washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

In “Working-Class Joe,” Robert Kuttner warns at American Prospect: “Biden’s several public-investment laws serve as a full-employment act for the building trades, extending into much of the next decade. In Biden’s TV ads, how about a real-life construction worker, and a real-life autoworker, telling what Biden has done for them and why they support him. How about a stressed parent telling how much difference the Child Tax Credit made in their lives, and why a vote for Biden and a Democratic Congress is a vote to restore and extend it….“Our House, Senate, and state legislative candidates are significantly outperforming Biden and make every branch competitive in 2024,” pollster Stan Greenberg told me. “The polling in the battleground states shows him running significantly better than 2020. Critically, he can run stronger if he stops talking about their accomplishments and makes the election a future choice with the Republicans, on the very same issues he has been speaking about.”….Getting this right is urgent. The most recent Washington Post/ABC poll, if accurate, suggests the risk of a catastrophe in 2024 for Democrats. Not only is Biden’s approval rating down to 37 percent favorable and 56 percent unfavorable. His rating on the economy is even worse, 30 percent positive to 64 percent negative….The Post poll is something of an outlier. It shows Biden trailing Trump by ten points while other polls show the race as a dead heat. And it shows Trump as more popular now than when he left office. It even shows that more voters hold Democrats than Republicans responsible for the budget impasse….But even if the Post poll overstates these trends because of sample error, there is a useful warning here. The Trump years are remembered by many voters as better than the Biden years—no inflation, low interest rates, no war in Ukraine, no pandemic until 2020. This is grossly unfair, but life is unfair; and Trump will work to maximize this perception.”

Trump is weaker among independents than Republicans in primary polls,” Geoffrey Skelley notes at Five ThirtyEight: ” Primary polling suggests that Trump is not performing as well among Republican-leaning independents and unaffiliated voters who plan to vote in the GOP nomination race as he is among self-identified Republicans. And past Republican presidential primaries have demonstrated that independent voters can make up a significant chunk of the electorate in early voting states and, if their preferences differ markedly from Republicans, can influence outcomes….To be clear, Trump usually leads among independent voters in primary polls — just by smaller margins than he does among self-identified Republicans. In what may be an obvious point, his large advantage among Republicans matters a great deal considering far more Republicans will vote in the GOP contest than independents (or Democrats, for that matter). During the competitive periods of the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Republican presidential primaries, around 70 to 75 percent of primary and caucus voters identified as Republican, according to ABC News’s aggregate exit poll data, while about 20 to 25 percent identified as independent or something else (5 percent or fewer identified as Democrats). But if the Republican race does tighten in the next few months, the preferences of independent voters could matter, particularly in New Hampshire, which has one of the largest blocs of unaffiliated voters of any state in the country….Throughout the campaign, we’ve seen Trump perform better among Republicans than among GOP-leaning independents in primary polls. For instance, a May 2023 Quinnipiac University poll found Trump attracting 60 percent among Republicans, but just 46 percent among Republican-leaning independents. Earlier this month, Quinnipiac found Trump pulling in 67 percent of Republicans, compared with 47 percent of GOP leaners. And across national surveys conducted since Aug. 1 with available crosstab data, we usually saw a meaningful gap in support for Trump between Republicans and independents….We’re also seeing the split between Republicans and independents in state-level polling, too, which is important because parties don’t use a nationalprimary to determine their nominees. Instead, they employ a sequential, state-by-state process in which the places that vote first influence — sometimes more, sometimes less — the elections that follow. So if the race becomes more competitive than it is right now, independents who cast a ballot in the GOP primary could influence the outcome, especially in independent-rich New Hampshire.”

From “Democrats Are on a Winning Streak That Could Transform Our Politics” by John Nichols at The Nation: “In the past few days, Democrats have secured majority control of the Pennsylvania House and moved within one seat of ending Republican control of the New Hampshire House. Those wins are not aberrations. They are the latest measures of a nationwide blue wave that has seen Democrats outperform expectations in 24 of 30 special elections for open state legislative seats this year. Legislative contests that were once considered local or regional races are being nationalized, as concerns about abortion rights and voting rights—two issues that are up for grabs in statehouses—are putting Republican candidates in a perilous position….in recent years, Democrats have begun to pay more attention to down-ballot races. At the same time, as the GOP has lurched toward right-wing extremism, Republicans have struggled to defend positions that a lot of voters find indefensible….That’s changing the game for Republicans, who are suddenly on a serious losing streak….On average, according to a fresh assessment by the data crunchers at FiveThirtyEight, Democrats are finishing 11 points better than the historic voting patterns of their districts would have predicted. That doesn’t mean that they are winning every race; sometimes, they are merely closing the gap in heavily Republican districts. But in other cases, Democrats are flipping Republican seats and raising the prospect that they will take control of legislative chambers that are currently controlled by the GOP….What’s going on? Why, at a point when Democrats are fretting about President Joe Biden’s weak poll numbers and about the prospect of losing the Senate in 2024 contests that are weighted against them, are the party’s candidates doing so well in state legislative races?….GOP candidates find themselves in far more precarious positions than casual observations of Biden’s low approval ratings might suggest….The polls may be concerning, but actual election results are not just looking good for the party. They’re looking excellent.”

Walter Shapiro has encouraging words for Democrats in”Yes, the Polls Are Bad for Biden. But Republicans Still Have It Much Worse” at The New Republic, including: “The Republican Party is fast becoming the political version of the 1962 Mets. On every front, they are booting easy double-play ground balls and missing bases with Marvelous Marv–like abandon. From embodying chaos theory in the House to genuflecting before the Great God Trump in the presidential race, Republicans can’t get a handle on how to play the game of politics. They have forgotten that it’s all about winning elections, not catering to the self-indulgent fantasies of the party’s right-wing base….let me advance a contrarian notion that isn’t quite a prediction: Maybe the willful self-destructiveness of the Republican Party will finally catch up with them. Sooner or later, American politics will give us an old-fashioned blowout election. And while I don’t minimize potential Democratic problems such as Biden’s age, dwindling enthusiasm among Black and Hispanic voters, and stubborn skepticism of the president’s economic record, a case can be made that the handicappers and railbirds are underestimating the consequences of the GOP’s embrace of funeral-pyre politics….Not only is a government shutdown virtually inevitable on October 1, but there is also scant evidence that the House Republicans can claim that they tried to do anything to avert it….Since 1995, the GOP has triggered three major federal work stoppages, all of which ended with a full-scale Republican retreat and dismal poll numbers. This time around, the House Freedom Caucus rebels don’t even have an articulate set of demands, just primal rage. They are barely even paying lip service to past justifications of shutdowns, namely the need to rein in federal spending….For a political party that has made a fetish out of portraying the Democrats as weak on national security, the Republicans will be hard-pressed to shout, “Support the troops,” when a government shutdown means that two million military personnel will receive delayed paychecks….Republicans are likely to bet the presidency on the nutcase notion that swing voters will be attracted to the spectacle of the former president in the dock.”

