washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

Joseph O’Neill’s review article “No More Nice Dems” at The New York Review of Books provides an insightful exploration of the GOP’s domination of state governments. A nugget: “And it’s not as if red-state governments have been better. For at least a quarter-century, GDP growth in blue states has exceeded that in red states. Living standards—educational attainment, household income, life expectancy, tax equity—tend to be distinctly higher in blue states. These disparities are mitigated by what economists call “fiscal flows”—blue staters subsidizing red staters in the form of federal taxes. When states go all-in on Republican economic strategies, not even fiscal flows can avert disaster, as the fates of Kansas and Oklahoma have revealed. Some red states even reject fiscal flows: fourteen have refused the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid, with predictable consequences. If you wanted to tank the country, or part of it, your best bet would be to get Republicans to run things.”

O’Neill continues: “Republican dominance represents an extraordinary political overperformance. Republican state governments strongly align themselves with the national party leadership—and by conventional measures, and certainly by comparison with the Clinton and Obama administrations, the national GOP has long been a disaster. Every Republican administration from Reagan onward has crashed the economy and exploded deficits. (Trump has already achieved the latter.) Their track record on health care is one of failure. Their handling of national security has been catastrophic (see the September 11 attacks, the rise of ISIS, Trump-Russia, climate change). Their criminality and corruption is scandalous: fraud, perjury, bribery, Boland Amendment violations during the Iran–contra affair, obstruction of justice, tax evasion, theft, and misuse of public funds are just some of the crimes committed by Republican administration officials and operatives—and that’s without counting those chalked up under Nixon and Trump.”

O’Neill, quotes from Meaghan Winter’s  All Politics Is Local: Why Progressives Must Fight for the States and observes, “As David Callahan, founder of Inside Philanthropy, said, most foundation grant makers end up “thinking like a social worker instead of thinking like a Bolshevik,” the very opposite of the approach taken by those doling out the Koch and Mercer fortunes…Thus the problem isn’t money: “The annual spending of centrist and left-leaning foundations far exceeds the annual spending of the conservative Heritage Foundation or the Scaife Family Foundation.” The problem is that, for around half a century, right-wing donors have spent their money more productively. They have created and supported entities (the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, the State Policy Network, Americans for Prosperity, the Federalist Society, etc.) dedicated to developing durable structures of power and fanaticism. Most significantly, they have gradually taken control of state offices—the offices responsible not only for redistricting but for elections and voter registration, for state jurisprudence, and for the local regulation of abortion, health care, workers’ rights, and gun safety.

As for Republican strategy at the state level, “It can’t be disputed that this effort has worked,” O’Neill adds. “Indeed, it has produced a kind of Bolshevik dreamland in which a few billionaire hypercapitalists and libertarian extremists oversee a sizable cadre of professional ideologues and organizers who do the boring, technical, and persistent work of radicalizing, training, rewarding, and controlling conservative legislators, policy theorists, media figures, propagandists, administrators, evangelists, and judges. This produces a self-sustaining vanguard with real power, real expertise, and a ferocious dedication to victory that increasingly surpasses any allegiance to the ethical and civic norms associated with a modern democracy. Gerrymandering, voter suppression, intellectually dishonest judicial rulings, and systematic disinformation are now essential Republican tactics. There’s a reason why the GOP, for all its substantive uselessness, is such a formidable political foe. It plays to win.”

Tom Dickinson notes at Rolling Stone, “Republicans currently hold a three-seat edge in the Senate, 53 to 47. At first glance, the 2020 electoral map looks favorable to Democrats. Republicans must defend 23 seats to the Democrats’ 12. But the terrain is challenging: 20 of the GOP incumbents hail from states Trump carried in 2016…In 2016, every Senate contest went in the direction of the presidential vote…Still, nonpartisan analysts like Democratic chances. “The Senate’s in play,” says Nathan Gonzales, editor of Inside Elections, which handicaps federal races. “Democrats have enough takeover opportunities to get there without having to win everything on the table.”

“But for progressives in 2020,” Dickinson says, “Mitch McConnell’s seat in Kentucky is the holy grail. Trump took the state by 30 points in 2016, but a Democrat claimed victory in the governor’s race in November. The senator’s approval rating in the state — 33 percent — is nearly as bad as defeated incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin’s. McConnell’s opponent, retired Lt. Col. Amy McGrath, a former F/A-18 fighter pilot, is fresh off a competitive 2018 House race and raising money like a presidential candidate — $10.7 million in the third quarter. McGrath is casting McConnell as a creature of Washington, bought by special interests, who has “turned his back on the people of Kentucky” and failed to deliver on bread-and-butter issues from infrastructure to the opioid crisis. “The guy’s been around 34 years,” she tells Rolling Stone. “If he cared about this stuff, something would have been done already.” McConnell runs strong campaigns and won’t lack for resources, but in a recent survey he was up by just one point, within the margin of error.”

