washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

Federal, state and local Democratic candidates must respond strongly to the horrific killing of George Floyd by a policeman in Minneapolis. Democratic Pesidential frontrunner Joe Biden’s comment is a good start: “George Floyd’s life mattered. It mattered as much as mine. It mattered as much as anyone’s in this country. At least it should have…“It cuts at the very heart of our sacred belief that all Americans are equal in rights and in dignity, and it sends a very clear message to the black community and to black lives that are under threat every single day.” Politico’s Quint Forgey reports, further, “Biden on Wednesday compared the circumstances surrounding Floyd’s arrest to the 2014 death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who was placed in a chokehold by police in New York and whose final plea — “I can’t breathe” — evolved into a rallying cry for protests against police brutality…“Watching [Floyd’s] life be taken in the same manner, echoing nearly the same words … is a tragic reminder that this was not an isolated incident, but a part of an ingrained, systemic cycle of injustice that still exists in this country,” Biden said…We have to get to the root of all this. You know, we have to ensure that the Floyd family receive the justice they’re entitled to,” Biden said. “And as a nation … we have to work relentlessly to eradicate these systemic failures that inflict so much damage on not just one family, one community, but on the people of color all across this nation.”

FromRevealed: conservative group fighting to restrict voting tied to powerful dark money network” by Sam Levine and Anna Massogliaat The Guardian: “This story was reported in collaboration with OpenSecrets…A powerful new conservative organization fighting to restrict voting in the 2020 presidential election is really just a rebranded group that is part of a dark money network already helping Donald Trump’s unprecedented effort to remake the US federal judiciary, the Guardian and OpenSecrets reveal…The organization, which calls itself the Honest Elections Project, seemed to emerge out of nowhere a few months ago and started stoking fears about voter fraud. Backed by a dark money group funded by rightwing stalwarts like the Koch brothers and Betsy DeVos’ family, the Honest Elections Project is part of the network that pushed the US supreme court picks Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, and is quickly becoming a juggernaut in the escalating fight over voting rights…it has also been extremely active in the courts, filing briefs in favor of voting restrictions in Nevada, Virginia, Texas, Wisconsin and Minnesota, among other places, at times represented by lawyers from the same firm that represents Trump. By having a hand in both voting litigation and the judges on the federal bench, this network could create a system where conservative donors have an avenue to both oppose voting rights and appoint judges to back that effort.”

If anyone was foolish enough to think that Trump couldn’t get much more hypocrtical, they should check out Kevin Liptak’s “Trump could have voted in person in Florida this year but chose not to” at CNN Politics, which points out: “As President Donald Trump rolled to his West Palm Beach, Florida, golf course on the morning of March 7, his motorcade filed past a library where local officials were preparing for the first day of in-person early voting in Florida’s presidential primary contest…Trump didn’t stop at that site or any of the 15 other early voting locations in Palm Beach County that were opening that day. By the time the library opened for voting at 10 a.m., Trump had already arrived at his golf course — whose main entrance is across Summit Boulevard from the library. When he departed the course hours later, he didn’t stop to vote either…Trump would drive past the library four more times that weekend without dropping in to cast a ballot. Instead, he voted by mail — the very option he has begun railing against as governors seek to expand remote voting amid the coronavirus pandemic.”

Thomas B. Edsall observes in his NYT column, “The partisan fight over the lockdown has shown us, once again, how differently the choices government leaders make look to different constituencies of our society. Whether you emphasize the imperative to save lives or the consequences of economic devastation, with more than 36 million unemployed as of May 14, determines what you think the proper response to the outbreak should be, to a degree that is astonishing even in our deeply polarized society.” Edsall notes that “two Pew surveys, one conducted April 7-12, the other April 29-May 5” indicate “that in a matter of three weeks, Republican voters shifted from a modest majority (51-48) concerned that the restrictions would be lifted too quickly, to a similarly modest majority (53-47) concerned that the restrictions will not be lifted quickly enough. Democrats, on the contrary, went from a decisive majority who feared (81-18) that restrictions would be lifted too quickly to an even stronger concern (87-13).”

If you were wondering which states had “The most expensive 2020 Senate races so far, by ad spending,” the NBC News Political Unit has the skinny: “Here are the top ten most expensive Senate races so far, by ad spending:

  1. Maine: $25.6 million
  2. North Carolina: $20.9 million
  3. Iowa: $13.3 million
  4. Michigan: $13 million
  5. Kentucky: 12.4 million
  6. Georgia (special election for the seat vacated by former Sen. Johnny Isakson): $10.1 million
  7. Arizona: $9.3 million
  8. Alabama: $6.1 million
  9. Colorado: $5.4 million
  10. Texas: $4.2 million”

The NBC News Political Unit also flagged some upcomming “Senate primaries and run-offs to watch,” including these Democratic contests:

June 2

  • Iowa Senate Democratic Primary: Who will take on GOP Sen. Joni Ernst in the fall? Theresa Greenfield is the favorite, but the Des Moines Register has endorsed rival Mike Franken, and there are three other candidates on the ballot, too. If Greenfield doesn’t get to 35 percent support, the nomination will be decided by a party convention later in June.
  • Montana Senate Democratic Primary: How much strength will Gov. Steve Bullock show in his likely lockup of the nomination to face GOP Sen. Steve Daines?

June 9

  • Georgia Senate Democratic Primary: Former special House election candidate Jon Ossoff competes against former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, former Democratic lieutenant governor nominee Sarah Riggs Amico, and others for the chance to take on GOP Sen. David Perdue. If no one gets 50 percent, there’s a runoff August 11.
  • South Carolina Senate Democratic Primary: Jaime Harrison hopes for a strong showing as he preps for an expected run against GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham.

June 23

  • Kentucky Senate Democratic Primary: Well-funded Democrat Amy McGrath wants a solid performance in the primary as she prepares a general election run against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

June 30 

  • Colorado Senate Democratic Primary: Former governor and onetime White House hopeful John Hickenlooper is the heavy favorite against progressive and past Senate and House candidate former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff to take on vulnerable GOP Sen. Cory Gardner.

July 14 

  • Maine Senate Democratic Primary: State House Speaker Sara Gideon is the favorite for the nod to take on vulnerable GOP Sen. Susan Collins.
  • Texas Senate Democratic Run-off: Deep-pocketed M.J. Hegar is fighting against longtime state Sen. Royce West before taking on Republican Sen. John Cornyn.

August 4 

  • Arizona Senate Democratic Primary: Mark Kelly has to dispatch a challenge from his left in order to face Republican Sen. Martha McSally in one of the cycle’s marquee races.

At The Nation Jeet Heer explains why “Mitch McConnell Is Even Worse Than Trump,” and writes, “As grotesque as Trump is, McConnell is worse. McConnell has been around longer and has helped create the conditions that made Trump’s rise possible. McConnell’s obstruction during the Obama years, including blocking the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland, contributed to the demoralization of the Democratic base and the larger feeling in America that Washington is hopelessly gridlocked. In 2016 Trump skillfully exploited the anxiousness created by gridlock and sold himself as the outsider who can fix it…Democrats are eager to defeat Trump in the fall election. But they should bear in mind that McConnell is the bigger villain. The goal should be to make sure McConnell loses his position as majority leader. Even sweeter would be if he were ejected from his seat.” McConnell has declined to check Trump’s worst instincts all along. He is more responsible for the current gridlock and the death of bipartisanship than any other individual. Those who want to contribute to his defeat, click here.

“There’s a lot for a political party to like about absentee voting. As a get-out-the-vote matter, once someone’s submitted an absentee ballot, that’s one fewer voter whom the party has to get to the polls,” David Shorr and Kathleen Sullivan write in “WI Dems Acted Quickly To Spur Voter Turnout In April. Can They Maintain That Momentum This Fall? If the Wisconsin Democratic Party truly can learn and adapt on the fly, as it seems to have done in April, it could be a game-changer for the state and even the country” at Talking Points Memo. “And because absentee ballot requests are public, the transparency of the process makes it possible for a political party to track each step: from the voter’s initial request, to the local clerk sending out a ballot, to the clerk ultimately receiving a filled-out ballot. This permits the party to do multiple “touches”: to check in with voters and remind them of key races and issues, all while urging submission of a completed ballot and offering information that can assist in overcoming obstacles to the process…Tracking ballots as they’re requested and returned also can help the party make course-corrections on voter turnout methods and messages while they count — focusing and re-focusing on where efforts can be most fruitful…If the Wisconsin Democratic Party truly can learn and adapt on the fly, as it seems to have done in April, it could be a game-changer for the state and even the country. ”


Political Strategy Notes

At The Cook Politial Report, Amy Walter addresses the critical challenge Democrats will be facing in November: “So, which of these things— the way he has dealt with individual issues like health care, COVID or the economy or the way he has conducted himself as president — will be the most important for swing voters in November?…The challenge in answering that question is that we really have no idea which one of these things is going to be dominating our attention this fall. Will we be dealing with a ‘second wave’ of COVID infections, overstressed hospitals and climbing death rates? If so, it’s hard to see how Trump’s handling of the crisis and health care won’t be at the top of the priority list for voters. But, what if we have actually been through the worst of it? If that’s the case, it’s easy to see that efforts to revive the economy will be the topic that is getting the most attention.”

In his article, “The False Dichotomy” at Current Affairs, Nathan J. Robinson beings some needed clarity to the discussion of economic policy during the pandemic: “The United States has done an absolutely abysmal job of protecting people’s employment. The “paycheck protection program” has been an administrative nightmare, funneling money to companies that don’t need it and saddling small businesses with new debt. The government could have simply paid salaries during the crisis, but a choice was made not to do this, in part because people in government have a pathological hatred of “handouts” and would rather other people die needlessly by the thousands than give an inch on their ideology. Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, for example, said that there is simply “not enough money” to help people through the crisis. This is false; the U.S. government prints its own money. What he is saying is not that there is not enough money, but that he personally does not want the government to spend the money. And instead of giving a reason (the reason is free market Social Darwinist ideology that sees helping the vulnerable as rewarding weakness) he has to pretend it is impossible…If we were a sensible country, what we would instead be asking is: How do we stay locked down as long as public health experts think is necessary, while mitigating the economic consequences?”

