washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

Robert Reich’s “Republicans aren’t going to tell Americans the real cause of our $31.4tn debt” at The Guardian includes some message points Dems should find useful, including: “In the first full year of the Trump tax cut, the federal budget deficit increased by $113bn while corporate tax receipts fell by about $90bn, which would account for nearly 80% of the deficit increase….Meanwhile, America’s wealthy have been financing America’s exploding debt by lending the federal government money, for which the government pays them interest….As the federal debt continues to mount, these interest payments are ballooning – hitting a record $475bn in the last fiscal next year (which ran through September). The Congressional Budget Office predicts that interest payments on the federal debt will reach 3.3% of the GDP by 2032 and 7.2% by 2052….The biggest recipients of these interest payments? Not foreigners but wealthy Americans who park their savings in treasury bonds held by mutual funds, hedge funds, pension funds, banks, insurance companies, personal trusts and estates….Hence the giant half-century switch: the wealthy used to pay higher taxes to the government. Now the government pays the wealthy interest on their loans to finance a swelling debt that’s been caused largely by lower taxes on the wealthy….This means that a growing portion of everyone else’s taxes are going to wealthy Americans in the form of interest payments, rather than paying for government services that everyone needs….So, the real problem isn’t America’s growing federal budget deficit. It’s the decline in tax revenue from America’s wealthy combined with growing interest payments to them….Both are worsening America’s already staggering inequalities of income and wealth….What should be done? Isn’t it obvious? Raise taxes on the wealthy.”

NYT columnist Thomas B. Edsall addresses a pivotal question facing the Democratic Party, “How Much Longer Can ‘Vote Blue No Matter Who!’ Last?” and quotes University of Mississippi political scientist Julie Wronski, who who sees Democrats as “a coalition of racial minorities (especially Blacks) and whites who are sympathetic to the inequities and challenges faced by minority groups in America. Racial identities and attitudes are the common thread that link wealthier, more educated whites with poorer minority constituencies….The Democrats’ biracial working-class coalition during the mid-20th century, in Wronski’s view, “was successful because racial issues were off the table.” Once those issues moved front and center, the coalition split: “Simply put, the parties are divided in terms of which portion of the working class they support — the white working class or the poorer minority communities.” But do Republicans really “support” the white working-class in any substantial way? Edsall continues, “the level of educational attainment is the line of demarcation between the two groups of white voters….By 2020, the white working class — defined by the Federal Reserve of St. Louis as “whites without four-year college degrees” — voted for Donald Trump over Joe Biden, 67 to 32 percent, according to network exit polls. In the 2022 election, white working-class voters backed Republican House candidates at almost the same level, 66 to 32 percent.” The Republican’s ability to win 2/3 of the white workers who actually show up to vote is unchanged.

Edsall also quotes from a November 2021 study of the composition of the Democratic Party by Pew Research, which notes that “The progressive left makes up a relatively small share of the party, 12 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. However, this group is the most politically engaged segment of the coalition, extremely liberal in every policy domain and, notably, 68 percent white non-Hispanic. In contrast, the three other Democratic-oriented groups are no more than about half white non-Hispanic.” Edsall also quotes Lanae Erickson, a Third Way v.p, who observes, “Although the percentage of Democrats calling themselves liberal has grown over the past three decades, it still remains true that only about half of self-described party members identify that way — in contrast to Republican voters, about 80 percent of whom call themselves conservative. So Democrats have long had and continue to have a more ideologically diverse coalition to assemble, with nearly half of the party calling themselves moderate or conservative.” Erikson touches lightly a point that is too often glossed over – that a small but loud minority of self-identified Democrats support the most impractical and unpopular policies. Very few elected Democrats embrace politically toxic policies like defunding the police or ‘open borders.’ You can’t win in many districts with those views.

Looking toward the future, Edsall writes, “What, then, is likely to happen in the Democratic ranks?….The reality, as summed up by Ryan Enos, is that for all their problems,

The Democrats are clearly the majority party and may be experiencing an unparalleled period of dominance: Since 1992, a period of 30 years, Republicans have only won a majority of popular presidential votes once, in 2004, and that was during the extraordinary time of two overseas wars.

For the moment, the Democratic coalition — with all its built-in conflicts between a relatively affluent, well-educated, largely white wing, on the one hand, and an economically precarious, heavily minority but to some degree ascendant electorate on the other — remains a functional political institution….“ In this sense,” Enos told me, “it’s important not to overstate the damage that some perceive liberalism as having done to the Democrats’ electoral fortunes.” But Republicans are shrewd branders of the opposition, who know how to slime the entire Democratic Party because a small percentage of its rank and file embrace extreme cultural liberalism. Dems could learn a few things about how to brand the opposition from their opponents.

Political Strategy Notes

At Politico Ally Mutnick and Sarah Ferris report that “Rebranding rift guts Blue Dog Dem ranks: Nearly half the members of the influential centrist coalition are letting themselves out after a failed push for a name change designed for a new era.” As Mutnick and Ferris explain,  “Congress’ influential Blue Dog Coalition is getting chopped nearly in half after an internal blow-up over whether to rebrand the centrist Democratic group….Seven of the 15 members expected to join the Blue Dogs this year, including Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.), are departing after a heated disagreement over a potential name change for the moderate bloc. For now that’s left the Blue Dogs with seven, all male members — their smallest roster in nearly three decades of existence. One freshman member remains undecided….At the core of some of the breakaway Blue Dogs’ demands was a rechristening as the Common Sense Coalition that, they argued, would have helped shed the group’s reputation as a socially moderate, Southern “boys’ club.” Blue Dogs have long stood for fiscal responsibility and national security, issues with broad Democratic appeal, but some members felt the name had a negative connotation that kept their colleagues from joining. A majority of other members disagreed, saying they saw no reason to toss out a longstanding legacy….Those tensions came to a head earlier this month as Blue Dog members met for a lengthy debate over the reboot that culminated in a secret-ballot vote to reject the new name, according to interviews with nearly a dozen people familiar with the situation, on both sides of the dispute. Shortly after that vote, Reps. Ed Case (D-Hawaii); David Scott (D-Ga.); Rep. Brad Schneider(D-Ill.); Lou Correa (D-Calif.), Spanberger and Sherrill all left the group.” Here’s hoping the moderates will still be able to work together to insure their influence helps create the mix of policies that can lead Dems to a stable majority.

