washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

October Debate Takeaways

Absent any data just yet, the best morning-after reports on Tuesday’s presidential debate in Ohio can do is share impressions. Here’s mine.

The 12 Democratic presidential candidates on stage provided an impressively diverse, attractive and articulate field, once again a great ‘look’ for their party, in stark comparison to the GOP leadership. I kept thinking that any Democratic president could craft a damn good cabinet out of this group.

None of them set the debate ablaze last night. But there were no dumpster fires either, no gaffe’s or major blunders. The overall level of civility was good. Everyone was respectful this time. I hope Trump-fatigued voters compare, subconciously at least, these Democrats to Trump’s sour spirit, incessant whining and growing desperation.

Front-runners Warren and Biden had solid performances. Both showed they can handle the heat without bristling. They made their cases well enough, with an edge to Warren, who radiates a sense of earned confidence — she always does her homework. Biden handled the Ukrainegate questions adequately, which may be all he can do in the short time allotted in that debate format. Sen. Sanders, who is running a close third in many polls, appeared healthy, energetic and focused.

Warren and Sanders still have to make the sale on Medicare for All. Warren kept insisting that her plan  would provide lower overall costs to consumers, when she was asked about whether or not it would be financed by higher taxes on the middle class. I don’t doubt that she is right. But a little more clarity, explaining the lowered “costs” to consumers, in light of insurance premiums and out of pocket expenses wouldn’t hurt.

The same goes for the timetable for securing Medicare for All. No telling how many voters think Warren and Sanders are advocating a sudden end for the private health insurance industry and the jobs of its millions of  employees, when in reality, they are advocating a more gradual transition. It’s hard to do this in sound bites, but she and Sanders have to figure out a way to make it more clear than has thus far been the case.

More than any of the others, however,  Klobuchar helped herself, and she may get a small bump in the polls. Her “The difference between a plan and a pipe dream” zinger targeting Warren was the sharpest cut of the evening. But Klobuchar was also lucid and compelling in her other remarks. If Biden sinks, it’s not hard to envision her winning a healthy portion of his centrist/moderate supporters.

Buttigieg and Harris also performed well. Both are adept at criticizing opponents and analyzing policies. But I wish Harris would roll out an overall vision statement, instead of just phrases hinting at it here and there. Ditto for Julian Castro. Really, all of the candidates could do better in terms of sharing an inclusive vision for America, and particularly the Rust Belt, where the 2020 outcome will likely be decided.

Tulsi Gabbard and Beto O’Rourke came across as serious, thoughtful and likeable candidates. A little seasoning could make them both formidable in future campaigns. Steyer was surprisingly tough on curbing corporate power, but it’s hard to see what he adds to the field that isn’t already there. Yang provided some interesting insights about automation, prompting a good discussion that added some weight to the debate. But getting more polling traction in such a large field is a tough challenge for all of the second-tier candidates.

Sharp and alert, Cory Booker may have scored some points with his positive appeal for civility and Democratic unity. He looks increasingly like a front-runner for the veep slot on the Democratic ticket.

Of course an upset win in Iowa or New Hampshire by any of the candidates would more than offset fading impressions from these debates.

The Democratic presidential candidate field is expected to narrow for the November debate, as the requirements get tougher. For now, Democrats can be proud of the choices their party offered in Ohio last night.

Political Strategy Notes

From “Democrats Need a Hard-Nosed Strategy to Counter the GOP” by Jessica Tarlov, head of research at Bustle Digital Group and a Fox News contributor, at RealClear Politics: “The saying goes: “Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line.” One only has to look at how Republicans have stood by President Trump as he degrades our intelligence community and immigrants while raising up dictators to see evidence of this.” Tarlov cites five steps for Democrats in order to “evolve”: Step 1: Do not play into the right-wing narrative; Step 2: Appreciate battle-tested leaders; Step 3: Defend Obamacare; Step 4: Find an animating issue, and; Step 5: Listen to minorities. Tarlov concludes, “These are just a few ways that can help us get a little bit closer to having the same hard-nosed GOP mentality that puts preserving and accumulating power above all else…We will never become as heartless as they are. It isn’t in our DNA and it certainly isn’t in our policy platform. But game recognizes game and we must rehab our strategy.”

Ian Reifowitz has a reality check for Democratic candidates in his post, We’ll cut your taxes and guarantee your health care. How’s that for a Democratic campaign pitch? at Daily Kos: to “Campaigns are about a lot of things. But a winning presidential campaign must make clear how it will improve the lives of large numbers of Americans. A campaign has to lay out lots of policies, yes, on lots of different topics. But a winning presidential campaign must center on a simple, digestible policy statement, a concrete proposal for change that also connects to a broader theme unifying everything the candidate plans to do…I understand that for some of us progressives, talking about tax rates doesn’t feel as immediate, or perhaps as inspiring, as talking about some other issues. But making our tax code more progressive is one of the most direct ways elected officials can combat economic inequality. For most Americans, cutting their taxes and guaranteeing their health insurance coverage are real, tangible things that the federal government can do for them and their families simply by enacting new legislation. That’s why those issues need to be at the center of any campaign for national office. Furthermore, economic inequality is not just about dollars and cents, it’s about life and death…Democrats are the party that fights for all Americans—white, black, brown, and everything else—to make this country fairer, more just, safer, and more prosperous for everyone. The Republicans, on the other hand, are the party that favors those at the very top—while driving a wedge between the rest of us. That’s a winning message that will not only defeat Donald Trump (or his replacement, if his congressional allies actually develop the courage to put country first), but defeat Republicans up and down the ballot.”

Ian Milhiser explains “How a Jim Crow law still shapes Mississippi’s elections: It makes it all but impossible for a Democrat to win in November” at Vox: “For statewide positions other than US senator, Mississippi uses a system similar to the electoral college. It’s not enough for a candidate to simply win the statewide popular vote. Rather, they must win both a majority of the popular vote and win a majority of the state’s 122 state house districts. If no candidate clears both of these hurdles, the state house chooses the winner from the top two candidates…Republicans currently control almost 60 percent of the state’s house of representatives. And state house districts are gerrymandered in a way that would make it very difficult for [Democratic candidate for Governor Jim] Hood to win a majority of those districts…Indeed, a lawsuit challenging this system suggests that Hood may need to win at least 55 percent of the vote in order to prevail in the gubernatorial election…Jim Hood is Democrats’ best chance in two decades of winning Mississippi’s gubernatorial race. But that’s not likely to be enough, thanks to an electoral system contrived by racist delegates more than a century ago.”

Ana Ceballos reports that “Florida Democrats focus on voter registration as most critical need for 2020” at The Orlando Weekly: “If Florida Democrats could sum up the state party’s early 2020 strategy in three words, they would be registration, registration, registration. During the party’s convention this weekend in Orlando, leaders stressed they have fixed past errors in their voter-registration strategy and are busy building a more Democratic-friendly electorate more than a year from Election Day…Since launching a registration program in June, more than 49,000 new Democratic voters have been registered, according to data the party provided to The News Service of Florida. In that same period, 48,000 voters registered as Republicans and 63,570 registered with no-party affiliation…More than $3 million has been invested by the Democratic Party to try to register 200,000 new voters before the general election, when Republican President Donald Trump will be at the top of the ticket. Most of the money so far has gone toward putting more community organizers on college campuses and in swing districts across the state. “If we focus on the swing districts, not only do we win the presidency, but we pick up quite a few (congressional) seats as well,” Peñalosa told reporters on Saturday.”

Justin Buchler, Associate Professor of Political Science, Case Western Reserve University, writes at The Conversation and Salon: “Election polls often fail to heed the lessons that have been hard-won by decades of survey research. Pollsters build their surveys around the idea that voters begin with firm beliefs, evaluate candidates on the basis of those beliefs and will explain their reasoning when prompted. In reality, voters often just respond to party signals, and can rarely explain their reasoning to pollsters…While there have been many changes in the American electorate over the last half-century, political scientists have replicated the core findings in The American Voter, including two updates. In studies of political behavior, party identification is nearly always the 800-pound gorilla in the room…Voters rarely admit that party is why they vote the way they do, after all.” Yet, “Research shows that party has more predictive power than anything else.”

“GOP candidates for president can expect to be victorious in 65 percent of future presidential elections and University of Texas at Austin researchers analyzed why “inversions” — where the popular vote winner loses the overall election — has happened twice since 2000,” Benjamin Fearnow notes in his article, “Electoral College Overhelmingly Favors Republicans, Abolishing Enture System Only Remedy: Study” at Newsweek. “The study authors found that the Electoral College’s winner-take-all approach favors Republicans and has pushed them to victories in 2000 and 2016…The researchers concluded that inversions will occur more and more in 2020 and beyond unless a policy change completely dissolves, rather than reforms, the Electoral College…The study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research last month found that one-third of presidential candidates who win the popular by less than 2 percentage points can still lose the Electoral College votes. In races decided by fewer than one percentage point, there’s a 45 percent chance the popular vote winner still manages to lose the Electoral College…”Feasible policy changes—including awarding each state’s Electoral College ballots proportionally between parties rather than awarding all to the state winner—could substantially reduce inversion probabilities, though not in close elections,” the study authors proposed.”

