washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

Despite all of the yammering about impeachment, “in terms of whether the party can keep its House majority after 2020, impeachment may not be the most important vote the Democrats cast this month, or even this week,” Ronald Brownstein writes at The Atlantic. “Policy choices—namely, legislation to reduce prescription-drug pricing approved yesterday, and the revised free-trade deal that’s due for a vote next week—will likely have greater effects on the battle for control of Congress next fall, many Democratic strategists believe…Of all the measures House Democrats have passed this year, party strategists generally believe vulnerable incumbents are most likely to emphasize a handful in their reelection campaigns: In suburban and small-town seats alike, it’ll be the omnibus political-reform bill, and in suburban areas primarily, the expanded gun-control measures…But they expect their candidates, across almost all districts, to highlight the prescription-drug legislation more than any other…“The ability to tie health-care prescription-drug costs to your cost of living will be a cornerstone to winning in 2020, not only to the presidential, but to every race up and down the ticket,” said Dan Sena, the former executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the caucus’s election arm.”

“It’s still an open question how strong Trump will be next year in the 31 Democratic-held House districts that he carried in 2016,” Brownstein continues. “Even back then, Trump reached 50 percent of the vote in only 13 of those districts. In the suburban areas on that list especially, he may have lost some ground, despite the booming economies around America’s cities. A national Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday found that an unprecedented one-fifth of voters who approve of Trump’s handling of the economy nonetheless say they disapprove of his overall job performance, according to detailed results provided to me by the pollsters…Some on the left continue to believe the prescription-drug bill doesn’t go far enough, and others remain dissatisfied about reaching a trade agreement with Trump at all. But it’s clear those accomplishments are helping Democrats from marginal seats feel more comfortable going along with the caucus on impeachment. Indeed, reaching a deal with Trump on trade in particular, however paradoxical it seems, may have been the crucial final step toward building a Democratic majority next week for the vote that will brand him as only the third president ever impeached by the House.”

In “What if Democrats Have Already Won Back Enough White Working-Class Voters to Win in 2020?,” Joshua Holland argues at The Nation that “Since the 1980s, Democratic candidates have proven that they can win elections while losing whites without a college degree by a significant margin.” Holland notes that “Obama won 36 percent of their votes in 2012” and “in 2020, the candidate will likely need to win a smaller share of white people without a degree, because that group has long been declining as a share of both the electorate and the broader population. According to Gallup, their share of the population has declined by three percentage points since 2014. And a study released by the Center for American Progress in October projects that next year their share of the electorate will be 2.3 points lower than it was in 2016…According to a data set that combines survey and voter registration data with election results, Clinton lost non-college-educated whites by a 28-point margin in 2016, significantly worse than Obama’s 10-point deficit in 2008 or his 21-point gap in 2012.”

Holland adds “Meanwhile, Trump’s approval rates have cratered among all voters in all of the battleground states. Between Trump’s swearing in and the middle of last month, his net approval numbers (approval rate minus disapproval rate) fell by 23 points in Wisconsin, 21 points in New Hampshire, 21 points in Michigan, 18 points in Minnesota, and 19 points in Pennsylvania, according to Morning Consult’s polling. While those numbers aren’t broken down by race and educational attainment, those are the states where non-college-educated whites make up a majority of the electorate, according to David Wasserman’s data. (Trump’s net approval has also declined by 19 points in Ohio, 21 points in North Carolina, and 24 points in Florida.)” He concludes, “Given the paper-thin margins by which Trump won, Democrats probably don’t need to win the 36 percent of whites without a college degree that Obama got in 2012 to put together a winning coalition. With Trump firing up the Dems’ natural base, a shift of just a couple of points among this group could be decisive. And there’s every reason to believe that kind of movement is already baked in as we head into 2020.” Holland’s analysis seems reasonable enough for predicting that Dems will win the White House by a modest margin, barring any major screw-ups. But to win majority control of the U.S. Senate and a healthier share of state legislatures and governorships, Dems will likely need at least a little more support from white working-class voters than they received in 2016, which is certainly doable.

So, does the Labour party’s meltdown in the U.K. bode ill for Democrats in the U.S.? E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes, “Yes, there are lessons for U.S. politics in the landslide victory of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party and the historic collapse of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party. But watch out for precooked conclusions based on ideological predispositions, and pay attention to the ways in which Britain’s situation is very different from our own.” Dionne adds that Corbyn’s “resounding defeat — Labour will have the fewest parliamentary seats since 1935 — does not mean that the candidacies of Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) or Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are automatically doomed. Corbyn is well to the left of both and had problems of his own (including his deeply flawed response to an outbreak of anti-Semitism in his party). But the Labour leader’s showing is a cautionary tale. It’s hard to argue now, as some on the left once did, that Corbynism represents the wave of the future…Whether Johnson lives up to his promises or not, it’s worth remembering that in seeking working-class votes, he moved his party to the left on economics by promising more spending on health services and infrastructure. There may be a lesson here for the hyper-ideological conservatives in the United States.”

At CNN Politics, Harry Enten, however, finds another useful lesson from the U.K. election: “You’re going to hear about a lot of supposed lessons that can be applied to the 2020 US elections from the 2019 United Kingdom elections…I think the clearest lesson is staring us right in the face: The polls are still pretty good as we head into the 2020 presidential election in the US…Take a look at the average of polls for the four parties that have earned at least 10 seats each in the House of Commons (the UK Parliament’s lower House). The average of the final UK polls had the Conservatives winning 43% of the vote, Labour 33%, the Liberal Democrats 12% and the Scottish Nationals 4%…The actual result was Conservatives taking 43.6%, Labour 32.2%, the Liberal Democrats 11.6% and the Scottish Nationals 3.9%. In other words, each of these parties got within 1 point of its final polled vote share…The US’s own polls have likewise been fairly accurate during the Trump era. The average House, Senate and governor’s polls were about a point more accurate in 2018 than they had been in similar elections over the prior 20 years. The same was generally true for House special election polling in the 2017-2018 cycle and the three governor elections of 2019 (Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi).”

FiveThirtyEight’s Dhrumil Mehta warns that “The Democratic Presidential Candidates Are Becoming Less Popular,” and explains that “even though Biden, Sanders, Warren and Buttigieg are nowhere near as unpopular as Trump, their net favorability ratings have trended downward recently. This isn’t totally surprising, though, as my colleague Geoffrey Skelley noted a few weeks ago: Many presidential candidates’ net favorability ratings have been negative or close to zero since at least 2008, a sign, perhaps, of the polarized times we live in.” However, ” despite one or two recent good polls for Trump, Trump remains really unpopular — far more than any of the leading Democratic presidential candidates.”

Now for the bad news, from Mehta’s “Other Polling Bites“: “Morning Consult collected surveys of nearly 375,000 adults and found that Fox News is the most-watched cable news outlet in the U.S. in more than two-thirds of the country’s congressional districts (respondents were asked whether they watched CNN, Fox News or MSNBC). On average, 33 percent of adults say they watch the network at least once a week, followed by 28 percent who say they watch CNN and 20 percent who watch MSNBC.”

At Slate, Dahlia Lithwick explains why “Two Small Articles of Impeachment Are Pathetic but Necessary: Democrats have taken one lesson from Mueller—don’t give Republicans too much to lie about.” Lithwick writes, “I think that the narrow nature of the impeachment charges speaks to the disinformation effort Democrats rightly expected to have to counter and their hope not to engage in a fight about multiple realities across multiple issues over a lengthy time period. In other words, my guess is that in the wake of the White House efforts to distort and confuse the outcome of the Mueller report by lying about it (efforts that were largely successful; it’s still referred to, falsely, as a “hoax” by the GOP), Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler, and Nancy Pelosi made the reasonable decision to engage as little as possible with Republican lying. It is not simply that the impeachment managers have to sell a clean, coherent story, both to the public and in the Senate trial; it’s also that they need to avoid as many entanglements with fantasies and distractions as possible. Going narrow helps with that.” A good point about the distractions. But Dems and progressives can still run ads and give interviews sliming Trump and McConnell for their arrogant hypocrisy and shameful abuse of the Constitution and the rule of law.


Political Strategy Notes

Right-wing media is at full-bore today, blasting Trump’s pending impeachment with a host of increasingly hysterical messages du jour, none of which is likely to convince many swing voters. But Republicans are struggling to make anything resembling a credible legal case against impeachment, and Caroline Kelly explains why in her article, “More than 500 legal scholars sign letter saying Trump committed ‘impeachable conduct‘” at CNN Politics: “More than 500 legal scholars signed on to a letter published Friday accusing President Donald Trump of having “engaged in impeachable conduct” in his dealings in Ukraine…”There is overwhelming evidence that President Trump betrayed his oath of office by seeking to use presidential power to pressure a foreign government to help him distort an American election, for his personal and political benefit, at the direct expense of national security interests as determined by Congress,” they wrote. “His conduct is precisely the type of threat to our democracy that the Founders feared when they included the remedy of impeachment in the Constitution.”..The letter comes after four other legal scholars testified at the first House Judiciary Committee impeachment hearing Wednesday, with three of them making the case for impeaching Trump…They pointed to treason and bribery as the two potential charges prompting impeachment “because they include conduct undertaken not in the ‘faithful execution’ of public office that the Constitution requires, but instead for personal gain (bribery) or to benefit a foreign enemy (treason)…Corrupting elections subverts the process by which the Constitution makes the president democratically accountable,” the scholars wrote. “Put simply, if a President cheats in his effort at re-election, trusting the democratic process to serve as a check through that election is no remedy at all. That is what impeachment is for.”