Speaking of political branding, I was among those who relished the ‘GOP in disarray’ theme the media amped up during the House speakership follies. Turns out, however, that the Republican brand wasn’t all that popular even before McCarthy and Santos became their new poster boys. As Nathaniel Rakich reports at FiveThirtyEight, “Twenty-one percent of respondents said Republicans exhibited stronger leadership than Democrats in Washington in a November 2022 Ipsos poll. And the same pollster showed no significant change after the speaker vote: Nineteen percent said the GOP showed stronger leadership in January 2023….Civiqs maintains a running tracker of whether registered voters have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of the Republican Party, and it has remained steady at 64 percent unfavorable, 26 percent favorable since Dec. 22, 2022….Similarly, every week, YouGov/The Economist asks Americans whether they have a favorable or unfavorable view of Republicans in Congress. Between Jan. 2 and Jan. 9, their favorable rating barely changed (from 37 percent to 36.5 percent), and their unfavorable rating slightly ticked up (from 56.7 percent to 58.9 percent)….Finally, Republicans in Congress remained a net of 15 percentage points underwater with registered voters before and after the speaker vote, according to Morning Consult. Interestingly, though, opinions of McCarthy got worse after the vote. His net favorability rating was -20 points on Dec. 29 and -26 points on Jan. 8, even as his name recognition improved slightly between the midterm elections and the speaker election….According to Ipsos, almost half of adults (49 percent) did not follow the speaker election news at all or followed it “not so closely.” A similar 42 percent felt that the fight over the speakership had very little to do with their daily lives….Another reason could be that Americans were already so cynical about Congress that the chaos of early January made them nod and say, “Yup, sounds about right.” In the HarrisX/Deseret News survey, 56 percent of registered voters thought that the dispute was just “politics as usual.””

In “What the Progressive Wing of the Democratic Party Has Planned Next,” Larry Cohen, former president of the Communications Workers of America, DNC member and Board Chair of Our Revolution, writes at In These Times: “While Republicans now control the U.S. House, which stifles prospects for any major Democratic legislation over the next two years, progressives are not slowing their efforts to transform U.S. politics. Both in Congress and through internal Democratic Party decision-making, progressives are building on lessons learned during the first years of the Biden administration to grow their power. This effort includes using their expanding congressional ranks to push progressive policy and when necessary challenge Democratic Party leadership, build progressive majorities in state-level parties and change internal rules to ban dark money in primaries….The most dramatic changes in progressive party reform over the past year can be seen in the growth of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC). After the November 2022 midterms, the caucus now claims an all-time high of 103members — nearly half of all House Democrats….In the past, the CPC has been criticized for failing to deliver on progressive goals and including members not fully committed to achieving them. However, since reforming internal CPC rules in 2020 to create more unity and enforce members voting as a bloc, the caucus has proven to be increasinglyinfluential in the party. Along with such policy wins as including $1,400stimulus checks and expanded unemployment benefits in 2021’s American Rescue Plan, the CPC has helped shape the Democrats’ national priorities and economic playbook under the leadership of Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.).” Cohen goes on to share more successes and note a couple of failures, and adds: “What happens inside the Democratic Party and inside party caucuses of elected Democrats is frequently ignored by progressives, who are generally more comfortable protesting and working solely outside the party. Of course, protest is essential, and new party-building is fine. But for those of us who believe we must fight in every possible way to advance progressive issues and win real power, we ignore party reform at our peril, even as we demand broader electoral reforms, such as fusion and ranked-choice voting, proportional representation and more.”

Lest progressive Dems get too optimistic, however, Kyle Kondik shares “Initial Senate Ratings: Democrats Have a Lot of Defending to Do” at Crystal Ball, and explains: “How we see the Senate to start – Democrats have considerably more exposure than Republicans in this cycle’s U.S. Senate races — a point made plainly clear in our initial ratings of the 2024 Senate races….First of all, there’s just the basic math. There are 34 Senate races slated for next year so far — 33 regular contests, plus a special election in Nebraska, where newly-appointed Sen. Pete Ricketts (R) will be back on the ballot to defend the unexpired term left behind by Ben Sasse (R), who resigned to become the president of the University of Florida….Democrats are defending 23 of these seats, while Republicans are defending just 11. That Democratic tally includes the 3 states with independents who caucus with the Democrats: Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Angus King of Maine, and Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The races for next year are shown in Map 1:

Kondike concludes, “Democrats overcame a difficult environment in 2022 and netted a Senate seat in large part because of their ability to court persuadable voters and turn races that could have been referendums on Democrats into, instead, choices between candidates. They will need to do that again in a presidential year, particularly in the otherwise unfavorable states of Montana, Ohio, and West Virginia.”

Political Strategy Notes

If you are a Democrat in a state that has a large rural population and thinking about a statewide or rural district candidacy, read Thomas B. Edsall’s column, “The Resentment Fueling the Republican Party Is Not Coming From the Suburbs” in the New York Times. Edsall writes, “Rural America has become the Republican Party’s life preserver….Less densely settled regions of the country, crucial to the creation of congressional and legislative districts favorable to conservatives, are a pillar of the party’s strength in the House and the Senate and a decisive factor in the rightward tilt of the Electoral College. Republican gains in such sparsely populated areas are compensating for setbacks in increasingly diverse suburbs where growing numbers of well-educated voters have renounced a party led by Donald Trump and his loyalists….The anger and resentment felt by rural voters toward the Democratic Party are driving a regional realignment similar to the upheaval in the white South after Democrats, led by President Lyndon Johnson, won approval of the Civil Rights Act of 1964….Even so, Republicans are grasping at a weak reed. In a 2022 article, “Rural America Lost Population Over the Past Decade for the First Time in History,” Kenneth Johnson, the senior demographer at the Carsey School of Public Policy and a professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire, notes: “Between 2010 and 2020, rural America lost population for the first time in history as economic turbulence had a significant demographic impact. The rural population loss was due to fewer births, more deaths and more people leaving than moving in.”

Edsall continues, “There are few, if any, better case studies of rural realignment and the role it plays in elections than the 2022 Senate race in Wisconsin. The basic question there is how Ron Johnson — a Trump acolytewho derided climate change with an epithet, who described the Jan. 6 insurrectionists as “people that love this country, that truly respect law enforcement” and who proposed turning Social Security and Medicare into discretionary programs subject to annual congressional budget cutting — got re-elected in Wisconsin….In 2016, Johnson rode Trump’s coattails and the Republican trail blazed by the former governor Scott Walker to a 3.4 point (50.2 to 46.8) victory and swept into office, in large part by running up huge margins in Milwaukee’s predominantly white suburbs. That changed in 2022….Craig Gilbert, a fellow at Marquette Law School and a former Washington bureau chief of The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, conducted a detailed analysis of Wisconsin voting patterns and found that Johnson performed much worse in the red and blue suburbs of Milwaukee than he did six years earlier in 2016. Johnson lost Wauwatosa by 7 points in 2016, then by 37 points in 2022. He won Mequon in Ozaukee County by 28 points in 2016 but only by 6 in 2022. His victory margin in Menomonee Falls in Waukesha County declined from 32 points six years ago to 14 points. So again, how did Johnson win? The simple answer: white rural Wisconsin….In her groundbreaking study of Wisconsin voters, “The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker,” Katherine Cramer, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, prompted a surge of interest in this declining segment of the electorate. She summed up the basis for the discontent among these voters, saying, “It had three elements: (1) a belief that rural areas are ignored by decision makers, including policymakers, (2) a perception that rural areas do not get their fair share of resources and (3) a sense that rural folks have fundamentally distinct values and lifestyles, which are misunderstood and disrespected by city folks.” My bet is on Edsall’s #3.