“Well I would say that about six of the current Democratic candidates now have a very robust comprehensive rural platform. I’ve been quite heartened to see that. It’s more attention paid to that space than I’ve ever witnessed in my just shy of 40 years. And that’s no doubt for political calculations. But I think also because there are some progressive candidates who deeply understand their sort of baseline tactics which is to go at wealth inequality and economic injustice, [which] tracks very perfectly with the ways in which family farms and rural people have been on the losing end of policy for many decades.” – from Sarah Smarsh, author of “Heartland, A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth,” quoted by Robin Young at wbur.com.

In their introduction to Dissent’s Fall, 2019 Special Section, “Rural America Reimagined,” Max Fraser and Garett Dash Nelson opine, “Rural voters have turned away from left politics in part because of divisive and fraudulent temptations from the right, but also in part because they frequently have not had any compelling reasons to stand by the left. From the embrace of neoliberalism in the 1990s to the belief in an urban-centered electoral “demographic destiny” in the 2010s, the Democratic Party, an unreliable ally of the left in any case, has too often acted in complicity with the very same forces that are hollowing out rural America. Popular movements, on the other hand, have largely neglected to organize in rural communities, whether because of the very real challenges associated with doing so or the common perception that the costs are too high and the payoffs too limited. The result has been the partisan stalemate that defines our current electoral landscape—and suffocates any current hope for a more transformative politics, at a time when rising social inequality and runaway climate change demand one more than ever.”

Also in Dissent, Carla Murphy writes in “Why We Need a Working-Class Media” that “The evidence of media’s disinterest in actual working-class realities comes as a steady drip. It adds up to a narrative of a disenfranchised, neutered working class, trotted out for affluent readers interested in poverty or angry populist stories. For too long, we’ve settled for being written about but not for…In sum, up and down the class ladder, all skinfolk ain’t kinfolk. Saturday Night Live, in the tense weeks before November 2016, featured Tom Hanks as a stereotypical Southern red neck, the only white contestant, on Black Jeopardy. The skit captures a lonely, almost shunned idea: that there’s more crawl space between same-class racial groups than is popularly imagined or broadcast. I crave a news media that explores that territory. Such an evolution won’t come from existing institutions, however. The weaponization of identity and foreignness in this presidential election cycle is already making past dog whistles seem quaint. Yet newsrooms, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center analysis, are 77 percent white. After two decades of consolidation, downsizing, and buyouts, they also tend to be middle-class and up. At worst, they are out of touch; at best, short-handed and unprepared.”

Political Strategy Notes

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall discusses “flashing yellow lights Democrats may want to consider before proclaiming victory” in his column about Stanley Greenberg’s pediction of the collapse of the Republican Party in his book, “R.I.P. G.O.P.: How The New America Is Dooming the Republicans.”  Edsall addresses some of the challenges facing Democrats in building a working majority coalition that can both win elections and govern, and shares some provocative insights of political analysts, strategists and academics along the way. I liked strategist Paul Begala’s “I am deeply concerned about Democratic presidential candidates getting too far over their ski tips” and his urging them to “tell voters that Trump has proposed hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. I did not hear one candidate raise that in the last Democratic debate, but it is the issue most likely to defeat Trump.”

Washington Post syndicaed columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. explains why “Trump’s conviction in the Senate is unlikely — but possible.” Dionne observes that “A Post-Schar School poll last week found 28 percent of Republicans supporting the House impeachment inquiry, while an astonishing 18 percent said they favored removing Trump from office…No matter how much Trump baits them, congressional Democrats have to combine toughness with sobriety…The nation, judging from the polls, is moving in their direction. This is not the result of any flights of rhetorical genius or brilliant political strategy. It’s happening because the more voters (including Republicans) know about what Trump actually did, the more they realize how unfit he is to be president…Of course House Democrats must fight Trump’s obstruction. But they cannot let him entangle them in abstruse debates over procedures. Their legitimate anger over the corrupt absurdity of the president’s claims should not move them toward theatrical excesses that will only give Trump more openings for deflection and evasion…And they must bear in mind that the final jury in The People v. Trump is still more likely to be an informed electorate than a supine and fearful U.S. Senate.”

At CNN politics Paul LeBlanc reports that “More than half of US voters want President Donald Trump impeached and removed from office, according to a Fox News Poll out on Wednesday.” However, adds LeBlanc, “The poll marks the fourth in two days that showed public opinion is shifting on the impeachment inquiry. Digging deeper, “The Fox News poll found 51% of registered voters want Trump impeached and removed from office and another 4% want the President impeached but not removed from office. Forty percent of respondents were opposed to impeachment altogether…The poll also showed an increase in support for impeachment across a number of demographics compared with July. Support for impeachment was up 11 points among Democrats, 5 points among Republicans and 3 points among independents…Impeachment support was up 5 points among evangelical Christians and 8 points among white men without college degrees — two constituencies key to Trump’s 2016 election.”

So, “What’s Behind Elizabeth Warren’s Rise In The Polls?” At FiveThirtEight, Geoffrey Skelley shares “Four possible explanations for her upward trajectory,” including “in Quinnipiac’s latest survey, Warren had 26 percent support among non-college whites, which put her in a near-tie with Biden at 27 percent and ahead of Sanders’s 19 percent. By comparison, in Quinnipiac’s late-August survey, Warren had 20 percent to Biden’s 30 percent among non-college whites and was roughly tied with Sanders, who had 19 percent support among that group…Fox News also found a slight improvement in Warren’s support among white voters without a college degree in its September survey: 19 percent support, compared to 15 percent in August, and she now sits just 5 percentage points behind Biden. Granted, these aren’t huge shifts we’re talking about — and we should be cautious with reading too much into the crosstabs because they have larger margins of error than the overall sample — but the trend has been consistent across a number of recent polls. Monmouth also found Warren’s support among voters (of all races) without a four-year degree went up from 17 percent in August to 24 percent in late September.”

“It would be foolish for Democrats to pin hopes for 2020 on carrying Texas,” Matthew Yglesias writes at Vox. “Still, Texas is a very large and diverse state that contains plenty of opportunities for progressive politics — which could have real impacts on many people’s lives. The key for Democrats is to have realistic expectations to participate intelligently and effectively.” in his Senate race, Yglesias notes, “O’Rourke lost by 3 percentage points, doing about 6 points better than Clinton did in Texas in 2016. But House Democrats won the national popular vote by 8 percentage points — also 6 points better than Clinton…That’s not to deny that O’Rourke ran an impressive race — taking on an incumbent senator is difficult, especially in a larger, expensive state with minimal party infrastructure. But that impressive race confirms that the only way Texas is in play in 2020 is if the national political environment amounts to a huge Democratic landslide, the equivalent of Barack Obama randomly winning Indiana in 2008 along with all the actual swing states.”

Yglesias continues, “Opportunities start with the US House of Representatives, where Democrats picked up two seats in tough 2018 races…They have one excellent pickup opportunity in the border district being vacated by Rep. Will Hurd and a couple of other long shots that are at least plausible…That’s a critical congressional battleground for 2020.What’s more, due to what looks in retrospect like the unintended consequences of gerrymandering, O’Rourke actually carried a majority of districts in the lower house of the Texas state legislature. Democrats need to pick up nine seats there to flip the chamber, which is unquestionably a tall order. But given O’Rourke’s results, it’s not out of the question that it could happen…After the 2020 Census, Texas is going to get at least two and possibly three new US House seats. If Democrats were able to win a state legislative chamber and have a seat at the redistricting table, that would be a huge opportunity. And even if they don’t, there’s just no way to avoid drawing some of those new seats into Texas’ newly competitive suburban landscape…The key, though, is to recognize that while these are winnable races, we are talking about constituencies that are more conservative than the US average — places where successful progressive candidates would need to pick their battles carefully, rather than signing on to the entire laundry list of activist demands. That’s especially true because every governor’s mansion can be contestable, as long as you’re willing to be realistic about it.”

Yglesias adds that  “there is no state with a larger pool of uninsured people than Texas, and the failure to expand Medicaid there is the reason. Winning a governor’s race there and expanding Medicaid is the critical element to dramatically expanding health coverage in the United States, as well as dozens of other topics that are critical to Texas’s large low-income population…Getting the job done, though, would require recognizing that winning statewide races in Texas is an uphill battle for Democrats, who aren’t going to carry the state with a message as progressive as could be viable nationally. The state has become moderate enough that it’d be a shame not to make a serious effort to win in down-ballot races, but it’s not nearly blue enough to just throw caution to the wind. Texas is a Texas-sized opportunity for progressive causes, but to seize it requires realism as much as enthusiasm.”

