washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

In a “fiery” interview by Politico’s Michael Grunwald, former Vice President Biden “said that the next round of coronavirus stimulus needs to be “a hell of a lot bigger” than last month’s $2 trillion CARES Act, that it needs to include massive aid to states and cities to prevent them from “laying off a hell of a lot of teachers and cops and firefighters,” and that the administration is already “wasting a hell of a lot of money.”…He called for stronger assurances that small-business loans will go to small businesses, and that aid to larger corporations will come with strings prohibiting stock buybacks, executive bonuses or worker layoffs. But he also went beyond policy prescriptions, saying the pandemic might convince Americans that grocery clerks “and all the other folks out there saving our rear ends and risking their lives for eight bucks an hour” deserve a better deal. He thinks there could be a backlash against big corporations who have poured their profits into buybacks and dividends rather than worker training and research and development. He thinks the virus could deal a blow to short-term economic thinking and anti-government political thinking.”

At The Cook Political Report, Amy Walter cites four possible scenarios for the November elections, including “1. The virus is still raging, and most of us are still under some form of a shelter at home order. 2. We have regional hot spots, but the rest of the country gets back to normal. 3. We are more or less ‘back to normal,’ but the fear of crowded spaces continues. 4. Things get better over the summer, but a new wave is predicted to break out in October or November.” Walter notes further that “states theoretically have the time to prepare for any of the four scenarios I laid out above. But, we also know that partisanship and legislative wrangling is a big—or bigger—hurdle than the ticking clock. For example, the three most important battleground states of the midwest—Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan—all have split control of government, more specifically, Democratic governors and Republican legislatures. The idea that these states could agree upon new laws before November—especially at a time when many state legislatures are trying to avoid meeting in person during this pandemic— seems unlikely.”

What does it take to get voting by mail in a Republican-controlled state? The Associated Press reports that “North Dakota’s June 9 primary will be conducted entirely by mail after all 53 counties chose to avoid in-person voting due to the coronavirus…Gov. Doug Burgum, a Republican, signed an executive order in March to let counties opt out of a requirement that they open at least one physical polling location. On Thursday, the state announced that every county commission had authorized voting by mail only. The state said it would mail ballot applications to every eligible voter.” Apparently the GOP supports safe voting only when the citizens who would be standing in line are overwhelmingly white. According to the Census Bureau’s 2015 Population Estimates Program, “When it comes to race, North Dakota’s voting age population is 91 percent White, 1.9 percent Black or African American, 1.3 percent Asian, 4.4 percent American Indian/Alaska Native, and 0.07 percent Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander. The Hispanic voting age population represents 2.6 percent of the overall North Dakota population.” Voter suppression practices reduce voting by the state’s racial minorities even further.

Walter also notes that “a February Gallup survey found that 59 percent of Americans were enthusiastic about voting in November — 13 points higher than a similar point in 2016 and 12 points higher than early in the 2012 campaign…Since the outbreak of coronavirus, however, CNN polling has shown a dip in enthusiasm, from 66 percent in early March to 57 percent in early April. Of course, more Americans are worried about paying bills, getting sick, and losing their jobs than they were in early March. As such, an election in November suddenly seems much less relevant. It’s also worth noting that enthusiasm to vote is still 16-points higher now than it was in July of 2016 and 9-points higher than it was in March of 2012. However, it’s worth watching this “enthusiasm” number closely over these next few months to see which voters say they have become less motivated to participate in the fall election…At this stage, we also know that voters are uncomfortable about the prospect of showing up to vote at a traditional voting location. An early March survey by Pew Research found two-thirds of Americans worried about showing up to vote in person.”

“More than 200 black women on Friday signed an open letter to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden urging him to pick a black woman as his running mate,Kate Sullvan reports at CNN Politics. “The letter, signed by black women working in both the public and private sectors, lists several potential candidates: former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, California Rep. Karen Bass, Florida Rep. Val Demings, Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, California Sen. Kamala Harris, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, and former national security adviser Susan Rice.,,Signers include actors Vanessa Williams, Latanya Richardson Jackson and Pauletta Washington, the former chairman and president of the US Tennis Association, Katrina Adams, the former editor-in-chief of Essence magazine, Susan Taylor, and the first female African American president of Spelman College, Johnnetta Cole.” Rep. Jim Clyburn, whose endorsement Biden has credited with securing his pivotal victory in the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary, has also expressed support for an African American woman as Biden’s running mate.

Chris Cillizza drills down on “The Warren V.P. Problem” at CNN Politics, and writes about the implications for majority control of the U.S. Senate afyer the election: “I’ve had Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren ranked consistently in the top five potential vice presidential picks for Joe Biden in 2020. The reasons are obvious: She’s a hugely popular figure with liberals nationwide and would help Biden energize that wing of the party come fall. But increasingly, there’s chatter that picking Warren would come with a major potential downside: Republican Gov. Charlie Baker would be tasked with picking her Senate replacement — and he would almost certainly pick a Republican…That would hand the GOP a bonus seat at the start of 2021 — and trigger a special election in the summer for Warren’s full term…The rules in Massachusetts work like this: Baker has the right to appoint an interim senator but also must call a special election for the seats between 145 and 160 days after the vacancy occurs…If Warren was the VP pick and resigned on the day she and Biden were inaugurated (January 20, 2021), the soonest a special election could be held is Tuesday June 15, 2021, and the latest June 29, 2021. That would mean that for the first six months of Biden’s presidency, Republicans would have an extra seat, which could be hugely important if the margin for control in the Senate was tight…And, yes, Democrats would be favored to win Warren’s Senate seat in a June 2021 special election even against Baker’s appointed Republican. But special elections are weird things — and Scott Brown’s 2010 special election win will be on Democrats’ minds…Other potential VP picks Sens. Kamala Harris (California) and Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota) represent states with Democratic governors, making their selections far less problematic for Biden.” Yes, there is a chance Democrats will win a large enough Senate majority without Warren staying in the Senate, but that’s a dicey bet at this point.

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. proposes “a bipartisan coalition of responsible governors pick one of their own to lead a daily briefing aimed at the whole country. Many governors already make regular reports to their respective states, of course, and New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo has played a de facto role as a spokesman with effective news conferences well-timed for East Coast media…But individual governors often and understandably hedge what they say for fear of retaliation by Trump, who treats them the same way he treated Ukraine’s president. He is, once again, holding Washington’s assistance hostage to his own selfish interests…Workers realized long ago that speaking and bargaining collectively gave them power they didn’t have as individuals. Governors trying to act sensibly should learn the same lesson. Acting together, they could be far more fearless in calling out Trump’s failures, and more demanding when it comes to what their citizens need from Washington”

Dionne continues, “With his hands full in New York, Cuomo will continue his own briefings. But other governors could rotate the job of being the daily embodiment of practical ideas and thoughtful leadership…Americans across the country need to hear more from Republican governors such as Maryland’s Larry Hogan, Ohio’s Mike DeWine and Massachusetts’s Charlie Baker. And let Western and Midwestern Democratic governors become larger national voices, among them California’s Gavin Newsom, Oregon’s Kate Brown, Washington’s Jay Inslee, Colorado’s Jared Polis, Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer and Illinois’s J.B. Pritzker. Others could join. Each day, one of them should be empowered by their colleagues to speak for the group. They should do this even if Trump — no doubt influenced by the backlash against his Disinfectant Delirium — follows through on his Saturday evening tweet suggesting he might end his daily follies.”

In his article, “A New Poll Shows The Messaging Democrats Should Use To Defeat Trump” at forbes.com, Will Jeakle notes, “Of the three, the message that had the most impact on those polled was the idea that Trump’s response to the coronavirus crisis had not only been ineffective but had actually cost lives. This message moved voters’ perception of Trump almost a full percentage point in the Democrats’ direction….The next most effective message in voters’ eyes was the message that Trump and his allies had used the crisis as an opportunity to slash the social safety net, ensuring help for big business, but leaving workers and small businesses to fend for themselves. This message resonated despite that fact of the CARES act providing SBA loans and disaster relief for small businesses and the beginning of the delivery of $1200 per person relief checks (delivery which was held up in some cases by Trump’s insistence on affixing his signature to the memo field of the checks).”


Political Strategy Notes

On his Facebook page, Ruy Teixeira comments on “The Single Most Important Stat from the New NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll,” and notes, “In this poll, Biden leads Trump by 7 points. But the most interesting finding is Biden’s support among those who are not favorable toward either him or Trump. In 2016, Trump carried those unfavorable toward both him and Clinton by 17 points. This time ’round Biden is carrying those who don’t like either him or Trump by 50 points. 50 points! I would characterize this as a good sign.”