In “How Nancy Pelosi Is Dictating the Democrats’ Impeachment Strategy,” John Cassidy writes at The New Yorker: “She could have scheduled the announcement of an agreement on the trade deal for tomorrow or next week. But, by holding it right after the unveiling of articles of impeachment, she demonstrated that, even as she and her colleagues are trying to drive Trump out of office, they are also focussing on bread-and-butter matters, such as lowering the cost of prescription drugs, guaranteeing paid leave for federal workers, and enshrining labor protections in trade agreements. Her message is that, in order to make progress in these areas, House Democrats are even willing to coöperate with a President whom they are impeaching…Pelosi has insisted on keeping the impeachment inquiry narrowly focussed on Ukraine, probably because she thinks returning to the Russia investigation would play poorly in swing districts. With the support of Adam Schiff, the head of the House Intelligence Committee, she has got her way…If Pelosi had believed that there was a realistic chance of removing Trump from office, she might have endorsed a broader and lengthier impeachment process.”

Regarding Pelosi’s fast-paced impeachment strategy, Andrew Prokop notes at Vox, “Due to the supermajority requirement for removal, at least 20 Republicans would have to break ranks to oust Trump. They knew that was never remotely likely and that, as a result, the impeachment quest would ultimately end in failure…Impeachment supporters will cry foul here. They will say that only if impeachment was done differently — perhaps with more months of hearings, perhaps by exploring topics other than Ukraine, perhaps with more effective Democratic leadership — it could have succeeded…Perhaps. But the way things have played out so far is quite close to what Pelosi would have predicted. Voters’ opinions about Trump have remained remarkably entrenched, as they have for the past two years. And congressional Republicans haven’t abandoned him, which means he’s here to stay…The impeachment investigation wasn’t a sham — far from it. It surfaced new information and helped nail down the facts of an apparent abuse of power by the president of the United States. It will likely result in a historic reprimand of Trump’s conduct as he becomes the third president ever to be impeached. But those who had greater expectations will probably end up disappointed.”

At The Atlantic, however, Elaine Godfrey explains why “The Activist Left Feels Betrayed by the House Impeachment Process“: “But as the House moves closer to approving two articles of impeachment against him—both concerning the president’s interactions with Ukraine—progressive activists and organizers have felt deflated instead. They had been advocating for Democrats to levy a much broader set of charges to paint a thorough portrait of the president’s wrongdoing, not the discrete list the House Judiciary Committee revealed on Tuesday. Making matters worse, they told me, House Democratic leaders’ near-simultaneous announcement of their support for Trump’s new trade deal diluted the significance of the moment, giving Trump and the Republicans a key win on a day that should have been focused entirely on Democrats’ denunciation of the president…Their grievances not only reflect the ideological fissures within today’s Democratic Party, but they may also foreshadow arguments to come next year as Democrats attempt to hang onto their House majority and win back the Senate and the White House. The disagreement over scope and timing is yet another sign that Democrats aren’t even close to a consensus on which strategy is best for beating Republicans in 2020…“They are catering to scared members of their caucus who think they won [in 2018] by [toeing] a middle ground, when they actually won due to anti-Trump outrage,” argued Adam Green, the co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a political-action committee.”

Most Democrats would say at this point, thanks, but they don’t need another presidential candidate. Nonetheless, it’s fun when a well-known Republican, David Gergen co-authors, with James Pitch an article at CNN Opinion entitled, “If Nancy Pelosi ran for president, she’d beat Trump.” As Gergen, who served in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan Administrations (Clinton’s also), and Pitch argue that Pelosi “is enjoying not only a last laugh but also a major comeback—mostly because she has been more successful than any other Democrat at outmaneuvering and often outfoxing President Trump…With the nation’s attention riveted on her as she has guided the impeachment inquiry, she has been at her absolute best—keeping an ideologically diverse and at times unruly caucus largely satisfied while not allowing impeachment fervor to overcome her governing or judgment…But what Pelosi has done outside the realm of impeachment also deserves acknowledgment. Under her leadership, the Democrat-controlled House has passed a number of significant bills—ones that would protect voting rights, take needed action on climate change, address gun violence and help achieve equality for LGBTQ Americans…Meanwhile, with the trade deal—the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement—Democrats appear to have gotten most of what they wanted, and Pelosi has given her moderates something to sell back home (and she may offer another victory for Democrats with the prescription drug bill this week)…By moving so quickly with impeachment, she’s making it clear that a President should be held accountable and that elections must be transparent and fair, while also guaranteeing that in the runup to next November, Democrats have time to focus on key issues, such as health care costs. (Please see a shocking story in The Washington Post showing that the percentage of Americans who cannot afford medical care has doubled in the past three decades.) Americans may remain unsure who should be the next President. But it’s clear Democrats already have their best possible choice for Speaker of the House.”

At npr.org, Julie Rovner addresses the question, “Which Health Care Strategy Has The Edge Among Democrats And Swing Voters?,” and writes, “The latest Tracking Poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation in late November found 24% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents said they want to hear the candidates discuss health care. That’s twice the total for the next top issue, climate change, and four times the total for immigration, the No. 3 issue…On the one hand, Democrats and Democratic-leaning respondents in the KFF poll say when it comes to health care, the candidate they trust most is Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont (who has been pushing a Medicare for All plan since at least 1993)…Yet those same people say they prefer a public option (of the sort supported by former Vice President Joe Biden) to Sanders’ Medicare for All plan…That voter preference for the public option strategy was borne out in a separate Quinnipiac poll released last week, in which 36% of respondents say Medicare for All is a good idea while 52% say it is a bad idea. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll from September found similar results: 67% of respondents said they would support allowing people younger than 65 to “buy their health coverage through the Medicare program,” while only 41% favored “adopting Medicare for All, a single-payer health care system in which private health insurance would be eliminated…The key to becoming the Democratic presidential nominee, of course, is threading the political needle in a way that keeps the enthusiasm of the Democrats’ Medicare for All base, while not scaring away voters in swing areas who fear such major changes.”

Jennifer Bendery’s “Georgia Democrats Haven’t Won A Senate Seat In 19 Years. Two Women Say They Can.” at HuffPo offers some insight into Democratic chances for picking up Republican David Perdue’s Senate in the Peach State. Noting that “national groups like the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and EMILY’s List are still watching to see if it’s worth investing in a real fight in Georgia, where Democrats have teetered on the edge of winning a statewide election for years but fallen just short every time,” Bendery cites “a mix of factors give the party an edge: the state’s rapidly changing demographics around Atlanta, where the population is diversifying and threatening the GOP’s grip on power; the “Stacey Abrams phenomenon,” as Tomlinson put it, meaning Democratic voters are still fired up after she nearly won last year’s governor’s race; and the fact that both Senate seats are open in 2020 and neither will be held by a longtime Republican anymore.” However, ““Georgia has been like the Lucy’s football of American politics,” said Jeffrey Lazarus, a political science professor at Georgia State University. “Time and time and time again, Democrats have been getting 46, 47, 49%, going back to 2000 in Senate races and governor’s race.,,Demographically, it does look like any year now it could be the time when a Democrat wins.”

Thomas B. Edsall’s NYT opinion article “Trump Has a Gift for Tearing Us Apart: There are a lot of different ways to build walls” provides an indepth, data-rich analysis of his divide and conquer strategy. Edsall focuses on what several major studies indicate about public attitudes toward immigration and Trump’s unprecedented ability to excite irrational fears of immigrants. Edsall explains, “Donald Trump has done everything within his power to activate racial and ethnic animosity in this country. His main targets are immigrants, who are often greeted with rank hatred. But it’s a mistake to think that Trump started all this, even as he’s taking full advantage of the opportunities animosity has unleashed. He’s riding a wave…Trump’s genius in 2016 lay in his willingness — indeed, his eagerness — to openly and aggressively unleash the forces of racial and ethnic hostility that Republican elites had quietly capitalized upon for decades. Trump will be a formidable candidate next year because he is prepared to look under the rocks of the American belief system and see the snakes and vermin that have camped there in the dark.”

For the best one-graph summary of the last couple of political weeks, I’d go with Esquire’s Charles Pierce, who explains: “Nothing was more tiresome in this week’s House Judiciary Committee slanging than the baseless charge by the Republican minority that the impeachment inquiry is taking up so much of the House’s attention that the Republican minority doesn’t have the time to pretend to care about the nation’s crumbling infrastructure or the cost of prescription drugs. This was all my bollocks, of course. As Speaker Nancy Pelosi pointed out, while chasing the president*’s connections to the Ukrainian shakedown, the House has passed some 400 bills, many of them on a bipartisan basis, and the majority of them have died in the Senate because Mitch McConnell has been too busy putting unqualified Christopaths on the federal bench, and because McConnell just decided one day to be a megalomaniac with his thumb on history’s scale.”


Political Strategy Notes

At The Cook Political Report, David Wasserman writes that “Democrats Are Making Big Gains in the Suburbs. Here’s Why That May Not Be Enough to Beat Trump” and notes: “The continued migration of highly college-educated suburbs away from Republicans in the Trump era is welcome news for Democrats. The Kentucky and Louisiana results are a continuation of midterm gains for Democrats in places like the suburbs of Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Charleston and Oklahoma City…However, robust turnout in more rural parts of Kentucky and Louisiana is a silver lining for Trump. More critically, Democratic gains among suburban college-educated whites — and relative stagnation among other voters — could actually widen Trump’s advantage in the Electoral College relative to the popular vote…Of the dozen states where college graduates make up over 40 percent of all eligible white voters — California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Virginia — none are likely to be decisive in the race for the Electoral College…In other words, unless Democrats are able to retain support among other groups in states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, they risk further adding to their vote-wasting problem in 2020, which could allow Trump to win re-election while losing the popular vote by 5 million or possibly more.”