In his Washington Monthly post, “The Voting Wars Come to Campus,” Daniel Block writes “In New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa, and Arizona—all presidential battlegrounds—Republican-controlled legislatures have created particular obstacles for college voters. And yet, in the midst of this clampdown, there are clear signs that students and schools are surmounting voting barriers and countering their impact—and not just in Texas. At Arizona State University in Tempe, for example, despite a restrictive voter ID law and new limits on mail-in ballot collection, student voting rates went up by double digits between 2012 and 2016...That’s because at institutions like UT Austin and ASU Tempe, students and staff work to make registering and voting as easy as possible, even as Texas and Arizona have made it harder. They find new, creative ways of registering students. They explain complex voting requirements. They work with local officials to increase polling access on campus. In doing so, they are supported by a growing network of national organizations that provide funding, share information, and help schools develop plans to simplify getting out the vote. (The Washington Monthly incorporates data from these organizations in its college rankings. Both UT Austin and ASU Tempe received perfect scores.)…These efforts appear to be making a difference. Nationwide, college voting rates increased by more than three percentage points between 2012 and 2016, more than the overall turnout increase. Between 2014 and 2018, youth turnout rose by nearly a third.”

At The American Prospect, Robert Reich spotlights some of the false choices he believes Democrats are arguing about heading into the 2020 elections. “Something else I’m hearing is that the contest is between someone who’s a moderate and a candidate who’s on the left. Well, that’s rubbish. All the babble about moderate or left assumes we’re back in the old politics where the central question was the size of government…But today the real contest is between the people and the powerful—the vast majority of Americans versus an oligarchy that’s amassed most of the nation’s wealth and power…So don’t accept false choices about who’s electable versus who has ideas, who’s moderate versus who’s on the left, or whether we need to go back to the way it was before Trump…In reality, what’s going to beat Trump are new ideas that mobilize America, that let Americans see what the wealthy and powerful who bankroll Trump have done to this nation, and get us looking forward to what America should be rather than backward to an America that was never as good as it could be.”

Political Strategy Notes

From E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s column, “Trump’s Base Is Smaller Than He Thinks” in The Washiongton Post: “Polls conducted throughout Trump’s presidency show that his critics feel far more strongly about their opposition to him than his defenders feel about their support. The latest Reuters/Ipsos poll, conducted between Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, found that only 24 percent of registered voters strongly approved of Trump’s performance, while 44 percent strongly disapproved. Significantly, 74 percent of Democratic registered voters strongly disapproved of Trump, but only 50 percent of Republican registered voters strongly approved of him. Which base would you rather have going into this fight — and into 2020?”

At The Atlantic, Ronald Brownsein notes that, “as President Donald Trump went on the offensive to bolster his case against impeachment, he tweeted a county-by-county map of the 2016 presidential race that showed a sea of red interrupted by only a few blue inlets, mostly along the coasts. The map, captioned with the headline “Try to Impeach This,” documented the measure on which Trump performed best: He won more than 2,600 counties, while Hillary Clinton carried fewer than 500.” However, “Maps that measure the 2016 result by population—particularly the so-called prism map that displays huge vertical bars over the major urban centers that backed Clinton—show the nation much more evenly balanced. That reflects the reality that while Trump won far more counties, Clinton won substantially more votes—nearly 3 million more in total, a margin roughly equal to President George W. Bush’s popular-vote victory in 2004.” Click here to see population map.

“The latest batch of fundraising reports released this week confirmed a new reality of presidential politics: the traditional, big-dollar model of funding a presidential campaign is going the way of landlines and the VCR,” David Siders writes at Politico. “With Elizabeth Warren’s announcement Friday that she had raised nearly $25 million in the last three months — slightly less than Bernie Sanders reported Tuesday — two candidates who didn’t hold traditional donor events became the top two fundraisers in Democratic primary. And they both blew past the ones who did…Warren and Sanders, who raised $25.3 million, both finished about $10 million ahead of former Vice President Joe Biden for the quarter…Biden, meanwhile, fell back in his fundraising, posting $15.2 million – about $7 million less than he raised the previous three months. And other Democrats who relied on traditional, big-dollar fundraisers also slipped, presaging difficulties financing robust campaigns.”

In “Black women take US mayoral reins in record numbers,” Danny Jin reports at The Monitor: “Black women have historically driven the American political agenda as organizers and as voters. Now, an increasing number are leading the biggest cities in the United States. In 2013, just one black woman was mayor of a major U.S. city, but black women today run seven of the nation’s 100 largest cities, including Washington, Atlanta, and San Francisco.  (Women of color were also elected to lead in three Californian cities: Bakersfield, Chula Vista, and Fremont.) Their election victories and accomplishments in office mark a step forward in the push for equitable governance, experts say…Black women, who largely vote Democratic, went to the polls at higher ratesthan any other demographic group in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections. And they played a key role in deciding 2018’s midterms.”

According to Denise-Marie Ordway’s “The consequences of ‘horse race’ reporting: What the research says” at Journalist’s Resource: ““The horserace has been the dominant theme of election news since the 1970s, when news organizations began to conduct their own election polls,” [Harvard professor Thpomas E.] Patterson writes in a December 2016 working paper, “News Coverage of the 2016 General Election: How the Press Failed the Voters.” “Since then, polls have proliferated to the point where well over a hundred separate polls — more than a new poll each day — were reported in major news outlets during the 2016 general election.”…Horse race reporting helped catapult billionaire businessman Donald Trump to a lead position during the nominating phase of the 2016 presidential campaign, finds another paper in Patterson’s research series, “News Coverage of the 2016 Presidential Primaries: Horse Race Reporting Has Consequences.”

Most physicians voted Republican in past decades. But now, Janet Adamy and Paul Overberg reveal that “Doctors, Once GOP Stalwarts, Now More Likely to Be Democrats” at The Wall St. Journal. The reasons, noted in the article subtitle, include: “Historic shift, driven by changes in business of medicine and women entering profession, comes with overall movement of college-educated people to Democratic Party.”

Shareblue’s Dan Desai Martin reports that “Demand for gun safety could flip Virginia legislature from red to blue,” and notes, “As Virginia voters head to the polls on Nov. 5, gun policy is top of mind, according to a new Washington Post poll released Friday. Republicans currently hold a narrow lead in both legislative chambers, but every seat in both chambers is in play this year, meaning Democrats have a chance to seize control of one or both next month…When asked which issues are most important, 75% of registered voters said gun control, eclipsing education, at 70%, and health care, at 66%, as the top issue…”This poll is further evidence that Virginia’s elected officials who side with the gun lobby in opposing widely popular and common sense solutions should be extremely worried,” John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in a statement. “For the first time, pro gun safety voters are now more motivated than anti gun safety voters and that gap is widening. We expect this trend to continue in Virginia and across the country.”

Martin continues, “The issue of gun safety hit home for Virginians in late May when Virginia Beach was added to the growing list of American cities devastated by a mass shooting incident. A dozen people died on May 31 when a gunman started shooting at a city government building, prompting the governor to call a special legislative session focused on gun safety…But rather than consider even one piece of legislation, Republicans voted to end the special session after just 90 minutes. Weeks later, the NRA made a massive $200,000 campaign donation to the Republican majority leader of the House of Delegates…”It couldn’t be clearer — the NRA is rewarding Virginia Republicans for standing with them instead of their constituents,” Jessica Post, president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, said at the time of the NRA donation. “Virginia Republicans are extreme and out of touch when it comes to gun safety.”…Post’s statements are backed up by the latest poll, which shows 58% of Virginians support stricter gun laws in the state…When it comes to specific policies, Republican lawmakers are even more out of touch. Expanding background checks is supported by 88% of Virginians, while laws to temporarily seize guns from someone law enforcement deems a threat, known as “red flag” laws, has the support of 82% of Virginians.”

Yes, Trump actually went there. At CNN Politics, Marshall Cohen quotes from Trump’s impromtu White House lawn yakfest with reporters: “”Let me tell you, I’m only interested in corruption,” Trump said. “I don’t care about politics. I don’t care about Biden’s politics…. I don’t care about politics. But I do care about corruption, and this whole thing is about corruption… This is about corruption, and this is not about politics.” Cohen notes six reasons why Trump’s mention of ‘corruption’ invites ridicule, including: “Trump defended Manafort, who made millions from Ukraine. Trump has defended and expressed sympathy for his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who spent a decade working for former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. After Yanukovych’s ouster in 2014, the new government accused him of looting billions of dollars from Ukrainian coffers. Manafort is currently in prison for tax fraud after hiding his Ukraine income in offshore accounts.” Add to Cohen’s list Trump’s golfing trips, his family’s profiteering and squandering taxpayer dollars on Administration officials and staff staying at his hotels, no name just a few examples.

