washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Polltical Strategy Notes

At The Guardian, Cas Mudde writes, “…New voters and non-voters are disproportionately non-white and non-suburban. Many of them are not even registered, or – thanks to Republican purges of voting rolls – no longer registered. This is particularly relevant to African Americans, who – contrary to popular perception – actually have rather high voter turnout, higher than other minorities, but are disproportionately affected by voter suppression (including incarceration)…Despite the efforts of some organizations, most notably Stacey Abrams’ new group Fair Fight, Democrats devote most of their time to reaching already registered voters, rather than registering new voters. Imagine how much the millions of dollars of Mike Bloomberg and Tom Steyer could have achieved had they spent that money on registering new voters rather than vanity campaigns…The 2020 elections will not be about changing minds about who to vote for but about whether to vote. The damage done to voter registration in the South alone, following the gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, could swing elections.”

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, however, sees a vein worth mining in disgruntled Trump voters, especially in New Hampshire. As Trent Spiner reports at Politico, she “recognizes that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are going to clean up here. But she sees a path to success by finding voters to whom they have little appeal — like those who are so independent-minded they voted for both Barack Obama and Donald Trump…It shows in every piece of her strategy, from the towns she visits to her stump speech. And in a state where the biggest voting bloc, 43 percent, is independents, it’s a game plan her campaign thinks will create an Election Day surprise…Klobuchar’s state director said they’re focused on places other candidates have avoided, especially the towns that went to Obama in 2008 and 2012, but then voted for Trump in 2016.” Spiner notes that Klobuchar is also socially and ideologically-close with the state’s two Democratic women senators, Maggie Hassan and Jean Shaheen.

Andrew O’Hehir has a jaunty rant at salon.com, “A New Year’s resolution for Democrats: To win in 2020, get the f**k over 2016 already: Democrats must escape the poisonous hangover of Bernie v. Hillary. I’ve got terms for a truce: You’ll hate it.” O’Hehir writes, “the amount of grudge and grievance and name-calling and recrimination and hive-mind clapback and paranoid mythology, nearly all of it rooted in the leftover bad feelings of the Hillary v. Bernie conflict of 2016, is astonishing. It’s damaging and dangerous and downright Trumpy, and yet more evidence that the virus that produced him has infected us all…we have been subjected to endless, pointless, airless debates about who is more “electable,” which all boil down to the Bernie-Hillary split in barely concealed form, and which all run aground on the great reef known as Nobody-Has-a-Solitary-Clue Land…Rescuing the Democratic Party from its current aimless drift — in the election year just ahead or in this new decade or just sometime in this century — is not a matter of embracing one side of that divide and rejecting the other. It’s about facing an altered political landscape with honesty and clarity, and leaving behind the realm of denial, delusion and fantasy that have rendered our politics so empty and so stupid for so long.”

In E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s Washington Post column, “Our political debate doesn’t have to be this stupid,” he brings the challenge of 2020 into focus: “I am not starry-eyed about bipartisanship and its supposed joys. On the contrary, the current Republican Party’s abject fealty to Trump and its shift far to the right of where it once was mean that promises of a glorious bipartisan future will, for some time, be false. I have little faith in Republican politicians, including many I once thought were serious about governing…there are stirrings on the right that it is long past time for its partisans to break with climate-change denialism. We should be arguing over what to do, not about whether something needs to be done…Yes, Trump’s defeat and a radical renewal inside the Republican Party are the necessary preconditions for progress. But I refuse to see my wishes for a more reasonable politics and a better form of conservatism as fantasies. Let’s become a nation of problem-solvers again.”

It’s just one poll, but the findings merit a mention. As Jonathan Easely writes in his article, “Black Democrats energized to vote Trump out” at The Hill: “Black Democratic voters are energized to vote President Trump out of office in 2020, as less than a quarter of African Americans say their financial situation has improved over the past two years, according to a new study…A national survey released by Third Way and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies found that of the 46 percent of black voters who identify as strong Democrats, 57 percent are more energized to vote in 2020 than they were in 2016…However, about a third of black voters said they only have weak ties to the Democratic Party, and of these, only 34 percent said they’re more energized to vote in 2016…Sixty-two percent of black voters said that Democrats understand their lives, while only 13 percent said the same of Trump and the Republicans.”

Easely adds, “And a strong majority of black voters say racial relations have deteriorated under Trump, with 80 percent saying that Trump’s election has made people with racist views more likely to speak out. Fifty-five percent said they face more racism in their daily lives than they used to…Third Way did not conduct a horse-race survey of the Democratic primary field, but found that black voters tend to be more moderate in their views…Of the 79 percent of black people who identify as Democrats, 34 percent lean conservative, 34 percent are mixed and 31 percent lean liberal…Overall, 31 percent of black Americans described themselves as moderate, followed by 24 percent liberal, 17 percent conservative and 11 percent progressive…About two-thirds of black Americans prefer a candidate they agree with over a candidate who shares their background and life experiences.”

