washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

Washington Post syndicated columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. explains why “The Supreme Court’s Republican bias hangs over the Trump immunity case: The conservative justices must navigate a crisis moment of their own making,” and writes that “As members of its 6-3 conservative majority ponder how and when they will rule on Donald Trump’s absolute immunity claim, they should understand how much they have already done to paint themselves as instruments of the Republican Party and the political right. They have created a crisis moment….the conservative justices seem hellbent on taking a side in the searing partisan battle that is dividing the country into closely matched halves, at a cost to its own legitimacy and the nation’s confidence in the rule of law….Add to this the invention of the “major questions doctrine,” through which the court has seized the power to strike down executive agency actions of “vast economic and political significance” unless Congress clearly authorized them. It’s a move that allows the court’s conservatives to throw out any regulations and executive actions by Democratic administrations that they don’t like….Trump’s contention is both absurd and dangerous to a free republic. Yet in last week’s oral arguments, most of the conservative justices were more eager to worry about entirely hypothetical problems future presidents might confront than to deal with the facts before them involving a president who plainly tried to overturn a legitimate election….If the court delays its ruling until late June or forces the trial court to litigate new issues it might raise, it knows it will be delaying Trump’s most important trial until after this year’s election. The court already fed skepticism about its motives in December when it denied special counsel Jack Smith’s request for the court to bypass the appeals process and fast-track a hearing on matters Smith knew the justices would want to address….There is a way for the court to prove its willingness to suspend partisanship at least some of the time. Instead of wasting precious time to rule on issues not directly raised by this case, it could take up Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s suggestion that it confine itself to answering the question Trump raised: “whether all official acts [by a president] get immunity.” She proposed that it wait for a case that “actually presents” the issues that preoccupy the conservatives….One of her fellow justices has made an excellent argument for this approach. “If it is not necessary to decide more to dispose of a case, then it is necessary not to decide more,” Roberts wrote in a 2022 opinion. In the Trump case, he would do a lot for the court’s reputation by following his own advice and bringing another conservative with him.”

Gary Langer reports on a new a new ABC News/Ipsos poll at abcnews.com: “Locked in a tight race for the presidency, Donald Trump prevails in trust to handle most issues in a new ABC News/Ipsos poll, yet President Joe Biden scores competitively on key personal attributes — leaving wide open the question of who’ll prevail come Election Day, now six months away….Excluding people who say they wouldn’t vote, Trump has 46% support, Biden 44%, in this national survey of more than 2,200 adults. (Nearly all the rest say they’d pick someone else.) Among registered voters, it’s Biden 46%, Trump 45%. Among likely voters, it’s Biden 49%, Trump 45%, again not a significant difference….A five-way contest doesn’t change the picture in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates with fieldwork by Ipsos. This finds the race at 42% for Trump and 40% for Biden, with 12% for Robert F. Kennedy Jr., 2% for Cornel West and 1% for Jill Stein. (That, of course, assumes Kennedy, West and Stein are on the ballot in all states, an open question.) Among registered voters in the five-way race, it’s 42-42%, Biden-Trump, and Biden is a non-significant +3 or +4 points in likely voter models….Kennedy gets 12% even though 77% of his supporters say they know “just some” or “hardly anything” about his positions on the issues. Notably, his supporters are more apt to be Republicans or GOP-leaning independents (54%) than Democrats and Democratic leaners (42%, a slight difference given sample sizes), and in a two-way race, they favor Trump over Biden by 13 points. That may explain why Trump attacked Kennedy as a stalking horse in social media posts last week….Another result finds a potential risk for Trump in his current trial in New Yorkon charges of falsifying business records to hide a payoff to a pornographic actress who says they had sex, which he denies. Eighty percent of Trump’s supporters say they’d stick with him even if he’s convicted of a felony in this case. But that leaves 20% who say they’d either reconsider their support (16%) or withdraw it (4%) — easily enough to matter in a close race.” Among the usual caveats, it is a national poll, not a swing state poll with a fairly small sample (2260). Langer presents more polling data readers can access by clicking on this link.

In “Democrats launch early efforts to persuade undecided voters” at The Hill,  Amie Parnes observes “In an election where enthusiasm is low and voters are lukewarm on support for both parties’ candidates, Democrats are focusing on early persuasion in battleground states to help sway so-called surge voters — the part of the electorate who sat out during the 2016 presidential race but backed Biden during the 2020 cycle.,,,The Democrats say they’re seeing a need to launch these efforts earlier than usual because of the unprecedented race between Biden and former President Trump and threats from third-party candidates like Robert F. Kennedy Jr…. This week, for example, the progressive activist group MoveOn is intensifying the persuasion phase of a $32 million election program, which will engage those much-desired voters, sources tell The Hill….Biden lags Trump across several polls, which have strategists saying the early contact is essential….Organizers at MoveOn say issues like abortion and the fight for democracy have shown to be motivating for Democratic-leaning voters….MoveOn’s persuasion efforts will be handled by three “personalized contacts,” the sources say, which include phone, postcards and through in-person door-knocking, the sources say….In 2020, the group took part in get-out-the-vote efforts much later in the cycle, in August. But it didn’t focus as much on persuasion, something they say is needed during this election….“We believe that this strategy is key to doing the important work to successfully persuade voters and supply them with the information they need to protect their progress and their freedoms from Donald Trump and MAGA,” said Britt Jacovich, a press secretary for MoveOn….One source familiar with the AFL-CIO’s efforts says there is a specific focus on the Rust Belt states and having discussions on health care, wages and other issues….“There’s so much noise and the only way to cut through that noise is conversation,” the union source said. “People don’t want the political speak.”….in key battleground states — Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, Michigan, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — the former president has a slim advantage over Biden, according to surveys published Tuesday from Emerson College Polling/The Hill, but the difference is within the survey’s margin of error….“When you’re in power and your side controls the White House, there is a tendency for your side to become complacent, and that’s where the turnout message becomes important,” said Rachel Bitecofer, a political strategist and author of the new book, “Hit ‘Em Where it Hurts: How To Save Democracy By Beating Republicans At Their Own Game.”….A lot of these surge voters are not paying attention to the daily news … The more contacts those people have to vote and vote Democrat, the better.”

Some thoughts from Politico’s “Don’t Forget the Backlash to the ’60s” by Jeff Greenfield, five-time Emmy Award-winning political analyst: “Most media retrospectives of the 1960s celebrate the marchers, the protests, the peace signs along with the compulsory Buffalo Springfield lyrics (“There’s something happening here/ But what it is ain’t exactly clear”). The reality is those upheavals were an enormous in-kind contribution to the political fortunes of the right. And if history comes even close to repeating itself, then the latest episode will redound to Donald Trump’s benefit….Ronald Reagan centered much of his 1966 campaign for governor of California on attacking the Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley. He pledged to “clean up the mess at Berkeley,” and denounced the “beatniks, radicals and filthy speech advocates” who fueled “anarchy and rioting.”….He proposed that a code of conduct be imposed on faculty to “force them to serve as examples of good behavior and decency.” He won election by a million votes.” And that was in liberal California. Greenfield continues, “The backlash against the left was a key part of the 1968 presidential race. Richard Nixon famously ran a campaign on “law and order” — highlighting both urban and campus unrest. One commercial featured scenes of protest, as Nixon argued that “in a system of government that provides for peaceful change, there is no cause that justifies a resort to violence.”….The scenes of violence in Chicago outside the Democrats’ 1968 presidential convention, meanwhile, further contributed to the notion that left-wing lawlessness had gotten out of control. It was a nightmare event for Hubert Humphrey’s beleaguered presidential campaign, one where the public overwhelmingly sided with the Chicago police, not the demonstrators. (And, of course, guess where Democrats are holding their 2024 convention: Chicago.)….The political consequences of the upheaval became clear. While the doomed liberal campaigns of Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy draw most of the focus in retrospectives of the era, the fact is that in November of 1968, Nixon and Wallace combined for 57 percent of the vote, close to the levels of historic landslide wins of LBJ in 1964 and Reagan in 1984….It may be that the months of summer, or a meaningful cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, will dampen the heat on American college campuses. But if the turmoil continues, history suggests that it will be another significant burden on Biden’s fight for a second term.”