Teixeira: Workers Bark Back on “The Green Dream or Whatever”

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, politics editor of The Liberal Patriot newsletter and co-author with John B. Judis of the forthcoming book “Where Have All the Democrats Gone?,” is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

Back in 2019, Nancy Pelosi seemed unenthusiastic about a Green New Deal, referring to it as “the green dream or whatever they call it.” But a funny thing happened between then and now. The Democrats wound up embracing the basic idea and instantiated a scaled-down version of it in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

Lately, there’s been rough sledding for the IRA and its priorities, as the UAW has called a nationwide strike not only for better pay and benefits but also to protesthow the IRA’s electric vehicle (EV) component is being implemented. UAW workers are far from convinced a rapid transition to electric vehicles is really going to benefit them. They’ve got a point given that manufacturers are rushing to build facilities in non-union states and that EV production needs fewer workers overall than production of traditional internal combustion engine (ICE) cars.

It’s worth reviewing how Democrats have managed, in a sense, to paint themselves into a corner on energy-related issues. Cast your mind back to 2017, a couple of years before Nancy Pelosi derisively referred to the Green New Deal as “the green dream or whatever.” That was the year the Sunrise Movement was formed, with the tagline “We are the climate revolution.” The basic idea was that the globe was teetering of the verge of apocalypse, especially in the wake of Trump’s election, and that the Democrats’ incrementalist “all-of-the-above” approach from the Obama years was completely bankrupt. Showing the extent to which this brand of catastrophist climate politics was winning support, the group was initially funded by the Sierra Club, an old-line environmental organization that traditionally advocated for gradual reform and steered clear of radical organizations.

Sunrise crystallized the sense among radical climate activists that time was running out and it was necessary to ratchet up pressure and tactics, including direct action and civil disobedience, to force a rapid transition to clean energy. Enough, said Sunrise cofounder Varshini Prakash, with “pathetic incrementalism.” The group advocated for a Green New Deal—a term previously used by columnist Thomas Friedman, the U.S. Green Party, and even Bernie Sanders in 2016—that would completely transform the economy in the process of attaining carbon neutrality by 2030. The goal of their aggressive tactics, said Prakash, was to “make it politically impossible for a Democratic lawmaker to vote no on the Green New Deal.”

Initially they focused their energy on allying with politicians who would support that approach and, through that, pressuring others to do so. They hit the jackpot when newly elected Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) joined the organization in a sit-in at Nancy Pelosi’s congressional office in November 2018, greatly elevating its profile. Riding the wave of publicity from this sit-in, Sunrise and allies pushed incoming members of Congress to support the formation of a Congressional Select Committee specifically on the Green New Deal. They got forty congressional sponsors to sign on including Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). The idea failed but publicity kept building.

In December, Sunrise staged another larger sit-in at Pelosi and Steny Hoyer’s offices, resulting in 143 arrests. Over three hundred local elected officials from forty states issued a letter endorsing a Green New Deal. In January, over six hundred environmental and progressive organizations, including Sunrise and 350.org, did likewise. In the groups’ letter, they urged a Green New Deal that would end all fossil fuel usage, including natural gas. They explicitly rejected the use of nuclear or CCS to achieve emission objectives. The transition was to be to 100 percent renewables.

In February 2019, Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Edward Markey (D-MA) formally introduced a congressional resolution advocating a Green New Deal. This Green New Deal proposal was everything the radicals at Sunrise could have wished for and more. The proposal affirmed that the United States must become net zero on carbon emissions by 2030 through a dramatic and far-reaching transformation of every aspect of the economy. And far from entailing sacrifice, this economic transformation would provide full employment in high-wage jobs, accompanied by universal high-quality health care and housing. It would end all oppression of indigenous people, “communities of color,” migrant communities, and other “frontline and vulnerable communities.” Who could ask for anything more?

The full employment aspect of the proposal was key to making it politically palatable. It countered the obvious objection that eliminating fossil fuels so quickly and disrupting the economy might result in job loss and lower wages. The proposal asserted that, on the contrary, there would be more jobs and they would all be high-wage. No trade-offs at all would be necessary.

The proposal generated enormous publicity and was injected into the mainstream of Democratic Party discourse. Six senators who would become contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination endorsed it: Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Sanders would go on to release a $16.3 trillion Green New Deal plan of his own during his campaign for the Democratic nomination.

Of course, none of these hopefuls garnered the Democratic nomination; Joe Biden did. However, while Biden declined to specifically endorse and use the Green New Deal language, he did put forward his own ambitious climate plan that was essentially a softer version of the Green New Deal proposals. And once in office he has very much pursued his plan, resulting in the aforementioned IRA.

It is fair to say that Biden and the entire Democratic Party have more or less embraced the following catechism:

Climate change is not a danger that is gradually occurring, but an imminent crisis that is already upon us in extreme weather events. It threatens the existence of the planet if immediate, drastic action is not taken. That action must include the immediate replacement of fossil fuels, including natural gas, by renewables, wind and solar, which are cheap and can be introduced right now if sufficient resources are devoted to doing so, and which, unlike nuclear power, are safe. Not only that, the immediate replacement of fossil fuels by renewables will make energy cheaper and provide high wage jobs.

People resist rapidly eliminating fossil fuels only because of propaganda from the fossil fuel industry. Any of the problems with renewables that are being cited, such as their intermittency and reliability, are being solved. This means that as we use more renewables and cut out fossil fuels, political support for the transition to clean energy should go up because of the benefits to consumers and workers.

Pretty much every sentence in this catechism is, if not outright false, highly questionable. But the catechism is not to be questioned among good Democrats, least of all Biden himself. A recent New York Times article detailed his aggressive climate plans for a second term, featuring heavy regulation of steel and cement plants, factories and oil refineries. That will no doubt endear him to workers in those industries, just has he has endeared himself to America’s autoworkers.

But hey, you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. As Biden put it in the Times article:

The only existential threat humanity faces even more frightening than a nuclear war is global warming going above 1.5 degrees in the next 20 — 10 years. That’d be real trouble. There’s no way back from that.

More frightening than nuclear war, eh? I guess that means we can’t worry about trivial things like workers’ jobs in high-paying industries.

The fact is that the working class did not really sign up for the rapid green transition envisioned by Biden and most Democrats. Therefore, when their jobs or living standards are collateral damage in the push toward “Net Zero”, they are unlikely to cut the Democrats much slack on what is, after all, not their project or even a top priority for them.

As the Times article noted:

While 54 percent of adults polled by Pew said climate change was a major threat to the country’s well-being, respondents ranked it 17th out of 21 national issues in a January survey. “Even for Democrats, who say it’s important, it’s not the top issue,” said Alec Tyson, a researcher who helped conduct the survey.