Grace Sparks reports at CNN Politics that, “A CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll in Iowa finds that a majority of likely Democratic caucusgoers would prefer a health care option that isn’t “Medicare for All.”…About a third (36%) want Medicare for All while another third (34%) want to create a public option for buy in and 20% would prefer to restore lost provisions from the Affordable Care Act and work incrementally from there…Together, a majority (54%) would prefer an option that isn’t Medicare for All, while only 36% prefer the more liberal alternative…Likely Democratic caucugoers ages 65 and over are the most interested in restoring the lost ACA provisions through incremental work (34%), though they are still split between restoring Obamacare provisions and creating a public option (35%).”

“The genius of the civil rights movement of the 1960s is that it really did bring home the nature of racial injustice in our country,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes in his syndicated WAshington Post column. “The Great Recession and the agitation of Occupy Wall Street and other groups altered the way we discuss economic inequality. The feminist movement transformed the way we think about gender roles, while the movement for LGBTQ rights revolutionized our view of sexual identity. The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shifted the debate about guns in fundamental ways…I doubt all this history was going through House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s mind last Thursday when she wheeled around in anger after James Rosen of the right-wing Sinclair Broadcast Group asked her, “Do you hate the president, Madame Speaker?” But the larger lesson of the American story certainly was.  Her answer brought cheers from her admirers, especially from liberal Catholics who were buoyed by her insistence that “as a Catholic, I resent your using the word ‘hate’ in a sentence that addresses me. I don’t hate anyone.” It was bracing to see Catholicism invoked as a call to Christian love and prayer — especially for Trump.’

“But Pelosi was on to something else as well,” Dionne continues. “She knows that Trump’s apologists want to keep the focus on the motives of the president’s opponents and to make this battle about nothing more than partisanship. Those who would let Trump get away with anything want us to talk as little as possible about his own behavior. Their claim is that it’s all about identity — the president’s big-city, liberal, Christian-hating, elitist, immigrant-loving, politically correct enemies vs. his hardworking, religious, gun-rights-defending, taxpaying friends who live in small towns and the countryside…Pelosi’s invocation of her faith was one way to blow up this narrative, but her care in separating out her political disagreements with Trump (on immigration, guns and climate change) from the reasons for impeachment (his abuse of power and constitutional violations) reflected an awareness that opinion about impeachment is still fluid. Yes, there is room for persuasion.”

Dionne adds, “An analysis by FiveThirtyEight, for example, suggested that about a quarter of Americans were not yet certain about their view of the matter. And those who oppose impeachment appear more open to revising their view than those who support it. A Quinnipiac University survey last month, for example, found that 17 percent of those who were against impeaching Trump and removing him from office said they could change their minds; only 8 percent of those who support it said they might change theirs…This means that those who see impeachment as a moral imperative need to avoid playing to their own gallery and should fight rather than reinforce the culture-war narratives Trump is counting on…It’s not surprising that many among Trump’s foes are obsessed with impeachment news, but they must recognize that those who might eventually come their way are not: In the Quinnipiac survey, 21 percent of those who did not watch the hearings said they could change sides, compared with only 11 percent who did.”

In The American Prospect’s special issue addressing the climate crisis, Robert Kuttner highlights the strategic merits of progressives “front-loading” needed environmental reforms: “Ideally, we should have reached zero fossil fuel extraction and combustion years ago. Ideally, all fossil fuel operations should be shut down immediately. We can demand that, but we can’t will it into happening. As the lead article by Jeffrey Sachs and the discussion of emerging technologies by Mara Prentiss explain, we can in fact get to zero carbon a lot faster and with a lot less economic cost than the naysayers contend, and even faster if we get the politics right. Prentiss demonstrates that most of the needed technologies are available now. Our special issue taken as a whole shows that a Green New Deal can be achieved…As Jeff Faux’s piece recounts, we are asking citizens to trust their government to launch an initiative at a massive scale at a moment when trust in government and in all large public systems is at an all-time low. Today, that mistrust is all too appropriate, given the Trump presidency. Yet, as Faux observes, the very process of having highly visible projects that improve people’s lives can cumulatively rebuild public trust. These projects, however, will need to be somewhat front-loaded, to demonstrate benefits in the new administration’s first two years. Otherwise, a new president with grand promises and scant results could suffer the fate of Bill Clinton, whose party lost a record 54 House seats for a Democrat in 1994—until that record was broken in 2010, when Barack Obama’s party lost 63 seats. Notably, the only Democratic president to avoid that midterm curse was Franklin Roosevelt, who managed to deliver a great deal in his first two years. The voters reciprocated by increasing his Democratic majority in 1934 by nine seats in the House and nine in the Senate.”

From “Voters’ Second-Choice Candidates Show A Race That Is Still Fluid” by Geoffrey Skelley at FiveThirtyEight:

Kyle Kondik’s assessment of the current status of the presidential campaign at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “It’s too early to tell for 2020. The ingredients are there for a Democratic disaster. But the ingredients are also there for a victory next November. Nothing’s carved in stone…The Democratic delegate allocation rules must remain front of mind. All delegates are awarded proportionally, although 15% or greater support is required to win delegates. In crowded contests, there may be at most just a few candidates who get delegates. The lack of winner-take-all delegate allocation could prompt the process to drag out into June of next year, or maybe even to the convention. If no one achieves a majority of the delegates on the first ballot — something that hasn’t happened in a national party convention since 1952 — party leaders will become formally involved in the process as “superdelegates,” who are effectively sidelined under new Democratic rules unless the convention deadlocks. In such a scenario, the potential for bad feelings among the supporters of the losing candidates rises…For the general election, it isn’t just who is chosen as the Democratic nominee. It’s how he or she is chosen, how damaged the nominee is from the process, and how fractured the party is once it’s over. Democrats being Democrats, some will be off sulking for a while. And some primary voters may disappear in the fall: It’s easy to imagine some supporters of the outsider candidates, most notably Sanders, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D, HI-2), and entrepreneur Andrew Yang, falling by the wayside, even if the candidates themselves dutifully get behind the eventual nominee…Still, Trump is a great unifier for Democrats, and that effect will kick in come fall, maybe even summer. We still see the general election as basically a 50-50 proposition, which is reflected in our early Electoral College ratings.”

Maresa Strano and Lydia Bean explain “How Red States Are Steamrolling Blue Cities” by enacting state preemption laws. Writing in The Washington Monthly, Strano and Bean note that “the last decade has seen an unprecedented swell in the number of preemption bills introduced and passed by state legislatures. As of 2019, twenty-five states have passed laws preempting local minimum wage ordinances (up from ten states in 2010). Twenty-three states have banned ordinances requiring paid sick days (up from one state in 2010). Between 2014 and 2019, an astounding forty-four states removed or prevented employment and labor protections for Uber and Lyft drivers…Some of these laws are notorious. North Carolina’s House Bill 2, or “the Bathroom Bill,” famously mandated that individuals use the bathroom corresponding to the gender assigned to them at birth. A direct attack on the transgender community, HB 2 was passed to stop the City of Charlotte from increasing its anti-discrimination protections. The same bill also explicitly preempted local regulation of employment standards, such as increasing the minimum wage and mandatory paid sick days…The increase in volume, sweep, and frequency of preemption laws is hardly driven by grassroots concerns. Instead, it reflects a pattern in which industries have used preemption to promote their putatively pro-business, anti-regulation agendas with no regard for public health and safety, nor the public will. They have found happy advocates in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization bankrolled by industry lobbyists that drafts conservative state legislation and shares it across the nation. ALEC provides the templates for many of the preemption bills circulating today. A recent report from the Local Solutions Support Center and State Innovation Exchange noted that about one in five of the over 1,000 ALEC bills introduced each year are signed into law…Preemption has skyrocketed under Republican state dominance. But now that the genie is out of the bottle, it’s reasonable to expect Democrats to use it…But ultimately, the best solution is to elect state officials who respect local authority. As we head into the 2020 state legislative election cycle, remember that redistricting is not the only reason to pay attention to state politics. Preemption is also on the ballot.”


Political Strategy Notes

In his CNN Politics post, “Democrats’ new impeachment message: Expel Trump now,” Stephen Collinson sets the stage for th next step in the impeachment drama — and the stakes for Democrats: “Democrats are injecting an urgent new argument into their already fast-moving impeachment drive: President Donald Trump poses such a flagrant threat to the republic that there is no time to waste…The dispute over how fast to go and over the scope of the Democratic impeachment case spilled over — in far more civil and respectful terms than the bitter exchanges between lawmakers — in a debate between four renowned law professors asked to testify to the committee on the mechanics and justifications of impeachment…Three of the four, who were invited by Democrats, agreed that the President’s transgressions were already sufficiently severe to justify the ultimate political sanction of impeachment. The fourth, a Republican invitee, urged Democrats to slow down and to exhaust the full extent of the law to compel testimony from key witnesses before making a case to the nation that Trump should be removed…”Are you ready?” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi asked her caucus on Wednesday, setting the stage for an accelerated timetable that could see Trump impeached by the full House before the Christmas and New Year break. The speaker is also quietly taking the temperature of her caucus before making a final decision on the end game of the House process — and how widely to draw articles of impeachment, CNN’s Manu Raju reported on Wednesday.”

“Democrats used their witnesses to paint a picture of abuses of power by Trump of such staggering proportions that his immediate removal is the only way to secure America’s democracy,” Collinson continues. “All three law professors called by the majority agreed that Trump had committed multiple impeachable offenses, in the commission of the Ukraine scheme and obstructing Congress in covering it up…”The evidence reveals a President who used the powers of his office to demand a foreign government participate in undermining a competing candidate for the presidency,” said Pamela Karlan, a Stanford Law professor…Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman warned: “If we cannot impeach a President who abuses his office for personal advantage, we no longer live in a democracy.”…But the White House’s blanket refusal to honor 71 Democratic requests for documents — revealed in the report — and its blocking of testimony from key White House officials is strengthening the obstruction case and presents an opportunity to make a more complete case to Americans.” However, “Party leaders have warned that they are unwilling to allow the White House to stretch out the impeachment drama for the many months that multiple legal challenges would entail.”…There’s a political motivation as well — Pelosi’s desire to quickly send Trump’s fate to the Senate is seen as an effort to pivot the political focus to Democrats’ bid to oust Trump at the ballot box next year that begins with the Iowa caucuses in February.”

