washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

One of the reasons why “Tuesday’s Elections Show Impeachment Might Not Boost GOP As Much As It Hoped,” according to Dominico Montanaro at npr.com: “Republicans have been saying that impeachment would backfire on Democrats and enthuse Trump’s rural base. But that didn’t pan out Tuesday in Kentucky and Virginia. Democratic voters in urban areas, on the other hand, are clearly fired up…They showed up, especially in Kentucky, in higher-than-usual numbers, while voters in rural areas didn’t. Trump, who only won 46% of the national popular vote in 2016, needs every last one of the people who voted for him then to come out again, especially as he has done almost nothing to try to win over persuadable voters this time around. Kentucky and Virginia could be warning signs that impeachment, even though the Trump campaign has raised lots of money off it, simply isn’t the issue Republicans hoped it would be with voters.”

Ronald Brownstein explains why “The Suburban Backlash Against the GOP Is Growing” at The Atlantic: “Amid all the various local factors that shaped GOP losses—from Kentucky to Virginia, from suburban Philadelphia to Wichita, Kansas—the clearest pattern was a continuing erosion of the party’s position in the largest metropolitan areas. Across the highest-profile races, Democrats benefited from two trends favoring them in metro areas: high turnout in urban cores that have long been the party’s strongholds, and improved performance in white-collar suburban areas that previously leaned Republican…“When Trump was elected, there was an initial rejection of him in the suburbs,” says Jesse Ferguson, a Virginia-based Democratic strategist. “We are now seeing a full-on realignment.”

“In both message and agenda, Trump has reoriented the Republican Party toward the priorities and grievances of non-college-educated, evangelical, and nonurban white voters,” Brownstein adds. “His campaign has already signaled that it will focus its 2020 efforts primarily on turning out more working-class and rural white voters who did not participate in 2016…But yesterday’s results again suggested that the costs of that intensely polarizing strategy may exceed the benefits. Republicans again suffered resounding repudiations in urban centers and inner suburbs, which contain many of the nonwhite, young-adult, and white-collar white voters who polls show are most resistant to Trump. If the metropolitan movement away from the Trump-era GOP “is permanent, there’s not much of a path for Republican victories nationally,” former Representative Tom Davis of Virginia, who chaired the National Republican Congressional Committee about two decades ago, told me.”

Brownstein continues, “Unique local conditions contributed to each of yesterday’s most disappointing results for Republicans. In Virginia, Democrats benefited from a court-mandated redistricting of some state legislative districts after the initial lines drawn by the Republican-controlled legislature in 2011 were deemed discriminatory against minorities. The new maps substantially increased the African American share of the electorate in four of the six state House seats that Democrats appear to have captured, according to data collected by the Virginia Public Access Project. Huge spending by outside groups focused on gun control, gay rights, and legal abortion also boosted Democrats there.” Republican Governor Matt “Bevin, a belligerent figure, was among the country’s most unpopular governors, and he provoked a fierce organizing effort against him by teachers and organized labor. “By all accounts, this was the best get-out-the-vote effort ever mounted in Kentucky by the Democrats… driven by the teachers and the labor unions,” says Al Cross, the director of the Institute for Rural Journalism at the University of Kentucky. Bevin also appeared to suffer in rural areas from his drive to pull back the state’s Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.”

Brownstein notes further that “Democrats reaped a double benefit: They increased their share of the vote even as turnout surged…Beshear won the state’s two largest counties—Jefferson (which includes Louisville) and Fayette (which includes Lexington)—by a combined 135,000 votes, according to preliminary results. That was nearly triple the total vote advantage that Jack Conway, the Democrats’ 2015 nominee against Bevin, generated in those two counties.” In both Kentucky and Virginia, Brownstein writes, “That widening separation between the GOP’s strength outside of metro areas and an intensifying tilt toward Democrats inside of them continues the underlying pattern of geographic polarization that has defined politics in the Trump era.”

Kentucky’s incumbent Governor Matt ‘Sore Loser’ Bevin has refused to concede to Governor-Elect Andy Beshear, and Bevin formally requested a “recanvass” under state law. Kentucky’s Democratic Secretary of State, who has declared Beshear the winner, “announced it would occur at 9 a.m. local time on November 14, in accordance with state law,” reports Adam Levy at CNN Politics. “All 120 counties in Kentucky are required to submit their certified vote forms by Friday. Those certified results will be recanvassed next week…A recanvass is a reprint of the receipts from voting machines to check for reporting or clerical errors. After ballots are scanned, the machine tabulates those votes and prints out a receipt with the total…During a recanvass, those receipts will be reprinted and checked again to make sure they were reported properly. It’s not uncommon for some clerical errors to occur during the initial vote tabulation. All 120 counties would then fill out and submit the same certification forms again with the recanvass results.” In the unlikely event that the election results are reversed, the national outrage could damage the Republican Party’s image even further.

So how will Virginia Democrats’ double victory affect propects for progressive reforms in that state? At FiveThirtyEight, Nathanial Rakich and Geoffrey Skelley write that “This shift could have all sorts of policy implications for Virginia, too. One big-ticket item could be gun control legislation. After a shooting in Virginia Beach in May, Northam tried to push through legislation in July that included universal background checks on gun purchases and an assault weapons ban but the GOP-controlled legislature refused to take it up. Democrats could also take up raising the minimum wage to $15, as most Democrats in the legislature previously backed the idea. Democrats have also promised to expand voting rights, protect the rights of LGBTQ Virginians, improve health care affordability, and ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. And last but not least, Democrats could have the final word on redistricting after the 2020 census, though a pending constitutional amendment for a redistricting commision might alter how the state draws lines.” Virginia could soon serve as the flagship state for what can be accomplished for working people when Democrats run government.

How important was gun safety reform in the Virginia flip? Writing at Vox, Jane Coaston notes in her article, “The NRA’s big loss in Virginia, explained,” that “across the state, gun control was the top issue for voters and for Democratic candidates, according to one poll, with several candidates running explicitly on vows to “take on the NRA” to pass gun control legislation. According to Everytown, that focus (and money) resulted in at least three flipped seats that helped Democrats take control of the legislature. Gov. Ralph Northam said Wednesday that he now hopes to be able to pass a slate of gun control measures, and “because of that Virginia will be safer.” Coaston reports that gun control groups heavily outspent the NRA, which is based in northern Virginia.

The Virginia flip will also strengthen the state’s Medicaid expansion reform, which was weakened during the enactment struggle. Looking ahead to the next state election in which health care security is very much at stake for thousands of Louisianans, Alexander Sammon writes at The American Prospect: “If, on November 16, Louisiana’s Democratic governor John Bel Edwards wins reelection, his victory could entrench his state’s own fragile expansion of Medicaid, as well. None of these victories will fix the deeply flawed health care system in the United States, or bring about single payer on their own, but they will expand coverage for scores of needy Americans, and could help give momentum to help bolster social programs or drive support for Medicare expansion this time next year.” Trump was in Louisiana yesterday supporting the Republican candidate for Governor. Those who want to help Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards hold the line on Medicaid expansion in Louisiana can contribute to his re-election right here.

Blue and Anti-GOP Waves Roll in PA

From “The blue wave crashed down on Pennsylvania again, as voters from Philly to Delaware County turned left” by Julia Terruso at The Philadelphia Inquirer:

The political forces that shaped last year’s midterm elections showed no signs of abating Tuesday, as voters turned on Republicans and establishment Democrats alike in races from Philadelphia and Scranton to the suburbs of Delaware and Chester Counties.

Outside Pennsylvania, voter unrest with President Donald Trump and the Republican Party he has taken over helped deliver victories for Democrats in Kentucky, where they narrowly took the governorship, and in Virginia, where they seized complete control of the state government for the first time in more than a quarter-century.

This is great news, especially considering Pennsylvania’s strategic importance as a bellweather swing state in the 2020 presidential election. In her deep dive, Terruso explains,

Locally, Democrats will hold all five seats on the Delaware County Council, a Republican stronghold since the Civil War, and also assumed a majority on the legislative body in Chester County. In Bucks County, Democrats captured the Board of Commissioners for the first time since 1983.