Workers are more oriented toward a gradual, “all-of-the-above” approach to transitioning the energy system than to the frantic push for renewables and electric vehicles (not to mention heat pumps, electric stoves, etc.) that characterizes Green New Deal-type thinking. In a recent survey conducted by YouGov for The Liberal Patriot, just a quarter of working-class (noncollege) voters embraced the Democrats’ current approach, emphasizing ending the use of fossil fuels and rapidly adopting renewables. This was actually less than the number (29 percent) that flat-out supported production of fossil fuels and opposed green energy projects. The dominant position by far was an all-of-the above approach that called for cheap, abundant energy from many sources, including oil, gas, renewables, and nuclear, favored by 46 percent of voters.

Supporters of (as Nancy Pelosi would put it) “the green dream or whatever” have convinced themselves that their approach would involve no real trade-offs and make everyone happy and better off. Workers, to put mildly, don’t see it that way. The UAW strike is just the latest manifestation of that hard political reality. There will likely be many more if the Democrats do not revise their approach to energy issues so it aligns more with the priorities of working-class voters and less with those of today’s climate activists.

Edsall: The Roots of ‘Affective Polarization’

Some insights from “‘A Perfect Storm for the Ambitious, Extreme Ideologue’” by New York Times opinion essayist Thomas B. Edsall:

“Five political scientists — Shanto Iyengar, Yphtach Lelkes, Matthew Levendusky, Neil Malhotra and Sean J. Westwood — have constructed a definition of affective polarization:

While previously polarization was primarily seen only in issue-based terms, a new type of division has emerged in the mass public in recent years: Ordinary Americans increasingly dislike and distrust those from the other party. Democrats and Republicans both say that the other party’s members are hypocritical, selfish, and closed-minded, and they are unwilling to socialize across party lines. This phenomenon of animosity between the parties is known as affective polarization.

In their examination of affective polarization in advanced democracies, Boxell, Gentzkow and Shapiro tracked patterns in 12 countries over the 40 years from 1980 to 2020 and found that

The U.S. exhibited the largest increase in affective polarization over this period. In five other countries — Switzerland, France, Denmark, Canada, and New Zealand — polarization also rose, but to a lesser extent. In six other countries — Japan, Australia, Britain, Norway, Sweden, and Germany — polarization fell.

In 1978, they write, “the average (American) partisan rated in-party members 27.4 points higher than out-party members”; by 2020, the difference had doubled, to 56.3 points.

The authors stress that they are measuring the rate of increase in the levels of polarization, as opposed to comparing absolute levels of polarization in different countries.

“In the case of affective polarization, Edsall notes, “the authors collected “data on trends in economic, media, demographic and political factors that may be related to” partisan animosity and found that “trends in measures of inequality, openness to trade, the share getting news online, and the fraction foreign-born are either negatively or weakly associated with trends in affective polarization….Conversely, “trends in the number of 24-hour news channels, the nonwhite share, partisan sorting, and elite polarization are positively associated with trends in affective polarization. The association is strongest for the nonwhite share and elite polarization.”

Edsall shares a point made by Dartmouth professor Sean Westwood: “This subservience to party, in Westwood’s view, is driven by “activists on both sides of the aisle who have reframed political conflict as a battle over moral truth and not a conflict over issue positions. If you disagree with the other party’s stance on an issue, you are not just wrong, but amoral.” We don’t negotiate well in American politics; we just bellow at each other.

The phenomenon has gotten much worse in recent years, although it is not really all that new. Readers with a long memory may remember the Saturday Night Live ‘Point/Counterpoint’ skits with Dan Akroyd’s Jack Kilpatrick and Jane Curtin’s Shana Alexander, in which every liberal-conservative policy disagreement is paired with increasingly harsh personal insults. Or go back much further and check out the mud-slinging in the 1796 presidential election.

Edsall quotes NYU historian Steven Hahn: “A confluence of developments over the last several decades has led to polarization among parties and many voters. These include: the stagnation of wages and salaries for the white middle and working class since the 1970s; the process of deindustrialization and the weakening of the labor movement; the recognition that white people will become a numerical minority by the middle of the 21st century, and the related belief that people of color have become the political clients of the Democratic Party (a party which has until very recently abandoned social democratic ambitions and instead also cultivated segments of the college-educated upper middle class).”

Lots of fodder for argument there. But I would say amen to Hahn’s points about wage stagnation, deindustrialization and the weakening of the labor movement. Pair that with stratospheric tuition costs which make a mockery of the idea that one’s kids will have better living standards, and you have a ‘perfect storm’ for working class discontent, as well as “the ambitious, extreme ideologue.” Another amen for Jefferson Cowie’s observation that “In most social and political indicators of advanced industrial nations, the United States is an outlier in terms of inequality and the attendant negative social and political outcomes.”

Edsall also discusses the possibility that the two party system divides Americans into rigid ideological camps, while the multiparty democracies of other nations may reduce affective polarization. In these nations, there may be more of a “let’s split the difference, create a coalition and move on” attitude toward policy disagreements and governing. Check out the Danish TV series “Borgen” on Netflix for a few clues as to how this works.

Edsall has more to say about the causes of our deepening divisions. Anyone interested in getting a better understanding of the ‘affective polarization’ that has exacerbated America’s problems should give Edsall’s essay a thoughtful read.

Are Biden’s Liabilities Overstated?

By now you’ve probably read some of the chicken little analysis explaining why President Biden and Democrats are screwed for 2024. If you haven’t read it yet, don’t worry. There will be more of it to read – lots more. The doomsayers may be right. There are some worrisome polls 14 months out from the election. But some of it is just premature nail-biting. Consider some of the more balanced takes.

For example, from Harry Enten’s “Three reasons Biden’s problems appear to be overblown” at CNN Politics:

“But while Biden clearly has problems – no president with an approval rating hovering around 40% is in good shape – some of his issues appear to be overblown at this time. Here are three reasons why”:

1. Biden’s going to win the Democratic primary, unless something drastic happens.

2. The impeachment inquiry isn’t damaging Biden … yet.

3. Voters don’t like the state of the economy; it may not matter that much.

Do read Enten’s entire article. And maybe check out some of the more optimistic takes, including here, here and here. For now, we’ll just quote a bit from Enten’s third point:

Stop me if you heard this one before: Biden is the president heading into an election, voters are unhappy with the state of the economy, and his party does much better in the elections than a lot of people thought.

That’s what happened in the 2022 midterms.

The inflation rate is lower now than it was then, but it’s on the uptick. Voters, both now and then, overwhelmingly disapprove of Biden’s handling of the economy. They even say the economy matters more than any other issue, like they did in 2022.

What none of this data takes into account is that Americans almost always call the economy the top issue, according to Gallup.

….It’s not as if the economy is helping Biden. I’m just not sure it’s hurting him.

After all, there’s a reason why Democrats have consistently outperformed the 2020 presidential baseline in special elections this year.

If things were really that bad for Biden and the Democrats, they’d most likely be losing elections all over the country. That simply isn’t happening at this point.

Yes, keep in mind that commentators and voters sometimes get a little tipsy on culture war distractions. Nonetheless, fourteen months from now, a lot of the more sober swing voters may be thinking versions of “Sure, Biden is kinda old. But Trump is no spring chicken. My economic situation could be better. But the economy seems to be on a modest upswing. Is now really a good time to bet everything on a guy with all of Trump’s messy problems and let him run the world? My guess is no.” (could be a rant for a Democratic ad).

