washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

Some insights from Cook Political Report Editor Amy Walter’s column,”Which Way Is the Wind Blowing?” As Walter writes, “Perceptions of the president have improved over the course of the summer. Since July, according to FiveThirtyEight.com tracker, President Biden’s job approval ratings have risen by almost four points.  On its face, that improvement looks like a disruption of ‘normal’ midterm trends. Since 1970, no first term president has seen an improvement in his job approval ratings between January and October of a midterm year. However, Biden’s bump between July and now wasn’t an improvement from his standing earlier this year. Instead, his job approval ratings today are basically where they were in January; Biden was at 43.3 percent on January 1st and currently sits at 42.4 percent. In other words, Biden is more popular than he was in July, but he’s not anymore popular today than he was in the beginning of the year….By October of most mid-term elections, political gravity has kicked in. Members of the president’s party have spent much of the year putting distance between themselves and an unpopular commander-in-chief. But, a month out from the election, the pull of partisanship and polarization becomes too much for the candidates to overcome. This October, however, there’s evidence to suggest that Democrat candidates continue to defy political gravity….Even as President Biden’s job approval rating is underwater at -10 (42 percent approve to 52 percent disapprove), Democrats lead the generic congressional ballot by just over one point (45.4 to 44.3 percent). But, as I’ve written before, if you focus on vote share and not the margin, the gap between Biden and the ‘generic’ Democrat isn’t that impressive. Biden is currently at 42.4 percent job approve, while Democrats sit at 45.4 percent of the vote in generic matchup with the GOP. In other words, a generic Democrat is performing about 3 points better than Biden’s job rating. In a close race, of course, that could be a difference maker. But, it is not history defying.” National statistics like the President’s approval rate will likely matter more for the 435 races that will determine the House majority than it will matter for control of the Senate, where Republicans have weaker than usual candidates in the handful of  swing states.

At CNN Politics, Stephen Collinson shares some notes on the political reverberations of President Biden’s  marijuana reforms: “In some ways, the debate over the legal status of marijuana parallels the changing social attitudes that drove the fight to legalize same sex marriage, in that the public appeared to be well ahead of political leaders on the issue….Weed is becoming more socially acceptable and popular, a factor that is being recognized below the federal level with multiple state ballot initiatives and laws legalizing it….Just a few months ago, Gallup’s polling found for the first time that more Americans (16%) said they smoke weed than had smoked a tobacco cigarette in the preceding week (11%)….And in research that may underscore Biden’s political goals, the National Institutes of Health reported in August that marijuana use among young adults had reached all-time highs. Some 43% of that cohort reported using weed over the past year in 2021 – up from 34% in 2016 and from 29% in 2011….Last year, Gallup found that 68% of Americans favored legalizing marijuana for recreational use. That figure suggests significant bipartisan support for the President’s historic first foray into the marijuana debate. This is also a takeaway from ballot initiatives and legislative moves to decriminalize or legalize marijuana from Democratic-run Oregon to Republican-dominated South Dakota. A total of 19 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use for adults over 21, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, an organization dedicated to legalizing cannabis….Beto O’Rourke, who is mounting a long-shot bid to unseat Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, issued a statement pledging, “When I am governor, we will finally legalize marijuana in Texas and expunge the records of those arrested for marijuana possession.”….“President Biden’s executive order is transformative for the lives of thousands of people and families harmed by our broken cannabis laws,” New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker said in a statement. “This is a huge step forward toward a more just criminal justice system and more rational drug policy.”

For a good update on a marquee midterm race, check out “Political scientists say Ohio U.S. Senate election is one of the key races in the nation” by Lynn Hulsey at the Dayton Daily News: “Multiple public polls show Ryan and Vance are running about even in Ohio, something that surprises [Wright State University political Scientist Lee] Hannah given the state’s rightward tilt in recent elections, the popularity of retiring U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, whose seat the men are seeking, and given the historical trend for the president’s party to not do well in midterm elections….“Ryan understands that Ohio is trending toward being a consistently Republican state. For any Democrat to win a state-wide election, they will have to appeal to Republicans and independents to one degree or another,” [Cedarville University political scientist Mark] Smith said….Ryan’s campaign focuses on appealing to working class voters and he touts his vote with Trump to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement and his disagreement with Biden on things like forgiving federal student loans….“He definitely has a theory that he needs to run to the center in order to win,” Hannah said….[University of Dayton political scientist Daniel] Birdsong argues that Ryan’s effort to draw Republican and independent voters is a gamble….“For them, this is an easy choice. It is possible that Ohio could help decide the entire progressive agenda in Congress,” Smith said. “Even if Ryan is not the ideal Senator for progressives, he will be far more supportive of their agenda than J.D. Vance and a Republican controlled Senate.”

If your definition of hell is watching 300 political ads to gain perspective on the midterm elections next month, you may want to skip Kyle Kondik’s “The 2022 Ad Wars: What we learned watching more than 300 campaign ads released in the second half of September” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball. But if you’re a political junkie, who values Kondik’s impressive analytical skills, here’s a teaser: “Just as a caveat before we begin: The actual efficacy of campaign ads has long been debated, and we are not really trying to address that debate today. Ads do represent the major way that candidates and outside groups end up communicating with the public — meaning that they are one of the few aspects of a campaign that the candidate or group can actually control. So what they choose to focus on seems worth analyzing, even if it’s hard to measure how effective the ads actually are….We primarily used the compilation of ads that appears at the end of Daily Kos Elections’s Morning Digest newsletter — the liberal site includes a list of ads from both sides in every issue. There were slightly more ads from Republican sources than Democratic ones, although the totals were fairly even — about 175 were from Republican candidates or outside groups, while about 160 were from Democratic candidates or their allies….Nearly every ad was 30 seconds long, the standard length of a television ad. That amounts to about 2 hours and 45 minutes of ads, although it of course takes longer to actually watch all the ads, take notes on them, click through links, etc….We have 5 takeaways from our campaign ad binge:” In brief, Kondik’s 5 takeaways include: 1. Abortion dominates Democratic advertising; 2. Checks and balances….A prominent feature of Republican messaging is simply arguing that Democrats are much too in lockstep with their unpopular national leaders; 3. Tough-on-crime messaging predominates – Crime has become a major focus for Republicans, and Democrats are trying to inoculate themselves on Republican crime messaging by championing their own support for law enforcement; 4. Guest stars – including AOC, MTG and MM.  National political figures sometimes appear in ads as a way to nationalize races; and 5.Student loan forgiveness, largely forgotten….In his conclusion, Kondik notes, “Although there are plenty of specific topics that come up in ads that we didn’t really hit on above, such as immigration; personal scandal; Social Security and Medicare; and much more.”

Biden’s ‘October Surprise’ Should Generate Some Good Buzz

In “Biden pardons all federal offenses of simple marijuana possession in first major steps toward decriminalization,” Kevin Lipton writes at CNN Politics:

President Joe Biden is taking his first major steps toward decriminalizing marijuana, fulfilling a campaign pledge to erase prior federal possession convictions and beginning the process of potentially loosening federal classification of the drug.

Biden on Thursday pardoned all prior federal offenses of simple marijuana possession, a move that senior administration officials said would affect thousands of Americans charged with that crime.