E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s column, “The Moral Imperative of Impeachment” distills the essential argument Democrats must deploy as the political party which defends America’s democracy. “The most important charge in the Intelligence Committee’s report is this one: that “the President placed his personal political interests above the national interests of the United States.” Trump’s other offenses flow from this one. That is especially true of his willingness to press foreign governments to meddle in our elections, as he did with Ukraine’s president, or to issue an open invitation to a foreign government to jump right in. That’s what he did with his infamous “Russia, if you’re listening” comment during the 2016 campaign…“Trump being Trump” — or what Republican Reps. Devin Nunes of California, Jim Jordan of Ohio and Michael McCaul of Texas tried to glorify as his “ ‘outside the Beltway’ approach to diplomacy” — can no longer be an excuse for overlooking how much weaker the United States is today than it was 1,048 days ago.”

Thomas B. Edsall’s NYT column, “The Savage Injustice of Trump’s Military Pardons,” spotlights some instructive political opinion data regarding active military personnel: “In an article published on Nov. 19, “Donald Trump falls out with the military establishment he once wooed,” The Economist reported that “the highly educated officer corps dislikes Mr. Trump,” while “47 percent of the enlisted ranks, largely without college degrees, back him.” (The magazine did not provide specific figures on the percentage of those in the enlisted ranks who oppose Trump or on the percentages of the officer corps who like and dislike the president.)…A September-October 2018 poll conducted by Military Times found approval of Trump among active duty military personnel falling from 46 positive and 37 negative in 2016 to 44 positive and 43 negative in 2018. In other words, Trump’s favorability among active duty servicemen and women fell from plus 9 in 2016 to plus 1 in 2018…The Military Times survey also showed a split between officers and enlisted service members. Among officers, “more than half have an unfavorable view of his presidency, against 41 percent who have a favorable view,” while among enlisted personnel 45 percent had a positive view of Trump while 41 percent had a negative view.”

Some of the revelations from the Blue Wall Voices Project, a collaboration between the Kaiser Family Foundation and The Cook Political Report, which examined the attitudes and experiences of voters in several key battleground states leading up the 2020 presidential election: “There are many undecided voters and a few persuadable swing voters. One year out from the 2020 presidential election and without a clear frontrunner in the Democratic primaries, a large share of voters – about four in ten (41%) – say they have not yet made up their minds about who they plan to vote for in November 2020. These “swing voters” either report being undecided about their vote in 2020 or are leaning towards a candidate but haven’t made up their minds yet. With a substantial number of votes still up for grabs, this analysis looks in-depth at this group of voters to explore the policy issues that could swing these voters to vote for either President Trump or the Democratic nominee.”

Also, Blue Wall Voices found that “President Trump himself is the defining factor for voters – both positive and negative. When asked to offer in their own words what one thing will motivate them to vote in the 2020 presidential election, nearly three times as many voters offer responses related to defeating President Trump (21%) as offer responses related to re-electing him or not wanting a Democrat to be elected (8%). Defeating President Trump was offered as the top motivation to vote in 2020 by four in ten Democratic voters (39%) while responses related to re-electing President Trump/not wanting a Democrat were offered by 21% of Republican voters. One-fifth of independent voters offered responses related to defeating President Trump while fewer (7%) of independent voters offered responses related to re-electing President Trump. Overall, one-fourth (23%) of voters offer issues such as health care, the economy, and immigration, as their motivation for voting in the 2020 presidential election.”

The BWV project also notedThe 2020 election may be a lot about health care and the economy, two issues that voters judge President Trump’s actions on very differently. Health care and the economy are the top issues for voters leading up to the 2020 presidential election but they are also two issues on which voters give President Trump very different marks. Overall, voters are somewhat positive in their views of how President Trump is handling the economy (-1 percentage points net approval) while a larger share of voters “disapprove” than “approve” of the way President Trump is handling health care (-21 percentage points net approval). Health care is one of the only issues in which President Trump’s approval is lower than his overall job approval (-18 percentage points). President Trump also has low approval ratings (-20 percentage points) on the way he is handling foreign policy– an issue of increasing importance among voters in these states.”

Most swing voters in these states see bans on fracking, stopping detainments at the U.S. border, and Medicare-for-all as bad ideas. The poll also consistently finds that while Medicare-for-all has played a significant role in the 2020 Democratic primary debates, it is not the top health care issue for Democratic voters. Large shares of swing voters in Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin say stopping detainments at the U.S. border for people cross into the country illegally and a national Medicare-for-all plan are “bad ideas.” Swing voters are slightly more divided in their views of a ban on fracking with large shares of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin swing voters saying such a ban is a “bad idea” as do a slim majority in Michigan and half of Minnesota swing voters.”

A final note on the ‘suspension’ of Sen. Kamala Harris’s presidential campaign: Her departure leaves a void in the Democratic field, not just because of her race and gender. Harris was one of the most ardent and skillful debaters, always focusing on the central moral questions underlying the issues. She displayed admirable passion and a fierce fighting spirit in each Democratic debate, particularly the last one. It was not hard to envision her skewering Trump into a muttering mess during the final presidential debates next year. Indeed, Harris provided one of the best anti-Trump zingers yet, in her response to Trump’s gloating tweet about her exit from the campaign, “Too bad. We will miss you Kamala!” To which Harris responded, “Don’t worry, Mr. President, I’ll see you at your trial.”  As a demographic twofer, Harris will likely be on the eventual nominee’s short list for vice presidential choice, or perhaps Attorney-General, if Democrats win the white house. As it is, her departure underscores the hard reality that a great campaign launch, a terrific work ethic and a strong message don’t necessarily insure that a presidential candidate can stay competitive, especially in a large field.


Political Strategy Notes

Joseph O’Neill’s review article “No More Nice Dems” at The New York Review of Books provides an insightful exploration of the GOP’s domination of state governments. A nugget: “And it’s not as if red-state governments have been better. For at least a quarter-century, GDP growth in blue states has exceeded that in red states. Living standards—educational attainment, household income, life expectancy, tax equity—tend to be distinctly higher in blue states. These disparities are mitigated by what economists call “fiscal flows”—blue staters subsidizing red staters in the form of federal taxes. When states go all-in on Republican economic strategies, not even fiscal flows can avert disaster, as the fates of Kansas and Oklahoma have revealed. Some red states even reject fiscal flows: fourteen have refused the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, with predictable consequences. If you wanted to tank the country, or part of it, your best bet would be to get Republicans to run things.”

O’Neill continues: “Republican dominance represents an extraordinary political overperformance. Republican state governments strongly align themselves with the national party leadership—and by conventional measures, and certainly by comparison with the Clinton and Obama administrations, the national GOP has long been a disaster. Every Republican administration from Reagan onward has crashed the economy and exploded deficits. (Trump has already achieved the latter.) Their track record on health care is one of failure. Their handling of national security has been catastrophic (see the September 11 attacks, the rise of ISIS, Trump-Russia, climate change). Their criminality and corruption is scandalous: fraud, perjury, bribery, Boland Amendment violations during the Iran–contra affair, obstruction of justice, tax evasion, theft, and misuse of public funds are just some of the crimes committed by Republican administration officials and operatives—and that’s without counting those chalked up under Nixon and Trump.”

O’Neill, quotes from Meaghan Winter’s  All Politics Is Local: Why Progressives Must Fight for the States and observes, “As David Callahan, founder of Inside Philanthropy, said, most foundation grant makers end up “thinking like a social worker instead of thinking like a Bolshevik,” the very opposite of the approach taken by those doling out the Koch and Mercer fortunes…Thus the problem isn’t money: “The annual spending of centrist and left-leaning foundations far exceeds the annual spending of the conservative Heritage Foundation or the Scaife Family Foundation.” The problem is that, for around half a century, right-wing donors have spent their money more productively. They have created and supported entities (the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, the State Policy Network, Americans for Prosperity, the Federalist Society, etc.) dedicated to developing durable structures of power and fanaticism. Most significantly, they have gradually taken control of state offices—the offices responsible not only for redistricting but for elections and voter registration, for state jurisprudence, and for the local regulation of abortion, health care, workers’ rights, and gun safety.

As for Republican strategy at the state level, “It can’t be disputed that this effort has worked,” O’Neill adds. “Indeed, it has produced a kind of Bolshevik dreamland in which a few billionaire hypercapitalists and libertarian extremists oversee a sizable cadre of professional ideologues and organizers who do the boring, technical, and persistent work of radicalizing, training, rewarding, and controlling conservative legislators, policy theorists, media figures, propagandists, administrators, evangelists, and judges. This produces a self-sustaining vanguard with real power, real expertise, and a ferocious dedication to victory that increasingly surpasses any allegiance to the ethical and civic norms associated with a modern democracy. Gerrymandering, voter suppression, intellectually dishonest judicial rulings, and systematic disinformation are now essential Republican tactics. There’s a reason why the GOP, for all its substantive uselessness, is such a formidable political foe. It plays to win.”

Tom Dickinson notes at Rolling Stone, “Republicans currently hold a three-seat edge in the Senate, 53 to 47. At first glance, the 2020 electoral map looks favorable to Democrats. Republicans must defend 23 seats to the Democrats’ 12. But the terrain is challenging: 20 of the GOP incumbents hail from states Trump carried in 2016…In 2016, every Senate contest went in the direction of the presidential vote…Still, nonpartisan analysts like Democratic chances. “The Senate’s in play,” says Nathan Gonzales, editor of Inside Elections, which handicaps federal races. “Democrats have enough takeover opportunities to get there without having to win everything on the table.”