And in Philadelphia, a third-party insurgent candidate weakened an already marginalized GOP by securing one of the at-large City Council seats reserved for minority parties — a seat Republicans have held for decades.

“It’s a new day in Delaware County,” said Elaine Schaefer, one of three Democrats elected Tuesday in Delaware County. Democrats had never held a majority on the county council in its history, let alone every seat.

Further, adds Terruso,

The Democratic victories around the country point to surging interest by liberal voters heading into the 2020 presidential election. That could be especially significant in Pennsylvania, which Trump won in 2016 — along with its 20 Electoral College votes — partly due to a dip in Democratic enthusiasm in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

However, a number of third party progressives also rode to victory in the PA local elections, including the new Mayor-Elect of Scranton, Paige Cognetti, who ran on the slogan “Paige Against the Machine.” The Working Families Party, which supports many Democratic Party reforms, won a number of other local races, reported by Terruso.

To some extent, the PA elections reflect a disgust with Republicans, as much as a pro-Democratic trend. One can also read a pro-outsider trend into the mix. But Democrats have good reason to cheer these victories over Republicans, as well.

“In Delaware County,” notes Terruso, “the results for Republicans were catastrophic. All three Republican Council candidates and all four Republicans running for Common Pleas Court judgeships lost there. Incumbent Republican District Attorney Katayoun Copeland was ousted by Democrat Jack Stollsteimer, whose campaign received the support of liberal billionaire George Soros.”

In sum, Terruso writes, “The Pennsylvania suburbs, which will be crucial in the 2020 general election, turned even bluer Tuesday, following big GOP congressional losses in the midterm elections.” No doubt political scientists would welcome some precinct-level analysis to see how various demographic groups voted.

Beshear’s Kentucky Upset, Dems Double Victory in VA Energize Dems

Democrats won the Kentucky governorship and a double victory in Virginia in Tuesdays election, sparking hopes for momentum going into 2020.

In Kentucky, Democrat Andy Beshear beat incumbent Republican Governor Matt Bevin in an upset by a margin of 49.2 percent to 48.8. So far, Gov. Bevin has refused to concede, although Kentucky’s Secretary of State has called it for Beshear, as well as the major broadcast networks. There is no provision for an automatic recount, though Bevin can ask for one, even though recounts rarely reverse official tallies. His smarter advisors may tell him that sour grapes is not a good look for his future, or his party.

Beshear likely got a big bump from voters who had good reason to be concerned about their health security. As Tara Golshan writes at Vox, “At the end of the day, in the eyes of Kentuckians, Bevin remained an extremely unpopular governor. He threatened to cut Medicaid expansion in the state, which would have likely pushed about 400,000 people off their health insurance.” Eric Bradner notes at CNN Politics that Beshear has pledged to “ease Medicaid access, overhaul the state’s education leadership and restore the voting rights of former felons who have done their time.” Bradner adds that Bevin pissed of Kentucky teachers, accusing them of  “being “selfish” and having a “thug mentality” because they objected to Bevin’s plan to slash their pensions.

The White House is equally bitter about Beshear’s victory, since Trump, who won Kentucky by 30 percent in 2016, spent the day before Tuesday’s election promoting Bevin. “If you lose, they’re going to say Trump suffered the greatest defeat in the history of the world. This was the greatest. You can’t let that happen to me,” he told Bevin at their rally,” Bradner reports.

Bradner adds that Tuesday’s election provides a “bad sign for the party across the board. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the most powerful Kentuckian in politics and a veteran of tough elections, is on the ballot next year. And while Tuesday’s results don’t necessarily forecast trouble for McConnell, they do likely mean Amy McGrath, a leading Democratic challenger, will likely see a fundraising boon.” Political analyst Ruy Teixeira cautions, however, “I wouldn’t read too much into this for 2020….but, it’s not a good sign for Trump’s effect on the GOP brand.”

“In Virginia, Democrats won majorities in both the House and Senate,” Bradner writes, “giving the party full control of the state’s government and solidifying what had once been a swing state as a stronghold for the party. Their wins open the door for new gun control laws, an increased minimum wage and other progressive measures that Republicans had previously blocked.”

In another CNN article, Bradner and Ryan Nobles report that “The victories put Gov. Ralph Northam and Democrats in the Legislature in position to pursue a progressive agenda — including gun control measures, which majority Republicans had blocked, and a higher minimum wage…With the “trifecta” of the House, Senate and governor’s office, Democrats will also control the redistricting process after the 2020 census, drawing the new maps for congressional and state legislative districts.”

Political Strategy Notes

At The Virginian-Pilot, Dave Ress and Marie Albiges set the stage for tommorow’s election in their state: “The battle for control of the Virginia General Assembly will be largely fought in Hampton Roads on Tuesday. And the question of which side wins will have a lot to do with what kind of laws on guns, voting, abortion and consumer protection Virginians will come under — as well as whether the state ratifies the Equal Rights Amendment and allows people to smoke marijuana without risking jail…Some two decades of GOP control of the House of Delegates would end if only two districts change. A switch of only one seat in the state Senate would mean a Democratic-controlled body, thanks to Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax’s tie-breaking vote — and that would mean that Democrats hold the governor’s office and both chambers in the General Assembly for the first time since 1993…Stakes are especially high in those districts that were deemed racially gerrymandered by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year. The new court-ordered maps made several districts, including a handful in Hampton Roads, more competitive — and often Democratic…But that bluer tone is based on previously federal and statewide election results, said Quentin Kidd, a political scientist at Christopher Newport University…“There’s a lot of difference between a 72% presidential turnout and what’s likely to be a 37%-ish off-off year,” he said, adding that low turnout elections tend to see a larger proportion of GOP-inclined voters showing up to at the polls.”

From “Democrats push candidates to fully commit to 2020 nominee” by CBS News/Associated Press: “The Democratic National Committee is increasing pressure on its presidential candidates to commit to campaign actively for the party’s nominee in 2020, going beyond a previous loyalty pledge for White House hopefuls…The push from Chairman Tom Perez is part of a wide-ranging strategy designed to prevent the mistakes that cost Democrats the 2016 presidential election. It comes as the Republican National Committee continues to dwarf the Democratic Party in fundraising, while Democrats face the prospect of a bruising, expensive nominating fight that could last well into election year…Perez is asking all candidates to commit, like Obama, to serve as surrogates, with a focus on battleground states in the weeks after the July 13-16 nominating convention in Milwaukee. And Perez wants each campaign, as candidates drop out, to designate a senior adviser to serve as a liaison to help the national party use the vestiges of individual candidates’ campaigns to build out Democrats’ general election campaign.”

Democratic President Harry Truman had one of the best responses to the GOP’s socialist boogeyman hysteria:

“Florida Democrats are determined not to make the same mistakes as 2016, which could have contributed to President Donald Trump’s victory in the state,” Janelle Irwin Taylor reports in “Florida Democrats outline strategy to take down Donald Trump in Florida” at floridapolitics.com. “The state party has already raised $5.2 million for its campaign to defeat Trump and has assembled a team of 91 employees — the largest team in the nation and equal to both the Trump Florida campaign and Republican Party of Florida staff combined, according to Rizzo…The party hopes to register 200,000 new voters in Florida by July and has already registered 17,000 since June, out-registering Republicans four months in a row for the first time in three years. The state party has grown its volunteer base more than 1,200 percent over its 2015 levels, completing more than 34,000 volunteer shifts this year…The Florida Democratic Party has already spent more than $500,000 on paid media targeting African American and Hispanic voters and 60 percent of its organizers are minority with more than half speaking two or more languages including Spanish, Portuguese and Creole…One of the party’s key targets is reducing voter suppression. To do that, the state party has established a 24-hour voter protection hotline where voters can report troubles registering or voting…In October alone, the Florida Democratic Party registered nearly 5,000 new voters, over 1,600 more voters this year than four years ago…The party is also working to combat disinformation from the Trump campaign. The party’s volunteer base is growing to help meet that need. In the October preceding the 2016 election, Democrats in Florida logged just 109 volunteer shifts. This month, nearly 7,000 volunteer shifts have been filled.”