The announcement comes a month ahead of critical November elections that will determine control of Congress. Some candidates – in particular Pennsylvania Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who is running for his state’s US Senate seat – have made the issue of marijuana legalization central to their campaigns. When Fetterman and Biden met last month, the candidate said he would raise the issue with the President. At the same time, Democrats have sought to rebuff allegations they are soft on crime, an issue that has risen to the top of some voters’ agendas in certain swing districts.

As part of the announcement, Biden also encouraged governors to take similar steps to pardon state simple marijuana possession charges, a move that would potentially affect many thousands more Americans.

Biden’s statement accompanying the pardon should get some attention:

“No one should be in jail just for using or possessing marijuana,” Biden said in a video announcing his executive actions. “It’s legal in many states, and criminal records for marijuana possession have led to needless barriers to employment, housing, and educational opportunities. And that’s before you address the racial disparities around who suffers the consequences. While white and Black and brown people use marijuana at similar rates, Black and brown people are arrested, prosecuted, and convicted at disproportionate rates.”….“Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It’s time that we right these wrongs,” the President said.

The raw number of those immediately affected is not large. As Lipton reports, “Officials said there are currently no Americans serving prison time solely on federal simple marijuana possession charges. But they said the number who had been charged with that crime was north of 6,500.” But Biden’s decision will help alleviate worries of millions of marijuana users in jurisdictions that still punish them, as fair minded judges and other local officials realize that it is politically unprofitable to impose draconian punishment on voters who would face no such threats in many other places across the nation.

The President is on very solid political ground. Asked, “Do you think the use of marijuana should be legal, or not?,” 68 percent of Gallup poll respondents said they “think it should be” a year ago, with 32 percent saying it should not. Even 62 percent of Republicans favored legalization of weed. Polls by Quinnipiac and CBS news found very similar results. “Keeping in mind that all of your answers in this survey are confidential, have you, yourself, ever happened to try marijuana?, 49 percent of Gallup respondents admitted they did in July of last year.

No doubt, most younger voters will like Biden’s move, which is likely a major reason behind it. Rolling Stone magazine is already having lots of fun with the “Dank Brandon” meme. Biden’s move may or may not give him a small bump in his approval ratings. But it certainly won’t hurt younger voter turnout

Biden’s ‘October surprise’ will likely be met with some grudging denunciations from Republican politicians who are not up for re-election in the midterms. Smarter Republicans probably won’t have much to say about it and will grumble in private, knowing that their criticism will only add to Biden’s favorable buzz.

For some interesting data, maps and charts re pot legalization world-wide, check out this wikipedia entry.

Political Strategy Notes

In his New York Times column, “‘There Are Two Americas Now: One With a B.A. and One Without’,” Thomas B. Edsall writes, “I asked [M.I.T. economist David] Autor for his thoughts on the implications of these developments for the Trump electorate. He replied by email:

Many among the majority of American workers who do not have a four-year college degree feel, justifiably, that the last three decades of rapid globalization and automation have made their jobs more precarious, scarcer, less prestigious, and lower paid. Neither party has been successful in restoring the economic security and standing of non-college workers (and yes, especially non-college white males). The roots of these economic grievances are authentic, so I don’t think these voters should be denigrated for seeking a change in policy direction. That said, I don’t think the Trump/MAGA brand has much in the way of substantive policy to address these issues, and I believe that Democrats do far more to protect and improve economic prospects for blue-collar workers.

There is some evidence that partisanship correlates with mortality rates….In their June 2022 paper, “The Association Between Covid-19 Mortality and the County-Level Partisan Divide in the United States,” Neil Jay Sehgal, Dahai Yue, Elle Pope, Ren Hao Wang and Dylan H. Roby, public health experts at the University of Maryland, found in their study of county-level Covid-19 mortality data from Jan. 1, 2020, to Oct. 31, 2021, that “majority Republican counties experienced 72.9 additional deaths per 100,000 people.”….The authors cites studies showing that “counties with a greater proportion of Trump voters were less likely to search for information about Covid-19 and engage in physical distancing despite state-level mandates. Differences in Covid-19 mortality grew during the pandemic to create substantial variation in death rates in counties with higher levels of Trump support.”….Sehgal and his colleagues conclude from their analysis that “voting behavior acts as a proxy for compliance with and support for public health measures, vaccine uptake, and the likelihood of engaging in riskier behaviors (for example, unmasked social events and in-person dining) that could affect disease spread and mortality.”

Edsall continues, “In addition, the authors write:

Local leaders may be hesitant to implement evidence-based policies to combat the pandemic because of pressure or oversight from state or local elected officials or constituents in more conservative areas. Even if they did institute protective policies, they may face challenges with compliance because of pressure from conservative constituents.

For the past two decades, white working-class Americans have faced a series of economic dislocations similar to those that had a devastating impact on Black neighborhoods starting in the 1960s, as the Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson described them in his 1987 book, “The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, the Underclass, and Public Policy.”….How easy would it be to apply Wilson’s description of “extraordinary rates of black joblessness,” disordered lives, family breakdown and substance abuse to the emergence of similar patterns of disorder in white exurban America? How easy to transpose Black with white or inner city and urban with rural and small town?….It is very likely, as Anne Case wrote in her email, that the United States is fast approaching a point where

Education divides everything, including connection to the labor market, marriage, connection to institutions (like organized religion), physical and mental health, and mortality. It does so for whites, Blacks and Hispanics. There has been a profound (not yet complete) convergence in life expectancy by education. There are two Americas now: one with a B.A. and one without.

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. addresses an important question, “Can blue-collar Pennsylvania help save the Democratic House?,” and writes: “Control of the House of Representatives might be determined this November not by the issues of abortion, democracy or inflation, but by cement and methane….Okay, I exaggerate a bit, but two of the most tightly contested House races in the country are a reminder that the 10,000-feet view of the 2022 election can easily miss what is happening on the ground — in places such as Allentown and Bethlehem, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre, all venerable Pennsylvania factory towns….The first two are in Democratic Rep. Susan Wild’s district, the others part of Democratic Rep. Matthew Cartwright’s. Wild’s constituents just barely voted for Joe Biden in 2020, while Cartwright’s backed President Donald Trump by four percentage points….In a Republican wave election, Wild and Cartwright would likely be among the first casualties. But both of them now have a fighting chance. This gives Democrats a margin of hope in their uphill climb to hold the House — and brings us to cement and methane….“This is a manufacturing district to its core,” Wild told me. “It started with Bethlehem Steel and Mack Trucks. … We have just got amazing, cutting-edge manufacturers here in the district that provide not only great paying jobs, but they are producing products that are used all over the country and all over the world.”….One of those products, she said, makes the bipartisan infrastructure bill Congress enacted “huge” in her area, “home to one of the largest cement industries in the United States.”….Wild, in a rematch with Republican businesswoman Lisa Scheller, also touts the Chips and Science Act as “one of the best things that happened to my district” because of its growing semiconductor industry.” Dionne reports that Cartwright is running ads highlighting “a bill he supported in the House that would allow the Federal Trade Commission to “go after the big oil companies that are gouging people” and “his support for a new plant being built in his district by Texas-based Nacero Inc. that would “turn local shale gas into regular car gas.” Dionne explains, further, “The Wild and Cartwright races matter not only to the Democrats’ majority, but also as indicators of the party’s ability to hold on in White, working-class areas where Trump increased Republican support.”….For Democrats such as Wild and Cartwright in 50/50 districts, the challenge is to be just distant enough from their party (Wild’s ads tout her as “moderate and bipartisan”) while also warning of the danger of a Republican victory…..Cartwright’s solution is to separate Republican voters from their leaders. “There’s a big difference between local people down on their luck choosing to vote Republican in an election or two,” he said, “and the Republican politicians down inside the beltway. They have no good plans. They have no answers.”….If Cartwright and Wild hang on to their seats — and especially if the Democrats beat the odds and hang on to their House majority — that will a major reason.”

