washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

At FiveThirtyEight, Geoffrey Skelley and Holly Fuong write, “….with the election right around the corner, we wanted to take a closer look at the views of likely voters.2 Overall, our poll found likely voters split evenly at 41 percent over whether they planned to vote for a Democrat or a Republican in the upcoming congressional election, about the same as in our September wave. But because most likely voters will vote Democratic or Republican, we asked the other respondents — those who were undecided, planned to vote for an independent or third-party candidate, would not vote or skipped the question — which major party they would support if they had to choose, as voters who lean toward one party tend to vote for that party. Even with those responses incorporated, however, likely voters remained almost evenly divided: Forty-nine percent said they would back a Democratic candidate, and 48 percent a Republican one. Nearly all self-identified Democrats and Republicans planned to vote for their respective parties, while independents preferred Democrats over Republicans, 49 percent to 42 percent….But while likely voters were split on which party they planned to vote for, they largely felt that neither party had earned the right to govern after November. Overall, 51 percent of likely voters said Democrats hadn’t earned another two years controlling the federal government, while 39 percent said they had.4 Among independents, 50 percent said Democrats didn’t deserve another two years and 34 percent said they did, while Democrats and Republicans mostly answered in accordance with their party….Yet things were no better for the GOP, as 55 percent of likely voters also said Republicans had not made a good case for why they should be given control of Congress for the next two years, compared with 35 percent who said they had. Notably, 61 percent of independents said the GOP had not, while just 27 percent said they had (once again, Democrats and Republicans largely answered in line with their partisan views).”

In “Power, politics and persuasion: Why Democrats don’t win — and how they can fight back,” Paul Rosenberg writes at Salon that “Anand Giridharadas is onto something in his new book, “The Persuaders: At the Front Lines of the Fight for Hearts, Minds, and Democracy.” As he put it in a tweet promoting an excerpt in the Atlantic:

A lot of people — well-meaning and malevolent ones alike — want you to believe that trying to change minds is futile.

They are wrong.

On the other hand, more than 60% of Republicans still believe Trump’s big lie about the 2020 election being stolen, according to a recent Monmouth poll. But changing the course of history — that is, winning the fight against resurgent fascism — doesn’t depend on reaching those committed Trump supporters. It only requires shifting a few percentage points, either by attracting a few voters from the other side or convincing a few non-voters to vote.

“I thoroughly believe that turnout is persuasion,” [Anat] Shenker-Osorio says in the book. “And if the choice is not singing in harmony, then the congregation is not going to hear the joyful noise….Rosenberg cites “three principles from an online guide Shenker-Osorio created that guided the creation of the race-class narratives: “1) Lead with shared values, not problems. 2) Bring people into the frame – offer clear villains and heroes. 3) Create something good, don’t merely reduce something bad.”

“One apparent point of difference between Shenker-Osorio and Bitecofer,” Rosenberg continues, “comes on economic issues. Bitecofer relishes attacking Republicans on the economy, as part of what she calls a “brand offensive” approach. “The economy is always going to be the No. 1 issue,” she told me. “You can’t cede ownership of the most important issue to the other party. You have to fight on that turf.”  Shenker-Osorio tends to steer away from this area, as Giridharadas explains:

Worrying about what’s good for Mr. Economy — that is the right’s issue, the right’s conversation, the right’s question. Shenker-Osorio drew a contrast between that and, say, the concept of “freedom.” That idea was contested. People on the right spoke of freedom from taxation and regulation and vaccines. But people on the left spoke of reproductive freedom and freedom from police violence and freedom from want. To frame your ideas in the language of freedom wasn’t validating the right’s frame. It was staking a claim to the idea of freedom as being as much yours as theirs. It was participating in the debate about what freedom is and who guards it.

Rosenberg adds that “Democrats should send the message that they’re fighting to allow you to vote and have your vote be counted, and be meaningful; to protect bodily autonomy and reproductive rights; to keep your kids safer from gun violence, in school and on the streets; to build a fairer economy that can lift everybody; to respect migrants who want to pursue the American dream and contribute to the economy; and to protect the individual dignity of every American, whatever their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

I don’t buy it whole hog, but at slate.com Luke Winkie argues that “Democrats Can Only Lose Debates Now: Or at the very least, they can’t “win,” and their lack of awareness of this explains one of the biggest problems with our current politics.” As Winkie notes, “anyone who still believes that a debate performance casts residue on electoral prospects—who trusts that an entrenched, exponentially more unhinged Republican base will suddenly see the light after a caustic Tim Ryan riposte—is hoodwinking themselves. Debates are not a conversion tool, and they haven’t been for a long time. There is little evidence that these recent rave reviews are indicative of a shift in Democrat prospects come November….Trust me when I say I understand the appeal of the debate clips that catch fire in #Resistance circles. I too would prefer to live in a world where congressional deliberation served as a real inflection point of a campaign—it would mean there is still a currency in objective truth and that information still takes precedence over frothy rage. But there is a stubborn, obdurate belief within the Biden contingency that, eventually, Republicans will snap out of the MAGA stupor and become profoundly aware of the cruelty and chaos wreaked by the Trump years….A debate seems like the prime venue for such a righteous triumph; surely, in front of neutral observers, where you are forced to ’fess up to the wide array of documentation showing that you’ve paid for abortions despite being staunchly pro-life, Americans can then see Herschel Walker for the spiteful charlatan that he is….This will not happen, and that’s partly because this isn’t what happens in a debate anymore. The directives of the parties are splintering off into elementally different directions, to the point that the pure aesthetic presentation of a debate as a concept has become increasingly incoherent in plenty of sections of the culture. A stuffy ritual of formalized political performance appeals to a segment of the citizenry that is pro-institution, pro-democracy, and pro-civility. The Republicans, meanwhile, have given up on all of those ideas—to the point that election conspiracy theories have almost become a de facto requirement for anyone in the GOP to ascend the midterm primaries.” Winkie notes that Trump has lost every debate he has participate in , according to virtue;ly all media analyses. But he is still considered his party’s front-runner for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination (although thatch change quickly). Winkie concludes that “The GOP cannot be defanged with diction; we cannot manufacture a treacly, Sorkin-ish magic bullet that will suddenly break the spell. No, in 2022, they can only be defeated.”


What Tim Ryan Has Already Won

For anyone interested in Democratic Party strategy and/or the midterm elections, your excellent read-of-the-day is “The Revenge of Tim ‘I Told You So’ Ryan” by Kara Voght at Rolling Stone. Some excerpts:

It’s the final stretch of his Senate race, and Tim Ryan is spending one of the campaign’s last Saturdays in Allen County, where Trump won by a mammoth 40 points two years ago. Most in his party believe the white working-class voters here have been permanently lost to the GOP. But Ryan made his way to this cavernous union hall in northwest Ohio because he hasn’t given up.

On stage, the 10-term congressman stood before a crowd of just a few dozen. He talked about ending a “broken economic system” in which workers “work six or seven days a week to make ends meet.” He lambasted trade deals that sent American manufacturing jobs to China — and criticized his GOP opponent, J.D. Vance, for raising “all that money from the big corporations who shipped our jobs overseas.” He said the word “Democrat” only four times during his half hour of remarks — and almost always in a negative context.

