washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

At Marketwatch, Rex Nutting reports that “Inflation inequality is hitting the working class harder than at any other time on record:Families that rely on wage income from certain occupations, such as clerical work, sales and construction, are paying more as gas, food and vehicle prices surge,” and writes: “America’s working class is getting clobbered by inflation because wage earners spend a larger share of their income on the things that are going up in price the most, especially necessities such as food, gasoline, and cars and trucks….The CPI-W — an inflation gauge that corresponds with the consumption habits of working people — has risen 9.4% in the past 12 months, compared with an 8.5% increase in the CPI-U, an inflation measure that considers the habits of a broader swath of American households, including retirees, investors and working people who earn salaries….The difference between an inflation rate of 9.4% and one of 8.5% can be explained entirely by the fact that the working class spends relatively more on food, gas and used car and trucks. Spending on those three categories accounts for less than 25% of the working family budget, but 51% of the inflation they’ve experienced over the past year….The disparity between working-class inflation and average inflation is the highest on record — and it’s been getting wider in recent months. Over the past six months, inflation for the working class has risen at an 11.1% annual rate compared with 10.1% for the general consumer price index….There’s one mitigating factor that is benefiting working-class families: The strong labor market. Employment is up by 6.5 million in the past year. Working-class weekly paychecks have risen faster than others’ earnings have, but the higher inflation rate for workers has eaten away at those gains and then some. Real average weekly wages have fallen 3.3% for the working class in the past year, the biggest decline in more than 30 years.”

If you were wondering “Why Inflation Is Sparking Economic Pessimism,” FiveThirtyEight has a panel discussion adressing the question. The introductory remarks note these nuggets: “Americans aren’t happy with the economy and it’s perhaps no wonder why when you look at the latest inflation numbers out this week. Prices have risen 8.5 percent since last March, and wages haven’t kept pace, rising 6 percent in the past year. Economists are debating whether there are silver linings in March’s inflation numbers, but regardless 8.5 percent inflation is the highest rate in four decades….Americans have taken note. According to Gallup, 17 percent of Americans say the high cost of living is the most important issue facing the country – the most since 1985. In the University of Michigan Survey of Consumers, more households reported they expected worsening finances over the coming year than at any point in the history of the survey, which began in the 1940s. And only 30-35 percent of Americans approve of President Biden’s handling of the economy.”

Chris Cillizza warns that “Joe Biden’s numbers are collapsing among a group you really wouldn’t expect” at CNN Politics: “Young Americans have turned on Joe Biden. That’s the shocking finding of a Gallup analysis of its polling over the breadth of Biden’s term released this week…In the early days of Biden’s presidency (from January 2021 to June 2021), an average of 6 in 10 adult members of Generation Z — those born between 1997 and 2004 — approved of the job Biden was doing. During the period spanning September 2021 to March 2022, that number had plummeted to an average of just 39%….Among millennials — those born between 1981 and 1996 — the collapse is similarly stark. Biden’s approval rating among that group stood at 60% in aggregated Gallup numbers in the first half of 2021, compared with 41% more recently….That loss in confidence among young people was, interestingly, not as steep among older age groups. Over that same period, Biden’s approval ratings among baby boomers — those born between 1946 and 1964 — dipped by only 7 points. Among “traditionalists” — those born before 1946 — his approval rating was unchanged….Now, some of the discrepancy is because younger Americans were far more positive about Biden at the start of his presidency than older Americans. So there was just more room to fall….At the same time, it’s clear in other surveys that there has been a significant lessening of enthusiasm for Biden among younger Americans. A Quinnipiac poll released this week showed that just 21% of those aged 18 to 34 said they approved of the way the President was handling his job, while 58% disapproved….By comparison, 36% of Americans aged 35 to 49 and 35% of Americans aged 50 to 64 approved of Biden’s job performance. Among Americans 65 and over, 48% said the same….Regardless of the reason, the fade in youth support for Biden is a major problem for Democrats. Especially when you consider that he won 60% of the youth vote — those aged 18 to 34 — in the 2020 presidential election, according to exit polls. It was, by far, his best performance among any age cohort.”

At Daily Kos, Bethesda 1971 urges “Dems: Use the 2002 GOP Model to win the 2022 Midterms (but in a Good and Truthful way,” and writes, “2002 was a rare year when the party holding the Presidency took control of both houses of Congress. How did it happen?….Exploiting post-9/11 trauma, Republicans built a phony case for war against Iraq by falsely linking 9/11 to Saddam Hussein, falsely claiming Saddam had WMD and tarring war opponents (and all Democrats) as traitors….It worked: By the first anniversary of 9/11, a majority of Americans thought Saddam was responsible for the attacks. Democrats who voted against the Iraq War Resolution were branded as traitors or part of a “fifth column.” War heroes like Max Cleland were tied to bin Laden. And the President’s party gained seats in both houses, and control of Congress, for the first time since 1970.” This year, however, “Democrats do not have to lie to make the case this year that Republicans are anti-democracy and unpatriotic by acting and voting against American interests. Why?

  • Republicans in Congress have repeatedly voted to cover up the worst insurrection in the country since the Civil War. They voted against a bipartisan January 6 commission, they voted repeatedly against holding in contempt those who blatantly defied subpoenas, they called the January 6 cop-killers “tourists,” they relentlessly attack the only two Republicans to support the Committee.

In 2002, Republicans successfully convinced voters that Democrats were “Objectively pro-Saddam” for opposing what is now acknowledged by all as a horrible mistake….There is no reason why in 2022, Democrats can’t convince voters that Republicans are Pro-Insurrection, Pro-Putin and Anti-Democracy….”We have the advantage of having the truth on our side.”


Political Strategy Notes

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall comments on research b y Milan W. Svolik, a political scientist at Yale and Matthew H. Graham, a postdoctoral researcher at George Washington University: “The authors have calculated that “only 3.5 percent of voters realistically punish violations of democratic principles in one of the world’s oldest democracies.”….We find the U.S. public’s viability as a democratic check to be strikingly limited: only a small fraction of Americans prioritize democratic principles in their electoral choices, and their tendency to do so is decreasing in several measures of polarization, including the strength of partisanship, policy extremism, and candidate platform divergence….only a small fraction of Americans prioritize democratic principles in their electoral choices when doing so goes against their partisan identification or favorite policies. We proposed that this is the consequence of two mechanisms: first, voters are willing to trade off democratic principles for partisan ends and second, voters employ a partisan ‘double standard’ when punishing candidates who violate democratic principles. These tendencies were exacerbated by several types of polarization, including intense partisanship, extreme policy preferences, and divergence in candidate platforms….Put bluntly, our estimates suggest that in the vast majority of U.S. House districts, a majority-party candidate could openly violate one of the democratic principles we examined and nonetheless get away with it.”