At CNN Politics, Harry Enten explains why it’s wrong to blame “religious voters” for Trump’s presidency. Enten concedes that “Trump won white born-again evangelicals with more than 75% of the vote in 2016 and his approval rating with them remains at 75% in CNN/SSRS polling taken in the middle of last year.” However, “Trump’s standing with all religious voters — and, in particular, nonwhite religious voters — is considerably weaker than it is among white evangelicals…Heading into the 2020 general election, Trump can certainly count on the strong backing of white born-again evangelicals. If he loses, however, it’ll be in part because his approval rating is only in the low 40s among those who attend religious services at least once a week and are not white born-again evangelicals…Trump’s approval rating was measured at 46% with those who attend religious services at least once a week and are not born-again evangelicals. His disapproval rating was 49% among this group, which means his net approval (approval – disapproval) rating was -3 points. Keep in mind, the majority of this group (about 55%) is white, so this isn’t just about this group containing fewer whites than the born-again evangelical bloc.”

AJ Willingham reports at CNN that “The first day of 2020 marked a bevy of new legislation, including the statewide legalization of recreational weed in Illinois…the state’s lieutenant governor was one of the first in line. The day before the law went into effect, Illinois Gov. J. B. Pritzker granted more than 11,000 pardons for low-level marijuana convictions.” Also at CNN, Leah Asmelash and Melissa Alonso note that “Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton was among hundreds of early morning customers at Sunnyside Dispensary, a Chicago marijuana dispensary, on the first day of legal recreational sales in the state, according to a release from Cresco Labs, which owns the dispensary…Stratton bought a 100-milligram tin of Mindy’s Edibles Glazed Clementine Orange Gummies…Each gummy is 5 milligrams, a “very popular microdose for beginning edible consumers,” he said…Illinois is now the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana.” Democrats should remind younger voters throughout 2020 that they have fought for this reform against Republican opposition, across the U.S.

Don’t forget that the 2020 elections will also play an enormous role in federal and state redistricting, and for Democrats that means correcting entrenched pro-Republican bias, which helped elect Trump and facilitated the GOP domination of state legislatures. To get up to speed on redistricting concerns, check out the Princeton Election Consortium, where top redistricting expert Sam Wang is offering data-driven articles on the Princeton Gerrymandering Project – 2019, in Review, What North Carolina’s redistricting cases suggest for 2021 strateg and Lessons from 2016 and application to 2020, among others.


Political Strategy Notes

In his year-ender, “2019: The Year of Stability: Big events of the year, including impeachment, don’t materially change the odds in races for president, Congress,” Kyle Kondik concludes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball that “despite all of the big political events of the past year, the overall political picture for November 2020 has not changed all that much. The presidential race remains in flux, and the two parties — Republicans in the Senate, Democrats in the House — retain various advantages as they seek to maintain their respective congressional majorities.” Overconfident Democrats should take note that the final Electoral Votes forecast by Kondik and the Crystal Ball for 2019 sees a dead-even 248 EV tie, with 42 toss-ups.

Kondik shares a map depicting Crystal Ball’s most current data-driven estimates for the Electoral College votes. Crystal Ball’s predictions have proved impressive in recent elections.

Kondik believes Dems will hold their House majority next year: “We currently list 225 House seats at least leaning to the Democrats, 192 at least leaning Republican, and 18 Toss-ups. Splitting the Toss-ups nine to nine would give the GOP a net seat of one; they need to net 18 seats to win the House. So we still see the Democrats as favorites in the House.”

As for the 2020 U.S. Senate races, “Our best guess at this point would be for something like a net Democratic gain of a seat, short of the three net seats Democrats need to forge a 50-50 tie. So we still favor the Republicans overall in the battle for the Senate, but the Democrats have enough targets to win control. The map:

All in all, Democrats are in good position to win a 2020 trifecta.

At Vox, Matthew Yglesias highlights the weak, even-for-Republicans, health care policies of Trump and Co, which should be a major asset for Dems willing to call them out: “Trump really does not want to talk about his record on health care. On most topics at hand, Trump’s team has something — whether true or not — to say in favor of the Trump administration’s policy initiatives…The argument is entirely negative — Democrats are bad; Medicare-for-all is bad…Trump can’t really tout his priorities. Over the past three years, he has pursued policies that would reduce the number of people who have health insurance and the quality of the insurance enjoyed by the insured.” Yglesias notes that  Republicans are reduced to arguing that reading, understanding and doing Medicare paperwork is more tedious than doing so for insurance companies, which is a very tough sell, to put it generously. “Personally,” Yglesias observes dryly, “it has not been my experience that filing reimbursement paperwork with Cigna is a notably superior customer service experience to what’s provided at the Department of Motor Vehicles.” In conclusion, Yglesias notes that “the uninsured rate in America is actually rising even though the labor market is getting stronger — a clear sign that health care remains an important policy area that won’t be fixed just by good generic economic conditions. And it’s a policy area where Trump is pursuing priorities — less insurance — that his own team has no defense for.”