In his New York Times column, “Democrats Can Still Seize the Center: And they don’t have to give up their principles to do it,” Thomas B. Edsall writes: “In September, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Cook Report released a study of 2,402 adults designed to identify the swing electorate. They found that 16 percent of all voters “are truly persuadable.”…Who are they? “They’re younger, more moderate, and less engaged in national politics. At least a quarter say they didn’t vote in 2016 or 2018.” Their views of Trump are less extreme than those of more partisan voters, with the overwhelming majority saying they “somewhat” approve or disapprove of the president, rather than “strongly” approve or disapprove.” Edsall quotes an anonomous Republican pollster, who notes, ““The Democratic candidate should concentrate on persuasion, because Trump will take care of mobilizing his opponents,” he argued. The pollster pointed out that in the 2017 Virginia governor’s race, “Northern Virginia turnout exploded by 500,000 votes, because people turned out to send a message of opposition to Trump” even though the Democratic candidate for governor, Ralph Northam, “was neither very liberal nor a very inspiring candidate.”

Regarding Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s cost estimates for the Medicare for All program she is proposing, Ronald Brownstein writes at The Atlantic “The biggest question surrounding Elizabeth Warren’s new Medicare for All plan isn’t whether she has produced a plausible pathway to raising $20.5 trillion over the next decade to fund it. Rather, the biggest question is whether $20.5 trillion is actually a plausible estimate of how much her plan would cost…In estimating the plan’s price tag, the Warren campaign used as its baseline a recent Urban Institute study that projected a 10-year federal cost of $34 trillion. The campaign released a 28-page white paper, with copious footnotes and appendixes, explaining how it reached its lower estimate. It was written by Donald Berwick, the former director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under Barack Obama, and Simon Johnson, the former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund…The bottom line is that across all sectors of the medical industry, the Warren campaign assumes that her single-payer plan will squeeze much greater savings relative to the current system than the Urban Institute believes is possible—or, in some cases, even desirable. “We thought we were being pretty aggressive in the assumptions we are making in terms of lowering the cost of the program over time,” Linda Blumberg, a co-author of the Urban Institute study, told me. “They were clearly more aggressive.”

Brownstein concludes “Even with a $20.5 trillion price tag, Warren’s single-payer plan would represent an increase of more than one-third in total federal spending over the next decade. But holding down the cost even to that level would require, as Blumberg said, “heroic” assumptions about how much savings could be squeezed from every corner of the health-care system. Warren’s plan, by her own projections, would require the federal government to raise nearly 90 percent as much new revenue as the total projected receipts from the federal income tax over the next decade. Without those “heroic” savings, she’d need to raise even more—and likely move beyond the targets for tax increases that she’s identified so far.” In the next televised debate, Warren should expect a deluge of harsh zingers from her Democratic opponents, who have a couple of weeks to hone their attack messages. One problem is that, even if she is right, the funding of her Medicare for All plan is complicated to explain in the short time frames allotted, and it’s hard to imagine how she can pull it off in a convincing way. But it’s also possible that her opponents overdo their attacks and end up looking like Republicans.

In their Politico post, “The surprise voting bloc Bernie is banking on to win the nomination,” Laura Barron-Lopez and Holly Otterbein report that “Latino activists say they hear all the time from voters in their community who are high on Sanders, and that’s backed by polling showing him leading or tied among Latinos. Sanders won the highly coveted endorsement of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez…Sanders is tied for first place with Biden in Nevada at 22 percent, according to the latest CNN poll. And even as he’s slipped to third and fourth place in Iowa in some surveys, Sanders is in a three-way tie with Biden and Elizabeth Warren in California, per an October Public Policy Institute of California survey.,,Several surveys have shown Sanders and Biden as the top choices among Latinos. In a Univision survey of Latino primary voters released in September, Sanders and Biden were statistically tied with 20 percent and 22 percent, respectively. Sanders, who has vowed to put a moratorium on deportations, was the No. 1 choice in that survey among Latino Democrats who know someone who is an undocumented immigrant.”

Otterbein and Barron-Lopez continue, “To win, Sanders needs to persuade Latinos who rarely or never vote to come out for him, too…It’s a tall order: In past presidential elections, Democrats have tried but failed to boost turnout among Latinos. Latino voters were touted as a sleeping giant in the lead-up to the 2016 election. But just 47.6 percent of the Latino electorate came to the polls that year, compared to 48 percent in 2012, according to Pew. Turnout overall was just over 61 percent…But next year might be different for Latinos, or so Sanders’ campaign hopes. Latino voter turnout jumped from 27 percent in the 2014 midterms to 40 percent in 2018 — increasing more than any other ethnic group, according to U.S. Census data…Sanders’ star support from prominent Latinas “gives him barrio cred, street cred for this old white Jewish dude who is running for president,” said Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens.”

Political Strategy Notes

Amelia Thomson-Deveaux explains “Why Democrats Are Moving Quickly With Impeachment: A battle in the courts could spill into primary season” at FiveThirtyEight: “House Democrats are running out of time. With a little over three months to go before the beginning of primary season, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Monday that the House will hold its first formal vote of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump on Thursday, signaling that the investigation, which has taken place almost entirely behind closed doors so far, is about to go public. This is an important step in expediting the proceedings, especially if Democrats are trying to avoid an impeachment process that stretches into an election year. But it’s also a sign that even after a judge ruled that their investigation was legal, Democrats aren’t waiting on the courts to help bolster their inquiry…Democrats seem to think the information they’ve already gathered is damning enough to present to the American people without pressing for further testimony — and we’ll soon see whether the public will find their case convincing.”

“Why would President Trump’s hardcore defenders think the best way to defend a floundering leader is to hurl repulsive dual-loyalty charges at a decorated Army combat veteran who feels an obligation to tell the truth to Congress?,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. asks in his Washington Post column. “The vile assault on Vindman is designed to muddle a factual record highly damaging to the president. But it’s aimed at the Trump niche, roughly a quarter of Americans who will follow Trump’s lead on almost everything. This is a case of polarization and fragmentation reinforcing each other…The standard answer to such questions focuses on political polarization, and there sure is a lot of it going around: left vs. right, urban vs. rural, religious vs. secular, young vs. old, prosperous vs. left-behind, pro-immigrant vs. anti-immigrant…Polarization is deepened because many of these identities reinforce one another these days. To pick just one example underscored by recent studies from the Public Religion Research Institute and the Pew Research Center: Christian conservatives rally to the Republican Party while the secular are overwhelmingly Democrats…But another factor that we talk about far less is feeding the chaos: fragmentation…Taken together, polarization and niche politics make it very hard to forge the consensus required to solve problems and move democracies forward.”

“But is the Trumpist attack on Vindman really so unprecedented?,” Jeet Heer observes at The Nation. “There’s a long, sordid history of the political right hurling mud at soldiers in the service of partisanship. Nor should this surprise us. One of the core convictions of the political right is that they are the embodiment of the true America. If you start from that premise, then anybody who challenges the right, even a decorated soldier, is disloyal. Patriotism, in this view, can never be guaranteed by mere heroic service; it always has to be maintained by ideological fidelity…Trump’s critics are baffled by how Republicans who claim to love our troops can tolerate such cruel disrespect of soldiers and their families. But this misunderstands the nature of right-wing patriotism—or, rather, right-wing nationalism. For the right-wing nationalist, leaders like Trump are the essence of the nation, the living avatar of American identity…A figure like Vindman is useful for providing evidence for impeaching Trump, but the larger battle against Trumpism requires an articulation of a full-bodied patriotism that draws on shared ideals that go beyond individual heroism.”

Clearly it takes extraordinary political leaders to meet that challenge. One of the most inspiring Democrats shows how it is done in this clip:

But how do we get there? At The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein quotes Speaker Nancy Pelosi: “It would be better for Democrats to “begin with where we have agreement,” she said. “Let’s not start with: ‘You have private insurance—forget about it.’” She wants to begin by bolstering the Affordable Care Act, adding a public competitor to private insurance, and restoring provisions in the law that Trump has weakened. “Maybe Medicare for All is a destination,” Pelosi said. “But it’s certainly not a starting point.”