David Atkins makes the case that “We Need to Speak Honestly About the GOP’s Evolution Into a Conspiracy Cult” at The Washington Monthly: “Unfortunately, the modern Republican Party’s abdication of seriousness, good faith and reality-based communications or policy-making has stretched even the most open-minded analyst’s capacity for forced balance. Donald Trump’s own inability to string together coherent or consistent thoughts has led to a bizarre normalization of his statements in the traditional media, as journalists unconsciously try to fit his rambling, spontaneous utterances into a conventional framework…Go to any conservative event and you’ll notice a shift from even the raucous detached weirdness of Tea Party rallies. They feel less like political events than cult rallies. Cult experts like Steven Hassan have taken note of this, calling it exactly what it is: a cult built around manufactured realities, shared grievances and us-against-them insular extremism. The increasing dependence of Republican politicians on a shrinking, embattled white evangelical base already given over to faith-based belief systems and racism-tinged “city on a hill” ideology has only exacerbated the phenomenon…It’s long past time for even the venerable pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post to start calling this what it is, and stop normalizing it as standard partisanship. It is deeply dangerous in a democracy whose constitution functionally guarantees a two-party system, for one of those two parties to become a conspiracy cult.

Much of the recent buzz about Biden’s likely running mate choice centers on Sen. Elizabeth Warren. At CNN Politics Greg Krieg and Dan Merica do a good job of explaining why Warren would add policy gravitas and progressive cred to the Democratic ticket. They point out that she is the leading choice of Sanders supporters, and that’s a bridge Democrats will need in November. But Krieg and Merica don’t address the downside risk — that Warren joining the ticket would likely cost Democrats a much-needed U.S. Senate seat, since Massachusetss has a Republican Governor who would pick her replacement, at last for a while. And it is unclear what effect Biden picking Warren would have on African American voter turnout for the Democratic ticket, also a significant concern.

Charlie Cook discusses “What Keeps Democrats Up at Night,” also at The Cook Political Report, and notes, “Democrats risk a perception of being one-dimensionally pro-lockdown, as if reopening was a simple matter of throwing a giant national on-off switch, an exclusive focus on public health above everything else, suggesting that the abilities of families to get back to work or have a life is of secondary or tertiary interest. While it is certainly true that economic well-being cannot be restored without addressing the more immediate health challenge of the coronavirus, the reality is that all Americans are not similarly situated. A one-size-fits-all policy for parts of the country or even entire states strikes some as arbitrary…The danger in both small town and rural America, as well as among working-class whites, is that this can play into a form of grievance and identity politics that could tar the Democratic Party as caring only about those who live in or near cities and along the coasts.”

“A federal judge on Sunday dismantled Florida’s restrictive felon voting rights law in a ruling that could open the door to hundreds of thousands of new voters being added to rolls just ahead of the 2020 presidential election,” Gary Fineout reports at Politico. “U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle declared key portions of the state’s felon voting law unconstitutional, ordering the state to put in place a new process that would help people register to vote in the state…Hinkle’s ruling could lead to a major addition to the state’s voting rolls just months before the election in the battleground state…The decision comes nearly a year after the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature passed the law that requires people with felony convictions to pay all outstanding court debts in order be eligible to vote. Legislators passed the bill after voters approved Amendment 4 to the state constitution, which aimed to end the state’s lifetime ban on voting for most ex-felons…Hinkle’s ruling did not completely strike down the law, but the judge asserted that requiring people with felony convictions to pay off costs and fees violated the U.S. Constitution’s ban on poll taxes.”

Politico’s Holly Otterbein reports on a warning for Democrats from Pennsylvania: “Pennsylvania could determine the presidency. But it might not be clear for days who won the state on Nov. 3…Election officials throughout the critical battleground, which is implementing no-excuse mail-in voting for the first time ever amid a pandemic, say they are unlikely to finish counting those ballots the night of the general election…Less than two weeks away fromPennsylvania’s primary, some state election officials said they lack the funding and staff needed to handle the massive influx of mail-in ballots they’ve received for that race. They also said the fact that they legally can’t start counting those ballots until the morning of Election Day is complicating matters. In addition to delaying a final tally, the chaos and confusion could sow distrust ahead of the general election and give fodder to those seeking to discredit its results…“We don’t just have a perfect storm. We have perfect storms,” said Republican Al Schmidt, one of the three Philadelphia city commissioners who oversee elections here. “We have new voting technology. We have an election reform that pushed back all the deadlines. And we have mail-in ballots and the pandemic.””

At The Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky warns, “There was a terrifying piece in the Times on Sunday laying out all the different moves he could pull to steal the election that his opponents are war-gaming to prepare for and counter. One little nugget from it: Trump could issue orders that impact cities in battleground states like “declaring a state of emergency, deploying the National Guard or forbidding gatherings of more than 10 people.”…Everyone knows he’ll cheat. Even his supporters know he’ll cheat. His cheating is one of the things they love about him…Here’s one of the scenarios, with Tomasky’s comments: “Imagine, first, an Electoral College tie, 269-269. Yes, it can happen. Under the 12th Amendment, a tie goes to the House, which votes for the next president. Easy-peasy, right? The Democrats control the House, so President Biden, your day has come…Not so fast. First of all, it’s not the current Congress that votes, it’s the next one, the one the nation will elect on Nov. 3 (yes, I’m correct about this). OK, but that Congress is still likely to be Democratic, so what’s the problem? Here’s the problem. The 435 members of the House don’t vote as individuals. They vote as state delegations, each delegation getting one vote. That’s right. So for this vote, Lynne Cheney (Wyoming’s lone legislator) will have a voting power equal to that of the 45 California Democrats (and seven Republicans). Let that sink in. Cheney’s vote on this matter would carry more than 50 times the weight of Nancy Pelosi’s.”

On a more optimistic note, Tomasky also reports “A Surprising Sign of a Democratic Revival in Ohio” and observes: Some numbers from this year’s primary suggest—I don’t want to go too hard here; suggest—that something very interesting might be happening in the Buckeye State, and it’s not good news for Team Orange.” Tomasky notes that Democrats did much better than expected in  Ohio’s April primaries,  including Democrats requesting more absentee ballots in a historically-Republican district (OH-12) and “8,800 R to D switchers.”  Tomasky notes also that “Turnout in the Democratic primary last month was higher than Republican primary turnout for the first time since 2008. And it was a lot higher—more than 860,000 votes to about 680,000.”


Political Strategy Notes

In her CNN  Opinion article, “Democrats can’t keep ignoring this vital campaign issue,” Jen Psaki, White House communications director during the Obama administration, writes, “Few Democrats want to talk about the possibility of a liberal vacancy. After all, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the oldest justice at age 87, is an icon who broke through gender barriers to become one of the most influential and committed progressive voices on the Supreme Court in history. As a proud owner of a “Notorious RBG” shirt, I get it. But remember, she and Justice Stephen Breyer, another liberal member of the court in his 80s, cannot be justices forever…And if Republicans are talking about this, Democrats should be, too…I was the communications director in the White House when then-President Barack Obama nominated Garland. We naively thought that someone who had been confirmed to the DC Court of Appeals with 76 votes in the Senate would face some opposition — but would ultimately be confirmed…But Democrats should also turn that bitterness into action — and take a lesson from Trump and McConnell, making the next Supreme Court vacancy a centerpiece of the 2020 election. Unlike in 2016, when the Garland nomination was not mentioned during the Democratic National Convention, it should get top billing this year.”

Psaki continues, “Democrats should be clear that confirmation of another Trump judge could be the death knell of the Affordable Care Act, which Trump is currently asking the Supreme Court to overturn. In other words, they should make this vote the 2020 version of the ACA-repeal votes that contributed to the downfall of so many Republican members of Congress in 2018…Anyone voting to confirm a Trump nominee is voting to kick tens of millions of Americans off their health care in the middle of a pandemic that’s reminding families everywhere how important access to care really is…And Democrats should not let Senate decorum get in the way. It’s basic campaign 101 — when a candidate is down, you don’t let up. You deliver the clear knockout punch…Finally, Democrats can’t hem and haw for weeks. Democratic Senate candidates should announce the stakes of this election immediately and begin to mobilize grassroots opposition, putting vulnerable Senate Republicans in the hot seat.”

At The Cook Political Report, Charlie Cook writes that “While it is still a bit more likely than not that Republicans hold onto either the White House or the Senate, the chances of Democrats scoring a trifecta is at least one-in-three and going up. Very roughly speaking, both the presidential race and the Senate are 50-50 bets, while the odds for Democrats holding the House are very high and rising…Given that Democratic incumbent Doug Jones’s reelection hopes appear completely futile, Democrats had to run the table and beat McSally, Gardner, Collins, and Tillis to win a Senate majority—and that was predicated on their party winning the White House as well; otherwise, they would have to unseat yet another Republican…But adding Loeffler and Daines gives Democrats a couple of other paths to a majority. Now, new Republican polling shows the elected incumbent in Georgia, David Perdue, in a difficult race. The open Kansas seat is looking very problematic with a filing deadline now just two weeks away. Even challenges to Sens. Joni Ernst, Mitch McConnell, Lindsay Graham, and Dan Sullivan are drawing attention.”

Domenico Montenaro reports at npr.org that a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds that “A majority of Republicans (56%) would rather cast their ballots in person than by mail (42%), whereas 61% of Democrats and 53% of independents prefer voting by mail this November…The most likely to want to vote by mail were white women with a college degree (64%), whites with a college degree (62%), those who live in the West (62%) and Democrats (61%). Western states have been voting by mail for many election cycles…Among those most likely to say they want to vote in person are Republicans (56%), those in the South (45%), white women without a college degree (44%), those 45 and older (44%), whites (42%) and people without a college degree (40%)…Some 10% say they do not intend to vote, which the pollsters indicate is about what would be expected, but the groups with the highest percentages of members who say they won’t vote cut across key pillars in both parties: Gen Z and millennials, ages 18 to 38 (19%); Latinos (16%); suburban men (13%); those without a college degree (13%); white men without a degree (12%); and African Americans (11%).”

