powers of articulation combined with deep stores of knowledge — those critics generally assume the latter…There’s more than one type of intelligence. Trump’s is feral. It strikes fast. It knows where to sink the fang into the vein.” Also, “The secret of Trump’s politics is to mix fear and confidence — the threat of disaster and the promise of protection — like salt and sugar, simultaneously stimulating and satisfying an insatiable appetite. It’s how all demagogues work…Democrats should be walking away with the midterms. That they are not is because they have consistently underestimated the president’s political gifts…”

Dems gotta like the Politico headline, “‘Trump has hijacked the election’: House Republicans in panic mode: Worries deepen that Trump’s charged immigration rhetoric will cost the GOP more seats.” In the article, Rachael Bade,  Carla Marinucci and Elana Schor explain, “Two days out from an expected Democratic takeover of the House, Republicans focused on the chamber are profoundly worried that Trump’s obsession with all things immigration will exacerbate their losses. Many of these same Republicans welcomed Trump’s initial talk about the migrant caravan and border security two weeks ago, hoping it would gin up the GOP base in some at-risk, Republican-held districts…But they now fear Trump went overboard — and that it could cost them dearly in key suburban districts, from Illinois to Texas. Many of them have cringed at Trump’s threats to unilaterally end birthright citizenship, as well as his recent racially-tinged ad suggesting that immigrants are police killers…“His honing in on this message is going to cost us seats,” said one senior House GOP campaign source. “The people we need to win in these swing districts that will determine the majority, it’s not the Trump base; it’s suburban women, or people who voted for [Hillary] Clinton or people who are not hard Trump voters.”

In his National Journal article, “A Late Nudge Toward Democrats? Events of the last week, particularly the tragedy in Pittsburgh, seem to have tipped electoral momentum away from Republicans,” Charlie Cook writes that “it’s hard to be thinking about a strong economy and declining unemployment when we have pipe bombs being mailed to Democratic leaders, an anti-Semite shooting up a synagogue, and a racist trying to break into an African-American church but instead shooting people in a Kroger…it seems like we are seeing a bit of a movement back toward Democrats in public and private surveys…it seems really likely that Democrats pick up at least 20 and maybe as many as 50 seats in the House, with a 30-40 range most plausible. If I had to hang it on a single number, let’s call it a 35-seat gain for Democrats at the top of the curve. It’s not so much whether the overall turnout is high or low—and it does look like we may have a modern-record-level turnout for a midterm election—but which groups disproportionately vote that is the key and unknowable factor at this stage.”

“The significance on Capitol Hill would be House Democrats being able to schedule floor action and to a certain extent frame the policy debate, wield the gavel in committees and, of course, call oversight hearings and subpoena witnesses and documents,” Cook continues. However, “It is in the states where there is the potential for real policy changes…We could see Democrats plausibly gaining anywhere from four to 10 net governorships, with a six-to-eight-seat gain most likely, some in some pretty key states. It would be equally plausible for Democrats to gain somewhere between 400 and 600 state legislative seats, potentially tipping between five and 11 state legislative chambers…” Also check out the charts for GA and TX at Tom Bonier’s “Early Vote Data Shows Young and Non-White Voter Turnout Surge,” which are very encouraging.

Hollywood endorsements of candidates are generally worthless. But the nonpartisan Hollywood ‘telethon’ sponsored by ‘We Are the Vote’ that will be streamed live tonight YouTube, Facebook Live and Comedy Central’s website urging young people to vote may prove helpful. As reported by Reuters, “In a first-of-its-kind event, more than 50 actors, comedians and YouTube stars will join a two-hour, live-streamed telethon on Monday night aimed at firing up younger voters, the age group least likely to cast a ballot…Stars will not ask for money during the “Telethon for America.” Instead, they will urge viewers to call in to a celebrity phone bank and pledge to vote the next day…Reuters polling found that in October only 25 percent of people aged 18 to 29 said they were certain to vote in the election, the lowest percentage of any age bracket.” It’s a commendable project, but including some top musicians and pro athletes who may have more influence with young people than actors, could be a plus in future projects.


Political Strategy Notes

From “A Voter’s Guide to Health Care” by The New York Times Editorial Board: “national poll results released in September found that three-quarters of Americans want to retain protections that prevent insurers from discriminating against people based on their medical history…As health care costs rise, more Americans are voicing support for a single-payer system: Fifty-three percent now support such a plan, compared with less than 40 percent in the early 2000s…Republicans have long insisted that they want to protect people with pre-existing conditions from insurance discrimination — just not through the Affordable Care Act…But it’s tough to argue that one is for pre-existing condition protections when one is actively fighting the only federal law to ever have guaranteed those protections in the first place.”