A hard-hitting new Biden for President ad:

“President Trump has chosen his pandemic re-election strategy,” Thomas B. Edsall writes at The New York Times. “He is set on unifying and reinvigorating the groups that were crucial to his 2016 victory: racially resentful whites, evangelical Christians, gun activists, anti-vaxxers and wealthy conservatives…Tying his re-election to the growing anti-lockdown movement, Trump is encouraging a resurgence of what Ed Kilgore, in New York magazine, calls “the angry anti-government strain of right-wing political activity that broke out in the tea-party movement” — a movement now focused on ending the virus-imposed restrictions on many aspects of American life…Steve Schmidt — a former Republican consultant and prominent Never Trumper who served as a senior adviser to John McCain’s 2008 presidential bid — described the shape he saw Trump’s 2020 re-election drive taking. As the “administration continues to lie, fumble and flounder,” Schmidt wrote in an April 17 Twitter thread,..”get ready for the noxious blend of Confederate flags, semiautomatic weaponry, conspiracy theorists, political cultists, extremists and nut jobs coming to a state Capitol near you.”

If you were wondering “What Would Virtual Democratic And Republican Conventions Mean For The 2020 Presidential Race?,” A FiveThirtyEight chat surveys the possibilities, including this observation by Nathaniel Rakich : “Sabato’s Crystal Ball had a great article the other day on this and how remote conventions could work. I recommend reading the whole thing, but the TLDR version is that the four important formalities that a convention must address — certifying delegates, approving the convention rules, electing convention officers and, of course, nominating the presidential and vice-presidential candidates — could all be done remotely but will require lots of advance planning…As for the glitzy, self-promoting elements … I think that’s more of an open question.” Julia Azari says, “It’s a really tricky question in some ways. Conventions are kind of a holdover from a past era when delegates reallypicked the nominee, but the transition from “conventions as real events” to “conventions as infomercials” has been kind of messy and slow…Geoffrey Skelley notes, “It’s tough to say what the impact might be, but I can see why the parties don’t want to go virtual if they don’t have to. There’s potentially less coverage of the event and less of a chance to get their message across.”

Another good Biden ad, this one from The Lincoln Project, an oganization of anti-Trump Republicans, including Steve Schmidt, George Conway and Rick Wilson:

From “Biden Quiet on Nationwide Vote by Mail. That’s on Purpose” by Scott Bixby and Hunter Woodall at The Daily Beast: “As concerns have risen about voter safety in the midst of a global pandemic, the past few weeks have seen proposed solutions put forward by voter-rights organizations, Democratic lawmakers, and almost the entirety of former Vice President Joe Biden’s short list of potential running mates…But Biden himself has held back on endorsing any particular plan for expanding access to mail-in ballots—a decision that campaign sources told The Daily Beast is by design…Last week, Sen. Kamala Harris of California introduced the “VoteSafe Act,” which would require states to permit no-excuse mail-in voting by absentee. In March, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota introduced the “Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act of 2020,” which would do the same, and reimburse states for additional costs of administering elections during the pandemic.” Biden made the right call because his endorsement would likely feed media distortion of the nonpartisan merit of voting by mail, since the need for the reform before the election is critical in light of the pandemic.

Mackenzie Zlatos spotlights “10 Republican Senators who are vulnerable to being swept out with Trump in November” at frontpagelive.com. Noting that “35 Senate seats are up for election on November 3: 12 Democrat incumbents and 23 Republican incumbents (along with two special elections),” Zlatos argues that Senate seats now occupied by the following Republicans are up for grabs: Susan Collins (ME); Martha McSally (AZ); David Perdue (GA); Joni Ernst (IA); Mitch McConnell (KY); Cindy Hyde-Smith (MS); Thom Tillis (NC); Lindsey Graham (SC); John Cornyn (TX); and Cory Gardner (CO). Zlatos provides “Why he (she) might be in trouble” nuggets for each of the GOP Senators, like this one for Tillis: “Tillis was booed while attending a Trump rally in North Carolina.”

Seth Moskowitz writes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “In order for Democrats to win an outright majority in the Senate and overcome the current 53-47 Republican split, they need to net four seats. In the case of a Senate tie, however, the vice president casts the tie-breaking vote. Given the 2020 Electoral College and Senate maps, it is difficult to imagine a plausible scenario whereby Democrats net four Senate seats but do not win the presidency and the tiebreaking power in the Senate. So three is the real magic number for Senate Democrats.” Here’s the current Senate election map, according to Sabato’s Crystal Ball:

Would you like to get election reminders via text on your cell phone? How about basic voting information for every state by hovering over an interacti ve map of the U.S. or Covid-19 voting information? Or maybe get a toolkit providing assistance for hosting a voter registration drive in your community? Or if you just want to register, check your registration status or updated poll location? You can also get “A suite of modern digital tools designed to empower organizations to drive civic action and track progress,” or take part in a “Democracy Class” with lesson plans designed to educate high schoolers about the importance of voting, local elections, the 2020 Census and other topics. All of this can be accessed through the Rock the Vote website.


Worker Safety May Be a Pivotal Concern of Voters in November

At The Nation, Jeet Heer argues that “The Coronavirus Class War Has Already Started: The combination of plutocratic bailouts and a physically endangered working class is sparking a new blue-collar militancy.” As Heer writes:

There is actually a two-pronged class war going on. Among the rich and their allies in both political parties, the crisis offers an opportunity to loot the Treasury. The stimulus packages that have passed or are being contemplated are all designed to lock in the privileged position of the existing rich, with only limited efforts made to soften the blow of the recession on the working-class majority. At the same time, blue-collar workers are expected to work in dangerous conditions with little compensation. Many of these same workers are being squeezed by furloughs, pay cuts and layoffs.

The combination of plutocratic bailouts and increasing precariousness and physical danger for the working class is an explosive one. It’s hard to see how it can last long without a breakdown of the social order.

Heer explains further, “It’s not just medical workers that are facing more precarious and dangerous workplaces. Writing in The New York Times, veteran labor reporter Steven Greenhouse observed that there was a strong class division in how the coronavirus crisis is being experienced.”

“Millions of white-collar workers are telecommuting from home to stay safe as the coronavirus extends its terrifying reach across America,” Greenhouse observes. “But millions of other workers—supermarket cashiers, pharmacists, warehouse workers, bus drivers, meatpacking workers—still have to report to work each day, and many are furious that their employers are not doing enough to protect them against the pandemic.”

Heer adds, “The growing lethality of the American workplace is fueling a wave of strikes, both union-led and spontaneous wildcat protests. Greenhouse listed a few of these workplace actions”:

Last Tuesday, after a mechanic tested positive for the coronavirus, more than half the workers at Bath Iron Works, a shipyard in Maine, stayed home from work to pressure their employer to thoroughly clean the shipyard. Workers walked out at a Fiat Chrysler truck plant in Warren, Mich., because there was no hot water for washing up. Bus drivers in Birmingham, Ala., went on strike because they felt not enough was being done to protect them from contracting the coronavirus from infected passengers, and bus drivers in Detroit staged a sudden sickout for the same reason. Sanitation workers in Pittsburgh engaged in a work stoppage over their coronavirus worries.

Looking towards the near future, Heer believes, “This wave of protests is only likely to grow, not just because of the coronavirus but also because of the breaking of the social contract by the rich. By crafting bailouts that favored corporations and millionaires amid a pandemic during which blue-collar workers are being forced to work in life-threatening conditions, the American political elite is playing with fire. We could well see social strife far more intense than even the turbulence of Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party movement that emerged in the wake of the 2008 economic collapse.”

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, Trump and the Republicans gutted laws and enforcement of safety inspection regulations that protected miners and toxic peesticide protections for farmworkers. Greenhouse notes at The American Prospect that “Trump’s appointees have eased safety requirements for oil and gas drilling workers. His administration has even relaxed child labor rules, allowing 16- and 17-year-olds who work in nursing homes and hospitals to operate power-driven patient lifts without supervision—even though thousands of experienced adult health care workers get injured each year moving and lifting patients.”

The Republican war on unions has deprived millions of workers of the kind of representation that can prevent health and safety abuses on the job. Heer concludes, “The very collapse of American unions in recent decades means that the stabilizing force of organized labor is gone, making wildcat strikes the weapon of choice in this new class war. America may be heading into a period of working-class militancy unlike anything it has experienced since the 1930s and ’40s.”

If worker safety is not the pivotal issue in the November elections, it will certainly be one of the leading concerns that could make a substantial number of those who have stayed home on election day (about 40 percent of eligible voters in 2016) turn out.

Throughout Trump’s presidency, progressives have repeatedly called attention to the Administration’s gutting of consumer, environmental and health regulations, falling too often on the deaf ears of distracted voters. As the coronavirus death toll continues to soar, however, the likelihood that most voters will lose a family member, friend or co-worker is also growing. There is nothing like a life or death issue to get one’s attention.