It was probably a wise approach in a county that hasn’t voted for a Democratic president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Ryan is nevertheless convinced his voters are at union halls in counties just like it across Ohio. Over the last 18 months of campaigning, has held hundreds of similar events throughout he state — including a second one at a building trades hall in East Toledo that evening. “That’s the coalition,” Ryan tells me, bleary-eyed and slumped in a chair at the Toledo stop. “You’ve got to get those guys back.”

In national Democratic circles, it hasn’t been fashionable since Trump’s 2016 win to “get those guys back” — at least not with Ryan’s vigor. A vocal faction responded to the shock of Trump’s victory with a strategy to increase turnout in Sun Belt states, believing that the emergence of a  younger, more diverse electorate held greater promise for the party. Those efforts paid off in 2020, when states like Arizona and Georgia — which hadn’t cast their electoral votes for a Democrat since the 20th century — went for Joe Biden.

Voght adds, “But that shift in focus pushed former working-class Democratic strongholds like Ohio, where Trump twice won by 8 points, farther down on the party’s list of priorities. Ryan vehemently objected, and he has demanded his party rebuild the so-called “Blue Wall” that Trump breached….”

Ryan is up against a daunting challenge. As Voght notes, Ryan’s opponent is having his coffers larded up with “millions of dollars in support from Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel.” The Republicans and their minions plan “to spend $28 million on advertising [for Vance] in a state where it hadn’t planned on spending much at all.” Further,

More than simply a Senate race, what’s unfolding in Ohio is a redemption arc for a congressman who has been ignored, marginalized and maligned by his own party for his out-of-vogue political prescriptions. If Ryan wins, he proves a Democrat can win on the backs of voters his party has forsaken. If he loses, he likely demonstrates a willingness among those voters to return to the Democratic fold — so long as the party courts them as acutely as Ryan has. Neither outcome is likely to settle his party’s debate over winning tactics, but Ryan will have nevertheless proved his point, donning his fellow Democrats’ doubt as a badge of honor.

For much of the last decade, Tim Ryan has related to his party in the same manner as a pebble relates to the inside of a shoe. While Democrats licked their wounds after the GOP swept the White House and Congress, Ryan blamed his party for flubbing its outreach to working-class voters like the ones in his Youngstown-based district. “We need blue-collar workers to vote blue, and in order to do that, we need to have the message and the messengers … able to connect with them,” he said on CNN soon after Trump’s win. Ryan challenged Pelosi for the House minority leader post soon thereafter and belly-flopped spectacularly. He led a second failed rebellion in 2018 after Democrats regained control of the House.

Although Ryan’s campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 ultimately tanked, he did crank up his national name-recognition and intrigued a lot of commentators who were wondering if the Democrats had any candidates who had smarts about winning back working-class families. Voght notes that Ryan has waved away from his campaign President Biden, who lost Ohio. Ryan has also staked out a ‘Democratic iconoclast’ persona, and has “committed to being “a royal pain in the ass” if he makes it to the Senate. According to Voght, Ryan’s strategy is “To put as much distance as he can between himself and the Democratic brand. “It’s a pretty negative one in places like this,” Ryan tells me in Toledo. I ask him how he thinks it’s perceived. “Elite,” he says, before I even finish the question. “That sensibility is just a huge headwind for us.” Also,

So Ryan has barnstormed the reddest corners of Ohio as the patron saint of the anti-elite. “We remind them of an old-school Democrat who’s all-in for the working person,” as Ryan puts it — “white, Black, Brown, gay, straight, men, women, service, manufacturing — anybody out there busting their ass.” He’s fervently opposed to trade deals, especially any involving China; so fervent was his first television advertisement’s “us versus them” rhetoric against “Communist China” that he was accused of Sinophobia by fellow House Democrats. Ryan dismisses Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) as “not helpful,” but has applauded “the New Green Deal — 1,000 percent for that,” he told me in 2018, drawing a line between the transition to a climate-friendly economy and job creation.

Ryan is also loath to invoke Sanders, his 2020 debate sparring partner. But Ryan’s anti-trade, pro-green economy overtures sound a lot like the Vermont senator’s.“Look, I think Tim is running a very good campaign,” Sanders tells me. “What he is in his own way — not my way — is he is trying to stand with the working class of Ohio — trying to stand with them and take on powerful special interests.”

Ryan is full hawk against China trade deals, but also against Republican election deniers:

But Ryan is clear that he is not condoning the GOP’s election denialism, the insurrection on January 6th or any of Trump’s other sundry attacks on democracy. He doesn’t think many voters who cast ballots for Trump in Ohio do, either. “We are running against people who want to destroy the country, and we keep fucking up our message, keep screwing up what we’re supposed to be doing here and who we’re supposed to be for,” Ryan says. “These guys, they voted for Trump, but they’re not storming the Capitol — that’s not their values.”

I saw Ryan rage and roar against the January 6 thugs and their Republican enablers on the floor of the House. It was the most powerful takedown of the GOP’s moral cowardice I’ve yet seen. Noting that Ryan’s casual, regular guy persona comes natural, Voght explains,

He nails, in other words, the “authenticity” factor, that je ne sais quois that helps candidates thrive when political conditions would suggest otherwise. “Tim Ryan has done a good job communicating to people that he’s on their side in a very human way,” says Sarah Longwell, a Republican strategist and the publisher of The Bulwark. That’s helped Ryan as much as it may have hurt Vance, whose time in Silicon Valley and essays in The Atlantic about “day trips to wine country” have, as Ryan and his allies insist, reduced him to an opportunistic carpetbagger.

Ryan is running “the best campaign of the cycle,” Longwell says. “I try very hard to not play fantasy politics, but the one place where I’ve been willing to indulge in some real optimism is Ohio.” His embrace of the working class is key to Longwell’s assessment, but so, too, is his courtship of highly-educated suburban voters, who have emerged as Democrats’ reliable demographic since Trump’s 2016 victory. On the stump, Ryan talks about GOP attacks on abortion rights as “government overreach,” addressing the issue without taking up the culture war. His football career cuts both ways: Ryan talks about treating his lingering injuries with yoga and a mindfulness practice, New Age remedies with suburban “yoga mom” appeal. Longwell notes a commercial in which Ryan is sitting with his wife and having a glass of wine, talking about how they only agree with one another 70 percent of the time. “He’s telegraphing the college-educated suburbanites in that ad,” Longwell notes. (There’s also a chance Ryan doesn’t need to do much to activate those voters, who have proclivity to reject Vance’s anti-abortion and pro-Trump sensibilities.)

This has all amounted to a statistical tie with Vance in a state where recent elections would suggest a much wider gap. Ryan is polling better than almost any Democrats attempting to flip GOP-held Senate seats, bested only by Pennsylvania’s John Fetterman and Wisconsin’s Mandela Barnes. He’s raised nearly $40 million dollars, an enormous sum only Fetterman has eclipsed. But Ryan’s success hasn’t inspired support from the national party, which has buoyed Barnes, Fetterman, and North Carolina’s Cheri Beasley with tens of millions in outside spending. “Ohio is the battleground of the past,” a Democratic strategist told the Washington Post last week, adding that the party is better off investing in places with more college-educated voters that are trending bluer, not former strongholds that are trending red.

The sentiment played right into Ryan’s hands. “I will fight anybody from any party who’s trying to peddle that bullcrap here in Ohio,” Ryan said during his event at the union hall in Lima. “If you need a college degree to get the passport to be able to go into the political party — no shot on my watch.”