Nicole Narea reports on “The states where the midterms will directly decide the future of abortion access: Republicans are laying a path to gut abortion rights after Election Day” at Vox. As Narea writes, “Ballot initiatives in three states could determine abortion access for millions of women and what kind of reproductive health care is available to them. Abortion has also become a key issue in races for governor and state attorneys general, who have direct control over their states’ abortion laws and how they are enforced….Democratic candidates for governor want to gain or retain veto power over Republican-controlled state legislatures that want to curb abortion rights. Elsewhere, Republicans want to use governorships to chart a path to further curb access to the procedure. And Democratic attorney general candidates have vowed not to enforce their states’ anti-abortion laws and protect access, while their Republican opponents want to see maximum enforcement….Here, we take a look at the eight states where abortion rights are most imminently at risk. This includes both deep red states and states with split political control where Republican candidates have articulated a desire to further restrict abortion, in several cases without any exceptions….Depending on the outcome of November’s elections, the outlook for abortion access in these states could be grim, limiting residents’ options and further stressing the resources of neighboring states where abortion remains legal.” Narea then takes an in-depth look at each of the states with ballot initiatives and those “Where abortion is at stake up and down the ballot.”

Political Strategy Notes

In “Will Democratic Leaders Get Their Message Right? Our polling suggests winning themes,” Stanley B. Greenberg, a top Democratic pollster, strategist and author of major works of political analysis, writes at The American Prospect: “Democrats have the momentum in the 2022 midterm election, our new Democracy Corps survey shows. Democrats have pulled into a 3-point lead with registered voters and 2 points in the likely electorate. Amazingly, Democratic partisans are no longer less enthusiastic and engaged. Democrats are slightly more consolidated, and Republican fractures are growing. Cheney conservatives will give Democrats a few more points, as she now says is her goal….Yet much of this momentum seems accidental and ahistorical, and the Democrats’ lead is fragile and at risk. This also means Democrats, progressives, and commentators could take the wrong lessons from 2022….Democrats have narrowed the gap on the economy but still trail Republicans by 8 points. Staying there is fatal. People are on the edge financially, and they are paying a lot of attention to what is happening in Washington. The parties are now at parity on who is better on the cost of living, including a big change in who is “much better”—one of the most important changes since July….And fortunately, Democratic campaigns in practice are delivering a message consistent with that finding. The NBC poll tests the message that Democrats are actually saying, and it starts with their advocacy for working people on the cost of living: “we need to keep delivering for working Americans by lowering costs, including health care and prescription drugs, and ensuring the corporations pay their fair share of taxes.” That message gives the Democrats a 7-point advantage compared to the Republican message….Our poll shows that we make our biggest gains when Democrats take on the corporate monopolies that are driving up prices, despite making super profits. It contests the cost of livingby hitting Republicans hard on doing big corporations’ bidding on price-gouging and taxes….”

Greenberg continues, “In this key experiment where half the respondents also hear the Democrats contest the cost of living, their lead grows to 4 points….Democrats hold their lead in this poll only when they embrace helping working people with the cost of living as their first priority. They make further gains when they address abortion, assault weapons, and the Child Tax Credit….Across the base of African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Gen Z and millennials, and unmarried women, the top legislative accomplishment that most impressed voters was bringing down health care costs. The Child Tax Credit was top for Gen Z and millennial voters. Their affirming Roe v. Wade in law in the House was top for Hispanics, Gen Z, and unmarried women, including whites. That was the very top accomplishment for all under-50 white working-class voters….The results should lead to messages that attack Republicans for being corrupt and extreme on doing the bidding of the biggest corporations, raising taxes on working people, and billionaires paying no tax….Democratic leaders need to see the America that was revealed in our focus groups….The revulsion with the “top 1 percent” is stronger than hatred generated by Trump’s “Make America Great.” Just throw out the phrase “top 1 percent,” and marvel at the reaction, as I did in focus groups conducted for Rethink Trade. In Philadelphia, the service workers shouted out, “rich,” “wish I was part of it,” “fortunate,” “spoiled,” “don’t have a clue, entitled.” “Better than ever before.”….What Trump and many Democrats miss was a deepening consciousness of all Americans that the country is ruled by the top 1 percent, elites, billionaires, and big corporate monopolies that use their almost unlimited money to exert their power over government….In this poll, I asked voters their reaction to the term “corporate monopolies.” Their hostile responses topped their positive ones by a 3-to-1 ratio (60 to 19 percent). And what about America’s partisan polarization? Republicans are actually slightly more put off than Democrats by corporate monopolies and their power….The Democrats’ winning message centers on working people, the cost of living, protecting health care, raising taxes on big corporations, and providing tax relief, as well as challenging monopolies, battling for democracy, being against assault rifles, and defending the right of women to have legal abortions….The battle for the economy is now not over the number of jobs, but what government is doing to make work pay—and to champion working people and attack the billionaires who prosper at the expense of everyone else. This is the core message that will enable Democrats to win and keep winning.”

At The Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. explains why “A partisan Supreme Court is 2022’s other incumbent.” As Dionne writes, “The proof of how radically the new court majority has polarized opinion along partisan lines lies in the polling. The Pew Research Center has been asking Americans their views of the court since 1987, when 80 percent of Republicans and independents who lean toward the GOP had a favorable view, as did 75 percent of Democrats and Democratic leaners….The high point in bipartisan comity and sympathy came a few years later, in 1994, when 83 percent of those inclined toward the Democrats and 79 percent of those disposed toward the Republicans had a favorable view of the Supreme Court….That’s bipartisan legitimacy. It’s gone….This summer, as Pew noted, it found that “ratings of the Supreme Court are now as negative as — and more politically polarized than — at any point in more than three decades of polling.”….Just 28 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents viewed the court favorably. Among Republicans and Republican leaners, the court’s favorable rating stood at 73 percent….It’s obvious that Republicans are aware that a double-incumbent election is dangerous to their chances in November. That’s why they have been playing down abortion in recent weeks, and why many once-ardent abortion foes in the GOP are scrubbing their websites of their once-bold promises to enact broad bans on the procedure. They are clearly hoping that the more time passes since the Dobbs decision, the less of a voting issue abortion will become….But Democrats are not letting up on abortion, guns and other issues where the incumbent court has taken stands out of step with public opinion. The beginning of the court’s new term, and the increasingly public clashes between liberal and conservative justices over its direction, will further underscore the depth of the political and philosophical conflict the country confronts….The election of 2022 is only the beginning of a long, angry and consequential struggle.”