“But for progressives in 2020,” Dickinson says, “Mitch McConnell’s seat in Kentucky is the holy grail. Trump took the state by 30 points in 2016, but a Democrat claimed victory in the governor’s race in November. The senator’s approval rating in the state — 33 percent — is nearly as bad as defeated incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin’s. McConnell’s opponent, retired Lt. Col. Amy McGrath, a former F/A-18 fighter pilot, is fresh off a competitive 2018 House race and raising money like a presidential candidate — $10.7 million in the third quarter. McGrath is casting McConnell as a creature of Washington, bought by special interests, who has “turned his back on the people of Kentucky” and failed to deliver on bread-and-butter issues from infrastructure to the opioid crisis. “The guy’s been around 34 years,” she tells Rolling Stone. “If he cared about this stuff, something would have been done already.” McConnell runs strong campaigns and won’t lack for resources, but in a recent survey he was up by just one point, within the margin of error.”

In his Monday campaign round-up, Steve Benen notes at Maddow Blog: “Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, the only 2020 Democratic candidate to have won a statewide election in a red state, ended his presidential campaign this morning. His departure means that former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is the only current or former governor in the race…former Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania ended his Democratic campaign yesterday…the party’s 2020 field now stands at 16 candidates…The Associated Press reported over the holiday weekend that a super PAC formed to support Sen. Cory Booker’s (D-N.J.) presidential campaign is shutting down. The report added, “The group’s founder, San Francisco lawyer Steve Phillips, indicated in a news release Wednesday that Dream United had struggled to raise money.”…Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) presidential campaign picked up a new congressional supporter over the weekend with Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) endorsing the senator, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg, whose Democratic presidential bid has struggled badly to earn support from minority communities, worshiped yesterday at North Carolina’s Greenleaf Christian Church, which is pastored by the Rev. William J. Barber II.”

At Roll Call, Nathan Gonzales explains “House ratings changes: A dozen races shift toward Democrats,” and observes, “With a combination of Republicans’ self-inflicted wounds, slow recruiting, or suburbs continuing to shift against the president, Democratic chances of winning improved in a dozen House races in recent weeks.” Gonzales bullet-points individual House races, and adds, “the 2020 House battlefield now includes 39 vulnerable Democratic seats, 30 vulnerable Republican seats, and former Republican/independent Justin Amash’s district in Michigan…There’s still time for Trump’s standing to improve enough to boost lower-tier House GOP candidates, for a significant backlash to develop against Democrats for pursuing Trump’s impeachment, or for GOP House candidates to strengthen their campaigns. But right now, Democrats are most likely to maintain their majority in the next Congress.”

Ronald Brownstein addresses a critical question at The Atlantic,”Will John Roberts Constrain Trump? “Few questions may shape the president’s remaining tenure more than how often the chief justice steps in to limit executive powers.” Brownstein writes, “whether Trump stays in office for one more year or five, one of the key variables will be whether Roberts’s ruling in the census case was an exception or a signal of his determination to limit presidential authority. Most observers consider it unlikely that any of the four other Republican-appointed justices—including Trump’s two nominees—will break from the president on many, if any, big cases.” Loyola Law professor Jessica Levinson notes that “Roberts has far more often expressed support for broad executive authority of the sort Trump is asserting, she says. Asked how much of an impediment she expects Roberts to pose, she said, “Based on his public comments and his writings in other previous cases, I think the indication is not that much.”…The one countervailing force, Levinson and other experts noted, is Roberts’s reluctance to have the Court viewed as simply another extension of the partisan conflict between Republicans and Democrats. His attempt to avoid that characterization led Roberts to publicly rebuke Trump last summer for insisting that there are “Obama judges” and “Trump judges.”…But that consideration was not enough to dissuade Roberts from participating in other five-four party-line decisions that have dealt with Trump’s powers. “We are kidding ourselves that he is a moderate,” Levinson said. “Let’s none of us pretend that he doesn’t have a view of broad executive power.”..Still, Roberts could ultimately be the last man standing in the GOP with the ability to say no to a president who barrels through law and custom. Few questions may shape Trump’s remaining tenure more than how often Roberts steps into the breach.”


Political Strategy Notes

Isaac Chotiner explains “How Democratic Candidates Win the African-American Vote” at The New Yorker and interviews Fredrick Harris, professor of political science at Columbia University, who has written extensively about African-American politics, who notes: “For the first time, black turnout surpassed white turnout in 2012. I do think it will depend on some degree of enthusiasm about the candidate. But I think the Party didn’t do enough last time around to put money into mobilizing these voters. I think that was a crucial mistake by Senator Clinton. And so I think there are two sides to this: how motivated people are going to be, and what kind of resources the Party’s going to put in place in order to get these voters out to vote…I think the Vice-Presidential candidate is going to be an important factor, because if it’s a person like Stacey Abrams—who does have the “friends and neighbors” sensibility, who, after her loss in Georgia, has become a national celebrity in the Democratic Party and loved by many black voters—that could make the difference.”

“From aiming to register hundreds of thousands of new voters to earlier and better on-the-ground canvassing, and from investing millions of dollars in recruiting local organizers to more finely focused outreach efforts on a sizable Hispanic and African American communities, Democrats are going all out to reverse the notion that Florida is unassailable Trump country,” Richard Luscombe writes in “The Democratic war council working to turn Florida blue in 2020” at The Guardian. “New voters are needed, lots of them, and in May the party announced a “monumental” $2m investment to register 200,000 statewide before the 2020 election.” In addition to health care and the climate crisis, Dems see wage inequality as a potentially pivotal issue for mobilizing turnout in key urban areas. Much of the effort will focus on “Miami and other tourist-rich areas of Florida, such as Orlando and Tampa,” where many “work in lower-paid, service-industry jobs including hotel, retail and food service…In Orlando, the median service-class wage is $24,057, the lowest in the country, according to the 2017 US census community survey, and in Miami it was little higher at $26,532.”

From Michael Tomasky’s “A Dem for All Seasons?” in The New York Review of Books: “So it might turn out that all this hand-wringing about the Democrats is misplaced. On the other hand, if they should have learned one lesson from 2016, it would be about the perils of overconfidence. They need to put the Obama coalition back together. And they mustn’t choose between Obama-to-Trump white working-class voters and younger, more multiracial and “woke” voters. They need both. It’s the nature of the Democratic coalition, which is far more diverse—racially and ideologically—than the Republican one. Right now, the two current front-runners are speaking to only part of the coalition. The nominee will be the one—Biden, Warren, or in this still-fluid contest perhaps someone else entirely—who can best reassure the other part.”

In his Counterpunch article, “The Democratic Party’s Missing Electoral College Game Plan,” David Schultz, professor of political science at Hamline University and author of Presidential Swing States:  Why Only Ten Matter, explains: “Democrats need a strategy to hold all the states they won in 2016 and then how to pick up Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin.  Yes, they could try to flip Arizona, Georgia, or Texas as some pipedreams hope for, but the reality is winning them is distant and difficult.  They key is flipping critical swing states…their electorates are generally to the left of recent Republican Party presidential candidates and to the right of Democratic Party candidates.  In many ways they are states more centrist than the non-swing states, and certainly more in the middle compared to the overall Democratic Party base…what we know is that who is a swing voter is less and less likely to be someone who moves back and forth between voting Democratic or Republican and more so whether they swing into or out of voting.  Democrats did badly in 2016 because swing voters, especially suburban  females, stayed home or did not vote for them…In 2018, those suburban females came out for Democrats.  Winning in 2020 is getting these women to vote.  What we know about these voters is that they are socially moderate to liberal but are not left of center.”

Also at The Guardian, Chis Kromm, executive director of the Institute for Southern Studies, shares some telling statistics about the Democratic victory in the Louisiana Governor’s race in his article, “How did Democrats win Louisiana? With classic progressive populism“: “Aside from Trump’s diminishing power to inspire voters, what else might Louisiana tell us about the country’s political landscape heading into 2020? One lesson is that, if Democrats hope to succeed in 2020 – not only in the presidential contest, but all down-ticket races – they must energize and mobilize their base. In much of the south, this means African American voters. Edwards only got a majority in one congressional district, but the 85% of votes he won in the heavily African American, disproportionately urban 2nd district made all the difference. Between the 12 October primary and last weekend’s runoff in the governor’s race, turnout in the second district jumped by 42,000 voters – a critical boost in a race Edwards won by just over 40,000 votes statewide…That mobilization didn’t happen by itself. The Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, a group of progressive community organizations in Louisiana, contacted 900,000 voters in the fall elections – mostly in communities of color – through door visits, phone calls and text messages. National groups like Black Voters Matter raised visibility about the elections in African American communities. And teachers, a key force in Edwards’ first victory in 2015 as well as Democratic governor-elect Andy Beshear’s recent win in Kentucky, also mobilized tens of thousands of voters.”

Harold Meyerson offers some perceptive observations at The American Prospect, including “One of the oddities of the ongoing Democratic debate about how the United States can get to universal health coverage—an achievement every other nation has somehow managed to pull off—is that no one ever asks the presidential candidates about their fallback positions. But if American history has any lessons to offer, it’s that major social and economic reforms always get enacted piecemeal, over time. And so when questioning the current crop of presidential aspirants as to the plans they’ll put forward, we also need to know their criteria for accepting or rejecting the halfway-house health coverage policies likely to emerge from Congress…Given the lack of anything like consensual support—not just in the nation, but in the Democratic Party itself—for Medicare for All, how should supporters of Medicare for All (like myself) respond? The most sensible course is to push for the most we can get, which, if we have a Democratic president and Congress in 2021, should be along the lines of taxpayer-supported Medicare for anyone over 50 or under 26, raising the income threshold for eligibility for those between 26 and 50, allowing individuals still not eligible to buy into the plan, and allowing employers to buy in for their employees as well. Such a plan would mark a massive expansion of the public responsibility for Americans’ health care…”

Kyle Kondik, Managing Editor, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, takes a look at open seat House races and notes, “Whoever decides to not seek reelection to the House will add to the retirements we’ve already seen this year. So far, 28 House seats are going to be open in next year’s elections, meaning that there will not be an incumbent on either the primary or general election ballot. Additionally, there are four vacancies in the House right now. We’re not counting these as true open seats, because presumably new incumbents in these seats will be seeking full terms in their own right after winning forthcoming special elections…Of 28 open House seats, Republicans are defending 20 while Democrats are defending only eight…Of eight the Crystal Ball rates as competitive, Republicans are defending all but one…Open seats, along with pending redistricting in North Carolina, give Democrats a small buffer as they defend their majority…Democrats stand to benefit more from retirements than Republicans. Also, significant one-off events, like Amash’s defection and the North Carolina redistricting, are making life harder for the Republicans…That’s why the Democrats continue to be favorites to hold the House of Representatives majority.”