“They really said that out loud!” Ryan tells me. “We kind of knew that was where everyone was going. But you can’t, like,” Ryan pauses and shakes his head. “It’s so insulting.”

Voght writes that Ryan has followed, to some extent, the working-class playbook of  his fellow Democrat, Sen. Sherrod Brown, who is “the only Democrat elected to statewide office in Ohio, having defended his seat for a third time in 2018 by roughly the same margin as Trump’s victory two years earlier.” Brown won with a message “that drove home the very same worker-centric platform Ryan champions.” Brown is also a master of communicating working-class values, “slipping so seamlessly into the jargon of plant closures and union pensions you’d think he worked a line.” Voght adds,

Ryan was in his fullest expression at his event in Toledo. After delivering remarks, he drank a beer, tossed a football, and obliged a pair of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers members to take a selfie with him in front of their motorcycles. The sun set behind a pair of 20-foot-tall inflatables of a “corporate pig” and “fat cat” squeezing a worker in one fist and a bag of money in the other. The pig’s face had been covered with a photo of Vance.

Union members spoke glowingly of Ryan — always in terms of policy before personality. “We load equipment and teach foreign people how to run the equipment as it ships away, and people lose their jobs,” says Tracy Counselor, the pipefitters’ union president who spoke with Brown. “It’s refreshing to see someone actually fighting for us.” Joe Abernathy, a leader in his local IBEW, says he’s hearing a lot of enthusiasm for Ryan, even among members who voted for Trump. “It’s a common misnomer that we’re all Democrats,”  Abernathy explains. “We’ve got to find some way to reach across the aisle, and I think Tim does an excellent job of that.”

It was easy to gaze upon the scene and think Ryan has cracked some code, but the odds are still very much stacked against him. Enthusiasm is among Republicans, not Democrats, across the board this cycle. Collin Docterman, the chair of the Scioto County Democratic Party in deep red southern Ohio, says he’s optimistic Ryan’s methods will convince some working class voters to vote for him, but definitely not all. “There’ still a demonization of anyone with a ‘D’ by their name — people think Democrats are bought and paid for by the Hollywood elite,” he explains. “It’ll be a long time before we get out of a general mentality here.”

No matter what happens, Ryan’s supporters hope Democrats are paying attention. “If Tim wins, there’s going to be a lot of important reasons why,” Barasky says. “But it’s important, if Tim loses, that we don’t learn the wrong lesson from what is an unbelievable campaign.”

Put another way, by running so close to his extremely well-heeled Republican opponent, Ryan has already shown that smart Democratic senate candidates can sometimes make a way out of no way — if they connect to a healthy share of the white working-class voters, who are the largest voting block in every state. Those who want to help Ryan overcome his adversary’s spending tsunami can do so at Ryan’s ActBlue page.


Political Strategy Notes

At Maddowblog, Steve Benen writes “If the Senate race comes down to which candidate can deliver a more polished debate performance, then Oz and the GOP have reason to be optimistic….But as the dust settled on last night’s event, there was something entirely different that put a spring in Democrats’ step. As NBC News’ report noted, it was Oz’s line on abortion rights that “immediately raised eyebrows.”“I don’t want the federal government involved with that at all,” Oz said. “I want women, doctors, local political leaders letting the democracy that’s always allowed our nation to thrive to put the best ideas forward so states can decide for themselves.”….If Oz had simply said the matter would be left to women and doctors, that would’ve been a perfectly fine response. But the Republican instead said that he wants “local political leaders” involved in reproductive decision-making — which was the break Democrats were hoping for….Our campaign will be putting money behind making sure as many women as possible hear Dr. Oz’s radical belief that ‘local political leaders’ should have as much say over a woman’s abortion decisions as women themselves and their doctors,” Fetterman spokesperson Joe Calvello said in a statement. “After months of trying to hide his extreme abortion position, Oz let it slip on the debate stage on Tuesday. Oz belongs nowhere near the U.S. Senate, and suburban voters across Pennsylvania will see just how out-of-touch Oz is on this issue….What’s more, as my MSNBC colleague Zeeshan Aleem noted, Oz also repeatedly dodged questions about whether he’d vote for Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham’s proposed 15-week abortion ban.”

Democratic campaigns looking for messaging tips should check out “The Red State Murder Problem” by Kylie Murdock and Jim Kessler at thirdway.org. Among their observations: “The US saw an alarming 30% increase in murder in 2020. While 2021 data is not yet complete, murder was on the rise again this past year.  Some “blue” cities, like Chicago, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, have seen real and persistent increases in homicides. These cities—along with others like Los Angeles, New York, and Minneapolis—are also in places with wall-to-wall media coverage and national media interest….But there is a large piece of the homicide story that is missing and calls into question the veracity of the right-wing obsession over homicides in Democratic cities: murder rates are far higher in Trump-voting red states than Biden-voting blue states. And sometimes, murder rates are highest in cities with Republican mayors….For example, Jacksonville, a city with a Republican mayor, had 128 more murders in 2020 than San Francisco, a city with a Democrat mayor, despite their comparable populations. In fact, the homicide rate in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco was half that of House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy’s Bakersfield, a city with a Republican mayor that overwhelmingly voted for Trump. Yet there is barely a whisper, let alone an outcry, over the stunning levels of murders in these and other places….We found that murder rates are, on average, 40% higher in the 25 states Donald Trump won in the last presidential election compared to those that voted for Joe Biden. In addition, murder rates in many of these red states dwarf those in blue states like New York, California, and Massachusetts. And finally, many of the states with the worst murder rates—like Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, South Carolina, and Arkansas—are ones that few would describe as urban. Only 2 of America’s top 100 cities in population are located in these high murder rate states. And not a single one of the top 10 murder states registers in the top 15 for population density….Whether one does or does not blame Republican leaders for high murder rates, it seems that Republican officeholders do a better job of blaming Democrats for lethal crime than actually reducing lethal crime.” Read the entire article for even more useful data.

Nicole Narea argues at Vox that Democratic candidate for Governor of Texas Beto O’Rourke has yet to make the sale to his state’s suburban women in order to win the election: “Beto O’Rourke came closer to turning Texas blue during his 2018 run for Senate than any Democrat has in decades, losing by under 3 percentage points. To win his campaign for governor against incumbent Republican Gov. Greg Abbott this year, he’s looking to again drive up massive Democratic turnout, particularly among women in the state’s rapidly growing suburbs….“We’ve always known … that if the same people vote in this election as are voting in every other election, we’re likely to lose,” O’Rourke told reporters at a rally here Saturday, just after several highly rated polls found him in striking distance of Abbott…..Though the notion that suburban women are persuadable is nothing new in American politics, O’Rourke, a singularly popular figure among Texas Democrats since 2017, might be the first member of his party capable of competing for them in the state….And he has a carefully crafted pitch to suburban women that includes hammering Abbott for rising property taxes, for failing to fix the state’s power grid, and for not addressing gun violence in the wake of the Uvalde school shooting. He’s campaigning on expanding Medicaid, legalizing marijuana, and investing in public schools, while highlighting the threat to democracy and voting rights posed by Republicans. But if there’s any one issue he’s counting on, it’s outrage over the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and Texas’s enactment of what he called the “most extreme abortion ban on the books in America….In the suburbs, as was the case in 2018 and remains true in other parts of the country, women are a key demographic: they typically vote for Democrats at higher rates than suburban men. Overall, women also backed O’Rourke by a 9-point margin in 2018….An October Marist poll suggested O’Rourke was having some success with them: Registered suburban voters preferred him over Abbott, 50 to 44 percent. It also showed him with a 2 percentage point advantage among women (and a bigger advantage among those under the age of 45.) Recent internal polling by the Abbott campaign also reportedly showed the governor down in critical suburban areas outside Dallas and Houston….Two October polls have O’Rourke within their margins of error.” Narea goes on to share her insights about dozens of interviews she conducted with Texas voters.

