washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes in his syndicated column that “it was only in Joe Biden’s closing comments that the gravity of our situation was truly brought home. “We can overcome four years of Donald Trump,” he said, “but eight years of Donald Trump will be an absolute disaster and fundamentally change this nation.” That’s a good message for all progressives going forward to November 3rd. Dionne, also notes of the Iowa Democratic presidential debate, “This debate likely leaves Iowa’s poor caucus-goers more uncertain than ever as they decide under the cloud of a national political crisis. But it made one thing obvious: The outcome on a cold Monday night in February will hang on whether most of them are thinking about the urgency of dispatching Trump, or are pondering instead the kind of country they want to build after he is gone.”

At The Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky flags a ‘sleeper’ issue, which may bear on the Iowa caucuses outcome: “In 2015 and 2016, when Trump and Sanders were gaining steam, support for free trade sank (though it never, to my knowledge, went below 50 percent). But that has changed. And last August, an NBC-Wall Street Journal poll found that support for free trade was at an all-time high: By 64-27 percent, Americans said free trade brought more benefit than harm. Majorities of Republicans and Democrats agreed with the statement that “free trade is good for America, because it opens up new markets, and the country can’t avoid the fact of a global economy.”…And that brings us to last December’s House vote on USMCA, which passed by a whopping 385 to 41. All three of Iowa’s House Democrats voted for it: Cynthia Axne, Abby Finkenauer, and David Loebsack all said yes. The AFL-CIO, which is important in the state, said yes. In addition to that, naturally, Iowa’s farmers and leading business associations are all for it. Environmental groups are strongly opposed…The Senate hasn’t voted on it yet. It will do so soon—maybe before the Feb. 3 caucuses. Sanders will vote no, but Warren (and Klobuchar) will vote yes. It’s not likely to generate a ton of media interest, but it could shift a lot more votes here than most people realize, and the exchange may have been this debate’s sleeper moment.”

From Ronald Brownstein’s analysis of the debate in The Atlantic: “Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, the two senators jostling for the support of the Democrats’ most progressive voters, both delivered confident, aggressive performances in which they underlined their commitment to an array of liberal causes, from withdrawing all American forces from the Middle East to raising taxes on the rich and opposing most free-trade agreements…None of the more centrist candidates on the slimmed-down debate stage was nearly as vivid. And overall, the debate lacked the intensity that many expected for the final confrontation before the first votes are cast in Iowa, on February 3—especially since recent polls have shown the top four candidates all closely bunched together. The evening’s most anticipated moment largely fizzled, too. Sanders flatly denied that he told Warren, during a private meeting in 2018, that he believed a woman could not win the presidency, as initially reported by CNN. And when asked about Sanders’s denial, Warren chose not to challenge him—detouring instead into a forceful argument for why women can win elections. Without a genuine confrontation between the two, the real fulcrum of the debate was the division between the two of them and former Vice President Joe Biden, former Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.”

Brownstein continues, “But none of them delivered that case with as much conviction and energy as the two leading liberals on the stage. Biden, in particular, vanished for much of the debate; until his closing statement—which featured a strong appeal to reclaim the American character from Trump—it seemed unlikely that viewers would remember much of what he said. (While the Los Angeles debate last month dampened concerns among many Democrats about Biden’s capacity to build a case against Trump in the general election, last night’s performance seems destined to rekindle them.) Klobuchar and Buttigieg were better at making the case against the ideas from the left, particularly single-payer, though neither was as effective as they had been in earlier encounters.”

Aaron Bycoffe, Saah Frostenson and Julia Wolfe report on the findings of a poll by FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos following the debate  “we asked respondents to estimate each Democrat’s chances of defeating Trump, from 0 percent (no chance) to 100 percent (certain to win). Going into the debate, as in other general-election polls, Biden was the candidate voters thought was most likely to beat Trump, on average. He still leads on that question after Tuesday’s debate, with Sanders in second. But, as you can see below, Biden’s average stayed essentially unchanged while all the other candidates gained ground.”

At CNN Politics, Grace Sparks reports on the findings of a new CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll, conducted Jan. 2-8: “Majorities of likely Democratic caucusgoers say they’re optimistic, fired up, feminists and … exhausted by politics. A new poll from CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom finds fewer soon-to-be caucus attendees consider themselves socialists than capitalists, and almost a quarter are regular Twitter users…Three-in-five likely Iowa Democratic caucusgoers say they’re fired up, especially those who are very liberal (76%), extremely enthusiastic about their first choice candidate (76%), and have locked in who they’ll caucus for (71%). Likely caucus attendees who say they’ll “definitely attend” rather than “probably attend” the caucus are more likely to describe themselves as “fired up” (66%)…But just as caucusgoers are fired up, they’re also pretty tired. Over half (54%) say they’re “exhausted by politics.” Lynn Richards, a retired social worker in Iowa, says she can’t turn on the TV without being bombarded by political ads.”

There is no substitute for personal, press-the-flesh contact, but I doubt that the impeachment trial is going to hurt any Democratic presidential candidates who can’t campaign in Iowa because they have to stay in Washington, D.C. As Ella Nilson and Li Zhou note at Vox, “Campaign spokespeople for three of the four senators told Vox they’re planning to fill in with a range of tactics such as having high-profile surrogates and candidates’ families hit the trail in the early states this week. And with social media, senators can hold events remotely or send messages out to their supporters. For the events they do conduct in person, at least one plans to focus on evening appearances in New Hampshire, which is logistically more accessible from Washington…For about a week, voters in Iowa and New Hampshire should expect to see a lot of the candidates’ spouses and family, as well as high-profile surrogates who have endorsed them…Warren and Sanders, in particular, have a number of celebrity endorsers who could hit the trail to draw crowds. A Warren campaign spokesperson pointed Vox to a previous statement made by communications director Kristen Orthman to the Washington Post.”

In their article, “Ratings Changes: Senate, House, and Governor,” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman write that “The Kansas Senate race is getting a lot of national buzz, but we still see the GOP as clearly favored to hold the seat…The chances of Republicans springing Senate upsets in New Hampshire and Virginia appear to be growing dimmer…Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D-CA) decision not to hold a special election for CA-50 makes it likelier for Republicans to hold the seat…Vermont is a sleeper Democratic gubernatorial target.”

“Even if the Democratic nominee manages to hold all the states Hillary Clinton won,” Amy Walter writes at The Cook Political Report, “and win back Pennsylvania and Michigan, they can’t get to 270 without adding Wisconsin (or picking up Arizona, a state Clinton lost by almost four points). Trump can’t afford to lose Wisconsin either — unless he’s able to pick up neighboring Minnesota — a state where he came within 44,000 votes back in 2016…The most recent Marquette University Law School poll found a similar level of stability in opinions of President Trump that we see in national polling. His job approval in the state was 48 percent approve to 49 percent disapprove — not much different from his December showing of 47 percent approve to 50 percent disapprove. But, Charles Franklin, the Marquette pollster, notes that it “is the first time Trump’s disapproval has fallen below 50 percent in the Marquette Law School Poll since March 2017 when 47 percent disapproved.”

Political Strategy Notes

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who some observers believe won the last presidential debate, still lags in polls by double digits behind her 4 competitors in Tuesday’s televised debate. But expect that she will try to make a splash tommorrow night. Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. previews Tuesday’s debate, and notes, “More than anyone, Klobuchar needs to upend the dynamic of the contest. Her survival as the fifth option is not a trivial accomplishment given how many other candidates have already fallen by the wayside. But her candidacy is unlikely to continue past Iowa unless she can cut deeply into Buttigieg’s and Biden’s vote shares. This gives her an interest in provoking dramatic moments on Tuesday while hoping that her two immediate rivals falter.”

Meanwhile, Nate Silver makes the case at FiveThirtyEight that “Sanders Now Leads A Wide-Open Iowa Race.” As Silver writes, “We don’t necessarily plan to publish an Election Update as a result of each single new poll, but Friday’s Selzer & Co. poll of the Iowa caucuses, published by the Des Moines Register and CNN, warrants an exception and did have a somewhat material effect on the model…The poll showed Bernie Sanders ahead with 20 percent of the vote, followed by Elizabeth Warren at 17 percent, Pete Buttigieg at 16 percent and Joe Biden at 15 percent. This is a reasonably big shift from the previous Selzer & Co. poll, in November, which had shown Buttigieg ahead with 25 percent of the vote…Amy Klobuchar was next in the poll at 6 percent, but that was unchanged from November despite a couple of debate performances since November that voters rated strongly in our polling with Ipsos. Andrew Yang was sixth at 5 percent.” In terms of the national race for the nomination, “Biden remains the most likely candidate to get a delegate majority, with a 38 percent chance, followed by Sanders at 24 percent, Warren at 13 percent, and Buttigieg at 10 percent. There’s also a 14 percent chance that no one wins a majority, which could potentially lead to a contested convention.”