The editorial continues: “So far, 34 states have chosen to opt in to the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion program, which provides coverage for working-age adults who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line. On Tuesday, three more states — Idaho, Nebraska and Utah — will decide whether to join those ranks, and several others — including Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin and Maine — will decide whether to replace a Republican governor who has opposed Medicaid expansion with a Democratic one who supports it…Medicaid is increasingly popular among voters, in part because so many of them — roughly one in five Americans, as of June — now receive benefits through the program.”

In his article, “How Will Hate Play in the Midterms?,” Robert Kuttner writes at The American Prospect: “Here is an awkward but urgent question. Will the grotesque violence incited by Trumpism and his own appalling remarks hurt Republican congressional incumbents and candidates who slavishly vote with Trump? Or will they be permitted to step delicately around the escalating violence?…One straw in the wind since the pipe-bomb mailings is the latest NPR poll showing that Trump’s favorability is down to 39 percent. Fully 44 percent of respondents said that Trump would be a major factor in how they vote in the midterm, compared to just 28 percent who said at a comparable point on the eve of the 2016 midterm that their view of President Obama would influence their vote for Congress…Even more ominously for Trump and the GOP, 47 percent of voters said that their view of Trump made them more likely to support a Democrat for Congress. Just 34 percent said they’d be more likely to back the Republican.”

With “Five Days to Go,” Kyle Kondik shares “our best guess right now” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “House: Right now, we have 212 House seats at least leaning to the Democrats, 202 at least leaning to the Republicans, and 21 Toss-ups. While we’re still gathering information about the Toss-ups, we do have a sense as to where we’re leaning in the races. As of this moment, we’d probably pick the Democrats in 12 of the Toss-ups and Republicans in nine of them. That would amount to a Democratic House gain of 29 seats. So let’s say, for now, we’re thinking an overall Democratic gain of somewhere around 30 seats, give or take. That’s more than the 23 net seats the Democrats need, but not so many more that one could rule out the Democrats sputtering out short of the majority…Senate: Including the 65 Senate seats not on the ballot as obviously “safe” for the current incumbent party, our Senate ratings show 50 seats at least leaning Republican, 45 at least leaning Democratic, and five Toss-ups. Our current sense, subject to change, is that the Toss-ups might split three to two in either direction. If that happens, and our other ratings hold up, the Republicans would net one-to-two Senate seats…Governors: Republicans currently hold 33 governorships, Democrats hold 16, and there’s one independent…our ratings show 22 governorships at least leaning Republican, 18 at least leaning Democratic, and 10 Toss-ups. Split the Toss-ups five to five, and Democrats would have 23 governorships, or a net gain of seven…”

In his NYT op-ed, “When Trump Voters Go For Democrats: Why is the Rust Belt trending blue for the midterms? The collapse of community may provide an answer,” Timothy P. Carney writes, “It’s easy to assume that Rust Belt voters have soured on the president, that blue-collar voters are upset Mr. Trump never Made America Great Again. But it’s not about the president: Mr. Trump still has extraordinarily high approval ratings among those who voted for him. The problem for the Republicans is that Mr. Trump made these Rust Belt voters into Trump voters, but he never made them Republicans…One NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted in mid-October showed that, compared to the midterm voters in Mr. Obama’s first term, voters now are less likely (31 percent to 36 percent) to be voting to “send a signal” about the president. Instead, they seem to be sending a signal about the Republican Party…Low social trust and low civic engagement defined the places that swung hardest to Mr. Trump. Because the vote was an expression of alienation and dissatisfaction, rather than an expression of partisan fealty, many of those places will swing back enough to give Democrats statewide wins on Election Day.

Conservative Max Boot has an 18-point litany explaining why Republican candidates, nearly all of whom are Trump enablers, should be defeated across the board on Tuesday. As Boot writes in his column, “Vote against all Republicans. Every single one” in The Washington Post. “If you’re sick and tired, too, here is what you can do. Vote for Democrats on Tuesday. For every office. Regardless of who they are. And I say that as a former Republican. Some Republicans in suburban districts may claim they aren’t for Trump. Don’t believe them. Whatever their private qualms, no Republicans have consistently held Trump to account. They are too scared that doing so will hurt their chances of reelection. If you’re as sick and tired as I am of being sick and tired about what’s going on, vote against all Republicans. Every single one. That’s the only message they will understand.”

At The Nation, NationAction writes, “There’s no better way to get involved in the final days of a campaign than by canvassing and door-knocking. Swing Left, an organization founded to take back Congress after the 2016 election, has created a campaign called The Last Weekend that shows you high-impact canvassing opportunities near you. Whether you’re in a red or blue state, chances are there’s an important race nearby where you can make a difference by showing up in person.”