In his Monday campaign round-up, Steve Benen notes at Maddow Blog: “Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, the only 2020 Democratic candidate to have won a statewide election in a red state, ended his presidential campaign this morning. His departure means that former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is the only current or former governor in the race…former Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania ended his Democratic campaign yesterday…the party’s 2020 field now stands at 16 candidates…The Associated Press reported over the holiday weekend that a super PAC formed to support Sen. Cory Booker’s (D-N.J.) presidential campaign is shutting down. The report added, “The group’s founder, San Francisco lawyer Steve Phillips, indicated in a news release Wednesday that Dream United had struggled to raise money.”…Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) presidential campaign picked up a new congressional supporter over the weekend with Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) endorsing the senator, and Mayor Pete Buttigieg, whose Democratic presidential bid has struggled badly to earn support from minority communities, worshiped yesterday at North Carolina’s Greenleaf Christian Church, which is pastored by the Rev. William J. Barber II.”

At Roll Call, Nathan Gonzales explains “House ratings changes: A dozen races shift toward Democrats,” and observes, “With a combination of Republicans’ self-inflicted wounds, slow recruiting, or suburbs continuing to shift against the president, Democratic chances of winning improved in a dozen House races in recent weeks.” Gonzales bullet-points individual House races, and adds, “the 2020 House battlefield now includes 39 vulnerable Democratic seats, 30 vulnerable Republican seats, and former Republican/independent Justin Amash’s district in Michigan…There’s still time for Trump’s standing to improve enough to boost lower-tier House GOP candidates, for a significant backlash to develop against Democrats for pursuing Trump’s impeachment, or for GOP House candidates to strengthen their campaigns. But right now, Democrats are most likely to maintain their majority in the next Congress.”

Ronald Brownstein addresses a critical question at The Atlantic,”Will John Roberts Constrain Trump? “Few questions may shape the president’s remaining tenure more than how often the chief justice steps in to limit executive powers.” Brownstein writes, “whether Trump stays in office for one more year or five, one of the key variables will be whether Roberts’s ruling in the census case was an exception or a signal of his determination to limit presidential authority. Most observers consider it unlikely that any of the four other Republican-appointed justices—including Trump’s two nominees—will break from the president on many, if any, big cases.” Loyola Law professor Jessica Levinson notes that “Roberts has far more often expressed support for broad executive authority of the sort Trump is asserting, she says. Asked how much of an impediment she expects Roberts to pose, she said, “Based on his public comments and his writings in other previous cases, I think the indication is not that much.”…The one countervailing force, Levinson and other experts noted, is Roberts’s reluctance to have the Court viewed as simply another extension of the partisan conflict between Republicans and Democrats. His attempt to avoid that characterization led Roberts to publicly rebuke Trump last summer for insisting that there are “Obama judges” and “Trump judges.”…But that consideration was not enough to dissuade Roberts from participating in other five-four party-line decisions that have dealt with Trump’s powers. “We are kidding ourselves that he is a moderate,” Levinson said. “Let’s none of us pretend that he doesn’t have a view of broad executive power.”..Still, Roberts could ultimately be the last man standing in the GOP with the ability to say no to a president who barrels through law and custom. Few questions may shape Trump’s remaining tenure more than how often Roberts steps into the breach.”


Political Strategy Notes

Isaac Chotiner explains “How Democratic Candidates Win the African-American Vote” at The New Yorker and interviews Fredrick Harris, professor of political science at Columbia University, who has written extensively about African-American politics, who notes: “For the first time, black turnout surpassed white turnout in 2012. I do think it will depend on some degree of enthusiasm about the candidate. But I think the Party didn’t do enough last time around to put money into mobilizing these voters. I think that was a crucial mistake by Senator Clinton. And so I think there are two sides to this: how motivated people are going to be, and what kind of resources the Party’s going to put in place in order to get these voters out to vote…I think the Vice-Presidential candidate is going to be an important factor, because if it’s a person like Stacey Abrams—who does have the “friends and neighbors” sensibility, who, after her loss in Georgia, has become a national celebrity in the Democratic Party and loved by many black voters—that could make the difference.”