Further, Edsall adds, “Graham and Svolik tested adherence to democratic principles by asking respondents whether they would vote for a candidate who “supported a redistricting plan that gives own party 10 extra seats despite a decline in the polls”; whether a governor of one’s own party should “rule by executive order if legislators don’t cooperate”; whether a governor should “ignore unfavorable court rulings by opposite-party-appointed judges”; and whether a governor should “prosecute journalists who accuse him of misconduct without revealing sources.”….“Put simply,” Graham and Svolik write, “polarization undermines the public’s ability to serve as a democratic check.”….Graham and Svolik’s analysis challenges the canonical view of the role of the average voter as the enforcer of adherence to democratic principles. However, Edsall writes, “Donald Moynihan, a professor of public policy at Georgetown University — and the author of “Delegitimization, Deconstruction and Control: Undermining the Administrative State” in the current issue of The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science — wrote by email that he is “more worried about declines in democracy driven by formal changes in the law than by events like January 6th.”

Edsall continues, “In his March 2022 article “Moderation, Realignment, or Transformation? Evaluating Three Approaches to America’s Crisis of Democracy,” Lee Drutman, a senior fellow at New America and the author of “Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop,” argues that neither moderation nor realignment is adequate to address current problems in American democracy: Only reforms that fundamentally shake up the political coalitions and electoral incentives can break the escalating two-party doom loop of hyperpartisanship that is destroying the foundations of American democracy…..Drutman makes the case that moderation is futile because “in today’s politics, with national identity, racial reckoning, and democracy itself front and center in partisan conflict, it is hard to understand moderation as a middle point when no clear compromise exists on what are increasingly zero-sum issues. This is where the moderation principle falls especially short. If one party or both parties have no interest in moderation or cross-partisan compromise, would-be “moderates” cannot straddle an unbridgeable chasm.” Looked at from a slightly different angle, when there are only two parties, it is much easier to villify/demonize the one with which a voter most disagrees. Has America arrived at the point where conversion to a multiparty system is the best hope for saving democracy?

Are Democrats getting on the losing side of the growing debate about how transgender individuals can participate in sports? Matt Levietes reports that “Kentucky Legislature overrides governor’s veto of transgender sports ban: The bill bars transgender girls and women from participating in school sports matching their gender identity from sixth grade through college” at abcnews.com: “Kentucky’s Legislature voted Wednesday to override Gov. Andy Beshear’s veto of a bill that would prohibit transgender girls and women from playing on female sports teams, making the state the sixth to enact such a law this year and the 15th to date….Beshear, a Democrat, vetoed the bill last week, saying it “most likely” violates the Constitution because it “discriminates against transgender children.” Proponents contended that the measure was necessary to protect the rights of cisgender girls and women in school sports….The override passed the Senate in a 29-8 vote and the House in a 72-23 vote. The law takes effect immediately.” The politics in this instance is made more interesting by Governor Beshear’s credibility as one of the few Democrats who can win statewide elections in a red state. But the most widely known transgender athlete, Caitlyn Jenner has argued that it is wrong for persons born male to compete as females because it cheats girls: “In a Fox News interview Wednesday,” Jonathan Edwards wrote in January at the Washingtpon Post, “Caitlyn Jenner said she respected Ivy League swimmer Lia Thomas for coming out as a transgender woman and for transitioning….“I respect her decision to live her life authentically — 100 percent,” the Olympic gold medalist told “America Reports” host Sandra Smith….But, Jenner added, that “also comes with responsibility and some integrity.”….Jenner said it’s unfair for transgender women such as Thomas to compete in women’s sports. Thomas, a 22-year-old University of Pennsylvania senior, has been setting records and crushing competitors this season for the women’s swim team, re-electrifying one of more recent battles in the culture wars — how transgender athletes participate in competitive sports….“We need to protect women’s sports,” said Jenner, who won a gold medal and set a world record in the decathlon at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal.” It’s a tougher call for public schools than for athletic associations, because nobody wants children to feel ostracized. But policies that cheat girls out of athletic accomplishments and scholarship opportunities are a really bad look for Democrats.


Political Strategy Notes

At The Hill, Niall Stanage explains how “Bad economic news haunts Democrats ahead of midterms.” As Stanage writes, “President Biden and other Democrats are confronting a stark truth — they’re getting blamed for what’s bad in the economy and getting no credit for what’s good….On Thursday, fresh data showed new unemployment claims at their lowest level since modern records began in 1968. The president responded with a statement in which he noted that almost 8 million jobs had been created since he took office — “more jobs created on average per month than under any other president in history,” he said. Later the same day, in a speech to construction unions, Biden noted the sharp decline in the unemployment rate during his tenure — from 6.4 percent in January 2021 to 3.6 percent now — as well as the big recovery in U.S. gross domestic product last year. None of it is making much of a dent in public opinion….An NBC News survey late last month found a huge 63 percent of the population disapproving of Biden’s handling of the economy and just 33 percent approving….An Economist-YouGov poll this week asked people how they viewed the state of the economy.  Just 1 in 4 said it was either “excellent” or “good.” Twenty-seven percent rated the economy as only “fair,” and 42 percent said it was “poor.”…The clear culprit is inflation….The inflation rate hit 7.9 percent in the latest figures, which cover February, the highest level seen since 1982….But inflation is affecting virtually everything, including the price of food. Then there are knock-on effects, such as mortgage rates that have risen sharply, making it harder for people to buy homes. The visceral way in which inflation is felt is blocking out the other, more positive economic news….y contrast, Carrick noted, a strong job market is not felt so universally, being relevant mainly to people who are seeking a job or to employers. He suggested that when people do find a job, they are more likely to credit their own endeavors than the government — a stark difference to how they view inflation or gas prices….“It’s a complex equation, job creation — certainly more so than the cost of a six-pack or a loaf of bread or a frozen pizza,” he said. When people get a new job “it tends to be highly personalized — they did it on their own initiative, their sister-in-law told them there was a job someplace or whatever. They don’t see it so much as a macroeconomic issue.”….Voices across the Democratic spectrum, from centrists to progressives, worry that their problems are compounded by two other factors….One is general public irritability after more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. The other is Democratic infighting that limited progress in other areas, most prominently the party’s prolonged, failed attempt to pass Biden’s expansive “Build Back Better” agenda….As if all that were not enough, the war in Ukraine is now commanding the lion’s share of public attention and exacerbating the very inflationary pressures that are causing Democrats such problems.”

