washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

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

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

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

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


Political Strategy Notes

E, J, Dionne, Jr. explains why “Joe Biden must go left and right at the same time” in his Washington Post syndicated column: “Here’s one reason understanding the trajectory of the 2024 campaign will be so complicated: President Biden is running as both a conservative and a progressive. He must be both to win….Before card-carrying members of the right protest my characterization of Biden as “conservative,” they should consider who is carrying the banner for the most basic conservative impulse of all: preserving the nation’s institutions….Even at the level of economic self-interest, some well-off conservatives might lay aside their concerns that Biden wants to raise their taxes, preferring stable governance to the chaos a new Trump term would portend. The stock market’s bullish performance under Biden might push some of them in this direction….The opening Biden has with pro-institution conservatives was underscored by an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll published Wednesday. It found that on a variety of institutional questions, Democrats were united while Republicans were divided, providing Biden with many wedges to drive into the GOP coalition….Democrats, by contrast, were far more united against rule-breaking, against religion in government policy and against granting a president immunity. Unsurprisingly, nearly all saw Biden as the legitimate election winner….Biden is also getting a lot of help from Trump, whose wild and often hate-filled daily pronouncements will continue to shake many Tory souls. An AP/NORC poll late last month was revealing: While 43 percent were “extremely” or “very” fearful about a second Trump administration, only 31 percent harbored such fears of a new Biden administration….Biden’s vocation in this campaign is to show that “safe” can go hand-in-hand with “progressive.” When it comes to making this argument, some of the knocks on Biden — that he doesn’t provoke “excitement” and maybe even his age — could prove to be his major assets.”

“Adam Carlson, a former Democratic pollster, has been updating a useful spreadsheet aggregating the crosstabs of national polls and comparing them to what happened in 2020,” Kyle Kondik writes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball. “Across nine polls in March—including some of the ones we noted above—Carlson’s average found Biden up 3 points on Trump among those aged 65 or over, compared to a Trump win of 4 points with that bloc in 2020 based on an aggregate of analyses of the 2020 electorate (including the Catalist report, which we cited above, along with a Pew Research Center analysis and the AP/Fox News VoteCast)….Biden won the national popular vote by 4.5 points in 2020, while the March polling Carlson aggregated showed a Trump lead of 1.5 points. So the polls show the oldest voters getting about 7 points bluer but the overall electorate getting 6 points redder. This is where Biden’s weaknesses with, for instance, young voters and Black voters are making a difference—in Carlson’s polling aggregate, Biden was doing 15 points worse with young voters and 29 points worse with Black voters than he did in 2020. We do think there are reasons to be skeptical of these huge Republican swings among these subgroups based on history and other factors, as I wrote back in November on young voters and Abramowitz wrote last week on Black voters. But there also are reasons to be skeptical of Biden’s overperformance among older voters, too. Part of that is the history—particularly recently, one would not expect the 65+ cohort to vote to the left of the nation in a presidential election….Younger cohorts appear to be likelier to disagree with Biden on how he has handled the situation in Gaza, for instance. It also may be that some economic challenges, like higher interest rates imposed by the Federal Reserve to fight inflation, are felt more by younger people trying to enter the housing market as opposed to older people who are more established. More broadly, the aforementioned New York Times/Siena poll found that 65 and over respondents were less pessimistic about the economy than the 18-29 group (38% of the former said economic conditions were excellent or good, while just 14% of the 18-29 group said the same). There could be many other legitimate explanations for a real shift in how voter preferences are changing among age groups—the patterns of the past do not always project the future.”

Democrats and other liberals and progressives who identify with the economic ‘left’ should read Nathan Robinson’s Current Affairs interview with Jessica Burbank, a “commentator who appears on The Hill’s Rising, co-hosts the Funny Money podcast, and now hosts her own online news program called Weeklyish News. Jessica is also big on TikTok, where she produces remarkable short videos communicating left political and economic ideas, such as this one on the power relationship between workers and bosses or this one on Elon Musk.” In many of her videos, Burbank, who comes from a working-class family, role-plays both sides of arguments between bosses and workers. Here’s an excerpt of Burbank’s comments in the interview from “How to Communicate Left Ideas to Gen Z” at Current Affairs: “I put myself really into the shoes of the person who holds these views that are very different from my own. I think it’s helped me consider my beliefs from a bunch of different perspectives and test them and come up with more persuasive explanations for things that I already talk about regularly. And so, doing the back and forth, it actually ended up being so much faster than if it was just me talking at the camera….People embrace populism because they’re kind of ripe for it. They don’t like the elites, and they don’t like the way they communicate. And so, I think another thing is that people are ready for it, and I think we have this opportunity where people are gravitating towards populism….I don’t think meeting people where they’re at right now is by knocking on their door because when someone comes to your door, you just want to get back to resting and scrolling on TikTok again. You’re not really meeting someone where they’re at. They mind it when they answer the door. They think, how can I get back to my television? How can I get back to my leisure time and consume entertainment? And so, meet people where they’re at, and if I put my organizer cap on, it is scrolling TikTok. That is where they’re getting information….I left a huge nonprofit, People’s Action, which was founded coming out of the labor movement, and they have member organizations in every state. I felt like if I was on the phone all day, or if I was creating a list for a mass text, we were engaging people less than my posts on TikTok. And so, when I left to pursue media, I actually didn’t feel like I was leaving organizing. I felt like I was going to the heart of it….I think people absorb a lot more value and information through comedy than anything else. I think it’s such an important tool. If you really care about your idea getting communicated, can you make it funny?”

With abortion and weed on the ballot in Florida, speculation grows that Democrats may be able to win the state’s electoral votes, which they lost by less than 4 percent of the state’s popular vote in 2020. Democrats suffered a proper drubbing in the ’22 midterms, as GOP turnout reached 67 percent, compared to an unimpressive 52 percent for Dems. Gov. DeSantis and Sen. Rubio were re-elected by healthy margins. But there are other reasons that Florida may be in play for Democrats in November. In “Clawing Their Way Back to Relevance,” Ramendra Cyrus writes at The American Prospect: “Florida homeowners pay the country’s highest average home insurance premiums. In 2023, the average annual premium was $6,000, 42 percent more than in 2022, according to the Insurance Information Institute.” In addition, DeSantis lost some luster as a result of his failed presidential candidacy and “the Florida GOP is also in disarray after a sex scandal and rape allegations forced the removal of the state party chairman.” Also, “In January, Democrat Tom Keen clinched a victory in the state House race for District 35, which includes sections of Orlando, Florida’s fourth most populous city. Both Democrats and Republicans showered dollars on this race, but Republicans outspent the Democrats 2 to 1. In the end, Rep. Keen narrowly took the seat by roughly two percentage points….In 2023, Donna Deegan, a Democrat and a longtime local television anchor, became the first female mayor of Jacksonville, the state’s largest city. Until this “major upset,” Jacksonville had been the largest city in the country with a Republican mayor. Deegan, a Jacksonville native, was able to pull together a bipartisan coalition to win the highly contested race. Deegan stressed her desire to promote greater transparency in the mayor’s office and to restore a sense of community after last year’s racial unrest in the city. She beat her Republican opponent by four percentage points.” Cyrus adds that “DeSantis and the GOP’s grip on power in Florida may have reached its zenith. Anger over developments on issues like abortion and insurance has given the Democrats an opening. But the Florida Democratic Party can’t adopt a scorched-earth approach to seats they have no chance of winning. In 2024, it’s all about the long game—setting the table for future gains. “Democrats have less room for error, that’s for sure. “You have to be smarter with things,” says Isbell, the political consultant. “It will force the Democrats to be strategic about which races they’re going to target.” Even if Democrats lose in Florida again this year, more effort put in to organizing could pay off in the next midterm and presidential elections.