In another Crystal Ball article, “The Governors: Party Control Now Near Parity,” Kondik writes, “Following the 2019 elections, Republicans retain a narrow 26-24 edge in governorships…But that’s a big shift from mid-2017, when Democrats held just 15.” However, “A majority of Americans, a little less than 55%, will live under Democratic governors once Gov.-elect Andy Beshear (D-KY) takes office next month…There are only a relative handful of gubernatorial races next year. The big prize is North Carolina, where Gov. Roy Cooper (D-NC) is a modest favorite to win a second term in the only large state that will feature competitive races for president, Senate, and governor next year. The GOP’s best target is the open seat in Montana, and that’s also the governorship likeliest to flip.”

Many on the right are yearning for a dialogue. They are the real silent majority” writes Egberto Willies at Daily Kos. “Democrats are going to win in 2020. The right, while trying to delude themselves are losing sensible people. I believe the response to polls on the Republican side but strongly believe it is just a tribal abstraction. Enough people will switch which will provide a solid win for progressives. That said, Democrats can have a landslide of monumental proportion if they add empathetic engagement on the right. I am not talking about asking them to be either progressive or a Democrat. I am talking about creating the narrative that you are tolerant of their Republicanism and conservatism. But at the same time ask them, for the sake of their children, their families, their friends, that in the privacy of the voting booth, to do what is best for their personal economies. Speak our values in their language. This humanist uses Jesus a whole lot…Many consider engaging the other side is either a fool’s errand or undeserved engagement. The thing is, this isn’t about being nice. It is about being necessary. We need more than fifty plus one for transformational change.”


Political Strategy Notes

In “You can forget about the predicted political backlash against Democrats for impeachment,” at CNN Politics, Julian Zelitzer writes that “one thing seems certain: The predicted political backlash over impeachment that Democrats were frightened about will not be taking place. Republicans won’t have an easy time employing the standard partisan witch hunt argument…The case that House Democrats are making to the public about how Trump and his inner circle abused presidential power, skewed foreign policy for personal gain and then tried to hide and obstruct the investigation that followed the revelations is becoming overwhelming. The President himself keeps helping Democrats build their case through his tweets and public statements…Democrats will be able to vote in favor of articles of impeachment with a rock-solid case to support their decision and a clear picture for the public about why the party feels the need to take these steps.”

If you are wondering “Why Deval Patrick Is Making A Late Bid For The Democratic Nomination,” Perry Bacon, Jr. has some answers at FiveThirtyEight: “…I think the real opening for Patrick is essentially to replace Buttigieg as the candidate for voters who want a charismatic, optimistic, left-but-not-that-left candidate. Patrick, I think, is betting that there’s a Goldilocks opportunity for him — “Buttigieg but older,” or “Biden but younger” — a candidate who is viewed as safe on both policy and electability grounds by Democratic establishment types and voters who just want a somewhat generic Democrat who they are confident will win the general election…On paper, Patrick seems fairly similar to Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris — charismatic, black, left-but-not-that-left. But he has two potential advantages over them. First, Patrick has a last-mover advantage — he’s seen how the other candidates have run and can begin his candidacy by taking advantage of their perceived weaknesses. As a new candidate, voters might also give him a fresh look in a way that perhaps the two senators haven’t been able to get…Patrick can now enter the race knowing that he is aiming to win Democrats who self-identify as “moderate” and “somewhat liberal,” basically conceding the most liberal voters to Warren and Sanders.”

From Dylan Scott’s “Elizabeth Warren’s new Medicare-for-all plan starts out with a public option” at Vox: “In her new health care agenda for the first 100 days of her presidency, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) makes a tacit concession: The health care plan Democrats are most likely to pass in the near term is a robust public option…Warren rolled out a laundry list of health care executive actions on Friday that she said she plans to take in her first few months as president, making her the first Democratic candidate to offer such a robust administrative playbook…She also laid out her plan to get to Medicare-for-all, beginning with passing a bill at the start of her presidency that would create a new government health plan that would cover children and people with lower incomes for free, while allowing others to join the plan if they choose. It’s a particularly expansive version of a public option…Only later, in her third year in the White House, does Warren say she would pursue Medicare-for-all legislation that would actually prohibit private health insurance, as would be required for the single-payer program that she says she, like Bernie Sanders, wants.”

Brad Woodhouse explains why “Why Democrats are winning on health care” at The Hill: “The elections last week confirmed what we know to be true — health care is the number one issue for voters. Just as health care propelled House Democrats to win the majority in 2018, it once again delivered for Democrats in 2019 and is poised to be the issue that helps Democrats win elections in 2020…We are roughly a year from the 2020 elections and there’s every indication that health care will remain at the very top of voters concerns. Between now and then there will be a likely decision in the Trump-Republican lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act, which, if successful, would strip coverage from 20 million Americans and protections from 135 million more with pre-existing conditions. Democrats should be reminding voters of that fact every day…Looking ahead to next year, the argument for Democrats to keep winning on health care is a simple and effective one: focus on costs, focus on expanding access and contrast Democrats’ positive vision with that of Republican’s repeated and ongoing efforts to sabotage American health care.”

At The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein writes, “Perhaps the best that Democrats can do is persuade voters who already disapprove of Trump to fully back his removal. In the most recent Quinnipiac national survey, Trump’s supporters remained a brick wall on impeachment: Among voters who say they approve of his overall job performance, 99 percent oppose impeachment. Just 8 percent of those voters said he was acting to advance his personal, rather than the national, interest in his dealings with Ukraine…But voters otherwise skeptical of Trump aren’t as unified in their views about removing him. In the same poll, 94 percent of voters who disapprove of Trump’s performance say he was pursuing his own interests in Ukraine. A considerably smaller share of those voters, 81 percent, said they believe he should be impeached and removed. Similarly, just 79 percent of those who said he was pursuing his personal interests now support his removal. With the hearings, Democrats may have a chance to close the gap between those who express a negative opinion about Trump and support his removal, and those who think similarly but don’t want him removed.”

“The gap between those groups is especially pronounced within two key blocs in the modern Democratic coalition: college-educated whites and young people,” Brownstein continues. “While 60 percent of college-educated whites said Trump was acting in his own interest in Ukraine, and 58 percent disapprove of his job performance, just 47 percent backed his removal. The gap was even more pronounced among young adults ages 18 to 34. Sixty-seven percent thought Trump was pursuing his own interests in Ukraine, and 61 percent disapprove of his job performance. But, again, only 47 percent supported his removal. With other groups important to Democrats, including seniors and African Americans, there was a smaller gap between negative attitudes toward Trump and positive feelings toward his removal.”

In his New Republic article, “The Vigilante President,” Alexander Hurst warns “As impeachment and the 2020 election loom, Trump’s hard-core supporters are poised to unleash a wave of violence against their enemies.” Hurst echoes a concern shared by other progressive commentators. Indeed, from what we know of Trump’s bullying and penchant for threats, it’s hard to imagine him gracefully accepting a repudiation at the polls. There is every reason to believe that he will try to incite intimidation and violence. Hurst writes that, “Trump has made the prospect of violence more palpable. Since Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry into the president’s attempts to strong-arm Ukraine’s government into targeting Joe Biden, Trump has labeled the House of Representative’s constitutionally enumerated actions “a COUP, intended to take away the Power of the People, their VOTE, their Freedoms, their Second Amendment, Religion, Military, Border Wall, and their God-given rights as a Citizen of the United States of America!” He has said that a successful impeachment would “cause a Civil War.” He has called for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, the Democrat leading the impeachment proceedings, to be arrested for treason, while reminiscing about the death penalty punishment that crime had routinely carried. During an October rally in Pittsburgh, he mock-pleaded with his supporters, “Make sure you don’t hurt them, please. Thank you.” There will likely be some violence if Democrats win the presidency by a close margin. But there is no evidence that a significant number of Trump supporters are ready to risk their futures and indeed their lives by committing serious violence on a national scale. It would nonetheless be wise for Democrats to have a plan for addressing outbreaks of violence.

The Atlantic has a primer on “The Electoral College’s Racist Origins” by Wilfred Codrington III, a fellow at Brennan Center for Justice of NYU School of Law, which progressives may want to keep handy for the day when Dems have the power to abolish it. Among Codrington’s insights: “…The nation’s oldest structural racial entitlement program is one of its most consequential: the Electoral College. Commentators today tend to downplay the extent to which race and slavery contributed to the Framers’ creation of the Electoral College, in effect whitewashing history: Of the considerations that factored into the Framers’ calculus, race and slavery were perhaps the foremost…The populations in the North and South were approximately equal, but roughly one-third of those living in the South were held in bondage. Because of its considerable, nonvoting slave population, that region would have less clout under a popular-vote system. The ultimate solution was an indirect method of choosing the president, one that could leverage the three-fifths compromise, the Faustian bargain they’d already made to determine how congressional seats would be apportioned. With about 93 percent of the country’s slaves toiling in just five southern states, that region was the undoubted beneficiary of the compromise, increasing the size of the South’s congressional delegation by 42 percent. When the time came to agree on a system for choosing the president, it was all too easy for the delegates to resort to the three-fifths compromise as the foundation. The peculiar system that emerged was the Electoral College.” Even today, Codrington notes,  “The current system has a distinct, adverse impact on black voters, diluting their political power. Because the concentration of black people is highest in the South, their preferred presidential candidate is virtually assured to lose their home states’ electoral votes. Despite black voting patterns to the contrary, five of the six states whose populations are 25 percent or more black have been reliably red in recent presidential elections.”