If Democrats will loudly and frequently hold Trump, McConnell and the GOP accountable for the gutting of the CDC and a host of worker and consumer protections, it just might produce the margin of victory needed to win the White House and majority control of the U.S. Senate .


Political Strategy Notes

From “How the Coronavirus Could Create a New Working Class: Experts predict the outbreak will lead to a rise in populism. But will workers turn their rage toward corporate CEOs, or middle-class “elites”?” by Olga Khazan at The Atlantic: “When the dust settles, there’s of course a chance that low-income workers might end up just as powerless as they were before. But history offers a precedent for plagues being, perversely, good for workers. Collective anger at low wages and poor working protections can produce lasting social change, and people tend to be more supportive of government benefits during periods of high unemployment…The U.S. has long been the sole holdout among rich nations when it comes to paid sick leave and other job protections. Now that some workers are getting these benefits for the coronavirus, they might be hard for businesses to claw back. If your boss let you stay home with pay when you had COVID-19, is he really going to make you come in when you have the flu? “Is this going to be an inflection point where Americans begin to realize that we need government, we need each other, we need social solidarity, we are not all cowboys, who knew?” said Joan Williams, a law professor at UC Hastings and the author of White Working Class.”

Common sense suggests that American workers will become more concerned about job safety, or the lack of it and other worker protections. As Khazan continues, “A few months from now, the path we take will also depend on whether voters ultimately blame Trump for the pandemic and the ensuing economic collapse, and on whether Democrats are able to create a coherent narrative out of the calls for better worker protections. And in a year, it will depend on how severe the death toll turns out to be among service workers, and how well they’re able to organize in response. But if past epidemics are a guide, the workers may win out in the end.” However, Khazan adds, “Finally, organized labor has been gutted in recent decades, making any sustained workers’-rights movement seem like a long shot.” Yet, “Such a change would be a return to a 1950s-style view of the working class, in which low-wage jobs conferred a sense of dignity. “You viewed yourself as the backbone, the heart and soul of America,” Gest said. No one is more essential than the person bringing you food at the end of a long, frightening week.”

When Sen. Elizabeth Warren endorses a presidential candidate, she doesn’t just make a statement; she makes an impressive video ad. Other former Democratic presidential candidates should do likewise.

At Politico, David Cohen reports that a “Majority fear coronavirus restrictions will be lifted too soon,” andhe notes, “Almost 60 percent of American voters are worried that lifting restrictions on public behavior too soon will lead to a spike in coronavirus cases and deaths…According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday, 58 percent of registered voters expressed concern about a loosening of restrictions, compared with 32 percent who worried that the restrictions would stay in place for too long. Three percent said they were concerned about both scenarios…While a clear majority of Democrats (77 percent) and independents (57 percent) are more worried about the coronavirus, Republicans are very much divided on the issue — with 48 percent expressing more concern about the economy and 39 percent more worried about the pandemic…Those polled said they favor presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden over Trump by a margin of 49 percent to 42 percent. And 45 percent of those polled said they thought Trump has not handled the pandemic crisis well — and is still not doing so.”

Cohen adds, “More than two-thirds of those polled (69 percent) said they trusted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide accurate information about the coronavirus, followed by their state’s governor (66 percent), Dr. Anthony Fauci (60 percent), New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (46 percent), Trump (36 percent), Vice President Mike Pence (35 percent) and Biden (26 percent)…A total of 52 percent said they distrusted what Trump has to say on the subject, followed by Pence (37 percent) and Biden (29 percent). A mere 8 percent said they did not trust Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.”

“In a national Quinnipiac University survey released last week, just 37 percent of adults living in cities and 44 percent of those in suburbs said they approved of Trump’s management of the outbreak. By stark contrast, 63 percent of those in rural areas said they approved,” Ronald Brownstein writes at The Atlantic. “In the latest tracking polling conducted by the Democratic firms GBAO and the Global Strategy Group, a majority of Americans in all three regions said Trump failed to take the threat seriously enough at the outset of the pandemic. But the numbers were significantly higher in urban and suburban areas, where almost two-thirds of respondents said he acted too slowly…Other danger signs are sprouting for Trump in big urban centers. Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, was the largest county in America that Trump won in 2016. But a new poll, released this week by the Republican firm OH Predictive Insights, found Trump trailing former Vice President Joe Biden there by 13 percentage points. The survey also found Biden leading by nine points statewide, even though Democrats haven’t won Arizona in a presidential race since 1996. These results track with Maricopa’s movement away from the GOP in 2018, when Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema won the ordinarily Republican-leaning county by about four points.”

Also at The Atlantic, Kevin Townsend quotes Sherrilyn Ifill, the president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, from her interview by Edward Isaac-Dovere. As Ifill urged, “We need more early voting so that you don’t have lines, because you have a longer period of early voting. You do need to have drop-off absentee stations. You do need to expand the time for absentee ballots to be returned to the Board of Elections. We need all of this to deal with the challenges of this pandemic. There are ways to manage this. And I think that’s the menu we’re all sitting with right now and are prepared to lean in to, to ensure that in November we don’t have an election that causes people to risk their lives, but we also have an election that we don’t have to be ashamed of, that everyone who is a citizen who wants to participate can participate on November 3…it was shameful and a disgrace that we consigned people to have to choose between their health and their right as citizens to participate and vote. No question. But I also am compelled to see the extraordinary, powerful nobility of those people standing—some of them in wheelchairs—staggered and separated from each other as best they could by six feet, for hours on end, determined to participate in the political process.”

In his Washington Post column, “Trump’s war on pragmatism,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes, “What pragmatists know is that railing against formal distancing rules does nothing to solve the underlying problem. As several economist colleagues I contacted noted, the economy will not fully revive until Americans are given good reason to put aside their fears of infection. Yelling at governors won’t get us there….“Even if the government-imposed social distancing rules are relaxed to encourage economic activity, risk-averse Americans will persist in social distancing, and that behavior, too, will restrain the hoped-for economic rebound,” Gary Burtless, a Brookings Institution economist, wrote me…Those who shout for opening the economy in the name of freedom don’t think much about the freedom of workers to protect themselves from a potentially deadly disease. And employers do not want to find themselves facing legal liabilities for infected employees….If the economy is substantially reopened without adequate testing, said Thea Lee, president of the Economic Policy Institute, the most vulnerable would include “low-wage workers, women, people of color, immigrants, and the elderly.” They are “concentrated in the riskiest jobs, with the least financial cushion, and the least likely to have employer-provided benefits or protections,” she said…“Give me liberty or give me death” is a fine rallying cry in a war against freedom’s enemies. It’s is a perilous guide to policy during a pandemic. Pragmatists may be short on stirring slogans. But when the choices are hard and the problems are daunting, they’re the ones we should want in charge.”

“The battle for the Senate majority is tightening as the coronavirus threatens to plunge the economy into a severe recession and as President Trump’s handling of the crisis comes under increased scrutiny,” Alexander Bolton reports at The Hill. “With Election Day just more than six months away, some Senate Democratic candidates are starting to outraise vulnerable Republican incumbents in states where Trump’s approval rating has taken a hit…Senate Republicans, who control 53 seats, are still the favorite to retain control of the chamber, but Democrats are narrowing the gap…The Cook Political Report, another nonpartisan forecasting group, says “the chances of Democrats taking back the Senate are rising and now close to 50-50 odds” with “several plausible paths” for Democrats to win a majority…Democratic strategists say fundraising is only part of the story and point to record voter turnout in Democratic presidential primary contests before the pandemic struck as evidence of high party enthusiasm heading into the general election.”


Political Strategy Notes

President Obama’s endorsement of Joe Biden for President:

Washington Post E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes “Obama’s endorsement was important not just because of what he said about Biden and Trump, but also for what he revealed about Democrats. Obama went out of his way to declare that “if I were running today, I wouldn’t run the same race or have the same platform as I did in 2008. The world is different; there’s too much unfinished business for us to just look backwards.”…He praised Sanders and echoed Warren’s call for “real structural change” because “the vast inequalities created by the new economy are easier to see now.”…Perhaps I should confess to bias because I recently published a book making this point, but Obama’s speech underscored that Democrats are far less divided than their primary battle suggested. From health care to climate change to economic inequality, Democrats have moved across the board in a more progressive direction. Obama has done so himself because he sees openings for social reform now that he didn’t have when he was in office.”