Political Strategy Notes

AP’s Rebecca Santana and Amelia Thomson Deveaux write that “Americans are more worried about legal immigrants committing crimes in the U.S. than they were a few years ago, a change driven largely by increased concern among Republicans, while Democrats continue to see a broad range of benefits from immigration, a new poll shows….The poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that substantial shares of U.S. adults believe that immigrants contribute to the country’s economic growth, and offer important contributions to American culture. But when it comes to legal immigrants, U.S. adults see fewer major benefits than they did in the past, and more major risks….About 4 in 10 Americans say that when immigrants come to the U.S. legally, it’s a major benefit for American companies to get the expertise of skilled workers in fields like science and technology. A similar share (38%) also say that legal immigrants contribute a major benefit by enriching American culture and values.” However, “Both those figures were down compared with 2017, when 59% of Americans said skilled immigrant workers who enter the country legally were a major benefit, and half said legal immigrants contribute a major benefit by enriching American culture….Meanwhile, the share of Americans who say that there’s a major risk that legal immigrants will commit crimes in the U.S. has increased, going from 19% in 2017 to 32% in the new poll….There is some bipartisan agreement about how immigration at the border between the U.S. and Mexico should be addressed. The most popular option asked about is hiring more Border Patrol agents, which is supported by about 8 in 10 Republicans and about half of Democrats. Hiring more immigration judges and court personnel is also favored among majorities of both parties….About half of Americans support reducing the number of immigrants who are allowed to seek asylum in the U.S. when they arrive at the border, but there’s a much bigger partisan divide there, with more Republicans than Democrats favoring this strategy. Building a wall — former President Donald Trump’s signature policy goal — is the least popular and most polarizing option of the four asked about. About 4 in 10 favor building a wall, including 77% of Republicans but just 12% of Democrats.”

“The Florida governor’s draconian six-week abortion ban – which he pushed as part of his presidential run, thinking he could out-extreme Trump and the other GOP candidates – got the green light from the Florida Supreme Court on Monday,” Rex Huppke writes at USA Today. “It will go into effect in 30 days, with the state’s previous 15-week abortion ban kicking in until then….That’s horrific, but the state’s high court also ruled that an amendment protecting abortion rights will be on the Florida ballot in November, giving voters a chance to strike down DeSantis’ ban and, if past elections are any evidence, driving voter turnout considerably….For Floridians, a six-week ban is essentially a complete ban on abortion, as most people don’t even know they’re pregnant before six weeks. It will also further limit abortion access in the South….Lauren Brenzel, the campaign director for Floridians Protecting Freedom, which fought to get the abortion amendment on the state’s 2024 ballot, told The Washington Post: “There is nowhere in the Southeast that can absorb Florida’s patient base. It’s simply not possible. That is simply an unmanageable volume of patients to try to offset to another state.”….To summarize voters’ views on the issue, I’ll quote from this Fox News report published last week: “Nearly two years after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a record number of voters think abortion should be legal, with two-thirds favoring nationwide law guaranteeing access, according to a Fox News national survey.”….The poll found 59% of voters think abortion should be legal in all or most cases. And 54% oppose a 15-week federal abortion ban, with far more opposing more restrictive legislation.”

In “Florida’s abortion fight is headed to voters after court allows for a 6-week ban,” Regan McCarthy explains at NPR.org that “the court okayed ballot language for a proposed amendment that gives voters in November the choice of whether to explicitly protect abortion access in the state constitution….There are a lot of factors impacting the fate of Democrats in Florida, says Daniel Smith, a political science professor at the University of Florida. For example, more Republicans are now registered in Florida than Democrats. But he thinks the abortion issue, combined with a recreational marijuana initiative that will also be on the ballot in November, give Democrats and President Biden a “glimmer of hope in Florida.”….”Ballot measures can mobilize people to the polls who might not normally come out,” Smith says. “But they can also persuade people.”….The key language in the proposed amendment reads, “No law shall prohibit, penalize, delay, or restrict abortion before viability or when necessary to protect the patient’s health, as determined by the patient’s healthcare provider.” It includes one exception, for parental notification when minors seek an abortion — a stipulation already in the state constitution….The proposed amendment, known as Amendment Four, could reverse the six-week ban. If it passes in November, {campaign director for Floridians Protecting Freedom Lauren] Brenzel says it will go into effect in January of next year. To pass, it needs approval from at least 60% of the voters who turn out at the polls. More than one million people signed petitions to get the proposed amendment on the ballot, and Brenzel says the next step will require even broader support….Abortion access advocates are planning to kick off their “Yes on 4″ campaign next weekend in Orlando.”

From “Biden’s campaign says he can win Florida, after abortion ruling” by Doina Chiacu at Reuters: “President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign team said it believes he can win in Florida this year after the state Supreme Court cleared the way for a Republican-backed law banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy….Republican candidate Donald Trump won Florida in both the 2016 and 2020 elections but Biden’s team said it believes that opposition to tight abortion restrictions have put the Southeastern state back in play….It is not clear how far the issue will go in helping Biden in Florida, a state of 22 million people, in November’s presidential election….Florida has skewed Republican in recent years. Barack Obama the last Democratic presidential candidate to win the state, in 2012….A compilation of local opinion polls by 538towin, the election data website, shows former President Trump with a substantial lead in Florida….An ad released on Tuesday features a video clip of Trump boasting about helping to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that recognized a woman’s constitutional right to abortion, by appointing three conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court….Florida has a hefty 30 Electoral College votes and for a long time was a highly coveted battleground state….But Republicans have pulled away from Democrats there in recent years. Trump won Florida in 2020 with 51.2% of the vote compared with Biden’s 47.9%. In 2022, Republican Ron DeSantis won the governors race in a landslide, with 59.4% of the vote.”


Political Strategy Notes

From  ‘The Converstion,’ via Fast Company: “Republicans in Congress use taxpayer-funded email messages to contact constituents more often, and perhaps more effectively, than their Democratic counterparts….That’s what I’ve found over 15 years of compiling and analyzing the archive that I call DCinbox, a free and open real-time archive of every official e-newsletter sent by sitting members of Congress to their constituents….The messages reveal fundamental differences in how each party seeks to connect with and inform their constituents: Republicans prefer visual elements and strategic timing, and Democrats prefer more text-heavy missives….Over the past 15 years, Republicans have won only slightly more seats in the House and Senate than Democrats. But once in office, Republicans use this email perk far more than Democrats….In every month I’ve been tracking these messages—except briefly in the middle of 2010, when Democrats held 59% of all the seats in Congress, and for 9 of the 11 months at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and early 2021—Republicans have sent many more official e-newsletters to constituents than Democrats have….Republicans also tend to be more attuned to the leisure reading habits of people. They send a greater number of their emails on weekendswhen people are likely to have weekend time to take them in. Democrats are more likely to send their messages during the workweek….Republicans in Congress are more consistent in using key terms and phrases than Democrats….By contrast, Democrats are far less likely to have overlapping term usage or phrasing. That suggests they are not as focused on coordinating constituent communications as Republicans….GOP legislators tend to adopt phrases that originate with policy oriented journalists, academics, and protesters on the left into a convenient, and dismissive, shorthand. Terms like Green New Deal, critical race theory, defund the police, and Bidenomics are all used commonly in official Republican e-newsletters railing against Democratic policy proposals….Democrats in Congress didn’t have a similar sort of concerted effort to use a Republican-originated word or phrase until 2022, when they began to use the term MAGA as a way to tell constituents about parts of the Republican agenda they disagree with. And even then, only 292 e-newsletters from Democrats have used MAGA, while Republicans have sent 1,531 messages deriding the Green New Deal, 496 about critical race theory, 824 with defund the police, and 330 saying Bidenomics….Republicans use more images than Democrats and tend to refer constituents to more media outlets, including those that support right-wing views.”