Robert Alexander, author of “Representation and the Electoral College, argues “The case for letting senators vote secretly on Trump’s fate” at CNN Opinion. It’s probably not gonna happen, barring an overwhelmingly disgraceful revelation, such as a video clip of Trump stealing the White House silverware, and then fencing it a pawnshop. And even then, who knows, given the fact that ripping off charities and paying fines for it has not budged his approval rating.  Alexander believes that Republicans would then be free to vote their consciences, and he cites Jeff Flake’s dicey claim that a yuge majority of Republican Senators would dump Trump. Not likely – the media and their constituents would pester the GOP senators mercilessly to find out how they voted, putting pressure on all 53 of them to stay mum in perfect harmony with zero staff leaks. It’s a stretch for a party now raging that whistle-blowers should be outed to then say that their impeachment trial vote should be secret. In any case, Dems need not lead the charge. That’s a project for trembly Republican Senators and the media. Looking toward November, Dems should make them publicly defend a president, not only for the two impeachment charges, but also for his whole rap sheet.

Speaking of whistle-blowers, Trump may have just added to the impeachable offenses on his rap sheet, as Laura Davison reports at Bloomberg:  “President Donald Trump faces criticism from political opponents — and queasiness even among some supporters — for naming the alleged whistle-blower whose complaint triggered the congressional inquiry that resulted in his impeachment…A retweet late Friday to Trump’s 68 million Twitter followers identified a person it says is the whistle-blower. That could run afoul of two laws, said David Colapinto, a lawyer who represents whistle-blowers at law firm Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto LLP in Washington…Trump’s Twitter move, while a retweet and not an original message, could potentially run afoul of two sets of laws, one protecting whistle-blowers in the intelligence community and another portion of the criminal code that protects confidential informants from retaliation.”…“By making public the unsubstantiated name of the whistle-blower Trump encapsulated the pathology of his presidency — a callous and cruel disregard for the well-being of anyone or anything untethered from his own personal needs and interests,” tweeted Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow focusing on foreign policy at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and a former State Department analyst.”

Democratic supporters of both front-runners for the presidential nomination should appreciate Zach Budrick’s article “Biden hits back at Sanders’s claim that Trump ‘will eat his lunch‘” at The Hill. “If you’re a Donald Trump and you got Biden having voted for the war in Iraq, Biden having voted for these terrible, in my view, trade agreements, Biden having voted for the bankruptcy bill. Trump will eat his lunch,” Sanders said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times editorial board last week…Sanders went on to claim that Biden’s health care plan would keep the “status quo,” which Biden denied. Biden’s plan, in contrast to Sanders’s universal “Medicare for All” proposal, would create a public option similar to the one floated but ultimately left out of the Affordable Care Act.” No matter who wins the Democratic presidential nomination, he or she will be strengthened by engaging other candidates in tough, but respectful debate, which Dems have done well in 2019, despite the hand-wringing about circular firing squads. Trump won’t have that advantage, since some states won’t even hold GOP primaries and his most ‘serious’ opponent, William Weld, doesn’t seem much interested in fighting for his party’s nomination. If you’re a Biden supporter, be grateful that your candidate is working out with Bernie Sanders, and vice versa. Same goes for all of the Democratic candidates who address tough ctiticism.

One of the casualties of the 2016 election was the myth that the home state of presidential candidates matters much, since hard-core New Yorker Trump swept the south (except VA). The regional roots of voters, however, still matter — a lot. As Frank Hyman, a carpenter and stonemason, who also does policy analysis for ‘Blue Collar Comeback,’ noted in his Richmond Times-Dispatch article, “The Confederacy was a con job on whites. And still is” (reprinted in a dozen newspapers) that “a map of states that didn’t expand Medicaid – which would actually be a boon mostly to poor whites – resembles a map of the old Confederacy with a few other poor, rural states thrown in. Another indication that this divisive propaganda works on Southern whites came in 2012. Romney and Obama evenly split the white working class in the West, Midwest and Northeast. But in the South we went 2-1 for Romney.”

Yet today there are exciting pro-Democratic developments across the south, including the blue-ing of Virginia and progressive trends underway in NC, GA, FL and even TX. Democrats now hold a U.S. Senate seat in AL and the Governorships of NC and LA, and nearly elected governors of FL and GA in 2018. In addition, most of the largest southern cities have Democratic mayors. At Facing South, Chris Kromm reports that “Florida and Louisiana recently passed measures that expand voting rights for citizens with former felony convictions, and incoming Kentucky governor Andy Beshear is reportedly considering an executive order that would reenfranchise 100,000 voters. [Done] Georgia has adopted automatic voter registration. Texas has strengthened campaign finance disclosure rules.” However, Republicans still control all southern state legislatures outside of VA.


Political Strategy Notes

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has a repost-worthy op-ed, “Trump Has Turned His Back on The Working Class” at Newsweek. Reich argues, “Trump probably figures he can cover up this massive redistribution from the working class to the corporate elite by pushing the same economic nationalism, tinged with xenophobia and racism, he used in 2016. As Bannon has noted, the formula seems to have worked for Britain’s Conservative Party. But it will be difficult this time around because Trump’s economic nationalism has hurt American workers, particularly in states that were critical to Trump’s 2016 win…Manufacturing has suffered as tariffs raised prices for imported parts and materials. Hiring has slowed sharply in Pennsylvania, Michigan and other states Trump won, as well as in states like Minnesota that he narrowly lost.”