Political Strategy Notes

In their New York Times article, “As Democrats Court Latinos, Indifference Is a Powerful Foe,” Jose A. Del Real and Jonathan Martin note that “A recent NBC-Wall Street Journal national survey showed a spike in interest in the election among Hispanic voters, but part of the challenge for Democrats is the sharp divisions among those voters. Latinos are not a monolith, and their political decisions are also shaped by age, region, and the immigration histories of their families. Exit polls after the 2016 election found that nearly 30 percent of Latino voters supported Mr. Trump, though some surveys put that figure closer to 20 percent…Hispanic voters could decide the half-dozen competitive House races in California, but their participation rate remains a big question mark. To win in those seats, the Democrats “ need more of those Latinos to turn out, the ones who are not frequent voters,” Ms. Merrill said…Nationally, 55 percent of Latinos said they have not yet been contacted by a political campaign this year, whether by email, mail, phone or in person, according to a recent survey by Latinos Decision, a polling firm.”

As for actions needed to mobilize Latino voters for Democrats, Eli Watkins reports at CNN Politics that “Los Angeles Democratic Mayor Eric Garcetti said the Democratic Party needs to take active steps to engage with Latino voters, including putting more Latino candidates on the ballot….”I think it’s really important to do two or three things,” Garcetti said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union, “speak to Latinos in the communities where they are, run more Latinos and invest in long-term, you know, political infrastructure in Latino communities.”

And at Daily Kos, Denise Oliver Velez urges progressives to “Stop the handwringing and conjecture about the ‘Latino vote,’ and support groups doing GOTV. Velez elaborates: “My question today is a simple one. If you are ‘concerned’ about voter turnout in these communities, what will you do to support the groups who are out there busting butt doing GOTV, and what support can you give to Democratic Latinx candidates who are currently running for office? (There are quite a few.)…Support doesn’t just mean money, either: you can also help get the word out.” Velez shares a tweet that gets right to the point:

@CristobalJAlex

Focusing on “Suburban women, Trump fatigue and the House races that could make the difference” in Virginia, Marc Fisher and Jenna Portnoy observe atThe Washington Post: “If Democrats are going to wrest away the House and gain a foothold on power in the Trump era, an early Election Night indicator will come shortly after the polls close at 7 p.m. in Virginia, one of the battleground states with the most close races in the Eastern time zone…control of the House will be determined especially in purple places such as Virginia, where newcomers from other states and countries have boosted the economy and created surprising chances for Democrats…In Virginia, where Republicans hold a 7-4 advantage over Democrats in House seats, there are four real races, three in districts that Trump won handily two years ago and that Republicans have considered safe in recent cycles…Last year, Democrat Ralph Northam won the governor’s race by flipping suburban counties in some of the districts up for grabs next month.”

Ed Kilgore flags “11 Tight Governor’s Races Will Shape America’s Political Landscape” at New York Magazine, including CT, OR, ME, IA, FL, WI, NV, GA, OH, KS and SD and notes that “an unusually large number of gubernatorial barn burners may have a more immediate and practical effect on the 260 million or so Americans who live in the 36 states whose governorships are at stake on November 6.” Kilgore provides ratings for each race from Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight and adds, “Indeed, according to the Cook Political Report, Democrats are favored to hold onto their own states and take back GOP governor’s offices in Illinois, Michigan and New Mexico. (Republicans are favored to oust Alaska’s independent Governor Bill Walker)…Cook has an amazing 11 gubernatorial (nine in states currently held by Republicans, two by Democrats) races rated as toss-ups…In an election cycle as wild as this one, a gubernatorial contest not among these 11 could be surprisingly close. And the implications for day-to-day governance — and for redistricting after the 2020 census — could be formidable.”

At CNN Politics ‘The Point,” Lauren Dezenski spotlights “9 midterms races with Electoral College implications” in states that are gaining and losing 1 or 2 seats in Electoral College representation. These races will also affect redistricting. They include: close governor’s races in Oregon, Florida, Ohio and Michigan; the Michigan State House, where Dems need just one pick-up to bust the GOP’s trifecta control of the state; and “key state senate race” in New York, Florida, Colorado and Minnesota.

Nate Silver has some good news for Democrats in his FiveThirtyEight post, “Democrats’ Unprecedented Fundraising Edge Is Scary For Republicans … And Our Model,” including: “It would be one thing if Democrats were raising money only in a few high-profile races — say, for example, in Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s Senate race in Texas. But that’s precisely not what is happening. Instead, the Democrats’ fundraising advantage is widespread. They’re raising money almost everywhere they need it in the House, whereas Republicans are sometimes coming up short…For instance, we project that by the time they file their 12G reports later this month — the last filings due before the election — 144 Democrats on November House ballots1 will have raised at least $1 million in individual contributions, not counting self-funding or outside money. But we project just 84 Republicans will have done the same. We also project that 73 Democratic House candidates will have raised at least $2 million, as compared to just 17 Republicans…The result is a fundraising disparity the likes of which we’ve never seen before — at least not in recent years.”