“From aiming to register hundreds of thousands of new voters to earlier and better on-the-ground canvassing, and from investing millions of dollars in recruiting local organizers to more finely focused outreach efforts on a sizable Hispanic and African American communities, Democrats are going all out to reverse the notion that Florida is unassailable Trump country,” Richard Luscombe writes in “The Democratic war council working to turn Florida blue in 2020” at The Guardian. “New voters are needed, lots of them, and in May the party announced a “monumental” $2m investment to register 200,000 statewide before the 2020 election.” In addition to health care and the climate crisis, Dems see wage inequality as a potentially pivotal issue for mobilizing turnout in key urban areas. Much of the effort will focus on “Miami and other tourist-rich areas of Florida, such as Orlando and Tampa,” where many “work in lower-paid, service-industry jobs including hotel, retail and food service…In Orlando, the median service-class wage is $24,057, the lowest in the country, according to the 2017 US census community survey, and in Miami it was little higher at $26,532.”

From Michael Tomasky’s “A Dem for All Seasons?” in The New York Review of Books: “So it might turn out that all this hand-wringing about the Democrats is misplaced. On the other hand, if they should have learned one lesson from 2016, it would be about the perils of overconfidence. They need to put the Obama coalition back together. And they mustn’t choose between Obama-to-Trump white working-class voters and younger, more multiracial and “woke” voters. They need both. It’s the nature of the Democratic coalition, which is far more diverse—racially and ideologically—than the Republican one. Right now, the two current front-runners are speaking to only part of the coalition. The nominee will be the one—Biden, Warren, or in this still-fluid contest perhaps someone else entirely—who can best reassure the other part.”

In his Counterpunch article, “The Democratic Party’s Missing Electoral College Game Plan,” David Schultz, professor of political science at Hamline University and author of Presidential Swing States:  Why Only Ten Matter, explains: “Democrats need a strategy to hold all the states they won in 2016 and then how to pick up Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin.  Yes, they could try to flip Arizona, Georgia, or Texas as some pipedreams hope for, but the reality is winning them is distant and difficult.  They key is flipping critical swing states…their electorates are generally to the left of recent Republican Party presidential candidates and to the right of Democratic Party candidates.  In many ways they are states more centrist than the non-swing states, and certainly more in the middle compared to the overall Democratic Party base…what we know is that who is a swing voter is less and less likely to be someone who moves back and forth between voting Democratic or Republican and more so whether they swing into or out of voting.  Democrats did badly in 2016 because swing voters, especially suburban  females, stayed home or did not vote for them…In 2018, those suburban females came out for Democrats.  Winning in 2020 is getting these women to vote.  What we know about these voters is that they are socially moderate to liberal but are not left of center.”

Also at The Guardian, Chis Kromm, executive director of the Institute for Southern Studies, shares some telling statistics about the Democratic victory in the Louisiana Governor’s race in his article, “How did Democrats win Louisiana? With classic progressive populism“: “Aside from Trump’s diminishing power to inspire voters, what else might Louisiana tell us about the country’s political landscape heading into 2020? One lesson is that, if Democrats hope to succeed in 2020 – not only in the presidential contest, but all down-ticket races – they must energize and mobilize their base. In much of the south, this means African American voters. Edwards only got a majority in one congressional district, but the 85% of votes he won in the heavily African American, disproportionately urban 2nd district made all the difference. Between the 12 October primary and last weekend’s runoff in the governor’s race, turnout in the second district jumped by 42,000 voters – a critical boost in a race Edwards won by just over 40,000 votes statewide…That mobilization didn’t happen by itself. The Power Coalition for Equity and Justice, a group of progressive community organizations in Louisiana, contacted 900,000 voters in the fall elections – mostly in communities of color – through door visits, phone calls and text messages. National groups like Black Voters Matter raised visibility about the elections in African American communities. And teachers, a key force in Edwards’ first victory in 2015 as well as Democratic governor-elect Andy Beshear’s recent win in Kentucky, also mobilized tens of thousands of voters.”

Harold Meyerson offers some perceptive observations at The American Prospect, including “One of the oddities of the ongoing Democratic debate about how the United States can get to universal health coverage—an achievement every other nation has somehow managed to pull off—is that no one ever asks the presidential candidates about their fallback positions. But if American history has any lessons to offer, it’s that major social and economic reforms always get enacted piecemeal, over time. And so when questioning the current crop of presidential aspirants as to the plans they’ll put forward, we also need to know their criteria for accepting or rejecting the halfway-house health coverage policies likely to emerge from Congress…Given the lack of anything like consensual support—not just in the nation, but in the Democratic Party itself—for Medicare for All, how should supporters of Medicare for All (like myself) respond? The most sensible course is to push for the most we can get, which, if we have a Democratic president and Congress in 2021, should be along the lines of taxpayer-supported Medicare for anyone over 50 or under 26, raising the income threshold for eligibility for those between 26 and 50, allowing individuals still not eligible to buy into the plan, and allowing employers to buy in for their employees as well. Such a plan would mark a massive expansion of the public responsibility for Americans’ health care…”