Reich continues, “The trade wars have also harmed rural America, which also went for Trump, by reducing demand for American farm produce. Last year, China bought around $8.6 billion of farm goods, down from $20 billion in 2016. (A new tentative trade deal calls for substantially more Chinese purchases.)…Meanwhile, health care costs continue to soar, college is even less affordable, and average life expectancy is dropping due to a rise in deaths from suicide and opioid drugs like fentanyl. Polls show most Americans remain dissatisfied with the country’s direction…The consequences of Trump’s and the Republicans’ excessive corporate giveaways and their failure to improve the lives of ordinary working Americans are becoming clearer by the day…The only tricks left to Trump and the Republicans are stoking social and racial resentments and claiming to be foes of the establishment. But bigotry alone won’t win elections, and the detritus of the tax cut makes it difficult for Trump and the GOP to portray themselves as anti-establishment…This has created a giant political void—but also an opportunity. Democrats have an historic chance to do what they should have done years ago: create a multi-racial coalition of the working class, middle class and poor, dedicated to reclaiming the economy for the vast majority and making democracy work for all.”

CNBC online editor John Ellis makes the argument that “Pelosi’s best move might be to keep impeachment in her pocket and not send it to the Senate.” As Ellis writes, “She could say: “I’m not sending these articles of impeachment over to the Senate. There’s no point in doing so. The majority leader has made it clear that he has no interest in a ‘fair trial.’ There’s no point in wasting everyone’s time and taxpayer money to arrive at a decision that Republican senators have already made. Everyone, including each and every Republican member of the Senate, knows that President Trump did exactly what he stands accused of doing. And impeachment is a fact. So we’ll let it stand as is; a monument to the president’s dishonesty and corruption, to be contemplated and remembered by Americans for generations to come.” She could add, “we’ll send it over  when the senate leadership expresses a sincere commitment to a fair trial and to calling relevant witnesses. That could be a while.” Indeed, it could. But this approach should be carefully measured against the downsides of not making Republican senators cast votes for giving Putin’s puppet a free ride, not showcasing McConnell’s blatant autocratic mindset and having the mess concluded in time to focus on the issues favoring Democrats. Tough call.

And give due credit to Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the sole Repubican elected official of stature, who has said she is “disturbed” by Mitch McConnell’s saying he was acting in “total coordination” with the White House in arranging the impeachment proceedings. Murkowski said, “To me, it means that we have to take that step back from being hand in glove with the defense, and so I heard what Leader McConnell had said, I happened to think that that has further confused the process,” report Kevin Liptak and Manu Raju at CNN Politics, who add “As a moderate, Murkowski, who opposed Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, will be closely watched during the upcoming trial, and she told KTUU she is undecided as to how she’ll vote.” Given all of her comments about impeachment of Trump thus far, I’ll be surprised if Murkowski votes for conviction. But if she does, she will be an instant front-runner for the “Profile of Courage” award — and will likely gain influence, if Trump loses the presidential election.

At CNN Politics, Harry Enten notes that former Vice President Biden has a big lead in endorsements from governors, senators and congressmen and that “candidates who lead in endorsements at this point usually do well in the primary.” Enten doesn’t verify a cause and effect relationship. Also, even people who like politicians understand that their endorsements are likely motivated as much or more by partisan calculations as the endorsee’s merits. It also depends on the demographic a candidate is trying to motivate. If, for example, a candidate wants to increase support from young voters, an endorsement from another politician may be of less consequence than one from a top pro athlete or a hot performing artist, which is more of a conversation-starter, while a political figure’s endorsement would be more of a yawn-generator. Just a theory, absent data testing the notion.

He may not have had the rank of congressman what’s-his-name, who recently switched to the GOP. But this statement by  Rep. Andy McKean, Iowa’s longest-serving Republican lawmaker, on joining the Democratic Party back in April, provides an eloquent template for Republicans of conscience who have had “enough” “With the 2020 presidential election looming on the horizon, I feel, as a Republican, that I need to be able to support the standard bearer of our party,” McKean told reporters at the Iowa Capitol during a news conference on Tuesday. “Unfortunately, that’s something I’m unable to do…He sets, in my opinion, a poor example for the nation and particularly for our children by personally insulting, often in a crude and juvenile fashion, those who disagree with him, being a bully at a time when we are attempting to discourage bullying, his frequent disregard for the truth and his willingness to ridicule or marginalize people for their appearance, ethnicity or disability…his actions have coarsened political discourse, have resulted in unprecedented divisiveness, and have created an atmosphere that is a breeding ground for hateful rhetoric and actions. Some would excuse this behavior as telling it like it is and the new normal. If this is the new normal, I want no part of it.” (as reported by Mahita Gajanan in Time Magazine).