Dionne observes further, “Any doubts that the 2020 playing field is very different from 2016’s were laid to rest by the unexpected — and unexpectedly comfortable — victory of liberal Jill Karofsky over conservative incumbent Daniel Kelly in a race for a state Supreme Court seat that was a party contest in all but name…So what will they say now about Karofsky’s inroads into conservative areas that allowed her to build a margin of more than 160,000 votes? Yes, Karofsky was helped by the presidential primary between Biden and Sanders that drew Democrats to the polls. But in going to court to force an election in the midst of a pandemic, Republicans figured they would win by holding down turnout in Democratic urban areas most affected by the virus. A shameful ploy was foiled because Democrats mobilized absentee ballots in unprecedented numbers. This speaks to where the energy in politics is right now. It’s not on Trump’s side…Thus, a wager: When Americans see Trump’s name on those stimulus checks, most won’t regard him as their benefactor. They will see a weak, desperate and selfish man who pretends that the money they pay in taxes is his own.”

Ronald Brownstein notes at The Atlantic that “In the states that will likely decide the 2020 presidential election, Donald Trump has already lost his newly declared war against voting by mail…All six of the swing states that both sides see as the most probable tipping points allow their residents to vote by mail for any reason, and there’s virtually no chance that any of them will retrench their existing laws this year. That means that, however much Trump rages, the legal structure is in place for a mail-voting surge in those decisive states: Florida, North Carolina, and Arizona in the Sun Belt and Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin in the Rust Belt…Such an increase “is going to happen” in states across the country this year, says Wendy Weiser, the director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “The president can’t prevent it from happening, his protestations notwithstanding. Voters are going to choose that option, and jurisdictions are going to need to make that option widely available in order to protect public health and administer their elections.”

However, Brownstein adds, “That doesn’t mean Trump’s new crusade will have no effect. It’s so far stiffening Republican opposition to plans for furthering expand mail-voting access in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Those proposals include calls from Democrats and election-law reformers to preemptively mail all eligible voters a ballot, as five states do now, or to require all states to allow their residents to vote absentee for any reason. In the 28 states that already allow this “no excuse” absentee balloting, partisan struggles are nevertheless looming over whether to make the voting process easier.” Yet, “But experts in voter turnout and mail voting anticipate that however these fights play out, the share of Americans who cast ballots by mail in November may roughly double from the previous presidential election, from just under one-quarter in 2016 to about one-half this year.”

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edall notes, “William B. McCartney, a professor of finance at Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management, points out that “a large share of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck and say they would not be able to come up with $1,000 for an unexpected expense.” Based on the findings in his 2017 paper, “Does Household Finance Affect Elections? Evidence from a Housing Crisis,” a study of voting in the wake of the 2007-9 financial meltdown, McCartney said by email that he was “deeply concerned that household-level financial distress will decrease turnout, in addition to low turnout caused by the health crisis.”…He bases his fear on the following: Voting is a costly activity and, when households’ financial situations have deteriorated, they cut back on everything optional. They, rationally, choose not to spend their scarce resources learning where their polling places are and then waiting in line, potentially for hours….McCartney’s fear of the effects of depressed voter turnout materialized in Wisconsin last week, but it did not prevent a key liberal victory.”

Robert Reich’s blog, via Alternet and Youtube, has a useful timeline of Trump’s disastrous mismanagement of the response to the coronavirus pandemic:

Former Vice President Joe Biden is currently vetting and evaluating potential Veep picks. Biden has said he will chose a woman. But, one of the most important considerations in his selection is what is the replacement cost of the selection. If he picks a senator, as is most often the case, it is important that a Democratic Governor can chose her replacement, since Democrats have a good chance of winning a Senate majority. Joel K. Goldstein writes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball that “Choosing a senator from a state with a Republican governor could cost the Democrats a Senate seat for at least some amount of time, which might make the difference between controlling the upper house or not. This consideration could cut against choosing Warren or New Hampshire’s senators Shaheen or Hassan.” The other women Senators said to be on Biden’s short list, including Kamala Harris, Tammy Duckworth, Catherine Cortez Masto, Tammy Baldwin, Amy Kobuchar would all be replaced by choices made by Democratic Governors. For a more thorough list of potential women Veep picks, check out Goldstein’s article, cited above.

“Media outlets have played a crucial role during the COVID-19 crisis to educate the public and provide needed emergency information. To ensure the legitimacy of this year’s elections, they should go a step further and offer regular, timely instructions about how to vote during this national emergency,” Adam Eichen and Joshua Douglas write at TPM Cafe. “And they should start right away, every day and in every publication, perhaps with a “democracy box” on their front page or home page with details about how to register and cast a ballot…But newspapers and other media outlets can bridge the gap. They can educate the public by dedicating ongoing print space to update readers on any legal changes and to explain how to request an absentee ballot in the weeks leading up to a primary or the general election in November. Newspapers could, for instance, include a “democracy box,” or “voting updates” section on the paper’s front page that lists the state’s voter registration deadline, absentee ballot request deadline and a website for more information…Now, more than ever, newspapers should copy the Ithaca Times and distribute voter registration forms within their publications. They should also provide regular reminders about the voter registration and absentee ballot request deadlines. “


Political Strategy Notes

At The Cook Political Report, Amy Walter ruminates on Democratic prospects for picking up a U.S. Senate seat in North Carolina, and says that the “suburbs are the most competitive region in the state. Clinton narrowly carried these urban suburbs in the 2016 election 49 to 48 percent. These types of suburbs also turned decidedly more Democratic in the 2018 election…The next question is whether an improvement in these suburbs would be enough for Democrats to win the state in 2020. Trump won the state by 3.6 percent. In 2016, the cities and those inner suburbs comprised 54 percent of the total vote. The rural areas plus the exurbs represented 46 percent of the vote. So, on paper, sure, win the cities and inner suburban areas, and you win the election. But it’s not that simple. Trump dominated the exurban and rural vote carrying rural areas by 24 points and the exurbs by 30 points. Clinton, meanwhile, had a solid showing in the cities — she won them by 35 points — but just barely eked out a win in the inner suburbs…Moreover, while the inner suburbs are turning bluer, it is highly unlikely that Democrats like Joe Biden or Senate nominee Cal Cunningham will pull out the double-digit margins there like they do in the cities. Instead, the key for Democrats will be to do better in those exurbs. According to [Catawba College professor Michael] Bitzer’s analysis, the dense suburban vote and the exurban vote each make up about a quarter of total votes cast. In other words, it’s not enough for Democrats to gain a couple of points in the inner suburbs if they are still losing the exurbs by 30 points.”

At a time when Republicans are panicking out about gowing support for voting by mail and the Republican majority of the U.S. Supreme Court has issued a ruling designed to escalate voter suppression, Virginia’s Democratic Governor Ralph Northam has “signed a series of new measures into law aimed at expanding access to voting in the commonwealth,” Paul LeBlanc reports at CNN Politics. “The new legislation will establish Election Day as a holiday, remove the requirement that voters show a photo ID prior to casting a ballot and, expand early voting to be allowed 45 days before an election without a stated reason.”

From “GOP Justices Decree Capital Punishment for Voting” by Harold Meyerson at The American Prospect: “The only reason that the Republican National Committee doesn’t have John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Sam Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh on the payroll is that they know they have them for free…Yesterday, as in Bush v. Gore and Shelby County v. Holder (which struck down much of the Voting Rights Act), the Republican majority on the United States Supreme Court did its damnedest to throw an election to their very own Republicans. The Gang of Five overturned the ruling of a federal District Court that extended the period of absentee voting in Wisconsin for one week, to April 13…The Court’s ruling came roughly at the same time that their mini-me’s—four Republican justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court—overturned Governor Tony Evers’s postponement of today’s Wisconsin primary until June. Alone among the 11 states that had primaries scheduled this month, Wisconsin—that is, the Republican majorities in the state legislature—decreed that this one would proceed despite the coronavirus shelter-in-place rule. Of course, today’s on-again-off-again-on-again-again election will be a travesty, with many, probably most, polling places closed due to a lack of poll workers. In Milwaukee, which, not coincidentally, is home to the largest concentration of the state’s Democrats, the usual 180 polling places have been consolidated to a mere five.”

In his article, “SCOTUS Just Set the Stage for Republicans to Steal the Election: In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court blocked Wisconsin from extending the absentee voting deadline, disenfranchising thousands and creating a terrible precedent” at The Nation, Elie Mystal puts it this way: “Three weeks ago, I wrote that the real threat to the 2020 election is not that Donald Trump will use the coronavirus to try to cancel it but that Republicans will try to steal it, state by state, county by county. In an election in which a record number of people may attempt to vote by absentee ballot, Republican state officials can choose simply to mail ballots to people in counties that traditionally vote for Republicans—and not mail enough ballots to the far more populous counties that traditionally vote for Democrats. In so doing, they can slant the general election toward Donald Trump and other Republicans running for election without Trump having to go through all the bother of declaring himself “dictator for life,” which might spook Mitt Romney…Last night, the Supreme Court gave Republicans the go-ahead to proceed with that scheme. You don’t need an army to cross the Rubicon when you have henchmen on the Supreme Court willing to do all the dirty work.”