Edsall adds, “In their 2022 paper “Symbolic Versus Material Concerns of Rural Consciousness in the United States,” Kristin Lunz Trujillo, a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School, and Zack Crowley, a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of Minnesota, sought to determine the key factor driving rural voters to the Republican Party: anger at perceived unfair distribution of resources by government, a sense of being ignored by decision makers or the belief that rural communities have a distinct set of values that are denigrated by urban dwellers….Trujillo and Crowley conclude that “culture differences play a far stronger role in determining the vote than discontent over the distribution of economic resources.” Stands on what they call symbolic issues “positively predict Trump support and ideology while the more material subdimension negatively predicts these outcomes, if at all.”….While rural America has moved to the right, Trujillo and Crowley point out that there is considerable variation: “poorer and/or farming-dependent communities voted more conservative, while amenity- or recreation-based rural economies voted more liberal in 2012 and 2016,” and the “local economies of Republican-leaning districts are declining in terms of income and gross domestic product, while Democratic-leaning districts are improving.” There may be a bifurcation developing between hard-core right-wing and less partisan rural communities, based on demographic change, migration and industrial development. Those with substantial tourist industries, for example, may be more hospitable to Democratic candidates.

As a resident of a rural, southern community, I note that, despite the overall trend of net out-migration from many, if not most rural areas, there are some exceptions, such as boutique and gallery towns and mountain communities, which are attracting nature-loving voters and urban retirees in potentially-significant numbers. Political analysts understandably spotlight broad national trends. but there are victories that can be won in the margins. My congressional district has experienced a 6-point uptick in the percentage received by the Democratic House candidate between 2020 and 2022, although the Democratic tally is still too low to be competitive. The other consideration is that all trends, broad and narrow, eventually flat-line. The issues that probably hurt Democratic candidates in rural areas the most are guns and abortion, the latter being extremely important to influential rural community churches. Gun worship is almost a separate, but equal religion in a political sense. If there is an issue that could help Democrats, it may be that Republican office-holders are very often too cozy with developers and polluters (follow the rural money). This hasn’t mattered much yet; But it may matter more in the future. I’m seeing other signs of post-Covid telecommuters moving in, including a real estate boom, new parking problems, a sudden influx of out-of-state and other county license plates. No doubt, there are other Appalachian and Mountain West congressional districts experiencing similar trends. It’s not that there is huge love for the G.O.P. among voters in these in rural districts; it’s more that they have bought the negative stereotypes of Democrats. I have to wonder if some independent candidates who criticize both parties could help defeat Republicans in some of these districts. In a closely-divided House of Reps, or even the Senate, that could matter.

Brownstein: Biden Bets on the Working-Class

Ronald Brownstein explains “Biden’s Blue Collar Bet: The president hopes to cut many ribbons throughout the next two years” at The Atlantic. An excerpt:

Although Biden also supports an ambitious assortment of initiatives to expand access to higher education, he has placed relatively more emphasis than his predecessors did on improving conditions for workers in jobs that don’t require advanced credentials. That approach is rooted in his belief that the economy can’t function without much work traditionally deemed low-skill, such as home health care and meat-packing, a conviction underscored by the coronavirus pandemic.“One of the things that has really become apparent to all of us is how important to our nation’s economic resiliency many of these jobs are that don’t require college degrees,” Heather Boushey, a member of Biden’s Council of Economic Advisers, told me this week.

Politically, improving economic conditions for workers without advanced degrees is the centerpiece of Biden’s plan to reverse the generation-long Democratic erosion among white voters who don’t hold a college degree—and the party’s more recent slippage among non-college-educated voters of color, particularly Latino men. Biden and his aides are betting that they can reel back in some of the non-college-educated voters drawn to Republican cultural and racial messages if they can improve their material circumstances with the huge public and private investments already flowing from the key economic bills passed during his first two years.

Biden’s hopes of boosting the prospects of workers without college degrees, who make up about two-thirds of the total workforce, rest on a three-legged legislative stool. One bill, passed with bipartisan support, allocates about $75 billion in direct federal aid and tax credits to revive domestic production of semiconductors. An infrastructure bill, also passed with bipartisan support, allocates about $850 billion in new spending over 10 years for the kind of projects Biden celebrated yesterday—roads, bridges, airports, water systems—as well as a national network of charging stations for electric vehicles and expanded access to high-speed internet. The third component, passed on a party-line vote as part of the Inflation Reduction Act, provides nearly $370 billion in federal support to promote renewable electricity production, accelerate the transition to electric vehicles, and retrofit homes and businesses to improve energy conservation.

Brownstein adds that “Biden could be cutting ribbons every week through the 2024 presidential campaign—which would probably be fine with him. Biden rarely seems happier than when he’s around freshly poured concrete, especially if he’s on a podium with local business and labor leaders and elected officials from both parties, all of whom he introduces as enthusiastically (and elaborately) as if he’s toasting the new couple at a wedding. At his core, he remains something like a pre-1970s Democrat, who is most comfortable with a party focused less on cultural crusades than on delivering kitchen-table benefits to people who work with their hands.”

That sounds like a wise strategy all Democrats ought to embrace. But that won’t be easy, as Brownstein notes:

…Biden, with his “Scranton Joe” persona, held out great hopes in the 2020 campaign of reversing that decline with working-class white voters, but he improved only slightly above Hillary Clinton’s historically weak 2016 showing, attracting about one-third of their votes. In 2022, exit polls showed that Democrats remained stuck at that meager level in the national vote for the House of Representatives. In such key swing states as Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Arizona, winning Democratic Senate and gubernatorial candidates ran slightly better than that, as Biden did while carrying those states in 2020. But, again like Biden then, the exit polls found that none of them won much more than two-fifths of non-college-educated white voters, even against candidates as extreme as Doug Mastriano or Kari Lake, the GOP governor nominees in Pennsylvania and Arizona, respectively.