“Young progressive voters, the backbone and the future of the Democratic Party, are at an increasing risk of turning against the party wholescale each day the war in Gaza continues,” Yint Hmu writes in “Biden’s progressive voter strategy must include a Gaza cease-fire” at The Hill, “Foreign policy rarely tops the issues people rank when casting their votes unless something has gone horribly wrong. But this is one of those times when U.S. involvement in multiple wars abroad, especially in Gaza, is shifting more people to prioritize foreign policy in their 2024 issues of importance….Over the last few years, despite an onslaught of obstructionism by MAGA-supporting Republicans, the Biden administration and the Democrats have delivered or made concrete progress on a wide swath of issues that are important to young progressives: from climate actions to gun regulationsreproductive rights protectionsstudent loan cancellations and more….While the degree to whether what has been done has gone far enough or fast enough is debatable, the direction is undeniable. It is a complete turnaround from the years when Donald Trump and the Republicans were in charge….Despite the accomplishments of this administration, visceral opposition to the U.S. government’s support of the war in Gaza risks turning young progressives into single-issue voters. To be clear, young progressives are not likely to cross over to vote for Trump, they will simply opt out of the election or vote third-party even with the knowledge that Trump will be worse….The 18-34 age group has spent their lives living through the global war on terror, the Iraq War, the Great Recession, a global pandemic, routine mass shootings and massive wealth inequality. To see the party they support and elect to office pursue a policy of months-long unconditional support for the Israeli government’s invasion of Gaza is having devastating effects on voter enthusiasm…. And Democrats don’t just need young progressives to vote, they need them to knock on doors, phone bank and mobilize their friends and families offline and online. Social media platforms have fundamentally shifted how voters receive information and perceive politics. Young progressives, especially young progressive activists, serve as important leaders, messengers and validators in their respective social networks.'”

In “Democrats say they’re opening 30 campaign offices, tout ‘ground game‘,” Craig Mauger reports at The Detroit News.” Democrats plan to have 30 campaign offices open in Michigan by mid-April, a strategy they say shows the strength of their ground game in a battleground state that could be key to President Joe Biden’s reelection bid….The offices will serve as organizing hubs for volunteers, according to a Friday morning announcement from the Michigan Democratic Party and Biden’s campaign….There will be three offices in Detroit, Michigan’s largest city, and others spread throughout the rest of the state, including places such as Gladwin, Grand Rapids, Marquette and Benton Harbor….In an interview, Lavora Barnes, chairwoman of the Michigan Democratic Party, said Democrats learned from Hillary Clinton’s loss to Republican Donald Trump in 2016. Getting campaign operations going early and refusing to sit back and wait are the right things to do, Barnes said….”When a race is as close as we had it in 2016 and 2020, the ground game is the difference,” Barnes said.”But in announcing the Democrats’ plans for 30 offices in Michigan, Mike Frosolone, Biden’s Michigan campaign manager, said Trump has “no visible strategy in Michigan. Democrats also said in their Friday announcement that Republicans “have yet to open a single campaign office” in the state.”

At Vox, Nicole Narea provides an update assessment of RFK, Jr.’s presidential candidacy, and she shares these observations:  “Kennedy is currently averaging about 12 percent in the polls, according to RealClearPolling. Celinda Lake, a pollster for President Joe Biden’s 2020 campaign who continues to work with the Democratic National Committee, said that’s a worrying signal for Biden, based on polling and focus groups her firm has been conducting that suggest Kennedy will pull voters from Biden. Clifford Young, who leads Ipsos’s global election and political polling risk practice, said it’s too early to be certain whether Biden or Trump stands to lose the most from Kennedy’s rise, but if he actually received such a large share of the vote, he has real potential to be a spoiler….Kennedy’s supporters span the race, age, and income spectrums, according to Ipsos’s polling. They are slightly more likely to be women and to identify as independents, leaning a bit more right than left and embracing more conservative economic policies but centrist stances on social issues, Young said….Lake said that in her polling and focus groups, about half of Kennedy’s supporters back him because they associate him with his father. Other Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents, particularly young voters, embrace his credentials as an activist environmental lawyer….Young said it’s difficult to tell at this point whether that suggests that Biden or Trump is more likely to benefit from his presence in the race….“It’s going to confuse things. Things are going to get cloudy. I don’t think it’s so easy to say that he’s gonna hurt one or the other,” he said, citing Ipsos polling showing how his supporters aren’t strong partisans and how their views on particular issues are scattered….But Lake said that “it would take a real jiujitsu of people’s thinking” for Kennedy to hurt Trump….Accordingly, Democrats have sought to hamper Kennedy’s independent bid. The party recently established a team of lawyers dedicated to ensuring that he won’t make it on more state ballots if he violates complicated ballot access rules….But Democrats may also have to work to better define him as a candidate. Democratic primary voters’ initially net-positive impression of him became net-negative once they learned more about his positions through the primary process, and that could serve as a model, Lake said.”


Political Strategy Notes

In “Who is Marilyn Lands? Dem running on abortion platform wins Alabama house seat by 25 points,” Karissa Waddick and Kinsey Crowley report at USA Today, “A Democrat won a contentious special election Tuesday for a state house seat in Alabama, in win that could signal the dominant role of abortion and in-vitro fertilization in elections across the country in 2024….Marilyn Lands beat Republican Teddy Powell in a race for the seat that was left vacant after former Republican Rep. David Cole who pleaded guilty to voter fraud….Alabama has been in the reproductive rights spotlight after the state Supreme Court ruled that embryos created during IVF should be legally treated as children. The decision halted IVF treatments at many clinics in the state, until the state legislature passed measures to protect the treatment….Lands made abortion and IVF access a central point of her campaign. Her win could be a testament to the salience of those issues for voters in 2024….Marilyn Lands is a licensed professional counselor who previously worked in banking and aerospace, according to her website….Abortion was one of her top issues as a candidate, along with economic development and education….In a TV ad, Lands shared her experience getting an abortion for a “nonviable” pregnancy years ago. She appeared with an Alabama woman who faced a similar situation but had to travel out of state to receive the procedure because of the state’s abortion ban after the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision….Lands also argued that a law passed in response to the state Supreme Court’s IVF ruling, which aimed to protect IVF providers and patients from prosecution, fell short and did not address the root concerns with the court’s decision….According to unofficial results on the Alabama Secretary of State website, Lands won 62.31% of the vote, with 100% of votes counted. Powell, a local city council member, lost earning only 37.5% of the vote. Just 1.85% of voters turned out….Lands ran against her predecessor in 2022, and lost by seven points.”