So place your bets on chicken little or Walter Mitty or something in between. But no matter who says what, no one really knows what is going to happen on election day, 2024.

Political Strategy Notes

Get over yourself because “The Cake Is Baked. Deal With It. Stop moaning about replacing Biden and Harris. This is the 2024 Democratic ticket, whether you like it or not,” David Faris writes writes at Slate. The title is a bit misleading because the article is only about Biden replacing Harris, which clearly ain’t happening. As Faris, explains: “Like most recommendations brought to us by op-ed columnists with too much time on their hands, casting Kamala Harris aside is a dreadful idea—not only because it has almost zero chance of actually happening, but because it would clearly cause more problems than it would solve….“Maybe the president should dump the veep” is a Beltway parlor game as old as time. Or at least as old as the writers doing the speculating. There were calls for George H.W. Bush to replace Dan Quayle with Colin Powell in 1992, and gossip that George W. Bush would toss the gruff Dick Cheney overboard in 2004. Before the 2012 election, some thought that Barack Obama, reeling from his historic “sh ellacking” in the 2010 midterms, should eighty-six then–Vice President Biden and replace him with his 2008 rival, Hillary Clinton. In 2019, D.C. was rife with rumors that Mike Pence would be sacked as Trump’s running mate for former U.N. Ambassador and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley….Not to give away the ending to Titanic here, but none of these incumbents cashiered their vice presidents. No elected incumbent in the binding primary era that began in 1972 has switched running mates before standing for reelection….it is hard to imagine a core Democratic constituency that Biden can less afford to deliberately alienate than Black women, who gave the president an 81-point margin in 2020, according to exit polls—especially at a time when pollsters keep warning that turnout among voters of color is one of the president’s worst potential problems….If Democrats are worried about her favorability ratings, they should remember that the best thing they could do for them is to somehow boost Biden’s.”

Salon’s “Just lean in, Joe: Biden needs to embrace his old age: The Ronald Reagan strategy is not working. It’s time for Biden to get serious about his biggest vulnerability” by Jason Kyle Howard makes some good points. As Howard writes, “Despite his numerous attempts to embrace the subject with humor, such as his jokes at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner in April, a decrease in concern about his age has not been reflected in polling numbers….Instead of joking about it, hoping the chatter will dissipate and dismissing concerns out of hand, Biden should follow the lead of his predecessors and give an address on aging, one that will kick-start a national conversation that is much needed, not only in our politics but also in our personal lives…. Kennedy and Obama knew that the central question voters had about their candidacies was this: can I come to terms with, can I accept, what I most fear? In their speeches, both had the confidence to allow themselves to, as the Poynter Institute’s Roy Peter Clark observed about Obama, become characters in narratives about religion and race. They had the confidence to act as mirrors for the public. Whether he likes it or not, Biden now occupies the same position. He reflects the declining conditions of our aging parents and grandparents, as well as fears for our own mortality. Like Kennedy with religion and Obama with race, Biden should refuse to allow such a complex, vital topic as aging to be reduced to a caricature created by fear….Everyone ages differently, and Biden could point to the stories of everyday Americans who continue to lead active and productive lives well into their late 80s and 90s. Sometimes, he should say, age actually is just a number….Crucially, he should also make a pledge to never lie or conceal information about his health, which would serve as a contrast with Trump’s most recent apparent lie about his health….Confronting his age head-on in a national address could serve to remind voters what they liked about Biden in the first place, and what polls indicate still resonates: his candor. For decades, he  has constructed his political image as an unfiltered straight-shooter who “stands up for what he believes in.” From the infamous “big f**king deal” observation to Obama at the Affordable Care Act signing ceremony, to pre-empting his boss by endorsing marriage equality in an interview in 2012, Biden has often been able to cut through the political noise with frankness. Leading a national conversation on aging would maintain his brand of candid talk.”

Ari Berman has a warning at Mother Jones, in his article “New Report: One-Third of States Have an Election Denier Overseeing Elections: The movement to subvert American democracy is far from dead.” As Berman observes, “Twenty-three election deniers in 17 states serve as either governor, attorney general, or secretary of state, according to a new report released this week by the States United Democracy Center, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for fair elections. That means a third of the country has an election denier in statewide office overseeing their elections….According to the group, three election deniers are running for president—Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and California radio host Larry Elder—while a number of other GOP presidential hopefuls have amplified false claims about the 2020 election. Five election deniers are on the ballot in key statewide races in Louisiana and Mississippi this year….Based on misinformation spread by far-right conspiracy theorists, nine GOP-controlled states have withdrawn from the Electronic Registration Information Center, an interstate partnership that helps make sure voter rolls are accurate by comparing voter registration data among states….  In Wisconsin, Republicans in the state Senate voted Thursday to oust the nonpartisan administrator of the state’s elections commission, Meagan Wolfe, in a bid to give election deniers and conspiracy theorists more control over how elections are run in the state. (The state’s attorney general is challenging the move in court, claiming Republicans don’t have the power to remove Wolfe because she was not formally renominated by the Wisconsin Elections Commission.)….In North Carolina, Republicans are on the verge of enacting two bills that would undermine fair elections. The GOP-controlled legislature passed one bill last month that undercuts Election Day registration, gives voters less time to cast ballots by mail, and expands voter challenges. The legislation was inspired, at least in part, by conservative activist Cleta Mitchell, one of the architects of Trump’s effort to overturn the election. Another bill that is close to final passage would prevent the state’s Democratic governor from appointing a majority of members to state and county election boards and lower the threshold needed to redo an election….In Texas, the GOP-controlled legislature voted in May to abolish the position of election administrator and give the GOP-appointed secretary of state the power to take over election operations exclusively in Houston’s Harris County, the most populous blue county in the state….“In some states, legislators are taking all sorts of steps to make life harder for trusted nonpartisan election officials, including firing them and stripping away their power,” Lydate says. “All fueled by conspiracy theories. This is just one piece of an entire election denier industry. It’s in state legislatures, on the campaign trail, in the media. It’s a whole movement that puts lies above free and fair elections, and we have to call it out everywhere we see it.”