But don’t ignore the prospects of the unprecedentedly self-funded candidate who is skipping the debates. As Charlie Cook notes in his Cook Political Report,”The Democrats who do emerge out of those first four contests will face at least $160 million in media buys by Bloomberg, according to Advertising Analytics, in addition to an 800-person staff spread across 30 states. His plan: Accumulate delegates here and there in districts that his rivals will have never either visited or spent a dime in. After the first four states, it’s only about the delegates, which the Democratic Party rewards for as little as 15 percent of the vote share in a district…he may position himself to be an electable alternative to the current five contenders—more centrist than Sanders and Warren and without some of the baggage that he presumes Biden, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar carry…Maybe it works, maybe it won’t, but any polling taken over the last few days would indicate whether Bloomberg’s ads are taking hold or not.”

From”Nancy Pelosi explains what Democrats gained by holding onto the articles of impeachment” by Katelyn Burns at Vox: “First, she hoped to pressure Senate Republicans into accepting Democrats’ requests that witnesses be called in the trial. “We wanted the public to see the need for witnesses, witnesses with firsthand knowledge of what happened,” Pelosi told This Week’s George Stephanopoulos…“Over 70 percent of the American people think that the president should have those witnesses testify. So, again, it’s about a fair trial,” Pelosi said. “And we think that would be with witnesses and documentation. So, that dynamic has — now the ball is in their court to either do that, or pay a price for not doing it.”Pelosi also said the delay was to allow the public time to see further “documentation which the president has prevented from coming to the Congress” — that is, more evidence of wrongdoing.”

The last thing Republicans want to talk about is health care reform, since the sum of all their ideas quickly boils down to a return to the status quo ante Obamacare. In another Katelyn Burns Vox post, she reports that “The Trump administration wants the Supreme Court to not rule on Obamacare until after the 2020 election: Democrats have asked the Supreme Court to hear a case that could determine the fate of Obamacare. The Trump administration wants the court to wait.” Burns notes, “Should the Republican plaintiffs succeed in getting the ACA struck down, the Urban Institute estimates that about 20 million people in the US will lose their health insurance. And the result of a Supreme Court ruling could have stark effects on both Democratic and Republican pitches to voters ahead of November’s elections…Studies have shown that Americans — including Republicans — like the benefits the ACA has given them. For example, a 2018 Kaiser Family Foundation study found that 80 percent of Republicans like the ACA’s provision that lowers the cost of prescription drugs for those on Medicare, and that 58 percent of Republicans like that it stopped insurance companies from denying coverage based on preexisting conditions…Overall, the foundation found that 52 percent of Americans approved of the ACA as of November 2019, and that 56 percent feared they, or someone they knew, would lose coverage if the Supreme Court overturned the law.”

Amy Walter mulls over “The Durability Advantage” benefitting Biden and Sanders at The Cook Political Report and provides some salient insights, including, “Biden and Sanders are not just the best-known candidates in the race, but they also have the most defined identities. You know what you get with them. And, that means they have a more stable base than anyone else in the field. While a late November Quinnipiac poll found that almost two-thirds of Democrats said they might change their mind on who they currently support in the primary, 43 percent of Biden voters and 49 percent of Sanders voters said that they were committed to supporting their candidate. Meanwhile, just 29 percent of Sen. Warren voters and 25 percent of former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg voters felt similarly…The challenge for Warren and Buttigieg is that while Biden is certainly vulnerable, the two of them are untested and unproven entities…Only when you’ve been through this grueling process can you understand how to prepare for it. This gives Biden and Sanders — and their campaigns — perspective and patience. Something that even the most disciplined first-time candidates don’t have.”

It’s way early, but Joel K. Goldstein kicks off the veepstakes speculations with “The Democratic Vice Presidential Derby: Look Beyond the 2020 Contenders: History suggests broad guidelines for the kinds of candidates who will be considered” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball. Goldstein argues “The history of vice presidential selection suggests some overarching trends that will guide the eventual Democratic nominee’s selection…One piece of history stands out: Presidential nominees often, though not always, opt for a running mate who was not a candidate for the nomination…Vice presidential candidates tend to have extensive experience in certain feeder positions, and they typically are not chosen to win a key swing state.” Sounds reasonable enough. but the Democratic field of presidential candidates has been  unusually impressive, and it’s not hard to envision most of the Democratic also-rans doing a solid job as a running mate. If one of the older Democrats wins the presidential nomination, a younger, energetic running mate becomes even more important than usual.

In his Salon post, “The Democratic debate stage is now all white. It doesn’t have to be this way,” David Daley, author of “Ratf**ked: Why Your Vote Doesn’t Count”, writes about tomorrow’s debate at Salon and notes, “Only six candidates will take the stage. All of them will be white. Only three will be under the age of 70. One will be a billionaire. Years from now, historians might compare photos of this debate with Democratic gatherings in the 1980s or 1990s and not be able to tell the difference. It’s an awkward look: The party that lays claim to the nation’s multiracial future will present five white people as its leading contenders…It didn’t have to be this way. Democratic leadership, anxious about the crowded field and unwieldy debates, intentionally structured the process to winnow down the number of candidates before any ballots were actually cast.” Daley reccomends ranked-choice voting in polls, giving all candidates more exposure as a possible solution for enhancing diversity.

Sarah Luterman writes in her article, “Elizabeth Warren Has Made Disability Rights Central to Her Campaign” in The Nation that “in the 2020 Democratic primary, almost every major candidate has put forward some sort of disability policy plan, albeit of varying quality. (The Sanders campaign will be releasing its plan in the coming weeks.) This is the first time that disability has become a mainstream campaign issue. Policy can be a life-or-death issue for those of us in the disability community. Social benefit programs keep many of us alive. In 2018, voter turnout among disabled people spiked by 8.5 percentage points, according to a report from Rutgers University, with 14.3 million disabled Americans voting. For a sense of how many that is, the number of disabled voters surpassed the number of Latino voters. One in four Americans have some form of disability.”

Political Strategy Notes

Nathaniel Rakich’s “Foreign Policy Doesn’t Usually Affect Elections. Could Iran Be Different?” at FiveThirty Eight explores the political fallout of Trump’s Iran mess, and notes, “First, most political science research has found that foreign policy doesn’t significantly affect people’s votes. But this isn’t always the case. For example, foreign policy can have more of an impact when it’s a big part of the national conversation and when the two parties have clearly contrasting positions on it — two conditions that this Iran episode could meet.” Rakich adds, “it’s rare for a primary candidate to be experienced in foreign policy. But this year, we have such a candidate in former Vice President Joe Biden. And two recent polls say that Democratic primary voters do trust him the most on foreign policy.”

In Adition, Rakich notes, “According to CNN, nearly half (48 percent) of Democrats and Democratic leaners said they thought Biden could best handle foreign policy; Sen. Bernie Sanders came in second place with just 14 percent. And in a poll taken immediately after the strike that killed Soleimani, HuffPost/YouGov found that 62 percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners trust Biden on Iran, although Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren weren’t too far behind, with 47 percent trusting each of them (respondents were allowed to select multiple candidates they trusted).” However, “Someone like Sanders, who has been critical of Biden’s vote to go to war with Iraq, could seize the upper hand if the primary becomes a question of who is the most anti-war.”

As for which party is perceived as more qualified to address foreign policy crises, Rakich writes, “The GOP has long been seen as better than Democrats at protecting the country from external threats, according to Gallup polling. However, the gap has narrowed during the Trump era (as of 2019, 50 percent trusted Republicans, and 44 percent trusted Democrats), and other polls suggest Trump himself is not very well trusted on foreign policy…factors like the seriousness of the event, whether the country is already fatigued by war, the president’s approval rating before the event, and the level of media coverage of the event can all influence the size of the rally-around-the-flag effect, or even whether there is one at all…But if elite opinion splits along partisan lines — as it is doing so far on Iran — then so will public opinion.”

Even though Mitch McConnell is reportedly setting up highly-partisan impeachment trial rules and procedures, “There is one bright spot for Democrats: Their position is currently more popular than McConnell’s,” Amelia Thomson-Deveaux writes at FiveThirtyEight. “According to our recent poll with Ipsos, a majority of Americans think it would be better if the upcoming trial included new witnesses who could potentially shed light on Trump’s conduct, while only 39 percent said it would be better to keep the focus solely on the evidence introduced in the House hearings, without calling new witnesses…Binder said Democrats can try to force votes on whether to call witnesses as the process moves forward, too, which could keep the spotlight on the issue. But ultimately, once the articles of impeachment are transmitted to the Senate, disputes over fairness in the impeachment trial will mostly be decided by majority rule. That might not be the kind of trial most people are used to — but it’s the one the Constitution mandates. And it means even after the trial starts, the debate over how rules and witnesses will likely be far from over.”