A CBS/YouGov poll conducted April 28-May 1 shed some light on public attitudes toward potential  running mates for the likely Democratic presidential nomineee, Joe Biden. “Democrats/Democratic Leaners” poll respondents were presented a list of frequently-mentioned potential Vice-Presidential running mates, and then asked “if Joe Biden were asked to pick a Vice Presidential running mate right now, which one of those should he pick?” Elizabeth Warren led the pack with 36%, followed by: Kamala Harris (19%); Stacy Abrams (14%); Amy Klobuchar (13%); Susan Rice (4%); Val Demings, Tammy Duckworth and Gretchen Whitmer (3%); Catherine Cortez-Masto (2%); Michelle Lujan-Grisham, Tammy Baldwin and Sally Yates (1%). Asked “If she wanted to run, should Joe Biden Pick Michelle Obama as his Vice-Presidential selection?,” 64% of the respondents said ‘Yes,’ while 36% said ‘No.’

Franklin Foer has a warning for Dems at The Atlantic: “The Russians have learned much about American weaknesses, and how to exploit them. Having probed state voting systems far more extensively than is generally understood by the public, they are now surely more capable of mayhem on Election Day—and possibly without leaving a detectable trace of their handiwork. Having hacked into the inboxes of political operatives in the U.S. and abroad, they’ve pioneered new techniques for infiltrating campaigns and disseminating their stolen goods. Even as to disinformation, the best-known and perhaps most overrated of their tactics, they have innovated, finding new ways to manipulate Americans and to poison the nation’s politics. Russia’s interference in 2016 might be remembered as the experimental prelude that foreshadowed the attack of 2020…What sort of operation could Russia execute in 2020? Unlike Ukraine, the United States doesn’t have a central node that, if struck, could disable democracy at its core. Instead, the United States has an array of smaller but still alluring targets: the vendors, niche companies, that sell voting equipment to states and localities; the employees of those governments, each with passwords that can be stolen; voting machines that connect to the internet to transmit election results.”

Georgia Republicans are road-testing how cancelling an election plays with the public. As Ian Milhiser reports at Vox, “The state of Georgia was supposed to hold an election Tuesday to fill a seat on the state Supreme Court. Justice Keith Blackwell, a Republican whose six-year term expires on the last day of this year, did not plan to run for reelection. The election, between former Democratic Rep. John Barrow and former Republican state lawmaker Beth Beskin, would determine who would fill Blackwell’s seat…But then something weird happened: Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and the state’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, canceled Tuesday’s election. Instead, Kemp will appoint Blackwell’s successor, and that successor will serve for at least two years — ensuring the seat will remain in Republican hands…On May 14, the state Supreme Court handed down a decision that effectively blessed this scheme to keep Blackwell’s seat in the GOP’s hands. The court’s decision in Barrow v. Raffensperger is unusual in many regards — among other things, six of the state’s regular Supreme Court justices recused from the case, and they were replaced by five lower court judges who sat temporarily on the state’s highest court. The court’s decision in Barrow turns upon poorly drafted language in the state constitution, which does suggest that Blackwell, Kemp, and Raffensperger’s scheme was legal.” No doubt the White House will be watching,

FiveThirtyEight has a chat addressing the question, “Will 2020 Be Another Blue Wave Election Year?” Among the shared observations: Geoffrey Skelley notes, “while the generic ballot does handily favor Democrats now, it could change. (Historically, the margin has narrowed, and as we’ve said, I found that it moved 4 points, on average, between six months out and Election Day.)..Of course, there’s no guarantee it’ll move as much this time, but as I noted in an article on the 2020 House map, there are a bunch of seats Democrats are defending that Trump carried in 2016, so even a 1- to 2-point move in the generic ballot might make it tougher for Democrats to hold on to some of these more competitive seats they won in 2018.” Nathaniel Rakich rsponds, “But even if the environment changes, I’m not sure it will be in Republicans’ favor. In addition to the polling evidence, there’s a good theoretical argument for a blue wave, which is that we’ve entered an economic crisis and the incumbent president (and his party) does not do well when the economy is struggling….The unemployment rate is currently 14.7 percent, and I think most experts expect it to get even worse.” Sarah Frostenson adds, “there’s no precedent for what we might see in 2020, and as Lee wrote, “The obvious implication is that efforts to expand absentee voting in a pandemic might work differently. And maybe there will be partisan differences in who chooses to vote by mail, as we saw in Wisconsin’s primary.”

In her column at The Wisconsin State Journal, Paula Niedenthal, professor of psychology at UW-Madison, shares “2 lessons for Democrats from social psychology,” focusing on Wisconsin’s elections: “Winning elections in Wisconsin these days takes far more than persuading people to vote for a platform that polls indicate a majority already endorses anyway. In an era of extreme partisanship, winning elections also relies on learning two lessons from social psychology…One lesson is to enhance voters’ feelings of intelligence and relevance by allowing them to define the conversation. About anything. The second lesson is to take control of the communication of social norms…Gerrymandering of voting districts influences perceived norms because people use simple logic to draw conclusions. The Legislature has a Republican majority, so most Wisconsinites must vote Republican, right? Wrong. Democratic candidates in 2018 received more votes than Republicans in Wisconsin’s U.S. House and state Assembly races. But Republicans won five of the eight U.S. House seats and 64 of the 99 state Assembly seats…Democrats have been less energetic at taking control of the narrative about political norms in the state. Wisconsin has progressive roots, a strong relationship to public education and a concern for small business and agriculture. Documenting and communicating Wisconsinites’ beliefs about education, guns, natural resources, immigration and health care would go some way in correcting perceptions that have been constructed on the basis of ideology (often by the national GOP) rather than democracy…But scolding won’t work. The average Wisconsinite is intelligent and expert in some domain. Empiricists by nature, the people of this state are able to understand honest information about social norms. When they learn that most people think as they do, democracy will prevail.”


Political Strategy Notes

At CNN Politics, Harry Enten explains “Why Trump’s enthusiasm edge over Biden could matter,” and notes: “Former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump in pretty much every single national poll. Yet the same polls find that Trump’s supporters are much more enthusiasticabout voting for their candidate than Biden’s supporters are voting for theirs…This split is potentially a good sign for Trump because the candidate who has led on enthusiasm (or a closely related question) has won every presidential election since 1988, though there are reasons to think Biden could break this streak…Importantly for Trump, the leader on enthusiasm has gone on to win in close elections as well as ones with wider margins…One of those close elections was four years ago. Trump had a consistent edge over Hillary Clinton in enthusiasm. His voters were 4 points more likely to say they were very enthusiastic in voting for him than Clinton’s were for her in the final ABC News/Washington Post poll, even as Clinton led overall. That enthusiasm advantage should have been one of the warning signals to the Clinton campaign…Trump’s current edge in enthusiasm over Biden is even larger. In a late March ABC News/Washington Post poll, 53% of Trump backers said they were very enthusiastic about voting for him. Just 24% of Biden backers said the same about their guy.”

Brian Schwartz reports that “Mike Bloomberg plots spending blitz to support Joe Biden’s run for president” at cnbc.com: “Though it’s unclear how much Bloomberg will eventually spend, some of the people familiar with the matter noted that they anticipate Bloomberg to end up spending in excess of $250 million to support Biden, the apparent Democratic nominee. Any major financial support from Bloomberg backing Biden does not include what he could put toward assisting congressional Democrats. After dropping out of the Democratic primary for president in March, Bloomberg endorsed Biden and later announced his campaign would transfer $18 million to the DNC…The coronavirus pandemic has forced all campaigns to go virtual and, although Biden kept up with Trump in fundraising in April, raising $60.5 million, he is still behind in cash. The president’s campaign and the Republican National Committee have a combined $255 million in reserve. The Biden campaign told reporters on Friday that it had $103 million on hand at the end of April when combined with the DNC. ..Bloomberg’s team has previously said that he spent $110 million on Democrats throughout the 2018 congressional campaign…The former New York mayor has previously said he would not rule out spending up to $1 billion against Trump, whether he was running for president or not. Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, has said they plan to spend at least $1 billion defending the president and getting him reelected.”

“Biden needs something more than ritualistic endorsements from Democrats who feel they have no other choice, a home-studio campaign strategy, and the hope that Americans will remember that Trump peddled bleach as an antidote to the coronavirus. He needs a political party that is prepared to turn this campaign into a movement…the policy task forces announced this week by the Biden and Sanders camps hold out the promise that the party could in this period of social and economic crisis become something that the vast majority of Americans can believe in…What Democrats require is a coherent agenda, and a campaign, that breaks sufficiently from the old politics to capture the imagination of the American electorate at a time when the coronavirus pandemic and an economic meltdown preclude a return to normal. The party has to propose a new direction. And these task forces on the economy, immigration, health care, criminal justice, education, and climate action could do just that…Task forces are supposed to come up with ideas—ideally, new and innovative ideas. If Biden and his campaign let these groups do their work, and if the presumptive nominee and the party use the agendas that are developed as cues to move in a sufficiently progressive direction, Democrats might again be what they were in the days when Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal Coalition won overwhelming victories: the dynamic force in our politics and our governance.” From “A Progressive Democratic Party is Possible—and Biden Needs It to Win: The Biden-Sanders task forces are charged with framing a bigger, bolder Democratic agenda—exactly what the party needs to win” by John Nichols at The Nation.