Political Strategy Notes

In his NYT column “Will Trump Ever Leave the White House,” Thomas B. Edsall addresses a question of growing concern, given the President’s penchant for increasingly unhinged rants. Edsall sides more with those who see trouble ahead. But he does quote the more optimistic Brookings scholar William Frey: “There is no doubt that Trump continues to fan the flames of racial anxiety for his perceived benefit. He tries to paint an America that has shifted from the white dominated 1950s when immigration was low and blacks were highly segregated…This is not the America of today and really only applies to a swath of the population ages 55 and above and in whiter parts of the country whose populations are increasingly diminishing…Now Trump is less popular in general and Republicans have done less well in the 2018 midterms including among whites, especially white women, and in nonurban areas…Yes, some people are afraid of a nonwhite takeover for America but they are a small and dwindling piece of the American electorate. Highlighting race as a primary campaign message will not work for Trump again.” A sober assessment, especially considering that Trump doesn’t have the backing of the modern, multi-racial military or the broad media control needed for such a coup. Nor would American business leaders, who are already skeptical about his disruption of international trade, welcome the domestic chaos it would bring.

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. wonders “Will impeachment finally organize the Democrats?,” and observes: “Normally, Democrats wear their diversity as a badge of honor, even as they feud and scuffle. But with House Democrats in the heat of an impeachment inquiry into President Trump, the habits of political lifetimes collide with the imperatives of discipline and focus…And Democrats being Democrats, they are even arguing about who deserves credit for the decision to open an impeachment inquiry. When CNN posted a feature about how moderates moved the House to act, champions of the party’s outspoken progressives, who had long endorsed this step, asked why they did not get more credit for being there all along…Democrats are determined to challenge Trump every time he claims that impeachment is getting in the way of action on prescription drug prices, guns and other issues that helped elect the new moderates. Pelosi went out of her way to open the news conference by focusing on these questions, not impeachment. She said that if the president used the House’s investigation as an excuse for governing sloth, “the ball is in his court.”…Because things have suddenly become so serious, Democrats just might learn to behave differently. “We have this fragile majority and right now we are all that stands between these attacks by the president and his enablers across the aisle on the fundamentals of our democracy,” [vice chair of the House Democratic caucus Katherine] Clark said. If this responsibility doesn’t concentrate the mind of a party that adores brawling, nothing will.”

From Kyle Kondik’s “The Senate: Ratings Changes and the Shadow of Impeachment” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “We would be lying if we said we had a great sense as to how the Democrats’ drive to impeach Trump will impact the elections next year. There are just too many variables and moving pieces to feel strongly about it. But the potential for the battle to harden partisan attitudes may have down-ballot effects for some members of Congress, as noted above…But don’t be surprised if, for all the noise, the impeachment inquiry — and even a successful House vote for impeachment and subsequent Senate trial — does not lead to sharp changes in public attitudes. It is true from limited polling that, at the very least, Democrats are coalescing around impeachment after the revelation of the now-famous telephone readout between Trump and the Ukrainian president. What seems to be happening is that Democrats are taking their cues from party leadership, which has resisted calling for impeachment until now, and increasing their own support for impeachment as a result. There has been some movement in favor of impeachment among independents and Republicans, although one would have to cherry-pick data to argue that overall support for impeaching and removing the president is significantly more than mixed…Meanwhile, the president’s approval rating — as it seems to do — has remained largely fixed where it’s been, in the low-to-mid 40s, with disapproval over 50%. Could the Ukraine bombshell and subsequent discoveries from the impeachment process cause it to dip over time? Sure…But after years of observing the president’s durability in polls, thanks in large part to strong GOP support, it’s safer to expect continuity as opposed to change in the president’s standing.” Kondik notes, “There are two Senate ratings changes this week, one benefiting each side. The most vulnerable senator, Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), moves from Toss-up to Leans Republican, while Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) moves from Leans Republican to Toss-up.”

Ronald Brownstein explains why “The Risks of Impeachment Are Overblown” at The Atlantic: “For months, the biggest hurdle for Democrats pushing the House to open impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump was the party leadership’s concern that such a process would politically endanger the members at the far edge of their majority, especially the 31 representing districts that voted for the president in 2016…But there’s considerable evidence—both in contemporary polling and the experience of former President Bill Clinton’s impeachment—that impeaching Trump might not be nearly as risky as it’s been portrayed for them…Despite the cascade of new revelations damaging to Trump, some Democratic strategists focused on holding the House still privately worry that impeachment could endanger too many of the members from districts that divide closely between the parties or lean Republican. That’s been the dominant perspective at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is chaired by Representative Cheri Bustos, who herself represents an Illinois district Trump won in 2016. Yet other party strategists now see a pathway to expanding support for impeachment, which a majority of Americans have consistently opposed in polls, or at least neutralizing any recoil against it.”

Brownstein continues, ““If voters see this as being about significant abuses of power and serious attempts to undermine the rule of law, then I don’t worry particularly about a backlash against Democrats who vote for impeachment,” says the longtime Democratic pollster Geoff Garin. “If it is seen purely as a partisan exercise, the answer may be different. But I have a good level of confidence that it will not be seen that way, that the moderates in the Trump districts who eventually support impeachment will be seen as having done so for serious and sober reasons.” Noting that “Clinton’s job approval rating about 20 percentage points higher than Trump’s is today,” Brownstein adds, “The other big difference is that, unlike Clinton, Trump will be on the ballot in 2020 (absent the unlikely event of enough Senate Republicans voting to remove him from office if the House does eventually impeach him.) “There is no escaping Trump,” says Sarah Binder, a senior fellow in governance studies at Brookings. “He is the 800-pound elephant … There is no escaping his relevance to this election. It just seems that might be quite different than what happened in 2000 once you had Clinton departing from the scene.”

Further, says Brownstein, “Other analysts point to Trump’s uncertain position even in the Democratic-held districts that he carried. Trump was hardly a colossus in those 31 seats in 2016: He exceeded 51 percent of the vote in only six of them, and reached 50 or 51 percent in just seven more. He beat Hillary Clinton while drawing less than half of the total vote in the other 18 of those seats…That distinction hasn’t escaped the Democratic members in those districts: By the time Pelosi made her announcement on Tuesday afternoon, 10 of the 18 Democrats from districts where Trump won with less than half of the vote had endorsed an impeachment inquiry. By comparison, at that point, only four of the members from the 13 Democratic-held seats where Trump did reach a majority had joined the call for impeachment proceedings, according to the tracker maintained by Politico…After starting in such an equivocal position in many of these districts, Trump’s position appears to have eroded since 2016. A recent round of polls conducted for a consortium of Democratic groups placed Trump’s approval rating below 45 percent in several of the Democratic districts he won, and above 50 percent in only one: the Oklahoma City seat of Representative Kendra Horn, according to figures provided to me.” Even better, “The upcoming debate could create risks for Republicans too, in the states and House districts trending away from Trump, such as the concentration of suburban seats in Texas that Democrats are targeting. If impeachment reaches the Senate, Republican incumbents such as Susan Collins of Maine, Martha McSally of Arizona, and Cory Gardner of Colorado may be unlikely to vote to convict the president—which will bind them to him more tightly in states where his position is equivocal at best.”

At FiveThirtyEight, Perry Bacon, Jr. explains why “Why Black Voters Prefer Establishment Candidates Over Liberal Alternatives,” and notes, “Black voters effectively delivered Hillary Clinton the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. She and Sen. Bernie Sanders ran about evenly among white voters, but black voters overwhelmingly backed Clinton. So did the Democratic establishment…That team-up — black voters and the more establishment candidate — is not unusual…We don’t have detailed exit polls of Democratic primaries for most other offices, but according to pre-election polls and precinct results in a number of high-profile House and gubernatorial primaries since 2016, black voters have tended to back the candidate from the party’s establishment wing over a more liberal alternative. And at least for now, we’re seeing the same pattern in the 2020 Democratic presidential race: Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Sanders are fairly competitive with Joe Biden among white Democrats, but trail the former vice president substantially among black Democrats…Why, though? After all, African Americans have dramatically less incomeand wealth than white Americans, so messages of “big, structural change” (Warren) or a “political revolution” (Sanders) should, in theory, be particularly appealing. Because a higher percentage of black Americans than white Americans don’t have health insurance, a program like Medicare for All, for example, would disproportionately benefit black people.”

Bacon elaborates, “So what gives? I’m going to offer some potential answers to that question, but let’s first get a couple caveats and complications out of the way…First, it’s hard to come up with a definitive explanation for the establishment-black voter alliance because the “establishment” is a fuzzy concept. Exactly which candidate is a center-left, establishment Democrat and which is anti-establishment or “the liberal alternative” is all a bit subjective…Second — and this is important — black Democrats are not a monolith and are divided in some of the same ways white Democrats are divided. Young black voters are less supportive of Biden (and were less supportive of Clinton in 2016) compared to older black voters. Similarly, black voters without college degrees are more supportive of Biden than those with degrees…That said, blacks of all demographics are more supportive of Biden than their white counterparts, according to Morning Consult polling data. Young black voters are more supportive of Biden (and were more supportive of Clinton) than young white voters. Older black voters were more supportive of Clinton than older white ones in 2016 and now are strongly behind Biden. Black college graduates are more supportive of Biden than white college graduates. Nuances aside, the weakness of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party with black voters is a well-known phenomenon that people in the Warren and Sanders camps and anti-establishment liberal activist groups are openly grappling with.”