Democratic candidates may find some useful talking points in “Trump got suckered by Iran and North Korea: He’s pushed Iran closer to going nuclear — and spurred an arms race in North Korea, Russia, and China” by disarmament expert Jeffrey Lewis at Vox. As Lewis notes, Trump’s foreign policy is “not a strategy, in the sense of a plan that matches resources to objectives, or even a philosophical outlook…It’s ultimately a pose — one that can be struck at a rally with thousands of screaming fans or posted on an Instagram account for the Department of Swagger…It is remarkable that, across the board, Trump’s strategies of pressure and bullying have resulted in no tangible agreements — no deal with Kim Jong Un, no meeting with Iran’s leaders, and no arms control deals with either the Russians or the Chinese…Trump will undoubtedly claim that all is going well — he is a master of creating a crisis and then claiming victory when he cleans up his own mess. He has already claimed to have solved the North Korean nuclear problem, and, no doubt, he will crow over the killing of Iran’s Soleimani. But each of these situations has gotten worse while he has been in office, not better. His supporters can rationalize his methods, but they can’t invent results that don’t exist.”

Thomas B. Edsall has a heads up warning for Dems in his NYT column, “Trump Wants Law and Order Front and Center: The president and his allies are trying to make Democratic plans to reform law enforcement a potent campaign issue.” As Edsall writes, “Unexpectedly, the 2020 presidential campaign is drilling down on petty crime and homelessness. Donald Trump and his Republican allies are reviving law-and-order themes similar to those used effectively by Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew in the late 1960s and early 1970s to demonize racial minorities…Turning the decarceration movement into a 2020 campaign issue fits into Trump’s go-to strategy of inflaming divisive conflicts, especially those involving disputed rights — particularly those benefiting minorities — in order to activate racial resentment, to mobilize his core voters and to goad swing voters into lining up against the Democratic Party.” However, Edsall writes, “While Trump’s strategy was successful in 2016, it is by no means clear that this strategy will work as well in 2020.”

In “Republican Edge in Electoral College Tie Endures,” Kyle Kondik writes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “If no candidate gets to 270 Electoral College votes, the U.S. House of Representatives would pick the next president…The House has not had to pick a president in nearly two centuries. In the event of such a tiebreaking vote, each state’s U.S. House delegation would get to cast a single vote. The eventual president would need to win a majority of the 50 state delegations…Republicans control 26 delegations and Democrats control 23, with one tie (Pennsylvania). That is a slight improvement for Democrats from this time last year, although that improvement is based on a fluke and may not endure…The GOP remains favored to control a majority of House delegations following this November’s House election.”

Majority Froward may have found the issue that can rid the U.S. Senate of Susan Collins. As Simone Pathe reports at Roll Call, “Majority Forward, the nonprofit arm of the Senate Majority PAC, which is aligned with Senate Democratic leadership, is hitting Collins over prescription drug costs with a statewide six-figure TV and digital ad campaign beginning Tuesday…While Majority Forward’s first Maine ad hit Collins for not holding town hall meetings, this one goes after her for taking $1.4 million from the drug and insurance industries, citing data from the Center for Responsive Politics…“Thousands of Mainers are forced to cut their medications in half just to get by,” the narrator says in the ad, which launches Tuesday, as viewers watch an elderly man use a knife to saw his pills in two. “But Susan Collins voted against measures that would have lowered the cost of prescription drugs…”“Collins should work for Mainers, not donors,” the ad says.”

At The Hill, Brent Budowsky shares an idea that will warm the hearts of progressives, coast to coast: “Bloomberg should give $1 billion to Democrats.” As Budowsky elaborates, “Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg should take one of the greatest pro-democracy actions in the history of democracy and donate $1 billion to register Democratic voters, protect voting rights of minorities, mobilize young people and women, support Democratic campaign committees, and back Democratic candidates for the House, Senate and critical statewide offices…Such an enormous donation would give an additional boost to candidate recruiting. With control of both houses of Congress so vital to the future of the nation, party leaders and activists should go all-out to draft candidates such as Steve Bullock in Montana and Stacey Abrams in Georgia to run in vital and winnable Senate elections…Such an enormous donation will dramatize the great urgency and high stakes of this election. It could inspire more super-wealthy Democrats such as Tom Steyer and others to make dramatic donations. It could inspire prominent leading Democrats, such as former President Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama, to do dramatically more to elect Democrats than they are doing today.”

Political Strategy Notes

Some data for Dems about U.S. military spending and costs in the Middle East, as reported by Jake Thomas at The Intellectualist in November: “A new study on military spending in the post-9/11 era found that American taxpayers have shelled out $6.4 trillion on wars in the Middle East and Asia, according to CNBC…Published by the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs at Brown University, the report also found “that more than 801,000 people have died as a direct result of fighting — with more than 335,000 being civilian deaths. A further “21 million people have been displaced due to violence.”…The figure cited in the report — which CNBC noted is $2 trillion more than the entirety of the federal government’s spending in 2019 — “reflects the cost across the U.S. federal government since the price of America’s wars is not borne by the Defense Department alone.”…“Even if the United States withdraws completely from the major war zones by the end of FY2020 and halts its other Global War on Terror operations, in the Philippines and Africa for example, the total budgetary burden of the post-9/11 wars will continue to rise as the U.S. pays the on-going costs of veterans’ care and for interest on borrowing to pay for the wars,” Crawford wrote.”

Democrats looking for soundbite-sized comments on Trump’s latest disaster should give Sen. Chris Murphy’s comment a read:

From “It’s not just the polls that show Biden and Sanders leading the primary” by Harry Enten at CNN Politics: “We have less than a month until the primary season, and it’s becoming more apparent that former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont are the candidates to beat. It’s not just that they are Nos. 1 and 2 in the national polling. It’s that each holds a lead on the two most important metrics beyond the polling: fundraising and endorsements…Sanders reportedly pulled in about $34.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2019, which makes for a total sum of nearly $100 million over the 2020 campaign. No one else is even close. His nearest competitor (former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg) is closer to $75 million for the year, according to self-reports…Those who lead in fundraising at this point often win. In primaries in which an incumbent is not running in the given primary, 9 of 14 leaders at this point have gone on to win the nomination. Even when a candidate is trailing in the national polls (like Sanders), the leader has won 3 out of 5 times. This includes candidates like Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992 and Republican Mitt Romney in 2012…Dating back to 1980, endorsement leaders at this point have a strong track record of winning primaries. They’ve gone on to win the nomination 10 of 14 times. When a candidate like Biden leads in the polls and endorsements, they’ve won 7 of 9 nominations…And as I have stressed over and over again, early polling actually does a fairly good job of predicting winners and losers. Biden is clearly ahead there, with Sanders a bit behind.”

“If polarization helps Trump,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes in his Washington Post syndicated column, “then the opposite follows for progressives. They win only with coalitions that cross the lines of race, place and faith. Democratic candidates need strong support and turnout from African Americans, Latinos and city dwellers. But they cannot prevail in swing states without help from blue-collar and non-college-educated whites…It’s thus a big mistake for progressives to think that their own form of “base politics” is sufficient, and one politician who firmly grasps this is Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). He has a lot to teach this year’s Democratic presidential candidates, and he gathered his thoughts in his delightful book, “Desk 88,” published last year.”

FiveThirtyEight has a well-deserved rep for poll analysis. Here’s their update, by Amelia Thomson-Deveaux and Laura Bronner, on the latest polling data on impeachment: “…According to our impeachment and removal polling trackers, there isn’t broad public support for that either — just 47 percent of Americans favor removing Trump…But in the latest installment of our survey with Ipsos, where we use Ipsos’s KnowledgePanel to poll the same group of respondents every two weeks, a majority (57 percent) of Americans said they think Trump committed an impeachable offense. Fifty-two percent said they think Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine or his refusal to cooperate with the impeachment inquiry constitute enough evidence to remove him from office…Consistent with previous rounds of our survey, we found that about 15 percent of Americans think that there is enough evidence to remove Trump from office on matters related to Ukraine or his attempts to stymie the impeachment inquiry, but also think his fate should be decided by voters in the 2020 election, not Congress.”