From “Republican states keep refusing to expand Medicaid — until you ask their voters: Medicaid expansion is 6-for-6 with voters on ballot initiatives. South Dakota could make it seven in a row” by Dylan Scott at Vox: “Six times since 2017, voters in a state have weighed in directly on whether to expand Medicaid and make more low-income adults eligible for free public health coverage. Six times, the ballot measure has passed….That undefeated streak could extend to seven wins in South Dakota this November….On Election Day, voters will decide on a constitutional amendment that would extend Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. If it passes, anybody making less than 133 percent of the federal poverty level (about $18,000 for an individual or $36,900 for a family of four) would qualify for Medicaid coverage. Right now, 5 percent of the state is uninsured. Childless adults of working age can not qualify for coverage at all. Pregnant women, children, and the elderly can currently receive Medicaid benefits, but working parents must have a very low income — less than 63 percent of the federal poverty level, about $17,500 for a family of four — to enroll….Polling commissioned by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network found 62 percent of South Dakota voters said they support the measure….Across the six states that have expanded Medicaid through a ballot measure — Idaho, Maine, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Utah — an estimated 811,000 people have either enrolled or become eligible for Medicaid coverage. It’s a new frontier for expanding access to health insurance in America….To date, Medicaid expansion ballot initiatives have been an unqualified success. But their usefulness might soon be running out. Only about half of states allow citizen-initiated ballot measures and, of the 12 states that haven’t expanded Medicaid, only four of them permit such initiatives: South Dakota — which is already voting on it this fall — plus Florida, Mississippi, and Wyoming.”

Political Strategy Notes

Some thoughts from Michael A. Cohen’s “Democrats’ strategy to boost MAGA Republicans is vindicated: Whatever sane Republicans remain in office, they remain largely enablers of the party’s anti-democracy majority” at msnbc.com. Cohen writes that “some pundits and even some Democratic politicians took the party leadership to task for what, on the surface, might seem like a cynical decision. Democrats “or their political consultants,” wrote Amy Davidson Sorkin in the New Yorker last August, “may have become too enraptured by the idea of their own cleverness or toughness” to recognize they were “immers(ing) themselves deeper in folly” by boosting the candidacies of pro-Trump Republicans. “It’s dishonorable, and it’s dangerous, and it’s just damn wrong,” said Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips, to risk putting people in Congress who would undermine the nation’s democratic guardrails….On Wednesday, the House voted on the Presidential Election Reform Act. The bill would protect American elections from the kind of machinations that endangered our electoral process just two years ago, such as making it more difficult for state legislators to overrule election results and clarifying that the vice president plays only a ministerial role in counting electoral votes….Every Democrat backed the legislation, but just nine Republicans joined them….But last week’s vote confirms that electing any Republican, even those who are not fully indoctrinated in pro-MAGA thinking, risks placing American democracy in peril….The arguments criticizing Democrats for working against occasionally pro-democracy Republicans were based on a faulty premise: that there exists a sane and reasonable wing of the modern Republican Party.” Cohen provides some notable examples to support his argument. It does seem defeatist to argue that Dems should be tactical purists in light of Mitch McConnell’s trashing bipartisan initiatives going back to the day he urged opposing everything President Obama supported regardless of its substance. That’s not to say that supporting unelectable opponents is always a good idea. But the threat to democracy is so immediate, that if helps prevent the authoritarian nightmare, it will be ok for 2022.

Myah Ward provides some evidence that it iS working in “Dems’ big midterm bet pays off — so far” at Politico. “It was a risky bet, but at the moment, it appears to be paying off. In the six races where Democrats were successful in boosting hard-right candidates to the GOP nomination, many of the Republicans are lagging in the polls, struggling to raise money and forced to explain past controversial statements. In three governors races where Democrats played a role in shaping the primary outcome — Pennsylvania, Maryland and Illinois — cash-poor GOP candidates haven’t aired any TV ads since winning their primaries….In the Illinois governor’s race, incumbent Democratic Gov. JB Pritzker has led Republican Darren Bailey by double digits in nearly every poll since July. Even a recent poll sponsored by Bailey’s campaign showed Pritzker ahead by 7 percentage points….Bailey’s troubles extend beyond the polling. The downstate Republican’s comments about Chicago — he’s referred to the state’s largest city as a “hellhole” — aren’t helping in the populous Chicagoland area: Bailey, a farmer from Louisville, Ill., is now living in a Chicago high-rise to “immerse” himself in the “culture” of the city….He also has money problems. Bailey’s $1.7 million in cash on hand is just a fraction of the billionaire governor’s $60 million war chest….There hasn’t been much polling in Maryland’s gubernatorial race, but what’s out there shows a huge advantage for Democrat Wes Moore. You can tell Republican Dan Cox is feeling the heat: He’s upped his attacks against Mooresince the unflattering numbers were published….Last month, the University of Virginia’s Sabato’s Crystal Ball changed the race’s rating from “likely Democratic” to “safe Democratic.”….The closely watched race for Pennsylvania governor’s mansion has had a few more polls to examine than the other races. FiveThirtyEight’s polling average has Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro leading Republican Doug Mastriano by 10.4 points….There’s not much out there in terms of public polling data for Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District, where Republican John Gibbs ousted Rep. Peter Meijer in an August primary….both the Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball shifted this race from “toss-up” to “leans Democratic,” reflecting the perceived weakness of his campaign.” Ward goes on to cite more examples in New Hampshires Senate race and 2nd congressional district.

“Despite still trailing their Republican counterparts in fundraising this cycle, a jolt of post Dobbs enthusiasm had the president of the Democrats’ main fundraising arm for state legislatures confident enough on Tuesday to declare optimism for flipping GOP majorities in three states,” Jake Lahut and Scott Bixby report in “Dems Are Newly Bullish About Flipping These Statehouses” at The Daily Beast. “We know what we’re up against, but we are making a play to undercut GOP power in the Michigan House and Senate, the Minnesota Senate, and the New Hampshire House and Senate,” Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee President Jessica Post said on a conference call with reporters on Tuesday….Lahut and Bixby quote an unnamed strategist who explains, “if you’re serious about protecting Roe, winning, winning Congress is very important, winning the gubernatorial races is very important, but also you get much more bang for your buck protecting Roe by winning state house and senate seats.”….Post said that while the DLCC has made improvements compared to their GOP counterparts—including setting back-to-back fundraising records in the two days following the leak of the Dobbs decision and the decision itself—they’re “still being outspent by our Republican counterparts who are flooding money into battleground states.” Readers who would like to contribute to Democratic candidates  for the state legislatures via the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee can do so right here.

In “Hey, Democrats, It’s Time for Unity, Not Purity,” Bill Scher writes at The Washington Monthly: “Democrats shouldn’t make Schumer’s job harder than it already is. The party is on a hot streak, partly because of a legislative strategy sensitive to the needs of vulnerable swing district incumbents. Not since 2002—when President George W. Bush’s Republicans picked up eight House seats—has the president’s party led in generic congressional ballot polls this close to the midterms. Remarkably, Democrats have mustered a slight one- to two-point lead in the Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight averages even though they’re saddled with what’s usually the burden of an incumbent president. Why put this momentum at risk?….the demands of backbencher purists did not help Democrats rack up legislative accomplishments and give themselves a rare chance to keep control of Congress during a midterm when they hold the White House. Democrats unified through compromise, and they fused progressivism with pragmatism. They took on seemingly unsolvable problems and delivered. They can do it one more time before America votes if all wings of the party remember what’s brought them to the cusp of victory.”