Could ‘rogue electors’ tilt the balance of the US election?“, asks Lawrence Douglas at The Guardian. Douglas writes, “May states penalize and replace electors who fail to vote in accord with their states’ popular vote outcomes, or do such actions violate the right of electors to vote free of legal control?…That was the question debated before the supreme court this week in an extraordinary oral argument. At issue were a pair of cases emerging from the 2016 election, which witnessed no fewer than 10 electors either voting, or trying to vote, in defiance of their pledge. In Colorado, a state Hillary Clinton handily won, three Democratic electors sought to vote for the Ohio governor John Kasich as part of a long-shot effort to find a consensus alternative to Donald Trump. The Colorado secretary of state ordered the three to cast their votes as state law required or face replacement. Two of the electors complied; the third, a 23-year-old graduate student named Michael Baca, refused, and found himself replaced by a Democratic elector, who then promptly cast his vote for Clinton…32 states and the District of Columbia now have laws that aim to make sure that electors do not vote “freely” as they were originally intended…It seems safe to expect that the court – in a ruling to be issued this summer – will uphold the states’ authority to constrain presidential electors… In the absence of a law in place before electors cast their votes, it isn’t clear that a state could replace a faithless elector. A handful of rogue electors could hypothetically trigger a crisis of succession with no clear exit…Of course, the entire problem of the rogue elector could be more elegantly solved by simply abolishing the electoral college, but that would require a constitutional amendment, and the process of amending the constitution is no less dysfunctional than the electoral college itself. So the electoral college will probably remain our constitutional appendix, a vestigial organ that has long since lost its animating function and now can only create potentially toxic problems for the body politic.”

At salon.com, Cody Fenwick explores an alternative possibility in “Biden is a direct threat to Trump’s electoral college advantage: Many just assume that Trump will continue to have an advantage in Electoral College. Is that really so?” As Fenwick explains, “So how do we know who has an Electoral College advantage? The key is to look at the swing states…Since the demographics of Biden’s support look different than Clinton’s, though, Trump’s advantage is not guaranteed. And in a recent piece for David Faris in The Week, he argued that current polls show Biden actually has a very slight edge in the Electoral College…How does he come to this conclusion? He looked at Biden’s polling averages from FiveThirtyEight both nationally and across the swing states. And in the key states Biden would need to win the Electoral College, he’s polling just slightly better than he is nationally…Now for the caveats. State polling is spotty and inconsistent, and in 2016, it had serious flaws. It’s not clear those flaws have been corrected. So we can’t rely too heavily on the findings of these polls…But I think Faris’s argument compels us to reconsider the assumption that the Electoral College favors Trump. It might, and Trump might win a second term in November even while being defeated once again in the popular vote. But it’s not guaranteed that he still has this advantage — it may have already slipped away…It’s also important to note that, even accepting all of Faris’s data on its face, Biden’s Electoral College advantage is extremely narrow. He would be much less likely, according to this analysis, to lose the popular vote but win the presidency than Trump was in 2016.”

E. J. Dionne, Jr. weighs in on  the Electoral Collge in his column, “Grading the electoral college: C for chaos.” Dionne writes, “So all the claims about the electoral college reflecting the “wisdom of the Founders” and what they had in mind are pure rubbish. The Founders’ design failed, which is why it was changed just 16 years after the Constitution was adopted. And the states’ shift to the popular vote for electors so fundamentally altered the original scheme that it amounted to creating a new system in the garb of the old one…The case before the Supreme Court makes plain the absurdity of how we choose our president. The entire presidential campaign is waged on the premise that the people decide. And victors inevitably claim to be “the people’s choice” — even if they lose the popular vote…And it’s easy to envision a scenario this year in which Trump loses the popular vote by 5 million to 6 million — or even more — yet ekes out a two-vote margin in the electoral college by hanging on to every electoral vote he won in 2016 except for those of Pennsylvania and Michigan.”

In her Cook Political Report article, “Georgia Senate’s Perdue Moves to Lean Republican,” Jessica Taylor writes, “The conventional wisdom has been that it’s the Loeffler seat that is more vulnerable, and thus more appealing to Democrats as a possible pick-up to attain (or even add to) a Senate majority. Given the weaknesses that Loeffler has shown as a candidate and questions about her and her husband’s stock transactions, she is facing pressure from both her right (from Rep. Doug Collins) and from several on the left (the DSCC has backed Rev. Raphael Warnock). The added uncertainty of a jungle primary on Election Day that isn’t likely to be decided until the runoff on January 5, 2021 is why we have this race in the Lean Republican column…A May 4-7 poll from Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies (conducted for a group supporting Gov. Brian Kemp, who appointed Loeffler to her post) found that Perdue was leading Democrat Jon Ossoff by only two points, 43%-41%, with Libertarian Shane Hazel getting 7% and 8% undecided. The same GOP poll also found a statistical tie in the presidential race, with Trump at 46% and Biden at 47%…Those tightening numbers are in line with another survey from Republican firm Cygnal, conducted April 25-27 for the Georgia House GOP caucus, which gave Perdue a six-point lead over Ossoff, 45%-39%. Both Democrats and Republicans privately believe this is a single-digit race, though Perdue still maintains the advantage.”

Also at The Cook Political Report, Charlie Cook comments on the Georgia races in his article “Why We’re Not Ready to Call Georgia a Toss Up“: As Cook observes, “There’s little doubt that Georgia is becoming more competitive. While Mitt Romney carried the state in 2012 by 53 percent, both Trump and 2018 GOP nominee, Brian Kemp, took just over 50 percent of the vote. A lot of this movement can be traced to shifting voting patterns in and around Atlanta. For example, in 2012, Obama carried Fulton County (Atlanta) by 19 points. Just four years later, Clinton carried it by a whopping 44 points and Abrams expanded that gap to 46 points. Suburban Gwinnett and Cobb Counties, long known as traditional GOP strongholds, flipped to Clinton in 2016 and gave even more of their votes to Abrams in 2018…Even so, it will take more than just an improvement in the Atlanta and urban/suburban areas of the state to flip it Democratic. It also takes shaving points off the large share of the vote Republicans like Trump and Kemp can generate from small town, exurban and rural parts of the state. Biden supporters argue that the former VP is much better suited for this challenge than Clinton or Abrams. He’s not as polarizing and starts the race with higher positive ratings than Clinton…For Democrats, winning Georgia is like trying to lose those last 5-10 pounds. On paper, it doesn’t seem all that hard. But, once you spend two weeks desperately looking down at a scale that doesn’t budge, you realize it’s going to take a ton of effort to lose each and every pound. For now, Georgia stays in Lean Republican. ”

“As of today, 490 women have filed as candidates for U.S. House seats, a new record high,” according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. This surpasses even the record- breaking 2018 midterm election, in which 476 women filed to run for House seats. In 14 states, filing deadlines have yet to pass…295 Democratic women have filed as candidates in House races. They are on track to modestly improve on their own high for House candidacies, which was set in 2018 at 356.” At present, there are 26 women serving as U.S. Senators, including 19 Democats and 9 Republicans, the Center reports and 31 Democratic women are running for Senate in 2020. At present, 88 Democratic women currently hold House of Reps seats, while 6 Democratic women currently serve as Governors, with 3 Republican women.


Political Strategy Notes

Partisanship is the strongest predictor of coronavirus response: Among Americans, partisanship has been a stronger predictor than age, gender, geography, even personal experience, a study shows,” David Roberts reports at vox.com. Roberts adds, “A bit of research, published in March, from three leading political scientists shows pretty convincingly that, in the face of the pandemic, Republicans and Democrats are once again hearing different things, forming different understandings, and reacting in different ways.” Roberts quotes Shana Kushner Gadarian, Sara Wallace Goodman, and Thomas Pepinsky — political scientists at Syracuse University, UC Irvine, and Cornell respectively, who note, “Republicans are less likely than Democrats to report responding with CDC-recommended behavior, and are less concerned about the pandemic, yet are more likely to support policies that restrict trade and movement across borders as a response to it. Democrats, by contrast, have responded by changing their personal health behaviors, and supporting policies that socialize the costs of testing and treatment. Partisanship is a more consistent predictor of behaviors, attitudes, and preferences than anything else that we measure….What we find is that even when you account for the zip codes people live in, i.e., their actual level of exposure to the disease.”

Charlie Cook shares his insights concerning “Where Things Stand for the 2020 Elections” at The Cook Political Report: “Not long ago, GOP chances of maintaining their control of the Senate looked to be about two out of three, but Senate Editor Jessica Taylor’s reporting since March shows that Republican Senate majority is getting more precarious and now control appears to be a 50-50 proposition.  Now with popular Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock challenging GOP incumbent Steve Daines in Montana, newly-appointed Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler mired in a horrific political situation and the possibility that Republicans could draw an exceedingly weak candidate in what should be a safe seat in Kansas (filing deadline June 1), among other problems adding to previous woes with incumbents Martha McSally in Arizona, Susan Collins in Maine, Cory Gardner in Colorado and North Carolina’s Thom Tillis all in races that are, at best, toss ups.”

“Combine those two Congressional situations with a recession that has effectively eliminated any tailwind that President Trump had been enjoying from a strong economy,” Cook adds, “and it is hard to see his re-election prospects looking anything but more dire by the week. Today there is more than a one-in-three chance that Democrats will win a trifecta in November, the White House, the Senate and the House.  The policy and governing implications are enormous…Keep in mind that these outcomes are not independent of each other, a Trump victory would be more likely to be accompanied by retention of the Senate, a Trump defeat would raise the odds of Democrats taking over the Senate.  This isn’t ‘coattails,” (I don’t believe in coattails), but the turnout dynamics, the issue agenda and priorities and the political environment that would exist to re-elect, or defeat Trump would also be in place for a Senate that is already teetering on the edge.  Our system isn’t quite parliamentary but is getting increasingly more so, the linkage is greater, the ticket-splitting diminishing.”

Republicans are slapping high-fives over their Tuesday win in CA-25 special. But in her CNN Politics article, “Republicans win back California House seat they lost in 2018 after Democrat concedes,” Clare Foran explains why Dems just lost the seat: “The win came after Democrat Christy Smith conceded to Republican Mike Garcia on Wednesday in the special election for seat left vacant when Katie Hill, a Democrat, resigned amid controversy last year.” However, “there will be a rematch. That’s because Smith and Garcia are still running as candidates for a November general election to decide who holds the seat in the next session of Congress.” Dems hope, not without reason, that an anti-Trump landslide in November will give Smith enough leverage to take back the House seat.