Mother Jones columnist Kevin Drum agrees with the principle. In his post, “What If We Can’t Get Medicare for All?,” Drum writes, “Like most lefties, I would like the United States to adopt true universal health care. This has been my position for, oh, 30 or 40 years. However, I also accept the reality that this will never happen in one grand swoop. That’s why I was—and am—a big supporter of Obamacare, warts and all…So if I were president and had to propose health care reform that actually had some chance of passing, what would it be? I’d go with a two-prong approach: “Lower the Medicare age to 55” and “Add Medicare as a public option to Obamacare.” Drum concedes that “Perhaps Medicare reimbursement rates would have to go up,” but adds, “Employers could keep their current private-sector plans if they wanted to, or they could enroll their employees in Medicare. The federal government would make Medicare available at its cost.” Me, I’d throw in some language that protects homes and retirement assets from medical bill lawsuits.

In their article, “Election 2019 Mega-Preview: Political Conformity Seeks Further Confirmation: Looking ahead to next week’s elections in Kentucky, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia; House ratings changes,” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman write that “Nationalized politics points to a Democratic edge in next week’s Virginia state legislative elections, and a Republican advantage in the Kentucky and Mississippi gubernatorial races…Yet, there remains uncertainty in all of those key contests as local factors test the durability of larger partisan trends…Unrelated to next week’s action, we have two House rating changes to announce, both benefiting Republicans. The pending CA-25 special election moves from Likely Democratic to Leans Democratic following Rep. Katie Hill’s (D) decision to resign, and Rep. Conor Lamb (D, PA-17) moves from Safe Democratic to Likely Democratic…However, what appears to be a pending court-ordered congressional remap in North Carolina should benefit Democrats.”

Rafael Bernal reports at The Hill that “House Democrats aiming to flip six House seats in Texas in 2020 have commissioned a study meant to help the party increase the Latino vote…In a memo obtained by The Hill, consulting firm Latino Decisions outlined a strategy to pursue Hispanic voters who currently don’t vote, based on five focus groups conducted in Dallas and Houston…Hispanic voters nationwide have historically registered at lower rates than those of other demographic groups, leading to lower participation numbers…In Texas, that trend was partially reversed in the 2018 midterms, when Hispanic participation numbers approached presidential election levels; in some heavily Hispanic counties, participation rose nearly 300 percent over the 2014 midterms…According to Latino Decisions, there are 403,000 Hispanic residents who are able to vote but are not registered in the eight target districts, and 283,000 registered voters who did not vote in 2018…And Latino Decisions found Hispanic voters are responsive to “kitchen table” issues — particularly health care — but are also receptive to messages on President Trump‘s rhetoric, immigration policy and anti-immigrant violence like the August El Paso shooting, where a gunman killed 22 people and injured 24 others.”

Casey Michel has some choice words about Trump’s assertion that ” I don’t care about politics, but I do care about corruption” at The New Republic: “Trump’s affection for chicanery is hardly a recent phenomenon. If one can stomach a re-examination of his pre-presidency days, his latter-day turn as a reality-television charlatan was preceded by a long career as a developer drenched in dirty money. This is a man whose business dealings with the corrupt and the crooked are legion; a man whose entire business model rested in large part upon attracting the stolen, illicit funds washing through, and propping up, America’s luxury real estate market over the previous two decades…Trump’s corrupt practices, predilections, and preferences are far too numerous to tally. But they all point in one clear direction: That any claim he makes to being concerned about kleptocratic cronyism in Ukraine is nothing but a cover for the unprecedented sacrificing of our national interests at the altar of the president’s political fortunes. Trump knows, lives, and breathes corruption, in every sense, and in every facet.”

Political Strategy Notes

Chris Cillizza reports at CNN politics that, according to a new Quinnipiac poll, “Asked whether the “Democratic Party has moved too far to the left, too far to the right, or would you say the Democratic Party hasn’t moved too far in either direction”, nearly half — 47%! — of respondents say that the party has moved too far left. Asked hat same question of the Republican Party and just 37% say it has moved too far right…Almost 6 in 10 men (57%) say Democrats have moved too far left as do 55% of whites with a college degree. Whites, generally speaking, are much more likely to say the party has moved too far left (53%) as compared to Hispanics (33%) and blacks (17%).”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes, “A report released last week by the Center for American Progress sheds important light on the party’s choices. One of its key findings will cheer Trump’s foes: If every demographic group votes as it did in 2016, Trump will lose the popular vote by an even greater margin than he did last timeand fall short in the three states that put him over the top: Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin…Why? Because, write Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin, the study’s authors, “the nonwhite share of the eligible electorate will increase by 2 percentage points, almost entirely from increases in the shares of Hispanics, Asians, and voters of other races. That will be balanced by a commensurate decrease in the share of white noncollege eligible voters…But Democrats should not think that victory is already in the bank. The electoral college decides who is president, and Teixeira and Halpin note that these demographic shifts alone would produce only very narrow margins in the three key states. If Democrats fail to convert some of Trump’s voters or increase turnout among the faithful, the party’s candidate would still be at risk…“Whoever the Democratic nominee is,” Teixeira said in an interview, “he or she must do two things above all: reach out to the white working class and increase black turnout.”

Julia Azari, author of “Delivering the People’s Message: The Changing Politics of the Presidential Mandate,” writes at FiveThirtyEight that “ultimately, as history shows us, a big or fragmented Democratic field doesn’t carry real general election risks. A large and unwieldy primary field can produce an unexpected nominee, but it doesn’t mean a party can’t or won’t rally behind a candidate by the time of the general election…Granted, we can’t be totally sure of the effects of a field this large. But I’d argue that a primary as competitive as the current one can be better for the party than artificial unity (even if 12-candidate debates are a bit exhausting). The primary thus far has helped to clarify what those factions actually are — and what they’re not. It tells voters important things about the state of politics in the party, including divisions over policy solutions and among different demographics. It also illustrates the challenges faced by parties trying to resolve these issues and highlights the fact that democracy, even within parties, is difficult and often full of disagreement. All that said, having 10 or two candidates in the race by the Iowa caucuses should have little bearing on whether Democrats are competitive in 2020.”

In her Cook Political Report post, “Can Warren Beat Trump?“, Amy Walter pinpoints some of the likely problems Warren’s nomination would entail: “Warren will want to go toe-to-toe with Trump on economic inequality and corporate corruption. Trump wants the fight to be about ‘open borders’ and ‘socialism’ and ‘gun grabbing.’ Remember how effectively Trump lambasted Hillary Clinton for saying she wanted to put “a lot of coal mines and coal miners” out of business? Just imagine how Warren’s call to “ban all fracking” is going to play in western Pennsylvania…The other big question mark hanging over all of this analysis is for where Trump sits in November 2020. The closer he is to the low-end of his approval rating trading range (35-40 percent), the easier it is to make the case that almost any Democrat can win. The closer he is to the higher end (43-46 percent), the stronger the case for Trump. Warren becomes more of a risk the less-risky he looks. At this point, however, from his rage tweets over impeachment, to his disjointed policy on Syria, to his ill-advised decision to try and host an international conference at his own hotel, President Trump is doing everything possible to look like the more dangerous pick.”

Also at CNN Politics, Harry Enten reports that “Impeachment isn’t popular in Wisconsin and these 5 other key swing states,” and notes, “In the context of the 2020 presidential election, we need to be looking to swing state polling to see how impeachment may play out on the campaign trail. The polls indicate that impeaching and removing Trump in these pivotal states is far from a slam dunk…Indeed, take an examination of the battleground states that Democrats almost certainly need to make inroads into in 2020. The New York Times and Siena College, 2018’s most accurate pollster, took a poll of voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Arizona. These were closest states in the country that cast their electoral votes for Trump in 2016…Just 43% of voters in these six states want to impeach and remove from office at this point. The majority, 53%, do not. This means that the margin for not impeaching and removing Trump in these states (+10 points) is running well ahead of Trump’s margin in these states of about 1.5 points. Put another way, impeaching and removing Trump from office in these states is not a popular position.”