At Politico, Alice Miranda Ollstein reports that “Democrats are counting on abortion rights to carry them to victory this fall in races across the country. But nowhere more so than in Arizona….Abortion-rights activists are gathering hundreds of thousands of signatures to put a measure on the ballot enshrining protections in the state’s constitution. Doing so, Democrats believe, will juice turnout on the left, giving them a chance to break the GOP’s narrow majority in the state legislature, win a pivotal Senate seat and deliver the state — and possibly the election — to President Joe Biden….Some Arizona conservatives acknowledge that a referendum on abortion rights could dim their electoral chances, and are working to keep the issue off the November ballot. Others are backpedaling on previous hardline anti-abortion stances as they court independents and moderates….The parties’ scramble in the battleground state eight months ahead of the election is a model for how the issue is shaping competitive races nationwide. And while Democrats are nervous about progressive rage over the war in Gaza and slipping support among communities of color, they remain confident after a string of victories over the last two years that championing abortion rights will help them clinch key contests in November….“Even though this is a purple state, this is not a swing issue for us,” said Senate hopeful Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), sitting inside Lola, a dimly lit coffee shop on Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row. “It is solidly a pro-abortion-rights state….While Gallego pitches himself as a champion for abortion access — helping collect signatures to put the measure on the ballot, holding events with abortion-rights groups and pledging to abolish the Senate filibuster to help pass national protections if elected — his likely GOP opponent is backing away from the issue….Republican Kari Lake, the front-runner in the GOP Senate primary, said during her failed bid for governor in 2022 that she would enforce Arizona’s 1864 abortion ban if elected, calling it a “great law.” She has also expressed support for a state ban on abortion pills and the forced closure of abortion clinics. But the MAGA firebrand has of late tried to sidestep questions about her plans on abortion, telling POLITICO “it’s ultimately going to be up to the voters of Arizona to decide” before changing the subject….Both sides are bracing for a nailbiter. Biden won Arizona by just over 10,000 votes in 2020, and the state’s Democratic Attorney General Kris Mayes won her 2022 race by just a couple hundred votes — a victory she attributes almost entirely to voter outrage over the fall of Roe v. Wade and the rise of state abortion bans.”

“While still negative, Americans’ view of the U.S. economy remains improved in 2024 from last year,” Mary Clare Evans reports at Gallup. “Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index is at -20 in March, similar to the -22 found in February but sharply higher than the readings near -50 measured last fall. The index is currently at its highest point since a -12 reading in August 2021….Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index summarizes Americans’ evaluations of current economic conditions (as excellent, good, only fair or poor) and their outlook for the economy (whether they believe it is getting better or worse)….The index has a theoretical range of +100 (if all Americans rate current conditions as excellent or good and say the economy is getting better) to -100 (if all Americans rate the economy as poor and say it is getting worse). In Gallup’s trend of these measures since 1992, the highest ECI score has been +56, in January 2000, and the lowest has been -72, in October 2008….The latest results are from a March 1-20, 2024, Gallup poll. This month, President Joe Biden has touted indicators of strong economic performance in his State of the Union address and on the campaign trail. These include record stock values, easing inflation, job creation and low unemployment. Yet, Americans still feel the cumulative effects of rising prices from the past two years….Thirty percent of U.S. adults now say economic conditions are excellent or good, while 30% call them only fair and 39% poor. This results in a -9 score on the current conditions component of the index, which is improved from -15 in March and -31 in November. The last time the current conditions score was better than now was in October 2021 (-8)….The percentage of Americans rating economic conditions as excellent or good increased by four percentage points in March, pushing the figure to 30%. This is the highest proportion giving positive evaluations of the economy since June 2021….When asked about the economy’s direction, 33% of Americans say conditions are getting better, while 63% say they’re getting worse. Although economic optimism is about the same as last month’s 32%, it has been slowly expanding since October, when 21% said the economy was getting better….Democrats’ current economic attitudes result in an Economic Confidence Index score of +35, while independents stand at -28 and Republicans at -62. All three partisan groups, but particularly Democrats, have shown improved confidence since October. Since then, Democrats’ ECI score has increased by 35 points, from 0 to +35, while independents’ score has risen by 15 points (from -43 to -28) and Republicans’ by 10 points (from -72 to -62).”

Evans continues, “The economy is a major issue in presidential elections, particularly when an incumbent is seeking reelection. In the five elections since 1992 involving a sitting president in which Gallup has measured economic confidence, economic confidence has conformed with the election outcome in two elections when confidence was relatively high or low.

  • George H.W. Bush lost reelection in 1992 at a time when the ECI was at -37.
  • Bill Clinton won a second term in 1996 when the ECI was at +23.

However, when economic attitudes have been mixed, with the index near the zero midpoint of its range, election outcomes have varied.

  • In 2004 and 2012, the index was at +1 and -1, respectively — and both incumbents (George W. Bush and Barack Obama) won.
  • On the other hand, in 2020, Donald Trump was defeated at a time when the ECI was at -4, perhaps because the coronavirus pandemic overshadowed the economy.

Evans adds, “While the current ECI score is not promising for Biden, Gallup trends show it has the capacity to change in the span of a few months.

    • In 2020, confidence plummeted from a 20-year high in February to a deeply negative -32 at the start of the pandemic, before climbing back to neutral territory (-4) by the time of the election.
    • In 2012, the index score rose by a total of 13 points between March and October, likely aiding Obama’s reelection.
    • In contrast, during the global financial crisis in 2008, the index experienced a decline of 21 points over the same period and remained low for months.”

Political Strategy Notes

In “Biden campaign launches national strategy to reach Latino voters,” Maddie Gannon observes at NY1 News: “This year, an estimated more than 36 million Latino voters will be eligible to cast a ballot in the general election, according to the Pew Research Center, an increase of nearly 4 million since 2020…. While statistics from the most recent elections show Democrats still have a firm grip when it comes to the support of Latino voters, the margin by which Democrats have won among such communities has shrunk….In 2020, former President Donald Trump – who, along with Biden already received enough delegates to earn his party’s nomination for president – got the support of 38% of Latino voters to Biden’s 59%, according to the Pew Research Center. By contrast, Hillary Clinton won Latino voters 66% over Trump (28%) in 2016…. And looking at the two most recent midterm elections head-to-head, the GOP’s 25% support from Hispanic voters in 2018 grew to 39% in 2022, according to the Pew Research Center….Meanwhile, the Biden team’s Tuesday program launch also comes with a new ad aiming to connect with Hispanic voters, recorded in English, Spanish and Spanglish, according to the campaign…. The 30-second spot focuses on Biden capping insulin costs at $35 a month and his efforts to protect abortion access, seeking to use the two issues to draw a contrast with his former rival and likely 2024 opponent Trump…. “For women, the freedom to control our own bodies or doctors going to jail for an abortion,” the ad says. “This is the difference between Joe Biden or Donald Trump.”….The video – which is part of the campaign’s $30 million six-week ad buy announced following the president’s State of the Union address earlier this month – will air on news and lifestyle programming, such as CNN en Español and Galavisión, the campaign said….In January, the incumbent president’s reelection team said the campaign has already launched six ads targeting Latino voters between August and December, both in Spanish as well as English.”