It appears that former Vice President Joe Biden may have written off the youth vote. As Owen Daugherty reports at The Hill, “Biden defended his reasoning to not legalize marijuana on a federal level if elected president, saying there is not “enough evidence” as to “whether or not it is a gateway drug.”…“The truth of the matter is, there’s not nearly been enough evidence that has been acquired as to whether or not it is a gateway drug,” Biden said, according to Business Insider. “It’s a debate, and I want a lot more before I legalize it nationally. I want to make sure we know a lot more about the science behind it.”…Biden, as he has throughout his time on the campaign trail, said he supports medical marijuana and insisted possession of the substance “should not be a crime.”…But he also said Saturday that he thinks the decision to legalize marijuana should be left up to individual states.” If Biden loses the Democratic nomination by a close margin, his ‘gateway drug’ rationale will likely provide fodder for post-mortems attributing his defeat to being “out-of-touch.”


Political Strategy Notes

At Mother Jones, David Corn has a perceptive take on why “The Democrats’ Impeachment Strategy Is Simple—and Risky.” As Corn writes, “Less is more. ..That’s the mantra for the House Democrats, as they take their impeachment inquiry into a new phase: public hearings. For weeks, the House committees leading this effort—the intelligence, foreign affairs, and oversight committees—have narrowly focused on one matter: the Trump-Ukraine scandal and the tale of Donald Trump apparently abusing the office of the president to obtain political dirt that could influence the 2020 election. Sure, there are a lot of other issues that Democrats have previously raised as possible grounds for impeachment—Trump allegedly obstructing justice (per the Robert Mueller report), Trump regularly violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution, Trump separating children from their parents at the border, and more—but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team determined that their best bet was to zero in on one episode of wrongdoing and leave the rest alone. “It’s the KISS strategy,” one senior House Democratic staffer says. “Keep it simple, stupid.” And as one House Democrat puts it, the goal is a “medium-sized impeachment.” Nothing too elaborate, nothing too hard to follow. After the somewhat complicated Trump-Russia scandal fizzled politically, Pelosi and her crew want to base impeachment on a straightforward and comprehensible narrative. Avoid tangential plots and the need for timelines, flowcharts, and complex explanations. Don’t get hung up on the past and the 2016 election. Skip all the Russia stuff—and don’t mention Mueller ever again. Trump tried to extort a foreign government to screw with the upcoming election—and that’s impeachable enough…a medium-sized impeachment—one that ducks the totality of Trump’s misconduct—could provide the Republicans greater opportunity to fast-track a trial, quickly dismiss the entire mess, and offer what Trump will embrace as a clean bill of health. Still, if that’s the scenario that plays out, Trump will be stained—and perhaps so will some Republican senators who stick with him (depending on how the case is presented). Yet at this stage, there is no telling what the ramifications will be for the 2020 election. You can now game out it assorted ways—it helps Trump, it hurts Trump, it makes no difference. This election is likely to be shaken, rocked, and rolled by a variety of factors that no one, no matter how strong a sense of imagination they possess, can predict at this point.”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. reflects on the differences between the Nixon and Trump impeachments and the strategic implications: “Gallup recently contrasted its surveys on removing Trump from office with comparable polls about Nixon in August 1974. Gallup found that while 92 percent of Republicans rejected removing Trump last month, only 59 percent felt that way about Nixon…Other polls have found somewhat more Republican support for driving Trump from office, and it’s also true that by August 1974, the country had gone through more than a year of highly public Watergate inquiries…Nonetheless, no one can deny how much partisan polarization has deepened since Nixon. Moreover, with the 2020 election looming, Democrats have much less time than their forebears did 45 years ago. And they are operating in an information environment that is not conducive to sober reflection…Democrats hope that piling up evidence offered almost entirely by people with no political axes to grind will shift public opinion against Trump. Republicans hope to obscure the facts by arguing that there is no such thing as objective truth anymore because anyone who says anything critical of Trump must have a partisan motive…”

Malachi Barrett reports at mlive.com that “A new Democratic advertising campaign launched to win back rural Midwest voters highlights a Michigan woman who expressed embarrassment for supporting President Donald Trump…American Bridge 21st Century, a Democratic opposition research group and political action committee, dropped $3 million on commercials that began airing Wednesday, Nov. 13, in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The ads, which feature first-person testimonials from former Trump supporters, as part of a larger effort to flip white, working-class voters in battleground states…The organization is aiming to cut into Trump’s margins in traditionally Republican parts of Michigan, according to a strategy memo shared with MLive…Trump won the state by a slim margin of 0.3%, less than 11,000 votes. American Bridge believes rural white voters could make the difference in 2020…The group doesn’t expect to win a majority of those voters, just enough to tip the scales. A smaller margin of victory among white working-class voters was critical to Democrats’ historic wins in the 2018 Congressional elections, American Bridge said in a statement.”

Here’s one of the ads from the campaign:

Unless the U.S. Supreme Court decides that Trump can hide his tax returns from congressional scrutiny, it looks like they will publicly revealed. As Alex Johnson reports at nbcnews: “A federal appeals court on Wednesday let stand a ruling allowing lawmakers to subpoena President Donald Trump’s accountants for years of his financial records. A lawyer for the president promised to appeal to the Supreme Court…On an 8-3 vote, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit declined to grant a hearing before the full court, upholding a ruling last month by a three-judge panel of the court to allow the subpoena…The decision means that unless Trump appeals to the Supreme Court and wins, the House Oversight and Reform Committee can enforce its subpoena ordering the accounting firm, Mazars USA LLP, to hand over any documents in its possession related to accounts of the Trump Organization dating to January 2009.” There is no word as yet regarding how long it will take for congress to get the returns, pending high court review.

“Priorities USA is focusing on Latinos early,” reports Laura Barron-Lopez at Politico. “The Democratic super PAC is launching a sustained digital effort to woo Latinos in the run up to the 2020 presidential election, according to details of the plan provided to POLITICO…This time they are starting before 2020 and in a state that is at the heart of President Donald Trump’s re-election efforts. The digital ads which will run on Facebook and YouTube, cover pocketbook issues that Florida Latinos care about, according to the super PAC. The group didn’t specify the amount of money being spent on the Latino outreach program…The digital program includes digital banners, audio and pre-roll ads. The program also includes promoting news articles across Facebook focused on the impact of Trump’s policies on Latinos in Florida…Priorities USA said the ads will be about rising health care costs, wages, and Trump’s racist rhetoric and immigration policies.”

At The Daily Princetonian, Zachary Shevin conducts an interview with Andrew Gillum, former Tallahassee Mayor and 2018 Democratic nominee for governor of Florida. Gillum shares the following insights about how Democrats can win in Florida in 2020: “If you’re serious about winning this state, we’ve got to make the investment now. It boggles the mind how I hear and see and read people saying that Florida is now lost for Democrats. We got closer in the race for governor than any Democrat had in 24 years — 0.4 percent difference, 30,000 votes, at eight-and-a-half million votes cast. How in the world do you conclude that the biggest swing state in the country, the one state that could deny Donald Trump the presidency, is a state you give up on? That doesn’t make sense…The truth is, is that Florida does a terrible job on the Democratic side organizing outside of major election cycles. Republicans, however, organize inside and outside of election cycles…So what our strategy … is that, you know, we want to invest early on in registration, or reengagement. And when I say reengagement, I mean people who were registered to vote in ’16 and did not show up at the polls — right —  nationally, six million people. In Florida, there are four million eligible, registered people in my state who we got to go out there and get registered, not to mention reengage.”

As for pivotal issues, Gillum said, “Well, climate change is a real deal in Florida, so that’s going to be important for voters in my state. I also believe that health care is going to be important for voters that are sick. Whether you have it or not, in the state of Florida, and frankly around the country, when your premiums are increasing year over year over year, where Republicans are attempting to usher in the ability for insurance companies to yet again deny you coverage based off of preexisting conditions … We need a candidate who is going to speak to what can be done, if they were to be elected President, to help alleviate the unfair burden that saddles far too many families who are terrified of getting sick.”

From “Medicare for All a Vote Loser in 2018 U.S. House Elections” by Alan Abramowitz at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “An analysis of the impact of Medicare for All on the 2018 House elections indicates that Democratic challengers and open seat candidates in competitive districts who endorsed a version of Medicare for All similar to that proposed by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren did significantly worse than those who did not. This negative effect, close to five points of margin after controlling for a variety of other factors, was clearly large enough to affect the outcomes of some House contests…It is possible that the estimated effect of Medicare for All was a byproduct of other differences between supporters and non-supporters. For example, supporters might have taken more liberal positions on a variety of other issues as well as Medicare for All. Even if that is the case, however, these findings are not encouraging to supporters of Medicare for All. They indicate that candidates in competitive races who take positions to the left of the median voter could get punished at the polls. Democratic presidential candidates would do well to take heed of these results, particularly as the eventual nominee determines what he or she wishes to emphasize in the general election.”


Public Support for Impeachment Holds Steady, But Dems Could Benefit by Keeping Focused on Constitutional Violations

From “What The Polls Say About Impeachment Before The First Public Hearing” by Laura Bronner and Nathaniel Rakich at FiveThirtyEight:

Support for impeachment first shot up in late September and early October, as news was piling up about Trump’s request that Ukraine investigate his political rival, but public opinion has leveled off. As of around noon Monday, according to our impeachment polling tracker, on average, 48.0 percent of Americans said they supported impeachment in one form or another, while 44.4 percent said they didn’t support it. That’s not too different from the 49.3 percent who supported impeachment and 43.5 percent who opposed it a month earlier.