Regarding Sunday’s election in France, Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes that “Macron’s relatively strong showing increased the likelihood that he will prevail when the two face off in the second round April 24.”…In a sign of the discontent Macron’s pro-business policies have unleashed in significant parts of the French electorate, the far-left candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, was running close to Le Pen with 21.6 percent….Mélenchon’s strength puts Macron in a position of having to implore leftist voters who don’t much like the president to support him rather than abstain in the second round or cast protest votes for Le Pen. Mélenchon gave Macron some help in his concession speech, saying, “You should not vote for Madame Le Pen.”….Sunday’s outcome was a relief for Macron, an eloquent defender of liberal democratic values. A critic of a narrow and authoritarian nationalism, he drifted to the right on immigration in the face of the right-wing challenge.” It’s highly problematic to draw any applicable lessons from the French multiparty election for the U.S. midterms. However, the improved percentage for Marine Le Pen 2.0 as a toned-down xenophobe (She increased her percentage of the vote from 21.3 percent  in 2017 to 23.4  percent on Sunday) may provide an indication that white working-class voters now want tougher immigration policies and are concerned about inflation.  Geoffrey Skelley and Jean Yi noted at FiveThirtyEight just before the election, “Le Pen and her party, the National Rally2 (formerly the National Front), have traditionally run on an anti-immigrant and Euroskeptic platform, dating back to her father Jean-Marie Le Pen’s party leadership. But in this election, Le Pen has placed a greater emphasis on kitchen table issues, including calls to cut taxes on energy and raise base pensions, which may broaden her appeal considering that many in France are worried about inflation. To be sure, her party maintains a strong anti-immigrant platform that aims to weaken immigrants’ access to government benefits and shut out many asylum seekers, but Le Pen has welcomed Ukrainian refugees as she tries to distance herself from her past praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

In “Other Polling Bites,” Skelley and Yi also report that “Most Americans agree with the sentiment that Russian President Vladimir Putin cannot remain in power — but that doesn’t mean they approve of President Biden having said it in a March 26 speech in Warsaw, according to a March 31-April 4 poll from Yahoo News/YouGov. When the quote about Putin — “This man cannot remain in power” — was unattributed, 63 percent agreed with it. But when the pollster asked whether Biden was right or wrong to have said it,” just 48 percent of Americans said he was right. Both Democrats and Republicans were less likely to agree with this statement when it was attributed to Biden: 57 percent of Republicans agreed with the unattributed statement, whereas only 37 percent said the same when told Biden said it; meanwhile, 83 percent of Democrats agreed with the unattributed statement, while 70 percent said the same when told Biden said it.” At npr.org, Joel Rose reports that a new NPR/Ipsos poll found that “More than 6 in 10 Americans want the U.S. to give Ukraine some of the support it wants, while still trying to avoid a larger military conflict with Russia. Fewer than 2 in 10 say the U.S. should give Ukraine everything it wants, even if it risks a wider war.Those responses were remarkably consistent across the political spectrum with strong majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents all in agreement. But when Americans are asked to assess President Biden’s performance, that bipartisan consensus breaks down….”What he’s doing is fundamentally what the American people want,” Jackson said. “But even if Biden is doing everything that people want to do, he’s not going to get a lot of credit for it.”

Some salient observations from Amy Walter’s column, “January 6th, Roe v. Wade as the Known Unknowns for 2022” at The Cook Political Report: “The question isn’t just whether the nation’s highest court will overturn the 50-year old abortion rights law, or whether the commission will reveal new and explosive information about the events leading up to and culminating in the attack on the U.S. Capitol, but whether these events will have a notable impact on the 2022 midterms. More precisely, will those two events have the effect of engaging a Democratic base that is clearly less energized about this election than the GOP….polling suggests that Democrats aren’t as invested in finding out more about the attack on the U.S. Capitol as Republicans are invested in moving on. A February Pew poll found that 65 percent of Republicans thought that “too much attention” had been paid to “the riot at the U.S. Capitol and its impacts,” compared to just 45 percent of Democrats who said “too little” attention had been paid. Twice as many Democrats (41 percent) as Republicans (21 percent) thought that the “right amount of attention” had been paid to the events of January 6th. In other words, Democrats aren’t currently clamoring for more attention to be paid to the attack….We don’t know exactly how the Supreme Court decision and the January 6th commission will turn out. But, they also aren’t happening in a vacuum. Right now, pocketbook concerns are the overwhelming worry for voters, making it hard for much else to break through.”


Political Strategy Notes

In “Who’s Soft on Russia? Meet the Republican Anti-Ukraine Caucus!,” William Saletan writes at The Bulwark: “Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the House of Representatives has voted on three measures specific to the war. The first vote, taken on March 2, was on a resolution that endorsed sanctions against Russia, reaffirmed Ukrainian sovereignty over territory seized by Russia, advocated military aid to Ukraine, and pledged to support the Ukrainian resistance. All six members of the progressive “Squad”—Reps. Jamaal Bowman, Cori Bush, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib—voted for the resolution. So did Rep. Barbara Lee, the Democrats’ foremost opponent of military spending. Not one Democrat voted against the resolution. But three Republicans did: Reps. Paul Gosar, Thomas Massie, and Matt Rosendale….On March 9, the House passed a bill to suspend oil and gas imports from Russia. Five of the seven Democratic leftists voted for the suspension. The two who voted against it—Bush and Omar—were joined by 15 Republicans who also voted no. In addition to Gosar and Massie, this time the list included Reps. Andy Biggs, Dan Bishop, Lauren Boebert, Madison Cawthorn, Scott DesJarlais, Matt Gaetz, Louie Gohmert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Glenn Grothman, Clay Higgins, Bill Posey, Chip Roy, and Tom Tiffany….On March 17, the House passed a bill to end favorable trade relations with Russia and its accomplice in the war, Belarus. Eight Republicans voted against the bill. Every Democrat, including the seven leftists, voted for it….The other side of the equation is the near-unanimity of support among Democrats, even from very progressive members, for standing up to Russia. Leftist Democrats generally oppose armed intervention, yet nearly all of them voted for sanctions against Russia and military aid for Ukraine….“We have to hold Putin accountable,” Pressley told her constituents at a town hall last week. Ocasio-Cortez, at her own town hall, applauded President Biden for refusing to be “walked over” by Putin. And in a progressive teleconference on the Ukraine crisis, Lee endorsed “security and military assistance” to the Ukrainians because “we’ve got to help them defend themselves.”….Many of the 21 House Republicans, however, don’t see it that way. They’ve swallowed a cocktail of isolationism, defeatism, partisan paranoia, and Russian disinformation.” No doubt nearly all of those 21 House seats are safe for Republicans. But maybe Putin’s horrifying war crimes can help defeat a couple of them — or taint the GOP ‘Brand.’

Could the Putinista ‘brand’ hurt the GOP’s image? Chris Cillizza reports at CNN Politics that “The Russian invasion of Ukraine has created utter chaos in Eastern Europe. But it has clarified one thing in America: Vladimir Putin is a bad guy and Russia is a bad actor on the world stage….That story comes through loud and clear in recent polling from the Pew Research Center….More than 9 in 10 Americans (92%) said they have little or no confidence in Putin’s handling of world affairs, compared with 6% who said they had at least some confidence….In March, 70% of Americans called Russia an enemy….That clarity of public opinion on Russia and its motives should strengthen President Joe Biden’s hand as he seeks to deal with the crisis. The US is remarkably unified on that front — a rarity in such a deeply polarized environment….It also shines a particularly harsh light on the praise that former President Donald Trump and some of his allies lavished on Putin at the start of the conflict. There seems to be little appetite among the American public for people who see Putin in anything but a negative light.” Time is not on the side of Putin’s Republican defenders, since he has taken no steps to de-escalate the war against the Ukraine – amid mouting revelations of horrific atrocities.