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Political Strategy Notes

Kaleigh Rogers and Zoha Qamar explain “How Americans Feel About Republican Governors Sending Migrants To Blue Cities” at FiveThirtyEight: “A poll from The Economist/YouGov fielded in the days after the Martha’s Vineyard flights found that Americans were evenly split over whether or not they approved of Texas and Florida sending undocumented immigrants to northern cities without giving those cities notice: Forty-four percent “somewhat” or “strongly” approved, while 44 percent “somewhat” or “strongly” disapproved (12 percent were not sure). Democrats were more likely to disapprove of the relocation efforts, with 71 percent disapproving, while three-quarters of Republicans approved. A poll from Politico/Morning Consult found that 42 percent of registered voters said it was appropriate that “some Republican governors from states along the U.S.-Mexico border have been sending thousands of migrants to liberal states and cities in the U.S.,” with another 41 percent saying it was inappropriate….Fifty-nine percent of Democrats said it was inappropriate, and 66 percent of Republicans said it was appropriate….And in a separate poll from YouGov, Americans were likewise divided when asked whether they approved or disapproved of Southern Republican governors sending undocumented migrants to Democratic-controlled cities without giving those cities notice….When asked in an August Economist/YouGov poll whether immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally should be allowed to stay and apply for citizenship, or whether they should be required to leave the country, Americans were split 44 percent to 41 percent. They were similarly divided in other YouGov data from this week: Thirty-seven percent of Americans said undocumented immigrants were treated “fairly,” and 38 percent said “unfairly.” And in an April survey from Republican pollster Echelon Insights….Thirty percent said immigration should stay at its current level, while 45 percent said it should be decreased and 15 percent said it should be increased….And in an NBC News/Hart Research Associates/Public Opinion Strategies survey conducted earlier this month, a majority of registered voters (56 percent) said the Republican Party better handles border security, and a plurality (46 percent) preferred the GOP on immigration.”

From FiveThirtyEight’s “Other Polling Bites“: “A recent Insider/Morning Consult poll found that almost half of Americans (41 percent) thought the age of our political leaders, such as the president and those in Congress and on the Supreme Court, is a major problem, and another 37 percent considered it a minor one — a breakdown that remained fairly consistent across political leanings. Seventy-five percent of Americans were in favor of introducing age maximums for members of Congress, too. Additionally, a majority agreed that a president should “definitely” undergo a physical and mental assessment to take office, with Americans ages 55 to 64 (71 percent) most likely to say so.” And at Forbes, Madeline Halpert reported on September 8, “A clear majority of both Democrats and Republicans think the U.S. should have a maximum age limit for those holding public office—and most believe it should be lower than the ages of both Joe Biden and Donald Trump—according to a CBS poll released Thursday, which also found about half of voters are interested in seeing more young people elected….Republicans and Independents were slightly more likely than Democrats to say there should be age limits: 75% of GOP voters and Independents were in support of a limit, while 71% of Democrats were in favor of a maximum age….Only 27% of all voters said there should be no limits, according to the poll, which surveyed 2,085 U.S. adults from August 29 to 31….About 40% said 70 should be the maximum age to serve as an elected official, while 26% said 60 years old and 18% said 80 years old….About half of U.S. senators are older than 65, according to several reports, despite those 65 years and older only representing 16% of the total American population as of 2020.” These studies don’t tell us which advanced age is a deal-breaker in all circumstances. But they do suggest the age ballpark that would be problematic in a “normal” election, when there is no extremely-corrupt, democracy-threatening opposition candidate. Could Biden win again, despite his relatively advanced age? Maybe, if he runs against the same, but even more damaged candidate again. But these studies do suggest that a healthy political party does a better job of developing its younger leaders than is now the case for Dems. But btw, Trump ain’t no spring chicken.

At Daily Kos, Christopher Reeves has some good questions Democratic campaigns should ask in public forums and media: “Why have Republican candidates not denounced or set themselves apart from Marjorie Taylor Greene, or said they don’t approve of Donald J. Trump’s behavior? While Democratic candidates worry about offending their base a little, Republican candidates are terrified of it. Their own base is so divided that they are not in a position where they feel they can stand against the MAGA members of their own party, and yet, they cannot risk losing the moderate, fiscal Republicans or party-unaffiliated voters who dislike the MAGA message. Now is the time for Democratic campaigns to turn the tables and start demanding: Will you denounce these out of control viewpoints?…If you are going to swing at Republicans, you swing at them right from the beginning on issues you know split their own base. Do they agree with Lauren Boebert? Where do they stand on a national abortion ban? Should people be free to marry whomever they choose? Where does the Republican in the race stand on protecting health care? Where are they on protecting Social Security? At the state level, where is my opponent on honoring elections?….In my own state of Kansas, we still have those who think the 2020 Kansas election was rigged. This in a state where not only is there no proof of that, but Donald J. Trump won the state’s electors fairly easily. Still, some want to go to court and protest….Put the Republican in a position to divide them away from their own base….Republicans yell about “the squad,” but it is well past time we yell back. The further Republicans are forced to define themselves on the issues, the more their own base fractures….When pressed to decide, most simply can’t and act as though they are caught like deer in the headlights. Why? Because they are not certain what they can say without potentially alienating the MAGA voters they have whipped up for years or turning off other voters they need….At every turn possible, force them to make that decision. Force the Republican in the race to choose their friends. To define themselves by their friends. To stand with their friends on issue after issue or to decide to be their own candidate….Force Republicans to own their issues. Lean in as far as you can.”

Kaila Philo reports that “Election Deniers Are Walking Back Their Claims For The General Election” at Talking Points Memo, and writes, “I very much believe it and I think it exists.”….That’s what New Hampshire Senate hopeful Don Bolduc told the New Yorker last October when asked whether he genuinely believed that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump through voter fraud….But when asked again on Fox News this month, the retired Army brigadier general walked back his belief. “I’ve come to the conclusion and I want to be definitive on this,” he said. “The election was not stolen. Elections have consequences and, unfortunately, President Biden is the legitimate president of this country.”…He’s not the first to make the abrupt switch: Former triage nurse and Washington’s Republican Senate candidate Tiffany Smiley used to wear her denialism with pride. Statements like, “The 2020 elections raised serious questions about the integrity of our elections” and “I believe that courts have an obligation to give all evidence of voter fraud a fair hearing” sat pretty on her website until early August when, as Axios reported, they disappeared….There seems to be a growing pattern of Republican congressional candidates smothering their denialism once they hit the general election. Some haven’t even admitted their belief out loud: Colorado Republican congressional candidate Erik Aadland, for example, was exposed as a believer in the Big Lie only when a recording surfaced of a man who seemed to be him expressing his fealty to it.….In fact, similar switcheroos have been on display throughout the country in recent months on another topic — abortion. Minnesota Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Jenning, for example, reeled in his support for an abortion ban after the Supreme Court repealed Roe v. Wade, a deeply unpopular decision in his state. His opponent, Democratic incumbent Tim Walz, enjoys an 18-point lead, widely seen to be in part a result of his pro-life stance.” In ads, interviews, debates and every opportunity, Democratic campaigns and candidates should make their opponents own their walkbacks. And be sure to refer to certified election results when talking about election deniers, just to remind voters of the legitimacy of the vote count, as opposed to unsubstantiated Republican allegations.