Thomson-Deveaux and Bronner add, “According to the survey, 57 percent of Americans think it would be better if the upcoming trial included new witnesses who could potentially shed light on Trump’s conduct, while 39 percent said it would be better to keep the focus solely on the evidence introduced in the House hearings and included in the articles of impeachment, without calling new witnesses. Perhaps unsurprisingly, 65 percent of Democrats support calling new witnesses in the Senate trial. But 48 percent of Republicans also support calling new witnesses — although about the same number still want the trial to proceed with only the evidence introduced in the House hearings (50 percent)…The survey also found that Americans are divided on House Democrats’ current strategy of refusing to transmit the articles of impeachment until their concerns around a fair trial have been addressed. Roughly half of Americans say the Democrats should not wait to deliver the articles of impeachment, compared with 45 percent who say they should withhold the articles”

Also at FiveThirtyEight, Geoffrey Skelley explores “What Decades Of Primary Polls Tell Us About The 2020 Democratic Presidential Race,” and concludes “But having examined all the national polls from the last six months of 2019, the bottom line is that, at this point, Biden remains the favorite to win the Democratic nomination. That said, his grasp on the lead is tenuous. For instance, when thinking about Biden’s odds, it’s important to remember that the historical data suggests that the rest of the Democratic field combined has a larger chance of winning than Biden does on his own — 44 percent for all of the other candidates still in the race compared with Biden’s 35 percent shot.2 And this uncertainty around Biden as the front-runner lines up with what else we know about the race — Biden, Buttigieg and Sanders are fighting for the lead in Iowa while Biden and Sanders are neck-and-neck in New Hampshire, and Biden raised less money than either Sanders or Buttigieg in the final quarter of 2019. So as we jump into the new year and brace ourselves for the first two nominating contests, remember that Biden has the best chance of winning his party’s nomination, but it’s also quite possible that someone else will be facing off against President Trump this November.”

At The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein writes, “”On the whole, polls suggest that the 2020 election will closely track 2016, with small changes among key groups potentially tipping the result. Democrats hope that revulsion at Trump’s behavior will help them make gains with traditionally Republican-leaning blue-collar white women and college-educated white men, and further boost their margins with college-educated white women, who have left the GOP in droves. Republicans believe that the strong economy and Trump’s swaggering style will lead them to make small gains with Hispanic and African American men, suppress any defections from the working-class white women who backed him in 2016, and prompt greater turnout among the party’s base….”Trump’s persistently low approval rating—he is the only president in the history of Gallup polling never to crack 50 percent at any point in his tenure—means he faces an uphill climb to win the popular vote. But he could still squeeze out another Electoral College victory without it. Like in 2016, the election will likely hinge on just a few states that could be decided by very small margins: Pennsylvania and Michigan, which both polls and the 2018 election results suggest lean slightly toward the Democrats; Florida and North Carolina, which lean toward Trump; and Wisconsin and Arizona, which sit precariously at the absolute tipping point between both parties…Republicans think they cansqueeze out larger margins from shrinking groups; as a long-term strategy, that’s a dicey proposition. But it could prevail in the near term, especially since both the Electoral College and the Senate benefit small states that remain mostly white and Christian.”

In his article, “Have Democrats Found Their ALEC? The party has long pined for a nationwide network for state-level legislation. One group is finally succeeding where so many others have failed” at The New Republic Alan Greenblatt reports on a pro-Democratic group that is primed to help Dems win back control of state legislatures: Former Obama staffer Nick Rathod accepted the challenge and “built SiX out of the ashes of three prior progressive groups. “There’s a reason the right has been able to define policy,” he told me. “They’ve been doing it at the state level for so long.” (Jessie Ulibarri, a former Colorado state senator, took over the reins in 2018.)…As it has grown, SiX has honed its approach by embedding much of its staff in individual states and focusing on a limited number of issue areas, such as reproductive health and voting rights. Even where progressives can’t write the laws, SiX helps them gather data in an effort to shape policies in areas that don’t always capture headlines, such as maternal mortality rates. “Its mission really did fill a void,” said Ohio state Representative Stephanie Howse. “There is no basic school in how to be a legislator, in making policies, and even how to build a network.”…SiX’s materials now go out to more than 3,000 legislators or staffers, while its own staff has grown from 10 in 2017 to 27 today. The group has a $6.5 million budget, dwarfing the size of earlier groups that have fallen by the wayside—but still short of ALEC’s $10 million in annual revenue.”…“One of my biggest fears is that if we do take the presidency, and hopefully we do, things go back to the status quo: ‘Let’s just forget about the states again,’” Rathod said. “If the left is serious about long-term power-building and having political power in the country, they better not do that.”

Polltical Strategy Notes

At The Guardian, Cas Mudde writes, “…New voters and non-voters are disproportionately non-white and non-suburban. Many of them are not even registered, or – thanks to Republican purges of voting rolls – no longer registered. This is particularly relevant to African Americans, who – contrary to popular perception – actually have rather high voter turnout, higher than other minorities, but are disproportionately affected by voter suppression (including incarceration)…Despite the efforts of some organizations, most notably Stacey Abrams’ new group Fair Fight, Democrats devote most of their time to reaching already registered voters, rather than registering new voters. Imagine how much the millions of dollars of Mike Bloomberg and Tom Steyer could have achieved had they spent that money on registering new voters rather than vanity campaigns…The 2020 elections will not be about changing minds about who to vote for but about whether to vote. The damage done to voter registration in the South alone, following the gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, could swing elections.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, however, sees a vein worth mining in disgruntled Trump voters, especially in New Hampshire. As Trent Spiner reports at Politico, she “recognizes that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are going to clean up here. But she sees a path to success by finding voters to whom they have little appeal — like those who are so independent-minded they voted for both Barack Obama and Donald Trump…It shows in every piece of her strategy, from the towns she visits to her stump speech. And in a state where the biggest voting bloc, 43 percent, is independents, it’s a game plan her campaign thinks will create an Election Day surprise…Klobuchar’s state director said they’re focused on places other candidates have avoided, especially the towns that went to Obama in 2008 and 2012, but then voted for Trump in 2016.” Spiner notes that Klobuchar is also socially and ideologically-close with the state’s two Democratic women senators, Maggie Hassan and Jean Shaheen.

Andrew O’Hehir has a jaunty rant at salon.com, “A New Year’s resolution for Democrats: To win in 2020, get the f**k over 2016 already: Democrats must escape the poisonous hangover of Bernie v. Hillary. I’ve got terms for a truce: You’ll hate it.” O’Hehir writes, “the amount of grudge and grievance and name-calling and recrimination and hive-mind clapback and paranoid mythology, nearly all of it rooted in the leftover bad feelings of the Hillary v. Bernie conflict of 2016, is astonishing. It’s damaging and dangerous and downright Trumpy, and yet more evidence that the virus that produced him has infected us all…we have been subjected to endless, pointless, airless debates about who is more “electable,” which all boil down to the Bernie-Hillary split in barely concealed form, and which all run aground on the great reef known as Nobody-Has-a-Solitary-Clue Land…Rescuing the Democratic Party from its current aimless drift — in the election year just ahead or in this new decade or just sometime in this century — is not a matter of embracing one side of that divide and rejecting the other. It’s about facing an altered political landscape with honesty and clarity, and leaving behind the realm of denial, delusion and fantasy that have rendered our politics so empty and so stupid for so long.”

In E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s Washington Post column, “Our political debate doesn’t have to be this stupid,” he brings the challenge of 2020 into focus: “I am not starry-eyed about bipartisanship and its supposed joys. On the contrary, the current Republican Party’s abject fealty to Trump and its shift far to the right of where it once was mean that promises of a glorious bipartisan future will, for some time, be false. I have little faith in Republican politicians, including many I once thought were serious about governing…there are stirrings on the right that it is long past time for its partisans to break with climate-change denialism. We should be arguing over what to do, not about whether something needs to be done…Yes, Trump’s defeat and a radical renewal inside the Republican Party are the necessary preconditions for progress. But I refuse to see my wishes for a more reasonable politics and a better form of conservatism as fantasies. Let’s become a nation of problem-solvers again.”

It’s just one poll, but the findings merit a mention. As Jonathan Easely writes in his article, “Black Democrats energized to vote Trump out” at The Hill: “Black Democratic voters are energized to vote President Trump out of office in 2020, as less than a quarter of African Americans say their financial situation has improved over the past two years, according to a new study…A national survey released by Third Way and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies found that of the 46 percent of black voters who identify as strong Democrats, 57 percent are more energized to vote in 2020 than they were in 2016…However, about a third of black voters said they only have weak ties to the Democratic Party, and of these, only 34 percent said they’re more energized to vote in 2016…Sixty-two percent of black voters said that Democrats understand their lives, while only 13 percent said the same of Trump and the Republicans.”

Easely adds, “And a strong majority of black voters say racial relations have deteriorated under Trump, with 80 percent saying that Trump’s election has made people with racist views more likely to speak out. Fifty-five percent said they face more racism in their daily lives than they used to…Third Way did not conduct a horse-race survey of the Democratic primary field, but found that black voters tend to be more moderate in their views…Of the 79 percent of black people who identify as Democrats, 34 percent lean conservative, 34 percent are mixed and 31 percent lean liberal…Overall, 31 percent of black Americans described themselves as moderate, followed by 24 percent liberal, 17 percent conservative and 11 percent progressive…About two-thirds of black Americans prefer a candidate they agree with over a candidate who shares their background and life experiences.”