Political Strategy Notes

“Americans have been sour on the economy since President Joe Biden was sworn into office,” Monica Potts writes ink “Voters don’t like Biden’s economy — but why?at 538/Abc News. “As we head into an election season that is likely to be a 2020 rematch between Biden and former President Donald Trump, voters give Republicans and Trump an edge on economic issues. An April 12-14 poll from Echelon Insights found that 57 percent of all voters somewhat or strongly disapproved of the way Biden is handling the economy, and favored Trump on making the economy work better by 48 percent to 40 percent. That’s only a recent example of what surveys have routinely shown: Voters aren’t happy with Biden’s handling of the economy….But what exactly are voters disapproving of? What do they mean when they talk about the economy? Therein lies a disconnect between most economic indicators that economists consider — things like GDP, the unemployment rate, job growth and inflation — which are all looking up, and how voters feel. When voters measure economic well-being, they’re much more likely to use more personal metrics, such as how easily their family can meet their basic needs. That can be more of a feeling than an exact calculation, and right now, the Biden reelection campaign is battling the general sense that everything has gotten a little bit worse….Partnering with 538, PerryUndem, a nonpartisan research firm, spoke to 16 voters in two different focus groups to ask more about what they mean when they talk about “the economy.”* The answer was mostly that they felt they’d been better off financially four years ago than they were today, and a lot of that had to do with the cost of living, including persistent high prices at the grocery store and gas pump and for bigger costs like housing and higher education. The two groups were made up of undecided voters who were leaning toward Trump and undecided voters leaning toward Biden. In general, most Trump leaners said that Trump was better on the economy. Biden leaners, meanwhile, wanted to vote for Biden despite their feelings about the economy.” Potts shares some revealing quotes from the interviews and concludes, “The truth is, few could point to the exact economic problems they wanted to see resolved, or name the tactics they thought Biden or Trump could employ to help resolve them. This was true even when it came to issues like retirement savings that affected them personally. In general, they are feeling the burden of hardships and want something to be done, but those general vibes are difficult to address….Economic sentiment has been improving in recent months, but it’s still relatively low among most voters. It will likely remain a challenge for the Biden campaign, and a plus for Trump’s campaign, barring huge shifts in the months ahead.”

From “A Huge Gender Gap Is Emerging Among Young Voters” by Thomas B. Edsall at The New York Times: “It has become clear that one constituency — young voters, 18 to 29 years old — will play a key, if not pivotal, role in determining who will win the Biden-Trump rematch….Four years ago, according to exit polls, voters in this age group kept Trump from winning re-election. They cast ballots decisively supporting Biden, 60 to 36, helping to give him a 4.46-point victoryamong all voters, 51.31 percent to 46.85 percent….This year, Biden cannot count on winning Gen Z by such a large margin. There is substantial variance in poll data reported for the youth vote, but to take one example, the NBC News national survey from April found Trump leading 43 to 42….Young voters’ loyalty to the Democratic Party has been frayed by two distinct factors: opposition to the intensity of the Israeli attack on Hamas in Gaza and frustration with an economy many see as stacked against them….Equally important, a large gender gap has emerged, with young men far less likely to support Biden than young women….Bill McInturff, a co-founder of the Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies — which conducts surveys for NBC along with the Democratic firm Hart Research — provided The Times with data covering a broad range of recent political and demographic trends….Tracking the partisan identification and ideology of 18-to-34-year-olds, the McInturff analyses show that from 2012 to 2023, women became increasingly Democratic, going from 55 percent identifying as Democratic and 29 percent Republican in 2012 to 60 and 22 in 2023. The shift was even more striking in the case of ideology, going from 32 percent liberal and 29 percent conservative to 51 percent liberal and 17 percent conservative in 2023….Among young men, the Democratic advantage in partisan identification fell from nine points in 2012 to five points in 2023.”

Edsall continues, “What gives? I asked the Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, who recently joined the Biden campaign’s polling team, a job she also held in 2020. She sent a detailed reply by email:

Three reasons. First and foremost is the abortion issue and all the aspects of reproductive health, including medication abortion, I.V.F., birth control and criminalizing abortion. Young men are very pro-abortion and birth control, but young women really vote the issue.

Second is style and respect. Young men are not as troubled by the chaotic and divisive style of Trump, while young women want people to be respected, including themselves, want stability and are very concerned about division and the potential for violence. Young women think Trump’s style is an embarrassment abroad, a poor role model for their children and dangerous for the country. Younger men, especially blue-collar, have a grudging respect for his strength and “tell it like it is” attitude.

Third is the economy. Young men, especially blue-collar and people of color, feel left behind in this economy. They do not feel things have been delivered to them. They do not know anything about what this administration has done. Younger women are much more committed to a role for government to help people like themselves as a foundational view. They don’t know much more about the economic programs than young men, but they tend to respond more favorably to Democrats in general on the economy. Younger men also feel more left behind on the economy and more sense of grievance than young women do who are also increasingly dominating college and higher education.”

Edsall adds: “The Times/Siena poll conducted April 7 to 11 asked voters “How much do you think Donald Trump respects women?” A majority of men, 54 percent, replied that Trump does respect women (23 percent “a lot” and 31 percent “some”), while 42 percent said he does not (14 percent “not much” and 28 percent “not at all”)….Women replied quite differently, with 68 percent saying Trump does not respect women (24 percent “not much,” 44 percent “not at all”) and 31 percent saying Trump does respect women (15 percent “a lot” and 16 percent “some”).” Also, notes Edssall, “Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University and the author of “Generations: The Real Differences Between Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Boomers and Silents and What They Mean for America’s Future,” wrote by email that the question of why there is such a gender divide “is tough to answer,” but she made some suggestions: “It could be that the changes on the left have driven young men away from the Democratic Party. For example, the idea that identities can be divided into ‘oppressor’ and ‘oppressed’ may have alienated some young men.”….Another likely factor, according to Twenge, is:

Fewer young men get college degrees than young women, and in the last 10 to 15 years the parties have split by education, with more of those without a college degree conservative and Republican. This appears even among high school seniors, where young men who do not plan to attend a four-year college are 30 percent more likely to identify as conservative than young men who are planning to get a college degree.

In an article published in January on the Business Insider website, “The War Within Gen Z,” Daniel A. Cox, the director of the Survey Center on American Life at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote:

Something strange is happening between Gen Z men and women. Over the past decade, poll after poll has found that young people are growing more and more divided by gender on a host of political issues. Since 2014, women between the ages of 18 and 29 have steadily become more liberal each year, while young men have not. Today, female Gen Zers are more likely than their male counterparts to vote, care more about political issues and participate in social movements and protests.”

If you see this gender rift between young voters as a a potential way for the Biden-Harris campaign to survive the polarization generated by the Mideast violence, you are probably not alone. You can bet that there will be video ads showing young women saying something like “I’m not happy with all of the Administration’s policies,. But Trump and the Republicans want to cancel women’s reproductive freedom, and I’m sure as hell going to vote against that.”

Mideast Peace Plan Can Help Biden Win Re-Election

Some excerpts from “Biden’s New Plan for the Middle East Is More of the Same,” by Matthew Duss, the executive vice president at the Center for International Policy, published February 14 of this year In Foreign Policy:

Last month [January 2024], the administration offered a preview of its new plan for the Middle East via New York Timescolumnist Tom Friedman, a longtime favorite of the president’s. “We are about to see a new Biden administration strategy unfold to address this multifront war involving Gaza, Iran, Israel, and the region,” Friedman wrote, “what I hope will be a ‘Biden Doctrine’ that meets the seriousness and complexity of this dangerous moment.”….The Biden plan he lays out offers little that’s new or promising—and threatens to keep U.S. policy stuck in the same failed rut it’s been in for decades.”

As relayed by Friedman, the plan has three parts: a revitalized push for a Palestinian state; a U.S.-backed Israel-Saudi normalization deal that would include a U.S. security alliance with Saudi Arabia but would be contingent on Israeli support for the first part; and a more aggressive response to Iran and its regional network.

First, let’s focus on the positive. One of the main problems with the U.S.-managed peace process is that it has generally imposed consequences on the weaker side, the Palestinians. For Israel, only carrots. For Palestinians, mainly sticks. There are a few signs now that the administration is prepared to change this. A recent executive order enabling sanctions to be imposed on extremist settlers in the West Bank, as well as organizations that support them, is a small but important sign that the U.S. is finally willing to impose consequences on both sides. (Anyone claiming that the order is simply window dressing should take a look at this FinCEN notice, and then find someone who can explain it to them.)

So, too, with the recent White House memorandum conditioning military aid on adherence to international law, an idea Biden previously referred to as “bizarre.” While the necessity of the memorandum is questionable, as the administration already has the tools and authorities required to condition aid (and is, in fact, legally required to do so), it’s still a step in the right direction. Provided, of course, the administration keeps stepping that way and doesn’t treat the new process as simply a method to bury credible allegations of Israeli abuses in more layers of paper.

if Duss is right, Biden should consider reformulating his plan to take a tougher stance against U. S. funding violence against Gaza and its people. He should emphasize easy-to-understand points and his campaign should sell it widely, so that, by November most voters and media commentators get it that this is the most serious and practical plan for peace in the Mideast. Many won’t like it, regardless of the content. But if it seems fair to Palestinians and Israelis and strives to stop the bloodshed, Biden and the Democrats  can experience some political benefit.

For their part, the leaders of the student demonstrations should carefully consider the political dangers to America if the protests become violent. That would provoke a backlash, turn public opinion in favor of Trump and the Republicans and give Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu a blank check to do his worst. The protest strategy of blocking traffic is already generating negative buzz, even in normally liberal media. It could backfire further and hurt the Palestinians and their student supporters.

It’s a presidential election year. Biden, Democratic candidates and pro-Palestinian protesters should all park the high horses and get politically strategic.