Bacon provides five other factors, in order of importance: “1. Establishment candidates typically have existing ties to the black community; 2. Black voters are pragmatic; 3. Black leaders are part of the establishment and support its candidates; 4. The liberal wing of the Democratic Party appeals to the well-educated more than other groups, and the vast majority of black Democrats don’t have college degrees;5. The left wing isn’t running enough black candidates. In addition, Bacon writes, “We could come up with some other explanations, but I think those are the strongest. And this analysis points to a blueprint for the left wing of the Democratic Party if it wants to win more black votes:

  1. Align with black candidates or non-black candidates with strong ties to black voters and leaders
  2. Aggressively court black leaders for endorsements
  3. Directly address black voters’ concerns that more liberal candidates have a greater chance of losing races to Republicans
  4. And target black voters under 45 and those with college degrees, who might be less inclined to vote for establishment candidates.

Bacon concludes, “So could that approach work for Sanders and Warren against Biden? Maybe. You could imagine Warren in particular getting endorsements from younger liberal black figures like Gillum or Pressley (particularly if Warren wins one of the early primary states and Harris finishes far behind and is no longer viable). And maybe those endorsements and Warren’s campaigning then lead her to become the candidate of black voters under 45 and those with college degrees, even if Biden still gets most votes from older and less educated black voters…Remember, Sanders or Warren don’t necessarily have to win the black vote to become the Democratic nominee — they just can’t lose it by 60 percentage points, as Sanders did in 2016. (Biden is getting between 40 and 50 percent of the black vote in most polls now, so nowhere near Clinton 2016 levels. But Clinton was in a two-candidate field, and I would expect Biden’s support among black voters to go up as this gigantic field shrinks.)…But even if Sanders or Warren gets more support among black voters in 2020 than the Vermont senator did in 2016, I tend to think Biden will remain fairly popular with black voters overall — because of his ties to Obama and other black leaders and the perception that he can defeat Trump.”

Voter Registration Increase in GA Gives Dems Hope

Mark Niesse reports that “Voter registration surges in Georgia ahead of 2020 elections” in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and notes that “More than 352,000 people signed up to vote in the past 11 months, the vast majority of them automatically registering when they obtain a driver’s license, according to data from the secretary of state’s office. The influx has boosted Georgia’s voter rolls to a record high of nearly 7.4 million.” Even better, for Democrats:

Many of the new voters are racial minorities or under age 30, both groups that are more likely to support Democrats than Republicans, according to a Pew Research Center poll.

About 47% of the new voters who identified their race are minorities and 45% are age 30 or younger, according to an analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution of a list of voters registered from Nov. 6 to Aug. 12. By comparison, 40% of all Georgia voters are minorities and 14% are age 30 or younger. The voter list was obtained from the secretary of state’s office and provided to the AJC by Fair Fight PAC, a political action committee that supports Democratic parties nationwide.

Niesse adds that “Registrations at driver’s license offices far outpaced voter registration drives, indicating that many of the new voters recently moved to Georgia or turned 18 years old,” which may bode well for Georgia’s Democratic Party. Georgia will elect two U.S. Senators, and every seat in the General Assembly is up for election. Although Trump bat Clinton by  percent in GA in 2016, Democratic candidate for Governor Stacy Abrams came within 1.4 percent (55,000 votes) of winning the governorship last year. Also,

“Rapid population growth and changing demographics in Georgia provide Democrats huge opportunities,” said Lauren Groh-Wargo, Abrams’ former campaign manager and a senior adviser for Fair Fight PAC. “Each eligible Georgian who moves to Georgia and becomes a voter is more likely to vote Democratic than Republican.”

Niesse notes further that “About 365,000 new voters have registered each year at Georgia’s driver’s license offices since the beginning of 2017, for a total of 989,000 new voters, according to the secretary of state’s office.” But not all of the registration increase arises from population growth, as Niesse explains:

Meanwhile, traditional voter registration efforts are reaching hundreds of thousands more potential voters…The Voter Participation Center, a voter registration group that targets unmarried women, people of color and young people, sent registration forms to more than 560,000 Georgians last month.

…Of Georgia’s newly registered voters since Election Day 2018, more than 31,000 of them mailed their registration forms to election officials, which reflects some of the impact of voter registration drives such as those run by the Voter Participation Center. The center said more than 5,500 forms were returned to the secretary of state’s office as a result of its efforts last year.

ProGeorgia, a group that coordinates registration outreach with more than a dozen organizations, said it’s on track to register 21,000 new voters this year.

“Georgia’s population as a whole is aging,” Niesse notes, “but most older residents are already registered to vote, and new residents are more likely to be young or minorities.” All of which is good news for Georgia Democrats.

However, Georgia Democrats have had their high hopes dashed in recent statewide races, and the GA Republican Party has proven ruthless in suppressing voter turnout. Yet, Trump won Georgia’s 2016 electoral votes by a margin of less than 212,000 votes. With two U.S. Senate seats at stake and good prospects for Dems picking up a House of Representatives seat, turnout is likely to be higher than usual. Some additional resources for Georgia from the national Democratic Party and it’s contributors could prove to be a cost-effective investment.

Political Strategy Notes

In “Early polls show voter support for impeachment is growing,” Li Zhou writes at Vox: “Two new polls this week highlight the same trend: voter support for impeachment is growing. Both surveys were conducted amid a dizzying week of developments in Washington, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s announcement of a formal impeachment inquiry as well as the emergence of a whistleblower report regarding a phone call between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky… According to a Politico/Morning Consult poll that was conducted between September 24 and 26, support for impeachment across party lines now stands at 43 percent, an uptick from 36 percent just last week. Similarly, a HuffPost/YouGov poll, also fielded between September 24 and 26, found that the margin between those backing impeachment and those who oppose it was expanding. In this week’s survey, 47 percent supported impeachment, while 39 percent opposed it, compared to 43 percent and 41 percent that felt the same way in a previous September poll. An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll that was held on September 25 also found that 49 percent of voters favor impeachment proceedings.”

At FiveThirtyEight, Dhrumil Mehta adds, “Of the five polls from which we have data so far, one is from a high-quality telephone pollster — Quinnipiac. And their latest poll shows a 5-percentage-point increase in support for impeachment overall and a 12-percentage-point increase among Democrats since they were last asked the question in July. Keep in mind, too, this poll went into the field on Sept. 19 — a full day before The Wall Street Journal first broke the story of Trump’s call with Zelensky, and only stayed in the field through Monday, the day before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the impeachment inquiry…But, of course, it’s important to note that all of this polling is reallypreliminary. Even over the course of this week, a lot has happened that the polls don’t account for…Americans may still be digesting the flurry of news and deciding how they feel about it.”

Rebecca Shabad and Alex Moe update the pro-impeachment tally at nbcnews.com: “By the weekend, as they headed out on a two-week congressional break, 225 of 235 House Democrats, had backed some form of impeachment action, according to NBC News’ latest count. One independent, Rep. Justin Amash, I-Mich., also backed impeaching Trump…That meant more than 95 percent of the caucus had voiced support for some type of action on impeachment, and only 10 holdouts like [NJ Rep. Jeff] Van Drew remained — the pressure on them from all sides increasing, with each of them now potentially decisive in any possible vote to actually impeach the president…Those holdouts all represented districts Trump won in 2016.”

Daniel Bush asks “Will Trump impeachment strategy help 2020 Dems – or backfire?” at pbs.org. Bush notes, “If they go forward with impeachment proceedings I think it completely changes the dynamic of the election,” said Joe Keefe, a former chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party…Pelosi’s decision to publicly back the Democrats’ ongoing impeachment investigations may buoy progressive Democrats who support a more aggressive approach against Trump, Keefe said…But he argued a drawn-out, highly partisan impeachment fight could also energize Trump’s base in New Hampshire and elsewhere and motivate moderate Republicans who may not be ardent Trump supporters to come off the sidelines and support the president in the general election next year…“It’s a mixed blessing for Democrats,” Keefe said.”

“However the revelations of Trump seeking to leverage military aide to Ukraine in return for the latter investigating Joe Biden changes the calculus.  It does so for several reasons.  One, the gravity of the problem is greater with apparently clearer evidence of the president inviting a foreign government to interfere in US elections.  Two, it involves direct abuse of power by the president to leverage US military aid for personal partisan purposes.  Three, for Democrats, it is direct attack by Trump on a presidential front runner and if the former is not sanctioned or punished for that, who knows what ever other dirty tricks might occur…But additionally, two other variables come into play.  The first is that now a majority of House Democrats support impeachment.  Two, it is the issue of time. Timed precisely, a Senate trial would get maximum political payoff for Democrats.  This is why Pelosi is reconsidering impeachment now.” – from “The 2020 Democratic Impeachment Strategy and Why it Makes Sense Now” by David Schultz at Counterpunch.