Call it ‘restrained optimism.’ As Brownstein writes, “The Democratic pollster Molly Murphy told me she’s relatively optimistic that Biden’s focus on creating more opportunity for workers without a college degree can bolster the party’s position with them….Yet Murphy’s expectations remain limited. “Just based on the negative arc of the last several cycles,” she said, merely maintaining the party’s current modest level of support with working-class white voters and avoiding further losses would be “a win.” Matt Morrison, the executive director of Working America, an AFL-CIO-affiliated group that focuses on political outreach to nonunion working-class families, holds similarly restrained views, though he told me that economic gains could help the party more with nonwhite blue-collar voters, who are generally less invested in Republican cultural and racial appeals. No matter how strong the job market, Murphy added, Democrats are unlikely to improve much with non-college-educated workers unless inflation recedes by 2024.”

“What’s already clear now,’ Brownstein concludes, ” is how much Biden has bet, both economically and politically, on bolstering the economic circumstances of workers without advanced education by investing literally trillions of federal dollars in forging an economy that again builds more things in America. “I don’t know whether the angry white people in Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin are less angry if we get them 120,000 more manufacturing jobs,” a senior White House official told me, speaking anonymously in order to be candid. “But we are going to run that experiment.”

Political Strategy Notes

At The New Republic, Jason Linkins argues “Rather than follow the Beltway’s cynical damage-control playbook, the president should put on a master class in how to take responsibility for a mistake,’ and writes “There are early indications that Biden’s mishandling of classified documentsis rooted in error rather than corruption or egomania. Unlike Trump, Biden did not spend a lengthy period of time intransigently blowing off authorities, forcing them to carry out a search and seizure of his property; his team immediately fessed up and handed over the documents to the National Archives….That the White House prefers a low-key approach is understandable—unlike Trump, most presidents don’t try to inject themselves into the news cycle every hour of the day. But I think it’s an error. What Biden is facing is a test of mettle, not a pitfall to dodge. Rather than play this matter down, Biden should—within the limitations that are wisely enforced during an ongoing investigation—endeavor to play it up, instead. He should own whatever mistakes led to these classified documents ending up where they shouldn’t have. This is an opportunity to make government ethics great again, and it’s long overdue….Biden should sail over the low bar set by his predecessor by detailing the errors that led to the misplacement of these classified materials and making clear what’s being done to ensure the mistake won’t be repeated….Moments inevitably arise in any presidency when having the trust of the public and the institutions that safeguard the civic interest is critical. Moreover, there is vital capital to be earned by owning our mistakes, and there’s an important distinction that Biden can draw with his political opponents. The president would do well to follow the old adage: Tell the truth—and shame the devil.”

Rick C. Wade explains how “The Democrats’ South Carolina strategy empowers all Black voters” at The Hill: “The Democratic National Committee’s recent decision to restructure the 2024 presidential nominating calendar and put South Carolina — and Black voters — at the beginning of the process is a bold and important step….Black voters in South Carolina account for more than 60 percent of the state’s Democratic turnout and nationally have been the backbone of the Democratic Party, yet they’ve had to wait too long to have a say in the primary process. As President Biden said ahead of the South Carolina primary, “99.9 percent of Black voters” had not had the chance to vote at that point. This calendar puts the national spotlight on South Carolina, which translates to everything from strengthening party infrastructure to stimulating the state economy and ensuring that the concerns of Black voters across South Carolina and America are heard and top of the national agenda….Being first defines how presidential candidates run their campaigns, the promises they make, the voters they talk to, and the issues they focus on….The bottom line is the first test candidates will face under this proposed calendar is that of Black voters. The extent to which the candidate passes the test can fundamentally reshape the priorities of future presidents, the American political system and our country in general.” I doubt making South Carolina the first Democratic primary would leave a lasting negative impression on white working-class voters. Lots of them live in SC also. In fact, it might even help juice the Democratic brand a bit in the south.

From “How the White House plans to target 18 House Republicans from districts Biden won” by Edward-Isaac Dovere at CNN Politics: “In parts of the West Wing and Capitol Hill, they’re known as “The 18” – the 18 House Republicans elected in districts where voters supported President Joe Biden over Donald Trump. His aides are putting together plans to squeeze and shame them in the hopes of peeling off a few key votes over the next two years….To the president and House Democratic leaders, they are the path back to the majority in 2024, and maybe even to some actual governing in between. Democrats are already making plans to pressure these Republicans to break with their party – and let their Biden-supporting voters back home know about it if and when they don’t….The big test will be a showdown over the debt ceiling, which will play out over the spring. But White House congressional liaisons beginning to fan out on Capitol Hill believe they might be able to get beyond the basics and possibly get bills through on Biden’s cancer moonshot, veteran care, the opioid epidemic and mental health – among other items that are being considered as part of an outreach and unity agenda, which may be included in Biden’s State of the Union address next week….White House aides are eying carrots like Oval Office sit-downs, invitations to the president’s box at the Kennedy Center, spots in official delegations overseas. Others are already sharpening sticks, like political ads that are planned to start running back home earlier than ever before with the aim of shaming Republicans who vote with their party rather than peeling off toward Biden….Then there are the Air Force One trips. It’s early still, but White House aides are already teasing the idea of Biden flying on Air Force One into districts where he’s popular – maybe to say thanks for working with him, or maybe to bemoan those who couldn’t join him on common ground….

Dovere continues, “For each bill, Democrats would only need five defections to join them – 218 votes are needed to pass the House bills – and the party is heavily favored to win a race for an open seat in Virginia scheduled for late February, which would add one more vote to their current total of 212 seats. And they don’t think new House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, with his own narrow margins and his loose hold on the speakership, will be able to do much to stop them or punish them – provided they can find ways to force votes on the floor that he may not want….“Given the very Democratic nature of some of these districts, they’re going to have to weigh their political futures against party loyalty on a relatively consistent basis,” said a bemused senior Biden adviser already drawing up plans to pressure The 18. “Given what appears to be a hardening position from the House Republican leadership on how they plan to conduct business, that leadership will be putting their own members between a rock and a hard place.”….The swing voters in these districts, Democrats believe, went with Biden because they’re moderates who don’t like chaos, while the concessions McCarthy made to win his gavel proved that the MAGA wing is empowered in the House Republican majority….“Many Republicans in swing districts talked a good game during their campaigns but folded to the House Republicans’ MAGA agenda as soon as they arrived in DC,” said Rep. Suzan DelBene of Washington, who’s coming in as the new chair of the House Democrats’ campaign arm….White House aides are particularly eying the six Biden districts in New York and five in California currently represented by Republicans. There are enough seats in each of two of the very blue states to give Democrats the majority. Base turnout is always higher with a presidential race on the ballot, but they’re also counting on Biden – if he runs, as most around him currently expect him to – to do well with swing voters, with coattails that can carry them along….But some Democratic operatives are eying an even wider list of Republicans that they can pull the same squeeze-and-shame maneuver on, including South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace, Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher and Iowa Rep. Zach Nunn. Though Biden didn’t win in their districts, he did well there, and they are all members who often look to stress their independence to voters. The Democratic thinking suggests they can be pushed into choosing between joining with them and threats of primaries from their right flank.”