Political Strategy Notes

Alex Thompson and Hans Nichols report that “Biden’s strategy to win back progressives could be working” at Axios: “His targeted appeals to the Democratic base reveal a campaign that’s currently more focused on energizing — or reclaiming — its core supporters than on making overtures to swing voters….Polls suggest the strategy may be working as some Democrats are beginning to return to the president….From blasting former President Trump on abortion rights to forgiving student loans to pressing for new climate goals, Biden has been trying boost his popularity among progressives, young people and people of color.”Support for Biden among those voters has been consistently lower than in 2020, according to polls….Many of Biden’s paid ads also target Hispanics and working-class Black men — key parts of the Democratic coalition that he appears to be struggling to keep in his corner….The campaign has also been running an ad focused on concerns among many voters — including many Democrats — about his age. Biden speaks directly into the camera in that one….The company Biden has been keeping recently is just as telling….In April, Biden had two events with progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)….And this week, Biden invited Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) on Air Force One to go to a climate change event….Biden announced this week that he’ll deliver the commencement address next month at Morehouse College, the historically Black institution in the swing state of Georgia….And the Biden team recently began airing an ad called “Sharp” with Joseph “JoJo” Burgess — a middle-aged Black man who is mayor of Washington, Pa. — attesting to the president’s mental acuity.” On a more cautionary note, “A February poll by the New York Times and Siena College found 23% of Democratic primary voters said they were enthusiastic about Biden, while 48% of Republican primary voters said they were enthusiastic about Trump….A recent Wall Street Journal poll in the key swing states also found that 30% of Black men said they will definitely or probably vote for Trump.” However, “The Biden administration has also made a flurry of left-leaning policy announcements that have high support among Democratic constituencies….He has repeatedly promised Pennsylvania steelworkers that U.S. Steel will remain an American company and has threatened to triple tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum….In March, his EPA issued an ambitious rule to ensure the majority of new vehicles sold in the United States are all-electric or hybrids by 2032….Then in mid-April, Biden announced he would cancel another $7.4 billion in student debt, bringing his total $153 billion in canceled loans for 4.3 million borrowers….There’s one major policy move that Biden is considering — a crackdown on the border with an executive order — that would indicate he’s willing to forsake his party’s base to let swing voters know he appreciates their concerns on immigration and crime….Trump is also pursuing a base-first strategy to reclaim the White House, revving up his most ardent supporters by pledging to “free” convicted Jan. 6 rioters, close the southern border and drill for more oil.”

At The Nation, Editorial Director and Publisher Katrina vanden Heuval’s “Here’s What a 21st-Century Rural New Deal Looks Like” describes a new “strategy for building a rural-urban working-class coalition.” As she outlines the vision, “Imagine networks of family-owned farms, powered by solar panels, plowed by workers earning a livable wage, all organized around iconic small-town courthouse squares. Imagine students at the local school taking vocational courses to pursue a trade—future carpenters, mechanics, and electricians getting free training that they can supplement with online research via universally available high-speed broadband. This is what life could look like after a Rural New Deal.” She adds that “The proposal has been put forward by an organization called the Rural Urban Bridge Initiative, or RUBI. Founded by progressives raised on hay farms and in coalfields, RUBI goes beyond the typical obvious prescriptions to “engage” rural voters. Instead, they offer a strategy for building a rural-urban working-class coalition that’s equal parts sensible and ambitious….Their efforts come at a fork in the poorly maintained road for the Democratic Party. As RUBI’s founders pointed out in a midterm postmortem forThe Nation, Democrats have been hemorrhaging support among rural voters, two-thirds of whom hold them in “low esteem.” And an NBC News poll from last September showed that barely a quarter of rural voters approve of the Biden administration. Those are startling numbers in an election year when the president needs electoral votes from Maine, New Hampshire, and Nevada, and crucial Senate seats are being defended in Montana and Ohio….But by heeding RUBI’s advice and championing bold solutions to the challenges faced by rural and urban workers alike, Democrats could inaugurate a progressive renaissance in places that have been misconstrued as irretrievably lost—and bolster enthusiasm among core voters…./The comprehensive strategy advocated by RUBI asks Democrats to “think, talk, and act different”—and the organization offers a clear vision for how that can get done via their Rural New Deal. It consists of 10 pillars of fearless but practical policy proposals, ranging from universal broadband access to support for small local banks to affordable housing and universal healthcare initiatives….RUBI also counsels progressives to engage rural Americans by learning to “talk like a neighbor.” Instead of relying on a single staffer in Brooklyn for rural outreach—as the Hillary Clinton campaign literally did in 2016—they call for sincere consideration of rural livelihoods and understanding the causes of their alienation.” Read on here for the rest of vanden Heuval’s article.

Good news from the Sunshine State: Jacob Ogles reports that “Florida Democrats field candidate in every congressional district in the state” at Florida Politics. As Ogles explains, “The Florida Democratic Party (FDP) has successfully fielded candidates in every congressional district in the state….That achieves a goal that the party announced less than two weeks from the qualification deadline. Now, FDP Chair Nikki Fried said it’s a clear sign that the blue team has momentum….“Florida Democrats just filed to compete for every congressional seat,” Fried said. “It does not matter if we’re running in Pensacola or Key West, every part of this state is worth fighting for and we are not going to let Florida Republicans walk into office without being held accountable. Florida Democrats are fired up and ready to compete everywhere.”….Of note, grassroots activists have sought out candidates even in long shot districts, and played a significant role in finding candidates in many of Florida’s seats….“Competing matters. Elections have consequences,” posted Fergie Reid, founder of 90 For 90. That’s a group started in Virginia that pushed for a full-field strategy there that ultimately led to Democrats retaking the Legislature. Now, the group and other grassroots activists want to try the same approach in Florida. They have tried to do so in past elections like 2020. But that year, the group met resistance from the state party, which wanted to focus on battleground districts….Movement leaders have admitted that Democrats will not win every district in Florida. Democrats haven’t controlled a majority of U.S. House seats in the Sunshine State since 1988….But Democrats believe that having candidates organizing and fighting for votes everywhere will help the party long-term, and hopefully mobilize voters to support President Joe Biden in this year’s Presidential Election and unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, who is running for re-election.” It’s a good start. As Ogles points out, “Democrats have more ground to make up. In 2022, Republicans won 20 of Florida’s 28 congressional seats.” Hopefully Florida Democrats will benefit substantially from having both abortion rights and weed on the November ballot.

Annette Choi and Lauren Mascarenhas have an update, “These are the states where abortion rights will – or could – be on the ballot in November” at CNN Politics. As Choi and Mascarenhas write: “Three states, Florida, Maryland and New York, have already secured abortion measures on the 2024 ballot. All eyes are on Florida, which has served as a critical access point for people seeking services in a region of the country that is fast becoming an abortion care desert. A six-week abortion ban is set to replace the state’s already-restrictive 15-week ban on May 1….Organizers in other states across the country are working to secure funding, gather signatures and jump through the legal hoops necessary to secure abortion measures on the 2024 ballot….In most states, the process entails collecting a certain number of signatures by a designated deadline this summer, while others require the additional step of having the ballot language approved by a state court, according to campaign organizers. The abortion rights measures are largely backed by coalitions of reproductive health advocates, many of which are fundraising to secure the money to support the campaigns….Arizona, Nevada and Montana have all seen proposed measures protecting abortion access up to the point of viability, which doctors say is around 24 weeks into pregnancy. A potential measure in Arkansas would allow abortion up to 20 weeks into pregnancy or in cases of rape, incest or fatal fetal anomalies, while one in South Dakota would eliminate restrictions on abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy, with further restrictions in the second. It would also allow the state to “regulate or prohibit” abortion in the third trimester….A potential measure in Missouri seeks to broadly protect reproductive care, while a separate proposed measure would seek to enshrine the state’s near-total abortion ban into the constitution….Seven states have already seen a vote on abortion access since Roe v. Wade was overturned, and reproductive health advocates have been heartened by the overwhelming support for abortion access among voters. Every measure aimed at protecting abortion access has passed, while all measures to restrict it have failed….Proposed measures to restrict abortion access in Iowa and Pennsylvania both seek to establish that public funding can’t be used for the procedure, though both are unlikely to pass their state legislatures.”

Political Strategy Notes

So how does a Democratic U.S. Senator in a very red state run to keep his seat? Sen. Jon Tester provides the emblematic example in his bid to hold his senate seat in Montana. Stephen Neukam shares some observations at Axios: “Tester’s campaign in deep-red Montana could be the difference between Democrats keeping control of the Senate or relinquishing it to the GOP….Some of the earliest advertising from the Tester camp have elevated his splits with Biden, including an ad that said the Democrat “fought to stop President Biden from letting migrants stay in America instead of remain in Mexico.”….But Republicans are pouring money into the race and are painting Tester as a lawmaker who says one thing to Montanans and then acts differently in Washington….Another ad from early in the cycle highlights how Tester joined with Republicans to protect funding for gun safety and hunter education classes….He has also made recent moves on Capitol Hill to differ from Biden, including pushing the president to take action at the southern border and opposing new energy regulations.…National Republican Senatorial Committee communications director Mike Berg told Axios that Tester’s distance from Trump would be “at the center” of the campaign against the Democrat….Tester also notably voted to convict Trump in both of his impeachments….Tester, along with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), are two of the only Democrats running for Senate this year who have been so openly critical of the White House on the campaign trail…The Tester campaign told Axios the lawmaker has “worked with President Trump and Republicans to help veterans, crack down on government waste and abuse, and support our first responders.”….”He stood up to President Biden by demanding action be taken to secure our border and protect Montana’s way of life,” Monica Robinson, a Tester campaign spokesperson, said.” It is one of the many ironies of American politics that Tester, who is fighting to keep his Senate seat, might make a strong presidential candidate, who could pull from moderates and conservatives, as well as liberals.