If ‘Say what you mean, and mean what you say’ means anything at all in Texas in 2018, the campaign of Democratic Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke should have some memorable ads up and running in the closing weeks of his campaign, especialy as Trump stumps for Cruz. At The Washington Post, Ashley Parker reminds readers that, during the GOP presidential primaries of 2016, Trump, “repeatedly mocked the senator from Texas as “Lyin’ Ted,” suggested his father played a role in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and even made fun of the appearance of Cruz’s wife, Heidi…“I don’t get angry often, but you mess with my wife, you mess with my kids, that’ll do it every time,” Cruz told reporters at a campaign stop in March 2016, jabbing his finger angrily at the cameras. “Donald, you’re a sniveling coward, and leave Heidi the hell alone.” And “when the two were battling for the nomination…Trump called Cruz “a little bit of a maniac,” “a totally unstable individual,” and “the single biggest liar” he had ever encountered. Cruz countered by dubbing Trump “utterly amoral,” “a serial philanderer,” a “pathological liar” and “a braggadocious arrogant buffoon.”


Political Strategy Notes

“Trump ‘s provocations alone show few signs of improving the subpar turnout patterns among Latinos and millennials, two core Democratic constituencies,” notes Ronald Brownstein in “Here’s what should excite and depress Democrats so far in 2018“at CNN Politics: However, “Democrats received encouraging news from Sunday’s ABC/Washington Post poll, which found much higher levels of youth engagement than almost any other recent survey. But that result looks like an outlier compared to most other polls. And even if young people participate in somewhat higher numbers, their share of the vote could fall if they don’t keep pace with the greater-than-usual midterm interest evident among other voter groups. By 2020, millennials will significantly exceed baby boomers as a share of eligible voters, but based on their turnout trajectory they will continue to lag them among actual voters. That would be a huge opportunity cost for Democrats given Trump’s consistently low marks with the generation (apart from younger non-college whites).”

Geoffrey Skelley presents the case that “Young Voters Might Actually Show Up At The Polls This Year: At least, more of them than usual might” at FiveThirtyEight: “Looking at the historical trends, there’s no question that youth voter turnout is consistently low in midterms, but exit poll data from competitive statewide elections in 2017 suggests that 2018 could set a record high for young voter participation….Polling from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics also gives us reason to believe we may see high turnout from young voters. The institute conducts a long-running, large-sample poll of young Americans…[I]n the IOP’s spring 2018 poll, 37 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds answered they would “definitely” vote, which was a new record high.”

From Jennifer Rubin’s column, “Democrats should thank McConnell for the last-minute assist” in the Washington Post: “Minority Leader Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) pounced. “Senator Mitch McConnell, President Trump, and their fellow Republicans blew a 2 trillion dollar hole in the federal deficit to fund a tax cut for the rich, he said in a written statement. “To now suggest cutting earned middle-class programs like Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid as the only fiscally responsible solution to solve the debt problem is nothing short of gaslighting.” He added with relish, “As November approaches, it’s clear Democrats stand for expanding affordable health care and growing the middle class, while Republicans are for stripping away protections for people with pre-existing conditions and cutting Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid to fund their giveaways to corporate executives and the wealthiest few.” He might have sent flowers as well in thanks for delivering a closing message to Democrats who have already been focusing on health care.”

Rubin adds, “The main GOP policy goals — cutting entitlements, cutting taxes for the rich and repealing protection for preexisting conditions — are extremely unpopular. (Republicans’ positions on climate change, “dreamers,” the wall and plenty else are also out of sync with voters.) In the final stretch before Election Day, Democrats are likely to remind voters of the GOP’s ambitions should they retain control of both houses. With many voters already saying they want a check on Trump, McConnell reiterated the policy stances that voters fear most. Schumer and his party couldn’t have asked for a better “October surprise.”

in “People are searching for voter registration info at presidential-year levels,” Philip Bump writes at The Washington Post, “Searching for “register to vote”…is probably a good measure of how much interest new voters have in the election…People are searching “register to vote” at near-presidential-election levels — suggesting a surge in interest among less frequent voters…Averaging the data across all states, the pattern is obvious. 2018 does not look like 2010 or 2014 in terms of searches for voter registration information…As with most other election-related metrics, it’s not clear how much significance this has. But the prospect of a wave election powered by newly motivated voters seems as though it would look much more like this than like the search pattern from, say, 2010.”

“Over just two weeks in September a limited-liability company calling itself News for Democracy spent almost $400,000 on more than 16 million impressions for a network of 14 Facebook pages that hadn’t existed until August,” reports Alexis C.Madrigal in his post “The Secretive Organization Quietly Spending Millions on Facebook Political Ads: Meet the liberal group that’s running a new breed of digital campaign” at The Atlantic. “From May 7 to October 16—the period that Facebook’s newly created archive of political advertising covers—News for Democracy paid from $1.2 million $4.6 million to create, at a minimum, 45 million impressions through more than 2,600 ads. (Facebook’s data offer ranges, rather than precise amounts, of dollars spent or impressions generated…the number of people who saw these ads is certainly higher, and possibly much higher.)…The biggest of News for Democracy’s ad buys went to pages with names like Women for Civility (8 million impressions), Better With Age (7.2 million), Our Flag Our Country (5.7 million), Living Free (5.4 million), and The Holy Tribune (4.2 million). Most of the ads consisted of one-minute videos, done in that Facebook style with text sliding around over footage making a single point. The ads were shown to two very specific groups of people: women ages 55 to 64 in Arkansas and mostly male Kansans under the age of 44…Despite the God-and-country nature of the page names, the actual content was left-leaning…Their message is the same: Republicans want to take away protections for people with preexisting medical conditions, and that would hurt the nice, relatable people in the videos.”