Kara Voght writes in Rolling Stone that today Senator Bernie Sanders “will hit the campaign trail to make his closing midterm pitch. He’ll go to states like Wisconsin, Nevada, and Pennsylvania — “to places where we think we could have the most impact,” he says. He’ll go to congressional districts where his party has given up, like South Texas. He’ll campaign on behalf of Senatecandidates who aren’t planning to appear alongside him….He’s going because, in the eyes of the 81-year-old progressive senator, his party is blowing its chance at midterms success. Democrats are letting Republicans win the messaging war on the economy — even though, as far as Sanders can tell, the GOP’s only plan is to cut popular social programs. “The Democrats have not been strong enough in making that point — and we’ve got to make it,” he says….So Sanders is taking it upon himself as he embarks on an eight-state tour on Thursday. He’ll make 17 stops in total, primarily in liberal strongholds, such as Madison, Wisconsin, and Austin, Texas, where his most loyal supporters live. He’ll also go where he outperformed President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential primary — particularly among working class voters in cities such as Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada. Sanders will hold an event on behalf of Michelle Vallejo, a progressive House candidate locked in a dead heat in a southern Texas district. National Democrats have abandoned Vallejo’s campaign in its final weeks as their financial resources dwindled, but Sanders, who won in the district in the 2020 primary, thinks that’s a mistake: “Why would you turn your back on a solidly working-class group of people, the Latino community in South Texas?….“The theme that I am going to be bringing forth and making as strongly as I can, is that if you have concerns about creating an economy that works for all people, and not just billionaires, you cannot vote for Republicans,” Sanders tells me from his home in Burlington, Vermont, on Tuesday afternoon. “That it is insane.” For the time-challenged, USA TODAY has a graphics-rich update probing “Who will control Congress after the 2022 midterms?” featuring the latest Real Clear Politics poll results. The post spotlights the closest 8 senate races, 8 of the 35 House of Reps ‘toss-ups’ and 10 governor’s races.


Political Strategy Notes

In his latest update on the midterm elections, Nate Silver writes at FiveThirtyEight: “In fact, Democrats had a string of excellent special election and ballot referendum results in which they met or exceeded their polling. If you’d held the midterms in late August, I’d have bet heavily on Democrats to win the Senate. It sure would be nice to have another special election or two now, and to see how these polling shifts translate into real results. Polls can sometimes change for reasons that don’t reflect the underlying reality of the race, such as because of partisan nonresponse bias or pollster herding….And certainly, Democrats have plenty of paths to retain the Senate. Republicans don’t have any sure-fire pickups; Nevada is the most likely, and even there, GOP chances are only 53 percent, according to our forecast. Meanwhile, Democrat John Fetterman is still ahead in polls of Pennsylvania, although his margin over Republican Mehmet Oz has narrowed. The model is likely to be quite sensitive to new polling in Pennsylvania going forward. If Democrats gain a seat there, meaning that the GOP would need to flip two Democratic-held seats to take the chamber, that starts to become a tall order. Nevada, sure, but I’m not sure Republicans would want to count on Herschel Walker in Georgia or Blake Masters in Arizona….But the bottom line is this: If you’d asked me a month ago — or really even a week ago — which party’s position I’d rather be in, I would have said the Democrats. Now, I honestly don’t know.”

At The Nation, Joan Walsh gives a proper bashing to that New York Times/Siena poll that has pundits mumbling about a Republican surge in the closing weeks the midterm elections: “The decisive “tell” that the poll was flawed was its finding that women are splitting their votes evenly between Republicans and Democrats. “Do you really believe just months after losing a fundamental right, women will split their votes [between Republicans and Democrats]?” Bonier asks. “Have we ever since the ’90s had a situation where women didn’t vote more Democratic than men did?” pollster Anna Greenberg asked rhetoricallyin The New Republic….Lake was more scathing: “There isn’t another poll in America that shows that,” she says. “If I did an outlier poll like that for a candidate, I’d have to do it over again at my own expense.” The Times should have tossed its October findings and started over, she says….The best “polls” are of course actual elections, and Democrats have outperformed expectations in most of them this summer, thanks largely to increased turnout among women and young voters. In the special election for New York’s 19th Congressional District in August, there was a seven-point gender gap favoring Democrat Pat Ryan; Joe Biden’s edge among women in 2020 was only four and a half points. “I’m not aware of a single poll in that race that predicted a seven-point gender gap,” Bonier says. Voter registration is surging among women and young voters, he adds. That doesn’t translate to turnout, however, pollsters are quick to admit. Without targeted intervention, many newly registered voters may not show up in November….The biggest flaw in the poll, which was sadly the fact most hyped by mainstream journalists, was that alleged 32-point swing among “independent women” to Republicans. It’s based on 95 women, and its margin of error is at least 10 points.”

Louis Jacobsen shares a bit of good news for Democrats in “The (Updated) Battle for the Statehouses” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and notes “In what we expect to be our final pre-election look at the nation’s legislatures, we are shifting our ratings for 7 chambers. We are moving 5 chambers in the Democrats’ direction, while 2 move in the Republicans’ direction….It’s important not to read too much into the imbalance in these shifts favoring the Democrats. The shifts reflect 2 major changes in the political environment since our last handicapping, which was published in May: the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade, and GOP primaries that anointed polarizing candidates aligned with former President Donald Trump for key top-of-the-ballot contests….Overall, the landscape for competitive state legislative chambers this year is fairly neutral, with Republicans playing defense in 7 of the 15 chambers we see as competitive and Democrats playing defense in 8. The Toss-up category includes 7 chambers, 3 currently held by Republicans and 4 held by Democrats….Several of the key battleground states with high-profile statewide races also have competitive legislative chambers, such as Arizona, Michigan, and Nevada.” Jacobsen provides detailed info on legislative races in nine key states.

“There are new tea leaves to read: now we have initial early voting data — what people are actually doing, rather than what they say they will do and what political observers think they will do,” Psychbob writes at Daily Kos. “A good review of early numbers, particularly in Georgia, can be found here.  The short version for Georgia is that total early voting (in-person and mail-in) is well ahead of where it was in 2018, the last midterm, but well behind 2020. Of course 2020 was a presidential election year, which always brings a higher turnout, but in addition 2020 had a huge mail-in vote and this election does not (the mail-in vote has dropped an eye-popping 90%+). So bad news for Democrats? Well, no. The 2018 midterms were quite successful for Democrats, and the total early vote in GA is running nearly 200,000 ahead of that election. The % of vote attributable to Black voters is running ahead of 2018 (good for Democrats) and the female vote is outnumbering the male vote (also good for Democrats). Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania (where there still is a lot of voting by mail) ballots from registered Democrats are outpacing those from Republicans 73.1% to 19.4%. This is exactly what Fetterman and PA Democrats need — a very large advantage in early votes banked. In another summary across PA and 4 additional states, the Democratic share of the early vote is outpacing 2020, by margins ranging from 1 pt (in Ohio) to 11 pts (in Michigan). From last week, also check out this summary of why 2022 could turn out to be another record-setting year for midterm turnout. There is no certainty that early voting/mail-in advantages will remain as strong or that they will be enough to overcome the expected GOP advantage on election day, but there is nothing in this early data that should alarm Democrats, and some room for optimism.”