In “With democracy on the ballot, the mainstream press must change its ways,” Margaret Sullivan writes at The Guardian, “The big problem is that the mainstream media wants to be seen as non-partisan – a reasonable goal – and bends over backwards to accomplish this. If this means equalizing an anti-democratic candidate with a pro-democracy candidate, then so be it….Add to this the obsession with the “horse race” aspect of the campaign, and the profit-driven desire to increase the potential news audience to include Trump voters, and you’ve got the kind of problematic coverage discussed above….It’s fearful, it’s defensive, it’s entertainment – and click-focused, and it’s mired in the washed-up practices of an earlier era….The big solution? Remember at all times what our core mission is: to communicate truthfully, keeping top of mind that we have a public service mission to inform the electorate and hold powerful people to account. If that’s our north star, as it should be, every editorial judgment will reflect that….Headlines will include context, not just deliver political messaging. Overall politics coverage will reflect “not the odds, but the stakes”, as NYU’s Jay Rosen elegantly put it. Lies and liars won’t get a platform and a megaphone….And media leaders will think hard about the big picture of what they are getting across to the public, and whether it is fair and truthful. Imagine if the New York Times, among others, had stopped and done a course correction on their over-the-top coverage of Clinton’s emails during the 2016 campaign. We might be living in a different world….Can the mainstream press rise to the challenge over the next year?….“When one of our two political parties has become so extremist and anti-democratic”, the old ways of reporting don’t cut it, wrote the journalist Dan Froomkin in his excellent list of suggestions culled from respected historians and observers….In fact, such both-sides-equal reporting “actively misinforms the public about the stakes of the coming election”….The stakes really are enormously high. It’s our job to make sure that those potential consequences – not the horse race, not Biden’s age, not a scam impeachment – are front and center for US citizens before they go to the polls….As Amanpour so aptly put it, be truthful, not neutral.”

Political Strategy Notes

Are Biden’s strategic assets for 2024 being undervalued? “In a perfect world, we would not have a presidential election between two men who were born in the WWII era,” Heather Digby Parton writes at Salon. “It’s 2023 and it’s past time to pass the torch. But we are where we are and there are strong reasons to take a breath and realize that Joe Biden is going into this campaign with some serious advantages that would be stupid to toss aside….First of all, the power of incumbency cannot be underrated. In the past 11 presidential elections with incumbent candidates, only 4 were unseated. Both the Clinton and Obama re-elections that everyone was so worried about were helped immensely by the fact that there was no primary and they already had fundraising bases and successful campaign experience….It takes a while for people to catch up to economic good news and Biden has a good story to tell on that front. Reagan, for instance, was underwater in approval in August of 1983 before “Morning in America” and his 1984 landslide re-election. (I’m not suggesting that will happen with Biden — it’s a different world today — it’s just another illustration of how quickly things can improve.)….And there are some other issues in Biden’s favor that are extremely salient at this time such as abortion rights and the attack on democracy, which adds up to a powerful critique of Trump and the authoritarian assault by the Republican party. (Government shutdowns and idiotic impeachments will only help illuminate their extremism) After all, Biden is facing a man who is going to be on trial during most of the campaign next year and could be running as a convicted felon. Yes, his followers will stick with him through it all but the idea that Biden’s age will trump Trump’s criminal status is to suggest that otherwise normal people will prefer an old man who is also a criminal to an old man who has done a good job as president. It’s possible but I’m not convinced it’s likely….It’s in the Democratic DNA to be nervous nellies. And maybe that’s a good thing. It means they won’t be complacent and will work hard to win the election. For the most part it’s paid off in presidential politics for the past 30 years. But it’s 14 months before the election. Nobody should be losing any sleep just yet.”

Ronald Brownstein explains “Why ‘Middle-class Joe’ Biden may need upscale voters more than ever in 2024” at CNN Politics: “Biden’s opportunities with upscale voters are widening because polls show that, compared to working-class voters, they are more likely to view Trump as a threat to American democracy, as well as more likely to support abortion rights. Simultaneously, Biden’s position with working-class voters is eroding largely because they are expressing the most frustration and strain over the economy and inflation….Biden’s opportunities with upscale voters are widening because polls show that, compared to working-class voters, they are more likely to view Trump as a threat to American democracy, as well as more likely to support abortion rights. Simultaneously, Biden’s position with working-class voters is eroding largely because they are expressing the most frustration and strain over the economy and inflation….Biden has some important assets in trying to recapture support from working-class voters, including a moderating trend in inflation, increasingly visible effects of the investments triggered by the trio of big laws he passed in his first two years, and a big campaign budget to saturate the handful of swing states with television advertising burnishing his economic record….But so long as daily necessities in the fall of 2024 cost more than they did when Biden took office – a highly likely outcome – he faces the probability that most Americans, especially those operating on limited incomes, will remain discontent with his economic leadership. If there is a winning coalition for a second Biden term, it may rely on convincing voters who don’t believe the president has delivered for their interests to vote for him anyway because Trump (or another GOP nominee) represents an even greater threat to their values. And that dynamic, almost inevitably, could tilt Biden’s coalition even further toward upscale voters.”

“In the 2020 election,” Brownstein continues, “Biden ran several percentage points better than Hillary Clinton did in 2016 among voters with at least a four-year college education and carried a solid majority of them, according to each of the three data sources cited most often about the results: the exit polls conducted by Edison Research for a consortium of media organizations including CNN, the “validated voters” study by the Pew Research Center, and the estimates by Catalist, a Democratic targeting firm, based on analysis of voter records….That advantage among better-educated voters was enough for Biden to overcome Trump’s narrow edge among all voters without a college degree, according to all three sources. Generally, the analyses showed Biden in 2020 slightly gaining compared to 2016 among White voters without a four-year college degree (though Trump still won them decisively) and Trump gaining somewhat among non-White voters without a college degree (though Biden still carried them decisively)….Compared to his vote share in 2020, Biden’s standing today is weaker among almost every key group in the electorate. But his numbers are especially bleak among voters with less education. In the latest CNN national poll conducted by SSRS, only about one-third of all adults without a degree (and only one-fourth of non-college White adults) said they approved of his job performance as president. Among college-educated adults, Biden’s standing was much more respectable: just over half of them approved of his performance (including just under half of the college-plus Whites.)…not surprisingly, frustration over high prices is especially acute among voters with fewer resources and less financial cushion, which generally include those with less education. “Nobody likes spending more, but the degree to which you can absorb inflation, those at the higher end of the economic scale have less difficulty doing so,” said Democratic pollster Jay Campbell, who studies economic attitudes as part of a bipartisan team that conducts surveys for CNBC….Biden’s ads are emphasizing the slowdown in inflation over recent months. But as Campbell points out, moderating inflation only means prices are rising less quickly; it doesn’t mean prices are returning to their levels before the Covid-19 pandemic. All voters, but especially those of moderate means, are acutely aware of that distinction, Campbell says.”