“In terms of our ratings, this week’s changes leave 212 seats at least leaning to the Democrats, 201 at least leaning to the Republicans, and 22 Toss-ups. Democrats need to win six of the Toss-ups to win the House, and all the other seats that currently lean to them (some of which are still very much in play), to win the House.” — From Kyle Kondik’s post “The Drive for 25: An updated seat-by-seat analysis of the House: Democrats closing in on majority but it’s not a sure thing” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball.

Some of the Democratic women veterans running for congress, from a video by Serve America PAC:


A great video, although one commenter, ‘pixxer1’ notes a couple of flaws that could be corrected easily enough: “You could be helpful to these women by writing their names and district numbers below the video. My only complaint about this otherwise excellent video is that they go by so fast at the end that someone in their district who was unaware of them would not have time to notice the information.” Maybe also emphasize that these are Democratic women.

The next time you hear/read a Trump supporter arguing that “at least he keeps his promises,” you can refer him to Matthew Yglesias’s article, “The biggest lie Trump tells is that he’s kept his promises: A raft of populist pledges have been left on the cutting room floor” at vox.com. In addition to ditching his promises about Obamacare, releasing his taxes and no big tax breaks for the rich, Yglesias adds “Trump promised to break up America’s largest banks by reinstated old Glass-Steagall regulations that prevented financial conglomerates from operating in multiple lines of business…Trump promised price controls on prescription drugs…Trump promised to “take the oil” from Iraq to reduce the financial burden of US military policy…Trump promised many times that he would release his tax returns and promised to put his wealth into a blind trust…Trump vowed rollback of climate change regulations but said he was committed to upholding clean air and clean water goals…Trump promised a $1 trillion infrastructure package.”


Political Strategy Notes

In her Washington Post column, “The corruption of the GOP is complete: So what’s Plan B?,” Jennifer Rubin writes: “Four weeks from this Wednesday (the day after the midterm elections), sorry, will commence the lead-up to the 2020 presidential race. Any Republicans thinking of challenging President Trump because they recoil from the party of Trump is, I hate to break it to them, out of luck. The party wants the mocking cruelty, the attacks on the press and on women, the protectionism and the white nationalism. These things define it…Respectful and clean government, values-based leadership of the free world, responsible stewardship of the environment and a commitment to reform are no longer on the GOP agenda. The Trump sycophants, every bit as incoherent and bullying as the president, run the place.

“A number of Republicans running for governor or senator in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, including several who hitched their wagon to Trump’s political movement, are behind in polls by double digits, a remarkable turnabout in swing states that were key to the president’s 2016 victory,” Michael Scherer and Robert Costa write in “In Trump country, Republican candidates this year fall flat” in The Washington Post. “If current polling averages hold, Democrats will maintain all their Senate seats in those states, pick up a handful of House seats and, in some cases, retake the governors’ mansions. In nearby Iowa, a state Trump won by nearly 10 points, the Democratic candidate for governor was running about even with the Republican governor in a Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll. Polling this week found Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) trailing his Democratic opponent, Tony Evers…The dramatic shift has forced political strategists to reevaluate their post-mortem lessons from the 2016 election, while raising new questions about Trump’s staying power in 2020. Democratic strategists, who worried that Iowa and Ohio were slipping away from them in presidential years, are now heartened and have begun to return their attention to the traditional bellwethers.”

Scherer and Costa add further that, “We have lost millions of members of our party in the last year,” said John Weaver, a Republican adviser to Ohio Gov. John Kasich and a Trump critic, reflecting on how Trump’s bid split the party. “A MAGA candidate who runs as a junior member of the walking dead and wins the primary is going to find themselves shot in the general election…Trump’s decision to renegotiate trade agreements with Mexico and Canada, and to start an escalating tariff war with China, have muddled the political fallout in the Midwest, even though the economic effects have been relatively pronounced. Rising steel and aluminum prices, falling soybean prices, and new restrictions on car imports have sparked a wave of headlines in the region about layoffs and struggling farmers.”