Dionne: DeSantis Immigration Distraction May Backfire

It’s just a hunch, but I think FL Gov. Ron DeSantis probably screwed himself and hopefully his party’s brand, with what Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. calls DeSantis’s “cruel stunt of flying Venezuelan migrants to Martha’s Vineyard — now under investigation by a sheriff in Texas and the subject of a lawsuit filed on Tuesday in Boston.”

I doubt that there are a lot of swing voters thinking, “Hot damn, just what I wanted to see – a Republican governor defrauding impoverished immigrants and making their lives harder.” People who like that ‘owning the libs’ sort of thing are already on board with the GOP’s worst policies. There’s no value added with swing voters who are looking for constructive solutions and more bipartisanship.

DeSantis’s stunt does nothing to solve immigration problems and it calls attention to the GOP’s inability to come up with any credible immigration reforms. Makes you wonder if DeSantis has the same advisor who persuaded Sen Lyndsey Graham that now would be a good time to call for a national ban on abortions.

E. J. Dionne, Jr. sees it this way: “So DeSantis’s cynical move was, as much as anything, an effort to push aside abortion rights, an issue central to the underdog campaign Democrat Charlie Crist is waging against him….” Dionne adds,

This dynamic is playing out all over the country. Candidates who once spoke of their ardent opposition to abortion are now scrubbing their websites of references to the issue (“duck and cover” exercises, in the words of one Democratic strategist) and touting their own moderation on the issue.

One of the most transparent efforts to reset the campaign agenda: an ad from Republican Scott Jensen, a doctor and former state senator challenging Minnesota’s Democratic Gov. Tim Walz. In April, Jensen said that if he were elected, “We’re going to ban abortions.” Not now. In the new spot, Jensen awkwardly holds his grandchild and declares:

““Abortion is divisive, and Tim Walz is weaponizing the issue. In Minnesota it’s a protected constitutional right and no governor can change that, and I’m not running to do that….”

Lacking a credible defense of the Supreme Court’s Republican majority Dobbs decision, DeSantis and the GOP’s midterm strategists are now reduced to the politics of distraction, and right at the moment when Trump’s legal difficulties are coming into sharper focus. It’s not a good look, six weeks out from the midterm elections.

For Democratic candidates, now is the time to make their Republican debate opponents squirm like worms on meth in front of the TV cameras. It shouldn’t be too hard.

Political Strategy Notes

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall takes a deeper dive into the “Why Aren’t You Voting Your Financial Interests?” thing and comes up with some perceptive comments, including: “Partisan prioritization of cultural and racial issues has, to a notable extent, superseded the economic conflicts that once characterized the nation’s politics, leading to what scholars call a “dematerialization” of American electoral competition….On the right, millions of working- and middle-class whites have shifted their focus away from the goal of income redistribution — an objective Democrats have customarily promoted — to support the Republican preference for traditional, even reactionary, sociocultural values. At the same time, college-educated white voters have come to support tax and spending initiatives that subordinate their own financial self-interest in favor of redistribution and liberal social values….In “Identity, beliefs, and political conflict,” Giampaolo Bonomi, a doctoral candidate in economics at the University of California, San Diego, and Nicola Gennaioli and Guido Tabellini, professors of economics at Bocconi University in Milan, make a similar argument:

Economic shocks that boost conflict among cultural groups can also trigger a shift to cultural identity. We offer two examples: skilled biased technical change and globalization. If these shocks hurt less educated and hence more conservative voters, and benefit more educated and hence more progressive voters, they make cultural cleavages more salient and can induce a switch to cultural identity. As a result, economic losers become more socially and fiscally conservative.

In support of their argument, Bonomi, Gennaioli and Tabellini cite the work of David Autor and of Italo Colantone and Piero Stanig to “show that, both in the U.S. and in Europe, losses from international trade foster support for right-wing and conservative parties.”….Their analysis reveals how economic issues mesh with cultural issues in ways that make it difficult to define whether the economic framework creates the moral framework or vice versa.”

Edsall also quotes Jared Clemons, author of “From ‘Freedom Now!’ to ‘Black Lives Matter.’” As Clemons explains: “There are limits to white liberalism, as many Black activists noted when the civil rights movement attempted to transition from civil and voting rights (which, by and large, required little to no material sacrifice from affluent, white liberals) toward economic issues like equal access to housing and public schools, which white liberals supported at far lower levels. Martin Luther King Jr., in particular, spoke about the hollowness of racial liberalism and believed the best way to secure material gains for Black people was by building a cross-racial movement of working-class individuals that could make demands of the federal government (like full employment), rather than depending on the moral resolve of affluent white liberals….

My work suggests that a change in behavior is only likely when the political act in question is relatively costless. For as we know — as evidenced by places likely Berkeley, Calif., Boston, or D.C. — some of the most liberal cities are also the ones in which racial inequalities, particularly in the realm of housing and education, are their most pronounced. This is because it is much more costly to stake the more left-wing position on these issues. Once economic matters of this sort are on the table, research shows that white liberals’ progressivism wanes.

Some nuggets from “People Of Color Make Up 41 Percent Of The U.S. But Only 28 Percent Of General-Election Candidates” by Nathaniel Rakich at FiveThirtyEight: “Unsurprisingly, as has been the case for decades, Democrats had a more diverse candidate pool. At least 46 percent of their candidates this cycle were people of color, as opposed to only 19 percent of Republican candidates. But, in 2022 — possibly because white candidates were more likely to have advantages like incumbency and fundraising, possibly because of racism on the part of voters, possibly for other reasons — candidates of color from both parties had a harder time winning their primaries. As a result, when we mapped Fraga and Rendleman’s data onto the primary results, we found that people of color will constitute just 39 percent of Democratic general-election candidates and 16 percent of Republican general-election candidates….According to Fraga and Rendleman, 16 percent of all Democratic and Republican candidates for Senate, House and governor this cycle were Black. In comparison, 15 percent of the final nominees for those offices identified as Black. That’s slightly higher than their share of the U.S. population, which is 14 percent. But of course, one party had a lot more Black candidates than the other: 28 percent of Democratic candidates running in primaries identified as Black, but only 8 percent of Republican candidates did. And while at least 111 Black Democrats are on the November ballot, there are only 31 self-identified Black Republicans. Still, Black Republican members of Congress have been so rare in the past 150 years that there’s a good chance that the 118th Congress will have a record number.”