At CNN Politics, Harry Enten explains why it’s wrong to blame “religious voters” for Trump’s presidency. Enten concedes that “Trump won white born-again evangelicals with more than 75% of the vote in 2016 and his approval rating with them remains at 75% in CNN/SSRS polling taken in the middle of last year.” However, “Trump’s standing with all religious voters — and, in particular, nonwhite religious voters — is considerably weaker than it is among white evangelicals…Heading into the 2020 general election, Trump can certainly count on the strong backing of white born-again evangelicals. If he loses, however, it’ll be in part because his approval rating is only in the low 40s among those who attend religious services at least once a week and are not white born-again evangelicals…Trump’s approval rating was measured at 46% with those who attend religious services at least once a week and are not born-again evangelicals. His disapproval rating was 49% among this group, which means his net approval (approval – disapproval) rating was -3 points. Keep in mind, the majority of this group (about 55%) is white, so this isn’t just about this group containing fewer whites than the born-again evangelical bloc.”

AJ Willingham reports at CNN that “The first day of 2020 marked a bevy of new legislation, including the statewide legalization of recreational weed in Illinois…the state’s lieutenant governor was one of the first in line. The day before the law went into effect, Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker granted more than 11,000 pardons for low-level marijuana convictions.” Also at CNN, Leah Asmelash and Melissa Alonso note that “Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton was among hundreds of early morning customers at Sunnyside Dispensary, a Chicago marijuana dispensary, on the first day of legal recreational sales in the state, according to a release from Cresco Labs, which owns the dispensary…Stratton bought a 100-milligram tin of Mindy’s Edibles Glazed Clementine Orange Gummies…Each gummy is 5 milligrams, a “very popular microdose for beginning edible consumers,” he said…Illinois is now the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana.” Democrats should remind younger voters throughout 2020 that they have fought for this reform against Republican opposition, across the U.S.

Don’t forget that the 2020 elections will also play an enormous role in federal and state redistricting, and for Democrats that means correcting entrenched pro-Republican bias, which helped elect Trump and facilitated the GOP domination of state legislatures. To get up to speed on redistricting concerns, check out the Princeton Election Consortium, where top redistricting expert Sam Wang is offering data-driven articles on the Princeton Gerrymandering Project – 2019, in Review, What North Carolina’s redistricting cases suggest for 2021 strateg and Lessons from 2016 and application to 2020, among others.

Political Strategy Notes

In his year-ender, “2019: The Year of Stability: Big events of the year, including impeachment, don’t materially change the odds in races for president, Congress,” Kyle Kondik concludes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball that “despite all of the big political events of the past year, the overall political picture for November 2020 has not changed all that much. The presidential race remains in flux, and the two parties — Republicans in the Senate, Democrats in the House — retain various advantages as they seek to maintain their respective congressional majorities.” Overconfident Democrats should take note that the final Electoral Votes forecast by Kondik and the Crystal Ball for 2019 sees a dead-even 248 EV tie, with 42 toss-ups.

Kondik shares a map depicting Crystal Ball’s most current data-driven estimates for the Electoral College votes. Crystal Ball’s predictions have proved impressive in recent elections.

Kondik believes Dems will hold their House majority next year: “We currently list 225 House seats at least leaning to the Democrats, 192 at least leaning Republican, and 18 Toss-ups. Splitting the Toss-ups nine to nine would give the GOP a net seat of one; they need to net 18 seats to win the House. So we still see the Democrats as favorites in the House.”

As for the 2020 U.S. Senate races, “Our best guess at this point would be for something like a net Democratic gain of a seat, short of the three net seats Democrats need to forge a 50-50 tie. So we still favor the Republicans overall in the battle for the Senate, but the Democrats have enough targets to win control. The map:

All in all, Democrats are in good position to win a 2020 trifecta.

At Vox, Matthew Yglesias highlights the weak, even-for-Republicans, health care policies of Trump and Co, which should be a major asset for Dems willing to call them out: “Trump really does not want to talk about his record on health care. On most topics at hand, Trump’s team has something — whether true or not — to say in favor of the Trump administration’s policy initiatives…The argument is entirely negative — Democrats are bad; Medicare-for-all is bad…Trump can’t really tout his priorities. Over the past three years, he has pursued policies that would reduce the number of people who have health insurance and the quality of the insurance enjoyed by the insured.” Yglesias notes that  Republicans are reduced to arguing that reading, understanding and doing Medicare paperwork is more tedious than doing so for insurance companies, which is a very tough sell, to put it generously. “Personally,” Yglesias observes dryly, “it has not been my experience that filing reimbursement paperwork with Cigna is a notably superior customer service experience to what’s provided at the Department of Motor Vehicles.” In conclusion, Yglesias notes that “the uninsured rate in America is actually rising even though the labor market is getting stronger — a clear sign that health care remains an important policy area that won’t be fixed just by good generic economic conditions. And it’s a policy area where Trump is pursuing priorities — less insurance — that his own team has no defense for.”

Robert Alexander, author of “Representation and the Electoral College, argues “The case for letting senators vote secretly on Trump’s fate” at CNN Opinion. It’s probably not gonna happen, barring an overwhelmingly disgraceful revelation, such as a video clip of Trump stealing the White House silverware, and then fencing it a pawnshop. And even then, who knows, given the fact that ripping off charities and paying fines for it has not budged his approval rating.  Alexander believes that Republicans would then be free to vote their consciences, and he cites Jeff Flake’s dicey claim that a yuge majority of Republican Senators would dump Trump. Not likely – the media and their constituents would pester the GOP senators mercilessly to find out how they voted, putting pressure on all 53 of them to stay mum in perfect harmony with zero staff leaks. It’s a stretch for a party now raging that whistle-blowers should be outed to then say that their impeachment trial vote should be secret. In any case, Dems need not lead the charge. That’s a project for trembly Republican Senators and the media. Looking toward November, Dems should make them publicly defend a president, not only for the two impeachment charges, but also for his whole rap sheet.

Speaking of whistle-blowers, Trump may have just added to the impeachable offenses on his rap sheet, as Laura Davison reports at Bloomberg:  “President Donald Trump faces criticism from political opponents — and queasiness even among some supporters — for naming the alleged whistle-blower whose complaint triggered the congressional inquiry that resulted in his impeachment…A retweet late Friday to Trump’s 68 million Twitter followers identified a person it says is the whistle-blower. That could run afoul of two laws, said David Colapinto, a lawyer who represents whistle-blowers at law firm Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto LLP in Washington…Trump’s Twitter move, while a retweet and not an original message, could potentially run afoul of two sets of laws, one protecting whistle-blowers in the intelligence community and another portion of the criminal code that protects confidential informants from retaliation.”…“By making public the unsubstantiated name of the whistle-blower Trump encapsulated the pathology of his presidency — a callous and cruel disregard for the well-being of anyone or anything untethered from his own personal needs and interests,” tweeted Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow focusing on foreign policy at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and a former State Department analyst.”

Democratic supporters of both front-runners for the presidential nomination should appreciate Zach Budrick’s article “Biden hits back at Sanders’s claim that Trump ‘will eat his lunch‘” at The Hill. “If you’re a Donald Trump and you got Biden having voted for the war in Iraq, Biden having voted for these terrible, in my view, trade agreements, Biden having voted for the bankruptcy bill. Trump will eat his lunch,” Sanders said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times editorial board last week…Sanders went on to claim that Biden’s health care plan would keep the “status quo,” which Biden denied. Biden’s plan, in contrast to Sanders’s universal “Medicare for All” proposal, would create a public option similar to the one floated but ultimately left out of the Affordable Care Act.” No matter who wins the Democratic presidential nomination, he or she will be strengthened by engaging other candidates in tough, but respectful debate, which Dems have done well in 2019, despite the hand-wringing about circular firing squads. Trump won’t have that advantage, since some states won’t even hold GOP primaries and his most ‘serious’ opponent, William Weld, doesn’t seem much interested in fighting for his party’s nomination. If you’re a Biden supporter, be grateful that your candidate is working out with Bernie Sanders, and vice versa. Same goes for all of the Democratic candidates who address tough ctiticism.

One of the casualties of the 2016 election was the myth that the home state of presidential candidates matters much, since hard-core New Yorker Trump swept the south (except VA). The regional roots of voters, however, still matter — a lot. As Frank Hyman, a carpenter and stonemason, who also does policy analysis for ‘Blue Collar Comeback,’ noted in his Richmond Times-Dispatch article, “The Confederacy was a con job on whites. And still is” (reprinted in a dozen newspapers) that “a map of states that didn’t expand Medicaid – which would actually be a boon mostly to poor whites – resembles a map of the old Confederacy with a few other poor, rural states thrown in. Another indication that this divisive propaganda works on Southern whites came in 2012. Romney and Obama evenly split the white working class in the West, Midwest and Northeast. But in the South we went 2-1 for Romney.”