David de la Fuente, senior political analyst at Third Way, identifies “The 99 House Districts That Will Determine Dems’ Fate,” with respect to the presidency and Senate, as well as in the House. “There’s a lot on the line in 2020,” de la Fuente writes, “but 99 seats now held by House Democrats will likely determine who occupies the White House, sits in the Senate Majority Leader’s office, and holds the gavel in the House of Representatives’ chamber. Some are nail-biter swing districts, and some are cakewalks where the outcome of the race is not in doubt. But each in their own way has an outsized influence on the contests that will shape America’s immediate political future. That is to say, all House districts are about equal in population but not in electoral relevance. In this paper, we rank the 99 districts on a five-point political Richter scale that measures how much these races can potentially shake up the political landscape…In our current system, there are places where structural realities make getting more Democratic votes fruitless in the big scheme of creating a Democratic federal government trifecta. If you want to see Democrats make progress on anything at the federal level in the next decade, you should pay close attention to the ninety-nine districts where gaining votes will deliver greater victories.”

Froma Harrop writes at CNN Politics that “Democrats might ask themselves why President Donald Trump is so intent on smearing former Vice President Joe Biden with phony scandals. Why isn’t he doing the same to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who’s been climbing in the polls and has a shot at becoming the Democratic nominee for president?…The clear answer is that Biden, in his own words, could “beat him like a drum” — and while Warren could win against Trump, her victory does not look like a resounding one, according to recent polls. In Trump’s view, Biden poses the greatest threat and must be destroyed. And what better way than to wound Biden to the point that Democrats might think he’s more trouble than he’s worth?…Biden is still a stronger bet against Trump in crucial swing states like Wisconsin and Ohio, compared to Warren. The most recent Wisconsin poll pitting Democrats against Trump has Biden winning by 9 points, while Elizabeth Warren is tied with the President. In Ohio, Biden is the only Democrat who can beat Trump. According to the most recent Quinnipiac pollfrom July, Biden leads Trump by 8 points, while Sanders and Warren both trail the President by 1.”

In her Washington Monthly article, “How 2020 Democrats Are Missing the Message on the Economy: The candidates have yet to tackle the growing problem of regional inequality,” Anne Kim observes, “The 2020 Democratic primary has seen no shortage of big, ambitious ideas—the nationalization of health care via “Medicare for All,” free college, free child care, and the cancellation of student debt, just to name a few…But there’s one big idea still missing: how to fix the stark and growing disparities between the parts of the country that are prospering and those that are falling behind. Regional inequality is perhaps the greatest challenge to America’s economic and political future, but 2020 candidates have yet to tackle, let alone acknowledge, the problem. It’s an omission that could have long-term substantive consequences for Democrats…But so far, the top contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination have stuck to universalist policy ideas like Medicare for All, while discussions of inequality have centered on race or class, but not on geography…None of the candidates have put forth signature policy priorities that would rejuvenate the moribund economies of the industrial Midwest, or help heartland economies generate the kind of prosperity that their coastal neighbors enjoy…The absence of a credible Democratic agenda on regional prosperity is one reason Trump has had free rein to exploit and magnify the economic discontent in large parts of the country for his political gain. As wrong-headed and destructive as his policies have been, his supporters can rightly say that Trump has at least acknowledged the significance of their economic decline…Democrats shouldn’t continue to leave the field to Trump to romp at will…As the Monthly’s Daniel Block has argued, the emerging geography of this divided America means Democrats must broaden their appeal and reach heartland voters if they want to win in 2020 and beyond. Democrats don’t have the luxury of writing off “flyover country” to rely solely on their base in major coastal cities.”

Political Strategy Notes – Impeachment Edition

WaPo columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. shares some insights on impeaching Trump: “There is nothing positive for Trump in the readout, which ratified House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to open a formal impeachment inquiry. “It’s interesting that the White House would release this thinking it would help the president,” Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.) said in an interview. “They’re so far down the path of corruption that they wouldn’t see how it implicates the president.”…That the Ukraine allegations abruptly and fundamentally altered the politics of impeachment means that House Democrats need to act in a precise, expeditious and disciplined way. Battles over who has jurisdiction over what, lengthy arguments over what should and should not be included in the articles of impeachment, personality clashes — none of these should complicate action on what is now a clear-cut case involving a deplorable abuse of power…This is why many swing-district Democrats who had been reluctant to endorse a path to impeachment are now open to acting…This new clarity of mission is why Pelosi’s announcement Tuesday came as such a relief. Democrats on both sides of the impeachment question were never in doubt about the depth of Trump’s venality, but they did not expect him to hand them so much ammunition to make their case. They dare not let internal politics get in the way of performing their duty.”

In his post, “If This Is Trump’s Best Case, The Ukraine Scandal Is Looking Really Bad For Him” at FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver writes, “As far as polling evidence for how the public feels about Ukraine, there isn’t much of it, but there is some, and it isn’t great for Trump. A YouGov poll on Tuesday asked voters how they’d feel about impeachment if Trump “suspended military aid to Ukraine in order to incentivize the country’s officials to investigate his political rival”; 55 percent of voters supported impeachment in that case, 26 percent opposed it. The problem is that, so far, the delay in military aid has not been proven to be related to Trump’s requests of Zelensky on Biden.1 We don’t know how much that matters to the American public. Hopefully, pollsters will ask voters different versions of questions about impeachment over Ukraine that can test the importance of the quid pro quo. Meanwhile, polling from Reuters/Ipsos suggests that while relatively few Americans knew much about the Ukraine scandal before today, those who had heard of it were more supportive of impeachment.”

More than half the House of Representatives support impeachment inquiry,” CNN Politics reports. “There are at least 218 House Democrats — according to a CNN count — who publicly stated support for impeachment proceedings. Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, a former Republican who has since become an independent, has also called for an impeachment investigation, bringing the total number of representatives to 219, or just over half of the 435-member chamber…Reaching the halfway mark on this issue is a significant development as a majority of the House would be needed to vote to impeach the President in order to send the process to the Senate…there has been a surge in support — more than 75 House members in about three days — of launching such an inquiry… However, CNN’s count includes many Democrats who say they support an impeachment investigation but are still waiting for the results of the probe before deciding whether to finally vote to impeach Trump.”

NYT columnist Thomas B. Edsall makes the case that “economic decline was — and is — a compelling factor in generating conservative hostility to social and cultural liberalism.” Edsall mines data from scholars writing at Brookings, the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology and the European Journal of Social Psychology, to conclude that “The relative material deprivation of many Republican voters that continued into the first two years of the Trump administration reinforces their sustained dedication to Trump, even as the regions of the country where they disproportionately live fall further behind.” In addition, “Conversely, the exceptional success in 2018 of Democratic House candidates in well-to-do, highly educated, formerly Republican districts suggests that Democrats gain from prosperity.” And “As the 2020 election approaches, we can expect Trump not to be deterred by the prospect of impeachment. He will embrace it…he is willing to gamble on his ability to profit from a climate of chaos and threat, to rely on ever-present sense of crisis to fortify and expand his base.”

Sean Collins has “5 questions Attorney General William Barr should answer about Trump’s call with President Volodymyr Zelensky” at Vox. Collins writes that “Barr’s statements to Congress, particularly those he gave during May testimony about his handling of the release of the Mueller report, have many Democrats concerned the attorney general will attempt to shield the president from inquiries — including a recently launched impeachment inquiry — into potential wrongdoing and that he will refuse to investigate the allegations Trump faces.” The questions include: “1. Did President Trump discuss a Biden-Ukraine investigation with Barr?…2. Did William Barr mislead Congress?…3. Is the Department of Justice protecting Trump?…4. Does William Barr believe a president is above the law or immune to outside scrutiny?…5. Will William Barr recuse himself from upcoming DOJ investigations?”

At The American Prospect, Paul Starr probes a question of growing consequence for Democrts, “Is It Too Late to Impeach Trump?” Starr writes, “Even now, Democrats do not have strong electoral reasons to impeach Trump. Impeachment may not work out to their political advantage; a failed impeachment is not necessarily a good start to an election campaign to oust an incumbent. But, come what may, they have to proceed for the only reasons that truly justify impeaching and convicting a president—the defense of America’s constitutional system and its national security…By attempting to use a foreign power to win election a second time, Trump has forced even reluctant Democratic congressional leaders to move ahead on impeachment. It was bad enough that Trump escaped consequences for the efforts in his 2016 campaign to secure help from Russia and for his solicitousness as president to Vladimir Putin. Another such failure of our constitutional system, this time in connection with Ukraine, would only further embolden Trump to use the formidable powers of the presidency to entrench himself in office…If it becomes standard procedure in the United States, this will be a very different country from what we thought it was.”