At The Plum Line, Greg Sargent writes that “it is necessary to say that, yes, some leftist protesters have gone too far. Yes, generally speaking, it’s bad to chase people out of restaurants, and it’s bad to menace people, and it’s bad to bust up property. Yes, there is a real distinction between legitimate if angry and raucous political dissent and true mob action. But as Brian Beutler says, Republicans are elevating isolated examples of the latter in bad faith — to distract from the true source of the illiberal and authoritarian forces that have been loosed upon the land…Those “lock her up” chants aren’t taking place in some sealed-off TV universe that has no connection to Trump’s ongoing degradation of the rule of law and efforts to stoke civil discord. They are high-profile manifestations of the illiberal and authoritarian forces that constitute the real danger to civil peace and democracy right now.”

“Democrats’ position in the contest for the House of Representatives is the best it’s been since June, but they remain dependent on turnout of less frequent voters, as well as winning over Trump voters from 2016…If the elections were held today, Democrats would stand to win 226 seats (more than the 218 needed for a majority) with Republicans winning the remaining 209,” write Kabir Khanna and Anthony Salvanto at cbsnews.com. “The margin of error on each of these estimates is plus or minus 14 seats, which means that there’s still the prospect of Republicans retaining control. This range of possible outcomes in the model is wider than it was this summer. Many key races are extremely close, and it wouldn’t take much movement from where things stand now to swing many seats in either direction…Our Democratic seats estimate has slowly but steadily ticked up since we launchedthe CBS News/YouGov Battleground Tracker this summer. Our current estimate is four seats higher than it was in August, by which time candidates had been nominated to the general election in most districts. This uptick can be explained by a higher share of Trump voters crossing over to the Democrats. While this group is small in absolute terms (it’s 8 percent of Trump voters nationally), it is larger than the share of Clinton voters supporting Republicans this year (about 3 percent) and has grown since August.”

Ronald Brownstein explains in “The Epicenter of Republican Vulnerability in the House” at The Atlantic that “the trade-off Trump is imposing—is measured in the danger gathering for House Republicans in swing districts, primarily in white-collar suburbs, where the party can’t win just by increasing GOP turnout and instead must appeal to a broader range of voters. That risk extends beyond just the Clinton-Republican districts: Democrats are seriously contesting more than two dozen House seats that narrowly voted for Trump in 2016, though the increased GOP energy evident after Kavanaugh could push some of those seats out of reach. The epicenter, then, of the GOP’s House vulnerability remains the 25 Republican-held districts that rejected Trump for Clinton from the outset.”

“The Democrats’ map in the House is fairly robust,” notes Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight, “because they aren’t overly reliant on any one type of district. (This stands in contrast to the Senate, where most of the battlegrounds fit into a certain typology: red and rural). While House battlegrounds are somewhat whiter, more suburban and more educated than the country overall, there are quite a few exceptions — enough so that Democrats could underperform in certain types of districts but still have reasonably good chances to win the House. This differs from Hillary Clinton’s position in the Electoral College in 2016, in which underperformance among just one group of voters in one region — white working-class voters in the Midwest — was enough to cost her the election.”

“A 2016 Survey of the Performance of American Elections found that 30 percent of registered youth did not vote because they said they couldn’t get to the polls,” notes Gabrielle Gurley at The Amerian Prospect. “Inadequate transportation was the third most-cited reason for not showing up, placing just behind disliking the candidates and issues and being too busy or having a conflict like work or school…Some urban and suburban voters can experience polling place access challenges that affect turnout if they live in areas underserved by transit or are plagued by traffic congestion. Rural voters often have higher turnout rates, since traffic is not a factor in getting to a polling place—provided they own a vehicle…Twelve states, including Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, New Mexico, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah, use vote centers, designated locations where any registered voter can go and vote even if they don’t live in the area. Vote centers, for instance, can make life easier for registered voters by enabling them to vote near their worksite when they can’t make it home. They are also cheaper for states and localities to operate. California (where nearly half the electorate votes by mail) will adopt vote centers this year in Madera, Napa, Nevada, Sacramento, and San Mateo counties.”

David Atkins writes at The Washington Monthly: “The conventional wisdom just under a month from election day is that Republicans are poised to hold or even expand their Senate majority, even as they likely give up the House majority. Conventional wisdom is often wrong, but all available evidence based on the polling seems to suggest it’s on target at the moment. It’s possible, of course, that there is a massive wave of Democratic votes that is being undercounted by traditional polling methods, but it would be unwise to stake serious predictions on it…It seems incontrovertible at this point that the battle of Judge Kavanaugh has both helped and hurt Republicans. On the downside for them, the majority of Americans are upset by Kavanaugh’s confirmation and want to see continued investigations into allegations of assault and other misbehavior. On a broader level, resistance to conservative policies and tactics has never been fiercer and more adamant than it is today, mostly due to the extremism and cruelty that is now so obviously inherent to movement conservatism. Millennials, women and people of color are overwhelmingly determined in their opposition to the Republican Party, nor is that likely to change in the near future.”


Is the GOP’s ‘Kavanaugh Bump’ for Real?