Yet today there are exciting pro-Democratic developments across the south, including the blue-ing of Virginia and progressive trends underway in NC, GA, FL and even TX. Democrats now hold a U.S. Senate seat in AL and the Governorships of NC and LA, and nearly elected governors of FL and GA in 2018. In addition, most of the largest southern cities have Democratic mayors. At Facing South, Chris Kromm reports that “Florida and Louisiana recently passed measures that expand voting rights for citizens with former felony convictions, and incoming Kentucky governor Andy Beshear is reportedly considering an executive order that would reenfranchise 100,000 voters. [Done] Georgia has adopted automatic voter registration. Texas has strengthened campaign finance disclosure rules.” However, Republicans still control all southern state legislatures outside of VA.

Political Strategy Notes

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has a repost-worthy op-ed, “Trump Has Turned His Back on The Working Class” at Newsweek. Reich argues, “Trump probably figures he can cover up this massive redistribution from the working class to the corporate elite by pushing the same economic nationalism, tinged with xenophobia and racism, he used in 2016. As Bannon has noted, the formula seems to have worked for Britain’s Conservative Party. But it will be difficult this time around because Trump’s economic nationalism has hurt American workers, particularly in states that were critical to Trump’s 2016 win…Manufacturing has suffered as tariffs raised prices for imported parts and materials. Hiring has slowed sharply in Pennsylvania, Michigan and other states Trump won, as well as in states like Minnesota that he narrowly lost.”

Reich continues, “The trade wars have also harmed rural America, which also went for Trump, by reducing demand for American farm produce. Last year, China bought around $8.6 billion of farm goods, down from $20 billion in 2016. (A new tentative trade deal calls for substantially more Chinese purchases.)…Meanwhile, health care costs continue to soar, college is even less affordable, and average life expectancy is dropping due to a rise in deaths from suicide and opioid drugs like fentanyl. Polls show most Americans remain dissatisfied with the country’s direction…The consequences of Trump’s and the Republicans’ excessive corporate giveaways and their failure to improve the lives of ordinary working Americans are becoming clearer by the day…The only tricks left to Trump and the Republicans are stoking social and racial resentments and claiming to be foes of the establishment. But bigotry alone won’t win elections, and the detritus of the tax cut makes it difficult for Trump and the GOP to portray themselves as anti-establishment…This has created a giant political void—but also an opportunity. Democrats have an historic chance to do what they should have done years ago: create a multi-racial coalition of the working class, middle class and poor, dedicated to reclaiming the economy for the vast majority and making democracy work for all.”

CNBC online editor John Ellis makes the argument that “Pelosi’s best move might be to keep impeachment in her pocket and not send it to the Senate.” As Ellis writes, “She could say: “I’m not sending these articles of impeachment over to the Senate. There’s no point in doing so. The majority leader has made it clear that he has no interest in a ‘fair trial.’ There’s no point in wasting everyone’s time and taxpayer money to arrive at a decision that Republican senators have already made. Everyone, including each and every Republican member of the Senate, knows that President Trump did exactly what he stands accused of doing. And impeachment is a fact. So we’ll let it stand as is; a monument to the president’s dishonesty and corruption, to be contemplated and remembered by Americans for generations to come.” She could add, “we’ll send it over  when the senate leadership expresses a sincere commitment to a fair trial and to calling relevant witnesses. That could be a while.” Indeed, it could. But this approach should be carefully measured against the downsides of not making Republican senators cast votes for giving Putin’s puppet a free ride, not showcasing McConnell’s blatant autocratic mindset and having the mess concluded in time to focus on the issues favoring Democrats. Tough call.

And give due credit to Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the sole Repubican elected official of stature, who has said she is “disturbed” by Mitch McConnell’s saying he was acting in “total coordination” with the White House in arranging the impeachment proceedings. Murkowski said, “To me, it means that we have to take that step back from being hand in glove with the defense, and so I heard what Leader McConnell had said, I happened to think that that has further confused the process,” report Kevin Liptak and Manu Raju at CNN Politics, who add “As a moderate, Murkowski, who opposed Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, will be closely watched during the upcoming trial, and she told KTUU she is undecided as to how she’ll vote.” Given all of her comments about impeachment of Trump thus far, I’ll be surprised if Murkowski votes for conviction. But if she does, she will be an instant front-runner for the “Profile of Courage” award — and will likely gain influence, if Trump loses the presidential election.

At CNN Politics, Harry Enten notes that former Vice President Biden has a big lead in endorsements from governors, senators and congressmen and that “candidates who lead in endorsements at this point usually do well in the primary.” Enten doesn’t verify a cause and effect relationship. Also, even people who like politicians understand that their endorsements are likely motivated as much or more by partisan calculations as the endorsee’s merits. It also depends on the demographic a candidate is trying to motivate. If, for example, a candidate wants to increase support from young voters, an endorsement from another politician may be of less consequence than one from a top pro athlete or a hot performing artist, which is more of a conversation-starter, while a political figure’s endorsement would be more of a yawn-generator. Just a theory, absent data testing the notion.

He may not have had the rank of congressman what’s-his-name, who recently switched to the GOP. But this statement by  Rep. Andy McKean, Iowa’s longest-serving Republican lawmaker, on joining the Democratic Party back in April, provides an eloquent template for Republicans of conscience who have had “enough” “With the 2020 presidential election looming on the horizon, I feel, as a Republican, that I need to be able to support the standard bearer of our party,” McKean told reporters at the Iowa Capitol during a news conference on Tuesday. “Unfortunately, that’s something I’m unable to do…He sets, in my opinion, a poor example for the nation and particularly for our children by personally insulting, often in a crude and juvenile fashion, those who disagree with him, being a bully at a time when we are attempting to discourage bullying, his frequent disregard for the truth and his willingness to ridicule or marginalize people for their appearance, ethnicity or disability…his actions have coarsened political discourse, have resulted in unprecedented divisiveness, and have created an atmosphere that is a breeding ground for hateful rhetoric and actions. Some would excuse this behavior as telling it like it is and the new normal. If this is the new normal, I want no part of it.” (as reported by Mahita Gajanan in Time Magazine).

In his Politico post, “3 factors that could make or break Trump in 2020: The president’s big economic achievements were wrapped up in 2019. Now Trump needs momentum in the economy and markets to stretch out for more than 10 months through Election Day,” Ben White notes, “Perhaps the biggest risk to Trump — and the toughest knock on his record — is the monthslong decline in manufacturing that began as Trump’s trade wars really took hold. Manufacturing tipped into recession territory over the summer and has yet to turn around, leading to weaker economies in states that Trump needs to win in 2020. That includes places like Pennsylvania, where the unemployment rate is rising and hit 4.2 percent in October…Michigan also has an unemployment rate above the national average at 4.1 percent and saw declines in the manufacturing sector in both September and October, though some of that came from the now-ended strike at General Motors.”

Eliza Relman and Walt Hickey note at Business Insider that “Satisfaction with Biden among Latinos who say they’ll vote in their state’s Democratic primary is about 40% — 15% below his support among white voters, 14% below his support among Asian voters, and a whopping 26% short of his support among black voters…The top two candidates running to Biden’s left — Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — both perform significantly better among Latinos. While Sanders’ approval is at 57%, Warren’s approval is at 54%…Biden’s relative lack of support among Latino voters will likely hurt him in two of the most important presidential primaries next year in Texas and California. The two states have the largest numbers of eligible Latino voters in the country, and California moved up its primary to Super Tuesday, which is on March 3.” But any Democratic nominee will almost certainly win California’s electoral votes, and Texas may be too much of a stretch for any Democrat. In addition, Biden’s comparatively moderate stance on immigration may be a plus with the white working-class voters who are a majority of voters in key swing states.

From Nate Silver’s “Do You Buy That… Spending A Lot Of Money On Ads Can Help Win the Democratic Nomination?” at FiveThirtyEight:

Political Strategy Notes

In her Cook Political Report article, “The Majority Is In Play” about Democratic prospects for winning back Senate control, Jennifer E. Duffy writes that “Democrats appear to have expanded the playing field enough to put Republicans’ majority at risk…Recent polls have shown Trump’s job approval numbers have ticked up a bit during the House’s consideration of the Articles of Impeachment. While the gains are small and not especially meaningful, Democrats weren’t expecting such gains, but the reverse…It appears that there will be at least five GOP-held seats in play, with a chance that Democrats could add one or two more. This puts Democrats in a position to win the majority, even if they lose Alabama and/or Michigan. This is not to suggest that Democrats will win the majority, only that their prospects are considerably better today than they were five months ago.”