Political Strategy Notes

At Brookings, William A . Galston probes a question of growing concern, “Are Hispanics leaving the Democratic Party?,” and writes that “a just-released poll of likely voters suggests that Texas Hispanics could be breaking away from the Democratic Party in droves….The poll, conducted by Quinnipiac University, found that incumbent Republican Governor Greg Abbott leads Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke by 7 points. No surprise there; Abbott is an incumbent in a very Republican state. But here’s a real surprise: the Hispanic vote is divided almost evenly between O’Rourke (49%) and Abbott (48%)….By a wide margin, likely Hispanic voters named the situation at the Texas-Mexico border as their top concern. Many Democratic pundits would regard this focus as an encouraging sign. But when asked who could better handle the border issue, 53% named Abbott, compared to 44% for O’Rourke—a nine-point gap. And despite the national uproar over transporting migrants entering the United States in Texas and Florida to states far removed from the border, a strong minority of Texas Hispanics—48% supported Gov. Abbott’s policy, compared to 51% who opposed it….To be sure, these voters have a nuanced view of the choice they face. For example, on what for them is the second-most important issue—abortion—they disapprove of the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade by 61 to 35%, and they trust O’Rourke over Abbott to handle this issue by a 15-point margin, 54 to 39%. But if the Quinnipiac survey is correct, their doubts about O’Rourke’s approach to the border more than counterbalanced their concerns about abortion….Relying on a single poll is always risky, and this one is no exception. For example, another recent survey of likely voters by a Texas television chain and the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation gave Abbott a 7-point lead overall (the same as the Quinnipiac poll), but in that poll O’Rourke led among Hispanics by 14 points, 53 to 39%….In the 2018 gubernatorial race, Gov. Abbott received only 35% of the Hispanic vote. In the 2020 presidential contest, Donald Trump received 41% of this vote, up from 34% in 2016. If Abbott can improve on these results in November, Texas will likely be out of the Democrats’ reach indefinitely, and Democrats will have more cause for concern about an essential building block of what they hoped would be their new majority.”

Charlie Cook explains why “The Midterms May Come Down to the Last Gust of Political Wind” at The Cook Political Report: “A hallmark of midterm elections is that those in or leaning toward the party of a sitting president are lethargic, complacent, or at least a little disappointed, and less likely to vote in the general election. True to form, that is the situation Democrats had going into this past summer. Republicans were just more motivated. That gap closed during the second half of the summer and into September. Indeed, the Fox News poll released this week shows Democrats now just as motivated as Republicans….The extreme partisan polarization in recent years has yielded fewer “true independents,” ones who do not identify with or even lean toward either party, and fewer people voting split tickets….Why so many people offer such confident predictions about the Senate continues to baffle me. The possibility of a 50-50 Senate in the 118th Congress is very real, quite possibly the single most likely outcome….candidate quality matters so much more in the Senate than the House, the far more sensitive barometer of the national political climate….In the House, it is my inclination to defer to David Wasserman, senior editor for The Cook Political Report with Amy Walter, a House race expert without peer. By David’s count, there are 162 seats in the Solid Democratic column, 26 more that are Likely Democrat, and 28 listed as Lean Democrat, for a total of 193 seats where they have an edge. Conversely, 188 seats are in the Solid Republican category, 12 more are Likely Republican, and 11 Lean Republican, totaling 211 seats where they seem to have the upper hand. It is the 31 seats in the Toss Up column where most of the action is….To hold onto the barest majority possible, 218 seats, Democrats have to win 25 (81 percent) out of the 31 Toss Ups, while Republicans need to win just seven (23 percent) of the 31. If Democrats win every Toss Up race, they would end up with a net gain of one seat, a total of 223. If Republicans win every Toss Up, they would have a net gain of 29 seats. So constructing a bell curve would put the tails around one seat up for Democrats to 29 seats for Republicans, up to 242 seats. Although it is fairly rare for a party to win all of the Toss Ups, keep in mind that in 2020, when the Blue Wave turned into the Dead Sea in the final week, the GOP did just that.”

Chris Cillizza spotlights “The trick Republicans are using to justify supporting election deniers” at CNN Politics. Cillizza argues that Republicans are pretending that a great many of their fellow Republican candidates who are election deniers should be excused because, well, that’s just one of their policies. Cillizza cites a couple of examples, including VA Gov. Glenn Youngkin supporting election denier Kari Lake for Governor of Arizona and NH Gov. Sununu’s endorsement of election denier Don Bolduc for Senate: “Although he and Bolduc have had their differences – Bolduc has called Sununu a “Chinese communist sympathizer” and a “globalist world-government guy,” while Sununu has called Bolduc a “conspiracy theory extremist” – Sununu is now supporting him out of a sense, it seems, of party loyalty. Yeah, they don’t see the world exactly the same way, but they’re both Republicans, so it just makes sense that Sununu would support Bolduc….But there’s an elision of logic inherent in that compromise that is dangerous….One of them believes – or is at least willing to keep open the option – that, contrary to all of the evidence, that there was fraud in the 2020 election. This isn’t a policy disagreement. This is about the very bones of our democracy, the notion that we hold free and fair elections – whether or not the candidate you supported winds up winning….Again, this isn’t just a disagreement over some policy plank. The issue here is whether the 2020 election was free and fair. You can’t just yada-yada the notion that someone you are endorsing for high office actually believes that the last election was stolen!…By casting election denialism as just another policy position, the likes of Youngkin and Sununu – both of whom have national ambitions of their own – are trying to put a Band-Aid on a gaping wound. If you don’t believe in the fundamental tenets of democracy that have been followed since the founding of the country, all the other stuff doesn’t really matter.”

From “C’mon, Democrats. Tout Your Economic Record: Despite inflation, they have a great story to tell about the Biden administration’s record. Here are three economic talking points, free of charge” by Robert J. Shapiro at The Washington Monthly: “Drawing on the fact-free politics of Donald Trump, Republicans are selling the meme that Americans are much worse off economically under President Joe Biden and the Democrats. That is demonstrably untrue. But the Democrats’ main response has been to mumble an apology for the inflation they didn’t cause—and then try to change the subject….That approach won’t work, because every national election is a platform for voters to express their disappointment or satisfaction with the economy. And this year, the economic facts on jobs, wealth, and incomes largely favor Democrats. So let’s distill them into three talking points for Democratic candidates to recite over and over again for the next three weeks.” Shapiro then shares a few stats that Democratic campaigns should echo, including: “Here’s the first talking point: Over the 21 months that Biden and Democrats have run Washington, the economy has created a record 10 million new jobs. That’s a monthly average of 476,200 new jobs, or 300,000 more per month, than during the first 21 months when Trump and Republicans were in charge in 2017 and 2018….Here is the next economic talking point: Under Biden and a Democratic Congress, Americans at every income level are wealthier today, with lower-, moderate-, and middle-income households making the most significant gains….we found that Americans’ average wage and salary income rose from $68,943 to $73,988 [un Der Biden]. That’s an increase of $5,045 per working person, or 7.3 percent….Democrats, here’s a third talking point on the economy: Under Biden, on average, people’s wages and salaries rose more than $5,000. While inflation has modestly outpaced that increase, more importantly, increases in most people’s assets are more than 50 times that shortfall. And on top of that, 10 million more people have jobs….It’s no secret that most Americans find economic facts and analysis boring, apparently including the operatives writing speeches and ads for this year’s candidates. But voters care about their jobs, paychecks, and wealth. Democrats, wake up—your record is a strong case for keeping you in charge. It’s time to let the voters know.”