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne, Jr. muses on the deepening partisan divisions in the U.S., and also notes an impressive contrast between America’s most heavily populated blue and red states:  “In his State of the State message last month, California’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, openly contrasted his state’s policies and health outcomes with those of three Republican-led states. He was especially pointed about the record in Florida, where Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has waged war on vaccine and mask mandates….“Our lockdowns, distressing as they were, saved lives,” Newsom said. “Our mask mandates saved lives. Your choices saved lives. California experienced far lower covid death rates than any other large state. Fewer than Texas, Ohio, fewer than Florida — 35 percent to be exact.”….Newsom spoke with pride about California’s liberal-leaning leadership, especially on climate issues. He repeatedly touted “the California Way” that rejected “exploiting division with performative politics and memes of the moment.” It was hard not to think that Newsom was laying out themes for a future presidential campaign.”

From “‘Horse race’ coverage of elections can harm voters, candidates and news outlets” by Denise-Marie Ordway at Journalist’s Resource: “When journalists covering elections focus primarily on who’s winning or losing instead of policy issues — what’s known as horse race reporting — voters, candidates and the news industry itself suffer, a growing body of research has found….In fact, policy issues accounted for 10% of the news coverage of the 2016 presidential election, according to an analysis Patterson did as part of a research series that looks at journalists’ work leading up to and during the election. The bulk of the reporting he examined concentrated on who was winning and losing and why….“The horserace has been the dominant theme of election news since the 1970s, when news organizations began to conduct their own election polls,” Patterson writes in his December 2016 working paper, “News Coverage of the 2016 General Election: How the Press Failed the Voters.”“Since then, polls have proliferated to the point where well over a hundred separate polls — more than a new poll each day — were reported in major news outlets during the 2016 general election.”….Academic research finds that horse race reporting is linked to:

  • Distrust in politicians.
  • Distrust of news outlets.
  • An uninformed electorate.
  • Inaccurate reporting of opinion poll data.

Horse race journalism can also:

  • Hurt female political candidates, who tend to focus on policy issues to build credibility.
  • Give an advantage to novel and unusual candidates.
  • Shortchange third-party candidates, who often are overlooked or ignored because their chances of winning are slim when compared with Republican and Democratic candidates.

Political Strategy Notes

At Vox, Li Zhou answers a question many Democrats have been wondering about, “Can executive actions save Democrats in the midterms?” As Zhou writes, “In recent weeks, progressives have issued a dire warning for Democrats. If President Joe Biden doesn’t try to get more done via executive action, they argue, voters won’t turn out because they’ll feel like the party hasn’t delivered for them….“If the president does pursue and start to govern decisively using executive action and other tools at his disposal, I think we’re in the game,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) told New York magazine in an interview this week. “But if we decide to just kind of sit back for the rest of the year and not change people’s lives — yeah, I do think we’re in trouble.”…In March, the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) unveiled a slate of 55 executive actions they’ve recommended Biden take, including canceling student debt, changing rules around overtime pay so more workers are eligible for it, and reducing prescription drug prices.” Zhou opines, “When it comes to mobilization, progressives are correct. Democrats need to do more to energize their base after the party failed to pass the expansive social spending legislation and voting rights protections they promised to advance in 2020. Given their narrow majority in the Senate and the impasse they’ve faced there, it’s possible executive action might be the only route Democrats now have for certain policy changes.” However, “Whether executive action will be enough to stem their overall midterm losses, though, is unclear.” Zhou adds, “Executive actions could help rally many of the Democratic voters who’ve become disillusioned with the party’s leadership, though experts note that they’ll have to make sure these efforts don’t turn swing voters away. “Executive actions that relate to the economy historically have the potential to boost participation of the president’s base,” says the Brookings Institution’s Nicole Willcoxon.”

If you were wondering, “How Big Is the House Playing Field?,” Amy Walter has some answers at The Cook Political Report: “This week, Democratic and Republican campaign operations acknowledged that the House playing field is expanding. The NRCC added another 10 House districts to its already robust list of 72 Democratic-held targets. And on the Democratic side, the House Majority PAC announced it would be reserving nearly $102 million in advertising in a whopping 51 media markets for the fall campaign….Currently, RealClear Politics shows Republicans ahead by 3.6 points in the generic ballot tracker. If that holds up through Election Day, it will represent a 6.6 percent positive shift to Republicans from 2020 (Democrats won the national House vote by 3.1 points in 2020)….So, what would a 6.6 point shift to the right look like? At a very crude level, we could say that it would shift the 2020 vote margin in every CD, about 7 points more Republican. So, forample, a district that Biden carried 52 percent to 45 percent (+7) would become a jump ball (50-50) in 2022. Or, a better way to think of it is that any district that Biden carried by less than 7 points would be in danger of flipping to the GOP….The good news for Democrats is that (at this point) there are only 21 districts where Biden’s margin was fewer than seven points. Even if we expand that universe to include districts Biden carried by 8-10 points, that universe of potentially vulnerable Democratic-held seats expands only slightly….However, the good news for Republicans is that they currently hold eight of those 21 seats that Biden carried by less than seven points. In other words, it would make some of the most vulnerable GOP-held districts’s, like Rep. Don Bacon’s Omaha-based NE-02 (Biden +6) and Rep. Dave Schweikert’s Phoenix-based AZ-01(Biden +1.4), tougher for Democrats to pick off. But, these are “holds,” not flips, which lowers the ceiling for GOP gains….Another factor that may cap GOP gains is that Democrats don’t have to defend many Trump-won districts. Right now, Democrats represent only six districts (AZ-02, IA-03, WI-03, PA-08, ME-02, and OH-09) that Biden did not win. In 2018, Republicans were defending four times as many districts that Hillary Clinton had carried in the 2016 election.”

Sam Brodey writes that “Democrats are left to turn to that time-honored security blanket for the party in charge: pork projects” at The Daily Beast. “Thousands of so-called “earmarked” projects like these, scattered across hundreds of districts, were included in Congress’ $1.5 trillion annual spending bill that passed earlier this month. And Democrats believe they can spin this cash—which was a political liability not long ago—into a viable election backup plan….Earmarks—rebranded as “member-directed spending”—returned this year for the first time in over a decade, and they couldn’t have come at a better time for Democrats.’ Some House Democrats have been “advertising their earmark achievements as well, taking out Facebook ads, scheduling town halls with constituents, and appearing at countless ribbon-cuttings and huge check hand-outs. That could be just a preview of what’s to come for Democrats heading into the midterm season. Several party aides and operatives told The Daily Beast that lawmakers in challenging races should tout their earmark wins everywhere as often as possible….Martha McKenna, a Democratic strategist and campaign ad maker, said Democrats should “definitely” run on their earmarks—and, in general, should be “louder and more aggressive” in claiming credit for their local wins….“In a world where independent voters are turned off by partisan bickering, if we can cut through that and say, ‘This is a project your local Democrat got done and here’s the impact,’ that should be a message that cuts through,” McKenna said.”