Brownstein hones in on the economic strategy Biden needs to win next year: “Democratic pollster Geoff Garin says the 2022 midterm elections offer Biden a blueprint for closing that gap. Despite widespread concern over the economy then, he notes, multiple winning Democratic Senate and governor candidates in key swing states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Arizona won anyway, partly by focusing on tangible actions they had taken to help families confront costs, such as the provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act allowing Medicare to bargain for lower drug prices….“When you get into the compare and contrast part of the campaign, Biden has a good story to tell about actions he has already taken and things he will do moving forward to lower prices for people,” Garin argues. “The contrast that Biden is setting up between growing the middle class and trickle-down economics is a good framework for next year.”….Still, Biden will likely face stubborn limits on his ability to win an argument about the economy next year so long as many voters feel that they have less money left at week’s end….Tulchin, the pollster for Sanders, predicts Biden’s effort to make a case for his economic performance “will only have limited impact because he’s an incumbent and people aren’t feeling better off.” Instead, Tulchin says, “The way you win elections as an incumbent is you disqualify your opponent.”….Like most Democrats, Tulchin believes Biden’s best weapons to disqualify Trump, if the two face off again, will be abortion and the fear that Trump would unleash “chaos” if he returned to the White House. And for all Biden’s focus on recapturing non-college voters, those are arguments that inherently detonate more powerfully among those with advanced education – whose support “middle-class Joe,” as Biden called himself at the Labor Day rally in Philadelphia, will likely need more than ever next year to secure another term.” Perhaps a related message could help give Biden – and Democrats – some much needed traction: “Trump and his party have divided, exhausted and paralyzed America.  The only way to restore our national vitality and move forward is a landslide defeat for them in 2024.”

Voter Perceptions of the Economy vs. Statistics a Problem for Dems

Some insights from “Why Bidenomics Isn’t Working for Biden:The economy is improving, but Americans aren’t giving Biden credit for it,” a pundit chat at FiveThirtyEight:

Monica Potts: To start at the beginning, Biden inherited a really weird economy. The COVID-19 shutdowns caused a severe and dramatic recession, but then the economy started to bounce back. But people’s behavior had also changed. More people were working from home and moving, they had cash to spend and supply chains were slow to restart. So Americans were generally sour on the economy from the time he took office.

The recovery was afflicted by super-high inflation, as you noted at the beginning, Nathaniel, and a lot of what the Biden administration has done on economic policy is the kind of slow-moving, behind-the-scenes policymaking that voters don’t really notice. Even though inflation is cooling, prices are still much higher than they were before the pandemic; borrowers are still seeing much higher interest rates; etc. So I think a lot of it is that Americans are generally unhappy with the new normal we find ourselves in.

gelliottmorris: I think that last point is a really good one, Monica. The share of people telling pollsters that the broader economic situation is poor is still around the highest it’s been since 2018. At first, that seems hard to square with the rosy economic indicators we talked about. But I think it’s possible that people just have longer-term memories about economic growth and remember a time when prices were meaningfully lower.

Lots of the discussion on this topic is pegged to tracking annual change in the consumer price index or job market or what have you. But if you take a longer view, for a lot of families, things are just permanently more expensive now. Even if their wages are up, I doubt they enjoy spending 15 percent more at the grocery store than they were before the pandemic. And it will take a while for those memories to fade.

Ameliatd adds, “I’m not sure voters were ever going to give Biden credit for an improving economy, especially because the inflation increase happened under his watch. It’s not like he can come in and say, “Look at this mess my predecessor left for me.”

I think Potts hits on a core problem in noting “Even though inflation is cooling, prices are still much higher than they were before the pandemic.” Voters are not impressed that the rate of “inflation is cooling.” It’s more about perception of their family’s economic realities than national statistics. To amplify Morris’s point, not many workers got a 15 percent pay raise during the last year to cover the new normal.

The covid checks voters received during the pandemic have been spent. Here comes a lot of stressful kitchen table budget discussions. Student loan debt outlays will be back soon. The strategic petroleum reserve is looking low, and let’s not count on the Saudis, the petroleum industry or Putin to do Biden any favors. It won’t be pretty.

Some of this downer scenario will be offset by fears among moderate voters in swing states about eradicating reproductive rights and/or the very real possibility that U.S. democracy will become completely dysfunctional if Trump wins, setting up decades of angry polarization and authoritarian rule.

It appears that a patriotism vs. pocketbook conflict may be emerging for 2024 voters. It would be folly for Democrats to bet the ranch on patriotism.

It’s possible that enough voters will get used to sticker shock at the gas pumps and meat counters a year from now, and their memories of better prices will fade away. But fading possibilities are not a solid foundation for campaign strategy.

Admittedly, all of this is close to the bleakest possible scenario. And there is a fair chance that the opposite will happen, good will win the day and Democracy will be preserved for future generations. It’s also possible that the election outcome will fall somewhere between disaster and a newly-functional democracy.

As for the persuasion vs. turnout choices for Democratic campaign strategy, there may not be enough time for the former to have an impact in 2024. But make no mistake, for Democrats, it’s all hands on deck for what may be the most pivotal election in America’s history.

Political Strategy Notes

In her article, “How States Can Prevent Election Subversion in 2024 and Beyond,” Alice Clapman reports at brennancenter.org that “the country has made progress toward insulating future elections from subversion attempts. Most notably, Congress passed the Electoral Count Reform and Presidential Transition Improvement Act of 2022 (ECRA), closing some loopholes and resolving ambiguities that the Trump campaign tried to exploit in 2020. Among other reforms, the ECRA clarifies that only a state’s governor or other predesignated executive official may submit official election results; bars state legislatures from changing the rules for appointing electors after Election Day; and makes it harder for federal legislators to overturn election results. Several states went further. Notably, Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota, and New York clarified their certification processes and took steps to combat disinformation and protect voters and poll workers from harassment and violence….the United States remains at risk for election subversion (that is, the overturning of an election outcome through disruption or manipulation of the vote counting, canvassing, or certification processes, or other acts of large-scale disenfranchisement)….Election denial is still rampant within federal, state, and local governmental bodies and among segments of the public. Although many of those who attacked the Capitol on January 6, 2021, have faced criminal consequences, so far the officials and politicians who incited them to violence have not. Election deniers won numerous congressional and state legislative seats, party chairs, and state and local election administrative positions….Republican activists have recruited poll workers and observers in large numbers with the false and inflammatory message that U.S. elections are being stolen and must be “taken back.””

Clapman continues, “While the ECRA included necessary reforms, Congress has failed to pass broader protections, including baseline national election standards. footnote9_86caho09 This failure puts the onus on states. Each state has different vulnerabilities and different options for addressing them. Every state should start with these five measures:

  • Strengthen laws requiring timely certification based solely on verified vote totals, with effective enforcement mechanisms.
  • Strengthen laws channeling election disputes through the state judiciary, and set clear standards governing how these disputes are resolved.
  • Finalize a plan for putting out accurate information about the election process and preempting disinformation, starting well before Election Day and backed by adequate state resources.
  • Bolster election administration with training, written guidance, and investment in equipment, security, scenario planning, staffing, and supplies.
  • Enact stronger measures against intimidation of voters and election workers, including gun restrictions and privacy protections for election officials.

In some states, legislatures will be in session again before the 2024 vote; in others, they could be called to a special session. Elsewhere, administrative officials could implement many of these measures. And state policymakers at every level should continue to push for these reforms after 2024, because election subversion will remain a risk.” Clapman provides extensive details for each of her five proposals towards the end of her article.