Almost every political observer will tell you that Pennsylvania is a top swing state in the 2024 presidential and U.S. Senate elections. Some of the results of Tuesday’s PA primary elections may shed a bit of light on how Democratic campaigns are doing: 538’s stable of writers offer some clues at ABC News: Geoffrey Skelley, Kaleigh Rogers and Monica Potts write that “In the solidly blue 12th District, ABC News reports progressive Democratic Rep. Summer Lee is projected to defeat Edgewood Borough Council member Bhavini Patel by about 20 percentage points, with 99 percent of the expected vote reporting. Lee’s win is an early indication that The Squad’s criticisms of Israel won’t necessarily weigh members down in the primaries to come this summer….Meanwhile, in the 10th District, former news anchor Janelle Stelson is projected to win the Democratic primary with 44 percent against a field of five other candidates and 99 percent of the expected vote, ABC News reports. She’ll face Republican Rep. Scott Perry, a former chair of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus, in a slightly GOP-leaning seat that may be competitive….In the 1st District, another seat that could be in play, Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick held off a challenge from the right in anti-abortion activist Mark Houck, leading by 26 points at this point with 91 percent of the expected vote. ABC News reports that Fitzpatrick is projected to win that race. Fitzpatrick will now face off against Democrat Ashley Ehasz, whom he defeated by 10 points in 2022, but it may very well be a closer race in this swingy district this time around….And over in Eastern Pennsylvania, three Republicans squared off tonight for the opportunity to run against — and potentially unseat — three-term Democratic Rep. Susan Wild in the 7th District. But it was state Rep. Brian Mackenzie who came out on top and is projected to win according to reporting by ABC News. He’s currently leading with 42 percent of the vote, and 85 percent of the expected vote reporting, perhaps in part thanks to the nearly half a million dollars spent on his behalf by the Koch Brothers’ PAC. Mackenzie and Wild will now be gearing up for a tight race that is set to be one of the most competitive House races in the nation, so expect a lot of attention — and money — to be paid to Lehigh Valley….Neither candidate faced primary opposition in the U.S. Senate contest today, meaning that Democratic Sen. Bob Casey Jr. and former hedge fund CEO Dave McCormick will face off in November.”

Skelley, Rogers and Potts explain further: “Finally, in notable races for the state House and Senate, we watched Democratic primaries in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh areas — which will set up key contests this fall, as Democrats fight to hold onto their narrow, one-vote majority in the state House and flip the Senate to secure a state government trifecta. Incumbents mostly fended off challenges from more progressive candidates in these races, notably Rep. Amen Brown in West Philadelphia, and Rep. Abigail Salisbury, who won against a Summer Lee-backed candidate, Ashley Comans.” ….Monica Potts shares this addendum: “As Meredith said, I think the big takeaway for the night is that Republicans did not nominate some of their more extreme candidates. That was a losing strategy in 2022, and we may see more competitive statewide races as a result this fall….The 1st District race I noted earlier is a good example: Anti-abortion Republicans suffered a notable loss with Houck’s decisive defeat in favor of incumbent Fitzpatrick, one of the most moderate Republicans in the U.S. House. So far, abortion has been a winning issue for Democrats, and it’s likely to be a defining issue in the race this fall — so Republicans are likely glad Fitzpatrick prevailed in this purple district.” Potts is surely right that abortion politics is the big story in Pennsylvania, which is one of the most heavily Catholic states. And if Tuesday’s primary election results indicate anything significant for the fall presidential election, it is that reproductive freedom still looks like a potent issue favoring Democrats — in what may be the largest electoral vote swing state on the map in 2024.

The United Auto Workers historic victory in organizing the Chattanooga, TN Volkswagen auto plant is not only an earthquake for labor news; it bodes well for Democrats, who could benefit immeasurably from a significant uptick in union membership. Unions not only contribute significant funds to Democratic campaigns; they also provide needed manpower when it comes to GOTV and they help build political solidarity between workers of different races and cultures. At The American Prospect, Editor at Large Harold Meyerson offers some insights on the importance of the UAW victory: “History—good history, if conditional history—was made last Friday in Chattanooga, as workers at Volkswagen’s factory there voted to join the United Auto Workers by an overwhelming margin of 2,628 to 985, a 73 percent to 27 percent landslide….The vote was historic on any number of counts. It marks the UAW’s first successful unionization of a foreign-owned auto factory after a number of failed attempts; it marks the first unionization in many decades of a major group of workers in the non-union South; it may even mark the rebirth of a powerful union movement, something the nation has lacked over the past 40 years….It also marks, alongside the provisional victory of the Starbucks baristas, a breakthrough in the type of occupation that’s been able to unionize. In recent years, there’s been a wave of unionizations among university teaching assistants, interns and residents, museum docents, and other workers who can’t readily be replaced should management fire them for their pro-union proclivities. But it’s been standard practice for management to fire assembly-line workers, retail clerks, drywall installers, and the myriad of other workers for whom replacements can indeed be found if and when they threaten to unionize. It’s illegal for employers to do that, but the penalties are so negligible (restoring those workers to their jobs after months or years of litigation, giving them their back pay, and posting a notice of this settlement somewhere in the workplace) that it’s long been standard practice in American business. The VW and Starbucks workers had that sword hanging over their heads, yet managed to prevail nonetheless. Should their example inspire the millions of workers who’d like to unionize but fear employers’ retaliation, that would mark a sea change in America’s political economy….The historic status of the victory at Volkswagen, however, is still as yet conditional. To really mark a historic break with nearly 60 years of union decline—a decline that is at the root of the erosion of the New Deal’s egalitarian economics and, correspondingly, the rise of record levels of economic inequality—it can’t be a one-off. The UAW has to roll this on to other Southern foreign-transplant factories; the first test of its ability to do that will come the week of May 13, when workers at the Mercedes factory in Vance, Alabama, will also vote on whether to join the UAW….As Mike Elk noted in a report from Chattanooga that we ran on Friday, the workers at the VW plant are a younger and more racially diverse group than those who voted down previous attempts to go union. The teaching assistants, baristas, and now autoworkers who’ve voted to go union in the past couple of years come disproportionately from, by the evidence of multiple polls, the most pro-union generation that this country may have ever seen.”

How Dems Can Win Working-Class Voters

Some excerpts from “Democrats Aren’t Campaigning to Win the Working Class” by Jared Abbott and Fred Deveaux at Jacobin:

Democrats are losing the working class — and if the trend continues, it’ll reshape American politics for generations. Simply, there’s no sustainable path to victory in national elections without these voters, a more affluent Democratic base means less electoral support for progressive economic policies, and losing the working class will accelerate the rise of far-right populism.

While there is growing debate about whether and how Democrats can win back the working class, recent analyses we have conducted at the Center for Working-Class Politics suggest that their best bet is to run economic populists from working-class backgrounds. Take the case of Marie Gluesenkamp Perez. The freshman Democratic representative prevailed in 2022 in southwest Washington’s largely working-class third district, despite the fact that she was given just a 2% likelihood-of-victory rating by 538.

Like any campaign, this contest was determined by many factors, but the following language from Gluesenkamp Perez’s campaign materials is telling:

Marie is exactly the kind of working class Washingtonian that has been left behind in this economy. . . . In Congress, Marie will be a voice for working Washingtonians, support small businesses and worker’s rights, lower the costs of healthcare, childcare and prescription drugs . . . and expand apprenticeship and skills training programs. . . . I’m running to take on politicians who are bought and paid for by large corporations who refuse to pay their fair share while working families who follow the rules fall further behind.

Gluesenkamp Perez portrays herself as an economic populist. She champions the working-class and points the finger at economic elites; focuses on economic policies that improve the well-being of everyday, working Americans; and underscores that her own class background helps her to understand the issues that are important to other working-class voters.

Gluesenkamp Perez’s messaging approach is consistent with the findings of our research on working-class voters’ preferences: they prefer candidates from working-class backgrounds to elite candidates, are attracted to candidates who explicitly call out elites and raise up the working class, and support candidates who focus on progressive, bread-and-butter economic issues.

Though Democrats were given an electoral reprieve in 2022 due to the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade and a particularly lackluster set of Republican candidates, the Democratic Party saw further erosion of support among working-class voters — including working-class Latinos and African Americans. This made us wonder just how common it is for Democrats to run the type of economic populist campaigns needed to appeal effectively to working-class voters.