In his Politico post, “3 factors that could make or break Trump in 2020: The president’s big economic achievements were wrapped up in 2019. Now Trump needs momentum in the economy and markets to stretch out for more than 10 months through Election Day,” Ben White notes, “Perhaps the biggest risk to Trump — and the toughest knock on his record — is the monthslong decline in manufacturing that began as Trump’s trade wars really took hold. Manufacturing tipped into recession territory over the summer and has yet to turn around, leading to weaker economies in states that Trump needs to win in 2020. That includes places like Pennsylvania, where the unemployment rate is rising and hit 4.2 percent in October…Michigan also has an unemployment rate above the national average at 4.1 percent and saw declines in the manufacturing sector in both September and October, though some of that came from the now-ended strike at General Motors.”

Eliza Relman and Walt Hickey note at Business Insider that “Satisfaction with Biden among Latinos who say they’ll vote in their state’s Democratic primary is about 40% — 15% below his support among white voters, 14% below his support among Asian voters, and a whopping 26% short of his support among black voters…The top two candidates running to Biden’s left — Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — both perform significantly better among Latinos. While Sanders’ approval is at 57%, Warren’s approval is at 54%…Biden’s relative lack of support among Latino voters will likely hurt him in two of the most important presidential primaries next year in Texas and California. The two states have the largest numbers of eligible Latino voters in the country, and California moved up its primary to Super Tuesday, which is on March 3.” But any Democratic nominee will almost certainly win California’s electoral votes, and Texas may be too much of a stretch for any Democrat. In addition, Biden’s comparatively moderate stance on immigration may be a plus with the white working-class voters who are a majority of voters in key swing states.

From Nate Silver’s “Do You Buy That… Spending A Lot Of Money On Ads Can Help Win the Democratic Nomination?” at FiveThirtyEight:


Political Strategy Notes

In her Cook Political Report article, “The Majority Is In Play” about Democratic prospects for winning back Senate control, Jennifer E. Duffy writes that “Democrats appear to have expanded the playing field enough to put Republicans’ majority at risk…Recent polls have shown Trump’s job approval numbers have ticked up a bit during the House’s consideration of the Articles of Impeachment. While the gains are small and not especially meaningful, Democrats weren’t expecting such gains, but the reverse…It appears that there will be at least five GOP-held seats in play, with a chance that Democrats could add one or two more. This puts Democrats in a position to win the majority, even if they lose Alabama and/or Michigan. This is not to suggest that Democrats will win the majority, only that their prospects are considerably better today than they were five months ago.”

In his year-ender column at Sabato’s  Crystal Ball, Kyke Kondik assesses Democratic prospects to win back control of the Senate: “Since our initial assessment, we did move North Carolina to the ranks of the Toss-ups, although Democratic odds are likely better in their other two Toss-up targets, Arizona and Colorado. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) has gotten some good news over the past several weeks: his one-time primary challenger, businessman Garland Tucker (R), left the race, and Rep. Mark Walker (R, NC-6) opted to retire in the face of redistricting instead of enter the primary, which means Tillis can turn his attention to the general election now. The true vulnerability of Republicans in the Leans Republican column, namely Collins and Joni Ernst (R-IA), remains something of a question mark, although each very well could be pushed hard next year. Collins, in particular, seems to face a no-win situation on impeachment: A vote to acquit will further nationalize her and imperil her longstanding crossover appeal (after her vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh for a Supreme Court seat already nationalized her to a great degree last year), while a vote to convict will soften her with Republicans. Without defeating at least one of Collins or Ernst, the Democratic path to a majority is likely blocked…Our best guess at this point would be for something like a net Democratic gain of a seat, short of the three net seats Democrats need to forge a 50-50 tie. So we still favor the Republicans overall in the battle for the Senate, but the Democrats have enough targets to win control.”

At Vox, Matthew Yglesias has some disturbing notes on the massive power imbalance presented by the U.S. Senate: “The growing polarization of the white vote along the lines of population density and educational attainment has also supercharged the once-modest partisan skew of the Senate, making even the most popular changes to health care or minimum-wage policy an extremely heavy lift…Today, the smallest state is Wyoming, and the state of Washington has about 12.6 times as many people. Of course, Washington isn’t the largest state. Indeed, it’s not even particularly close — 12 states are bigger. Illinois has 22 times Wyoming’s population. Texas is nearly 50 times as big (and growing fast). And California is a stunning 68 times as large…If California had been carved up into Massachusetts-sized states, it could be easily 15 or 16 separate entities — each with about four times the population of Wyoming — rather than the current mismatch…though the current GOP majority in the Senate is of recent vintage, it’s also built on a remarkably thin electoral base. In 2014, Republican candidates won 52 percent of the vote and gained nine Senate seats. Two years later, Democrats won 54 percent of the vote and gained only two seats.” Yglesias goes on to note formidable problems with proposals to admit Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico as states to reduce the Senate’s bulit-in bias, although they are probably the most doable reforms. Correcting such structural injustices, however, will require a Democratic landslide or two.