So how progressive is former Vice President Biden” Here’s an excerpt from a New York Magazine article by Gabriel Debenedetti, flagged by Ruy Teixeira: “Long before the pandemic, [Biden] described a range of actions he’d take on day one, from rejoining the Paris climate agreement to signing executive orders on ethics, and he cited other matters, like passing the Equality Act for LGBTQ protections, as top priorities…To date, the federal government has spent more than $2 trillion on the coronavirus stimulus — nearly three times what it approved in 2009. Biden wants more spending. “A hell of a lot bigger,” he’s said, “whatever it takes.” He has argued that, even if you’re inclined to worry about the deficit, massive public investment is the only thing capable of growing the economy enough “so the deficit doesn’t eat you alive.” He has talked about funding immense green enterprises and larger backstop proposals from cities and states and sending more relief checks to families. He has urged immediate increases in virus and serology testing, proposing the implementation of a Pandemic Testing Board in the style of FDR’s War Production Board and has called for investments in an “Apollo-like moonshot” for a vaccine and treatment. And he floated both the creation of a 100,000-plus worker Public Health Jobs Corps and the doubling of the number of OSHA investigators to protect employees amid the pandemic. If he were president now, he said in March, he would demand paid emergency sick leave for anyone in need and mandate that no one would have to pay for coronavirus testing or treatment. As the crisis deepened, he said he would forgive federal student-loan debt — $10,000 per person, minimum — and add $200 a month to Social Security checks.”

‘Tis a pity that Sen. Richard Burr (NC) is not up for re-election in November, in light of the buzz around todays’ revelations that he, not only had his phone confiscated by the F.B.I. as part of an investigation into alleged trading of 33 stock sales after his coronavirus briefing; he just stepped down as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee in the wake of it. As Christina Wilkie reports at cnbc.com, “On Feb. 13, Burr sold stocks worth $630,000 to $1.7 million in a one-day sale involved 33 individual trades. One week later, markets began a steep slide as investors panicked over the potential economic damage from coronavirus.” No doubt, NC Dems are hoping the GOP stench will stick on Burr’s fellow Republican Senator Tom Tillis, who is up for re-election in November, but is not at this time implicated in insider stock deals. Insider trading allegations have also tainted Georgia’s two Republican Senators, both of whom are up in November.

Although the national focus is on Covid-19 health care concerns, health insecurity in general remains a central concern for growing numbers of Americans. As Erin Schumaker of ABC News reports that “Soaring unemployment numbers could translate into nearly 27 million people losing their health insurance, according to a new report…”Between March 1st and May 2nd, 2020, more than 31 million people had filed for unemployment insurance,” notes the Kaiser Family Foundation report, which was released Wednesday…Eight states including California, Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, Georgia, Florida, Michigan and Ohio will account for roughly half of the people who lost health insurance they previously had through their job, the report estimated…Before the pandemic, 1 in 3 Americans said that they wouldn’t be able to pay a $400 medical bill without selling their belongings or borrowing money.”

Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman explain why “Why 2020’s Third Party Share Should Be Lower Than 2016” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Despite — or perhaps because of — the relatively high share of the vote third party candidates received in 2016, we expect the two major parties to have a better showing in 2020…Voters generally feel better about their major party nominees this year than they did in 2016, leaving third party options with less of a raison d’etre…The field of third party candidates this year doesn’t seem especially strong, and even when prominent names have launched third party bids recently, they’ve struggled to gain traction — even in their home states…The public health crisis could make it harder for third party candidates to get on some state ballots.”

Also at the Crystal Ball, Kondik and Coleman note that incumbent Governors are also in a position to benefit politically from the Covid-19 pandemic, because “Many state governors have received high marks for their handling of coronavirus…Three of them on the ballot this November get a boost in our gubernatorial ratings this week…As of now, the open seat in Montana seems to be the seat likeliest to change hands on the relatively sparse presidential-year gubernatorial map.” Republicans now hold 26 governorships, compared to 24 for Democrats, with 11 governorships up for election in November. Kondik and Coleman write that “Democrats probably would be relieved to get out of 2020 holding as many governorships as they do now.”


Political Strategy Notes

“Most people have already made up their minds,” novelist Joseph O’Neill writes in “Brand New Dems” in The New York Review of Books.  “But even in a time of partisan polarization, there persists a small demographic of persuadables—the low-information, temperamentally apolitical, ideologically squishy voters who are responsible for fluctuations in presidential approval polls. The perceptions of these voters is the subject of an intense public relations battle between Democrats and Republicans.” Noting the economic collapse and Trump’s botched pandemic policies, O’Neill adds, “Surely the chickens will come home to roost. The problem is that they won’t, unless they’re rounded up and forced into their coop. Republicans have long been better at this kind of work than Democrats. This is because Democrats are terrible at “messaging…Biden, to the extent that he is visible at all, is terrible at campaign messaging. He doesn’t connect well with his supporters, many of whom minimize their exposure to him for fear of demoralization. Nor does he connect well with persuadable independents…In April he devoted two of his biggest ads to defending himself against Trump’s accusations that he is dangerously soft on China and its role in the pandemic. Republican strategists, terrified of substantive electioneering, have decided that Trump’s best bet is precisely to lure Biden into an esoteric, anachronistic, and xenophobic fight about who will stand up to China. Biden has taken the bait. Even by the standards of easily rattled Democratic politicians, his is a remarkably rapid surrender of rhetorical ground.”

O’Neill continues, “Trump was able to spook Biden in part because of the second kind of messaging—party branding. This kind of messaging occurs day-in, day-out, regardless of whether there’s an election imminent, and it never stops. Its aim is to make party designation a durable asset for candidates—not only for presidential elections but for the countless other elections that color the political map red or blue. Republicans are good at party branding. Democrats are not, to put it mildly, and thereby cede deep structural advantages to the GOP…there are no branding handbooks for political operatives in the way there are for businesspeople. There are books about effective political language—for example, the GOP consultant Frank Luntz’s Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear (2007)—but these largely focus on messaging for campaigns, not on the question of how to build a lasting party brand. Corporations have long understood the importance of managing the social and cultural meaning of their products. They don’t think of a brand as an analytic tool but as an actual thing—an intangible asset, capable of being valued by accountants, that can make or break a company’s fortunes. The stakes are no different for political parties.”

“What are Democrats doing about this?,” O’Neill adds. “Very little, so far as one can tell. For years, their party-branding strategy, to the extent that one existed at all, has been to rely on the personal qualities of the president, or the quadrennial presidential nominee, to confer brand value on the party’s other candidates: the “coattails” effect. Even someone as charismatic and competent as President Obama couldn’t make that work after the 2008 election. When the White House is occupied by a Republican, Democratic branding is left even more to chance. A miscellany of liberal personages (the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Chuck Schumer, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, John Lewis) serve as the faces of the party while they pursue their differing political and messaging agendas. From the point of view of branding, the Democratic Party is a mess…Republicans, by contrast, understand the importance of party branding. They understand that favorable generic perceptions are crucial to the success of their candidates. As a result they are highly disciplined and highly aggressive communicators who notoriously stick to their partisan “talking points.””

O’Neill ventures a strategy for Dems: “The challenge, for the Democratic Party, is to turn the (D) designation into a resilient asset and the (R) designation into a resilient liability. What can Democrats do to make something like that happen?…A winning Democratic Party brand strategy would have two parts: a strategy for increasing trust in the party, and a strategy for diminishing trust in the GOP…The current Republican “product” is historically terrible. At this moment of liberal outrage and GOP brand instability, Democrats have an extraordinary opportunity to cement in the minds of Americans that Democrats can be trusted to govern and Republicans cannot…We’re talking, as always, about winning at the margins and winning for years. Democrats want marginal Republican voters to feel that they can’t trust the Republican Party—not anymore. There’s something off about those guys…There’s your master narrative, by the way: Republicans can’t be trusted anymore. “Anymore” is important, because your audience may have a history or culture of trusting them. The nature of your audience also dictates that your messaging can’t consist of trashing the other side. That would backfire. Your messaging goal is simply to make your audience feel uncomfortable about what (R) now stands for.”

Turning to the Democratic Brand, O’Neill writes, “A brand strategy for the Democratic Party must reckon with three audiences: squishy Republicans and squishy Democrats; the party base; and those on the left, often younger voters, who vote (D) reluctantly or not at all…The most obvious way for the Democrats to successfully position themselves, across their many audiences, would be by passing a universally popular piece of legislation that is strongly and durably associated with the party, as Social Security once was. This would require a transformative initiative—on health care, say, or on green energy—that not only comes to fruition but is touted in partisan and popularizing terms. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was flawed on both of these counts: it didn’t contain the public option, which disappointed a lot of people; and, calamitously, Democratic politicians were embarrassed, fearful, and apologetic about a policy initiative that Republicans loudly objected to. This was irrational as well as spineless. Republicans loudly object to anything Democrats do…The Democratic Party, at its strongest, has stood for ordinary people. There would be no more powerful, effective, and lasting way to restore trust in the party than to align its core identity with its practices. You do that by branding the party as the grassroots party, and you authenticate the brand by placing at the core of the party’s operations the technical, financial, and moral support of diverse grassroots organizing groups. You don’t interfere in primaries.You do support regionalism, variation, and an ethos of mutual respect. Montana Democrats, after all, may think differently from their counterparts in Massachusetts. In effect, the party ethos would be to validate, elevate, and sustain the passionate activism that represents its best bet for winning year after year…It might be said that the party would lose control of its brand. The answer is that the party doesn’t control its brand anyway, nor should it. This isn’t a conceptual argument; it’s a concrete one. It’s based on the actual political landscape, populated by citizen-consumers who demand a meaningful political product. If the Democratic Party wants to be viewed as the party of ordinary Americans, it must embody that vision. The DNCwebsite currently proclaims, “The Democratic Party elects leaders who fight for equality, justice, and opportunity for all.” That should read, “Democrats are Americans who fight for equality, justice, and opportunity for all. The Democratic Party exists to give them power.””

In his Washington Post column, “Why the GOP may lose everything,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes, “Having disastrously bungled the pandemic, Trump is not only falling well behind former vice president Joe Biden in the polls; he could also be creating a tidal wave that would give Democrats unified control of the federal government’s elected branches…My conversations with four of the top Senate challengers suggested that the coronavirus crisis has reinforced core arguments that helped the Democrats win the House in 2018, particularly around access to health care, while also increasing the saliency of inequality — in both economic and health outcomes — as a mainstream concern…At the same time, Trump’s brutal belligerence has turned Democratic candidates into missionaries of concord. This allows them to be implicitly critical of the president and reach out to his one-time supporters at the same time…If the GOP does lose everything, it will be because the Trumpian circus-plus-horror-show is entirely off-key for an electorate that has so much to be serious about.”