Incremental Economic Renewal that Can Win Moderate Voters

A worthy read for your Friday political fix: “To win in 2024, Democrats must become the party of economic renewal” by Kristian Ramos at The Hill is an exploration of the political feasibility of Democrats embracing liberal economic policies.

Ramos, a senior advisor for Way To Win, writes that “battleground state polling from Way to Win shows that Democrats’ greatest vulnerability heading into 2024 is the economy. The most important issue to voters this past cycle was the economy, and Democrats lost voters who said the economy was a top issue, 62 percent–30 percent.” Ramos adds that voters don’t believe Democrats “have the ability, or the know-how, to deliver economically for the American people. They view Republicans as extreme, but see them as good for the economy, aligned with their priorities on kitchen table issues and willing and able to do what is necessary to deliver for them.”

Ramos notes further that ” a big reason voters have such a negative view of Democrats’ economic record is that voters do not yet connect President Biden’s economic achievements with improvements to their economic well-being. Part of this is because the Infrastructure bill, the IRA, and CHIPS have not yet fully taken effect. It could also be that no one knows what President Biden has done legislatively. ” Also

Seventy-eight percent of voters from exit polling could not name a single thing President Biden had done in the past two years. This is consistent across Black and Latino voters, critical segments of the Democratic base. According to the polling, 67 percent of Black and 78 percent of Latinos voters could not name anything the party or Joe Biden had done to help them. Worse, Black and Latino men’s top issue was the economy, and they were 6 percent and 10 percent more likely to vote for a Republican, respectively. This is especially worrying given that because of the policies of this administration, unemployment is at 50-year lows, and Black and Latino unemployment is currently lower than pre-pandemic levels.

Ramos credits Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), however, for doing a good job of reframing the concept of ‘economic patriotism’ for Democrats:

“The biggest challenge for the country is people think the American dream is slipping away. This is as valid for immigrant families as it is for families who have been here for generations. We need a bold roadmap, a moonshot to bring economic prosperity to places that are not Silicon Valley and New York. The goal is simple; every person must have the ability to have a house, a good-paying job, and meaningful work. We have to be aspirational. We must express people’s desire for a better life and economic security.”

Ramos notes that “Manufacturing is growing domestically, and with the passage of the CHIPS Act, we will see even more domestic production of goods and a lowering of costs for consumers. With the Infrastructure law, over the next couple of years, significant projects will come online, improving people’s lives, creating jobs, and greater prosperity. The Inflation Reduction Act is the single biggest investment in fighting climate change in modern history and will lower health care and energy costs for millions.”

Such incremental reforms may be the sweet spot for Democrats. Big package proposals like “the green new deal” or Hillary Clinton’s health care reform package during her husband’s administration arouse suspicion of a sudden, disruptive roll of the dice that nobody really knows will work. Obamacare, which narrowly passed, was  the exception that proves the rule. Otherwise, you could name other big reform packages that have been enacted in recent years. What you get with big omnibus reform packages is a large, slow-moving target that is easy to cripple.

Incremental reforms, on the other hand, are much easier to sell, defend and tweak. What Democrats can do, but only when they finally get an actual working majority of both houses of congress and the presidency, is accelerate the pace of incremental reforms. The same incremental principle applies to state legislatures.

Looking at health care as an economic issue, for example, ‘Medicare for All’ is a worthy long-term goal. It polls well or badly, depending on how the questions are framed. But on the ground you can only sell it in pieces. You can’t put 850,000 health insurance workers out of business all of a sudden, or even over a few years. And there are zillions of questions consumers have, like “can I keep my doctor?” Gradual expansion of the public option is an easier sell. How about a catastrophic coverage public option for everyone, not just seniors, so nobody loses their home or pension/retirement assets or goes broke to pay for medical expenses? Let the private sector have the rest of medical care, which is a lot — for now.

In his conclusion, Ramos writes, “The reality is Democrats outperform Republicans on nearly every economic metric, and all MAGA Republicans have offered is fighting on divisive social issues…To win, Democrats now have to actually tell that story in ways that meaningfully connect with voters.” Sure, tell the story. But also share a plausible vision for incremental economic renewal.

Political Strategy Notes

At The American Prospect, Robert Kuttner shares some ideas about “Turning the Debt Ceiling Crisis Against McCarthy’s Republicans: Biden needs to play serious hardball, or he will get rolled.” As Kuttner writes, “Biden could announce that he is not going to play the Republicans’ game and relitigate spending that has already been approved by Congress. The Republicans would contend that this breaching of the legislated debt ceiling is illegal, and appeal it to the high court….Over to you, Court originalists. Does the Court want to be responsible for ordering a default on the U.S. Treasury bonds that anchor the world’s financial markets?…The other way for Biden to play the kind of hardball that the situation demands is to emulate Bill Clinton’s successful evisceration of then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1995. Gingrich was the first Republican leader to play games with shutting down the government….When Clinton refused to agree to budget cuts demanded by Gingrich in November 1995, the Speaker threatened not to authorize an increase in the public debt, and forced a shutdown of the government that lasted five days. A second shutdown, beginning December 16, lasted 21 days….But polls suggested that the public blamed the Republicans. It was Gingrich who blinked first, and the episode was the beginning of the end of his Speakership….The lesson for today: By refusing to play, Biden would signal that if Kevin McCarthy wants to tank the world economy by allowing the U.S. to default on Treasury bonds, that’s on him….McCarthy, given his deal with the far-right Freedom Caucus, would not blink first. But the 20 or so moderate Republicans, who were willing to vote for McCarthy as Speaker and accept his rules package, might well decide that enough is enough. Peeling off a few Republicans to vote for an increase in the debt ceiling without crippling cuts would have the further virtue of moving the House closer to a de facto House governing coalition of Democrats and sane Republicans….Both versions of this strategy have risks. But allowing McCarthy to call the tune, forcing disabling budget cuts and humiliating Biden’s presidency, has even greater risks.”