A Sunnier View of Democratic Midterm Prospects

Big media and the blogosphere are full of stories about how the midterm races are “tightening” in the GOP’s favor. Some are even saying the Republicans have new momentum in the closing weeks of the campaigns. For an alternative perspective, however, check out “The Republicans’ disappointing midterm elections” by Peter Morici at Marketwatch. Among Morici’s observations:

“Voter dissatisfaction with President Joe Biden on inflationborder security and the general direction of the countrycrime in major cities and the culpability of the progressive prosecutors movement; and data suggesting school children were set back in math and reading thanks to prolonged pandemic shutdowns gave Republicans lots of grist to mill.

However, Biden’s recent winning streak in Congress — the CHIPS Act and the  Inflation Reduction Act — raised his approval ratings and rallied the troops. And the Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade has energized Democratic voters.

Larry Sabato’s crystal ball at the University of Virginia shows 214 House seats as safe, likely or leaning Republican and only 195 in the Democratic column. Of the remaining 26 seats, Republicans should still be able win at least four to grasp control. But they should be doing better.

The Senate has gone from the Republicans likely winning control to at best a toss-up. Sabato has 49 in each party’s column and Georgia and Nevada as toss-ups — compared with FiveThirtyEight’s assessment, that’s generous.

Even the betting markets “now see Republicans winning Senate in midterm elections, as GOP slightly favored for first time in 2 months.” If this strikes you as a lot of awfully confident crystal ball gazing, welcome to the club. But come on, does anybody really know what is going to happen?

Sure they could be right. After all, political patterns are based on stuff that actually happened. And smart gamblers don’t bet the ranch against the preponderance of data. But the best data indicator for election predictions is poll averages during the yet-to-come last few days of the campaign.

Morici adds, “conservatives have badly misread the tenor of the times,” and notes,

The Kansas referendum that would have excluded abortion rights from the state constitution lost badly and hardly helped conservatives’ public image.

In the August special election for the House seat in New York’s 19th district, signs reading “Choice Is on the Ballot” were ubiquitous. And Democrat Pat Ryan won in what should have been a good prospect for a Republican pickup.

See: Biden promises bill codifying abortion rights if Democrats keep Congress, with elections now just 3 weeks away

The Senate seat in Arizona held by Mark Kelly should be a good target for a Republican gain, and Blake Masters, backed by Trump and with funding from venture capitalist Peter Thiel, has cut the incumbent’s lead from about nine points to about five. But those last five points could prove illusive.

Masters has scrubbed “I am 100% pro-life” from his website, and now claims to be someplace in the middle and ran an ad to that effect.

Further, Morici argues, “GOP candidates should be hammering the economy, inflation, gas prices, the border crisis and the like, not playing defense on a wedge issue. When you are doing that, you’re losing.”

Also, “Republican woes go well beyond abortion rights. The GOP “Commitment to America” platform was late in coming, is merely a grab bag of conservative ideas and complaints, and does not provide the party with a coherent identity other than that it’s against the Democrats. And that Biden is happy to assign them one.”

The platform reads like it was hatched in a spirit of “Let’s throw some shite against the wall to pretend like we have a legislative vision and see if it sticks.” It didn’t.

Morici is skeptical about  the longer term effects of Biden’s policies. But in the short term leading up to the midterm elections, those same policies may help the Democrats do better than expected.


Political Strategy Notes

At Politico, Ally Mutnick and Sarah Farris report that “House Democrats retrench as GOP money floods the map: The party isn’t airing ads in six of the 14 GOP districts Joe Biden carried in 2020, as it directs money to help incumbents under threat“, and write: “House Democrats’ panic has escalated this month as GOP outside groups continued to smash fundraising records. Despite high candidate fundraising, Democrats have been unable to respond with the same volume of money, and the party has struggled to free up the resources to attack potentially endangered Republican incumbents — a crucial part of their strategy, since they need to offset expected losses in more conservative Democratic-held districts….Democrats currently have just a 5-seat majority and already seem to be abandoning some tough seats that their incumbents currently hold in Arizona, Wisconsin, Texas and Michigan….“The No. 1 factor here is money,” said Tim Persico, executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee….Altogether, national Democratic groups aren’t airing TV ads in six of the 14 Republican-held districts that went for Biden in 2020 — seats that are among the most important to contest. That includes the district represented by Garcia, who won in 2020 by 333 votes….On top of that, Republican outside spending is forcing Democrats to divert precious resources to what should be safe blue districts. Democrats’ top super PAC this week slashed a planned TV blitz in Los Angeles, which could have targeted Garcia, and Tucson, where Engel is running, to redeploy the money elsewhere….An infusion of about $20 million, according to one senior Democrat, could hold the House.”

Maddowblog’s Steve Benen rolls out a powerful rebuttal to the Republican’s attempt to blame the Democrats for rising crime. Here’s the first three nuggets from Benen’s 7-point rebuttal: “1. The evidence of soaring crime rates is dubious. The latest data from the FBI actually showed a decline in violent crime, and while there are legitimate concerns about the figures being incomplete, there are other recent reports pointing in similar directions….2. Republicans may need to take a long look in the mirror. As Dana Milbank explained in his latest column:

Earlier this year, the centrist Democratic group Third Way crunched the 2020 homicide figures and found that per capita homicide rates were on average 40 percent higher in states won by Trump than by Joe Biden. Eight of the 10 states with the highest homicide rates have been reliably red states for the past two decades. Republican-led cities weren’t any safer than Democratic-led cities. Among the 10 states with the highest per capita homicide rates — Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky, Alabama, Missouri, South Carolina, New Mexico, Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee — most were in the South and relatively rural. The findings were broadly consistent with other rankings of states (and counties) by violent crime.

3. The GOP seems awfully selective about its crime-related interests. Many of the Republicans trying to leverage crime as a campaign issue are the same Republicans who appear wholly indifferent to serious crimes such as the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol and Donald Trump’s alleged felonies. Take Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, for example.” Read Benen’s post for more rebuttal points.