Clapman has another post at brennancenter.org with co-writer Lauren Miller, entitled “Are Swing States Ready for 2024? Here’s how Michigan, Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Nevada can stop election subversion.” In this article, the authors focus on specific remedies for vote theft and related scams for the aforementioned states. Here’s an excerpt describing what Georgia can do: As Clapman and Miller write, “Georgia officials must implement best practices for preventing, detecting and confirming physical breaches. These include restrictions on access, reporting protocols, keycard systems, and video and log surveillance, with review, to track access to sensitive equipment. Georgia should also prepare plans to promptly investigate and, if necessary, decommission and replace those systems to ensure that potentially corrupted equipment is replaced before the next election and with enough time for pre-election testing….Most recently, the chair of Georgia’s State Election Board — who sought to debunk unfounded claims of fraud in the 2020 election — announced that he was resigning after just 14 months in office….Georgia should take steps to protect election officials and workers from threats. The state should fund physical security protections and training and revise statutes to offer a broader set of protections against harassment and doxing. Those protections should include, for example, shielding officials and workers’ personal information from public information requests and creating meaningful civil and criminal liability for individuals who intimidate or harass them at any stage of the election process….Georgia must also protect its voters from unwarranted challenges. Georgia’s S.B. 202, passed in 2021, invites people to challenge an “unlimited” number of voters in their county. Predictably, groups and individuals in at least eight counties subsequently challenged an estimated 92,000 voter registrations in the 2022 election cycle. In Gwinnett County alone, the group VoterGA worked with local residents to challenge at least 37,000 voters (over 6 percent of the county’s active voters). Local election officials threw out most of these challenges….Election deniers appear ready to recklessly challenge hundreds of thousands more voters in the next election cycle. To prevent those efforts, Georgia too should consider reforms to constrain baseless mass challenges, including by clarifying that challenges cannot be based on unreliable data and that targeting voters for challenges based on protected characteristics such as race is illegal.”

Here’s another excerpt from Clapman’s and Miller’s article focusing on Pennsylvania: “Pennsylvania has seen a number of subversion efforts in recent years: fake electors and legislative interference schemes in 2020, certification refusals in 2022, various lawsuits attempting to invalidate whole tranches of absentee ballots, and a concerted effort by Republican lawmakers acting at the behest of the Trump campaign to gain unauthorized access to voting equipment (successful in one county), to name a few. The state has election deniers in many local positions of power, including officials who previously voted to remove drop boxes and refused to certify valid results, an official who helped the Trump campaign access voting equipment, and even one fake 2020 elector….Pennsylvania is also one of a few states, particularly among battleground states, that bar clerks from preprocessing absentee ballots before election day. Because absentee ballots have skewed heavily Democratic in Pennsylvania in recent years, this unnecessary legal bar often causes a “red mirage,” which in turn fuels election denial. Pro-democracy lawmakers have repeatedly tried to reform the law, including this year, only to be outvoted by Republican colleagues. (The proposed legislation also would have allowed voters to cure ballot defects and have their votes counted.)….Some of the same lawmakers who voted down preprocessing have sued to overturn no-excuse absentee voting, a reform that passed with bipartisan support in 2019. Republican-appointed appellate judges struck the law down based on an originalist reading of the state constitution, but were overruled by a divided state supreme court…Without legislative reform, wrangling over the counting of absentee ballots — including wrangling over whether defects can be cured — will continue. Votes will be discarded if they arrive after election day, or for purely bureaucratic reasons. And another red mirage is also likely. Politicians, officials, media outlets and advocacy groups must continue to call out the partisan gamesmanship over absentee ballots and the repeated efforts to disqualify them en masse. These ballots are not abstractions, or some political football, but actual votes from citizens who are exercising fundamental rights.”

How Much Should Dems Worry About the Age of Their Politicians?

Monica Potts explains why “Aging Politicians Are Only Going To Get More Common” at FiveThirtyEight:

Presidents are getting older and older. Former President Donald Trump was the oldest person to assume office when he was sworn in on Jan. 20, 2017, and President Biden broke that record four years later. If either is elected again next year, at ages 78 and 81, respectively, they will be older than the previous record holder, Ronald Reagan, was when he left office at the age of 77.

The possibility of an octogenarian on the presidential ticket is worrying many Americans — perhaps because it’s not just the presidency that’s aging. The current Congress, with a median age of 65 in the Senate and 58 in the House, is the oldest in history. Last week, when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 81, seemed to freeze while speaking for the second time in two months, there were renewed calls for him to step aside, and 90-year-old California Sen. Dianne Feinstein has been under similar scrutiny after a series of health issues. Former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, who is 51 and running for the Republican nomination, has called for competency tests for candidates older than 75, and her opponent Vivek Ramaswamy, a 38-year-old entrepreneur, has said it’s time for a new generation to step up and lead.

Voters are worried about the age of candidates and elected officials, especially when it comes to Biden. The vast majority of American adults, 77 percent, say he is too old to be effective for another four years, according to an AP-NORC poll in August. Fifty-seven percent of registered voters thought age severely limited President Biden’s ability to do his job in an Economist/YouGov poll from August. Similar questions were asked about Feinstein and McConnell, about whom 60 percent said the same.

But will voters actually start rejecting candidates because of their age? There are plenty of reasons why older politicians continue to hold the levers of power — and the structure of our political system makes it hard to force them to let go, even as Americans’ concerns about the country’s aging political leadership mount. That’s why Americans may continue to support older politicians when they’re in the voting booth, even as they say they prefer a younger leadership cohort.

Potts notes, further,

Some voters, though, think we should have clearer rules about when a politician is too old to serve. Sixty-seven percent of respondents strongly or somewhat supported an age limit for serving in the Senate in a YouGov/UMass Amherst poll from June, and 58 percent of adults thought age limits for serving as president would be a good idea in a Marist poll from last November. Sixty-eight percent of respondents favored mental competency tests for candidates over 75 in a YouGov/Yahoo survey from February. A plurality, 48 percent, think the job of president is too demanding for someone over 75, according to a CBS/YouGov poll from June. And overall, Americans’ preference for younger leadership is clear: About half of Americans think the ideal age for a president is someone in their 50s, according to the Pew Research Center.

….“I think the biggest reason that younger Americans want younger lawmakers is they feel they’re not well represented by older Americans, both from a standpoint of the things that older representatives might focus on or talk about that are different from what a younger candidate might talk about,” but also because, like all Americans, they want to see themselves represented in government, [University of Utah political scientist James M.] Curry said. Younger Americans are missing that representation now. “It makes them less satisfied with their representative government and less satisfied with their democracy,” he said.

Potts has more to say about the graying of America’s political leaders, and you can read more of her post here.