In his year-ender column at Sabato’s  Crystal Ball, Kyke Kondik assesses Democratic prospects to win back control of the Senate: “Since our initial assessment, we did move North Carolina to the ranks of the Toss-ups, although Democratic odds are likely better in their other two Toss-up targets, Arizona and Colorado. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) has gotten some good news over the past several weeks: his one-time primary challenger, businessman Garland Tucker (R), left the race, and Rep. Mark Walker (R, NC-6) opted to retire in the face of redistricting instead of enter the primary, which means Tillis can turn his attention to the general election now. The true vulnerability of Republicans in the Leans Republican column, namely Collins and Joni Ernst (R-IA), remains something of a question mark, although each very well could be pushed hard next year. Collins, in particular, seems to face a no-win situation on impeachment: A vote to acquit will further nationalize her and imperil her longstanding crossover appeal (after her vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh for a Supreme Court seat already nationalized her to a great degree last year), while a vote to convict will soften her with Republicans. Without defeating at least one of Collins or Ernst, the Democratic path to a majority is likely blocked…Our best guess at this point would be for something like a net Democratic gain of a seat, short of the three net seats Democrats need to forge a 50-50 tie. So we still favor the Republicans overall in the battle for the Senate, but the Democrats have enough targets to win control.”

At Vox, Matthew Yglesias has some disturbing notes on the massive power imbalance presented by the U.S. Senate: “The growing polarization of the white vote along the lines of population density and educational attainment has also supercharged the once-modest partisan skew of the Senate, making even the most popular changes to health care or minimum-wage policy an extremely heavy lift…Today, the smallest state is Wyoming, and the state of Washington has about 12.6 times as many people. Of course, Washington isn’t the largest state. Indeed, it’s not even particularly close — 12 states are bigger. Illinois has 22 times Wyoming’s population. Texas is nearly 50 times as big (and growing fast). And California is a stunning 68 times as large…If California had been carved up into Massachusetts-sized states, it could be easily 15 or 16 separate entities — each with about four times the population of Wyoming — rather than the current mismatch…though the current GOP majority in the Senate is of recent vintage, it’s also built on a remarkably thin electoral base. In 2014, Republican candidates won 52 percent of the vote and gained nine Senate seats. Two years later, Democrats won 54 percent of the vote and gained only two seats.” Yglesias goes on to note formidable problems with proposals to admit Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico as states to reduce the Senate’s bulit-in bias, although they are probably the most doable reforms. Correcting such structural injustices, however, will require a Democratic landslide or two.

Eleanor Clift’s “Here Are 10 House Democrats Who Really Put It on the Line Voting to Impeach Trump” at The Daily Beast should be of extra interest to Democrats concerned about helping to protect the party’s vulnerable House members. As Clift writes, “Freshmen Democrats in districts previously held by Republicans face the greatest risk. This group, dubbed “frontline” Democrats, many of them women, voted to hold President Trump accountable on both articles of impeachment knowing full well the possible consequences…“The political implications of impeachment for Democrats in Trump districts was unclear, but they voted yes because they knew it was the right thing to do, and have to live with themselves for the rest of their lives,” says David de la Fuente with Third Way, a moderate Democratic group that at The Daily Beast’s request identified 10 freshmen Democrats with the most to lose in casting their vote for impeachment.” Six of the ten endangered Dem House members are women.

Clift adds, “Three of these freshmen lawmakers—Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, and Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria of Virginia—were among a group of seven newly elected Democrats with national security credentials who stepped forward in September to support impeachment after it became public that Trump had withheld military aid from Ukraine in exchange for dirt on a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.” Clift provides capsule descriptions of the political situation for each of the 10 vulnerable Democrats, including Elissa Slotkin (MI-8); Abigail Spanberger (VA-7); Elaine Luria (VA-2); Lucy McBath (GA-6); Haley Stevens (MI-11); Xochitl Torres Small (NM-2); Anthony Brindisi (NY-22); Kendra Horn (OK-5); Joe Cunningham (SC-1); and Ben McAdams (UT-4). Here’s ActBlue’s gateway link to helping protect these and other Democratic House members (Click on the state and scroll to the member).

In their FiveThirtyEight post, “Who Won The December Democratic Debate?,” Aaron Bycoffe, Sarah Frostenson and Julia Wolfe write that “we once again partnered with Ipsos to track how the debate, hosted by “PBS NewsHour” and Politico, affected likely primary voters’ feelings about the candidates on the stage… Biden received high marks, as he hasn’t fared nearly as well in some of our otherpost-debate surveys. Warren and Sanders were tied for a close second place in their debate grade, but, like with Biden, their pre-debate favorability ratings meant we figured voters would rate them positively — Warren was even slightly worse than expected. Andrew Yang and Amy Klobuchar, on the other hand, did better than expected given their pre-debate favorability ratings, earning the third-highest marks. Being the focus of several of his rivals’ attacks seems to have hurt Pete Buttigeg; he got low marks relative to how well-liked he was going into the debate. Tom Steyer also failed to make a positive impression.”

Bycoffe, Frostenson and Wolfe add that “Yang and Klobuchar saw the largest jumps in net favorability (favorable rating minus unfavorable rating) — 6.3 points and 6.1 points, respectively. Most of the other candidates made more modest gains of 2 or 3 points; Buttigieg was the only candidate whose net favorability fell — it dropped by about 2 points…We asked respondents to estimate each Democrat’s chances of defeating Trump, from 0 percent (no chance) to 100 percent (certain to win). Going into the debate, as in other general-election polls, Biden was the candidate voters thought was most likely to beat Trump, on average. He still leads on that question after the December debate, but…his average dropped by roughly half a point. Klobuchar, on the other hand, made the largest gains by this metric, with her average rating increasing by 4 points. Other candidates, like Yang and Steyer, saw more modest increases, while Buttigieg saw a small downtick.”

For those who are wondering “How’s Impeachment Play in the ‘Burbs?,” Charlie Cook has some answers at The Cook Political Report: “Last year, Senate Democrats had many more seats at risk than did the GOP. This year, the battlegrounds are overwhelmingly in red, Republican-tilting states. Again, more of the fight will be in the suburbs, where Republicans are playing defense, than in rural and small-town America, where the tide is shifting against Democrats. Whether Republicans hold their majority will be determined in suburbs of Phoenix and Tucson, where Sen. Martha McSally is defending her Arizona seat; Atlanta, with two GOP seats up in Georgia next year; Denver, with Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado holding on for dear life; the suburbs outside of Des Moines for Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa; Portland, Maine with Sen. Susan Collins; and in North Carolina’s Research Triangle and Charlotte for Sen. Thom Tillis. Some argue that Sen. John Cornyn faces a threat in the suburbs of Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio, though I remain skeptical that he will have quite as much difficulty as Sen. Ted Cruz had last year. Texas is trending purple, but maybe not fast enough for Democrats in 2020. Impeachment will do no favors for Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, but his race was so difficult before, it couldn’t get much steeper than it already was.”

“After the 2018 midterm elections, Gallup asked Democrats and Republicans where they hoped their respective parties would move ideologically. The results are instructive — about the trajectories of both the impeachment debate and the Democratic contest for president…When Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents were asked if they would rather see their party become more liberal or more moderate, 54 percent said more moderate, 41 percent said more liberal. Republicans, by contrast, think their already radicalized party is still not conservative enough: Fifty-seven percent said they wanted the party to become more conservative; only 37 percent said more moderate…The results added to the mountains of evidence showing how the political polarization we talk about so much is asymmetric: Republicans have not only moved much further to the right than the Democrats have moved left, the GOP wants to keep moving toward the outer edges.” – From “Democrats understand moderation. Republicans don’t” by E. J. Dionne, Jr. in The Washington Post.

Political Strategy Notes – Trump Impeachment Edition

“Everything I do during this, I’m coordinating with the White House counsel,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell assured Sean Hannity on Fox News. “There will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this.” Then there is “Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who exchanged a reputation for moderation for a reputation for Trumpist sycophancy, was even crisper. “This thing will come to the Senate, and it will die quickly, and I will do everything I can to make it die quickly,” he said.” Given these stated positions of two of the top Republican senators, who could blame Speaker Nancy Pelosi for not allowing them the opportunity to trivialize the hard work of the House Intelligence and Judicial committees and make a mockery of the U.S. Constitution. As Ezra Klein writes at Vox, “Impeachment’s most important role is preventive, not retributive. It is to make sure that neither Trump nor any future president tries to abuse their power to amass more power in this way again. But if Senate Republicans abdicate their constitutional duty and, as Graham promised, do everything they can to make this die quickly, they’ll be unleashing Trump and his successors to abuse the power of the presidency even more flagrantly in the future.”