Mystal continues: “Where normal people see a vast human tragedy, Republicans see an electoral opportunity. The entire Democratic theory of overthrowing Trump has been to inspire massive voter turnout. Turnout led from the urban centers and their close suburbs. The “blue wave.”But it is in these densely packed communities that Covid-19 is hitting the hardest. And there is already evidence that the African American community, the base of the Democratic party, is being disproportionately killed by the virus…Republicans can use all of this to their advantage. If people have to choose between risking their lives by going to vote, or staying home, most people will stay home—and who can really blame them? If Republicans can make it hard for people to vote absentee, particularly in high-population centers where there is going to be the most demand for absentee voting, Republicans can win…Wisconsin shows them how. Wisconsin shows that the Republican Supreme Court will not stop Republican local officials from disenfranchising people who stay home because of the coronavirus…The Wisconsin ordeal is to the November election as Italy’s outbreak was to our own. It’s where we can see what is coming for all of us, and what will happen to our country, if we don’t act soon enough.”

The tax deadline has been postponed till July 15th, but the soaring government expenses associated with the coronavirus crisis intensifies the debate about tax reform. At The Boston Review, Emanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman provide a guide to needed reforms in their article, “Taxing the Superrich: For the sake of justice and democracy, we need a progressive wealth tax.” As the authors write, “Taxing the superrich involves three essential and complementary ingredients: a progressive income tax, a corporate tax, and a progressive wealth tax. The corporate tax ensures that all profits are taxed, whether distributed or not: it acts as a de facto minimum tax on the affluent. The progressive income tax ensures high earners pay more. And a progressive wealth tax gets the ultrarich to contribute to the public coffers even when they, including Buffett, manage to realize little taxable income. ..The middle class already pays taxes on its wealth, in the form of property taxes. The wealthy don’t, since most of their wealth consists of financial assets, which are exempt from the property tax.”

Re Amy McGrath’s campaign to unseat Mitch McConnell in the Kentucky Senate race,  Jane Mayer observes in The New Yorker that “as covid-19 decimates the economy and kills Americans across the nation, McConnell’s alliance with Trump is looking riskier. Indeed, some critics argue that McConnell bears a singular responsibility for the country’s predicament. They say that he knew from the start that Trump was unequipped to lead in a crisis, but, because the President was beloved by the Republican base, McConnell protected him. He even went so far as to prohibit witnesses at the impeachment trial, thus guaranteeing that the President would remain in office. David Hawpe, the former editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal, said of McConnell, “There are a lot of people disappointed in him. He could have mobilized the Senate. But the Republican Party changed underneath him, and he wanted to remain in power…Stuart Stevens, a longtime Republican political consultant, agrees that McConnell’s party deserves a considerable share of the blame for America’s covid-19 disaster. In a forthcoming book, “It Was All a Lie,” Stevens writes that, in accommodating Trump and his base, McConnell and other Republicans went along as Party leaders dismantled the country’s safety net and ignored experts of all kinds, including scientists. “Mitch is kidding himself if he thinks he’ll be remembered for anything other than Trump,” he said. “He will be remembered as the Trump facilitator.”

“Responding to the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic poses serious challenges for governors across the country, including the nine set to face voters in November’s 11 gubernatorial elections,” Rebecca Klar writes in her article, “Coronavirus response could be key factor in tight governor’s races” at The Hill. “How state leaders handle their COVID-19 responses could have a particular impact in competitive races, such as those in North Carolina or Montana, where Gov. Steve Bullock (D) is running for the Senate and both parties are fighting hard to replace him…The pandemic and how state governments are handling it has significantly raised the profile of multiple governors, particularly New York’s Andrew Cuomo, who has seen his highest favorability ratings in seven years and had to repeatedly deny that he is considering a presidential run…But Cuomo and many others in the coronavirus spotlight, such as Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) or Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D), aren’t facing voters in November. Others managing hot spots, such as Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), have seen boosts in public polling over their COVID-19 responses, though that may not weigh heavily on the result of their races…Governors across the country have generally received high marks for their handling of the crisis, compared to the response out of Washington, D.C…A poll conducted late last month by the National Opinion Research Center for the Associated Press found 57 percent of Americans said they approved of their state’s response to the crisis, while just 38 percent said they approve of the federal government’s.”

If the Biden campaign needed another challenge, Alex Thompson has it at Politico: “The 2020 presidential campaign’s transition to a mostly digital experience, with the nation on lockdown, has spotlighted a long-term progressive deficit on YouTube that some concerned Democrats compare to the right’s command of talk radio. The country’s leading video platform is also one of its largest search engines (after Google) and a key battlefield in campaigns’ fight to reach new voters and earn free media attention…While Democratic campaigns and groups spend heavily on advertising on YouTube, they lag in organic content, with dozens of conservative and right-wing figures like Ben Shapiro, Mark Dice and Paul Joseph Watson and more official-sounding channels like Prager University cultivating enormous followings not yet matched by equivalents on the left…“‘LeftTube’ has two problems: One is volume and the other is content, neither of which it seems close to solving on its own,” said Stefan Smith, the former online engagement director for Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign. If the party doesn’t ensure that organic YouTube content is getting attention “in addition to paid digital [advertising], then we are in trouble.”…Tommy Vietor, a former Obama White House aide and co-host of the popular Pod Save America podcast, agreed that “Democrats need to step up their game when it comes to YouTube.” For young people, Vietor continued, “YouTube is primarily a search engine. And more often than not when you search for political news or topics, you end up getting force-fed right-wing garbage instead of objective news and information…While Facebook has earned more scrutiny for its impact on U.S. politics, American adults report using YouTube more than any other online platform, with 73 percent saying they use it, according to Pew Research Center’s 2018 and 2019 surveys on social media use. It is even more popular with 18 to 29 year olds, with over 90 percent of that cohort saying they use the site — even higher rates than Instagram and Snapchat.”


Political Strategy Notes

The ‘suspension’ of the campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders has prompted wide-ranging political post-mortems, including Thomas B. Edsall’s New York Times opinion piece, which observes that “a decisive majority — 60 percent — of the Democratic electorate is made up of men and women loyal to the centrist party establishment, such as it is, and to organizations, from unions to party committees, that are aligned with it. And there is little or no evidence that the greater part of the American people have the desire, or the stomach, for political revolution…Earlier this month, Shom Mazumder, a political scientist at Harvard, published a study, “Why The Progressive Left Fits So Uncomfortably Within The Democratic Party,” that analyzed data from a 2019 survey of 2,900 likely Democratic primary voters. “I saw two clear poles emerge within the Democratic Party,” he writes: The “establishment” and the “progressive left.” A third group also emerged, and while it’s not as clearly defined as the other two, it has some overlap with the establishment and tends to be more fond of Wall Street, so I’m calling that “neoliberals.”...

“Establishment” voters, in this scheme, means center-left voters who make up just over 60 percent of the total. They stood out as favorably inclined to Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee — in other words, to the Democratic establishment.” Edsall continues, ““Progressive left” Democrats, at just under 20 percent, were most favorable to labor unions, Black Lives Matter, the #MeToo movement, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Democratic Socialists of America. These Democrats viewed business interests — as exemplified by Wall Street — negatively, and they weren’t happy about Joe Manchin, the centrist senator from West Virginia, either…The third group, “neoliberal” Democrats, at 20 percent, is as large as the progressive wing. These voters like what the progressives don’t like — Wall Street, Manchin — and dislike pretty much everything progressives favor, including Ocasio-Cortez and the Democratic Socialists of America.”

Further, Edsall writes that “Mazumder uses the label “establishment Democrats” idiosyncratically. His data shows that at 44 percent, minorities make up a much larger share of these voters than their share of either progressives, at 28 percent, or neoliberals at 32 percent. His establishment voters are roughly 60-40 female, while the other two categories are majority male…In contrast, Mazumder’s progressives stand out as the whitest group — 72 percent Anglo — of the three categories, the least diverse constituency of an increasingly multicultural and multiracial party.” Edsall cites a study concluding that many of these voters are internet “hobbyists,” who like to argue in support of progressive policies, but don’t really get engaged in political mobilization of Democratic voters.