“Biden’s pick matters more in terms of where the party is heading over the next few years than in terms of who wins this year,” Charlie Cook argues in “Biden’s VP Pick Charts the Future Course for the Democratic Party” in The Cook Political Report. ” Cook notes that “Five of the last 13 vice presidents (Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and George H.W. Bush) have gone on to become president. Two assumed the highest post after the death of a president (Truman and Johnson), one assumed office after a resignation (Ford), one was elected at the end of eight years as vice president (Bush), and another was elected eight years after leaving the No. 2 post (Nixon). As Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns pointed out in The New York Times on Sunday, “The ramifications of Mr. Biden’s choice will be profound. Even if he loses in November, his decision will all but anoint a woman as the party’s next front-runner, and potentially shape its agenda for the next decade, depending on if she is a centrist or someone more progressive.”

Also at The Cook Political Report, Amy Walter observes, “In national polling, however, Biden’s favorable ratings look a little less impressive. The folks at fivethirtyeight.com found Biden’s average favorable/unfavorable rating at 45 percent to 46 percent (-1). That’s significantly lower than where then-Sen. Barack Obama was in the month after he became the presumptive nominee (+20), but 14 points higher than where Hillary Clinton was at the end of the 2016 primary(-15). The good news for Biden is that he starts the race as already well-known (91 percent can rate him), meaning it’s going to be harder to try and shape opinions of him than it was for candidates who had higher favorable ratings but were also not as well known (like Michael Dukakis or John Kerry). That doesn’t mean that Biden is immune to attacks. But, it also requires a level of discipline on Trump’s part to keep the spotlight on Biden instead of himself. The president has rarely if ever, shown that level of discipline.”

Walter continues, “More important, Trump had the luxury in 2016 of running as the outsider. This year, of course, it is his administration that is in charge. And, as we’ve seen in two recent interviews, one with Fox’s Bret Baier and the other with ABC News’ David Muir, Trump isn’t keen on having his administration’s handling of the pandemic be the focal point of the 2020 campaign. When asked by Muir on Tuesday if he’d be comfortable with the election as a referendum on his handling of the crisis, Trump replied, “Well I am and I’m not.” His response to a similar question from Baier met with a similar reply: “No, but it’s gonna be a factor.” In both interviews, the president was also nostalgic for the world that existed pre-COVID. A world where the economy was “the greatest” thanks to his leadership. Even now, as you can see in these polls, Trump’s job approval rating on the economy remains pretty solid. But, with the economy unlikely to recover anytime soon, it will be hard for those positive numbers to hold. As such, we should all be prepared for the Trump campaign to try and make the race a referendum on Biden’s fitness to be president rather than on Trump’s handling of this crisis.”


Political Strategy Notes

From Alex Daugherty’s “‘A huge missed opportunity.’ Democrats fail to challenge Miami’s only House Republican” at mcclatchydc.com: “When South Florida Democrats couldn’t find a candidate to challenge Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a nine-term Cuban-American congressman from a prominent political family, they ensured that Miami’s only Republican will remain in Congress until 2023 — even though his district only went for President Donald Trump by a slim two-point margin…That could prove to be a costly mistake, Democrats and others now say. If Trump’s support continues to sag in swing states including Florida, Democrats would have been in a position to capitalize on a potential blue wave in November that could carry even little-known, down-ballot candidates — the kind they might have fielded against Diaz-Balart — to unexpected wins…“There’s a huge missed opportunity now because of what you’re seeing at the national level … depending on how this presidential election turns out,” said David Perez, a Democrat who unsuccessfully sought a state Senate seat in 2018 that overlaps with Diaz-Balart’s district.” After all the excuses have been made, a two-point margin ought to insure a well-funded Democratic challenger anywhere in the U.S.

Ruy Teixeira shares some good news from the mountain west, riffing on a poll cited in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle: “Montana is a Great State Even With One Democratic Senator; Imagine If They Had Two!..It could happen! I thought when Steve Bullock entered the race, he had a terrific shot at the Senate seat. The new Montana Statue University poll has him up 7 on incumbent Steve Daines (R). And as governor, he has a 70 percent approval rating on handling the coronavirus…Polling of course is thin in the state but this is a good sign. The more seats that are in play in November, the better for Democratic odds of picking up control of the Senate. Not a bad pick to send money to if you’re inclined to contribute to a reach Senate seat beyond the big four or AZ, CO, ME and NC.”

For a piercing critique of the major media’s coverage of coronavirus politics, read Eric Alterman’s “The Press Is Amplifying a Dangerous Know-Nothing Ideology: The anti-lockdown protests aren’t the first time the media has been swindled into cheerleading an extremist faux libertarianism” at The Nation. As Alterman obseerves, “Encouraged by near-saturation media coverage, the right-wing protests against commonsense social-distancing measures are getting out of hand. While the absolute numbers involved in the protests are tiny, their effect—when amplified by the credulous, cheerleading tone of the coverage—is massive and dangerous. On April 30 in Michigan, rifle-touting, Confederate-flag-waving, Trump-supporting militia types attempted to intimidate the legislature (to predictably sympathetic tweets from the president). These anti-lockdown rallies are popping up everywhere, often with nearly as many reporters covering them as there are protesters in attendancThe right to not only infect oneself with a potentially life-threatening disease but also to infect others and worsen the crisis that threatens the world’s public health and economy has become a symbol of the extremist libertarian right wing, whose members make up a significant segment of Trump’s political base. Governors—such as those in Georgia and Florida—who identify with Trump’s brand of faux libertarianism are embracing the right to infect, no matter the cost to their constituents, their country, and the world at large.”

Alterman cites several big media, including examples from The Times, Post, Politico and CNN. He concludes, “Chris Cillizza, a reporter at The Washington Post (later recruited by CNN), explained it thus: “My job is to assess not the rightness of each argument but to deal in the real world of campaign politics in which perception often (if not always) trumps reality. I deal in the world as voters believe it is, not as I (or anyone else) thinks it should be.”…One could hardly ask for a better an example of what New York University professor Jay Rosen’s diagnosed in 2011 as the “cult of the savvy,” which he defined as the quality “of being shrewd, practical, hyper-informed, perceptive, ironic, ‘with it,’ and unsentimental in all things political.” Rosen wrote, “Nothing is more characteristic of the savvy style than statements like ‘in politics, perception is reality.’” Of course, as Rosen notes, perception is not reality: “Reality is reality!”…So it’s no surprise that the miscreants demanding the right to infect themselves and others have no trouble receiving the loving attention of the uncritical mainstream media. It’s as if we’ve been in training for this death march for decades.”

Check out Greg Bluestein’s article, “Georgia’s Democratic U.S. Senate hopefuls make virus response top issue” at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for a peek at some of the messaging Democratic U.S. Senate candidates are using to wrestle away not one, but two Republican-held seats in the state. Of course, GA’s two do-nothing Senators are catching hell for the GOP’s dangerous coronavirus strategy. But the issue of corruption is now front and center, since both GA Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler have been accused on profiteering from the crisis. As Bluestein notes, “Each of the Democrats is also pressing to link Perdue with Loeffler, who is trying to tamp down an uproar over her stock transactions during the pandemic. At another recent virtual forum, the trio repeatedly mentioned Perdue and Loeffler in the same breath as they accused both of profiting from the disease…Loeffler has attracted most of the national attention for trades dating from Jan. 24, the day she and other senators attended a private briefing on the illness. She said financial advisers made those decisions without her input, and she announced she’ll no longer invest in individual stocks…Perdue’s opponents have highlighted a spate of trading from the month of March and purchases of stock from DuPont and other firms that are involved in the coronavirus response. Echoing her rivals, Amico accused Perdue of “blatantly profiting off of a pandemic.”

Brad Adgate discusses “The Impact COVID-19 Is Having On Political Ad Spending And Messaging” at Forbes and notes, “Expect political ads mentioning the pandemic to continue for the time being. Advertising Analytics says while it’s difficult to project messaging trends out too far, given how quickly the political landscape shifts, it seems that COVID-19 will be the largest topic of ads in 2020. Not   all of the ads will be on this topic, however. We’re already seeing the curve of ads mentioning COVID-19 smooth out at around 40-45% of political ads. However, this could easily increase or decrease depending on if there is a second wave or a vaccine or some other drastic event. For the week of March 10, in local broadcast, candidates spent $467,000 on ads that mentioned COVID-19. In the most recent available data (week of April 28), it had risen to $3.2 million.”

Adgate continues, “Looking ahead, Mark Lieberman, the President and CEO of Viamedia, believes the 2020 campaign with no rallies will be similar to the 19th century, when Presidential candidates relied on supporters acting as surrogates to reach voters. In 2020, these surrogates will be the media, especially television and digital. As Lieberman states, “Television with its sight, sound and motion remains the best medium to build awareness while digital media allows candidates to shake the virtual hands of voters. Bloomberg’s cross-platform media strategy of spending heavy on television combined with digital media with their superior targeting capabilities and memes, could be copied by Biden.”

Lest anyone get carried away with fantasies about a bipartisan response to the coronavirus pandemic, Charles P. Pierce writes that “Ohio Governor Mike DeWine Reminds Us That Without Fail, Republicans Gonna Republican” at Esquire: “Governor Mike DeWine, Republican of Ohio, was the recipient of a great deal of praise for leading his state’s response to the pandemic. He was the latest Republican cited as one of The Good Ones. But, as we all have come to realize, if you wait long enough, Republicans gonna Republican and, as the Great Reopening has begun, and as the national government has surrendered to the virus, DeWine is reverting to the mean…and we do mean mean…First, here’s the form with which Ohioans can nark on their friends who choose not to risk their lives by heading back to the widget plant in the middle of a pandemic when the governor and their bosses tell them to come in. If you don’t go back to your cubicle-shaped petri dish, and the guy from HR finks on you to the state, you lose your unemployment benefits. I was just saying the other day that what the American response to the pandemic was missing was just a little dab of East Germany…Second, DeWine announced on Tuesday that, in response to the economic impact of the pandemic, it’s time for another round of Austerity Follies in which Medicaid and public education get whacked and Ohio’s “rainy day” fund is left untouched, presumably for a rainier day than the one were soaking in now…”

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich chimes in with a similar warning regarding the Sunshine state’s Repubican rulers:


Will ‘Never Trumpers’ Vote for Dems Down-Ballot?