From “‘Digital is the testbed’: Why the 2020 election is focused on online advertising” by Kristina Monllos at Digiday.com:  “What we’re seeing now is that digital is the testbed, the momentum-gatherer for these candidates and these campaign platforms,” said Alex Funk, vp of strategic development at 3Q Digital. “We’re going to see a lot more TV as we get closer, but until then, digital strategists will have candidates diversify across a number of different platforms.”…The digital ads serve as a quick and relatively cheap way for candidates to test out campaign messages, platforms and even a myriad of creative executions for those ads to see what works and what doesn’t. The feedback from voters online from those digital ads can then be used to craft the television campaigns, which typically flood the airwaves six to eight weeks before Election Day, and even help presidential hopefuls figure out where they need to spend more time with voters…“It’s a data capture game,” said Nick Venezia, managing director of Social Outlier, a digital shop that has worked on digital advertising for political campaigns. “You have to start telling a story with messaging people can get behind now so that people will buy it later.”…Overall, Kantar predicts that $6 billion will be spent on paid advertising during the 2020 election, with 20% or $1.2 billion going to digital, 53% or 3.2 billion going to broadcast television and 20% or $1.2 billion going to cable television. All told, television will account for 73% of the political ad spending in 2020 versus the 20% expected on digital, per Kantar.”

Are Blue-Collar White Women Trump’s Red Wall?,” asks Anne Kim at The Washington Monthly. Kim writes, “While Democrats made crucial gains among these voters in the 2018 election, these women may now be rallying to Trump’s defense…Opinion polls have shown increased momentum toward impeachment since evidence came to light that Trump pressured Ukraine to dig up dirt on the Biden family. As of October 21, Real Clear Politics’ average found that 51.0 percent of Americans support an inquiry, whereas 42.8 percent are opposed. Among blue collar white women, however sentiment is moving in the opposite direction, according to Trendency Research, which maintains a longitudinal panel of more than 1,000 Americans polled daily…As of October 21, Trendency found that a solid majority (54 percent) of non-college-educated white women either outright oppose or lean against impeachment, while just 37 percent strongly support it. In fact, blue-collar white women are the strongest opponents of impeachment among all white voters (see chart below). This opposition is in stark contrast to college-educated white women, among whom only 26 percent indicated “no support” for impeachment as of October 21.” However, notes Kim, “Blue-collar white men, in contrast, have swung dramatically in favor of impeaching Trump. While just 26 percent of blue-collar white men showed “strong” support for impeachment as of September 28—with 59 percent who outright opposed—40 percent of these men now strongly support impeachment as of October 21 and a minority of 47 percent now oppose it.”

Kim continues, “By sheer numbers, blue-collar white women are the nation’s biggest voting bloc.  According to Democratic political research firm Catalist, non-college-educated white women made up 25 percent of voters in 2018 and 26 percent of voters in 2016. These women outnumber both non-college white men, who accounted for 22 percent of the 2018 voters, and college-educated white women, who comprised just 15 percent of the 2018 electorate…Luckily for Democrats, blue-collar white women are still a potentially winnable group. Catalist’s analysis, for instance, found that while Democratic candidates lost among both blue collar men and women in 2018, the margin of defeat among non-college-educated white women was half that among non-college-educated white men. (Democrats lost by 36 points among blue-collar white men and 18 points among blue-collar white women.)…These women have also shown more willingness to cross the aisle. Although college-educated suburban white women won much of the credit for delivering House Democrats a majority in 2018, blue-collar white women have shown some shifting allegiances, even if not of the same magnitude. Democrats’ performance with them in 2018 was still a three-point improvement over 2016, according to Catalist. (By comparison, Democrats gained 11 points among college-educated white women, solidifying their new status as a core constituency of the party.)

Kim concludes, “All of these findings, however, predate the inquiry into Trump’s impeachment. The question now is whether the specter of impeachment has catalyzed renewed support among blue-collar white women for the president and erased the gains from the 2018 election…For Democrats, regaining their toehold among these voters means two things. First, and most significantly, it means investing more resources in understanding what’s happening with blue-collar white women—and why. Democrats cannot afford to overlook this vital constituency; they should neither write them off, nor take them for granted.  Second, Democrats should continue to push their message on health care and other kitchen-table issues that matter to all voters. The party leadership’s current instincts are correct that impeachment should not overtake the entirety of the political conversation through next fall…Ultimately, though, Democrats can’t view this challenge as a test of Trump’s resiliency with the white working-class voters that comprise so much of his base. Rather, Democrats have to see it as a test of whether they can devise a durable economic message that outweighs Trumpism’s appeal and unites women across all socioeconomic lines. It’s a challenge they should tackle now, before it’s too late.”

Political Strategy Notes

In his column, “The Trade War’s Risks for Trump: Agriculture and manufacturing are significant industries in 2020’s most important states,” Louis Jacobson writes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “President Donald Trump has taken a hard line on trade. He’s imposed tariffs on steel, aluminum, and on a wide variety of Chinese products. In response, China has slapped tariffs on American products…If Trump’s trade strategy poses risks for the economy, it also poses risks for his reelection strategy. That’s because farmers and manufacturers in battleground states are facing retaliatory tariffs on their products…To measure Trump’s degree of risk, we analyzed 14 battleground states — 10 of them won by Trump in 2016 and four won by Hillary Clinton. (We ignored Nebraska’s competitive 2nd congressional district, and we looked only at Maine’s statewide electoral votes, not its competitive 2nd district. Both states allocate a portion of their electoral votes by congressional district.)…Trump won seven of them in 2016, making the core of his Electoral College majority at special risk from fallout from tariffs. Especially notable is the inclusion on this list of the three narrowly divided states that made his victory possible: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin…Depressed turnout among disaffected farm and factory voters might be more likely than actually switching rural and blue-collar Republicans to support whoever the Democratic nominee is…Craig Gilbert, a political journalist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, has reported extensively from the swing rural areas of western and southwestern Wisconsin. He said he hasn’t encountered any sign of mass defections from the historically strong levels of Trump support in 2016, but he added that it remains an open question whether more modest shifts could occur…Bottom line: Trump’s trade policy could weaken his support in key states, but for now at least, there’s little evidence of widespread damage to Trump’s standing among the farm and factory demographics. Until further notice, cultural issues appear to be taking prominence over economic ones.”

Charlie Cook writes in The Cook Political Report that “In a tough Oct. 16 piece in The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein cites a study by the center-left Urban Institute, which notes that a plan like those favored by Warren or Bernie Sanders “would require $34 trillion in additional federal spending over its first decade in operation. That’s more than the federal government’s total cost over the coming decade for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid combined, according to the most recent Congressional Budget Office projections.”…Brownstein goes on to point out: “In recent history, only during the height of World War II has the federal government tried to increase taxes, as a share of the economy, as fast as would be required to offset the cost of a single-payer plan.” Syracuse University professor and Clinton administration alumnus Leonard Burman adds that there are “no analogous peacetime tax increases.” Selling such a plan, he argues, “is theoretically possible,” but “the revolution that would come along with it would get in the way.”

“This is where the rubber meets to road in terms of electability,” Cook continues. “There is not any question that Warren is the most talented campaigner in the Democratic race today, and perhaps in Democratic politics altogether. She’s also put together a world-class campaign organization. But all of that may not be able to withstand the questions and attacks on some of her proposals. Apart from her health plan, there are real questions about whether her wealth tax would generate the $1.75 trillion in revenue over 10 years needed to fund her agenda—one that makes Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal look somewhat modest…This is not to say that Warren can’t win the Democratic nomination. Today she would certainly be favored to win both the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, but history shows that winning one or both is not tantamount to winning the nomination. Since 1972, every eventual Democratic nominee has come in first, second, or third in Iowa and either first or second in New Hampshire. The other co-front-runner, Joe Biden, could simply place or show in Iowa and place second in New Hampshire, biding his time until the primaries and caucuses move South and West—territory where polls show Biden does much better.”