To answer this question, we collected information on all 966 Democratic candidates who ran for Congress in 2022. With the help of a research team, we scraped information from their campaign websites to see how many use economic populist rhetoric, advocate progressive economic policies, and come from working-class backgrounds.

Our main finding is that Democrats are not running the types of economic populist candidates they need to win back workers. Only a small fraction call out economic elites in their campaigns. While many candidates talk about economic issues in general, comparatively few mention bold, popular progressive economic policies that would have an impact on working people’s lives — from large-scale programs to create high-quality jobs to policies to strengthen unions or raise the minimum wage. And lastly, almost no candidates are working-class themselves. This gap between politicians and the people they represent is stark: while nearly 50% of Americans have a working-class occupation, only 2% to 6% of Democratic candidates running for Congress do.

Democrats’ rejection of economic populism has serious consequences. It shows that the party is still not taking seriously the exodus of working-class voters. And this is despite the evidence we find that populists are actually more likely to win precisely in districts that Democrats need the most: heavily working-class districts. This relationship persists when we control for a wide range of important factors that determine electoral outcomes, such as district partisanship, incumbency, and candidate demographic characteristics.

The key to winning the working class begins with putting forward economic policies that signal commitment to improving the economic well-being of working Americans. To do this, candidates need to push for ambitious policies that will create more and better jobs for those struggling to make ends meet, strengthen protections for workers who want to unionize to improve their wages and working conditions, and revitalize American manufacturing and communities hard-hit by decades of mass corporate layoffs. These policies are popular among working-class voters across the political spectrum.

Abbott and Deveaux go on to argue that “While Joe Biden’s agenda has been more economically progressive than that of any previous Democratic administration in decades, it has not been nearly enough to show increasingly frustrated working-class Americans that Democrats are the party of working people.” Further,

While the fate of progressive economic policies is often outside Democrats’ control, the party’s messaging around these issues is not. So did Democratic candidates in 2022 run on progressive economic policies? The vast majority did not. Only 31% of Democratic congressional candidates mentioned the need for high-paying, quality jobs, just over 23% mentioned Medicare for All, and 18% talked about paid family or medical leave. Even more surprisingly, virtually none mentioned a $15 minimum wage (5%) or a federal jobs guarantee (4%).

When we restrict our attention to general elections and only those candidates running in competitive districts (Cook PVI plus or minus five), we find a slightly more encouraging picture: a much larger share mention high-paying jobs (45%), indicating that when they have to be strategic to win working-class votes, Democrats do recognize the value of progressive economic policies. That said, almost none of these Democrats mentioned Medicare for All (<3%), despite its broad popularity….Vague generic language around jobs and infrastructure is simply not enough to send a strong signal to voters that the Democrats’ economic priorities have really changed.

The authors see Democrats as a whole giving economic elites an easy ride:

Our results show that a much smaller share of candidates use anti–economic elite rhetoric. Even the most generic terms, such as “special interest,” and references to money in politics and large corporations are employed by roughly 15% of candidates. Under 10% of candidates call out Wall Street, billionaires, millionaires, CEOs, etc.

Candidates who make it to competitive general elections are far more likely to use such anti-elite rhetoric (nearly twice as likely), but even here only 30% to 35% of candidates invoke the negative influence of special interests and corporate donors….”

Abbot and Deveaux also see a telling disconnect between messenger and message among Democratic candidates.

Our previous work indicated that working-class voters prefer candidates who come from working-class backgrounds. Talk is cheap, and with the growing distrust of elites and the two major parties, maybe even anti-elite rhetoric isn’t enough to persuade voters that candidates actually understand or care about the problems they face. The only types of candidates that working-class voters consistently see as understanding their interests are those with working-class backgrounds.

Yet despite making up over 60% of the population, working-class Americans are almost nowhere to be found among the 2022 Democratic candidates. Just 2.3% of the 925 candidates for which we could find occupational backgrounds were working-class (understood as having held exclusively working-class jobs before entering politics). If we expand our definition of working class to include service-sector professionals such as teachers and nurses, this number increases slightly to 5.9%. And if we further expand it to include candidates who ever had a working-class job in their adult lives, the share is roughly 20%. Democratic candidates are hardly representative of the American public.

They identify major obstacles to working-class candidates running for office, including:

So why then are there so few working-class candidates? There are many possible reasons, including more limited access to rich donor networks, less capacity to take time off to run for office, limited prior experience holding office, and difficulty raising money. On the latter score, our analysis of 2022 candidates finds that working-class candidates are systematically trounced in the primaries, where they just don’t raise the same amount of money as other candidates do. When they make it to the general elections, however, we find that working-class candidates do just as well as other candidates, indicating that it is not some intrinsic quality of these candidates that is holding them back.

The authors  urge Democrats to put “egalitarian economics, along with anti–economic elite and pro-worker language, at the heart of their campaign messaging — and finding more working-class candidates who can deliver that messaging convincingly.”

Political Strategy Notes

Read “Yes, Joe Biden Can Win the Working-Class Vote: Since 2020, Joe Biden’s support among working-class voters of all races has fallen alarmingly. Here are seven ways he and his party can reverse the slide” by Timothy Noah at The New Republic. Among bis observations: “Only half of the Democratic-candidate websites surveyed by the Center for Working-Class Politics bothered to mention Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill. Only about one-quarter mentioned Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, or IRA, which is spending another half-trillion on technologies to reduce climate change. And only 15 percent mentioned the CHIPS Act, signed into law three months before the election, which will spend another $53 billion to boost domestic manufacture of semiconductors. The combined effect of these three bills has been to nearly triple the construction of manufacturing facilities since Biden took office….however unpopular Biden was (and remains), Biden’s policies are very popular, especially among working-class voters—on those rare occasions when they hear about it. The IRA, for example, was favored in a March 2023 poll by 68 percent of people earning between $50,000 and $99,999. But these working-class people needed the pollsters (from Yale and George Mason) to first explain what the Inflation Reduction Act was. A 61 percent majority had no idea….To prevail in 2024, Biden will need to win the working-class vote. Over the past century, no Democrat—with one exception—has ever won the presidency without winning a majority of working-class voters. The single exception was Joe Biden in 2020; Biden lost noncollege voters that year to President Donald Trump, 47 to 51. That was slightly worse than Hillary Clinton did with noncollege voters in 2016. Biden performed better than Clinton among noncollege whites, but 8 percentage points worse among noncollege Latinos and 3 percentage points worse among noncollege African Americans. Biden became president anyway, but under a unique set of circumstances—a deadly and economically costly pandemic that the incumbent mishandled badly. It’s doubtful the president can remain an exception in 2024 and win reelection….electoral math compels the Democrats to pick up two college graduates for every noncollege voter who leaves….The electoral math gets even worse when you consider this year’s battleground states. Battleground swing voters will likely determine who becomes president (not to mention whether the Senate remains Democratic), and they skew more heavily toward noncollege voters (72 percent) than the nation as a whole (63 percent). Democrats in those crucial states, according to Jared Abbott and Fred DeVeaux of the Center for Working-Class Politics, will need to pick up not two but three college grads for every noncollege voter they lose. Rather than obsess about further expanding its share of college voters, the party would do better to think hard about how it can shore up a working-class constituency that, even at this late date, remains essential to winning the White House.”

At nbcnews.com, Mark Murray reports that “RFK Jr. candidacy hurts Trump more than Biden, NBC News poll finds: The finding contrasts with a number of other national polls, and it comes amid concerted Democratic efforts to prevent Kennedy from harming Biden’s campaign” and writes: “The latest national NBC News poll shows the third-party vote — and especially independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — cutting deeper into former President Donald Trumps support than President Joe Biden’s, though the movement the other candidates create is within the poll’s margin of error….Trump leads Biden by 2 percentage points in a head-to-head matchup, 46% to 44%, in the new NBC News poll….Yet when the ballot is expanded to five named candidates, Biden is the one with a 2-point advantage: Biden 39%, Trump 37%, Kennedy 13%, Jill Stein 3% and Cornel West 2%….The big reason why is that the poll finds a greater share of Trump voters in the head-to-head matchup backing Kennedy in the expanded ballot. Fifteen percent of respondents who picked Trump the first time pick Kennedy in the five-way ballot, compared with 7% of those who initially picked Biden….Also, Republican voters view Kennedy much more favorably (40% positive, 15% negative) than Democratic voters do (16% positive, 53% negative).” Plug in all the caveats: It’s only one poll; it’s too early to take polls seriously. We’re only talking about a couple of points, anyway. And perhaps more important, it’s a national, instead of swing states polls, which would be more significant. Dems must guard against wishful thinking. As Murray writes, “The NBC News poll results on Kennedy’s impact are “different than other surveys,” said McInturff, the GOP pollster. “So there’s always two possibilities: One, it’s an outlier. … Or two, we’re going to be seeing more of this, and our survey is a harbinger of what’s to come….The Biden campaign has actively tried to peel support away from Kennedy. Most recently, Biden held an event Thursday with members of the Kennedy family who are endorsing the president over their relative.” One could also hope that Trump’s infantile behavior in his trials has finally become embarrassing for a few more of his supporters.