At Reuters Anna Szymanski writes that Sen Sanders “changed what it means to be moderate. Biden’s policies are still a far cry from Sanders’ $13 trillion healthcare plan or $16 trillion so-called Green New Deal. But the presumptive nominee supports a $15 minimum wage, spending $1.7 trillion to fight climate change and another $800 billion on healthcare over 10 years. These proposals would have looked progressive not that long ago….Covid-19 is making Sanders’ spending plans seem less outlandish. The U.S. government has already passed stimulus bills representing more than $2 trillion, around 10% of GDP, including a significant boost to unemployment coverage and direct payments to individuals…The health crisis is also highlighting the potential virtues of a more comprehensive and connected approach to healthcare. The U.S. system’s fragmented fragility has been laid bare, as has the danger of viewing health as an individual matter. Universal coverage of some kind now seems far more likely – even if it’s not the senator’s so-called Medicare-for-all plan.” Perhaps the ‘hobbyists’ had some influence on policy.

At The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein spotlights “The Two States Where Trump’s COVID-19 Response Could Backfire in 2020: Voters in Michigan and Florida may be more likely than others to blame or credit him for how the outbreak unfolds,” and writes: “Trump faces mirror-image threats. Michigan voters could interpret Trump’s animosity toward Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer as punishing the state. By contrast, in Florida, Trump’s liability could be his close relationship with Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, which is seen by many as one reason DeSantis was slow to impose a statewide stay-at-home order…In each place, voters may be even more likely than those in other states to blame or credit the president for how the outbreak unfolds there. And in both cases, Trump’s posture toward the states is now inextricably interwoven with the larger story of their struggle to contain the disease.”

Brownstein adds, “Michigan is where Trump’s behavior presents the clearer danger to him come November. The president has repeatedly disparaged Whitmer and suggested that the White House should not return her calls, even as the state is buckling under the nation’s third-largest coronavirus caseload and faces medical-equipment and staffing shortages…In Florida, conditions have not yet reached such a crisis point, though its caseload is growing steadily. But because DeSantis waited so long to act, he and Trump could be punished if the outbreak ultimately imposes a heavy cost on the state…Whitmer, a former state senator, was at the vanguard of governors who moved quickly to shut down social and economic activity. She closed educational facilities on March 16 and imposed a statewide stay-at-home order a week later. DeSantis, a former congressman who soared from relative obscurity to win the gubernatorial nomination after Trump’s endorsement, closed educational facilities a day after Whitmer. But he conspicuously left open the state’s crowded beaches through spring break, and he didn’t impose a statewide stay-at-home order until April 1, after every other major state.”

It’s only one poll, and it’s nation-wide instead of focusing on ‘battleground states.’ But look at these numbers, as reported by Grace Sparks at CNN Politics: “Former Vice President Joe Biden holds a wide lead over President Donald Trump in the national race for the White House, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS….Biden leads Trump 53% to 42% among registered voters, roughly steady from CNN’s poll in early March…Biden holds an edge over Trump as more trusted to handle several key issues, including the response to the coronavirus outbreak (52% to 43%), health care (57% to 39%) and helping the middle class (57% to 38%)…Biden is supported by 91% of Democrats, while Trump holds 96% of Republicans. Independent voters break for Biden, 52% behind the former vice president, 40% for Trump…Biden performs well among voters of color, 72% of whom support him, while white voters break toward Trump (52% for Trump, 44% for Biden).”

And Kos explains why “Trump looks terrible in national polling, but it’s these 7 states that will decide the election at Daily Kos: “Yesterday and today, six general election polls came out, every single one showing Joe Biden defeating impeached Donald Trump by between four and 11 points. Trump, currently paralyzed into ineffective inaction by the nation’s mass-death event, only reaches 44% in one of those polls, otherwise hovering between 37% and 42%. If we had a national election, Joe Biden would be in a great position to win this November, but he wouldn’t even be running because Hillary Clinton would be president. Instead, we have to deal with the bullcrap Electoral College. It’s the states that matter..Seven states will decide this election. And if I sound like a broken record, it’s because I want everyone to have these as well-memorized as I do: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin…The district-based electoral votes in Maine and Nebraska will also matter a huge deal. But it’s hard to say “seven states and two districts.” This system is stupid and confusing enough as it is.”

Kos shares a map which shows the outrageous inequities built into the Electoral College and notes, “Can you believe it? 116 counties have a greater population than the entire state of Wyoming, without getting three electoral college votes…So yes, this system sucks, but it’s the system we have to deal with. So how do Trump approvals look in the states that will decide the presidential election? Arizona (44-54), Florida (46-51), Georgia (47-50), Michigan (44-53), North Carolina (44-54), Pennsylvania (46-51), and Wisconsin (46-51)…Interestingly, Trump has net-negative approval ratings in one more 2016 red state: Iowa (47-50), but we haven’t seen evidence it’s competitive at the presidential level. Keep an eye on it. And if we’re playing in Nebraska (and we should!), it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to contest the rest of the state. It’s cheap.”


Political Strategy Notes

Amy Walter observes at The Cook Political Report, that “the hand-wringing from some in Democratic circles that Biden needs to ramp up his public presence, lest he be ‘forgotten’ or overshadowed by Democratic Governors like Andrew Cuomo or Gretchen Whitmer, is unnecessary and misses the point…in a national crisis, the attention is trained on the person in charge and not the person who wants to replace him or her. This scenario works to Biden’s benefit. Even before this horrible virus hit the United States, Biden’s best opportunity to win in November was dependent on making the contest a referendum on Trump…Biden doesn’t need to spend as much time attacking and defining the president when he’s getting a lot of help from outside groups like Priorities USA and other SuperPACs…More important, Biden’s goal isn’t to be a more ‘exciting’ alternative to Trump but to be the opposite of Trump. Biden isn’t going to be a ratings superhero. He’s not going to pack stadiums to the rafters with supporters. His message is basically this: I’m pretty boring but steady and competent. That may not work every year, but it is well-suited for a time of chaos and confusion…”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. has a warning for Democrats: “One of the frustrations of being Biden these days, said the Washington Democrat close to him, is being asked during a media appearance what he is doing to be more visible on the media. Biden made light of such irritation when he told MSNBC’s Yasmin Vossoughian on Monday: “Well, thanks for giving me the time. So they don’t wonder where I am.”…But that question’s plaintiveness also suggests that if Democratic panic is premature, complacency is more dangerous. In 2016, both Trump’s opponents and (ironically, perhaps) the media underestimated the enormous value of his ability to command wall-to-wall coverage. Even when he peddles outright falsehoods, Trump’s version of events often penetrates widely before it’s even fact-checked. Trump can change his story so fast that it’s hard to keep up with him…Democrats, including Biden, would be foolish to let Trump dominate the discussion of what needs to be done to lift the country up after the coronavirus threat ebbs…Trump’s foes, in other words, need to chill out and buck up at the same time. Overestimating Trump feeds his power. But underestimating him leads to political ruin.”

Charlie Cook writes, also at The Cook Political Report: “Of course, the presidential race will be determined not by the national popular vote but by the Electoral College. If only we had more high-quality polls from the half-dozen most hotly contested states—Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—we could make a better judgment. Until then, we have to look at the national polls. Since Democratic votes are less efficiently allocated than Republican ones, is the Democrat far enough ahead nationally to translate his support into 270 electoral votes? To be sure, he may need a cushion of 4 percentage points…We obviously can’t know how deep this recession will be or how long it will last, much less its impact on Trump. Many assume it will give him a strong headwind. I prefer to say it will deprive him of the tailwind that he has enjoyed until now…There is no question in my mind that there are plausible paths for Trump to win 270 electoral votes. It isn’t an easy or wide path, but it is there. Working in his favor, his campaign will be a million times more competent than it was four years ago. He will also have far more money than he did last time, although money in politics is not determinative (just ask Michael Bloomberg).”

Columnist/radio host Dean Obeidallah writes in “Trump’s infrastructure tweet makes Democrats look bad. The party of FDR needs to step up: With the coronavirus crisis pushing our economy toward a cliff, it will likely take a Democratic president, or at least Democratic policies, to save America (again.)” that “Democrats, generally speaking, subscribe to the philosophy that the federal government should be expanded and used as a tool to help Americans in times of need. In contrast, one of the policy pillars of the modern-day GOP is shrinking the role of the federal government. Now is not the time for Democrats to be cautious — Democratic leaders need to lean hard on their ideological roots. They need to channel the spirit of FDR and champion sweeping, large-scale federal programs that can help Americans by creating jobs and investing in our nation…Yet, stunningly, it’s President Donald Trump who is now taking the lead by proposing an FDR-style massive infrastructure program. This week Trump tweeted in support of his infrastructure proposal: “It should be VERY BIG & BOLD, Two Trillion Dollars, and be focused solely on jobs and rebuilding the once great infrastructure of our Country!” Of course, the challenge for Democrats is to make sure such an investment actually creates jobs at a living wage, instead of a  multi-billion dollar gift to corporations, and that it is financed as much as possible by taxes on large companies and the wealthy, instead of the middle class.