Eleanor Clift’s “Here Are 10 House Democrats Who Really Put It on the Line Voting to Impeach Trump” at The Daily Beast should be of extra interest to Democrats concerned about helping to protect the party’s vulnerable House members. As Clift writes, “Freshmen Democrats in districts previously held by Republicans face the greatest risk. This group, dubbed “frontline” Democrats, many of them women, voted to hold President Trump accountable on both articles of impeachment knowing full well the possible consequences…“The political implications of impeachment for Democrats in Trump districts was unclear, but they voted yes because they knew it was the right thing to do, and have to live with themselves for the rest of their lives,” says David de la Fuente with Third Way, a moderate Democratic group that at The Daily Beast’s request identified 10 freshmen Democrats with the most to lose in casting their vote for impeachment.” Six of the ten endangered Dem House members are women.

Clift adds, “Three of these freshmen lawmakers—Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, and Abigail Spanberger and Elaine Luria of Virginia—were among a group of seven newly elected Democrats with national security credentials who stepped forward in September to support impeachment after it became public that Trump had withheld military aid from Ukraine in exchange for dirt on a political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.” Clift provides capsule descriptions of the political situation for each of the 10 vulnerable Democrats, including Elissa Slotkin (MI-8); Abigail Spanberger (VA-7); Elaine Luria (VA-2); Lucy McBath (GA-6); Haley Stevens (MI-11); Xochitl Torres Small (NM-2); Anthony Brindisi (NY-22); Kendra Horn (OK-5); Joe Cunningham (SC-1); and Ben McAdams (UT-4). Here’s ActBlue’s gateway link to helping protect these and other Democratic House members (Click on the state and scroll to the member).

In their FiveThirtyEight post, “Who Won The December Democratic Debate?,” Aaron Bycoffe, Sarah Frostenson and Julia Wolfe write that “we once again partnered with Ipsos to track how the debate, hosted by “PBS NewsHour” and Politico, affected likely primary voters’ feelings about the candidates on the stage… Biden received high marks, as he hasn’t fared nearly as well in some of our otherpost-debate surveys. Warren and Sanders were tied for a close second place in their debate grade, but, like with Biden, their pre-debate favorability ratings meant we figured voters would rate them positively — Warren was even slightly worse than expected. Andrew Yang and Amy Klobuchar, on the other hand, did better than expected given their pre-debate favorability ratings, earning the third-highest marks. Being the focus of several of his rivals’ attacks seems to have hurt Pete Buttigeg; he got low marks relative to how well-liked he was going into the debate. Tom Steyer also failed to make a positive impression.”

Bycoffe, Frostenson and Wolfe add that “Yang and Klobuchar saw the largest jumps in net favorability (favorable rating minus unfavorable rating) — 6.3 points and 6.1 points, respectively. Most of the other candidates made more modest gains of 2 or 3 points; Buttigieg was the only candidate whose net favorability fell — it dropped by about 2 points…We asked respondents to estimate each Democrat’s chances of defeating Trump, from 0 percent (no chance) to 100 percent (certain to win). Going into the debate, as in other general-election polls, Biden was the candidate voters thought was most likely to beat Trump, on average. He still leads on that question after the December debate, but…his average dropped by roughly half a point. Klobuchar, on the other hand, made the largest gains by this metric, with her average rating increasing by 4 points. Other candidates, like Yang and Steyer, saw more modest increases, while Buttigieg saw a small downtick.”

For those who are wondering “How’s Impeachment Play in the ‘Burbs?,” Charlie Cook has some answers at The Cook Political Report: “Last year, Senate Democrats had many more seats at risk than did the GOP. This year, the battlegrounds are overwhelmingly in red, Republican-tilting states. Again, more of the fight will be in the suburbs, where Republicans are playing defense, than in rural and small-town America, where the tide is shifting against Democrats. Whether Republicans hold their majority will be determined in suburbs of Phoenix and Tucson, where Sen. Martha McSally is defending her Arizona seat; Atlanta, with two GOP seats up in Georgia next year; Denver, with Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado holding on for dear life; the suburbs outside of Des Moines for Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa; Portland, Maine with Sen. Susan Collins; and in North Carolina’s Research Triangle and Charlotte for Sen. Thom Tillis. Some argue that Sen. John Cornyn faces a threat in the suburbs of Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio, though I remain skeptical that he will have quite as much difficulty as Sen. Ted Cruz had last year. Texas is trending purple, but maybe not fast enough for Democrats in 2020. Impeachment will do no favors for Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, but his race was so difficult before, it couldn’t get much steeper than it already was.”

“After the 2018 midterm elections, Gallup asked Democrats and Republicans where they hoped their respective parties would move ideologically. The results are instructive — about the trajectories of both the impeachment debate and the Democratic contest for president…When Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents were asked if they would rather see their party become more liberal or more moderate, 54 percent said more moderate, 41 percent said more liberal. Republicans, by contrast, think their already radicalized party is still not conservative enough: Fifty-seven percent said they wanted the party to become more conservative; only 37 percent said more moderate…The results added to the mountains of evidence showing how the political polarization we talk about so much is asymmetric: Republicans have not only moved much further to the right than the Democrats have moved left, the GOP wants to keep moving toward the outer edges.” – From “Democrats understand moderation. Republicans don’t” by E. J. Dionne, Jr. in The Washington Post.