From “Six pages of loony ranting, and journalists still won’t question Trump’s mental state” by Dan Froomkin at Salon: “The livid, unhinged six-page rant full of lies, hyperbole, wild accusations and self-pity that Donald Trump put on White House letterhead on the eve of his impeachment — “for the purpose of history,” he said — was an extraordinary gift to news organizations that have hesitated until now to address Trump’s mental state…To everyone but the willfully blind, it was effectively a confession of the president’s unfitness for office — a view straight into the mind of a mad king unable to grasp basic facts, control his emotions or acknowledge any restraints on his behavior.” Froomkin calls out some reporters for sugar-coating descriptions of Trump’s screed, but also credits some others: ” Former Republican strategist Rick Wilson said on MSNBC that the letter was “six pages of pure crazy, weapons-grade nuts.” CNN political analyst Gloria Borger said: “I think if I’m a senator, a Republican senator, and I’m looking at this and this landed in my lap like a grenade today, I would wonder about the president’s fitness for office.”

In “Trump goes after late Rep. John Dingell: ‘Maybe he’s looking up’ instead of down” at The Hill, Justine Coleman reports on Trump’s insulting, in a Michigan speech no less, the memory of the longest-serving member of congress in U.S. history, Rep. John Dingell, Jr. (D-MI), who died in February and was succeeded by his wife, Rep. Debbie Dingell, who responded, “Mr. President, let’s set politics aside. My husband earned all his accolades after a lifetime of service. I’m preparing for the first holiday season without the man I love. You brought me down in a way you can never imagine and your hurtful words just made my healing much harder.” Not the smartest of moves in one of the most important swing states, which Trump barely won in 2016. Dingell and his father, John Dingell, Sr., represented Michigan in Congress for a combined total of 82 years. Dingell was instrumental in passing historic legislation, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Medicare Act, the Clean Water Act of 1972, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the Clean Air Act of 1990, and the Affordable Care Act.

“But the letter only underscored Trump’s determination to lie and bully his way to reelection,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes in The Washington Post. “Republican claims that this is purely a partisan process must be challenged at their core. It is partisan only because Republican politicians lack the guts to acknowledge the obvious: A president who presses a foreign power to smear a domestic political opponent is engaged in despotism. Period…So when the issue comes before the Senate, Democrats cannot back down from their leader Charles E. Schumer’s demand that witnesses be called in a real trial. Those Republican senators who have claimed independence from Trump — particularly those up for reelection — must be forced to go on record, repeatedly if necessary…There is no middle ground. Either senators support a full accounting of the facts, or they are covering up for Trump.”

Another question that arises from the impeachment vote in the House of Representatives that should be directed to presidential candidates Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the only House member who voted “present,” as well as former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the first opportunity: “Rep. Gabbard/Mayor Bloomberg, will you or won’t you promise to support the Democratic presidential nominee?” Let no self-respecting reporter allow either one of them to wiggle out of a straight answer. Neither Gabbard nor Bloomberg made the cut for the December televised debate. Voters need to know the sincerity of the party commitment of all candidates who profess to be Democrats, especially those two.

At Politico, Kyle Chesney, Sarah Ferris and John Bresnahan discuss what is known so far about  Democratic impeachment strategy going forward: “Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to commit Wednesday to delivering articles of impeachment to the Senate, citing concerns about an unfair trial on removing President Donald Trump from office. Senior Democratic aides said the House was “very unlikely” to take the steps necessary to send the articles to the Senate until at least early January, a delay of at least two weeks and perhaps longer…“So far we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us,” Pelosi told reporters at a news conference just moments after the House charged Trump with abuse of power and obstructing congressional investigations. “That would’ve been our intention, but we’ll see what happens over there.”…Pelosi’s comments, which echo suggestions raised by other Democrats throughout the day, inject new uncertainty into the impeachment timetable and send the House and Senate lurching toward a potential institutional crisis…Though the House adopted two articles of impeachment charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of congressional investigations, it must pass a second resolution formally naming impeachment managers to present the case in the Senate. That second vehicle triggers the official transmission of articles to the Senate…By delaying passage of that resolution, Pelosi and top Democrats retain control of the articles and hope to put pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to adopt trial procedures they consider bipartisan.”

At Talking Points Memo, editor Josh Marshall provides one of the best assessments of Trump’s impeachment thus far: “Ordinary venal corruption can be impeachable. Some serious crimes that are not tied to a President’s official duties might be impeachable. But the crimes Trump is accused of – and of which he is clearly guilty – are definitional examples of the kind of wrongdoing impeachment was designed to combat…If we step back from signature phrases like “high crimes and misdemeanors” and look at the document in its totality, foreign subversion is a central, paramount concern in erecting a robust presidential power. The president is the only person who can never have had a foreign allegiance. He or she is specifically prohibited from accepting any thing of value or any power or title from a foreign power. The impetus to creating the constitution was the perceived need to create a more robust central government with a more powerful executive. The other signature, structural element of the document is the fear that this empowered executive will use these powers to perpetuate their own power and break free of the republican system of government on behalf of which and for which they hold these powers. Both of these central fears about presidential power are directly implicated in Trump’s criminal behavior.”

FiveThirtyEight’s Perry Bacon, Jr. reviews the shaping of public attitudes toward impeachment, and notes, “Support for impeachment increased substantially soon after the Ukraine scandal started dominating headlines, in late September and early October. During that time, the broad details of the scandal became widely known, and several prominent moderate Democrats and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi came out in favor of starting the impeachment process. By mid-October, most Democrats and more than 40 percent of independents were backing impeachment. And public opinion hasn’t really moved much since then, even during the sometimes-riveting hearings conducted by the House Intelligence Committee in November…What does this tell us? I think there’s a case to be made that what moved Democratic voters and perhaps some Democratic-leaning independents to back impeachment was as much Pelosi and other Democratic elites embracing it as the underlying evidence (Pelosi initially opposed impeachment after the Mueller probe ended but before the Ukraine story broke).”

Democrats who believe that the minimalist 2-count approach to impeachment that passed the House yesterday was inadequate may find David Corn’s review of Trump’s impeachment-worthy deeds in Mother Jones of interest. Corn writes that “Trump entered office as virtually an advertisement for impeachment. His disregard for the law and his profound lack of integrity already formed a prominent part of his permanent record.  He had run a fraudulent business(for which he would later be fined $25 million). He and three of his children (Eric, Donald Jr., and Ivanka) had overseen a fraudulent foundation (for which they would later be sanctioned). He was widely known to be a cheat who didn’t pay his bills. He was shown to be a nonstop liar. There had been plenty of stories and lawsuits focused on Trump and the Trump Organization’s shady business practices. He had worked with mobsters (and lied about it). He had hired and still hero-worshiped Roy Cohn, a ruthless, by-whatever-means lawyer who represented organized crime figures. That in itself was a huge tell…He had broken his promise to release his tax returns, failing to comply with this most basic requirement of transparency for a politician. And the instant he stepped into the Oval Office, Trump began violating the Constitution by running afoul of the emoluments clause, which prohibits a commander in chief from accepting payments from foreign governments. His hotels and businesses routinely pocketed revenue from overseas governments and officials…And he invited a foreign adversary to intervene in the 2016 contest when he called on Russian operatives to hack Hillary Clinton. (Trump also welcomed, denied, and aided and abettedMoscow’s covert attack on the election that was waged in part to help Trump win.)…The warning signs continued after he became president. Cronyism and nepotism ran rampant in the White House and throughout his administration. Trump exploited the presidency to hype his own businesses. His kids used his presidency to cash in. Cabinet members became involved in assorted scandals. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, was given a plum White House job, though he couldn’t obtain a security clearance. (Trump eventually had to order that Kushner be granted a clearance.) Trump’s companies pushed to expand their overseas operations (despite his promise that they would not). Trump trampled ethics rules. If there had been an algorithm that predicted impeachments, Trump would have rung the bell.” Despite Trump’s incessant whining about impeachment, the record shows he got off pretty easy.

Teixeira: Don’t Sleep on the 2020 State Legislative Races!

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

By all means, let’s defeat Trump in 2020. And keep the House and make progress in the Senate. But let us not forget how very, very important the state legislative races will be this time around. 2018 was just a start, albeit a good one. Can you say “redistricting”? I think you can!

The Post had a nice long article on Democratic state legislative plans for 2020. The graphic below is worth the cost of admission all by itself.

“By the time President Barack Obama left office in 2017, Republicans were in the majority in two-thirds of state legislative chambers and held 33 of the nation’s governorships….

Over the past three years, Democrats have flipped about 435 state legislative seats, including winning control of chambers in New York, Connecticut, Colorado, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Washington and Maine, in addition to the victories this year in Virginia. Democrats also picked up nine governorships. But Republicans still have majority control in 29 state legislatures, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

DLCC leaders say their top targets next year will be flipping both chambers of legislatures in Arizona, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, while also winning control of House chambers in Iowa, Texas and Michigan and the Senate chamber in Minnesota. The organization also plans to work closely with groups that plan to heavily contest races in other states.”