“While it’s not yet mathematically impossible for him to win, Sanders would need to amass more than 60 percent of the remaining delegates to clinch the nomination — a mark he’s only hit in two states this year, Nevada and his home state of Vermont,” Holly Otterbein writes at Politico. “His path is so narrow that some of Sanders’ senior aides have even advised him to consider dropping out, though not everyone in his inner circle feels the same way, according to people familiar with the situation…Another possible reason for not explaining his long-shot course to victory: it depends on something his staff and allies have for the most part only whispered about — an epic Biden collapse.” Articulating such an unseemly hope would be an extremely bad look for the Sanders campaign. They are fast reaching the point where staying in could damage Sanders’s’ influence as the leading advocate of Medicare for All, which is gaining traction in the coronavirus crisis, according to a recent Morning Consult poll.

Otterbein adds that “In recent weeks, Sanders has retooled much of his campaign to focus on the coronavirus and workers’ rights — both markings of a candidate running a message candidacy rather than a true race against Biden. He has raised more than $3.5 million for coronavirus aid, while ceasing to actively raise money for himself. He has also used his email list and social media accounts to drive up support for Walmart and Amazon employees fighting for protective equipment and additional benefits during the pandemic…But managing even a successful message campaign at this moment could prove difficult, given that the coronavirus death toll and response efforts are commanding nearly all of the media’s attention. Last weekend, CNN and ABC canceled tentative appearances with Sanders.” There is no reason why Sanders could not formally drop out and strongly support Biden, but continue to urge Biden to move closer toward Medicare for All. Indeed, he might even get better media coverage by shedding the ‘sour grapes’ critique.

Nathaniel Rackich notes at FiveThirtyEight that “Biden needs some Sanders primary voters to support him in November, since Sanders has won about 31 percent of the national popular vote so far. But he doesn’t need every single one…Some Sanders-or-bust voters might stay home in November; that happens to some degree in every election…Sanders voters don’t fit that description. According to a recent Morning Consult poll, 82 percent of Sanders supporters say they would vote for Biden in the general election, and just 7 percent said they would vote for Trump. And Quinnipiac University found that 86 percent of Sanders voters would vote for Biden, 3 percent would vote for Trump, 2 percent would vote for someone else, 4 percent wouldn’t vote, and 5 percent didn’t know who they’d vote for.”

In his update on Democratic prospects for winning a U.S. Senate majority, Kyle Kondik writes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “First of all, we’re moving the special election in Arizona from Toss-up to Leans Democratic this week. Likely Democratic nominee Mark Kelly (D), a former astronaut who is the husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), has consistently led appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) in polling, and not just by a little: four surveys in March showed Kelly up anywhere from five to 12 points, a better margin than Biden enjoys in the state (he has led Trump there in polling, but by smaller margins)…We are also moving Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) from Leans Republican to Toss-up. We’ve resisted this change for a while, but it’s become apparent to us that Collins is in for a very close race, even if she may retain a lead at this precise moment. Her likeliest opponent is state House Speaker Sara Gideon (D).

Kondik adds, “There is one positive rating change for Republicans. We have not been very impressed by Democratic recruitment for both Senate races in Georgia, and we’re upgrading Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) from Leans Republican to Likely Republican. We’re also tempted to move the Senate special election there to Likely Republican, but we’re going to hold off in light of the potential for appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) to be damaged by recent reporting that she benefited from a stock sell-off before the markets took a dive as the coronavirus pandemic emerged, prompting accusations of a form of insider trading…Assuming that Republicans defeat Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), which we see as likely, Democrats need to win at least four currently Republican seats to get to a 50-50 tie in the Senate, which the incoming vice president would break…We have Democrats favored in two Republican seats, Arizona and Colorado. Then there are two genuine Toss-ups, Maine and North Carolina, followed by Leans Republican states Iowa and Montana, along with the Georgia Senate special. These states are where the Senate majority will be won, in all likelihood.”


Political Strategy Notes

Voters of a certain age should appreciate Charles Pierce’s Esquire article, “There’s an Awful Lot of ‘Cull the Herd’ Rhetoric Floating Around These Days: Ron Johnson joins the parade of people to whom my response is: You first.” Pierce writes, “I know we’re all slowing down and stuck in our houses, but I don’t think it’s time for U.S. senators to go all wiggy on existential questions. This is especially true in the case of Ron (Shreds of Freedom) Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin. He took to the pages of USA Today and encouraged us all to liberate ourselves through profound, patriotic, fatalistic gibberish…What is the senator getting at, exactly? There’s an awful lot of discreet “culling of the herd” realism floating around in the public rhetoric these days, and there’s also an occasional episode in which somebody seems to be putting it into practice, discreetly, in one way or another…Now that this particular president* has decided that a mere 100,000 to 200,000 dead will be a personal triumph on the scale of V-E Day, I find this attitude more than a little disturbing. My response remains unchanged: You guys first.”

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall explains why “Covid-19 Is Twisting 2020 Beyond All Recognition: The coronavirus crisis will determine whether Trump is a one-term president, but it may reshape the social order far more.” Edsall’s article is loaded with anti-GOP talking points, including: “When the best-case scenario predicts 100,000 to 240,000 deaths, the pandemic reminds us just how important it is who holds the reins of power. This is especially the case when one crucial question will be whether widespread suffering, panic and economic collapse will destabilize the American political system and the fragile consensus-based social order that underpins it, both of which have been under strain for some time.” Edsall quotes Jonathan Haidt, a professor of psychology at N.Y.U.: “If we had good leadership — a president who could unify the country and turn our shared adversity into social solidarity, trust, and cooperation, then we could look to past national crises such as World War II and the boost it gave to social capital…We don’t have that. In fact, a marker of our political sickness is that taking the virus seriously has become itself a marker of tribal identity.”

However, Edsall also quotes UNC political scientist Marc Hetherington, who observes, “that “this moment holds the potential to resuscitate negative feelings that Americans have about government…If the government actually succeeds in keeping the carnage to a minimum, it is unlikely to change much. Americans already think government can do this. If, however, the government doesn’t succeed — and I think there is every reason to think it will struggle with these problems — it has the potential to further undermine trust in government. People already don’t trust it to redistribute money and provide certain services, which is bad. If they come to think it is not competent to keep us safe, it will be even worse, much worse…Republicans have internalized what used to be just a political strategy, which increases the chances that government will fail.” That cynical approach to campaigning seems to have infected their approach to governing. In 2016, the party nominated a complete political amateur, pointing up just how little governance means to the party. And, of course, Trump has failed to fill vacancies in key areas like the C.D.C., disbanded the pandemic task force in the N.S.C., and all sorts of other stuff.” Edsall add, “The result, Hetherington wrote, is a government “characterized by poor leadership at the cabinet level and hollowed out expertise at the department level,” sharply increasing the “chance that government simply can’t come through right now.”

Another potent observation unearthed by Edsall, this one by M.I.T. economist David Autor, who notes that it would be “easy to tell a story in which this episode causes Americans to remember that their government is indispensable for marshaling expertise, coordinating emergency measures, guarding public safety, serving as an insurer of last resort, calming financial markets, and generally shepherding its citizens through an extraordinarily challenging time.” However, Autor adds, “After four decades of successful Republican effort to starve the U.S. government of resources and demonize its experts, our government is in fact less competent, less well prepared, and less agile than it used to be. Perhaps this event would have restored our faith in government were the government deserving of that faith. The picture is mixed at best, so far.”

You may have heard some progressive grumbling that Democratic front-runner Biden is being eclipsed by NY Governor Cuomo’s excellent television presentations addressing the coronavirus crisis. But there’s no good reason why Biden should be the only Democrat presenting an image of compassion and competence, in stark contrast to Trump’s constant fumbling. In fact, the more Democratic leaders who project an image of responsible, well-informed leadership, the better it is for Democratic candidates for all offices, not just the presidency. At The Daily Beast, Matt Lewis weighs in and notes, “Joe Biden should social distance even more,” Lewis writes. “Citing a decades-old observation called the Feiler faster thesis, my former colleague Mickey Kaus recently argued that news cycles have sped up and that humans can process information quicker than most people realize. “Biden can wait until September, or whenever the conventions are, and then, he can gin up a huge publicity ‘Biden for president’ campaign,” Kaus said. “He doesn’t have to be omnipresent in our attention now in order to do that, then.” Lewis suggests Biden should “reemerge tanned and rested after Labor Day…Laying low may be Joe Biden’s best strategy—and it’s one that wouldn’t be possible were it not for social distancing.”