Rakich continues, “The researchers found that Hispanic and Latino Americans are the second-most-common minority group in 2022’s candidate pool, making up 8 percent of all candidates and 9 percent of the final nominees. But both numbers are much smaller than their share of the population (19 percent, though they constitute a smaller share of the citizen voting-age population). Hispanics and Latinos are also more evenly split between the parties: 53 Democrats and 31 Republicans are running in the general election. That mirrors the fact that, while Latinos still lean Democratic overall, they are much more of a swing demographic than Black voters….There are also interesting patterns among 2022’s Latino candidates. At least 26 Latino Democrats on the November ballot identified as being of Mexican descent, and at least five as Puerto Rican. But Fraga and Rendleman could identify only two who are Cuban American. By contrast, they found Republicans have nominated at least seven Cuban Americans. Fraga and Rendleman could find only 10 Mexican American Republican nominees and no Puerto Rican ones. This jibes with data that shows Cuban Americans are a Republican-leaning group, but Puerto Ricans and especially Mexican Americans are generally Democratic.” Such is the diminishing utility of the term ‘Latino’ in a political context.

Political Strategy Notes

In Georgia, the emerging Democratic strategy to win the governorship is all about in-person, early voting. As the Associated Press explains, “Stacey Abrams, Georgia Democrats’ nominee for governor, is launching an intensive effort to get out the vote by urging potential supporters to cast in-person ballots the first week of early voting as she tries to navigate the state’s new election laws….The strategy, outlined to The Associated Press by Abrams’ top aides, is a shift from 2018, when she spent generously in her first gubernatorial bid to encourage voters to use mail ballots. It also moves away from Democrats’ pandemic-era emphasis on mail voting, a push that delivered Georgia’s electoral votes to President Joe Biden and helped Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff win concurrent U.S. Senate runoffs to give Democrats control of Capitol Hill….Republicans, including Abrams’ opponent, Gov. Brian Kemp, answered in 2021 with sweeping election changes that, among other provisions, dramatically curtailed drop boxes for mail ballots, added wrinkles to mail ballot applications and ballot return forms, and made it easier to challenge an individual voter’s eligibility. But it also expanded in-person voting….“It’s self-evident we have to have a big early vote in-person,” said Abrams campaign manager Lauren Groh-Wargo, arguing the new mail ballot procedures make it risky for Democrats to rely too heavily on that option. “What’s not self-evident,” Groh-Wargo continued, “is how the hell you do that….Beginning Sunday, the Democrat’s campaign will ask supporters to commit to vote at in-person polling sites during the first week of early voting, which opens Oct. 17. The campaign will send digital commitment cards to targeted supporters via email and texts, with direct mail to follow. Field workers will ask voters to fill out commitment cards, with 2 million households slated for in-person visits. And the Abrams campaign will make pledge cards a standard part of its campaign events….“A lot of our constituencies are ‘persuasion voters,’” Groh-Wargo said. That doesn’t mean swing voters, she said, because they’re not choosing between Abrams and Kemp — they’re deciding whether to back Abrams or not vote at all.”

In. “Will The Polls Overestimate Democrats Again?” Nate Silver writes at FiveThirtyEight: “As Democrats’ prospects for the midterms have improved — they’re now up to a 71 percent chance of keeping the Senate and a 29 percent chance of retaining the House, according to the 2022 FiveThirtyEight midterm election forecast1 — I’ve observed a corresponding increase in concern among liberals that the polls might overestimate Democrats’ position again, as they did in 2016 and 2020. Even among commenters who are analyzing the race from an arm’s-length distance, there sometimes seems to be a presumption that the polls will be biased toward Democrats….The best version of this argument comes from Other Nate (Nate Cohn, of The New York Times). He pointed out in a piece on Monday that states such as Wisconsin and Ohio where Democratic Senate candidates are outperforming FiveThirtyEight’s fundamentals index — like how the state has voted in other recent elections — were also prone to significant polling errors in 2020. Cohn’s analysis is worth reading in full….As I mentioned, the Deluxe version of our forecast gives Democrats a 71 percent and 29 percent chance of keeping the Senate and House, respectively. But the Deluxe forecast isn’t just based on polls: It incorporates the fundamentals I mentioned earlier, along with expert ratings about these races. Furthermore, it accounts for the historical tendency of the president’s party to perform poorly at the midterms, President Biden’s mediocre (although improving) approval rating and the fact that Democrats may not perform as well in polls of likely voters as among registered voters….By contrast, the Lite version of our forecast, which is more or less a “polls-only” view of the race, gives Democrats an 81 percent chance of keeping the Senate and a 41 percent chance of keeping the House.” Silver goes on to issue a 7-point rebuttal to the argument that recent polls have a pro-Democratic bias. It’s a smidge wonky, but a good read for all political junkies.

A couple of House seat ratings change in favor of Democrats, both in New Hampshire. At Sabato’s Crystal Ball, J. Miles Coleman reports, “Pappas, who now starts the general election campaign with $3 million in the bank, is still in for what could be a challenging race, but we feel comfortable calling him a modest favorite. So NH-1 moves to Leans Democratic.” Coleman adds that for NH-2, “we are holding our rating for it as Leans Democratic….While the map retains 2 competitive districts, we now have both in the Leans Democratic category. Aside from the results of last night’s primaries, where Republicans didn’t seem to put their collective best foot forward, this is also because of the improving national environment for Democrats. On the latter point, it may be worth noting that, with abortion becoming an increasingly salient issue this cycle, New Hampshire is, by some measures, among the states most supportive of abortion rights.” In. his article, “Rating Change: Kuster’s NH-02 Moves from Toss Up to Lean Democrat,” David Wasserman writes at The Cook Political Report, “Sometimes meddling in the other side’s primaries works; other times it backfires. In the case of New Hampshire’s 2nd CD, Democrats’ gambit worked. In a gift to Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster (NH-02), underfunded pro-Trump Republican Bob Burns toppled GOP leaders’ star recruit, moderate Keene Mayor George Hansel, 33%-30% — a result that wouldn’t have been possible if not for $569,000 spent by a liberal Super PAC propping up Burns.”

How Hopeful Should Democrats Be About the Midterms?” Benjamin Wallace-Wells addresses the question at The New Yorker: “The Trump-era realignment poses a different challenge for Democrats. Their voting base and candidates mostly share political aims; the problem is that there simply may not be enough working-class Democratic voters to form a majority in key districts and battleground states. In response, Biden-era Democrats have mostly trusted that the threat of Trump will keep their educated base intact, while focussing on targeted material support for working-class voters: generous pandemic-relief checks and cheaper prescription drugs. This was, essentially, why Biden was picked as the nominee in the first place—he had support among voters without college degrees that the other candidates simply could not match….But the Democrats have also got a bit lucky. In the most competitive Senate races, their candidates are especially adept. The list includes Mark Kelly, the former astronaut, in Arizona; Mandela Barnes, the first Black lieutenant governor in state history, in Wisconsin; and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, who has won three statewide races in Nevada. But Democratic prospects hinge especially on their candidates in the two Senate seats most likely to flip: Senator Raphael Warnock, the pastor of Martin Luther King, Jr.,’s church, in Georgia, and Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, the cargo-shorts-wearing former mayor of the blue-collar city of Braddock, in Pennsylvania. Both Warnock’s and Fetterman’s biographies insulate them somewhat from the Republican line that Democrats are out-of-touch élitists….Much like the Republicans, the Democrats have responded to education polarization by following a path of least resistance, theorizing that they do not need to change their commitments on abortion, climate policy, student-debt relief, and L.G.B.T.Q. rights in order to maintain a majority. This strategy has put enormous pressure on their swing-state candidates, who, in order to win in November, will likely need to secure the support of many voters who disapprove of Biden’s performance as President—without being able to distinguish themselves from the White House ideologically. A recurring question in American politics, given the electoral map’s bias toward rural areas, is how Democrats will seek to win in moderate and conservative places. Liberals might be heartened by the approach of Warnock, Fetterman, and the class of 2022, who are more forthrightly progressive on both economic and social issues and rely on their personas and the extremism of the Trump-era Republicans to make a broader appeal. But, for their politics to stick, those politicians, running in states that are not especially progressive, need to win.”