In a Facebook post, Drew Westen, author of “The Political Brain” and founder of Westen Strategies LLC and co-founder of Implicit Strategies, says what he really thinks about Attorney General Merrick Garland’s law enforcement regarding the January 6th coup attempt/riot in the U.S. capitol. An excerpt: “His behavior is never explicable in terms of political or legal reasoning, although he couches it that way and believes his own rationalizations….I wrote about this personality style and why it can be so dangerous in Democratic politics 15 years ago in The Political Brain, years before Garland began obsessively collecting affidavits as the seditionists collected AR 15s….Appeasement in the face of real threat is psychologically motivated complicity, driven by cowardice, whether conscious or unconscious. Appeasement only emboldens a bully or a psychopath, who understands it to be a sign of fear, not virtue. Somehow, two new democracies, Peru and Brazil, knew what to do in the face of sedition. They rounded up the seditionists, including those in high places, and put them where they were no longer dangerous, in prison. In so doing, they not only followed the law but shaped public opinion and frightened co-conspirators and would-be accomplices after the fact, so that the vast majority of Brazilians today, for example, believe one narrative, the truth, that the attack on their institutions was an attack on their democracy that cannot be tolerated. Like other obsessional personalities, Garland is a concrete thinker, who cannot understand meta-messages, particularly meta-messages that send emotional signals. He does not understand how light or no sentences for seditionists after waiting months or years to act sent the signal that sedition was not a serious crime, and that allowing them to create an alternative narrative for two years was not only going to split the country in two but would put the seditionists in charge of a House of Congress that would then investigate the DOJ’s investigation of them. Had he been appointed to the Supreme Court, he would no doubt have been the swing vote with the conservatives half the time out of a false sense of “fairness.” Fairness to fascism is no virtue. #NoBallsNoBrains.”

In “Biden world giddy at MTG, Gosar, and Boebert being placed on Oversight” at Politico, Christopher Cadelago, Jordain Carney, Nicholas Wu and Jonathan Lemire write: “House Republicans’ installation of some of their most incendiary conservatives on the Oversight Committee is sparking an unexpected feeling inside the White House: unbridled glee….The panel tasked with probing Biden policies and actions, as well as the president’s own family, will be stocked with some of the chamber’s biggest firebrands and die-hard Trumpists — including Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) — ideal figureheads for a White House eager to deride the opposition party as unhinged….No administration wants to feel the heat of congressional investigations, and Biden’s team is no different. But privately, the president’s aides sent texts to one another with digital high fives and likened their apparent luck to drawing an inside straight. One White House ally called it a “political gift.”….The jubilation was tempered, somewhat, by Democrats on the Hill who expressed more apprehension about the posting….“The English language runs out of adjectives to describe the debasement, cynical debasement of the whole process these appointments represent,” Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), a senior Oversight panel member, said in an interview. “And it is, I think, a huge black mark on Kevin McCarthy….“[W]ith these members joining the Oversight Committee,” White House oversight spokesperson Ian Sams said in a statement, “it appears that House Republicans may be setting the stage for divorced-from-reality political stunts, instead of engaging in bipartisan work on behalf of the American people.” I think the high-fivers are right. Degrading the Oversight Committee that much is an unexpected gift to Dems, who will surely make the most of it.

So how are Americans feeling about U.S. military support of The Ukraine? Cooper Burton and Zoha Qamar explore public opinion on the topic at FiveThirthyEight, and write: “December polling from Morning Consult found that only 41 percent of voters were “very concerned” about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, down from 58 percent who said the same in March of last year. The same poll showed a decline in the share of voters who felt that the U.S. has a responsibility to protect Ukraine from Russia, from 47 percent in March to 40 percent in December. …Americans are still largely supportive of some sort of aid to Ukraine, though. In a preelection November poll from TIPP Insights, 68 percent of registered voters said it’s important for the new Congress to direct assistance to Ukraine. And in a YouGov/CBS News poll released earlier this week, 64 percent of adults said they preferred their representatives to support U.S. aid to Ukraine rather than oppose it….A Beacon Research/Shaw & Co. poll conducted in December for Fox News showed that 40 percent of registered voters felt the U.S. was doing “about the right amount” to help Ukraine. An additional 26 percent thought it should be doing less; only 29 percent felt the U.S. should be doing more. The Morning Consult poll showed similar numbers, but it also showed that support for aiding Ukraine has slipped since the spring: In March, only 12 percent of registered voters felt the U.S. was doing too much to halt the invasion, but that number had risen to 24 percent in December….The cooler support for more aid may be due to a growing partisan divide on the issue. In the YouGov/CBS News poll, a narrow majority of Republicans (52 percent) wanted their representative in Congress to oppose aid, whereas 81 percent of Democrats wanted theirs to support it. A mid-December poll from CivicScience also showed a wide partisan gap, with 83 percent of Democrats supporting military aid to Ukraine versus 53 percent of Republicans. At the beginning of the war, though, support among Republicans was almost as high as it was among Democrats: In March, another YouGov/CBS News poll showed that 75 percent of Republicans and 80 percent of Democrats supported sending weapons and supplies to Ukraine.”

Turnout vs. Persuasion in NC: Real Or False Choice?

For a perceptive look at Democratic possibilities in NC, check out “To win statewide in NC, there’s one thing Democrats should change” by Ned Barnett at The (Raleigh) News & Observer. As Barnett writes:

There’s a reason Democrats struggle to win statewide elections in North Carolina and there’s a way they can do better. That’s the upshot of an analysis of voter turnout in North Carolina’s 2022 Senate race by Michael Bitzer, a Catawba College political scientist. It should be required reading for Democrats as they approach the 2024 race for governor. In the Senate race, Democrats nominated former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley and Republicans chose U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, a backer of gun rights and opponent of abortion and LGBTQ rights who voted to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. The contest looked promising for the Democrats: a respected jurist against a reactionary congressman, yet Budd won with 50.5 percent of the vote to Beasley’s 47.2 percent.

Democrats blamed their defeat on a lack of national Democratic funding that resulted in Beasley being heavily outspent by outside groups supporting Budd. That was part of it, but Bitzer’s analysis shows the main reason: Poor turnout among core Democratic groups. “For Black/African Americans, their turnout rate was nearly 10 points below the state’s turnout rate, while white turnout was 7 points ahead,” Bitzer said in his analysis. He added that participation by voters under 40 – a key to Democrats’ successes in other states – was “abysmally below the state’s turnout rate.”

This raises strategic questions for what may be the Democrats best shot at a swing state: Should NC Democrats invest more in mobilizing Black turnout, or focus more on appealing to rural voters? Or is that a false choice because winning Democratic campaigns have to do both?