A presidential campaign update from. “Biden’s Campaign Is In Trouble. Will the Turnaround Plan Work?” at Time magazine by Charlotte Alter, Brian Bennett and Philip Elliott: “As a fog of dread descends on Democrats, Biden’s inner circle is defiantly sanguine. They see a candidate with a strong economy, a sizable cash advantage, and a record of accomplishments on infrastructure, climate change, industrial policy, and consumer protections that will register for more voters as the campaign ramps up. They see a pattern of Democrats overperforming their polling in recent years, from the 2022 midterms to a spate of special elections and abortion referendums. Most of all, they see a historically unpopular opponent. And in the end, they believe, voters dissatisfied with the President will tally the stakes—from reproductive rights to the prospect of mass immigration roundups to the future of U.S. democracy—and pull the lever for Biden again. “Our biggest strength is that 80 million people sent him to the White House before,” says Quentin Fulks, Biden’s principal deputy campaign manager, who notes that Trump needs to find new voters to win. “Our challenge is winning people who have already cast a ballot for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris once.” ….Yet that may be a tall order in what’s shaping up to be a contest of which candidate America dislikes less. After a slow start, Biden’s campaign is charging forward, opening field offices, hiring staff, and launching an ad blitz painting Trump as a dangerous autocrat. But even if the President’s sputtering bid finds a new gear, allies say, the country is so bitterly divided that his ability to affect the outcome in November may be limited. Both sides are digging in for a gloomy slugfest, marked by depressed turnout and apocalyptic warnings about the fate that awaits the nation should the other guy win. Publicly, Biden’s brain trust is confident in their turnaround plan. Privately, even some White House insiders admit that they’re scared….Up next: a six-week, $30 million blitz of TV ads in battleground states that aim to define Trump as a threat to democracy and reproductive rights, while tackling the delicate issue of Biden’s age. The campaign has also begun rolling out its field operation; in addition to the new staffers, it plans to open 100 campaign offices in states like Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. “It’s about getting the boots on the ground,” Chavez Rodriguez says, “and building the ground game that we need to in all of our battleground states.”

Alter, Bennett and Elliott continue, “The campaign is gaming out different paths to the 270 Electoral College votes it needs to win. One is to rebuild the Blue Wall, which includes the traditional Democratic strongholds of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, and then capture another toss-up state. A second route cuts through the Sun Belt—Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, and North Carolina. Democrats are pushing to add an abortion-access measure to the ballot in Arizona that they believe would drive up turnout for Biden. The same may be said for a polarizing GOP nominee for governor in North Carolina. Some Democrats aren’t ready to abandon hopes of Biden’s putting Trump’s current home state of Florida within reach. The paths to a win are varied enough that a major Democratic PAC is spending almost $4 million in the Omaha TV ad market, where Harris’ husband Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff hosted political events in March in hopes of shaving off a single Electoral College vote in Nebraska’s Second District….But for Biden to beat the 77-year-old Trump, some allies believe it’s time to remove the bubble wrap. After campaigning successfully in 2020 on promises to restore the “soul of the nation,” Biden still clings to a self-image as a champion of comity. It is a pitch calibrated for an idealized electorate, not the one he has to win over. “People say, ‘I’m not going to vote for Trump, but I don’t know if I can vote for Biden.’ And everything they say has to do with his style: ‘He doesn’t seem to be fighting for us,’” says Representative Jim Clyburn, the former House Democratic whip, who has stepped away from his caucus leadership role to help Biden sharpen his message, urging the campaign to underscore the direct economic benefits of the Biden presidency….Recent flashes of fight have cheered the President’s supporters. After the boisterous State of the Union speech, he hit the road for a two-week swing through seven battleground states. The first event was at a middle-school gym in the Philadelphia suburbs, where Biden said Trump “got his wish” when the Supreme Court overturned Roe and states installed abortion restrictions. The President ticked through highlights of his record: limiting monthly insulin costs for seniors to $35; capping all Medicare prescription-drug costs at $2,000 a year; cutting credit-card late fees from $32 to $8; requiring corporations to pay a minimum of 15% in tax. When Biden called for an assault-weapons ban and stripping liability protections for gunmakers, the room erupted in cheers. After stepping off the stage, he shook hands and posed for selfies for 30 minutes, ignoring multiple announcements from his staff that it was time to leave.”

Sasha Abramsky addresses a question of concern for Democrats at The Nation, “Can Nevada Democrats Beat the Odds?,’ and writes: “Despite the energy in Trumpland, however, Nevada opinion pollsters and longtime observers of its politics tend to argue that the state, which went for the Democratic candidate in the past four elections, is still Biden’s to lose. They’re deeply suspicious of the early polls showing Trump considerably ahead and believe that Nevada, with its growing number of independent voters, has become increasingly difficult to poll accurately. Union organizing efforts in the Las Vegas area—the Culinary Workers, aware of the notoriously anti-union positions that Trump has taken over the years, knocked on more than 1 million doors statewide in 2022 and are likely to launch a similarly impressive effort this year—may still give the Democrats an edge as the election nears. “We knocked on the doors of over half the Black and over half the Latinx and over one-third of Asian voters” in the state in 2022, says Bethany Khan, a spokesperson for Local 226. In 2024, fresh off its successful negotiations with the largest casino-owning companies—which resulted in a new contract that increases workers’ starting pay and benefits from $28 to $37 an hour over the next five years—the union plans to lead the largest field effort in the state, Khan says….By most measures, Nevada these days is a blue state. Most of its senior elected officials, with the exception of the governor, are Democrats, and the party’s supermajority in the Assembly, combined with its near-supermajority in the Senate, has allowed it to push a raft of progressive reforms, from increased education spending to investments in electric vehicle infrastructure. A majority of Nevada’s population, propelled by liberal voting blocs in Las Vegas and Reno, is firmly on the side of reproductive rights. Las Vegas has embraced some of the country’s most innovative environmental sustainability policies, and demographically the city, which now has more residents than Boston, is increasingly diverse….the Harry Reid machine—resurrected after its brief toppling by the DSA—has a storied history of snatching narrow victories from the jaws of defeat. But the Democrats would be fooling themselves if they didn’t think they had a brutal fight on their hands in the Silver State.”


Political Strategy Notes

In his NYT opinion essay, “One Thing Keeping Democrats Up at Night,” Thomas B. Edsall writes: “The composition of the minority electorate in the United States is rapidly changing. This constituency was once dominated by Black voters loyal to the Democratic Party. Now, African American clout has been eclipsed or at least threatened by Hispanic, Asian American and other nonwhite voters whose less firm loyalty to the Democratic Party lowers the party’s Election Day margins among people of color overall….This multiracial, multiethnic population constitutes one-third of the electorate, according to an article published by the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, “The Transformation of the American Electorate,” which was written by Alan Abramowitz, a political scientist at Emory….“Eight months out from the election, polls are still suggesting 2024 will be the largest racial realignment since the Civil Rights Act was passed,” Adam Carlson, a data analyst, posted on X (formerly Twitter) on March 5….Three days later, John Burn-Murdoch, the chief data reporter for The Financial Times, contended in “American Politics Is Undergoing a Racial Realignment” that

many of America’s nonwhite voters have long held much more conservative views than their voting patterns would suggest. The migration we’re seeing today is not so much natural Democrats becoming disillusioned but natural Republicans realizing they’ve been voting for the wrong party.

On March 15, the polling expert Nate Silver, citing Burn-Murdoch’s racial realignment article, posted “Democrats Are Hemorrhaging Support With Voters of Color” on his Substack.”

Edsall notes further, “Brian Schaffner, a political scientist at Tufts who oversees data collection at the Cooperative Election Study, described his views in an email:

What I see is some fluctuation over the past two decades coinciding with unique presidential candidates, no major realignment. A lot of what people are prognosticating about is something that current polls suggest might happen in November, but at this point I don’t think we can say that there has been any kind of major shift yet.

Along similar lines, Jacob Grumbach, a political scientist at the University of Washington, replied by email to my inquiry about racial realignment:

The overall takeaway is that we’ve seen some Latino movement toward Trump in some parts of the country and potentially some Asian American movement as well. It’s an important shift, but it’s uncertain how durable it is, and it’s not unseen in earlier periods, such as George W. Bush in 2004.