The Boston Review has a forum entitled “The New Blue Divide,” in which Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson probe  the possibilities for a “bold economic agenda” in the Democratic Party, despite relying on “affluent suburbanites” for support. As Hacker and Pierson write, “The place to begin is the changing geography of American politics. The partisan divide is now a “density divide.” Over the past few election cycles, Republicans have registered particularly big gains among white voters in lower-density regions of the country battered by the shift to a postindustrial knowledge economy. The consequences of the GOP’s retreat from dense metro areas are now well understood. It has powered the party’s embrace of Christian nationalism and right-wing populism as well as its growing attack on American democracy, leading to a base that is older, whiter, more heavily Evangelical, and less highly educated….Less well understood is the other half of the story—the transformation of the Democratic Party. Democrats are now firmly established as the political voice of multiracial, cross-class, metro America. Democrats have always done well in urban cores; what has changed over the past several decades is the party’s performance in the suburbs, which have grown more Democratic even as they have grown more affluent. Some of these gains have occurred because the suburbs have diversified racially and economically. Yet the most striking change in recent cycles is growing Democratic margins in the richest suburban communities—the biggest beneficiaries of U.S. economic growth over the last two decades. Most of these areas remain disproportionately white, and many leaned Republican not long ago….Because of these shifts, Democrats are now much less clearly the party of the “have nots.” In 2021–22, they represented twenty-four of the twenty-five congressional districts with the highest median household income—a striking change from the past. (Documentation for most of the statistics in this piece can be found in a recent academic article we wrote with Amelia Malpas and Sam Zacher.) At the presidential level, Democrats now win counties that produce the lion’s share of the nation’s economic output; some 71 percent of GDP came from the 1 in 6 counties that backed Biden in 2020. Indeed Biden won every one of the twenty-four most economically productive metro areas, and forty-three of the top fifty.”

“In remaking their coalition to bring in affluent college-educated voters,” Hacker and Pierson add, “Democrats are hardly alone. Left-of-center parties in most other rich democracies have evolved along broadly similar lines as the knowledge economy has built up steam—gaining highly educated professionals while losing white working-class voters, who increasingly embrace the populist right. In economist Thomas Piketty’s evocative depiction, parties that were once oriented toward the working class—the British Labor Party, the French Socialists, the German Social Democrats, as well as the U.S. Democratic Party—now represent the “Brahmin left.” In their efforts to court the affluent and educated, Piketty maintains, these left parties have retreated from their historical commitment to redistribution….This argument echoes the claims of many American observers, including prominent journalists and analysts such as David Leonhardt, Thomas Frank, Thomas Edsall, John Judis, and Ruy Teixeira. In their recent book Where Have All the Democrats Gone? (2023), for example, Judis and Teixeira lament that the party has “steadily lost the allegiance of ‘everyday Americans’” and that the “main problem” is its “cultural insularity and arrogance.” Democrats, these critics insist, have embraced the social liberalism of their affluent, college-educated white voters at the expense of the working class….Perhaps change will only come with greater direct investments in building a stronger network of supportive organizations, including labor unions. Or perhaps polarization is now so deeply entrenched—and the media landscape is now so noisy—that the ability of a party to build electoral support through economic governance is severely limited. Indeed, the changing media landscape is probably a major reason why sharply negative perceptions of Democrats are so hard to shake. Both GOP leaders and right-wing commentators relentlessly pillory the Democrats as obsessed with identity and culture. These narratives, amplified through mainstream as well as conservative media, make it extremely difficult for the party to reshape its image, especially when its policy initiatives so often fall victim to congressional gridlock….With a slightly stronger Democratic hand in Congress, the agenda of 2021 could be revived. The money will certainly be there—the only benefit of the spectacular transfer of financial resources to corporations and the wealthy over the past generation—and if the electoral shifts we have charted endure, there is a real chance that the political momentum could be as well.”

Political Strategy Notes

Ronald Brownstein explains why “Why Biden’s fate may be settled in the Rust Belt not the Sun Belt” at CNN Politics: “The shift in expectations reflects the upside-down racial dynamics of the 2024 race,with most national and state polls showing Biden largely holding his 2020 support among White voters, while facing, at this point, unprecedented erosion among Black and Latino voters. Biden, as I wrote last year, is likewise maintaining his 2020 support better among older than younger voters. These surprising patterns have made the relatively older and Whiter three industrial blue wall states appear a better bet for Biden. That’s largely because his fate in them is less dependent on minority voters than in the younger and more diverse Sun Belt states that top his target list – Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and North Carolina….If Biden defends his 2020 victories in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – while also holding the single Electoral College vote he would gain by winning the Nebraska congressional district centered on Omaha – he would reach 270 Electoral College votes. That would be the case even if he loses Arizona, Nevada and Georgia, probably the three most vulnerable states among the 25 he carried last time, and fails to flip North Carolina, which narrowly backed Trump….James Carville, the veteran Democratic strategist, speaks for many in the party when he says that these Rust Belt states remain the indispensable building blocks of any Biden victory. “We used to say in 2020 it was Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin and everything else is lagniappe, which is a New Orleans term that means ‘a little something extra,’” Carville said….The issue environment is also pushing Democrats toward greater reliance on the Rust Belt states. Biden is heavily stressing his support for legal abortion, and while polls show broad support for that position across racial lines, many pollsters believe it resonates most powerfully as a voting issue among college-educated White voters, especially women. Conversely, economic issues loom largest for most non-white voters; that’s a difficult dynamic for Biden across the Sun Belt because polls consistently show widespread discontent with his management of the economy, including among many Black and Latino voters.”

Brownstein adds that “public polling shows Biden’s position is generally stronger in the Rust Belt. In most surveys, he’s running better in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin than in any battleground state; CNN’s latest Pennsylvania poll conducted by SSRS, for instance, showed him tied with Trump as did last week’s Wall Street Journal survey in Wisconsin….By contrast, polls consistently show Trump leading, often by around 5 points or more, in the big Sun Belt battlegrounds that Biden flipped in 2020 – Arizona and Georgia – as well as in North Carolina, which Biden hopes to put in play. Trump consistently leads more narrowly in polls of Nevada….In this configuration, Michigan is the potentially decisive outlier – a critical Rust Belt state where polls for months have showed Biden trailing….This general alignment upends the expectations of many political operatives and analysts, myself included, after Trump emerged as the GOP’s dominant figure in 2016. At that point, it appeared that Democrats would need gains in the Sun Belt battlegrounds to offset the possibility that Trump would lock in a GOP advantage in Rust Belt states crowded with the non-college-educated White voters who provided the cornerstone of his support….Since then, Democrats have indeed gained ground in the Sun Belt. When Trump took office, Democrats held just one of the six Senate seats in Arizona, Nevada and Georgia; now they control all six. (Although Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema recently declared herself an independent after being elected as a Democrat in 2018, she still caucuses with the party.) In 2020, Biden carried all three states, becoming the first Democrat to win Georgia since 1992 and Arizona since 1996. North Carolina was the conspicuous exception to this brightening picture for Democrats: though the party won the governorship there in 2016 and 2020, Republicans have continued to notch narrow victories in presidential and US Senate races….The key to these Democratic Sun Belt gains have been the twin demographic forces reshaping the region. Democrats have significantly improved their performance in growing well-educated upper-middle-income communities across the Sun Belt including Cobb and Gwinnett counties outside Atlanta, the suburbs of Charlotte and Raleigh and suburban areas in Maricopa County around Phoenix.”

Brownstein notes further, “As important, the Sun Belt states have been racially diversifying at a far more rapid pace than the Rust Belt states. From 2004 to 2020, the share of the vote cast by people of color increased by 10 percentage points in Georgia and 15 points in Arizona, according to calculations from Census data by William Frey, a demographer at Brookings Metro, a nonpartisan think tank. By contrast, the non-White share of the vote increased over that same period by only about 6 points in Pennsylvania, 3.5 points in Michigan and 2 points in Wisconsin, Frey found….But that contrast means that Democrats rely on minority voters for a much larger share of their total vote in the Sun Belt states than they do in the Rust Belt battlegrounds. And that’s made them more vulnerable to the striking pattern in most public polls this year that has found Biden largely holding his 2020 support among White voters, but running well below his previous numbers among Black and particularly Latino voters. Trump is “clearly on offense among Blacks and Hispanics, especially among Black and Hispanic men,” said Jim McLaughlin, a pollster for the former president….The biggest question for Democrats in the Sun Belt states is whether they can push Trump off the beachheads he has established among minority voters. The Biden campaign points out that voters of color, especially Latinos in the southwest, often fully tune in later in the campaign. Biden is pursuing Black and Latino voters with unprecedented levels of targeted early media. These include ads in the Southwest that highlight Trump’s comments that immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country,” and ads aimed at Black voters that charge Trump “stoked racial violence [and] attacked voting rights” over images of the Charlottesville, Virginia, march by White supremacists and the January 6, 2021, insurrection.”