Political Strategy Notes

Gregory Krieg, Eric. Bradner, and Dan Merica share “Seven takeaways from the 2022 primary season” at CNN Politics, including their perspectives on: candidate quality; GOP infighting; Trump’s influence; increased election deniers on ballots; the abortion ruling; the economy and outside spending in Democratic primaries. As regards the inflation and abortion issues, the authors write: “Republicans like Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota, the head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, have attempted to define this election as “a grocery and gas election,” using inflation as an albatross to hang around every Democratic candidate’s neck….Abortion has complicated that message – putting Republicans in districts on defense – but with eight weeks to go before Election Day, whether the economy or abortion is the most motivating issue for voters will determine who is better positioned to hold or win the majority….Democrats across the country have now adopted similar messaging. Their candidates could also benefit from added turnout in states like Michigan, which, like Kansas, is holding an abortion rights referendum….Republicans have largely sought to downplay the issue, insisting in many cases that abortion is not, as Democrats say, “on the ballot.” But new federal legislation to ban abortion after 15 weeks nationwide, introduced by GOP South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham this week, could undercut their argument.”

At The Conversation, Gina Woodall explains why “Arizona’s Latino voters and political independents could spell midterm defeats for MAGA candidates.” As Woodall writes,The victories of extremist GOP candidates and open support of baseless conspiracy theories have added a volatile ingredient to the politics of Arizona, where a historically conservative electorate is undergoing dramatic political shifts due to changing demographics….Over the past 10 years, residents who identify solely as white saw their numbers shrink from 73% in 2010 to 60% in 2020. At the same time, the number of residents who identified as more than one race grew from 3.4% in 2010 to nearly 14% in 2020….In all, Arizona has close to 7.5 million residents, and over 30% of them identify as Latino. Over the past decade, the state’s Latino population grew from 1.9 million to 2.2 million. By some estimates, Latinos could make up as much as 50% of the state’s population by 2050….If national statistics are any indication, Latino voters tend to support Democrats. In a March 2022 poll, about 48% of Latinos nationwide considered themselves Democrats, and only 23% identified as Republican….In Arizona, the numbers are similar….According to a 2022 study, Latinos are more likely to be Democrats than non-Latinos are, with 45% of Latinos affiliating with the Democratic Party, compared with 28% of non-Latinos. Less than 15% of Latinos are registered as Republicans, the report found, and 40% are registered as “other” and are not affiliated with either major party….The growth of Latino voters in Arizona contributed to Joe Biden’s win in 2020 – and also the elections of Democrats Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema to the U.S. Senate….Among registered voters, the GOP has about 1.5 million residents, or 35%. Nearly 1.3 million voters are registered as Democrats, while about 1.4 million, or about 34%, registered as other or independent….With such an equal split among political parties, election outcomes rely more on voter turnout. In the past two presidential elections, the number of registered voters who cast ballots jumped from about 2.6 million, or 74%, in 2016 to 3.4 million, or nearly 80%, in 2020.”

Thom Hartmann warns in  a “Scam Alert! Beware the GOP’s Other Midterm Effort to Halt Democracy. Purging Democratic voters from the rolls has now gone nationwide, at least in states where voting is controlled by Republicans” at Common Dreams. Hartman provides a description of how “caging” is used to remove likely Democratic voters from the voter rolls, and notes “This is called caging, a term that comes out of the junk-mail business where address-unknown mail returned by the Post Office was put in a separate physical “cage” in the mailing warehouse so those names could be removed from the mailing lists to avoid paying postage to them in the future….Applied to voting, it simply involves purging or removing people from the voting rolls when they fail to return the above-mentioned letters or postcards or they’re returned as undeliverable….Karl Rove and his protégé, Timothy Griffin, were apparently heavily involved in caging efforts in Ohio in 2004, although when Congress tried to look into it President Bush invoked Executive Privilege and shut down the investigation, as noted by the William Mitchell Law Review in 2008….Because of all the noise around the 2004 election and Rove’s alleged caging efforts, Husted reinvented it in a new and highly selective fashion that he thought would gain approval from the 5 Republicans on the Supreme Court: Start with the addresses of those voters who’d failed to vote in previous (typically midterm) elections, and send the caging letters only to them, using the excuse that Ohio was “just trying to verify that they hadn’t moved.”….Using this strategy and others, as the Brennan Center for Justice noted, Republicans purged over 17 million Americans from voting rolls nationwide just between 2016 and 2018….The last time Brian Kemp faced Stacey Abrams for governor of Georgia, for example, he purged 107,000 people off the voting rolls just prior to the election, all of them registered voters who failed to return a caging card….He “won” by 50,000 votes…” Democrats will have their hands full in the midterms, trying to stop Republican election deniers from stealing votes in the counting process. But ‘caging’ is clearly still a major Republican tactic for suppressing black votes. Democratic attorneys will be spread thin during the election week. Lawyers who want to help monitor and challenge GOP caging should check in with state and district Democratic parties.

“Republicans across the country have recently turned hard to public safety as they begin to shape their general election message,” David Siders writes at Politico. “On Tuesday, the final primary day of the year, Ronna McDaniel, the Republican National Committee chair, laid out the GOP’s view of the midterm as an election “about the economy and crime.”….Violent crime is up in many parts of the country. The issue polls well for the GOP. And in addition to motivating base Republicans — crime is the kind of red-meat issue that pairs well with border security for hard-liners — it’s something that may resonate with moderates in the suburbs, too….For those voters, it isn’t that Republicans expect crime to matter more than inflation or the economy in November. It likely won’t. But where crime could help the GOP is in countering another cultural issue that is hurting the party right now — the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade….Those suburbanites Republicans are losing on abortion? Put crime on their minds and you have something political professionals call “permission” to vote the other way — elevating an issue other than abortion policy to be afraid of, with a different conclusion about which party to support….Still, as CCTV footage of crimes in progress and video of fearful children and their parents start hitting TV sets in shadowy ads this fall, there are likely limits to how effective the onslaught will be….Donald Trump employed tough-on-crime rhetoric in his own campaign in 2020. But even amid protests following the police murder of George Floyd, crime and safety ranked as the top issue for just 11 percent of the electorate, according to exit polls….“I don’t know if it’s going to have a huge, national wave of folks voting Republican because of their stance on crime,” said Douglas Wilson, a longtime Democratic strategist in North Carolina. “But I think district by district, they may be able to peel off some voters.”….Democrats may also be less vulnerable on crime than in 2020, as many in the party have distanced themselves from the unpopularity of the “Defund the Police” movement….President Joe Biden, among other Democrats, has called explicitly for the government to “fund the police.” Outside groups are spending to prop up incumbent House members’ credentials on crime. And Democrats have a record to point to on police funding, including in last year’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package.”