Emily Stewart outs “The Wall Streeters who actually like Elizabeth Warren” at Vox: “On Wall Street, there are rich guys, and then there are very rich guys. And in the first camp, there are a surprising number who think an Elizabeth Warren presidency would not be the apocalypse…Some in the industry believe that the excesses of the financial system continue to be a problem in the wake of the Great Recession and that corporate concentration, wealth inequality, and lax regulation are still issues that need addressing. Do they think she’s 100 percent right on everything? No. But they know she’s smart, and they think she’s approaching policy with a scalpel, not a sledgehammer. They believe Warren when she says she is a capitalist and are on board with her brand of capitalism…“Even though, on a personal basis, Elizabeth Warren may be bad for me economically, she would be better for society, which I want my kids to grow up in,” a director at Citi told me…“I might not always agree with every move that she makes, but it would be hard to argue that she hasn’t done her homework on it,” said Charlie O’Donnell, a venture capitalist at Brooklyn Bridge Ventures…“Customers need protection. Corporations have so much at their disposal and an individual customer has nothing,” said a portfolio manager in the credit card division of a major bank.”

Stewart adds, “Supporters also trust her in the event of a potential recession. They see her as an experienced economic hand who would seek to spend more money at the lower ends of the economic spectrum rather than at the top, and they assume the deficit is going to continue to balloon whoever the next president is, Republican or Democrat. “At the macro level, the redistribution of wealth back into consumer’s pockets will positively impact equity markets,” said a State Street vice president. “It’s just what side of the ledger you want to look at.”…Warren may not be the most popular candidate on Wall Street, but she’s not the least popular one, either; it’s not as though the financial industry is immune to her rise in the polls. And her supporters acknowledge that while not everyone in their field will agree with them, they want them to give her a chance…They believe that if people sit down and actually look at her policies, they will see she’s not going to turn the United States into Venezuela. The big structural change she’s talking about, they think is a good thing. And presidents don’t get everything — or often most things — on their agendas done. They’re not scared, and they don’t think others in their position should be scared.”

Despite all of the favorable buzz about Warren, however, Jennfer Agiesta reports at CNN Politics that “Former Vice President Joe Biden’s lead in the race for the Democratic nomination for president has rebounded, and now stands at its widest margin since April, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS…Biden has the support of 34% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters, his best showing in CNN polling since just after his campaign’s formal launch on April 25…Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont are about even for second, with 19% and 16%, respectively. Behind them, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Kamala Harris of California each have 6% support, with Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke each at 3%…Biden has seen big spikes in support among moderate and conservative Democrats (43% support him now, up from 29% in the September poll), racial and ethnic minorities (from 28% among all nonwhites in September to 42% now) and older voters (up 13 points since September among those 45 and older) that outpace those among younger potential Democratic voters (up 5 points among those younger than 45).”

Also at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Seth Moskowitz has an interesting warning for Democrats in his post, “Up-Ballot Effects: Expanding the Electoral College Battleground: “A presidential campaign strategy narrowly focused on Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan might work for the Electoral College but could hurt a candidate’s party in down-ballot Senate and House races…Senate and House battlegrounds are scattered across the Rust Belt and Sun Belt, which could incentivize presidential candidates to compete in states that they otherwise may have overlooked…Both presidential campaigns will have plenty of money, allowing them to invest in lower priority states with the dual purpose of trying to win longshot Electoral College votes and helping Senate and House candidates down-ballot…To help their respective parties down-ballot, presidential campaigns will need to appeal to a broad demographic of voters including white non-college voters in the Rust Belt and diverse, college-educated voters in the Sun Belt and suburban House districts across the country…The Republican and Democratic presidential nominees may not take these down-ballot incentives into account in their campaign strategies. But they do so at the risk of winning the presidency while failing to construct a governing majority. This prospect of a stalled legislative agenda, executive branch investigations, and unfilled court vacancies should drive the presidential campaigns to a down-ballot, party-centric strategy that expands the Electoral College battleground.”

Nathaniel Rakich notes at FiveThirtyEight, “Over the course of the entire 2016 presidential election, TV ad spending approached a whopping $761 million, with more than 920,000 spots flickering across the airwaves. But that might be nothing compared to what we see in 2020. Thanks to Tom Steyer, who is pouring an enormous amount of money into TV ad buys, we are already ahead of 2016’s pace…Using data from Kantar/Campaign Media Analysis Group, we can compare the pace of TV ad spending so far in 2019 with the same point in 2015. And so far, the 2020 campaign has seen more than twice as many television ad spots as the 2016 race. From January 1 through October 20, 2019, campaigns and outside groups spent an estimated $33.3 million on 76,030 television ad spots for the 2020 presidential election. By contrast, through the week of Oct. 18, 2015, campaigns and outside groups had aired only 32,191 TV spots — despite spending more money than they have so far this year ($43.1 million compared with $33.3 million).”

At Democracy – A Journal of Ideras, John Halpin and Brian Katulis illuminate a foreign policy approach that could win support for Democrats; “Donald Trump is the ultimate unilateralist, and not a particularly talented one. He undermines and demeans close allies. He pulls out of treaties and international accords designed to advance our own security and economic interests. He ignores global organizations like the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, and instead seeks ways to work around these institutions to pursue a constantly shifting set of foreign policy impulses. His top advisers operate under the same assumptions as Trump in pursuit of a “go it alone” approach that is getting increasingly dangerous and risky…During that time, the right has hammered Democrats for being soft on national security and bending to the will of the rest of the world. “America First” vs. “soulless globalism” remains the central frame of the Trump argument about the world. Progressives have been too timid in their own defense—crouched in a tactical posture, allowing Trump and his allies to set the terms of the foreign policy debate when it comes to multilateralism…This is exactly the wrong approach. Our recent research into American attitudes on foreign policy, building on our earlier opinion project from January to March 2019, and as outlined in the report entitled “America Adrift,” finds that majorities of voters want multilateralism…Plain and simple—Trump’s unilateralist approach is deeply unpopular outside of his core base. Democrats should lean into arguments about working with other countries and institutions in the world with no apologies.”

Political Strategy Notes

At FiveThirtyEight, Dhrumil Mehta reports that “There have only been four polls so far since Trump announced he would withdraw troops from Syria, and while all four showed that mainly Americans oppose the withdrawal, there was a stark partisan split — Republican voters aren’t broadly opposed to Trump’s decision…However, we don’t want to read too much into Republican support for Trump’s decision to remove troops from Syria. And that’s because many Americans are still getting up to speed on the situation. Remember, in that YouGov/CBS News poll, a plurality of Americans said they didn’t know enough to say whether they supported removing troops from the region. And according to that Morning Consult/Politico poll, 40 percent of registered voters had heard either “nothing at all” or “not much” about the Turkish offensive (including 45 percent of Republicans, and 34 percent of Democrats). A third of voters also said they have heard little or nothing about the U.S. troop pullout. And that USA Today/Ipsos poll also found that 42 percent of Americans — including 45 percent of Republicans — had either not heard about the U.S. decision to withdraw troops or knew little about it.”

At The New Yorker, Eliza Grizwold spotlights on a new project, “Teaching Democrats to Speak Evangelical,” which includes “a training session for Democratic members of Congress on how to speak to evangelicals” lead by Rev. Doug Pagitt: Noting that, “In 2016, eighty-one per cent of white evangelicals voted for Trump; last year, in the midterm elections, seventy-five per cent of white evangelicals voted Republican,” Griswold writes that “Pagitt thinks that, among the Democratic Presidential candidates, for example, Elizabeth Warren is doing a good job of integrating faith seamlessly into her message, beginning sentences with phrases like “As a Sunday-school teacher . . .” and by singing the hymns from her conservative childhood church in a defense of same-sex marriage. Bernie Sanders seems to avoid speaking of religion—his own, Judaism, or that of others—at all costs. Cory Booker often speaks about God in generalizations that can feel bland. Some candidates seem willing to openly antagonize religious voters; last week, at a town-hall discussion on L.G.B.T.Q. issues, Beto O’Rourke said that he would revoke the tax-exempt status of religious institutions that oppose same-sex marriage—the first time a major Presidential candidate has stated such a position.”