In addition, Brownstrein argues, “Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were all part of what I called, in 2009, the “blue wall.” Those were the 18 states that ultimately voted Democratic in all six presidential elections from Bill Clinton’s first win in 1992 to Barack Obama’s reelection in 2012.  Trump’s success at knocking Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin out of the blue wall by a combined margin of about 78,000 votes was the key to his surprise victory in 2016….But since his victory, Democrats have regained the initiative in each state – at least until now. In 2018, Democrats won the governorship in all three, and reelected three Democratic senators. In 2020, Biden recaptured all three states. In 2022, Democrats again won the governorships in all three states, captured an open Senate seat in Pennsylvania, and won control of both state legislative chambers in Michigan and the state House in Pennsylvania. Last year, with strong support from state Democrats, the liberal candidate won a landslide victory in a Wisconsin State Supreme Court election that gave liberals a 4-3 majority on the body….In the 2022 governor races in the three key Rust Belt states, the Democrats maintained or exceeded Biden’s recovery with those working-class Whites, exit polls found. In 2024, the large number of blue-collar jobs flowing from the big three bills that Biden passed to promote more domestic manufacturing and infrastructure construction could help him maintain a competitive floor of support with these voters. “There are shovels going into the ground all over our state,” said Wisconsin Democratic Party chair Ben Wikler….Strong support for legalized abortion could allow Biden to run even better among college-educated White voters across the region in 2024 than he did in his first race. In 2022, the Democratic gubernatorial candidates in all three states exceeded Biden’s performance from two years earlier with both college-educated White men and women, the exit polls found….For Mark Graul, a veteran GOP consultant who ran George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign in Wisconsin, that history points toward the critical dynamic that will likely decide the state this year….Graul doesn’t think Trump can expand his advantage among non-college Whites further than he already has, partly because Biden can tout the blue-collar jobs tied to his big legislative achievements. “I think Trump really maxed that out,” Graul said. “I don’t know how you do much better than he did there.” If that’s right, the crucial question is whether Biden can notch enough gains among white-collar Whites in Wisconsin to offset a likely decline in his margin and/or turnout among Black voters and young people. “Things can change, but I think that dynamic is so baked in right now I don’t see it changing much,” Graul said.”….To offset losing Michigan, Biden would need a big Sun Belt breakthrough: winning either Georgia or North Carolina, or both Arizona and Nevada. None of that looks easy, which is why many Democrats view a Rust Belt sweep as the most plausible road to victory for Biden….If the president can defend those three states, “you are not going to lose,” said Carville. “And if you don’t do this you are going to have to catch an inside straight to win.”

Political Strategy Notes

David Dayen targets a glaring GOP vulnerability in his article, “Republicans Are Objectively Pro–Junk Fee: A new congressional resolution aligns Republicans with the financial industry’s fight to preserve sky-high credit card late fees” at The American Prospect. As Dayen writes: “The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s $8 cap on credit card late fees has had a wild ride on the road to implementation. After being finalized last month, the rule drew a lawsuit from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which sought an injunction in Fort Worth. No credit card companies are located in Fort Worth; the venue choice was made purely to ensure that the case would be heard by a right-wing federal judge….The first district court judge assigned to the case owned a bunch of credit card company stocks and recused himself; the second judge, a Trump appointee, showed remarkable candor in saying the case had no business being in Fort Worth and should be heard in Washington. Then the far-right Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with the Trump judge and tried to pull the case back to Texas. Then one of the authors of that opinion, it turned out, also owned a bunch of credit card company stocks. He has asked for briefings on whether he should recuse himself, basically seeking outside opinions on his own personal corruption….That’s not the only attack on the late fee rule. Now congressional Republicans are coming after it, in the process finally setting up a partisan fight over the popular issue of junk fees, which the Biden administration has been pushing for the past few years. Republicans, it turns out, are objectively in favor of junk fees. And by next week, they’ll be on the record for them.” Dayen adds that “Republicans in the House and Senate have filed resolutions of disapproval of the late fee rule….Not only that, but Tim Scott, the South Carolina senator who is on the short list to be Donald Trump’s vice-presidential running mate, has taken on the role of the leading champion of junk fees. Scott, the ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, proudly announced this week that he’s introduced the resolution to kill the late fee rule….Every Republican, including those in swing districts, will now have to decide whether they support higher costs on Americans, which will be redistributed to the banks and the card companies….Even on the off chance that this gets through the Senate, President Biden has championed eliminating junk fees and would surely veto the bill. There’s no chance Republicans have enough votes to override him…..So not only does this vote put Republicans on the spot over junk fees, it’s a doomed vote, completely initiated by their own possible VP nominee….Few causes poll better than eliminating junk fees. One poll from Data for Progress found junk fee prevention to be at nearly 80 percent support, including 72 percent of self-identified Republicans.”

So how are American attitudes toward helping Ukraine resist Putin’s attacks playing out? According to Megan Brenan’s report on the latest Gallup poll on the subject, “As military aid for Ukraine remains stalled in the U.S. House of Representatives, Americans themselves are equally split, at 36% each, between those who believe the United States is doing too much to help Ukraine and those saying it’s not doing enough. However, this is a more favorable balance of opinion for Ukraine than last fall, when more thought the U.S. was doing too much (41%) than not enough (25%)….This comes as Americans’ perceptions of who is winning the war have also shifted, with more now saying Russia rather than Ukraine has the upper hand, although a majority of U.S. adults still see neither side as winning….Partisans remain sharply divided in their opinions of the war, with Democrats more supportive than Republicans of helping Ukraine. However, the gap is now at a record high, given the surge in Democrats’ belief since last fall that the U.S. is not doing enough. Republicans’ minimal agreement with this position hasn’t changed, and political independents’ views are closer to Republicans’ than Democrats’….The latest data are from a Gallup poll conducted March 1-17, several weeks after the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan aid package that included $60 billion in funding for Ukraine. The bill has been stuck in the U.S. House as Speaker Mike Johnson has been working to get support from his Republican caucus, which currently holds a slim two-vote majority….Democrats — and, to a lesser extent, independents — are driving the increase since October in views that the U.S. is not doing enough in the conflict. Sixty percent of Democrats (up by 22 percentage points) say U.S. support for Ukraine is insufficient, while 34% of independents (up by nine points) agree. At the same time, Republicans’ view is essentially unchanged, with 15% saying the U.S. is not doing enough….In addition, between 25% and 28% of all three party groups think the current level of help for Ukraine is about right, while 57% of Republicans, 39% of independents and 13% of Democrats think the U.S. is doing too much….Fifty-five percent of Americans think the U.S. should continue to support Ukraine in reclaiming its territory, even if that requires prolonged involvement, rather than ending the conflict as quickly as possible, even if that means ceding territory to Russia (43%). These findings are unchanged from the previous readings in October. However, the percentage of Americans who now favor continuing the fight to win back Ukraine’s territory is lower than the 62% to 66% who preferred that approach between August 2022 and June 2023.”

Elise Gould has some welcome talking points for Democratic candidates in her article, “A record-breaking recovery for Black and Hispanic workers: Prime-age employment rates have hit an all-time high alongside tremendous wage growth” at the Economic Policy Institute web pages. Among her insights: “Unemployment has been at or below 4.0% for 27 months running, the longest such stretch since the late 1960s. Low-wage workers experienced an unprecedented surge in wage growth over the last four years, as shown in our new report….These historically robust outcomes extended to Black and Hispanic workers. In 2023, the share of Black and Hispanic people ages 25-54 with a job hit an all-time high. Further, real wage growth among Black and Hispanic workers experienced a significant turnaround from the stagnant wage growth they suffered in much of the prior four decades….Black and Hispanic workers hit all-time high employment rates in 2023: The Black PA EPOP hit 77.7% in 2023, better than its previous high in 1999 (77.3%). The Hispanic PA EPOP reached 77.9%, better than its pre-pandemic high of 77.4% in 2019….Due largely to the more robust policy response, it took only four years for Black and Hispanic workers to hit pre-pandemic employment peaks in this business cycle compared with the prolonged recovery from the Great Recession—when Black and Hispanic employment only hit pre-recession levels after 11 and 12 years, respectively….Black workers in particular experienced wage growth far above their historical norm: 1.4% annually over the last four years.”