Political Strategy Notes

In “Democratic group writes a poll-tested playbook to fight impeachment in Biden districts,” Sahil Kapur reports at nbcnews.com that “A Democratic-aligned group commissioned a rare poll across the 18 Republican-held districts won in 2020 by President Joe Biden about a potential House impeachment inquiry, seeking to fine-tune a strategy to impose maximum political pain on GOP lawmakers if they go down that path….The poll, conducted by the liberal firm Public Policy Polling on behalf of Congressional Integrity Project and first reported by NBC News, will be distributed to Democratic lawmakers as a playbook for how to battle an inquiry that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy called a “natural step forward.”….Congressional Integrity Project’s executive director, Kyle Herrig, said impeachment would be “a political stunt designed to hurt President Biden and help Donald Trump.” He added: “We’re going to make sure the Biden 18 know that voting for an impeachment inquiry would be a costly political decision.”….The results showed two-thirds of respondents in those key GOP-held battleground districts said Republicans shouldn’t impeach Biden without “evidence” that he “received any bribes or changed government policies in relation to the activities of his son, Hunter Biden.” That includes an even greater share of independents, the firm said. Meanwhile, only one quarter of respondents said they should proceed either way….When given two options, more than half of those surveyed said impeachment would be more of a “political stunt,” while just over four in 10 said it was a “serious effort to investigate important problems.” Majorities of respondents also said it was more about “damaging President Biden politically” than “finding the truth,” when presented with those two options….Notably, the PPP poll found that Biden is not particularly popular in those key 18 districts.”

Some observations from a FiveThirtyEight chat on “What Are The Swing States Of The Future?”: “nrakich (Nathaniel Rakich, senior elections analyst): I think an underrated swing state is Florida. People have written it off after it swung unexpectedly to Republicans in 2020 and after Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Ron DeSantis won reelection by almost 20 percentage points in 2022. But people forget that former President Donald Trump won it in 2020 by only 3 points. If the 2024 election is shaping up to be a rematch between Trump and Biden, I think it’s reasonable to think Florida could be tight again. Do I think Biden will win it? No, probably not. But I think it’s still a better investment for Biden’s campaign dollars than, say, Texas….geoffrey.skelley (Geoffrey Skelley, senior elections analyst): I think a lot of this comes down to how you define a swing state. I tend to think about one larger group of battleground states that, under a set of realistic but more favorable conditions, couldflip to one party. Then you have a smaller group of core swing states that are actually most likely to decide the outcome of the election….We’ve mentioned a bunch of states from my larger list so far, so I’ll mention a place that’s in my core group of swing areas but isn’t a state: Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District. Under the new congressional lines, Biden carried it by a little more than 6 percentage points in 2020, not far from his 4.5-point national win. But under a number of scenarios, that one little electoral vote from the Omaha-based seat could play a role in bringing about — or avoiding — a 269-269 tie in the Electoral College. To me, that makes it underrated…. gelliottmorris: Well … if I’m picking a sleeper swing state, I’m picking Alaska or Utah. Alaska is on the list because its use of ranked-choice voting has highlighted a potential ideological shift in the state, where moderate Democrats are increasingly favored. Mary Peltola, the representative for Alaska’s At-Large Congressional District, is sometimes called a “pro-guns, pro-fish” Democrat for her pro-gun and pro-conservation stances. And then I’d pick Utah because of severe aversion to Trump among the state’s Republican voter base. In 2016, independent candidate Evan McMullin was able to win 22 percent of the vote in the state. In 2018, Utah voters elected Trump-skeptic Mitt Romney to the Senate. And then McMullin won 43 percent of the vote against incumbent Sen. Mike Lee in 2022.”….geoffrey.skelley: We talked earlier about Democrats feeling too sure about a state like New Hampshire. I wonder if Virginia might fall into that category, too. It does seem to have moved just outside the truly up-for-grabs states, having trended about 6 points to the left of the country in 2020. However, Republican Glenn Youngkin carried the state in the 2021 gubernatorial election, so I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily out of reach for Republicans. To be clear, the trend has not been great for Republicans at the presidential level in the Old Dominion. But it’s still got some purple mixed in with its blue.”

From “Democrats question whether it’s the economy anymore, stupid” by Alex Gangitano at The Hill: “Bruce Mehlman, former assistant secretary at the Commerce Department under President George W. Bush, said the economy seems less of a factor today than it once did….“Over the past two decades, traditional economic metrics have increasingly detached from presidential approval numbers and right-track or wrong-track sentiment, with the 2022 midterms the ultimate example,” said Mehlman, a founding partner at Mehlman Consulting. “The data screamed ‘giant wave,’ but many anxious voters preferred known incumbents over frightening disruptors.”….Josh Bivens, research director at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, said his “gut” tells him Biden may eventually benefit from the economy….He predicted that with 3 to 4 percent inflation or lower and consistent low unemployment for another year could lead to higher ratings for Biden. Unemployment currently sits at just 3.6 percent….“The ratchet-up of inflation in 2021 and early 2022 very much unsettled people, and they are only now really recognizing that the ratchet has started to reverse pretty decisively,” Bivens said….Polls show the public has doubts about Biden on the economy….Only 34 percent of Americans in a Monmouth University poll last month saidthey approve of his handling of inflation, and Biden received a split rating on his handling of jobs and unemployment, with 47 percent approving and 48 percent disapproving of it.”

Can Reverse Coattails Save the Democrats in 2024?,” Robert Kuttner asks at The American Prospect and writes: that “Biden and the Democrats can benefit from reverse coattails. The conventional wisdom is that the presidential candidate has the coattails, the ability to excite voters and help down-ballot candidates of the president’s party. Conversely, down-ticket candidates can’t affect turnout very much. Well, none of that is the case this time….Several senators up in 2024 are, to be blunt, more popular than Biden and are better politicians. Sherrod Brown will probably run well ahead of Biden in Ohio. Likewise Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin and Bob Casey in Pennsylvania. In Arizona, Ruben Gallego will pull lots of progressive voters to the polls. He’s a lot more exciting than Biden….Ohio is probably beyond Biden’s reach in 2024, but Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Arizona are prime swing states. Effective candidates for the Senate and House can mobilize voters and in turn help the national ticket. Yes, it’s possible to imagine voters splitting their tickets to vote for, say, Tammy Baldwin and Donald Trump, but precious few of them….The 2018 midterm election was the epic example of down-ticket races energizing voters to the Democrats’ advantage, and of course no presidential candidate was on the ballot. If Democrats and grassroots activists do their jobs well, 2024 could be like 2018….Running local candidates can boost national turnout for Democrats. Yoni Landau, a respected grassroots strategist who founded the group Contest Every Race, points out that there are hundreds of thousands of down-ballot elected posts at the county and town level that Democrats fail to contest. Simply fielding candidates raises national Democratic turnout….In 2021, the group Run For Something did a detailed statistical analysis comparing turnout in local legislative races where the Democrats fielded a candidate with those where the Republican ran unopposed. They found that even in deep-red states and districts where the Democrat lost, having a Democrat in the race helped the national ticket. In Georgia, the fact that more Democrats contested local elections may well have helped Biden eke out his 12,000-vote victory margin….According to the study, Biden did 0.3 percent to 1.5 percent better in conservative legislative districts where Democrats ran challengers than in districts where the Republican was unopposed. The analysis used precinct-level data in eight states—Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Arizona, Georgia, Texas, Kansas, and New York—to compare contested and uncontested races.”