In his Washington Post article, “This is not what a pro-Kavanaugh electoral backlash looks like,” Philip Bump writes,

There are certainly signs that the partisan fight over Brett M. Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court goosed Republican enthusiasm for the midterm elections.

“This has actually produced an incredible surge of interest among these Republican voters going into the fall election,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said to USA Today after the final vote to confirm Kavanaugh. “We’ve all been perplexed about how to get our people as interested as we know the other side is — well, this has done it.”

A survey by NPR, PBS NewsHour and Marist released last week indicated that McConnell’s excitement might be warranted: After trailing Democrats in enthusiasm during the summer, Republican enthusiasm for voting has caught up.

However, Bump adds that “a new CNN-SSRS poll suggests that the most enthusiastic voters are not those Americans most interested in rising to Kavanaugh’s defense…Those most enthusiastic about voting are much more negative on Kavanaugh than those not very enthusiastic about voting next month.”

Also, Bump notes, “CNN also asked voters which party’s congressional candidates they preferred. Among all voters, the Democrats had a nine-point advantage…Among those voters most likely to vote, the advantage was 13 points, up from 10 points before the Kavanaugh fight.”

Moreover, in his post at The Optimistic Leftist, “Is the Generic House Ballot Going Back Up?” Ruy Teixeira notes:

Some of us thought that once Kavanaugh was confirmed, the Democrats might start actually doing better on the House level, as Democratic anger crystallized and Republican hyper-engagement subsided. Recent results suggest that may be happening–emphasis on the “may” because it’s still too early to know for sure. But Ipsos’ new release reports a +12 Democratic lead on the generic and CNN’s has a +13 Democratic lead; these new releases have sent the Democrats’ lead in the 538 rolling aggregate back over 8 points.

So Mitch and Trump can keep on beating the Kavanaugh-as-victim drum. But it appears that it doesn’t provide much value added for the GOP in terms of the midterm elections. Indeed, it may be quite the opposite, as more conservative voters decide that the Kavanaugh confirmation is old news and move on to more immediate concerns.


Political Strategy Notes

In his Washington Post syndicated column, “Here’s where Democrats are really picking up Trump voters,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes, “One bottom-line truth of American politics is that given the way the electoral college operates, Democrats need to reverse the flight of the white working class to President Trump’s GOP. Ohio is ground zero this year in testing the durability of Trump’s coalition…In [Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod] Brown’s quest for reelection, the appeal to workers is working. While Ohio swung from a three-point victory for Barack Obama in 2012 to an eight-point Trump win, Brown has enjoyed leads from 13 to 18 points over Republican Rep. James B. Renacci in three polls over the past month…Brown has a political advantage in the state’s once-thriving manufacturing regions because he has been a consistent critic of free-trade pacts such as NAFTA, an area of common ground with Trump.” Dionne also flags a key pro-worker appeal of Democratic nominee for Ohio Governor Richard Cordray’s ad campaign: “You shouldn’t need a college degree,” Cordray says, “to be part of the middle class.” Count on this to become a new national Democratic theme.”

“In an academic study of competitive U.S. House primaries from 2006 to 2014, we found that extremist nominees do considerably worse in the general election, on average, than moderates,” report Stanford political scientists Andrew B. Hall Daniel M. Thompson in their article, “Should Democrats rally the base or target swing voters?” at PostEverything. “The reason, however, may come as a surprise: It’s not that extremists turn off moderates in their own party. It’s that they fire up the other party’s base…In other words, when Democrats nominate more-extreme candidates, they can expect more Republicans to show up to vote against their nominee in the general election.” Analysing vote tallies fomr the 2006 and 2014 midterm elections, the authors found that “more-extreme nominees tend to win a substantially lower average of vote shares in the general election, tend to win the general election less often, and tend to increase turnout among voters in the opposing party.”

John Della Volpe, director of polling at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politic, argues in his article “Can Taylor Swift inspire young nonvoters to vote? You bet,” also at PostEverything: “The October surprise of 2018 might well be a perfectly timed Instagram post from Taylor Swift. Is it possible that she can do for Democrats what so many of her peers failed to do in 2016?..Her Instagram post Sunday referred to specific issues that millennials like her care about and connected them to Democratic congressional candidates in her home state of Tennessee, citing a voter registration website and a Tuesday deadline. Vote.org, the website she linked to, reported nearly as many new Tennessee registrants in the 36 hours after the singer’s post as in the entire month of September, and more than double the number from August…Candidates seeking to take maximum advantage of what is a quantifiable increase of interest among young voters in the final weeks of the campaign would be wise to follow Swift’s framework. Voting is not the habit for young Americans that it is for others, so it’s critical to remind them that in every congressional district and state on Nov. 6, guns will be on the ballot — as will jobs, health care, gender equity and empowerment, education, student loans and the kind of capitalism they want to see practiced in the United States…Swift already stands out from her peers as having the most politically diverse fan base among young Americans, and I would not bet against her helping register, empower and activate just enough of them to make a difference in November, for them and the country.”