Julia Mueller explains why “Suburban women are more complicated than ‘soccer moms’” and explores the political ramifications. at The Hill: “President Biden and former President Trump are both fighting for the suburban woman voter, but she’s no longer the “soccer mom” caricature that gained traction in the ’90s….The label connotes a stereotypical picture of a white, college-educated woman, married with a couple of kids….The country’s suburbs have grown more racially and ethnically diverse, and looking at a single archetype of the suburban woman voter for 2024 risks missing key differences across the demographic….“If you want to talk about suburban women, you want to get away from the caricature. It’s much different than it was … because there are many more people of color moving into the suburbs than there were before,” said Bill Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution….In 1990, a few years before the “soccer mom” moniker caught on in the 1996 election cycle and early aughts, roughly two in 10 suburbanites living around major metro areas were people of color – but by 2020, that number was approaching five in 10, according to research Frey conducted using Census data….the diversity of women in the suburbs – and even the attitudes of the suburbs’ white women with college degrees — appear to have shifted in recent years amid new pressures and social norms, experts said….“They’re becoming more diverse, and also, the motherhood component maybe isn’t as strong as it once was,” Betsy Fischer Martin, executive director of the Women & Politics Institute at American University, said of the suburbs….Women broadly lean toward Democrats, and Biden won 56 percent of suburban women in 2020, while 54 percent of suburban men went for Trump, according to Edison Research exit polling. A new NPR/NewsHour/Marist poll released earlier this month found Biden up 28 points over Trump among college-educated white women….But white women overall went to Trump in 2020, while 90 percent of Black women and 69 percent of Hispanic women backed Biden, according to the exit polls.” However, “NBC News data analyzed this month by the firm Public Opinion Strategies found Democrats’ advantage among suburban women overall has shrunk from a 10-point margin in 2016 to a five-point edge in 2023….“It’s kind of like a double-whammy of higher mobilization in the suburbs and then greater mobilization among women, and then mobilization on issues specific around abortion,” [University of Delaware political scientist Erin] Cassese said, and even a small shift among white women could be “significant enough” to swing things in key battleground states.”

Political Strategy Notes

Christian Paz has a post up at Vox, “Are young voters really embracing Donald Trump?,” which sheds some light on Democratic concerns about younger voters. As Paz writes, “Just about every national poll seems to show that Biden is underperforming with young people compared to his 2020 results as well as polls at the same point in the 2020 cycle. But the crosstab results of some of these surveys also suggest that Biden is not only losing ground; Trump is gaining support. That’s an especially surprising result for the famously progressive and Democratic-leaning youth vote….Instead of looking at any single poll, take their sum view, conveniently updated every month in this cross-tabulation tracker from the former Democratic pollster Adam Carlson. Regardless of whether you look at the 18–34 or 18–29 subgroups that are often used in polling young voters, it’s clear that Biden is underperforming his 2020 numbers. In March 2024 polls alone, that shift from 2020 for those adults aged 18–29 was about 13 points toward Trump, even though Biden still holds an overall advantage of 11 points in the aggregate. Among adults aged 18–34, Trump holds a slight lead of about 1.5 percentage points. And this has generally been consistent when looking at the aggregate results of January and February 2024 polls as well….Trump’s favorability rating among the youngest cohort of voters has been steadily increasing. As of the end of 2023, that improvement has brought his standing with adults aged 18–34 back from a post-January 6 low point right to the same support he had on the eve of the 2020 election, according to Gallup polling. Other polls, like the Economist/YouGov’s surveys, found that by February 2024, Trump’s favorability among those under the age of 30 had finally turned positive, improving about 30 points since February 2021….The Harvard Youth Poll in December, for example, showed Trump had an edge over Biden on a range of key issues with younger voters. On the economy, Trump had a 15-point lead; on national security, he had a 9-point lead; on the Gaza war, Trump led by 5 points; and on “strengthening the working class,” Trump had a 4-point advantage. Biden, meanwhile, had an edge on climate change, abortion, education, and “protecting democracy,” among a few other issues….Polls specifically of young voters, like the Harvard Youth Poll, continue to show a large Biden advantage with younger voters (it was 11 points in December). They show that among the youth most likely to vote, Biden has an even bigger advantage (24 points)….61 percent of young voters view Trump very negatively compared to just 44 percent who feel like that about Biden. “If young voters are defecting from Joe Biden, they’re not doing so out of any affinity for Donald Trump,” write the Split Ticket authors. So instead of a Trump youth rise, we’re seeing a collapse of youth support for Biden….Even this month, the results of two high-quality national polls, one from Quinnipiac University and another released by Fox News, showed conflicting realities. In Quinnipiac’s survey, the results for young adults aged 18–34 gave Biden a 20-point advantage over Trump. Meanwhile, Fox’s survey showed that adults aged 18–29 backed Trump with an 18-point margin. This 38-point gap seems illogical, even if there are some discrepancies with the cohorts used in the surveys.”

Is Arizona now a more bluish shade of purple, thanks to the state Supreme Court ruling upholding a 160-year old law that outlaws and criminalizes nearly all abortions? Probably is my guess. As Kristine Parks writes at foxnews.com, “The ruling comes on the heels of a Wall Street Journal poll conducted before the ruling, which found a majority of Arizonans sided with President Biden over Trump on the issue of abortion.” Parks reports that CNN commentator Margaret Hoover said in an interview that “the ban was unpopular with Republican voters in the state and would “absolutely impact the presidential election.” Parks adds that “Hoover, who is married to Democratic congressional candidate and former CNN senior political analyst John Avlon, insisted that the Arizona ruling showed how Trump’s defense of states’ rights on abortion could backfire in the election….”How’s it going? It’s not going to go so well for him in Arizona,” Hoover argued, denouncing the “draconian” law without exceptions for rape or incest.” Further, writes Parks, “Trump issued a statement on abortion rights on Monday, one day before the Arizona Supreme Court ruling….In a video posted to his social media platform, Trump argued that abortion rights should be a state issue decided by the “will of the people.”…. “The states will determine by vote, or legislation, or perhaps both, and whatever they decide must be the law of the land — in this case, the law of the state,” Trump said. “Many states will be different. Many states will have a different number of weeks… at the end of the day it is all about the will of the people.”….His statement drew the ire of some pro-life activists, who believed it was a victory for Democrats.” Joseph Choi and Nathaniel Weixel report at The Hill that “The Civil War-era law makes abortion a felony punishable by two to five years in prison for anyone who performs or helps a woman obtain one. It includes an extremely narrow exception for “when it is necessary” to save a pregnant person’s life.” Even Arizona Republicans are shook up by the ruling, as  Carter Sherman and Lauren Gamboino report at The Guardian: ““This is an earthquake that has never been seen in Arizona politics,” said Barrett Marson, a Republican consultant in Arizona, of the decision. “This will shake the ground under every Republican candidate, even those in safe legislative or congressional seats.”

“Arizona Democrats immediately promised to ditch the new law in November, and to work toward a more humane solution in the meantime. “Certainly people are outraged,” Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs told CBS.” Joan Walsh writes at The Nation. “And this will motivate them in November.” Attorney General Kris Mayes agreed. “I think this changes everything. I think it supercharges the ballot initiative and it supercharges the elections of all pro-choice candidates.” Indeed, President Biden won Arizona by just 11,000 votes in 2020 and his campaign there can use extra juice, amid reports that some Latino voters are paying more attention to Trump this year.”….Politically, if you want to know who’s hurt by the ban, look at which party is screaming the loudest. MAGA Senate candidate Kari Lake howled on Tuesday. The last time she ran, in 2022, she embraced the 1864 statute; now, she condemns it, demanding “an immediate commonsense solution that Arizonans can support.”…. Regarding a ballot initiative in Arizona, Walsh notes “Initiative organizers say they have more than enough signatures from state voters, but it has not been formally placed on the ballot yet. The Arizona Republic reports that organizers have 500,000 signatures, beyond 383,000 required for ballot access. They’re aiming to collect 800,000 signatures before a July deadline. Abortion will definitely be on the ballot in Florida, Maryland, and New York; organizers are optimistic about planned initiatives in Arizona and at least four other states….Much like the Florida initiative that would enshrine abortion rights in that state’s Constitution, Arizona’s measure protects the practice up until fetal viability, or after that if necessary to save the mother’s life. While polling in Arizona and elsewhere shows that strong majorities of voters want to preserve access to abortion, significant portions would nevertheless like to see some limits. However, since those favoring limits differ wildly over which ones they’d support, these more sweeping initiatives are gaining the upper hand. Rising numbers of voters tell pollsters they support no restrictions on abortion, and declining numbers say they want abortion to be illegal under all circumstances.”

From “Democrats lean into border security as it shapes contest for control of Congress” by Stephen Groves at abcnews.com: “With immigration shaping the elections that will decide control of Congress, Democrats are trying to outflank Republicans and convince voters they can address problems at the U.S. border with Mexico, embracing an issue that has traditionally been used against them….Democrats are no longer shrugging off such attacks: They believe they can tout their own proposals for fixing the border, especially after Trump and Republican lawmakers rejected a bipartisan proposal on border security earlier this year….“It gives some Democrats an opportunity to say, ‘Look, I’m here for solutions,'” Gallego said. “Clearly, the Republicans are here to play games. And so whether it’s Kari Lake or Donald Trump, they’re not interested in border security. They’re interested in the politics of border security. And, we’re here to actually do something about it.”….Democrats aren’t going to win on immigration this year, but they have to get closer to a draw on the issue to get to a place where people take them seriously,” said Lanae Erickson, a senior vice president at Third Way, a centrist Democrat think tank. “Be palatable enough on that issue that people are then willing to consider other priorities.”….Still, Democrats face a difficult task when it comes to the politics of border security. A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research has found that almost half of adults blame Biden and congressional Democrats for the current situation at the U.S.-Mexico border, while 41% blame Republicans in Congress.”