There was universal agreement among those I contacted that recent polling data is problematic for the Biden campaign, which is reflected in the RealClearPolitics analysis of the 13 most recent surveys, which, in aggregate, give Trump a 1.7 percentage point lead over Biden, 47.2 to 45.5.”

Edsall adds, “Compare some of the results of the March 10 to 12 Economist/YouGov poll of 1,559 adults with those in the March 9 to 12 Civiqs/Daily Kos survey of 1,324 registered voters….YouGov found Biden leading Trump 68 to 15 percent among Black Americans, 47 to 36 among Hispanic Americans and 56 to 29 among 18-to-29-year-olds. Civiqs found much higher levels of support for Biden among Black people (79 to 8) and Hispanics (71 to 17), but among 18-to-34-year-olds in the Civiqs survey, Trump had a substantial lead (49 to 36) over Biden….Carlson has aggregated polling trends for subgroups by combining data collected in February 2024 from 10 polling firms to get a sample size of 11,288 people, including 1,134 Black voters, 1,161 Hispanic voters and 1,003 young voters ages 18 to 29….The trends in these subgroups provide little comfort to the Biden campaign….Among Black voters, Biden led Trump by 55 points (73 to 18), far less than his 83-point margin in 2020. Among Hispanics, Biden led by six points (48 to 42), compared with a 24-point advantage in 2020. Among 18-to-29-year-olds, Biden led by eight points (50 to 42) compared with 24 points in 2020….Despite the erosion of Black, Hispanic and youth support since 2020, Biden remained competitive in Carlson’s data compilation — just two points behind Trump (47 to 45) among all respondents. This was possible because Biden made modest gains among very large subgroups: 1.3 points among 2,014 white college graduates, 0.6 point among 2,103 white non-college grads, four points among 923 voters ages 50 to 64, 1.8 points among the 2,208 voters 65 or older.”

Edsall writes, “I asked Carlson how he could justify using “realignment” to describe what’s been happening, since that suggests a full-scale partisan conversion of the country or of a major constituency, as in the 1932-36 realignment that saw the electorate go from majority Republican to majority Democratic or the post-civil-rights realignment that saw the white South go from majority Democratic to majority Republican….Carlson responded:

If what we’re seeing in recent polls regarding shifts among young, Black and Latino voters ends up happening in November, in my view “realignment” is the right term. It won’t be like 1932 or 1964, where the parties essentially swapped coalitions for the New Deal and civil rights, respectively.

Essentially it would be a continuation of the trends we saw in 2020 among Latinos, a sizable but not earth-shattering shift among Black voters (though even in the most pessimistic assessments Biden will still win at least 75 percent of Black voters) and a shift to roughly even among younger voters from a strong Dem advantage.

Carlson had this caveat: “For what it’s worth, I am skeptical that these swings will be this large once all is said and done in November, but that’s neither provable nor falsifiable until then.”…Data from the Cooperative Election Study, which conducts surveys of more than 50,000 voters every election cycle, does not support the case for a realignment of any major voting bloc….Perhaps most significantly, more detailed election study data breaking down voting trends by race, ethnicity and ideology shows that the defections of Black and Hispanic voters from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party are heavily concentrated among those who describe themselves as conservative….An estimated 16 percent of Black voters are conservative, and from 2012, when Barack Obama was at the top of the Democratic ticket, to 2022, their level of support for Democratic House candidates fell from 84.2 to 47.7 percent.” Edsall mulls over more data, and observes, “There is evidence that a substantial share of Black, Hispanic and other voters from multiracial, multiethnic backgrounds oppose some elements of the Democrats’ liberal social and cultural agenda.” Edsall concludes, “Voting data and polling data are in conflict, which confounds analysis — tiny shifts among white voters can still have an outsize impact. Biden knows he has to raise both the level of his support and the level of turnout among America’s minority voters if Democrats are going to have a decent chance of beating Trump.”


Political Strategy Notes

Among the frequently-heard comments of not-so-political friends are variations of “I’m so sick of him. I just want him to go away.” Indeed, eight years of media obsession with Trump’s every folly have made many Americans tune out at some point, including yours truly.  Voters elected FDR four times. But he didn’t bellow lies, bully talk or try to overturn duly certified elections. If you have been wondering if and when something like “Trump Fatigue” will start to make a difference, you are not alone. A quick google of “Trump fatigue” pulls up an endless stream of articles. Here are a few choice comments from them: NYT’s Katie Glueck noted last month that “Democrats are hardly alone in their political fatigue: A Pew Research Center survey last year found that 65% of Americans said they always or often felt exhausted when they thought about politics.” No doubt some of this is simply because there is a lot more media nowadays. But the phenomenon is no less real. Or, if you are wondering about the mental health aspects of Trump fatigue, check out  “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President,” the Amazon summary of which notes, “Craig Malkin writes on pathological narcissism and politics as a lethal mix. Gail Sheehy, on a lack of trust that exceeds paranoia. Lance Dodes, on sociopathy. Robert Jay Lifton, on the “malignant normality” that can set in everyday life if psychiatrists do not speak up….he has created unprecedented mental health consequences across our nation and beyond.” Sebastian Cahill writes at Business Insider, “Jared Carter, a Vermont Law and Graduate School law professor, told Insider people are tired of hearing about Trump’s actions and have been for several years….”A part of the reason Trump lost the 2020 election is people were tired of it,” Carter said, referring to Trump’s continuous scandals. “It’s exhausting, for journalists and the public to be constantly having this guy living in their minds.” Is ‘Trump fatigue’ a widespread, verifiable thing outside of anecdotal accounts? Liberals probably hear indications of it a lot. But tightly-framed polling data that reference it directly among centrists, independents and swing voters, or by education/class is scarce.

Rachel M. Cohen explains “Why abortion politics might not carry Democrats again in 2024” at Vox: “Democrats’ decision to center the overthrow of Roe is rooted largely in the massive success they’ve had running on abortion rights over the last two years, which helped them win a slew of special elections and outperform expectations in the 2022 midterms, staving off a red wave and keeping control of the US Senate. Pro-abortion ballot measures won in all seven states in which they appeared on the ballot since Dobbs, even in red states like Kentucky, Montana, and Kansas….Given this strategy’s success in the midterm and special elections, centering abortion rights seems like a safe bet for Biden in 2024. But the special circumstances of presidential elections — and the masses of voters they tend to attract — suggest this strategy is more of a gamble than it first appears….So-called “low-propensity” voters, meanwhile, are generally not following politics closely and are less likely to have gone to college. They’re unlikely to be watching Fox News or MSNBC, probably not posting any Instagram stories about the Middle East or sending money to candidates. They are often less sure about what each party stands for, but they do generally turn out to vote, partly because voting is habitual, and for many it is seen as a civic duty. These particular voters (also referred to as “infrequent” voters or “less engaged” voters) have not yet turned out since 2020, or 18 months before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade….Polling indicates that it’s these voters that Biden is now struggling with, those who cast ballots for him four years ago but now are leaning toward Donald Trump or considering staying home on Election Day. Things have grown especially dire for the president among young, Black, and Hispanic low-propensity voters. Nate Cohn, the chief political analyst for the New York Times, said in October these less engaged voters “might just be the single biggest problem” facing Biden….And for these voters in particular, abortion rights are simply not among the top issues they say they care about….First, the good news for Democrats: Low-propensity voters also support abortion rights. Broadly speaking, they even tend to identify as slightly more “pro-choice” than the rest of the electorate, according to Bryan Bennett, a pollster with the progressive polling firm Navigator. (Per Navigator’s data, infrequent voters are about 67 percent pro-choice and 27 percent anti-abortion, compared to the rest of the country that’s 64 percent pro-choice and 31 percent anti-abortion.).”