Writing at The American Prospect, Jon Walker warns that “if Republicans win in 2022, Democrats are unlikely to win another trifecta for at least another decade, if not longer. In addition, if millions of people feel they have been burned by making the mistake of choosing to use the Democrats’ health care program, public opinion of the program could take a big hit. The ACA’s favorable rating has improved by five points since Democrats enhanced the subsidies, but remains at 58 percent, owing in part to implacable opposition from the right wing. Those numbers will likely rocket downward if the subsidy enhancements expire….On a separate track, previous pandemic relief measures included a “continuous coverage” option that gave states higher shares of Medicaid funding. Those changes end if the administration ends the public-health emergency created by COVID-19. The emergency could end as soon as this summer, according to published reports, which would instantly allow states to cull their Medicaid rolls and throw 12 million people, by one estimate, off public health insurance. Build Back Better would have stepped down the increased payments to states slowly, kept a small portion of them in place, and made it harder for states to disenroll lots of beneficiaries in one shot. But with Build Back Better dead, that’s gone too, imperiling millions of Medicaid patients, again just before the midterms….If Democrats miss the opportunity to permanently fix Medicaid and the ACA subsidies, it might not be possible to ever rebuild trust in the ACA or in the Democrats’ brand as the party of health care. It will be very hard to sell slowly building on the ACA if Democrats prove they can’t be trusted to ever do that.”


Political Strategy Notes

At The Washington Post, columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. provides some useful Democratic messaging points, and writes, “By offering Jackson at least a respectful hearing, Republican senators could have taken a step toward easing the legitimacy crisis the Supreme Court confronts because of the GOP’s relentless packing of the nation’s highest judicial body. Rejecting extreme partisanship might have lowered the political temperature around the court, to the benefit of its 6-to-3 conservative majority….To turn the nomination of the first Black woman to the court into an occasion for raising racial themes Republicans plan to use in the 2022 and 2024 election campaigns was to kick away the chance the party had to show that it means what it says in declaring its faithfulness to “colorblindness.”….What conservatives don’t want to acknowledge is how much damage they have already done by taking control of the court through the raw exercise of political power. Beginning with the blockade of Merrick Garland’s nomination in 2016 and culminating in the rushed confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett just days before the 2020 election, Republicans have sent the message that not the law, not deliberation, but partisan manipulation is at the heart of the court’s decision-making….The court’s conservative justices have reinforced this view with rulings on voting rights, gerrymanders and campaign finance that are tilted to the benefit of Republicans, moneyed interests and voter suppression.”

Adam Woolner flags “The issue that could be the sleeping giant of the 2022 elections” at CNN Politics: “The political world’s attention in recent days has largely been centered on the Russia-Ukraine crisis and Ketanji Brown Jackson’s historic Supreme Court nomination, the outcomes of which will have major implications for the future of Joe Biden’s presidency. But there’s another issue simmering below the surface at the moment that could also go a long way in shaping the political environment heading into this year’s midterm elections: abortion….After the US Supreme Court allowed a restrictive abortion law in Texas to remain in place, saying that abortion providers could still challenge the law in federal court, and took up a case on another in Mississippi — which is a direct challenge to the 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade ruling — Republican-controlled states have felt emboldened to pursue their own limitations on the procedure.’ Woolner notes that four states recently acted on this “hot button issue,” and adds, “In each of these cases, partisans took action to appease their bases. But the politics of abortion — which hasn’t been a major issue in recent elections — would become much more nationalized and complicated if the US Supreme Court scales back or overturns Roe v. Wade later this year….If Roe v. Wade is overturned and abortion laws are left to the states, the issue would quickly shoot up on voters’ priority list. In an otherwise treacherous political environment, Democrats see an opening on the issue: A recent CNN poll found that 69% of Americans said they do not want to see the Supreme Court completely overturn Roe v. Wade.”

Aida Chavez reports that “Progressives Want to Put Medicare for All Back on the Table” at The Nation, and observes that “after dominating the 2020 presidential primary, the idea of establishing a national, single-payer health insurance program has all but disappeared from mainstream political discourse….Congressional progressives are trying to revitalize the conversation. The House Oversight Committee is holding a hearing next week on Medicare for All, the first to examine paths to universal health care since 2019—and House Democrats’ third-ever on the issue. The hearing is being led by Chair Carolyn Maloney and Representative Cori Bush, and will be stacked with members of the Squad, including Representatives Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Jamaal Bowman….“I have fought tirelessly for policies to expand access to health coverage since I was first elected to Congress, including as a proud supporter of Medicare for All since its introduction,” Maloney told The Nation. Maloney is facing a crowded primary field this election season, including from Justice Democrats-backed candidate Rana Abdelhamid, and she has long touted her support for Medicare for All as a campaign plank….“As chairwoman of the Oversight Committee,” Maloney added, “I am holding this hearing to examine how the gaps in our current system threaten the health of the most vulnerable among us and how Congress can ensure that every person in this country has access to high-quality health care—no matter who they are. I am thankful to Congresswoman Cori Bush for her partnership in convening this hearing and for her leadership on behalf of patients across the country……..On the Senate side, Bernie Sanders is planning to reintroduce Medicare for All legislation in the coming days.” Opinion polling on health care reform issues is all over the place, depending on how questions are phrased.

In “Are Latinos Deserting the Democratic Party? Evidence from the Exit Polls” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball,  Alan I. Abramowitz adds some clarity to understanding recent trends: “Recent election results have led some political strategists and pundits to suggest that the partisan allegiances of Latino voters in the U.S. may be shifting in the direction of the Republican Party. Exit poll results from the 2020 presidential election showed Donald Trump modestly increasing his share of the Latino vote even as his share of the national popular vote declined between 2016 and 2020. At the same time, results from some heavily Latino areas in South Florida and along the Texas-Mexico border showed a dramatic swing toward the GOP. More recently, one exit poll showed the Republican candidate winning a majority of the Latino vote in the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial election, although a second exit poll showed the Democratic candidate winning a clear majority of the Latino vote….Solid support among Latino voters has long been seen as crucial to Democratic chances of winning elections in states like Florida, Texas, and Arizona and important in many other states in which the Latino share of the electorate is growing rapidly….Evidence from national and state exit polls shows that Latino support for Democratic presidential candidates has been quite variable in recent elections. Democratic margins have generally been much larger in elections with Democratic incumbents than in elections with Republican incumbents like 2020. This pattern of support among Latino voters also helps to explain variability in Democratic margins in Miami-Dade County in recent elections. From this perspective, the falloff in Democratic support in the 2020 presidential election may reflect the greater responsiveness of Latino voters than other types of voters to the effect of presidential incumbency rather than any long-term shift in the underlying partisan loyalties of these voters. It is not clear why Latino voters seem to be more responsive to the effects of presidential incumbency, but if this pattern holds again in 2024 and Joe Biden is running for a second term, we could see a rebound in Democratic support among Latino voters, although Biden’s approval rating in recent months has been fairly weak with Latinos….Going forward, Democrats may or may not have longer-term problems with Latino voters; however, it’s worth noting that the overall pattern of Latino presidential voting is more variable over time than the most recent couple of elections might indicate.”