“…You must build supermajority participation, because, as the election approaches, the opposition will succeed at stripping support from a key percentage of previous yes voters. All effort must be focused on what successful union organizers call “going to the biggest-worst”: spending all our time with workers who are undecided or leaning anti-union. The biggest mistake inexperienced union organizers make is spending precious time preaching to the choir, i.e., talking to pro-union activists…These conversations are hard, so people avoid the urgent and instead do the easy (and lose). In hotly contested districts, building a supermajority means identifying the neighbor, congregant or family member who can help hold or move undecided or shaky voters (strangers simply can’t do this) and making sure the conversations are happening. To win, forget wishful thinking and build to the number needed to win assuming you lose 10 points the days before the election.” – From Jane McAlevey’s New York Times op-ed, “Three Lessons for Winning in November and Beyond: What union organizers can teach Democrats.”

NYT editorial board member Michelle Cottle writes, “With Justice Kavanaugh now safely tucked into his lifetime appointment, there’s much less cause for conservatives to stay angry. And even if they’re stewing today, or next weekend, three-plus weeks is an eternity in politics — all the more in a political climate dominated by this endlessly dramatic White House. Thus, we see prominent Republicans, including the Senate majority leader and the head of the Republican National Committee, peddling the idea that if Democrats gain power in Congress, one of their top priorities will be to impeach Justice Kavanaugh. No matter that this claim has no factual basis — it plays perfectly to the Republican base’s enduring sense of victimhood…Which is why Democrats must resist the urge to follow Republicans down this spider hole, or that of any radioactive topic designed to inflame partisan passions…Thankfully, Democratic leaders in both chambers of Congress seem to recognize this and are encouraging their members to pivot toward issues aimed at bringing more people into the fold.”

Every Democratic candidate should have a a solid talking point about climate change, because their Republican opponent probably won’t and it’s a growing concern that many voters share across the political spectrum. Toward that end “10 ways to accelerate progress against climate change: From pricing carbon to shifting diets, here’s what we need to prioritize now” by Eliza Barclay and Umair Irfan at vox.com provides a useful resource for crafting soundbites and short, coherent responses. Not all ten suggestions will work for every candidate and constituency, but several will, including: “2) Subsidize clean energy, and end subsidies for dirty energy…Renewable energy sources like wind and solar power have already become dramatically more affordable. In the United States, renewables are cost-competitive with fossil fuels in some markets…if your goal is to fight climate change, it makes more sense to keep giving cleaner energy sources a boost…The fossil fuel industry is meanwhile still getting a number of direct and indirect subsidies. In the US, these subsidies can amount to $20 billion a year. Globally, it’s about $260 billion per year. Getting rid of government support for these fuels seems like a no-brainer.”

Some “key points” from “The State Legislatures: More than 6,000 down-ballot races to determine control of states: Democrats poised to pick up seats and chambers but huge existing GOP majorities may help the Republicans maintain power in many places” by Tim Storey and Wendy Underhill at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “More than four of every five of the nation’s state legislative seats will be on the ballot this year…The usual midterm presidential penalty extends to state legislative seats, where the presidential party loses an average of more than 400 state legislative seats each midterm…On average, 12 chambers flip party control each cycle. Democrats should net chambers but may fall short of that average…One possible outcome in November is that Democrats pick up hundreds of seats but manage to wrest control in just a few legislative chambers because the GOP holds such big majorities in many states…The nation is likely to elect a historically high number of women state legislators. About one in four state legislators are women currently.”

In her ThinkProgress article, “Senate Republicans show their true colors on pre-existing conditions: Only one Republican voted to block Trump’s junk insurance plan,” Amanda Michelle Gomez notes, “Protecting people with pre-existing conditions isn’t a priority for Republicans — lowering insurance premiums is. Senate Republicans said as much when they voted Wednesday against blocking the Trump administration’s expansion of health plans that can deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions….All but one Republican, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), voted in favor of these bare-bones health plans. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who voted against Obamacare repeal last summer, and Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) — perhaps the most vulnerable Republican up for re-election this November, who has been campaigning on protecting people with pre-existing conditions — declined to vote in favor of the resolution.”

We close today’s edition of PSN on a hopeful note from “The Kids Are Alright — And They’re Voting in the Midterms, Study Finds: Report shows young people planning to vote in historic numbers in 2018” by Stephanie Akin at Roll Call: “Young people, who typically sit out midterm elections, are planning to vote in potentially historic numbers in 2018, according to a report released Tuesday from Tufts University. People ages 18 to 24 are also receiving more campaign outreach and paying closer attention this year, potentially matching the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, according to a report from the nonpartisan Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University…The survey of 2,087 people ages 18 to 24 found 34 percent were extremely likely to vote. Forty-five percent of those voters said they would vote for Democrats, versus 26 percent for Republicans.”