In fact, even when you break impeachment polls into categories based on question wording — specifically, those that asked if people supported beginning the impeachment process, those that asked if people supported actual impeachment, and those that asked if people supported impeachment and removal — a similar picture emerges: Support for each “flavor” of impeachment has been pretty steady since early October. That said, support for beginning the process has consistently been noticeably higher than support for impeachment or support for impeachment and removal, the latter two of which have been very similar. As of Monday morning, 51.0 percent of Americans supported beginning the impeachment process, while 46.6 percent supported impeachment and 47.4 percent supported impeachment and removal.

Bronner and Rakich add, “Since Nov. 3, however, independents have been a bit more likely to support impeachment and removal than simple impeachment, and the numbers were 44.3 percent to 41.1 percent as of Monday. We’re not sure why this might be (again, it could just be noise), but it will be interesting to see whether that trend continues into the public hearing phase of the inquiry.”

Will the outcome of Impeachment help Democrats in 2020?  Matthew Yglesias and Andre Prokop write that Trump is “plausibly down just a point or two in approval ratings — in part because most Americans already disapproved of him before the story broke, so the people he’s left with are relatively hard-core supporters. Looking at Trump’s approval as a whole, his two worst moments were the unpopular 2018 tax law and the government shutdown in early 2019. Nothing that’s come out about Ukraine has been nearly that bad for his approval numbers.”

Prokop and Yglesias add, however, “to the extent that Trump’s goal was to hurt Joe Biden’s presidential prospects, his strategy is arguably working.” However, “Biden himself is, like Trump, only down slightly since the story broke, but Warren is up quite a bit.”

In his article, “Impeachment Legalism Is a Trap Democrats Must Avoid” at Bloomberg Opinion, Noah Feldman cautions, “The single most dangerous pitfall” Democrats face “is allowing too much legal talk to obfuscate the fundamental wrongness of Trump’s conduct: using the might of his office to pressure a foreign country to destroy the candidate he thought most likely to threaten his re-election.”

Feldman warns further that “laws passed by Congress — statutes — are very detailed descriptions of specific acts that count as crimes. House Republicans will likely use statutory law to come up with legal-sounding arguments to maintain that Trump has done nothing wrong. Democrats could then fall into an abyss of prattling on about “quid pro quo” and the statutory definition of extortion. What Democrats need to do instead is name Trump’s impeachable conduct for what it is: a constitutional violation and an abuse of power…Using the presidency to get Ukraine to investigate Biden was – obviously  — a brazen attempt to gain unfair advantage in the 2020 election. That abuse of power is a high crime and misdemeanor. It merits impeachment. And legalism shouldn’t be allowed to distract the public from it.”


Political Strategy Notes

In “The ultimate guide to the Donald Trump impeachment saga,” Matthew Yglesias and Andrew Prokop address the question, “What’s Going on in the Polls? Is any of this hurting Trump?”: “The potential impeachment of Donald Trump has been a hot topic of political discussion for a long time, and it’s mostly been unpopular. According to FiveThirtyEight’s comprehensive tracker of impeachment polls, in the period between the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and the storm of Ukraine news, support for impeaching Trump ranged between 35 and 40 percent, with opposition consistently above 50 percent…That has changed since the Ukraine story became public knowledge, with support for impeaching Trump now hovering around 50 percent and opposition a bit below 45 percent. Note, however, that while impeachment has gotten a lot more popular, it lags behind overall approval of Trump’s job performance. A somewhat larger share of the public say they disapprove of Trump than those who say they want to see him impeached.”

Will Impeachment Matter in 2020?” Elaine Kamarck addresses the question at Brookings and observes, “Impeachment has taken on enormous importance to the political class because it is an issue of constitutional and historical import. But in the end it may not matter to voters very much at all. Opinion about Trump has been fairly stable since he was elected—he is probably the most polarizing American president since the Civil War—so impeachment may simply play into people’s already hardened attitudes. In addition, other things might end up being more important in 2020. Demographic trends like the maturation of a generation of Latino voters, for instance, may start to have electoral consequences in 2020…The fact that public opinion on impeachment and opinion on Trump appears to be stuck in a holding pattern may simply be a reflection of a firmly polarized electorate. If, as appears to be the case, a trial in the Senate is wrapped up by early 2020, impeachment may be a distant memory by November.”

E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s Washington Post column, “Democrats have put their differences above beating Trump. Bloomberg is a symptom not a cure,” merits a thoughtful read by Democrats. As Dionne, writes, “Democratic presidential candidates are doing a bang-up job of suggesting that their differences matter more than defeating Trump. And former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s preparations to enter the contest won’t help…Let it be said that despite serious blind spots, Bloomberg was a very good and, on many fronts, broadly progressive mayor. He deserves our thanks for using his wealth to finance an increasingly powerful gun-control movement…But it’s hard to see his winning a lot of Democratic primaries, and not just because he turned himself into a temporary Republican to get to City Hall. From the moment word went out that he was pondering a campaign for president, he sharpened the class and ideological divisions within the Democratic electorate…Somewhere on the seventh tee, the phony populist Trump is laughing. One side of the Democratic Party is denouncing its foes as class enemies and apologists of the rich. The other argues that champions of the left will destroy the American economy. Is this how Democrats want to spend the next few months?”

Regarding the highest policy priority of the Dems, Dionne ads, “Democrats have the high ground on health care now. In Kentucky’s race for governor, Democrat Andy Beshear demonstrated that even Trump voters want to save and build on the Affordable Care Act. Why throw away this advantage? All Democrats should support universal coverage, but we can get there, as other countries have, through mixed public-private systems. Arguments over Medicare-for-all would make sense after we finish the initial work of covering everyone…But here’s the larger issue: Democrats need a leader who can remind progressives and moderates that they have far more in common than their current strife would suggest. These competing camps agree on the urgency of ousting Trump, but also on getting health insurance to everyone, moving forcefully on climate change, acting humanely on immigration, defending civil and voting rights, and pushing back against growing inequality…The person who rises to the task of pulling these sides together will deserve the nomination. Will one of these candidates even audition for the part?”

It turns out that 2019 has been a very good year for Democratic women. As Julia Manchester explains at The Hill: “Democratic women candidates backed by groups such as Emerge America continued to make gains in the 2019 elections, closing the gender gap in a number of state and local governments…In Virginia, a record 65 Democratic women won their races in the House of Delegates and the state Senate, giving Democrats majorities in both legislatures…Tuesday’s elections also saw women win mayoral races for the first time in Scranton and Tucson, and make up a majority for the first time on Boston’s City Council…Officials at Emerge, an organization devoted to electing Democratic women, emphasized the adoption of a strategy that targeted GOP-controlled districts that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016 in Virginia…The group reported having backed over 230 candidates on the ballot in the 2019 election, with 125 of those women winning their races as of Wednesday.”

Nathaniel Rakich writes at FiveThirtyEight: “There’s one last lesson that the 2019 results suggest about 2020, but it’s one that we already knew: Turnout is likely to be through the roof. In Kentucky, we estimate based on preliminary data that 43 percent of the voting-eligible population cast a ballot for governor; not only is that much, much higher than the 30 percent of the voting-eligible population that we estimate turned out in 2015, but it’s also higher than the 42 percent who voted in the Senate race in the regular 2010 midterm election. In Virginia, we already know that more people voted than in any state-legislative-only election since at least 1976 — and The Washington Post estimates that there could be thousands of votes left to count. If we see a corresponding spike in turnout between 2016 (already a pretty high-turnout election by recent standards) and 2020, polling places could be overwhelmed with voters. Americans are telling pollsters that their levels of interest in the upcoming election are at unprecedented highs — and according to one recent poll, they are already more excited about voting than they were on the eve of the 2016 and 2012 elections!”

In his article, “A Dem for All Seasons” at The New York Review of Books, Michael Tomasky concludes, “So it might turn out that all this hand-wringing about the Democrats is misplaced. On the other hand, if they should have learned one lesson from 2016, it would be about the perils of overconfidence. They need to put the Obama coalition back together. And they mustn’t choose between Obama-to-Trump white working-class voters and younger, more multiracial and “woke” voters. They need both. It’s the nature of the Democratic coalition, which is far more diverse—racially and ideologically—than the Republican one. Right now, the two current front-runners are speaking to only part of the coalition. The nominee will be the one—Biden, Warren, or in this still-fluid contest perhaps someone else entirely—who can best reassure the other part.”

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall focuses on whether “deepening animosity between Democrats and Republicans based on genuine differences over policy and ideology or is it a form of tribal warfare rooted in an atavistic us-versus-them mentality?” Edsall presents arguments for both alternatives, and quotes “an astute Democratic strategist,” who says there are more voters who “have a very negative opinion of just one party (87 percent) than identify with one of the parties (67 percent). So, negative partisanship explains the behavior of many more voters…negative partisans vote more consistently against the opposite party than partisans vote for their party.” Edsall adds that “The remaining “persuadables” — an estimated 13 percent of voters, with little or no partisan commitment — will play a central role in determining the outcome in 2020.”

Further, Edsall notes, “My source cited polling data from a “consortium of Democratic groups” showing that in 2016 the small fraction of the electorate made up of persuadables voted for Trump 41-36, but in 2018 they voted for Democratic House candidates 57-41. At the moment, he said, polling shows that these swing voters currently prefer a generic Democrat to Trump 54-28, with 19 percent undecided.” Edssall’s source adds that ““no one — including political commentators — has evidence-based answers to your question of what will move this group (or any other definition of ‘swing’ voters).”