Also at The American Prospect, Robert Kuttner writes, “The people who said that impeachment would be a distraction from the 2020 election were wrong, both before Trump’s Ukraine gambit, and even more so now. The 2020 election is about many things, but foremost among them are Trump’s abuse of office and the rule of law. Impeachment brings that front and center…Skeptics also argued that the Republican-controlled Senate would never vote to convict, so why bother? This is also wrong. As public opinion moves, so does Senate opinion. It will be very salutary for Democrats to put Senate Republicans on the defensive, as they try to excuse the indefensible…Republicans were contemptuous of Trump in 2016, and their loyalty to him is purely expedient and transactional. If he becomes seen as fatally damaged goods, that loyalty could evaporate…We are into a new act of this farce. It took Trump to give Democrats a backbone, but we will now see a newly emboldened Democratic House and a whole new dynamic.”

However, in his Daily Beast post, “Dems Worry Rudy Would Send Impeachment Hearing Off the Rails,” Sam Brodey warns that Giulani’s likely appearance before congress could create a circus-like distraction. “If Congress is to get to the bottom of President Trump’s efforts to get the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, Rudolph W. Giuliani is an obvious choice for the witness list…But Democrats are split as to whether he would do more harm than good to their nascent impeachment inquiry and some expressed concern that hauling a loose cannon like Giuliani in front of a committee would risk a replay of the circus-like atmosphere created by Trump loyalist and former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski—a scene few Democrats are eager to recreate…Democrats are already well aware of the challenge presented by a loose cannon Trumpworld figure, and they still feel burned by Lewandowski. The former Trump campaign manager’s combative five-hour session before the House Judiciary Committee on Sept. 17 amounted to a massive middle finger to Democrats, who afterward privately panned the hearing as a disaster…Given Giuliani’s track record of theatrics and his fierce loyalty to the president, some Democrats worry that his testimony wouldn’t contribute to legitimate fact-finding but rather turn Democrats’ sober-minded mission into a complete circus—as well as slow down an impeachment proceeding that nearly all Democrats believe needs to be completed with the utmost speed.”

At The Nation, Jeet Heer presents “The Case for Keeping Impeachment Clean and Simple: Though Donald Trump has committed many crimes, best keep the focus tightly on the Ukrainian scandal,” and observes, “A quick impeachment is likely to be followed by the Republican Senate’s deciding Trump should not be removed. There might be a few GOP defections: Susan Collins of Maine and Cory Gardner of Colorado are the most likely to turn against Trump. Not nearly enough to reach the steep threshold of 67 votes. Still, such an impeachment would have made the essential point: Trump overstepped the rules of democracy…After a quickly executed impeachment, Democrats can return to other urgent political matters: choosing a presidential nominee and defeating Trump. The impeachment, if done narrowly and in a focused way, will then serve the cause of making the political case against Trump. A lengthy impeachment that looks at all his offenses could have the opposite impact: It might drain the political oxygen out of the presidential nomination process and impede the task of building an anti-Trump majority…Impeachment is both a legal and a political process. To have a politically effective impeachment, Democrats need to keep it clean, simple—and quick.”

Political Strategy Notes

“Younger voters have typically turned out at lower rates than other demographic groups in elections, but they defied expectations in the 2018 midterms, with a 16-point jump in voting by 18- to 29-year-olds compared to the 2014 election, according to census data,” , report Julia Manchester and Rebecca Klar at The Hill. “Overall, 36 percent of voters in that age group cast a ballot last year, compared to 20 percent in 2014. Analysts believe a similar number or higher during a presidential year could make the difference in a race that President Trump won last time around by just a few percentage points in several key battleground states…Democratic presidential contenders have thus ramped up their pitches to young voters through frequent visits to college campuses and an increased presence on social media. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), for example, kicked off a tour of universities at historically black colleges this week.”

“These groups believe this time around it could be different, potentially changing the scope of elections because of the sheer size of the groups being targeted,” Manchester and Klar note. “More than 75 million people are considered millennials, according to Brookings, while around a quarter of the U.S. population is seen as belonging to Gen Z, or roughly 82 million…That makes them a potentially powerful electoral force and a boon to Democrats — should they succeed in winning them over…“Millennials and Gen Z will comprise nearly 40 percent of the electorate next year,” DeWitt said, “which is incredible power to decide who wins elections, both at the local level and at the federal and presidential level as well.”

James Arkin writes at Politico, “To take back the White House, Democrats only need to win back three key Rust Belt states. But if they want to move a president’s agenda through the Senate, they have to flip the Sun Belt…From Arizona to North Carolina to a pair of seats in Georgia, Democrats have to clean up in that stretch of the country to have any chance of taking the chamber…”I think there’s both a Rust Belt and Sun Belt strategy that are not incompatible at all,” said Joe Trippi, a Democratic strategist who has worked on presidential and Senate campaigns. He pointed to the party’s gains among suburban women, in particular, as something that occurred across regions. “There are several places in both the Sun Belt and Rust Belt where they could make the difference…Priorities USA, a top Democratic Super PAC, lists the three Rust Belt states as among their core battlegrounds for 2020, and has Arizona, Georgia and North Carolina among possible expansion states. Guy Cecil, the group’s chairman, pointed to the overlap between expansion states and Senate races at a briefing for reporters Monday and said they would take a “serious look” at potentially investing in these states because of the Senate. He said North Carolina and Arizona should be on “everyone’s target list,” and that there would be “robust conversations” around Georgia.”

Some stats on the “middle class” from Kathleeen Elkins at cnbc.com: “According to a 2018 report from the Pew Research Center, 52% of American adults live in “middle class” households. The median income of that group was $78,442 in 2016…Pew defines the middle class as adults whose annual household income is two-thirds to double the national median. That’s after incomes have been adjusted for household size, since smaller households require less money to support the same lifestyle as larger ones…About one-fifth of American households, 19%, are considered upper class, while 29% are lower class. The median income of upper class households was $187,872 in 2016. For lower income households, it was $25,624…These numbers are in 2016 dollars and scaled to reflect a three-person household…Use Pew’s income calculator to find out which group you are in, compared to other adults in your metro and among American adults overall. It also lets you find out which group you’re in compared with other adults similar to you in education, age, race or ethnicity and marital status” and size of household. “The metro with the highest share is Sheboygan, Wisconsin, where 65% of adults are considered middle class.”

Also at The Hill, Chris Mills Rodrigo reports, “Progressive organization Way to Win plans to invest $50 million to help the Democratic Party in the Sun Belt, the Associated Press reported Sunday…An advance copy of the group’s blueprint obtained by AP details a strategy to help Democrats in Georgia, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Virginia and North Carolina, where the party hopes to make inroads with people of color, women and young people…Way to Win previously spent $22 million during the 2018 midterm season…“2020 is a race to drive up the most new voters possible. Our job is driving forward the new electorate in the South and Southwest.”

It looks like Elizabeth Warren going to  avoid HRC’s mistake of not showing up in white working-class communities in the midwest. As Natasha Dado reports in “Elizabeth Warren protests with striking UAW members at GM Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant” at clickondetroit.com: “Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, protested with General Motors workers Sunday, expressing solidarity with them…Warren participated in a “Solidarity Sunday” protest at the GM Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant. Large crowds packed the Detroit-based plant Sunday and marched alongside Warren…She thanked UAW members for standing up for the rights of workers. “I know this is hard to do without your paycheck. This is the time when we find out who people are. You do well, American workers do well across the country. Lets be clear, unions built America’s middle class,” Warren said.”

In his Wall St. Journal article, “U.S. Voters Support Expanding Medicare but Not Eliminating Private Health Insurance” John McCormick reports: “Two-thirds of registered voters support letting anyone buy into Medicare, similar to an idea that former Vice President Joe Biden and some other Democratic candidates have proposed. Two-thirds say that young adults brought to the U.S. illegally should be allowed to stay, an idea broadly supported by the party’s presidential field. Nearly 60% of registered voters support making tuition free at state colleges and universities…But several other ideas backed by majorities of Democratic voters and some of the party’s 2020 candidates draw significant opposition from the electorate overall, the new poll finds…Some 56% of registered voters oppose a Medicare for All plan that would replace private insurance, as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and some others have proposed, while 57% oppose the idea of immediately canceling student-loan debt for all borrowers. Mr. Sanders also has proposed the latter, while Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren backs it with limits…government-sponsored health care to undocumented immigrants was the least popular among the broader electorate, with 62% rejecting it.”