Is “Democracy itself is on the ballot” a good pitch for Democrats in the closing weeks of the midterm campaigns? At Randomlengthsnews.com,  Paul Rosenberg explains it like this: “Democracy itself is on the ballot this November: 299 election deniers are on the ballot—more than half of all Republicans running for congressional and state offices, according to an exhaustive investigation by the Washington Post. Some, like Jim Marchant of Nevada, are running to be Secretary of State, where they could block the will of the voters in 2024, just as Trump wanted in 2020.” I agree with Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. that “democracy’s future” is “the overarching question.”  But polls indicate that it may not be as powerful an issue for Democrats as abortion rights, and most polls indicate that inflation and related economic concerns remain the top priority for most voters. But those are national polls and the midterms are not one, but, hundreds of elections all across America. Perhaps the better question is, in which campaigns is “Democracy itself is on the ballot” a good messaging point.  Bear in mind that most voters who really care about election integrity are already more likely to vote Democratic, since Republicans have produced no credible evidence that Trump or any Republicans have lost votes to theft. There is value in making the GOP own its disrespect for democracy.  In particular states and congressional districts where Republican candidates are making election denial a big theme, the pitch may resonate well with some swing voters. And sure, Biden, Harris and other Democratic leaders should include it in talking points., but maybe not as the central theme in places where more voters are worried about inflation and abortion rights.

In his article, “Democrats Need to Make the January 6 Attack an Election Issue,” however, John Nichols writes at The Nation that “Democrats seem to be wrestling with whether to focus on what happened on January 6, 2021, as a 2022 election issue. Throughout this challenging midterms season, we’ve seen reports that, as an August Politico headline put it, “There’s a Huge Divide Among Democrats Over How Hard to Campaign for Democracy.” The article explained that “Democrats competing in elections this year have not been pressing the issue anywhere near as hard as other concerns.” In fact, political ads mentioning the insurrection accounted for less than 4 percent of all Democratic spending at the time, according to Politico….That’s a misguided strategy that needs to be rethought as midterm voting begins….Of course, there are other issues candidates must address—abortion rights, price gouging and inflation, the lingering effects of the coronavirus pandemic, and an increasingly unstable international circumstance. But to neglect the role that Trump-aligned Republicans have already played in assaulting democracy is political malpractice. Even if viewership of the January 6 committee hearings has waned since they began in June, the threat to democracy that they have illustrated remains very real—and very potent as a political issue with the voters Democrats need to mobilize in advance of the November 8 election….It’s the right thing to do. It’s smart politics. And a few Democrats have provided a template for how to get it right, by recognizing that, at a time when Republicans are pouring millions of dollars into TV ads that falsely paint Democrats as soft on crime and anti-police, Republican insurrectionists and their allies are vulnerable on these issues….In a midterm election where mobilizing the base is essential, January 6 is an issue that can move voters—if Democratic candidates are prepared to talk about it.”


Dem Chances in Midterms: Forecasts, Wild Cards and Hunches

Can Democrats Win 52 Senate Seats And Kill The Filibuster?” Daniel Rakich addresses the question at FiveThirtyEight, digests FiveThirtyEight’s forecasting data and writes:

“Democrats may currently control the Senate, but many within the party believe 52 Democratic senators are necessary for a true governing majority. That’s because moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are reluctant to change the Senate rules and abolish or circumvent the filibuster, which requires a 60-vote supermajority to vote on most legislation.

However, suppose the party wins 52 seats this November and at least 50 senators vote to suspend the filibuster in the following Congress. The Senate could then pass stalled Democratic priorities like codifying abortion rights into federal law and expanding voting rights. As a result, that’s where Democrats are setting the bar this election cycle: Even President Biden has publicly asked voters to “give me two more Democratic senators.”

But, while Democrats have a 66-in-100 chance of holding onto control of the Senate (according to the Deluxe version of the FiveThirtyEight forecast),1 their odds of winning 52 seats are dicier. In the two most likely scenarios, the party would win either 50 or 51 seats (there’s a 32-in-100 chance of that happening).

However, it’s not out of the question that the Democratic dream scenario will come true. According to our forecast, there’s a 34-in-100 chance that Democrats will win 52 or more Senate seats this November. In other words, it’s roughly equally as likely that Republicans will win the Senate, that Democrats will win the Senate with 50 or 51 seats and that Democrats will win the Senate with at least 52 seats.”

Rakich notes that PA, WI, NC and OH are the most likely states to flip senate seats from red to blue, but cautions that “liberal Democrats have one more roadblock.” They also have to pass their legislative agenda in the House, and holding on to their House majority is a much tougher challenge. “They have just a 29-in-100 chance of maintaining control of the lower chamber, a bit lower than their chances of winning at least 52 Senate seats.” Further, “There is a 22-in-100 chance that Democrats will win a majority of House seats and at least 52 Senate seats.” Rakich also links to a hover map that provides data for each state.

A better than one in five chance may be an improvement over what Dems were expecting a few months ago. And this is just one forecasting model’s data, not that there is any reason to believe that other models would be all that   different. But it’s worth remembering that no pundits thought Georgia was going to elect two Democratic senators until late in the 2020 campaign. Sobering as Rakich’s numbers are, a lot of wild cards are floating around in this year’s game, including an exceptionally lame GOP field of senate candidates, fallout from the January 6 hearings and anger at the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which should be weighed against all of the Dem’s vulnerabilities. And despite evidence to the contrary, I can’t dismiss the hunch that increasing numbers of swing voters are thinking something like “The Dems have their screw-ups, but it sure looks like a lot of Republicans have gone nuts.”


Political Strategy Notes

If Democratic GOTV pros need another reason to pour it on during the next couple of weeks, Jennifer Agiesta has some data at CNN Politics which might help energize voter mobilization. As Agiesta writes, “Americans are closely divided over which party’s candidate they would support in their congressional districts, with preferences in competitive districts tilting toward Republicans, according to a new CNN Poll conducted by SSRS….Among likely voters nationwide, the race is a tight split, with 50% backing the Democratic candidate and 47% behind the Republican. But in competitive congressional districts, Democratic support among likely voters dips and preferences tilt toward the Republicans: 48% of likely voters in that group prefer the Republican candidate, 43% the Democrat….Voters are narrowly more likely to say that Republican candidates near them have a clear plan for solving the country’s problems (32%) than they are to say the same about Democratic candidates (28%). In a notable party divide…Asked which party’s candidates running for Congress in the area where they live have the right priorities, registered voters are again split (40% Republicans, 39% Democrats), even as they narrowly give Democratic candidates an advantage as more likely to agree with them on the most important issues (43% to 39%)….Republican registered voters nationwide and in competitive congressional districts are a bit more likely to say they are deeply motivated to vote than are Democratic registered voters (52% extremely motivated among Republicans nationally, 46% among Democrats; in competitive districts, it’s 55% among Republicans vs. 45% among Democrats) ….Democratic candidates do hold some advantages, though. Registered voters nationwide are more likely to see local Democratic candidates than their Republican rivals as caring about people like them (40% to 34%), working to protect democracy (43% to 36%), and uniting the country rather than dividing it (37% to 31%). And voters are more likely to see Republican candidates as too extreme (40%) than Democratic ones (36%)….In competitive congressional districts, the economy and inflation take on added importance. While 59% of registered voters nationally call the economy extremely important to their vote, that rises to 67% in those districts, and the share calling inflation that important rises from 56% to 64%.”