Cohen continues, “Among most voters — high-propensity and low — inflation and jobs top the list of issues they say are most important to them. Among low-propensity voters in particular, Bennett told me, jobs and inflation rank even higher than among the country overall. “So the high-level takeaway is that these are deeply economically focused folks,” he said….When Navigator asked low-propensity voters which issues they feel are most important for Congress to focus on, those voters ranked inflation and jobs highest, followed by health care (34 percent), then corruption in government, immigration, climate change, crime, Social Security and Medicare, and education all between 27 and 22 percent. Only after that did 17 percent of low-propensity voters rank abortion a top issue for Congress….Danielle Deiseroth, executive director of Data for Progress, said their initial findings showedamong likely Biden-to-Trump voters that the economy was their most commonly cited important issue. “Abortion almost ranked dead last in terms of issue importance, tied with race relations and education, and just ahead of LGBTQ+ issues,” Deiseroth added….Abortion rights ballot measures won in all seven states, largely because Republicans crossed the aisle to vote for them. Looking at the crosstabs, experts found that abortion ballot measures tended to over-perform with white Republican voters and underperform with non-white Democratic voters….Another reason the strategy may still work is because by and large fewer than usual low-propensity voters may turn out in November this year, and there’s little doubt abortion rights remain a salient issue for high-propensity voters who lean Democratic….even if they don’t change their campaign focus, Democrats may benefit from their advantage with high-propensity voters. A Grinnell College survey from October found 2020 Trump voters were four points less likely to say they were definitely going to cast a ballot this year than 2020 Biden voters, and surveys from Marquette University found Biden performing better among likely voters than registered ones. Researchers I spoke with said they expect the president’s polling performance with college-educated voters and self-identified Democrats to improve as the campaign stretches on. If these voters turn out for the president, and overall turnout remains on the lower end, Biden has a better chance.”

It’s still unclear whether RFK, Jr.’s presidential candidacy will hurt President Biden or Trump more, or draw equally from both of them. But if his numbers are still in double-digit territory during the next few months, and if it appears he would hurt Democratic prospects as an Independent candidate in the general election, Democratic ad-makers will be able to mine a lot of negative material from his veep list bios. I’m getting a whiff of red herring from the recent media buzz about former quarterback Aaron Rodgers being RFK, Jr.’s front-runner. If he picks Rodgers, however, expect significant loss of Kennedy’s liberal supporters, owing to Rodgers’ alleged comments about the Sandy Hook massacre being an “inside job.” A Rodgers pick would also appear to be a doubling down on Kennedy’s anti-vaxxer rep. Former pro wrestler Jesse Ventura has some authentic political cred and was a former Governor of Minnesota. He might bring some value added for liberal voters as a result of his views favoring making recreational Mary legal, gay rights and more investment in education. But he was an avid supporter of Rep Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential run, despite Paul’s criticism of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and ugly racial comments that have been attributed to Paul, via his newsletter. Paul’s son, Republican Sen. Rand Paul is also on RFK, Jr.’s veep short list, despite having criticized the Civil Rights Act of 1964, opposed Obamacare, abortion rights and voted against restrictions on the sale of assault-style weapons. Former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who served four terms in congress and ran for president in 2020, is one of the more qualified picks on the list. But she has  political baggage that will deter liberals, including her campaigning for Republican candidates J.D. Vance, Adam Laxalt and Kari Lake against their Democratic opponents. Some liberals may like that she supported the 2016 presidential candidacy of Sen. Bernie Sanders. Andrew Yang, also a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, has had his name chucked into the RFK, Jr. short list, and he is probably the most likable and public-spirited of the bunch. Currently co-chair of the “Forward Party,” Yang’s signature issue has been the “universal basic income,” which may win some support among progressives, while arousing skepticism among ‘how you gonna pay for it?’ moderates. Yang didn’t get much traction in his presidential campaign, and he dropped out of his race for New York City Mayor.  The very latest buzz is that Nicole Shanahan is RFK  Jr.’s veep front-runner. Shanahan “does not technically have political experience. However she has donated very large sums of money to Democratic candidates,” according to Robby Soave and Briahna Joy Gray of The Hill. As a whole, it’s an uninspiring veep short list. The Biden campaign will have plenty to work with, if Kennedy’s candidacy gathers momentum.


Political Strategy Notes

Following his impressive SOTU, President Biden has hit the campaign trail with an equally-popular message and a sharply-focused attack against his predecessor. As Alex Gangitano reports in “Biden rallies crowd by citing Trump’s remarks on Social Security cuts” at The Hill,  “President Biden rallied a crowd in Milwaukee Wednesday by citing former President Trump’s recent remarks suggesting he’s open to cuts to Medicare and Social Security….“Just this week, Donald Trump said cuts to Social Security and Medicare are on the table. When asked if he’d change his position, he said quote, there’s a lot we can do in terms of cutting, tremendous amount of things we can do. End of quote,” Biden said….“I want to assure you, I will never allow it to happen,” he added during a visit to the critical swing state of Wisconsin….Biden vowed Wednesday to protect the entitlement programs….“I won’t cut Social Security; I will not cut Medicare. Instead of cutting Social Security and Medicare to give tax breaks to the super wealthy, I’m going to protect and strengthen Social Security and Medicare to make the wealthy begin to pay their fair share,” Biden said….The Biden campaign promptly dropped an ad with Trump’s comments and then launched an effort in battleground states to hold more than a dozen press conferences before Friday, all focused on entitlement programs, the campaign first told The Hill….“Many of my friends on the other side of the aisle want to put Social Security on the chopping block,” Biden said in the address. “If anyone here tries to cut Social Security or Medicare or raise the retirement age, I will stop you.”

In “New Study: Where Are All the Left Populists?” the editors of Jacobin write: “The political left is struggling with working-class voters around the world. In the United States, the Democratic Party has lost more of its support in election after election since 2012. Is there anything that can be done to stop the bleeding or even reverse the trend?….In 2023, with Jacobin and YouGov, the Center for Working-Class Politics (CWCP) published Trump’s Kryptonite, a studythat sought to provide some answers to this basic question. We designed a unique survey experiment that asked participants to choose between hypothetical pairs of candidates. We found that candidates who deployed populist messaging, who advocated bold progressive economic policies, and who came from working-class backgrounds were more likely to win support among working-class voters….With the help of a team of research assistants, we built a novel, comprehensive dataset on the 966 candidates who ran in Democratic primaries and general elections for the House and Senate in 2022. Using text from candidates’ campaign websites, we documented their campaign rhetoric, policy platforms, demographic characteristics, and class backgrounds. We were thus able to identify, among other things, candidates who our past research suggests would be effective at winning working-class voters: those who employed populist rhetoric, proposed progressive economic policies, or held working-class occupations prior to their political careers….More than anything else, our findings reveal just how few Democratic candidates actually meet these criteria.”

The Jacobin editors continue, “Despite the appeal of forceful, anti–economic elite messaging to the demographics that Democrats desperately need to reach — such as working-class and rural voters — few Democrats actually employ this kind of messaging. Even fewer run on bold progressive economic policies such as raising the minimum wage or a jobs guarantee. Finally, working-class candidates were extremely rare — 2 percent to 6 percent of candidates, depending on the measure — and those who did run were typically marginal primary candidates or ran Hail Mary general election campaigns in deep-red districts….How did progressives, populists, and working-class candidates fare when they did run? In short, quite well. Candidates who used economic populist rhetoric won higher vote shares in general elections, especially in highly working-class districts, rural and small-town districts, and districts where the majority were white and not college educated. We also find that Democratic candidates running on economically progressive policies were more successful overall than other candidates, especially in majority-white, non-college-educated districts….Democrats face little downside from running more working-class candidates in general elections, and a large potential upside…..Economic populists performed especially well in districts with majority-white, non-college-educated populations and in highly working-class districts. Their average vote shares were, respectively, 12.3 and 6.4 percentage points higher than other candidates’ in such districts. Economic populists also performed better than other candidates in rural and small-town districts, where their average vote share was 4.7 percentage points higher….You can read the full report here.”