Perry Bacon, Jr. has a post up at FiveThirtyEight, discussing “How ‘Never Trumpers’ Crashed The Democratic Party.” Bacon covers a lot of ground about the   segment of Republicans who have become disillusioned with the head of their party, as well as the ones who were against him from the outset of his 2016 campaign. One of the more interesting questions about the ‘Never Trumpers” is, will most of them vote for Democratic candidates down-ballot – expecially for the U.S. Senate – in November?

Some Never Trumpers have pointed out that Republicans can oppose Trump and still vote for Republicans down-ballot. They want the Republicans to hold a Senate majority, so they can continue to shape the Supreme, federal, state and local courts in a conservative direction. For that goal, they are willing to endure another term for Mitch McConnell as Majority Leader.

Others, including Steve Schmidt, have argued that the GOP needs a thorough ass-whupping in November, in order to regain its senses and rebuild into a semblance of its more dignified and genuinely conservative identity of the not too distant past. It’s not hard to understand why many genuine conservative are embarrassed by Trump’s failed leadership and crass behavior. For good reason, they see McConnell as Trump’s enabler in chief, who should be defeated, even if Trump is re-elected. Without McConnell’s support, they believe Trump could be contained by the saner leaders of his party.

As Republicans George T. Conway III, Steve Schmidt, John Weaver and  wrote in their New York Times article, “We Are Republicans, and We Want Trump Defeated,”:

The 2020 general election, by every indication, will be about persuasion, with turnout expected to be at record highs. Our efforts are aimed at persuading enough disaffected conservatives, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in swing states and districts to help ensure a victory in the Electoral College, and congressional majorities that don’t enable or abet Mr. Trump’s violations of the Constitution, even if that means Democratic control of the Senate and an expanded Democratic majority in the House.

Bacon mines some data and notes.

“Trump won around 90 percentof self-identified Republican voters in 2016, similar to past GOP presidential nominees. About 90 percent of Republicans have approved of Trump throughout his first term, similar to George W. Bush’s standing in his first four years in office. And with Trump as the face of the party, Republican congressional candidates won around 90 percent of the GOP vote in the 2018 midterms, just as in recent midterm elections. There is really only one anti-Trump figure among the 249 Republicans on Capitol Hill: Sen. Mitt Romney…Polls also suggest most Republicans will be strongly behind Trump this November too — he is getting about 90 percent of the Republican vote in head-to-head match-ups with the presumptive Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden.

…Conservatives who really hate Trump probably no longer identify as Republicans — 11 percent of Republicans switched their party affiliation between December 2015 and March 2017, according to Pew. But surveys suggest that the share of Democrats switching affiliation in that same period is about the same. It’s hard to be precise about this: Data suggests at most 10 percent of American voters overall are anti-Trump but generally lean Republican.1 That’s not nothing, but between 40 and 50 percent of Americans are likely to vote for Trump in November.

Never Trumpers played a role in Democratic victories in the 2018 midterms, although the extent of their contribution is unclear. as Bacon notes:

It’s hard to quantify exactly how many anti-Trump conservatives backed Democrats in 2018 and how big a role they played in Democrats taking the House and winning many key governor’s races. But that temporary alliance between “Never Trump” Republicans and Democrats was strengthened in 2019 for two reasons. First, “Never Trump” Republicans found there was little appetite in the GOP for a primary challenge to Trump — another illustration of their declining influence within the party. And second, in a final blow for some of them, Republicans largely stood by Trump even as details emerged about his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

The third possibility is that Never Trumpers will vote for the most genuinely moderate candidates down-ballot, or not vote, or vote for a third party candidate when the choice is between an unnaceptable liberal or a Trump enabler. In every race, Democratic senate candidates in competitive races would be wise to pay close attention to the down-ballot views of Never Trumpers in their districts.


Political Strategy Notes

Perry Bacon, Jr. reports at FiveThirtyEight that “Several polling firms released surveys of Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in April. Former President Barack Obama carried all four states in 2012. Trump flipped all four in 2016 (as well as Ohio and Iowa, neither of which has much recent polling.) And Biden appears to lead in all four now. (North Carolina, which has gone Republican in both of the last two cycles, was also polled pretty often in April, with Trump and Biden looking basically tied there.)…at the moment, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are very close to the national tipping point — so they’re likely to be among the more determinative states this November.” However, noes Bacon, “Trump is likely to look stronger when pollsters start limiting their results to “likely voters.” Most of the April surveys in these four states were conducted among registered voters or all adults, two groups that include some people who may not vote in November…Fox News, Ipsos and Public Policy Polling all recently polled several swing states. All three found Biden had a larger lead in Michigan and Pennsylvania than in other swing states they surveyed (Florida for Fox, North Carolina and Wisconsin for PPP, Wisconsin for Ipsos.)”

Ruy Teixeira notes on his Facebook page, “Texas? Georgia?…Well, I wouldn’t get too frisky here. But there are two new polls out of TX and GA; the former shows Biden ahead of Trump by 1, while the latter has Biden only behind Trump by a point. No internals on the GA poll, so not much to comment on there, other than I’d have to see a lot more similar polling before I’d see GA as truly being on the edge between Trump and Biden. The TX poll has some internals available and encouragingly they show Biden with a much larger margin among Hispanics than Hillary had in the state in 2016 (47 vs. 26 points). However, Biden’s deficit among whites is basically the same as Clinton’s, about 40 points. I find it hard to believe that Biden can take the state or even make it very close without compressing that deficit…That said, it’s certainly worth keeping an eye on both these states as we move forward.”

Harry Enten explains why “Democrats are slight favorites for Senate control” at CNN Politics: “To gain Senate control from Republicans in November’s elections, Democrats will need a net gain of three seats (if former Vice President Joe Biden holds onto his lead over President Donald Trump and claims victory) or four seats (if Trump wins)…An early look at the data finds that Democrats are the slightest of favorites to take back the Senate. The chance Democrats net gain at least 3 seats is about 3-in-5 (60%), while the chance they net gain at least 4 seats is about 1-in-2 (50%)…The Democrats are doing fairly well not because they’re overwhelming favorites in any one or a select number of seats. Rather, it’s that they have a non-negligible to good chance in a lot of seats. Although Democrats only hold 12 of the 35 seats up, they have at least a 1-in-20 (5%) shot in 25 seats…They hold about an 8-point lead on the generic ballot. That’s about the same as it was in 2018, when it was 7 points, and about double what it was in 2016. Based on past trends, this large advantage suggests that races that may look like tossups right now are forecasted to move toward the Democrats over the course of the year.”

Enten continues: “Right now, Democrats are clear favorites in three seats Republicans currently hold: Arizona (Sen. Martha McSally), Colorado (Sen. Cory Gardner) and Maine (Sen. Susan Collins). They’re favored to defeat incumbents between about 2-in-3 times (65%) to three in four times (75%) in these states. All three are in states that were decided by 5 points or less in the 2016 presidential election, and where the national environment is helping the Democrats. The limited polling in Arizona and Maine also point to Democrats being ahead by a small margin.” However, ” Republicans are heavily favored in Alabama. Democratic Sen. Doug Jones won a shocking victory in a 2017 special Senate election. The polling and strong Republican tilt of the state indicate that Republicans should win this race about 6-in-7 in seven times (85%)…If Democrats are going to net gain three seats while losing in Alabama, their best shot to get that additional pickup is in North Carolina. This is another state that was determined by less than 5 points in the 2016 presidential election, and where Republican Sen. Thom Tillis has actually been running slightly behind Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham in an average of polling. Cunningham wins a little bit north of half the time (55%), though it’s best to regard this one as a tossup…The lack of Republican pickup opportunities again point why Democrats have a real shot of wrestling control: Democrats simply have a wider playing field.”

As former Vice President Biden ponders his choices for a running mate, a new group called The Committee to Draft Michelle Obama is making a case for the former First Lady, who was the “most admired woman in the world” in a YouGov poll taken less than a year ago. Supporters hope that there may be some wiggle-room in her statement, “I’ll say it here directly: I have no intention of running for office, ever,” as  she wrote in her best-selling memoir, “Becoming.” The group believes it would be hard for her decline if asked to join the ticket by Biden, who is a close friend of the Obamas. Biden has stated that his running mate will be a woman, and he is also being urged to select an African American woman. Only two Democratic women have 8 years of experience living in the White House and Mrs. Obama would also bring a younger, energetic feel to the ticket, as well as some bipartisan credibility. In addition, she has been thoroughly vetted. Asked if he thought Mrs. Obama would be a good running mate, Biden said, “I’d do that in a heartbeat if I thought there was any chance.”

“What should bring moderates and progressives together is an idea put forward long ago by the late social thinker Michael Harrington: “visionary gradualism,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes in his opinion essay, “Progressives and moderates: Don’t destroy each other” in the Washington Post. “The phrase captures an insight from each side of their debate: Progressives are right that reforms unhinged from larger purposes are typically ephemeral. But a vision disconnected from first steps and early successes can shrivel up and die. Vision and incremental change are not opposites. In our nation’s history, the two have reinforced each other — for example, in protecting the environment, achieving social security for the elderly and assistance to the unemployed, protecting civil rights, and expanding health insurance coverage. This lesson will apply for any new Democratic president, no matter which wing of the party she or he represents.”

Dionne continues, “A vibrant left has always been a central component of any successful era of social reform. By offering plans and proposals on what Harrington called “the left wing of the possible,” socialists, social democrats and left-liberals have redefined the political playing field…Moderates who think of themselves as problem solvers should welcome the left’s initiatives as part of a process of legitimizing the very act of public problem solving. Only when this happens can a real contest begin over how fast and how far we can move at any given moment.”