Regarding the Democratic presidential candidates Ohio debate, In “Other Polling bites,” Mehta notes that “A FiveThirtyEight/Ipsos poll, which asked respondents to rate each candidates’ debate performance on a four-point scale, found that Sen. Elizabeth Warren was ranked highest by those who watched the debate. But South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg saw the largest increase in the share of voters who were considering voting for him before and after the debate — an increase of 4.5 percentage points.

In 2017, Virginia voters flipped 15 seats in the state legislture from red-to-blue. Right now, however, Democrats are only two seats and two weeks away from flipping each chamber of the Virginia state legislature, the narrowest margin in years. But the GOP’s sugar daddies are flooding the coffers of Republican candidates with money to stop Democrats. If Democrats pick up those two seats in the Virginia state senate and assembly, it will be the firrst time in 28 years that they have held majorities of both houses of the state legislature and the governorship, setting the stage for a new era of progressive reforms that will benefit all Virginians. Democrats who want to make a significant difference need not wait until 2020; A contribution to the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee can help make a powerful difference in just two weeks. Dems are so close to turning Virginia solid blue, and it can happen with a little help from Democratic rank and file everywhere.

In light of the dust-up between 2016 Democratic presidential nomineee Hillary Clinton and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, it should be noted that Gabbard has denied that she will run as an Independent, if she fails to get the Democratic presidential nomination for 2020. But it wouldn’t be a bad idea for major media to query Gabbard — and every other Democratic presidential candidate in each debate, or at least debates before major primaries/caucuses, about their intentions to support the Democratic presidential nominee in 2020. Voters have a right to know how strong each candidate’s commitment to their party really is, and, more importantly, how candidate intentions square with preventing outside influence in our elections.

Charlie Cook has a sobering revelation for those who think they can win over voters who still support Trump: “Expecting Trump’s approval ratings to finally plunge is like waiting for preshrunk jeans to shrink. He had little in the way of a honeymoon period, and his approval ratings have fluctuated little, the whole while running pretty consistently below those of his predecessors. Thus, his numbers don’t have as much room to drop, as when bad news hit previous presidents. The voters who have already stuck with Trump through endless negative stories and developments since he took office are not likely to abandon him now. Those with the capacity for outrage were outraged long ago. “The Fifth Avenue people” will stick with him…The basic job-approval rating has proven to be the best single indicator of a sitting president’s political health. The narrow trading range for Trump’s approval rating since taking office shows little malleability” and “few voters are ambivalent, conflicted, or even open to having their minds changed with new information. He has a rock-solid floor beneath him but an equally strong, albeit low ceiling above him. Those expecting that floor to lower or that ceiling to rise are risking surprise, disappointment, or both.”

So how does it look for Democrats winning Ohio’s electoral votes next year? Kyle Kondik writes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball that “In late July, a Quinnipiac poll of Ohio found Trump’s approval rating with non-college whites was 53% approve, 42% disapprove; the pollster Civiqs, which is associated with the liberal website Daily Kos, pegs Trump’s approval with this group in Ohio at 58%/40%. If Trump’s actual electoral showing among non-college whites in Ohio next year were to mirror these approval ratings — a margin markedly lower than the 30-point gap he enjoyed in his favor in 2020 — the state would be back in play. However, if Trump replicates his 2016 showing with this group, only loses a little bit of backing, or actually improves his performance (as seems possible given the overall trajectory of this group of voters), the state probably isn’t winnable for the Democrats…So if the question is can the Democratic presidential nominee win Ohio in 2020, the answer is yes, depending on Trump’s standing with non-college whites (and other factors).”

In his post, “Beyond those dumb debates: To win, Democrats must reframe the discussion about America’s future” at Salon, Paul Rosenberg raises a frequently-overlooked concern about the way moderate Democratic presidential candidates are framing the health care reform discussion: Rosenberg writes that, in Ohio last week, “the debate’s moderators “kicked off a lengthy health care discussion rooted deeply in the Republican framing about how much we’ll have to raise taxes to pay for Medicare for All.” Nowhere was it ever even hinted that Medicare for All was the original vision underlying Medicare, introduced by Harry Truman in November 1945. When Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar attack it, they are repeating GOP attacks first launched more than 70 years ago. Despite decades of blather about the “liberal media,” this is just one example of how Republican-friendly framing has dominated political discourse in the media for generations. And part of what’s at stake in the 2020 Democratic primary is the fight to bring that to an end.” That’s not to say that Democratic candidates need not explain how Medicare for All would be funded; They do need to be more specific about taxes, and also especially about how long it would take to implement the proposal. But Biden, Klobuchar and Buttigieg all know that the Sanders plan would also mean huge overall cost savings to consumers from eliminating premiums, out-of-pocket outlays, advertising, duplication of administrative costs, price gouging etc. Polls do show that ‘Medicare for All’ is a very tough sell at the moment, and that ‘Medicare for All Who Want It’ is much more popular. But Dems should be a little more wary of simplistic parroting of Republican talking points.

If you are among those who wince when a non-Latino political candidate tries to show off his/her Spanish-speaking skills, take note of Denise-Marie Ordway’s article, “White Democrats less likely to support presidential candidates who court Latino voters, experimental research suggests” at Journalist Resource, which notes that “prior research has shown that targeted outreach to Latinos — using the Spanish language or explicitly directing certain messages to Latinos and their families — benefits political candidates. It results in higher Latino voter turnout as well as increased support for candidates who court Latinos, who, according to the Pew Research Center, will be the largest racial or ethnic minority group in the electorate in 2020…A record 32 million Latinos will be eligible to vote in the next presidential election, show projections that Pew reported early this week.”

Political Strategy Notes

Charlie Cook explains “Why Impeachment Remains a Dangerous Road for Dems” at The Cook Political Report: “Let’s also put aside the reality that given the hyper-partisan and tribal nature of American politics today, the chances of securing 67 votes to convict and remove Trump from office are precisely zero. It isn’t clear that there will be three Republican votes to convict, forget the 17 more GOP senators needed. There is no tolerance for dissent in the Republican Party today; just ask former Sens. Bob Corker and Jeff Flake and former Rep. Mark Sanford. The Republican members who are not afraid of Trump himself are still terrified of his supporters…When Democrats are trying to win a presidential election on Nov. 3—that’s 390 days from now, while early voting begins less than a year from now and candidate filing deadlines begin in less than two months—is this trip necessary? The distraction of impeachment politics erodes the abilities of the Democratic presidential candidates to get their messages across, to bond with voters in a meaningful way. For Democrats, if there is any chance of this distracting from or undercutting the messaging of their candidates, can they really justify this?…Democrats should just sit back and enjoy watching Republicans in competitive and potentially competitive House districts and Senate races simmer with a president at the top of their ticket doing everything he possibly can to drive away swing voters.”

Just when you thought Trump had surely maxed out on jaw-dropping hipocrisy and arrogant disrespect of the nation’s laws, the “White House announces President Trump will host next year’s G7 summit at his Miami golf resort,” Igor Derysh reports at Salon. “Next year’s G7 summit will be held at President Trump’s National Doral Miami golf club, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney revealed Thursday at a press briefing…The move poses Trump in direct odds with the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits presidents from profiting off of foreign governments. Nonetheless, Mulvaney claimed that Trump would not personally profit from the massive international event “in any way, shape or form…Mulvaney’s announcement came as Trump has continued to push a debunked conspiracy theory that former Vice President Joe Biden’s family profited off his vice presidency…And Doral has been struggled since Trump’s presidential run. Profits at the resort have fallen by 69 percent over the last three years. “They are severely underperforming,” a consultant hired by Trump told officials last year in an attempt to lower the property’s tax bill.”

Speaking of arrogance, check out “The man who rigged America’s election maps: How Tom Hofeller shifted the balance of power by taking gerrymandering to the extreme” by Alvin Chang, who writes at Vox, “For most of his life, few people knew Thomas Hofeller’s name…But for decades, Hofeller was the Republican Party’s most influential mapmaker. When it came time to redraw districts, Hofeller not only knew how to churn the data and work with the software — but he also knew exactly how this power could be used…In 1991, Hofeller said, “I define redistricting as the only legalized form of vote-stealing left in the United States today.”…Then a decade later, he said, “Redistricting is like an election in reverse. It’s a great event. Usually the voters get to pick the politicians. In redistricting, the politicians get to pick the voters.”