From “Notes on the State of Politics: March 13, 2024: Assessing the new House landscape as redistricting is (probably) over; looking ahead to next week’s down-ballot Ohio and Illinois primaries” by Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Alabama: Somewhat surprisingly, the U.S. Supreme Court in last year’s Allen v. Milligan decision upheld Section Two of the Voting Rights Act, which can prompt the creation of majority-minority districts in places that can accommodate them based on certain criteria. A court-imposed map created a second Black majority seat in the state, which should cut the state’s 6-1 Republican delegation to 5-2….Louisiana: Allen v. Milligan effectively opened the door to a new map in Louisiana, too, and eventually the state legislature created what amounts to a heavily Democratic district, which should have the effect of reducing the GOP edge from 5-1 to 4-2….Georgia: Another case in the style of Alabama and Louisiana was decided in Georgia, but the Republican-controlled state legislature simply rearranged districts in the Atlanta area to create an additional Black majority district that won’t otherwise upset the partisan makeup of the state’s congressional delegation, currently 9-5 Republican….North Carolina: The state’s then-Democratic state Supreme Court imposed a map that resulted in a 7-7 tie in the delegation in 2022. Republicans took control of the state Supreme Court, which then re-opened the door to the GOP-controlled legislature re-imposing a partisan gerrymander. Republicans converted two Safe Democratic seats and one very competitive seat won by a Democrat in 2022 into three Safe Republican seats, and they also changed a northeast North Carolina district held by first-term Rep. Don Davis (D, NC-1) from one that Joe Biden carried by 7.3 points to just Biden +1.7….New York: After the state’s highest court imposed a map to replace an aggressive Democratic gerrymander in 2022, state Democrats got a more liberal version of the same court to re-open the state’s convoluted redistricting process. The end result was a mildly better map for Democrats, with potentially the most impactful change coming in Rep. Brandon Williams’s (R) Syracuse-based NY-22, which went from Biden +7.5 to Biden +11.4….So, who won? Probably Republicans, but only modestly….This is because the pro-Democratic changes in Alabama, Louisiana, and New York do not, together, offset the pro-Republican changes in North Carolina.”


Political Strategy Notes

“The emerging Democratic strategy is two-fold,” David Weigel writes at Semafor. “One: They need to counteract “Trump amnesia,” the catchall term for voters forgetting aspects of his presidency that they hated in real time. The top of Biden’s remarks, invoking the Jan. 6 riots and how Republicans had memory-holed them, was part of that….Outside of California’s central valley, where the House GOP’s super PAC spent money to help Rep. David Valadao beat a challenger who attacked his vote for Trump’s post-Jan. 6 impeachment, the party was nominating MAGA candidates who kept insisting that the 2020 election was stolen. As Trump locked up the nomination this week, Arizona U.S. Senate candidate Kari Lake was picking up support from GOP leaders, ensuring that the swing state’s Republican ticket would be led by two candidates who’d lost it….The second part of the strategy looks forward — a people-versus-the-powerful message, portraying Trump as a catspaw for right-wing economic interests….“I wish there was more coverage of the Trump record of tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy,” said North Carolina Rep. Wiley Nickel, a Democrat leaving the House this year after Republicans re-drew the state’s map and made his seat unwinnable. “That’s their record. If Republicans have unified government, Social Security and Medicare will be on the chopping block.”….Biden worked that angle on Thursday, repeatedly, calling out United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain in the gallery and highlighting the GOP’s least popular economic policies. As Semafor’s Shelby Talcott reports, the campaign is increasingly focusing on Project 2025, the Heritage Foundation’s compendium of policy and personnel advice for the next Republican president. Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful 2016 campaign separated Trump from the rest of the GOP, citing then-House Speaker Paul Ryan as a character witness. Biden is binding them together.”

Check out the Biden campaign’s first ad, post SOTU:

In “DLCC unveils ambitious “Multi-Cycle” strategy for long-term democratic dominance,” Stacy M. Brown writes at insight news.com: “The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) on Monday, Feb. 26, revealed an expansive strategy memo, charting a multifaceted plan to venture into historically Republican strongholds and solidify Democratic power over the next decade. Departing from the typical focus on immediate elections, Democrats are now adopting a forward-thinking approach to counter the historical trend of losing gains in subsequent cycles….Distinguishing itself as the sole party committee investing in multi-cycle victories, the DLCC said it aims to tackle this challenge head-on. Officials said the strategy is to secure immediate electoral triumphs and establish a lasting infrastructure that will fortify Democratic influence for years to come. Investments made in 2024 will lay the foundation to claim the majority in state legislatures throughout the decade, officials declared….The DLCC stressed the urgency of countering the Republicans’ successful long-term game, citing underhanded tactics, gerrymandering, and substantial financial investments that have consistently allowed them to dominate state legislatures. To thwart these efforts, the DLCC advocates for significant resources, investments, and a clear strategy for sustained power….The DLCC also asserted its capability to secure immediate electoral gains while strategically building Democratic power over multiple election cycles. Officials pointed to recent elections reflecting this approach’s success, with state Democrats now controlling 41 of the 99 state legislative chambers, marking a significant shift in political power.”

Brown adds, “As the DLCC gears up for the 2024 cycle with its largest-ever $60 million budget, officials outlined a bold, evidence-based plan to achieve majority control in 50 chambers by 2030. The multifaceted strategy includes:

  • Breaking Republican supermajorities.
  • Expanding into traditionally Republican territory.
  • Setting the stage for new Democratic trifectas.
  • Combating gerrymandering.
  • Tracking other races that influence power balances.
  • Taking advantage of special elections.

Specifically, the DLCC’s multi-cycle strategy targets states like Kansas, North Carolina, and Wisconsin to break or prevent Republican supermajorities. The committee has already invested in Wisconsin and North Carolina as part of its battleground initiatives. Additionally, the DLCC aims to gradually chip away at Republican trifectas in states like Georgia, which is identified as a prime location for political change in 2024….The DLCC stressed the importance of holding key seats in states that don’t align gubernatorial and legislative elections in the same year. This strategic move allows Democrats to establish governing trifectas over multiple cycles. With half of its Senate seats up for election in 2024, Pennsylvania serves as a crucial target for the DLCC, aiming to secure a trifecta in 2026 alongside a competitive gubernatorial race….“With new redistricting maps decided by 2030 elections and in order to fundamentally transform the balance of power in states, we need a long-term strategy to break into territory that Republicans have long dominated,” DLCC President Heather Williams said in an email. “That’s exactly what this plan does. The DLCC is the only party committee tasked with working cycle over cycle to build Democratic power in state legislatures. Our 2024 target map includes states like Kansas, North Carolina, Georgia, and Wisconsin – states where we must build infrastructure and position Democrats to gradually chip away at Republican power. 2024 is the year of the states, and what happens this year will shape the arc of Democratic power in the states for the decade. Today, Republicans have been put on notice that the DLCC has the plan to win not only the year, but also the decade and decades to come.”