Barnett continues, explaining “Bitzer notes that Democratic turnout has not matched Republican turnout in any midterm or presidential election since 2008. That trend matters as Democrats look ahead to 2024. The early favorites to face off for governor are Democratic Attorney General Josh Stein and Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson. If that’s the case, it’s something of a replay of the Senate race: A prominent and politically cautious legal veteran vs. a very conservative firebrand. The result could be the same, too, unless Democrats address the voting intensity gap they have with Republicans. Democrats who water-down their progressive positions in hopes of cutting their rural and suburban losses also diminish their support among core Democratic groups.”

Of course many Democratic strategists argue that the opposite is true: Don’t waste resources on Black midterm turnout when the party needs to peel off  just a small share of the rural vote. Dems may have a  better chance of taking away about 2 percent of those who voted for Ted Budd against Beasley in NC’s midterm senate race and persuading them to vote Democratic than they do of enhancing Black midterm turnout.

It should be easier to reach Black voters, most of whom are concentrated in NC’s large cities. And it is always  tough for Dems to reach rural voters. Democratic candidates have to put in more time to reach rural voters who are more scattered. However, NC’s ‘Research Triangle‘ does include a large concentration of educated and more liberal white voters.

The lessons of the Georgia flip of 2020 may not be applicable in NC because (a.) NC has a smaller percentage of Black residents (about 1 out of 5 compared to GA’s 1 out of 3), and (b.) NC doesn’t have GA’s election activists and (c.) Donald Trump didn’t fubar NC’s GOP.

In addition, Beasley was a really good candidate with impressive credentials, and may have done as well as any Democrat could have in NC’s cities. Barnett adds,

Pope “Mac” McCorkle, a professor at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy and a veteran North Carolina political consultant, thinks Stein should stay the middle course. While Democrats haven’t won a statewide federal race since 2008, he said, they have won seven of the last eight gubernatorial elections. And Stein has won two statewide elections for attorney general. “That’s nothing to sneeze at,” McCorkle said. “He didn’t win big, but he still won.”….A Democratic strategy of trying to reduce losses in Republican areas is also questioned by Chris Cooper, a Western Carolina University political scientist. He said Stein “won’t be able to pull the Roy Cooper magic trick” of drawing votes from rural counties. “Stein’s path,” he said, “will be to double down on urban counties.”

Barnett nonetheless concludes, “A key message for Democratic candidates is that trying to reach unreachable rural and conservative-leaning voters invites failing to inspire core Democratic voters. In short, to win as a Democrat, run as one.”

But the question remains, for state-wide races, is it really all that impossible to do both a first-rate job of turning out Black voters and also persuading 2 percent of rural GOP voters to flip towards the Democrats? Or maybe just do a little bit better at meeting both challenges.

Political Strategy Notes

Jared Gans reports at The Hill: “The public’s party preferences were almost evenly split in 2022 after years of Democrats having a slight advantage among U.S. adults….A Gallup poll released on Thursday found that 45 percent of adults consider themselves Republicans or Republican-leaning independents, while 44 percent consider themselves Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents….The Democratic Party has led the GOP in the poll by at least three points since 2011, when the two parties were tied. Gallup found a plurality of adults, 41 percent, identify as independents. Only 28 percent identify as Democrats and 28 percent identify as Republicans….Gallup said in its analysis that the increase in independent identification seems to have been driven by members of Generation X and millennials identifying as such. About half of the millennials surveyed and more than 40 percent of Generation X said they identify as independents, while less than a third of older generations said the same….The results were based on 10,736 U.S. adults from 11 separate polls from January to December 2022. The margin of error was plus or minus 1 percentage point.”

What’s the matter with Florida (Democrats)? Some insights from “Florida Democratic Party chair quits after disastrous midterms” by Gary Fineout and Matt Dixon at Politico: “Diaz’s departure came after Florida Democrats suffering some of their worst losses ever, including the re-election of Gov. Ron DeSantis by 19 points over Charlie Crist, the election of a supermajority in the Florida Legislature and the flipping of several counties including once-reliable blue Miami-Dade County….“During my tenure, I hoped to address these issues, and build a united party without silos, focused exclusively on our purpose- to elect Democrats,” Diaz wrote in his statement, first reported by the Florida Phoenix. “Instead, I found obstacles to securing the resources and a long-standing, systemic and deeply entrenched culture resistant to change; one where individual agendas are more important than team; where self-interest dominates and bureaucracies focus on self-preservation.”….There were also signs of dissatisfaction heading into the crucial 2022 elections, with many Democrats privately whispering that Diaz appeared “missing in action” as the Republicans caught — and then zoomed past Democrats in voter registration numbers….State Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando) said “there is close to no Democratic Party in Florida,” which is what led her to launch her own voter registration and organizing group, People Power for Florida. “I wasn’t going to wait for the party to step up and I’m glad I didn’t. We — as individual Democrats — are the party, and we have to get back to basics and think long term if we’re going to win this state for everyday people.”….Diaz’s lengthy missive announcing his resignation savaged national Democratic organizations that raised millions from Florida donors but did not spend that money in the state.”

Fineout and Dixon continue, “He also took aim at legislative campaign organizations, including the one run by Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book for focusing “exclusively” on their candidates and not helping the party….It is impossible to build or ‘rebuild’ an organization without resources,” Diaz wrote. “Huge sums of money continue to be outside the control of the FDP. When reflecting on our disappointments during the past 20 years, one must follow the money. Who received the investments? What was the return on these investments?” ….During the 2018 midterms, for example, national Democratic groups spent nearly $60 million in Florida, a number that dropped to under $2 million in 2022….Diaz also contended that the party did not have an effective message to voters and had difficulty finding volunteers to help the party: “We have plenty of social media activists, not roll-up-your-sleeves volunteers. We communicate virtually, not personally.”….On messaging he wrote: “Campaigns are about winning and winning requires hard work and resources. No amount of hard work or resources can overcome a bad message, a message that fails to connect with people where they are. The point of messaging is to win votes. You do that by not prompting ideological polarization.”….“While the Florida Democrats seem to be in perpetual rebuilding mode, after a tough series of election cycles, it was time for a change in chair,” Book said. ”But to regain what has been lost, the changes cannot being or end there — and Manny Diaz cannot be used as a scapegoat for what has transpired….One person didn’t get us into this mess and one person can’t get us out,” she said.”

From “Biden’s sudden centrist push on immigration‘ by Stef W. Knight at Axios: “Zoom in: The administration deployed a White House address and a visit to El Paso, all while House Republicans readied for investigations into the administration’s handling of the border.