“The main reason crises don’t produce lasting change in social policy seems to be that people quickly forget or turn their attention elsewhere, so their beliefs and preferences snap back to where they were before the emergency.,” Lane Kenworthy argues in Foreign Affairs. Kenworthy, author of Social Democratic Capitalism, writes “Examining public opinion data going back to the early 1970s, the sociologist Lindsay Owens and I have found that recessions tend to have only temporary effects on Americans’ attitudes on a wide range of economic, social, and political issues. In addition, economic downturns cause some people to worry about their own financial well-being rather than the welfare of others, as the political scientist Ronald Inglehart has documented. And welfare state opponents and deficit hawks invariably warn against new public spending, arguing that the country can’t afford to take on additional debt.” Is Kenworthy underestimating the shelf-life of the fear factor in the current economic crisis as a force for lasting health care reform, or the relationship between public opinion and the actions of congress?

Kenworthy continues, “Temporary expansions of the safety net thus rarely become permanent. Time and again during downturns, the federal government has intervened to help people who lose their jobs and to rejuvenate the economy—by extending access to unemployment benefits, making stimulus payments, and declaring payroll tax holidays, loan payment delays, and more. But these temporary measures nearly always end once the economy recovers…When public social programs have been enlarged for good, it has tended to happen via the ballot box: progressive parties in government, not crises, make lasting social policy…Unless a new Democratic majority in the Senate is willing to do away with the filibuster, new social spending likely would have to be passed via the reconciliation procedure, which per Senate rules can be used only once a year…If the pandemic pushes us closer to social democracy, it will be because it boosts the electoral fortunes of the political party currently out of power, which happens to be one that’s already inclined to expand the social safety net.”


Political Strategy Notes

New York Times colmnist Thomas B. Edsall probes recent scholarship on racial attitudes of white Democrats and Republicans and notes: “In his 2019 paper, “White People’s Racial Attitudes are Changing to Match Partisanship,” Andrew Engelhardt, a political scientist at Brown, shows a dramatic increase in partisan racial polarization from 2016 to 2018…The accompanying charts show the percentage of white Democrats in the most racially liberal category growing from 10 percent in 2016 to 15 percent in 2018, the leading edge of a general turn to the left among party members. The percentage of white Republicans in the most racially conservative cohort, in contrast, grew from 14 percent to 21 percent, a tilt to the right with a potentially substantial impact…On a scale from zero to 100, ranking levels of racial resentment, the mean for white Democrats fell from 43 to 34. For white Republicans, the mean rose from 71 to 76…n a more recent paper, “Observational Equivalence in Explaining Attitude Change: Have White Racial Attitudes Genuinely Changed?” Engelhardt answers in the affirmative the question posed in his title….Poll data, he writes, supports “seeing changes in white racial attitudes as genuine. The decline in Democrats’ racial resentment levels between 2012 and 2016 appears sincere, not cheap talk.” And, Engelhardt contends, there will be significant political and policymaking consequences…

Edsall adds, “In their paper — “The Rise of Trump, the Fall of Prejudice? Tracking White Americans’ Racial Attitudes 2008-2018 via a Panel Survey” — [Daniel} Hopkins and [Samantha] Washington use a measure of prejudice that is significantly different from the one used by Engelhardt…Hopkins explained in an email why he and Engelhardt differ in their assessment of white Republicans. In his study, Engelhardt uses responses to the battery of what are known as “racial resentment” questions. Hopkins argued that these questions tend to push Republicans in a conservative direction because some directly relate to a separate issue, the role of government, including questions asking whether the government should intervene to help minorities…According to Hopkins, some Republicans will oppose intervention on the basis of ideological “small government” principle, not racism, nonetheless raising their racial resentment score…Hopkins and Washington found bipartisan declines in anti-black and anti-Hispanic prejudice.”

Edsall notes, further: “There is a third analysis that stands apart from those of both Engelhardt and Hopkins and Washington: that the growing racial liberalism of white Democrats is more about claiming a moral posture than deeply felt conviction…Hakeem Jefferson, a political scientist at Stanford, challenged the sincerity of white Democrats’ growing racial liberalism in an April 21 Twitter thread: “The white left” can sometimes look more “progressive” than black folks because the white left has the luxury of approaching questions that bear on marginalized people’s lives with a kind of reckless abandon that many others don’t have…I remain rather skeptical that we are in a period where black people can trust that white liberals have embraced a liberatory politics.” Edsll cites another study: “[Tufts political scientist Deborah J.] Schildkraut conducted a series of surveys to gauge liberal and conservative racial identity among whites. She found that just over 40 percent of conservatives said that their white identity was “very” or “extremely” important to them. A smaller percentage (23 percent) of white liberals saw their racial identity as similarly important…There were also vastly different perceptions of the level of discrimination against blacks and whites between white liberals and conservatives: “44 percent of white liberals said there is no discrimination against whites and 28 percent said there is a great deal of discrimination against blacks, while only 2 percent of conservatives said there is no discrimination against whites and only 8 percent said there is a great deal of discrimination against blacks.”

Edsall concludes, “If, as Hopkins and Washington find, whites are abandoning the relatively high levels of prejudice of 2016 in meaningful numbers, and if this decline contributed to Democratic victories in 2018, Trump will face a steeper climb in capitalizing on racial resentment than he did four years ago…The drop since Trump took office in what had been a fairly consistent sense of white racial superiority, according to Hopkins and Washington, would suggest that Trump’s ongoing racial appeals may have crossed a line, potentially endangering his re-election…Has the exploitation of racial anxiety reached the end of its politically useful life? No. Nor will it fade from American history anytime soon, if it ever does. But the very fact that more and more people now question whether Trump’s re-election is assured provides a ray of hope.”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. reports that “President Trump, who has largely declined to use his power under the Defense Production Act for needed medical and protective equipment, used that same power on Tuesday night to force meat processors to remain open. Never mind that food-processing and meatpacking plants are hot spots for covid-19 — at least 79 have reported outbreaks. Never mind that at least 20 workers in the industry have died from the disease or that the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) reports that at least 6,500 workers in the industry have been diagnosed or exposed. Dionne quotes Debbie Berkowitz, director of the worker health and safety program at the National Employment Law Project: “Trump has created a false choice between worker safety and feeding America,” Berkowitz, who has spent decades working on safety issues in meat processing, said in an interview. “We can do both. Other parts of the economy are doing both.” Dionne adds, “When social solidarity is essential, it’s common to hear pious sermons against class warfare. Unfortunately, there is a class war. And its victims, so many of them front-line workers, didn’t start it.”

At The Cook Political Report, Charlie Cook writes, “Simply put, a referendum on his performance is going to be a tough sell for Trump. He’s the first president in history to never have a majority job approval rating. Plus, as Bill Scher noted in Politico Magazine, third-party candidates are unlikely to make the ballot in many states this year because the coronavirus shutdown has made gathering petition signatures all but impossible. This makes Trump’s climb tougher in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In 2016, Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s vote share in each of those states was greater than Trump’s margin of victory. Thus, he will need to get closer to 50 percent in that all-important trio of states this time around than the 46 percent he got last time.” Cook warns, “The only way Trump wins is to make Joe Biden absolutely unelectable, to make him an unacceptable risk. That only happens one way, and it’s not by playing by the Marquess of Queensberry Rules for fair fighting…The Willie Horton, Bain Capital, and Swift Boat attacks that Michael Dukakis, Mitt Romney, and John Kerry faced, respectively, were child’s play compared to what is going to be thrown at Biden, his son, Hunter, and anyone else in the former vice president’s orbit. When this is over, Hillary Clinton will think she got off light from the 2016 Trump campaign. That’s the only way he can win, because a referendum isn’t going to go his way. Expect this to get ugly.”

Zack Stanton sketches “The Nightmare Scenario’: How Coronavirus Could Make the 2020 Vote a Disaster: Trump can’t cancel the presidential election. Here’s what you should really be worrying about” at Politico:=, and writes “the prospect that terrifies election experts isn’t the idea that Trump moves the election (something he lacks the power to do); it’s something altogether more plausible: Despite an ongoing pandemic, the 2020 election takes place as planned, and America is totally unprepared…The nightmare scenario goes something like this: Large numbers of voters become disenfranchised because they’re worried it’s not safe to vote and that participating makes it more likely they catch the coronavirus. Voter-registration efforts, almost always geared toward in-person sign-ups, bring in very few new voters. A surge of demand for absentee ballots overwhelms election administrators, who haven’t printed enough ballots. In some states, like Texas, where fear of coronavirus isn’t a valid reason to request an absentee ballot, turnout drops as Americans are forced to choose between voting in person (and risking contact with the coronavirus) or not voting at all…At the same time, confidence in the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service — whose coronavirus funding President Donald Trump has already threatened to block — teeters, and its involvement in handling so many absentee votes causes concern.”

Stanton interviews Rick Hasen, author of Election Meltdown, who says, “I’ve always been concerned that [Trump] would claim that fraud was the reason he might lose an election. And I still think that might happen, should he lose — which brings up the Election Administrators’ Prayer: “Lord, let this not be close.” If you have a real blowout, it’s hard to claim that fraud is the result…How do we ensure that elections are not only conducted fairly, but that people have confidence in them, when recent public opinion polling shows up to 40 percent of the public is not convinced that elections are conducted fairly? I think there’s a role to play for elected leaders, social media companies, traditional media companies, lawyers, members of Congress, state and local election officials — there are steps that all can take to try to minimize the chances of a meltdown. And that’s really where we have to focus our efforts, especially now in this Covid-19 era.”

At Sabato’s  Crystal Ball, Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman have an update on Democraic prospects for winning a U.S. Senate majority in November. Calling the battle for majority control a “toss-up,” Kondik and Coleman write, “The focus on the evenly-matched battle for the Senate has in some ways narrowed to four GOP-held seats: Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and North Carolina…Practically speaking, Democrats probably have to win all four, and the White House, to win the Senate…However, the map may be expanding. Democrats’ best bet among the other targets probably is Montana, but we still see a small Republican edge there…We are making two rating changes this week on the periphery of the Senate map: Alaska and South Carolina move from Safe Republican to Likely Republican.”