At FiveThirtyEight, Nathaniel Rakich writes that “the biggest Senate news of the last couple months came in the longer-shot Democratic pick-up opportunity of Montana, where Gov. Steve Bullock’s entry has shaken up the race. Bullock was considered to be the only Democrat who could put this red state in play, and his announcement caused nonpartisan handicappers to move the race from “Solid Republican” to “Lean Republican.”…According to Morning Consult, Bullock has a +21 net approval rating (approval rating minus disapproval rating) and at least 83 percent of Montanans are able to form an opinion of him (approval rating plusdisapproval rating). This gives him a leg up against incumbent Republican Sen. Steve Daines (who has just a +16 net approval rating and at least 78 percent name recognition, according to the same poll).”

Rakich also notes that “handicappers still rate Arizona as a toss-up, but there’s an increasingly strong argument that Democrats are actually favored despite the state’s Republican lean. Five polls of Arizona’s U.S. Senate race have been conducted so far in March, and Democrat Mark Kelly led Republican Sen. Martha McSally in all five. His average lead was 7 percentage points…Even a small systematic polling error in Arizona could mean that McSally is actually ahead (most of those Kelly leads are within the margin of error). However, Kelly also has the advantage of being a monster fundraiser — he took in more than $20.2 million in 2019. McSally raised only $12.6 million.”

“In North Carolina,” Rakich adds, “former state Sen. Cal Cunningham, who had the support of the DSCC, won the Democratic primary with 57 percent of the vote. That sets up a close general election with Republican Sen. Thom Tillis: A survey by Democratic firm Public Policy Polling claims Cunningham is ahead, while Tillis’s pollster gave the incumbent the lead.” NC’s other Republican Sen. Richard Burr is getting roundly slammed for his insider trading shenanigans. But he is not up for re-election this year, like Tillis. Here’s one of Cunningham’s ads:

 


Political Strategy Notes

Matthew Yglesias reports at Vox, “Speaking on Meet The Press Sunday morning, former Vice President Joe Biden called for widespread invocation of the Defense Production Act to not only meet the need for ventilators but also to scale up production of “masks and gowns … and shields and all the things our first responders and doctors need.”…“Why are we waiting?” Biden asked, “We know they’re needed.”…The Defense Production Act would allow the federal government to essentially conscript America’s domestic manufacturing capacity into making more of these supplies…The Trump administration has thus far been reluctant to invoke the act, suggesting that to do so would create a Venezuela-like economic situation. In practice, however, it’s the administration’s inability to get the virus under control that’s creating an unprecedentedly rapid economic collapse, and anything that helps bolster the public health situation will almost certainly improve the economy as well.”

From E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s column, “Trump’s quarantine con should be the breaking point” at The Washington Post: “If you doubted that President Trump’s approach to the coronavirus crisis is all about him — about getting a few hours or a few days of blaring headlines and then manically moving on to some other empty gesture that he can claim is “strong” — his threat on Saturday to quarantine the New York region tells you all you need to know…The man who fleeced innocent souls through what the conservative National Review called the “massive scam” of Trump University is applying the same hucksterism to a situation where thousands of lives are at stake…The quarantine caper ought to be the straw that breaks the hustler’s back.”

At FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver explains that “blue states are hardly alone in what is becoming a nationwide epidemic. Jefferson Parish, Louisiana — which went for Trump by 15 percentage points in 2016 — has a death rate about equal to that of Manhattan. And as terrifying as the hospital situation is in New York City, hospital capacity is also under strain in states such as Michigan and Georgia…Overall, although the number of detected cases is higher in blue states, the number is increasing at a more rapid rate in red states.1 Moreover, blue states have conducted more tests per capita than red states, so — given that the large majority of coronavirus cases remain undetected — the lower rate of cases in red states may partially be an artifact of less testing…Nine of the 10 states that have seen the most rapid increase in coronavirus from Monday to Thursday are states that voted for Trump in 2016, led by Texas, where the number of reported cases increased by 297 percent…On average, states that voted for Trump saw a 119 percent increase in cases over this 3-day period, as compared to an 88 percent increase in states that voted for Hillary Clinton (plus the District of Columbia).”

One of the big questions being bandied about at this political moment: Why is Sen. Bernie Sanders not dropping out? Among the most frequent answers are: that his ego can’t let go of the limelight; that he’s pissed-off about Biden stealing the momentum and hoping for a sudden Biden train-wreck etc. These explainations are based on the ‘Sanders is just a selfish guy’ meme. Here’s a more balanced take: Sanders is smart enough to know that Biden is going to be the Democratic nominee, but wants to seize the moment to promote an all-inclusive public health care system. At CNN Politics, Chris Cillizza observes, “He has been advocating for unapologetically liberal policies his entire political life and rightly recognizes this will probably be his last, best chance to ensure they get a full hearing in front of his party, the public and the de facto presidential nominee in Biden.” But dropping out now and announcing his endorsement of Biden would get buried by coronavirus news. His endorsement might actually help Biden more a little later, rather than sooner.

Could Sanders not dropping out now hurt Biden’s prospects for defeating Trump? Yes, if Sanders conducts a divisive, hard-hitting campaign attacking Biden. Sanders must know that he is not going to get the same level of media attention in the months ahead. The press knows it’s over and that the lack of any winner-take-all delegates states in 2020 makes Biden’s nomination a done deal, barring a total melt-down on his part. The hope is that Sanders doesn’t want to go down in history as the bitter guy who helped re-elect Trump. Unlike the drop-outs, however, Sanders has 918 delegates (Warren is 3rd with 82) and a much larger constituency than they did. Giving him more time to work through a process for endorsing the former Vice President seems reasonable. All indications suggest a heavy voter turnout in November. Whatever path Sanders choses in the weeks ahead, party unity in November should be his north star.

In her article, “What Do Progressives Do Now? Progressives are eager to use the coronavirus crisis to convince Joe Biden—and millions of other Americans—of the necessity of major reforms,” Elaine Godfrey writes at The Atlantic, “Sanders, who still hasn’t dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination, has effectively converted his presidential campaign into a coronavirus-messaging apparatus, and he is holding regular broadcasts with other progressive lawmakers, including Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Pramila Jayapal, to explain how the current crisis demonstrates the need for Medicare for All. “As we do everything possible to grapple with this crisis … it is also appropriate to ask ourselves how we got here and what this says about the financial and economic structure of our country,” Sanders said in a live-streamed video Wednesday night. “People are understanding that there is something wrong that we are the only major country on Earth not to guarantee health care to all as a human right.”

“Progressives will be carefully monitoring shifts in Biden’s policy positions to see whether their efforts are having an impact,” Godfrey continues. “Already, Biden has announced his support for Sanders’s plan to make public colleges free for some students, and he’s endorsed Senator Elizabeth Warren’s proposal to fix America’s bankruptcy system. But it’s not enough, progressive leaders say. If he “is serious about attracting progressives and the Obama coalition—which included young people—he needs to articulate a bold policy agenda that meets the scale of the crisis people are experiencing right now,” Maurice Mitchell, the director of the Working Families Party, told me.”

Godfey argues further, “At the end of this pandemic, more Americans will view the government as capable of solving big societal problems, progressives argue. New emergency-aid legislation dramatically expands paid sick and family leave for millions of workers and suspends work requirements for food assistance, two agenda items progressives have long supported. And the $2 trillion stimulus package that the president just signed into lawwould provide a $1,200 direct payment to most American adults—similar to the Freedom Dividend championed by former presidential candidate Andrew Yang—and another $250 billion in unemployment-insurance benefits. “There’s going to be an amazing shift where we recognize the impact government can have on our lives for the better,” says Charles Chamberlain, the executive director at Democracy for America, a progressive political-action committee.”

Mark Joseph Stern writes at slate.com: “We know that this cannot be our final bill,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi declared shortly before her chamber passed a $2 trillion stimulus package responding to the economic impact of COVID-19. She’s right: The measures passed so far are plainly insufficient to ward off an economic and humanitarian catastrophe. Pelosi has already laid out her requestsfor the next phase of legislation, which includes more funding for state governments and increased SNAP benefits. But her plan is missing something crucial: legal protections for Dreamers, who are poised to lose their DACA status in the coming weeks…These Dreamers are on the front line of the battle against COVID-19, and they are indispensable. Health care workers keep getting infected with the coronavirus, and hard-hit states fear they will run out of doctors and nurses to treat patients…At this perilous moment, stripping work permits from 27,000 health care workers would be catastrophic. It would jettison critical personnel from the American health care system at a time when it needs all hands on deck…If Congress wants to save as many lives as possible while propping up the economy, protecting Dreamers should be its first priority in future negotiations…Congress should not save Dreamers just because it’s good policy. Congress should save Dreamers because we need them to survive.”