Apparently, it has never occurred to Republican leaders that their party is quite vulnerable when trying to stereotype Democrats as “soft on crime. ” At salon.com, however, Amanda Marcotte has messaging points Democratic candidates and campaigns might be able to use when GOP candidates try to exploit the issue. As Marcotte writes, “For decades, Republican messaging on crime has not really been about crime; rather, it’s been used as a convenient cover for tickling racial anxieties in white voters. That’s why candidates campaign on “crime” even when crime rates are low or dropping, as they have been in the past year as the U.S. emerges from the pandemic, and why the single best policy move that could affect the murder rate — expanding gun restrictions — gets ignored because those laws would affect white gun owners too. It’s why GOP advertising paints violent crime as a problem in blue states, even though it’s actually worse in red states. It’s why Republican concerns over “crime” don’t appear to extend to prosecuting the January 6 insurrectionists. And it’s why many Republicans continue to support Donald Trump, who is gearing up to be the 2024 nominee despite his wide-ranging legal problems, which include allegations of tax fraudelection interferenceand stealing classified documents.” There is also the disgraceful GOP policy of refusing to accept election certification laws, even when validated by Republican-appointed judges. Democratic campaigns should hit back fast and hard, when Republicans roll out the “soft-on-crime” smear. Don’t defend; Attack. Dems have plenty of ammunition to use in debates and soundbites.

In “How Bruce Springsteen’s musical legacy can guide Democratic campaign strategy,” John Kapcar writes at The Michigan Daily: “Springsteen gained notoriety because so many working-class Americans identified with the messages in his music. To be successful in the midterms, Democrats will need to do the same on the campaign trail….Fetterman leads Oz by more than three and a half points, largely because Fetterman uses every messaging mistake Oz makes as a chance to showcase his own authenticity. Fetterman has done this by taking advantage of Oz’s phoniness. His campaign pounced when Oz claimed to own only two houses (he has ten) and responded swiftly when the Oz campaign made fun of Fetterman for having a stroke, using the opportunity to talk about the health care struggles many other Americans face….Fetterman has used Oz’s gaffes to enhance his own credibility with voters, while speaking on the issues that Pennsylvania voters are passionate about. Just as Springsteen did in “Streets of Philadelphia,” Fetterman proves it’s possible to take controversial opinions without alienating moderate bases if the candidate is authentic in their beliefs….This isn’t to say that every Democrat needs to sport Fetterman’s fashionably-questionable cargo shorts to win elections. Democrats can also be successful by following Springsteen’s second lesson: focusing on jobs and manufacturing. …In his song “Youngstown,” Springsteen chronicles the bleak, industrial history of the eponymous Ohio rust belt city. From Youngstown’s origins of building cannonballs for Union armies to its near collapse amid the loss of blue-collar jobs, Springsteen describes the despair many of the town’s inhabitants have fallen into. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, is following that songbook by focusing on the loss of manufacturing jobs in the same area….The upcoming elections are critically important to the nation’s future, and the outcome will have rippling effects in the years to come. But motivating voters to turn out will only work if Democrats have optimism and hope.”

“Sometimes, the quiet voices end up ringing the loudest,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes in his Washington Post column. “Cheri Beasley, the first Black woman to serve as chief justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, has gone about the business of running for U.S. Senate without clamor….While news media and party committees obsess over Senate races in, say, Georgia (for obvious reasons) and Pennsylvania, the 56-year old Democrat has turned the battle here into one of the closest in the country….So in November, the nation might find control of the Senate hangs on whether Beasley’s, well, judicious but systematic campaign pushed her past Rep. Ted Budd, the former president Donald Trump favorite nominated by the Republicans. A poll released this month by WRAL News in Raleigh, N.C., found Beasley just one point behind Budd….The Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade has further moved expectations in favor of both Beasley and Democratic state legislative candidates. State Rep. Rachel Hunt, a Democrat who is seeking a North Carolina Senate seat, said that while Democrats feared earlier this year that they might lose seats, they were now “cautiously optimistic.” The abortion issue was arousing participation, she said, particularly among younger voters “who never thought their constitutional rights would be taken away.”…Budd clearly knows he is vulnerable on the question. He struggled during last week’s debate to insist that while he had “always been pro-life,” he had also “always been about protecting the life of the mother,” something that’s not clear from his past statements. Beasley hit back hard. “The bottom line is Congressman Budd wants to be in between a woman and her doctor,” she said. “There is no place in the exam room for Congressman Budd….When I asked Beasley how her background as a judge might affect her work as a senator, she was quick to draw another contrast. “Respect for the rule of law really ought to matter as policymakers are making decisions about people’s everyday lives,” she said.” Beaseley’s campaign could use more financial support to be competitive in the closing weeks. Here is her ActBlue page for those who want to help.


Will the Lioness Roar in the Midterms?

Despite evidence that the Dobbs decision of the Supreme Court has awakened women voters, fewer women are running for major political office this year than in recent midterm elections.

Meredith Conroy and Nathaniel Rakich report at FiveThirtEight that:

In the last midterm elections, Democratic women won a historic number of congressional races. Two years later, the GOP had its own “Year of the Woman.” But now that the 2022 primaries are long over, we can say that any signs that Republican women would continue to gain on their Democratic counterparts were likely a flash in the pan, not a watershed.

FiveThirtyEight, with an assist from political scientists Bernard Fraga and Hunter Rendleman, collected a trove of demographic and political information (such as endorsements, race and ethnicity and gender) for every major-party candidate running in a Senate, House and governor’s race this cycle. Based on our analysis of this data, the share of women running for office this November is lower than it was in 2020 (with one type of office serving as a notable exception). Both parties have passed on opportunities to add more women to their ranks. But Democrats have provided more opportunities for female politicians than Republicans — thanks in part to divisions in the GOP’s infrastructure for electing women.

Conroy and Rakich notę further, “This cycle, among candidates who advanced to the general election,2 women made up 43 percent of Democratic nominees and 20 percent of Republican nominees. This was a slight decline compared to 2020,3 when women were 47 percent of Democratic nominees and 22 percent of Republican nominees. The exception they refer to is Governor’s races, in which “women from both parties broke records in gubernatorial races.”

In terms of racial diversity, the authors note further that 84 percent of Republican candidates in this year’s Senate, House and Governorship primaries were white males, compared to 37 percent for Democrats. Conroy and Rakich don’t get  into the reasons for the overall decline in women candidates, but Covid may have a little something to do with it, since women are still the “primary caregivers.”

Contrary to the title of their article, “2022 is Not Another ‘Year of the Woman,'” this midterm election may yet prove to be the most important election year ever for women – in a good way. If, for example, the Democrats hold their House majority and add to their Senate majority, it will almost certainly happen because women voters rose up in unprecedented percentages in protest against the Dobbs decision and cast their ballots to elect pro-choice candidates, who are  overwhelmingly Democrats. If that lovely scenario unfolds, which is asking a lot, 2022 will be a watershed year for women in politics. The lioness will have roared and democracies all over the world will take notice. It would also go a long way to help persuade the G.O.P. that bully-boy politics is now a yuge loser for them, and maybe they ought to embrace a more rational conservatism.

On the other hand, if women don’t rise up in historic protest, the Supreme Court will likely turn a hard right on all issues of concern to women and Trumpismo will gain power in the G.O.P. and national politics. It could mean decades of stagnation, deepening polarization and erosion of human rights in the U.S.

Of course it’s extremely unfair to hold women voters to a higher standard than their male counterparts. Women are already voting more often for Democrats and progressive reforms than are men. For swing voters of any gender, the question they should be considering is “which candidates will help end political gridlock and get America moving forward again?” Nevertheless, an historic opportunity for women voters is fast approaching. Much depends on whether or not they seize it.