Brownstein: Why Youth Vote Could Determine Midterm Outcomes

Ronald Brownstein explains how “Youth turnout could save, or sink, Democrats in 2022” at CNN Politics:

Soaring turnout and big margins among young voters were central to the Democratic victories in the 2018 congressional and 2020 presidential elections. But with many young people expressing disenchantment with President Joe Biden‘s performance, preserving those advantages looms as one of the biggest challenges facing Democrats in the 2022 midterms.

There’s widespread concern among Democrats that turnout for young people this November could fall back from its gains in 2018 toward the meager levels that contributed to the party’s crushing losses in the 2014 and 2010 midterm elections….”If you accept the status quo with young people, it’s not going to go great,” says Democratic pollster Ben Tulchin. “Turnout is not going to be good.”……..”My stern warning to the Biden administration and Democrats is you have to take this seriously, because if we do go back to a 2010 or 2014 model where they really fall off it’s going to make it very difficult for us in November,” says Tulchin, who served as the pollster for Bernie Sanders during the 2020 primary campaign, when the senator from Vermont dominated Biden among younger voters.

….Inexorably, the balance of electoral power is shifting toward these younger generations. William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, told me that he projects about 17 million young people will turn 18 between the 2020 and 2024 elections, and that fully 49% of them will be kids of color. Simultaneously, more of the predominantly White baby boomers and members of the Silent Generation are aging out of the electorate.

….In the 2020 presidential election, exactly half of eligible voters younger than 30 cast ballots, according to a detailed study by CIRCLE (the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement), an institute at Tufts University that studies younger voters. That was still less than the number for older generations, but it constituted a huge jump from their 39% turnout rate in 2016. Youth turnout, the group found, did not decline in any state from 2016 through 2020 and multiple states saw double-digit increases — including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Nevada, states that keyed Biden’s victory.

It might be a good idea for Democrats to take a closer look at the Georgia elections of 2020 and the 2021 run-off for some clues. As Brownstein reports,

In no state was youth turnout more critical to recent Democratic gains than Georgia, where strong turnout by young people helped key both Biden’s narrow win in 2020 and the stunning twin Senate runoff victories in early 2021 that provided Democrats control of the chamber. This year, the state is facing closely contested races for both governor and Senate, with Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock seeking a full term and Abrams making her second bid for governor.

“The elevated youth turnout and the elevated youth registration and participation that we saw from ’16 to ’18 to ’20 is not magic,” says Nsé Ufot, chief executive officer of the New Georgia Project, a non-profit voter registration and mobilization group founded by Stacey Abrams. “It is absolutely a direct result of our investment and our labor and targeting that particular group.”

Ufot says a majority of the targets for the New Georgia Project’s turnout efforts in those contests will be voters younger than 35. Though many of those younger adults have been disappointed by the failure of Biden and congressional Democrats to deliver on many of their promises during those campaigns, she says, the group is confident it can mobilize a robust youth turnout anyway.

“We are not relying on enthusiasm (for Biden) at all,” she says. “We are relying on organizing, connecting the power of the vote to the things that young Georgians told us they are willing to fight for, that they are willing to take to the streets for.”

But not all states have Georgia’s tradition of Black activism, anchored in the experience of MLK’s voting rights movement. Many of today’s voting rights organizers based in Georgia were trained by King’s S.C.L.C. lieutenants and staff members, including James Orange, whose “blue crew” was instrumental in electing all of Atlanta’s Black mayors and members of congress, and Ella Mae Brayboy, whose mastery of voter registration rolls, regulations and turnout mechanics continue to influence Georgia’s GOTV. Sen. Warnock himself, who is up for re-election in November, is pastor at King’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, which is likely the most politically-engaged congregation in the state.

Brownstein adds that “Some structural dynamics may help to sustain youth turnout this fall. Many experts note that the large youth turnout of 2018 and 2020 creates momentum for continued participation, because people who register and vote in one election are more likely to vote in the next. Over the past two elections, Democrats and nonpartisan groups have built a significant organizational infrastructure to engage more young voters, and those efforts are continuing through 2022.”

However, “Public opinion polls show that Biden’s troubles with young voters have persisted into his presidency. In the latest CNN national survey, just 40% of those aged 18-34 said they approved of his job performance, and fewer than 3 in 10 described him as a strong leader. Other polls, like last week’s Monmouth University survey, have registered similar weakness.”

Biden is surely aware of the oft-voiced suggestion that he and Democrats do something more substantial to reduce burdensome student debt, which Brownstein notes is a frequently-voiced concern of young voters. But that is a tricky issue. An Obama to Trump voter I know in one of Georgia’s conservative counties complains that he and his wife each worked multiple jobs to put their kids through college, and now Democrats are talking about free tuition for the current generation, which feels like a rip-off to his family. I didn’t have a good response at the time. But maybe it’s “at least your grandkids wouldn’t be putting a huge tuition loan burden on your kids.”

Brownstein concludes, “Young people turned out in huge numbers, basically they won the election” for Democrats, says Brandon. “And what have they seen delivered? That’s the issue. Unfortunately, like the public at large, all the stuff that has been delivered just doesn’t feel like it….Unless that changes for more young adults before November, Democrats may be left lamenting a lost opportunity — and facing the sort of depressed youth turnout that battered them so badly in 2014 and 2010.”


Political Strategy Notes

Alex Samuels explains why “Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Nomination May Not Be Enough To Turn Out Black Voters For Democrats” at FiveThirtyEight. An excerpt: “In February, political scientists Jaclyn Kaslovsky of Rice University and Andrew R. Stone of Washington University in St. Louis published a piece in The Washington Post about their research showing that Black Americans place a high value on what’s called “descriptive representation.” In other words, having someone who looks like them in a position of power — particularly in the judiciary — is very important to Black Americans….Kaslovsky told me one reason why Black Americans may want more Black people in positions of power is that they’ve been historically underrepresented in politics. “There’s research arguing that group consciousness matters for how people evaluate political institutions,” she said. “So, as Black Americans become more represented in the judiciary, they may feel like their voices are legitimated by that institution.”….What’s working in Biden’s favor is that polls suggest that Black voters really want Jackson to make it through the nomination process and that her appointment is motivating them ahead of what’s expected to be a grueling midterm cycle for Democrats. While surveys on midterm enthusiasm among Black Americans are generally sparse, at least one survey from Morning Consult/Politico shows that Black voters became more enthusiastic for the midterm elections in late February — right around the time Biden made Jackson’s nomination public. Other polls similarly show Black Americans’ eagerness to get Jackson through the nomination process. According to Navigator Research, 89 percent of Democratic voters and 88 percent of Black voters said they trusted Biden’s judgment on who should be the next Supreme Court justice. In fact, among all races and ethnic groups, Black voters were the most likely to say they would support the Senate’s confirmation of Jackson, at 71 percent; only 11 percent of Black voters said they would oppose the confirmation, for a net support of 60 percentage points. Asian American and Pacific Islander voters had the second-highest level of support for Jackson’s confirmation: 58 percent would support her confirmation, for a net support of 51 points.”….To be sure, Jackson’s nomination is pretty far away from the midterms, and there’s still plenty of time for voters to either forget Biden took this step orwarm up to him before November. As the Morning Consult/Politico poll shows, along with tracking polls from YouGov, Biden’s standing among Black Americans has the potential to rebound. But, as Reece told me, “Biden will have to rely on something else to motivate Black people come November. I’m not sure if Jackson’s nomination will be the thing that gets people out of their seats for a midterm election.”