  • “I think on this issue, he is shifting to where a lot of us have been wanting him to go. He has shifted to the center,” Rep. Henry Cuellar, a moderate border Democrat from Texas, told Axios following his trip to the El Paso border with Biden.
  • Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), who also accompanied the president to the border in her district, agreed last week signaled a shift in strategy.
  • Escobar told Axios she thinks it is the right approach and that some of her more concerned colleagues are coming around.

Between the lines: Immigration has long been a political minefield — and the administrationhas struggled to politically address the record numbers of border crossings.

….The big picture: Biden embraced many of the priorities of progressive immigration advocates during the 2020 presidential election.

  • He made sweeping promises to end several Trump policies, pursue legislation to provide a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants and end for-profit immigrant detention.
  • Since taking office, he has followed through on many of those goals and has repeatedly called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
  • But a significant uptick in border crossings, a shift in migrant nationalities and vast logistical issues faced by federal agencies as well as border states have helped push him to make a more public stance on his new enforcement policies on the border ahead of 2024.

The bottom line: Some see a change but aren’t convinced the new policies are enough.”

Political Strategy Notes

From Thomas B. Edsall’s latest New York Times opinion column: “Stan Greenberg, a Democratic pollster, suggested in an email that the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturning Roe v. Wade was a crucial factor in the escalation of conflict within Republican ranks. This split became evident within weeks of the decision in the abortion rights vote cast by a majority of the electorate in Kansas, a red state, in an August referendum. In the Kansas governor’s contest, “moderate Republicans rebelled against an extreme pro-life, anti-tax, antigovernment conservative, allowing Democrats to win the governorship,” Greenberg wrote….Polling conducted by Democracy Corps, Greenberg said, shows that “moderates are Republicans because of race and immigration, but they are more pro-choice and pro-A.C.A. (the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare), and they are providing a base of voters and support for Republican leaders who are starting to shake up the party.”….During the current session of Congress, Greenberg wrote, “I bet that there will be 10 to 20 Republicans who will work with Democrats to pass important legislation. And they will be empowered by the state examples and the perception that McCarthy is just in the pocket of the Tea Party and Trump Republicans.”

Edsall also notes some trends toward GOP moderation at the state level, including: “At the start of this year, Derek Merrin — a hard-edged anti-abortion conservative supportive of so-called right-to-work laws — was assured victory in his bid to become speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives….Merrin had won majority support from the 67-member Republican caucus in the 99-member Ohio House. His ascent would have marked a significant shift to the right in a state Republican Party known traditionally for its centrism….On Jan. 3, however, when the full Ohio House met to pick a speaker, Merrin was defeated by a bipartisan coalition of 32 Democrats and 22 Republicans, a rarity in this polarized era. The coalition supported a less conservative, less confrontational Republican, Jason Stevens, who told the House after his victory, “I pledge to respect and to work with each and every one of us to address the many concerns of our state.”….Let’s look at a third state, Pennsylvania — where the determination of control in the state House of Representatives awaits the results of special elections for three vacancies. Here, enough Republicans joined with Democrats in a bipartisan vote on Jan. 3 to make Mark Rozzi, a centrist Democrat, speaker of the House….“The commonwealth that is home to Independence Hall will now be home to this commonwealth’s first independent speaker of the House,” Rozzi told his colleagues after the vote. “I pledge my allegiance and my loyalty to no interest in this building, to no interest in our politics. I pledge my loyalty to the people of the commonwealth.”…In Ohio and Pennsylvania, the House speaker can, with some restrictions, set the legislative agenda.”

At FiveThirtyEight, Alex Samuels ponders “What Will New Leadership In Congress Mean For Democrats?,” and writes: “House Democrats officially elected New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries to be their leader this past weekend, coalescing around a fresher face as the new Republican majority took control. The new top three leaders will consist of Jeffries, Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark, who will serve as the new minority whip, and California Rep. Pete Aguilar, who will chair the Democratic caucus….While all of these changes are noteworthy, Jeffries, in particular, makes history as the first Black politician to lead any major party in Congress. At 52, he also marks a stark generational shift for House Democratic leadership following two decades under Nancy Pelosi, who is leaving the position at 82 years old….Jeffries still has a choice to make: Will he use his new mantle to advocate for more progressive policies or continue the unspoken tradition of past rising Black political leaders and move more toward the middle?…And while he’s more liberal than most fellow House members, according to DW-NOMINATE, a political-science metric that uses roll-call votes to measure the ideology of members of Congress, Jeffries has tried to assert his independence from the party’s left wing, saying in 2021, “There will never be a moment where I bend the knee to hard-left democratic socialism.” Jeffries is clearly not a guy who is going to die on any ideological hill. But his bell-ringer speech debut as leader of the House Democrats made it clear he is also not a guy who is going to take any guff from the Republican majority. It’s a pretty good look for House Dems.

Looking ahead to the 2023 governor’s races,  J. Miles Coleman observes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball “While it’s easy to begin looking towards the 2024 election cycle, 3 states will have gubernatorial contests this year…. In Kentucky, Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear remains personally popular, but he will be running in a red state with a large GOP bench….Louisiana and Mississippi should be easier contests for Republicans. Term-limited Gov. John Bel Edwards (D-LA) will be hard for Democrats to replace, while Mississippi, where Democrats have not won a gubernatorial contest this century, will also be an uphill fight for them….The initial ratings for these 3 races are Leans Democratic for Kentucky, Safe Republican for Mississippi, and Likely Republican for Louisiana….Of the 3 states seeing governors races this year, Kentucky will likely see the most vigorous 2-party competition. Four years ago, Kentucky voters ousted an unpopular governor from a popular party. This year, the Bluegrass State will weigh whether to keep a popular governor from an unpopular party….Though the status of abortion in Kentucky is being settled in the courts, from a purely electoral perspective, the anti-Amendment 2 vote may provide something of a template for a Beshear win this year. The state’s 2 largest counties, Louisville’s Jefferson and Lexington’s Fayette, both voted over 70% against the amendment — in 2019, Beshear himself received about two-thirds of the vote in each of those large counties. (Those are the pockets of dark blue on the map.) The 3 northernmost counties, which are in Cincinnati’s orbit, also voted, in aggregate, against Amendment 2. Beshear’s overperformance in northern Kentucky was key to his 2 previous statewide wins. It is hard to transfer every element of a referendum to an actual partisan contest, but a similar vote in Kansas last summer presaged Gov. Laura Kelly’s (D-KS) victory in another red state….Considering the governor’s personal popularity and the potential for uncertainty in the Republican primary, we are starting Beshear off as a slight favorite and calling the Kentucky contest Leans Democratic.” Coleman also provides a detailed analysis of the Guv races in MS and LA.