Political Strategy Notes – Trump Impeachment Edition

“Everything I do during this, I’m coordinating with the White House counsel,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell assured Sean Hannity on Fox News. “There will be no difference between the president’s position and our position as to how to handle this.” Then there is “Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who exchanged a reputation for moderation for a reputation for Trumpist sycophancy, was even crisper. “This thing will come to the Senate, and it will die quickly, and I will do everything I can to make it die quickly,” he said.” Given these stated positions of two of the top Republican senators, who could blame Speaker Nancy Pelosi for not allowing them the opportunity to trivialize the hard work of the House Intelligence and Judicial committees and make a mockery of the U.S. Constitution. As Ezra Klein writes at Vox, “Impeachment’s most important role is preventive, not retributive. It is to make sure that neither Trump nor any future president tries to abuse their power to amass more power in this way again. But if Senate Republicans abdicate their constitutional duty and, as Graham promised, do everything they can to make this die quickly, they’ll be unleashing Trump and his successors to abuse the power of the presidency even more flagrantly in the future.”

From “Six pages of loony ranting, and journalists still won’t question Trump’s mental state” by Dan Froomkin at Salon: “The livid, unhinged six-page rant full of lies, hyperbole, wild accusations and self-pity that Donald Trump put on White House letterhead on the eve of his impeachment — “for the purpose of history,” he said — was an extraordinary gift to news organizations that have hesitated until now to address Trump’s mental state…To everyone but the willfully blind, it was effectively a confession of the president’s unfitness for office — a view straight into the mind of a mad king unable to grasp basic facts, control his emotions or acknowledge any restraints on his behavior.” Froomkin calls out some reporters for sugar-coating descriptions of Trump’s screed, but also credits some others: ” Former Republican strategist Rick Wilson said on MSNBC that the letter was “six pages of pure crazy, weapons-grade nuts.” CNN political analyst Gloria Borger said: “I think if I’m a senator, a Republican senator, and I’m looking at this and this landed in my lap like a grenade today, I would wonder about the president’s fitness for office.”

In “Trump goes after late Rep. John Dingell: ‘Maybe he’s looking up’ instead of down” at The Hill, Justine Coleman reports on Trump’s insulting, in a Michigan speech no less, the memory of the longest-serving member of congress in U.S. history, Rep. John Dingell, Jr. (D-MI), who died in February and was succeeded by his wife, Rep. Debbie Dingell, who responded, “Mr. President, let’s set politics aside. My husband earned all his accolades after a lifetime of service. I’m preparing for the first holiday season without the man I love. You brought me down in a way you can never imagine and your hurtful words just made my healing much harder.” Not the smartest of moves in one of the most important swing states, which Trump barely won in 2016. Dingell and his father, John Dingell, Sr., represented Michigan in Congress for a combined total of 82 years. Dingell was instrumental in passing historic legislation, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Medicare Act, the Clean Water Act of 1972, the Endangered Species Act of 1973, the Clean Air Act of 1990, and the Affordable Care Act.

“But the letter only underscored Trump’s determination to lie and bully his way to reelection,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes in The Washington Post. “Republican claims that this is purely a partisan process must be challenged at their core. It is partisan only because Republican politicians lack the guts to acknowledge the obvious: A president who presses a foreign power to smear a domestic political opponent is engaged in despotism. Period…So when the issue comes before the Senate, Democrats cannot back down from their leader Charles E. Schumer’s demand that witnesses be called in a real trial. Those Republican senators who have claimed independence from Trump — particularly those up for reelection — must be forced to go on record, repeatedly if necessary…There is no middle ground. Either senators support a full accounting of the facts, or they are covering up for Trump.”

Another question that arises from the impeachment vote in the House of Representatives that should be directed to presidential candidates Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, the only House member who voted “present,” as well as former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the first opportunity: “Rep. Gabbard/Mayor Bloomberg, will you or won’t you promise to support the Democratic presidential nominee?” Let no self-respecting reporter allow either one of them to wiggle out of a straight answer. Neither Gabbard nor Bloomberg made the cut for the December televised debate. Voters need to know the sincerity of the party commitment of all candidates who profess to be Democrats, especially those two.

At Politico, Kyle Chesney, Sarah Ferris and John Bresnahan discuss what is known so far about  Democratic impeachment strategy going forward: “Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to commit Wednesday to delivering articles of impeachment to the Senate, citing concerns about an unfair trial on removing President Donald Trump from office. Senior Democratic aides said the House was “very unlikely” to take the steps necessary to send the articles to the Senate until at least early January, a delay of at least two weeks and perhaps longer…“So far we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us,” Pelosi told reporters at a news conference just moments after the House charged Trump with abuse of power and obstructing congressional investigations. “That would’ve been our intention, but we’ll see what happens over there.”…Pelosi’s comments, which echo suggestions raised by other Democrats throughout the day, inject new uncertainty into the impeachment timetable and send the House and Senate lurching toward a potential institutional crisis…Though the House adopted two articles of impeachment charging Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of congressional investigations, it must pass a second resolution formally naming impeachment managers to present the case in the Senate. That second vehicle triggers the official transmission of articles to the Senate…By delaying passage of that resolution, Pelosi and top Democrats retain control of the articles and hope to put pressure on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to adopt trial procedures they consider bipartisan.”