Nick Hannauer’s “Democrats Need to Fix Rural Economies—and Get the Credit for It” at The American Prospect poses a pretty tough challenge. But what’s a great political party for, if not to meet great challenges? As Hannauer writes, “the political rupture that threatens to tear our nation apart is largely occurring along the urban/rural divide….Throughout rural America, once-vibrant factory towns have been impoverished and dismantled through the offshoring of manufacturing jobs. Local businesses have been struggling to compete against the concentrated buying power of national chains, while local workers have been forced to struggle to make ends meet as monopsony employers have relentlessly pushed down wages. Small and midsize farmers have been at the mercy of a handful of agribusiness giants with the power to dictate the crops to be sown, the livestock to be raised, and the price to be paid for them. Local tax bases have eroded, and with them the services, schools, infrastructure, and other public investments necessary to secure a prosperous future….At the median, rural workers now earn only 82 cents on every dollar earned by their urban counterparts, and as rural jobs grow more scarce and less diverse, rural workers have fewer opportunities to close the gap. Nationally, the U.S. workforce grew by 68 percent since 1975 while rural employment actually shrank by nearly a third. Between 2007 and 2018, just 11 percent of counties captured 9 out of every 10 new jobs, a massive concentration of employment and wage growth in a handful of deep-blue metros. In second-tier cities, small towns, and rural counties, the health and well-being of residents are being left behind.”

Hannauer continues, “If rural voters are angry, they have every right to be—and if they look at the relative wealth and good fortune of “urban elites” and blame their woes on Democratic policies, it’s not hard to understand why. Yes, there is massive and growing inequality within big blue cities too, but in the aggregate these booming cities are receiving nearly all the benefits of the information economy while rural America reliably gets none. Rural voters are angry, and lacking a more obvious villain they routinely punish Democrats, the party of the cities, at the polls. As the violent rhetoric surrounding the January 6th insurrection indicates, there’s a not insignificant number of Republicans who passionately believe that electoral defeat isn’t nearly punishment enough….In nearly every recent election cycle, Democratic candidates routinely receive millions more votes than Republican candidates for the House, the Senate, and the White House, and yet the Republican Party could plausibly establish a regime of minority rule (not to mention a stranglehold on the federal courts) for at least a generation to come. Beholden, both ideologically and financially, to corporate interests, Republican elected officials do little if anything to actually help their rural constituents. Instead, they nurture a politics of grievance. But given the failure of Democrats to offer a compelling alternative, grievance alone appears more than enough for Republicans to continue to secure the rural vote….President Biden and congressional Democrats have a frighteningly narrow window to persuade a small but electorally significant percentage of rural voters that only Democrats can and will serve their communities’ needs. To do this, Democrats need to aggressively run on rural revitalization as a centerpiece of their economic agenda in 2022, 2024, and beyond, while immediately using every policy tool at their disposal to begin the difficult work of reversing the extreme geographic inequality that the past 40 years of neoliberalism has wrought….Democrats don’t need to persuade a majority of rural voters, or even a lot of them. Just a few percentage points in a handful of swing states would be enough to block the Trumpist forces from seizing hegemonic minority rule. And that would also give Democrats the breathing space they need to do the hard work necessary to assure that the state of the union between urban and rural America is once again strong.”

In their post, “Notes on the State of Politics: March 24, 2022,” Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman sketch one key aspect of the daunting challenge facing Democrats at state-level politics: “The Democrats do not control a single chamber in a state that Donald Trump won with the debatable exception of Alaska’s state House, where Republicans have a majority of members, but a coalition of Democrats, independents, and Republicans elected the chamber’s speaker. Meanwhile, Republicans hold both chambers in 6 Biden-won states (Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) and a single chamber in 2 others, Minnesota and Virginia, for a total of 14 Biden-state chambers. Overall, Republicans hold 61 chambers — 62 if one includes Nebraska’s technically nonpartisan but functionally Republican unicameral state legislature — while Democrats hold 36, with Alaska’s House not counted in either side’s tally.” They share this map:


Political Strategy Notes

It’s unclear whether growing bipartisan support for President Biden’s Ukraine policies will help Democrats in the midterm elections. But the President’s Ukraine policies are on the right track for that possibility. From Amy Walter’s “United and Still Polarized” at The Cook Political Report: “Republican voters have also cooled in their embrace of Trump’s brand of nationalism and isolationism. For example, back in February of 2021, a Pew poll found that more than two-thirds of Republicans thought that the U.S. should pay less attention to problems overseas and concentrate on our problems here at home, while just 32 percent said it’s best for the future of our country to be active in world affairs. Today, however, nearly three-quarters of Republicans (73 percent) say that working closely with allies to respond to the Russian invasion is the right approach….Republican opinions of U.S. cooperation with NATO, an institution that President Trump called ‘obsolete,’ are now overwhelmingly positive. The Pew poll found 75 percent of Republicans and 81 percent of Democrats agree with the decision to keep a large number of U.S. military forces in NATO countries near Ukraine. …Another reason for the bipartisan support for U.S. actions thus far is that it doesn’t involve American military personnel. Even as Americans are more supportive of cooperation with NATO countries, they have no appetite for sending American troops into another European land war. If Americans start fighting and dying overseas, opinions about America’s ‘role in the world’ are likely to shift.”

Ben Steverman’s “A Once Radical Idea to Close the Wealth Gap Is Actually Happening” at Bloomberg Businessweek explores the benefits of ‘Baby Bonds’ programs, which are “being embraced and implemented by governments across the U.S.” The idea, as championed by stratification economist Darrick Hamilton, proposes “to give each baby born in the U.S. a trust fund established and guaranteed by the federal government. The goal is to narrow the vast inequalities that exist at the moment of birth, particularly those related to the wide and persistent racial wealth gap. The bonds could give any disadvantaged 18-year-old resources to catch up to wealthier peers,” which they could use for education or starting a business. “The fundamental point is providing people with capital at a key point in their life, so they can get into an asset that will passively appreciate over their lifetime,” Hamilton says. And, because race correlates so closely with wealth in the U.S., the policy can be officially race-neutral while still giving a substantial boost to Black Americans who for centuries have been denied opportunities to build intergenerational wealth.” Steverman notes that “lawmakers in Connecticut and the District of Columbia recently established programs that will set aside money for thousands of babies. Washington state is taking steps toward a similar program that could launch in 2024. New Jersey’s governor has also pushed a plan to issue them. And Massachusetts’ treasurer is launching a “baby bonds task force” this spring.” The idea is winning bipartisan support. Democratic Senator Cory Booker was the first presidential candidate to propose the idea at the federal level.