“Asked about two leading health-care proposals that have divided the Democratic presidential field,” McCormick continues, “the party’s primary voters mostly favored the idea of allowing people under age 65 to buy into Medicare, just like they might buy private insurance. Some 78% supported that idea, while 63% backed Medicare for All, which would replace private insurance with a government plan…Of three proposals to make college more affordable, the most popular in the survey was the idea of income-based repayment, a policy in existing law and backed by former President Barack Obama in which borrowers devote a fixed amount of their income to student-debt repayment, with the unpaid balance forgiven after a certain number of years…Just 15% of registered Democrats in the poll say their economic situation is getting better, while 68% of Republicans feel that way. Half of those in rural areas say they’re gaining economically, compared with just over a third of urban residents.”

E. J. Dionne, Jr. explains why “Why Trump gets away with everything” in his syndicated WaPo column: “Here we have a whistleblower from the intelligence community who, as The Washington Post reported, found a “promise” that President Trump made to a foreign leader “so alarming” that the “official who had worked at the White House went to the inspector general of the intelligence community.”…the White House and Justice Department are stonewalling, thus ripping apart systems of accountability that were put in place to prevent the abuse of the substantial powers we have given our intelligence services. This is part of a larger undertaking by Trump and his minions to block Congress from receiving information or hearing from witnesses, which is part of Congress’ normal and constitutionally sanctioned work of keeping an eye on the executive branch…You might think that Republicans who have made national security their calling card since the Reagan era might finally hit the limits of their cravenness in the face of a whistleblower’s bravery. But the party, our politics and our media system are too broken for the old norms to apply.” American presidents have evaded accountability before, but never to this extent. Perhaps it was inevitable that a president would push the evasion to the limit and play the ‘deny and delay’ card as often as he could get away with it. Consequently, the fate of American democracy now depends on swing voters in a handful of states.

Political Strategy Notes

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall flags an ominous trend for Democrats: “First: Heading into the 2020 election, President Trump is on track to far surpass President Barack Obama’s record in collecting small donor contributions — those under $200 — lending weight to his claim of populist legitimacy…Second: Democratic candidates and their party committees are making inroads in gathering contributions from the wealthiest of the wealthy, the Forbes 400, a once solid Republican constituency. Democrats are also pulling ahead in contributions from highly educated professionals — doctors, lawyers, tech executives, software engineers, architects, scientists, teachers and so on…These knowledge class donors, deeply hostile to Trump, propelled the fund-raising success of Democratic House candidates in 2018 — $1 billion to the Republicans’ $661 million…While there are advantages for Democrats in gaining support from previously Republican-leaning donors, this success carries costs. In winning over the high-tech industry, the party has acquired a constituency at odds with competing Democratic interest groups, especially organized labor and consumer protection proponents. Picking up rich backers also reinforces the image of a party dominated by elites.”

A chart to ponder from Philip Bump’s “A central 2020 question for Democrats: How critical are working-class white voters?” at The Washington Post:

(Philip Bump/The Washington Post)

Bonnie Chiu reports at Forbes, “The 2018 midterm elections in the U.S. saw an unprecedented number of women of color being elected to office–bringing their total number at the Congress (both House and Senate) to an all-time high, at 47. A new reporthelps us to understand how this was achieved, suggests that this was not an accident and will likely define 2020 elections…2018 marks the watershed moment in political mobilization of women of color in U.S. history. A new report, published by the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Civic Engagement Fund and Groundswell Fund, examines the unprecedented and often ignored role of women of color in the 2018 Midterm elections. The report highlights that the increase of non-white congresswomen correlates with a rising turnout of non-white female voters…“When you look at turnout as a percentage of the citizen voting age population in previous midterms, the numbers for 2006, 2010, 2014 were 39%, 39%, and 35%, respectively. In 2018, the figure was 48%,” says Taeku Lee, Professor of Political Science and Law at the University of California, Berkeley and principal researcher for this report. This represents a 37% increase among women of color voters compared to 2016. This huge uptick has not been found among other groups…The report finds that turnout was fuelled by women of color talking to and encouraging their friends and family to vote. Black women led the way with 84% mobilizing friends and family, followed by 76% of AAPI women, 72% of Native American women, 70% of Latinas, and 66% of white women.”

At Salon.com, Igor Derysh writes, “Republicans are expected to win 65 percent of close presidential races in which they lose the popular vote as a result of the Electoral College and the blue-state concentration of Democrats, according to a new working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research…Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin looked at the probability of “inversions” in presidential elections, where the popular-vote winner loses the electoral vote. These inversions happened in 2000 and 2016 and twice in the 1800s, meaning that the candidate with the most votes has lost 8 percent of the time in the last 200 years…Using statistical models that predicted an inversion in the 2000 and 2016 races, the researchers found that the probability of the popular vote winner losing the electoral vote is about 40 percent in races decided by 1 percent (about 1.3 million votes) and roughly 30 percent in races decided by 2 percent (2.6 million votes) or less…But these probabilities are “not symmetric across political parties,” the researchers say. Over the past 30 to 60 years, this asymmetry has favored Republicans. The statistical models used in the research predict that in the event of an inversion, “the probability that it will be won by a Republican ranges from 69 percent to 93 percent.”

From E. J. Dionne, Jr”s “Striking workers are the ones who saved GM” at The Washington Post: “Unions get knocked for being unconcerned about the health of the companies they organize. The UAW showed how untrue this is. It made sweeping concessions to management to persuade federal officials to undertake the investment of public money — and to keep the companies alive…The bottom line is that the strikers are fighting not only for greater fairness and a larger share of the company’s success but also for work itself. Too late to avert the strike, GM finally put an offer on the table to begin addressing some of these issues. But the rank and file are restive for more, and for good reason. Those of us who supported keeping GM alive a decade ago — and put our wallets where our mouths, pens and votes were — didn’t do so to make it easier for management to outsource jobs or hold down pay and benefits forever. Every Democratic candidate for president should be joining the UAW’s picket lines to drive that point home.”

From Kyle Kondik’s “The Electoral College: Expanding the Map” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball:
Map 1: Crystal Ball Electoral College ratings

Stanley Greenberg writes in his memo, “Sharp anti-Trump reaction consolidates and grows Democratic bloc” at Democracy Corps: “The public push back against President Trump has produced a level of political engagement the country has never seen before, an elevated anti-Trump Democratic Party consolidated to support the Democratic nominee, whether it is Vice President Biden or Senator Elizabeth Warren. They are defeating Trump by 9 and 7 points respectively, with the president stuck at 41 percent, his approval rating. Democrats are poised to push up the 8.6 percent Democratic margin in the 2018 mid-terms – a shattering result if achieved…The percent who say they are “extremely interested” in the election (the percent choosing 10, the top point on a 10-rung ladder) has reached 80 percent, the highest point in the history of our polling. That is what is actually most interesting about the finding. In all prior cycles, interest in politics drops sharply and grows over the election cycle, put political engagement has jumped 10 points since the mid-terms…Virtually, every registered voter now meets our criteria as “likely,” meaning this election will bring inmillions of new voters…With President Trump nationalizing the election around himself, he has gotten the result you would expect. Fully 85 percent of Democrats strongly disapprove of Trump’s performance as president, 20 points higher than the proportion of Republicans who strongly approve of the president. That drives the Democratic vote to 87 percent with the two leading candidates, with just 2 percent voting for Trump. Republicans are not as consolidated, with 11 percent voting Democratic if Biden and 6 percent, if Warren.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard did not meet the criteria for inclusion in the televised September Democratic debate. But she proved once again that she knows how to skewer an opponent, this time with her comment on Trump’s embarrassingly obsequious tweet that his white house is “waiting to hear from the Kingdom as to who they believe was the cause of this attack, and under what terms we would proceed!” Gabbard’s reply: “Trump awaits instructions from his Saudi masters. Having our country act as Saudi Arabia’s bitch is not “America First…”It’s a huge disgrace to hear our commander-in-chief basically put us in a position… where we are servants of the Saudi Kingdom,” she said.”

“It should be easy for Democrats to make sure that whenever Americans hear Trump’s name, “crook” is the first word that comes to mind,” Amanda marcotte writes in “Fighting Trump on corruption is a winning strategy — but Democrats must lean into it” at Salon.com. “But Democrats lack message discipline, so much so that they can’t even decide if this is a real impeachment inquiry or just some vague exercise in impeachment-curiosity. Meanwhile, Trump — with his stupid aptitude for blunt repetition as a rhetorical strategy — has turned “no collusion, no obstruction” into a literal catchphrase, even though there was both collusion and obstruction. Lewandowski spouted that motto like a robot on Tuesday, even though he literally testified to the obstruction under oath…Trump’s popularity is stuck around 42% in most polls, while his disapproval rarely dips below 52%. His only pathway to victory in 2020 lies in confusing voters about his corruption and likely criminality just enough so they momentarily forget how much they dislike him. Democrats can fight back, but only if they’re willing to organize around a strategy to keep Trump’s corruption front and center. So far they have failed. If they don’t catch up soon, there’s a real risk Trump wins another term — and stays away from indictment, prosecution and prison time.”