Among the many moving tributes to Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings, The Nation’s John Nichols observesThere are progressive members of Congress who cast good votes in favor of economic and social and racial justice and peace and the planet, and who understand this to be the purpose of their service. Then there are members of Congress who see those good votes as the starting point for a service that embraces struggles and engages with movements outside the Capitol…House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform chairman Elijah Cummings, who died Thursday morning at age 68, was one of those activist members. He is being honored for his able work on the congressional committee that is charged with holding the powerful to account. But it should be remembered, as well, that he spent an extraordinary amount of time on picket lines and at rallies, at worksites and in union halls with workers who have had few congressional allies so diligent and determined as the Baltimore Democrat.” Cummings also had a gift for inspiring soundbites, which Democratic candidates could emulate to good effect, as Nichols shares: “Those at the highest levels of the government must stop invoking fear, using racist language and encouraging reprehensible behavior. It only creates more division among us, and severely limits our ability to work together for the common good,” Cummings declared in an August 7 speech at the National Press Club.”

Amid the growing chorus of criticism of Trump’s policies by military leaders, you would be hard-pressed to find a more searing indictment than the comments of  retired Admiral William McRaven, architect of the bin Laden raid, quoted here by CNN’s Paul LeBlanc: “If you want to destroy an organization, any organization, you destroy it from within, you destroy it from without and then what you do is you convince everybody that you’re doing the right thing,” McRaven told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead…So when you take a look at what the President has done, he’s undermined the intelligence community, the law enforcement community, the Department of Justice, the State Department. He has called the press the enemy of the American people…”He’s obviously left our allies the Kurds on the battlefield,” McRaven said while outlining a scathing op-ed he wrote for The New York Times. “We feel like we’ve betrayed them. He’s undermined our NATO allies, he’s taken us out of the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Iran nuclear agreement) and the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal) and really the international community has lost faith in America. And then throughout the course of all of this, he’s convinced us he’s doing it for all the right reasons, and I think that is really what is troubling……if this president doesn’t demonstrate the leadership that America needs, both domestically and abroad, then it is time for a new person in the Oval Office — Republican, Democrat or independent — the sooner, the better,” he wrote. “The fate of our Republic depends upon it.”

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall warns that “Trump Is Winning the Online War: The technical superiority and sophistication of the president’s digital campaign is a hidden advantage of incumbency.” As Edsall writes, “For all his negative poll numbers and impeachment-related liabilities, President Trump has a decisive advantage on one key election battleground: the digital campaign. Under the management of Brad Parscale, the Trump re-election machine has devoted millions more than any individual Democrat to increasingly sophisticated microtargeting techniques…In addition, Trump and Parscale are likely to deploy every available tool to suppress turnout for the Democratic nominee via carefully targeted messages to those who dissent from one or more planks of the Democratic platform.” Edsall notes that currently, “Trump’s $15.9 million is more than the $15.5 million spent by the top three Democratic candidates combined.”

Edsall continues “Republican and conservative groups understand that “digital content is the point, not the window dressing,” Lindsay Holst, director of digital strategy in the Obama White House, told Vanity Fair. “We’re lacking the necessary volume of emotional messaging that appeals to people as human beings, not as data points…Peter Hamby, the author of the Vanity Fair article Holst appeared in, wrote that the right in 2016 was “flooding Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter with memes, junk news, misleading statistics, and links designed to inflame voter sentiment around hot-button cultural issues like race, immigration, and identity. But Democrats, always on message, were sticking to paid advertising.”…“It was becoming clear that one side had weaponized the internet, and one side hadn’t,” Curtis Hougland, the founder of MainStreetOne, a liberal Democratic messaging firm, told Hamby. “Democrats want to focus on facts and figures. The other side plays into fears and taps into emotions, and they show it to you. It’s all about emotional resonance…Democrats have a shot at creating a digital infrastructure equal or equivalent to the one Republicans have built. But even if they manage that, will it have the emotional suppleness it needs to move voters?”

Harold Meyerson gives Democratic moderates a blistering critique in his article, “The Fierce Urgency of Less” at The American Prospect: “What underlies these theories of political change are empirically baseless assumptions of a Biden-esque variety—specifically, that more moderate proposals can win Republican support, as they did during Biden’s early years (the 1970s) in Congress. As anyone who’s been at least dimly conscious since the mid-1990s should be able to attest, that world, with that kind of Republican, has vanished tone and tint. Considering that the Affordable Care Act passed without a single Republican in either house voting for it, does Buttigieg really think he can win Republican votes for his own “Medicare for All Who Want It”?…If you don’t mobilize voters for ambitious change and use the bully pulpit to build support for major reforms, you can’t even get incremental fixes…At bottom, though, the aversions of Mayor Pete and Mayor Mike to the ambitious plans of Sanders and Warren aren’t strategic; they’re ideological and self-interested…So when the three B’s of Fighting for Less—Biden, Bloomberg, and Buttigieg—tell us to demand less, they are laying the groundwork for winning nothing. ”

Moody’s Analytics electoral model predctions of a Trump victory in 2020, based solely on economic indicators, is getting lots of buzz, and 2020 may prove to be the ultimate test of the ‘economics determines political destiny’ theory. Forget for a minute that Trump’s presidency is probing the limits of voter outrage nearly every day. There is still an overriding problem with using the Moody’s data, as Chris Cillizza explains at CNN Politics: “The biggest one, obviously, is the economy remaining, generally speaking, on its current course. “The top of the business cycle is a difficult place from which to forecast, and the economic outlook is filled with substantially more uncertainty than usual,” reads the Moody report on the models. “Under a moderate recession scenario, in which U.S. real GDP declines cumulatively by more than 2% over the next year, the average of our three models would point to a Democratic victory…The other major variable that could change the outlook projected by Moody’s is turnout. All of the scenarios above are dependent on average turnout for the non-incumbent’s party. If Democratic turnout soared — and the 2018 election suggests that very well could be the case — things would change drastically.”

Teixeira: Why ‘Medicare for All (Who Want it)’ Is a Winner for Dems

There Really Shouldn’t Be Much Debate About This Anymore: The Correct Position on Medicare for All is Medicare for All (Who Want It)

This really isn’t a hard one. Or shouldn’t be. The evidence continues to pile up that Medicare for All in the Sanders-Warren sense is just not viable politically–while a Medicare option for anybody what wants it is wildly popular. The latest CBS News poll finds that a 66-30 majority would like to see a Medicare-type health insurance plan available to all Americans. But among that two-thirds who want to see Medicare availability for all, it’s 2:1 against having all private insurance replaced by the Medicare-type plan. That leaves the hardcore Medicare for All/the hell with private insurance crowd down to a little over 20 percent.

No wonder Warren was taking so much incoming from other Democrats at the latest debate on her support for Medicare for All and her unspecified methods of paying for it (for more on the cost issue, see Ron Brownstein’s latest Atlantic column). This is from other Democrats! The Republicans will make mincemeat out of her.

I’ll give the last word on this to the excellent David Leonhardt:

“The No. 1 reason to question her version of Medicare for All — in which private health insurance would be eliminated — is its political viability. It would be an enormous disruption to the health care system, and history shows that health care disruptions are very hard to pass and usually unpopular at first. Polls show that her plan is already unpopular, and it would be a bigger disruption than Obamacare or Bill Clinton’s failed plan.

Given all that, she needs to engage with the political realities — with how she would overcome people’s resistance to giving up their health insurance for a larger new program that, yes, would require a tax increase.

I think Warren has run an excellent campaign on the whole, and I think she has the most thoughtful agenda for addressing the stagnating living standards of most Americans. I’m surprised that she has chosen to focus so much of her candidacy on the most aggressive version of Medicare for All. But she has. Now it’s time for her to tell voters how she will deal with the politics of passing it.

In my view, her best answer involves finding a way to signal her openness to a transition, in which people who want to keep their private insurance can do so (and taxes don’t yet need to rise) while Medicare initially expands voluntarily. That idea is hugely popular.”

So that’s what she should do. We’ll see if she does it.