Steverman notes that [Connecticut State Treasurer Shawn] “Wooden brought his baby bonds proposal to Connecticut’s legislature in early 2021, and by July it was law. The District of Columbia moved about as quickly, beginning debate in May and passing its law in December. Wooden says the combination of widespread pressure to tackle racial disparities and Hamilton’s “intellectual framework” prompted advocacy groups and legislators in Connecticut to line up swiftly behind an idea that was new to most of them. To broaden the coalition, proponents argued that baby bonds wouldn’t just heal racial divisions but regional ones, helping poor, largely Black and Democratic urban neighborhoods and poor, largely White and Republican rural areas alike. Wooden tried to demonstrate to lawmakers that there were families in every one of the state’s 169 towns, including Greenwich, that could qualify for baby bonds. “Part of the messaging around this is it’s not race-based,” he says. “This is a program that is antipoverty regardless of your race or ZIP code.”….Governments are keeping costs down by covering only the poorest children, those eligible for Medicaid. In Connecticut, that’s more than 16,000 babies a year, about half of all births in the state. They’ll start with $3,200, which could grow to more than $10,000 by the time they’re 18, depending on investment performance—the state will put the initial capital pool into a broad range of asset classes, much like a pension plan.”….The “baby” part of “baby bonds” may be what gives them uniquely broad political appeal, Hamilton says. The idea of granting a birthright to each child avoids the typical and often racially loaded debates about who’s deserving and undeserving of help. It’s hard to attack a baby for being lazy, he points out.”

With the Ukraine, inflation and Covid dominating the news, can health care reform help Democrats gain some traction that could help in November? In his Daily Beast article “Democrats Want to Party Like It’s 2018 and Push Health Care,” Sam Brodkey reports that Dems may embrace that strategy. “Asked about the party’s strategy on Obamacare, Chris Taylor, spokesperson for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said the DCCC plans to remind voters frequently about the GOP’s stances on health care….“Democrats want to lower the costs of medicines, protect health care, and lower costs for families,” Taylor said. “We’re going to make sure voters know the difference between us and them.”….It’s a good time for Democrats to refocus on favorable turf, given that the current political landscape is bleak for the party as the midterm season heats up. And with the anniversary of the law coming up next week, national and state level Democratic Party organizations have a slate of events planned to keep it on the agenda….Democrats are now trying to talk about inflation, but through the frame of health care. Increasingly, Democrats are framing their health-care talking points in the kitchen-table language of costs. That might help bail Democrats out. One strategist with access to recent polling information found that voters have given Republicans a 5-point advantage on reducing inflation. But they gave Democrats a 10-point advantage on reducing the cost of health care….congressional Democrats tried for the better part of a year to give millions more people health insurance. Some, like Rep. Dan Kildee (D-MI), believe that the politics of the issue are so bad for Republicans that they wouldn’t even take a pass at Obamacare, or other key health-care programs, if they had the chance.”


Political Strategy Notes

At Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Kyle Kondik takes on “Gas Prices and Presidential Approval: There is some connection historically, but that connection is getting weaker,” and writes: “That a president would prefer to have lower gas prices than higher ones is obvious. That high gas prices actually do contribute to lower presidential approval is not as obvious, although there is some limited evidence for it based on what we’ve found in our research. But we also are in an era of fairly stable presidential approval ratings, meaning that it shouldn’t be surprising that whatever impact a single factor (gas prices) might have on presidential approval, the importance of that factor might be declining.” Kondik shares this chart:

E. J. Dionne, Jr. comments on Ukranian President Zelensky’s address to the U.S. Congress, and notes, “The power of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s video addressto Congress on Wednesday owed to something more than charisma born of clarity, tenacity and personal bravery….Five words, unlikely to make a list of Top 5 sound bites, defined why this is a battle for a generation. The confrontation in Ukraine, Zelensky declared, is a fight “to keep justice in history.”….He’s right. Allowing Russia’s aggression to succeed would mean ratifying a future that privileges power over justice, autocracy over self-determination and impunity over accountability….The potentially heartening development is that Ukraine has “woken people up to what impunity represents as a threat to global order, never mind to human rights and to human decency,” according to David Miliband, former Foreign Secretary of the U.K. and president of International Rescue Committee….“It’s woken up the liberal democracies to what is at stake,” he continued. “And it’s not just values and it’s not just interests, it’s the future, because the future is either one of impunity in which the powerful do as they please and leave the rest to do as we must, or it’s a future of accountability in which impunity is tamed.”….Democracy will not fare well in a world where impunity runs rampant….Zelensky’s performance has been commanding because of the moral commitment behind his passion. He makes an unassailable case that the struggle he’s leading is a hinge point in democracy’s story.”

I’m a bit ambivalent about posting Republican snarkage here. But in this case, it’s instructive. David Smith writes at The Guardian, “A messaging battle is under way with the White House seeking to tie Putin to the price rise. But [Republican consultant Ed] Rogers said: “Republicans have a bumper sticker. Democrats have an essay. Just see how that goes.” In other words, ‘keep it short, stupid.’ A 2014 AP/NORC study found, for example that “Overall, 41 percent of Americans report that they watched, read, or heard any in-depth news stories, beyond the headlines, in the last week” (I’d be surprised if the percentage was actually that high). Many people, including not a few swing voters, don’t have the time or inclination to read windy essays, however eloquent. Respect the target constituency’s time. Sure, it’s good to have well-thought out policy papers and articles about each issue. But don’t make them the primary messaging tools. Put more effort into getting campaign messages out with soundbites, one-liners, bumper stickers, short video clips, slogans, memes and headlines. Of course, even brevity can be overdone, and short messages must have real substance to be persuasive.

Speaking of brief messaging, SendHub has a pretty good 10-point primer on text messaging. Some excerpts: “2. Reaching a Younger Demographic….New York Times article by one political operative, no one under the age of 45 wants a phone call. Ever since peer-to-peer (P2P) texting became commonplace in the 2016 election, mobile has been a popular method for getting the word out….The SMS market is always changing and it’s important for candidates to keep up on market trends. These trends not only help you reach your audience, but they also help you stay compliant and keep your number from being spam filtered….And younger voters (aged 18-29) are almost entirely tapped into technology, so it’s crucial that campaigners use every tool in their wheelhouses to reach this key demographic….4. Did we mention open rate?….For decades, campaigns contacted voters primarily by knocking on doors and by making phone calls….According to a Medium article, “The very best at door knocking will only be able to reach 30 voters an hour at a 25% completion rate depending on the time of day. That means for every hour of human labor; you are only connecting with 5–10 voters. That means it will take a lot of hours of labor to reach enough voters to swing an election. Phone calls are even worse. Although you can contact more people per hour by calling them, they are less likely to be convinced, and the contact percentage can be as low as 2–3%.”….6. Get Responses Immediately! ….Average response rate of the text is 45%. Being that time is of the essence on a political campaign, you need to get your message read and often times you need a response! A good political field game listens to voters and collects information about who they’re supporting and what issues they value.”