At Talking Points Memo, editor Josh Marshall provides one of the best assessments of Trump’s impeachment thus far: “Ordinary venal corruption can be impeachable. Some serious crimes that are not tied to a President’s official duties might be impeachable. But the crimes Trump is accused of – and of which he is clearly guilty – are definitional examples of the kind of wrongdoing impeachment was designed to combat…If we step back from signature phrases like “high crimes and misdemeanors” and look at the document in its totality, foreign subversion is a central, paramount concern in erecting a robust presidential power. The president is the only person who can never have had a foreign allegiance. He or she is specifically prohibited from accepting any thing of value or any power or title from a foreign power. The impetus to creating the constitution was the perceived need to create a more robust central government with a more powerful executive. The other signature, structural element of the document is the fear that this empowered executive will use these powers to perpetuate their own power and break free of the republican system of government on behalf of which and for which they hold these powers. Both of these central fears about presidential power are directly implicated in Trump’s criminal behavior.”

FiveThirtyEight’s Perry Bacon, Jr. reviews the shaping of public attitudes toward impeachment, and notes, “Support for impeachment increased substantially soon after the Ukraine scandal started dominating headlines, in late September and early October. During that time, the broad details of the scandal became widely known, and several prominent moderate Democrats and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi came out in favor of starting the impeachment process. By mid-October, most Democrats and more than 40 percent of independents were backing impeachment. And public opinion hasn’t really moved much since then, even during the sometimes-riveting hearings conducted by the House Intelligence Committee in November…What does this tell us? I think there’s a case to be made that what moved Democratic voters and perhaps some Democratic-leaning independents to back impeachment was as much Pelosi and other Democratic elites embracing it as the underlying evidence (Pelosi initially opposed impeachment after the Mueller probe ended but before the Ukraine story broke).”

Democrats who believe that the minimalist 2-count approach to impeachment that passed the House yesterday was inadequate may find David Corn’s review of Trump’s impeachment-worthy deeds in Mother Jones of interest. Corn writes that “Trump entered office as virtually an advertisement for impeachment. His disregard for the law and his profound lack of integrity already formed a prominent part of his permanent record.  He had run a fraudulent business(for which he would later be fined $25 million). He and three of his children (Eric, Donald Jr., and Ivanka) had overseen a fraudulent foundation (for which they would later be sanctioned). He was widely known to be a cheat who didn’t pay his bills. He was shown to be a nonstop liar. There had been plenty of stories and lawsuits focused on Trump and the Trump Organization’s shady business practices. He had worked with mobsters (and lied about it). He had hired and still hero-worshiped Roy Cohn, a ruthless, by-whatever-means lawyer who represented organized crime figures. That in itself was a huge tell…He had broken his promise to release his tax returns, failing to comply with this most basic requirement of transparency for a politician. And the instant he stepped into the Oval Office, Trump began violating the Constitution by running afoul of the emoluments clause, which prohibits a commander in chief from accepting payments from foreign governments. His hotels and businesses routinely pocketed revenue from overseas governments and officials…And he invited a foreign adversary to intervene in the 2016 contest when he called on Russian operatives to hack Hillary Clinton. (Trump also welcomed, denied, and aided and abettedMoscow’s covert attack on the election that was waged in part to help Trump win.)…The warning signs continued after he became president. Cronyism and nepotism ran rampant in the White House and throughout his administration. Trump exploited the presidency to hype his own businesses. His kids used his presidency to cash in. Cabinet members became involved in assorted scandals. Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, was given a plum White House job, though he couldn’t obtain a security clearance. (Trump eventually had to order that Kushner be granted a clearance.) Trump’s companies pushed to expand their overseas operations (despite his promise that they would not). Trump trampled ethics rules. If there had been an algorithm that predicted impeachments, Trump would have rung the bell.” Despite Trump’s incessant whining about impeachment, the record shows he got off pretty easy.


Teixeira: Don’t Sleep on the 2020 State Legislative Races!

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

By all means, let’s defeat Trump in 2020. And keep the House and make progress in the Senate. But let us not forget how very, very important the state legislative races will be this time around. 2018 was just a start, albeit a good one. Can you say “redistricting”? I think you can!

The Post had a nice long article on Democratic state legislative plans for 2020. The graphic below is worth the cost of admission all by itself.

“By the time President Barack Obama left office in 2017, Republicans were in the majority in two-thirds of state legislative chambers and held 33 of the nation’s governorships….

Over the past three years, Democrats have flipped about 435 state legislative seats, including winning control of chambers in New York, Connecticut, Colorado, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Washington and Maine, in addition to the victories this year in Virginia. Democrats also picked up nine governorships. But Republicans still have majority control in 29 state legislatures, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

DLCC leaders say their top targets next year will be flipping both chambers of legislatures in Arizona, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, while also winning control of House chambers in Iowa, Texas and Michigan and the Senate chamber in Minnesota. The organization also plans to work closely with groups that plan to heavily contest races in other states.”


Political Strategy Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Political Strategy Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Political Strategy Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Political Strategy Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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