Kyle Kondik, Managing Editor, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, takes a look at open seat House races and notes, “Whoever decides to not seek reelection to the House will add to the retirements we’ve already seen this year. So far, 28 House seats are going to be open in next year’s elections, meaning that there will not be an incumbent on either the primary or general election ballot. Additionally, there are four vacancies in the House right now. We’re not counting these as true open seats, because presumably new incumbents in these seats will be seeking full terms in their own right after winning forthcoming special elections…Of 28 open House seats, Republicans are defending 20 while Democrats are defending only eight…Of eight the Crystal Ball rates as competitive, Republicans are defending all but one…Open seats, along with pending redistricting in North Carolina, give Democrats a small buffer as they defend their majority…Democrats stand to benefit more from retirements than Republicans. Also, significant one-off events, like Amash’s defection and the North Carolina redistricting, are making life harder for the Republicans…That’s why the Democrats continue to be favorites to hold the House of Representatives majority.”

In another Crystal Ball article, “The Governors: Party Control Now Near Parity,” Kondik writes, “Following the 2019 elections, Republicans retain a narrow 26-24 edge in governorships…But that’s a big shift from mid-2017, when Democrats held just 15.” However, “A majority of Americans, a little less than 55%, will live under Democratic governors once Gov.-elect Andy Beshear (D-KY) takes office next month…There are only a relative handful of gubernatorial races next year. The big prize is North Carolina, where Gov. Roy Cooper (D-NC) is a modest favorite to win a second term in the only large state that will feature competitive races for president, Senate, and governor next year. The GOP’s best target is the open seat in Montana, and that’s also the governorship likeliest to flip.”

Many on the right are yearning for a dialogue. They are the real silent majority” writes Egberto Willies at Daily Kos. “Democrats are going to win in 2020. The right, while trying to delude themselves are losing sensible people. I believe the response to polls on the Republican side but strongly believe it is just a tribal abstraction. Enough people will switch which will provide a solid win for progressives. That said, Democrats can have a landslide of monumental proportion if they add empathetic engagement on the right. I am not talking about asking them to be either progressive or a Democrat. I am talking about creating the narrative that you are tolerant of their Republicanism and conservatism. But at the same time ask them, for the sake of their children, their families, their friends, that in the privacy of the voting booth, to do what is best for their personal economies. Speak our values in their language. This humanist uses Jesus a whole lot…Many consider engaging the other side is either a fool’s errand or undeserved engagement. The thing is, this isn’t about being nice. It is about being necessary. We need more than fifty plus one for transformational change.”


Political Strategy Notes

In “You can forget about the predicted political backlash against Democrats for impeachment,” at CNN Politics, Julian Zelitzer writes that “one thing seems certain: The predicted political backlash over impeachment that Democrats were frightened about will not be taking place. Republicans won’t have an easy time employing the standard partisan witch hunt argument…The case that House Democrats are making to the public about how Trump and his inner circle abused presidential power, skewed foreign policy for personal gain and then tried to hide and obstruct the investigation that followed the revelations is becoming overwhelming. The President himself keeps helping Democrats build their case through his tweets and public statements…Democrats will be able to vote in favor of articles of impeachment with a rock-solid case to support their decision and a clear picture for the public about why the party feels the need to take these steps.”

If you are wondering “Why Deval Patrick Is Making A Late Bid For The Democratic Nomination,” Perry Bacon, Jr. has some answers at FiveThirtyEight: “…I think the real opening for Patrick is essentially to replace Buttigieg as the candidate for voters who want a charismatic, optimistic, left-but-not-that-left candidate. Patrick, I think, is betting that there’s a Goldilocks opportunity for him — “Buttigieg but older,” or “Biden but younger” — a candidate who is viewed as safe on both policy and electability grounds by Democratic establishment types and voters who just want a somewhat generic Democrat who they are confident will win the general election…On paper, Patrick seems fairly similar to Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala Harris — charismatic, black, left-but-not-that-left. But he has two potential advantages over them. First, Patrick has a last-mover advantage — he’s seen how the other candidates have run and can begin his candidacy by taking advantage of their perceived weaknesses. As a new candidate, voters might also give him a fresh look in a way that perhaps the two senators haven’t been able to get…Patrick can now enter the race knowing that he is aiming to win Democrats who self-identify as “moderate” and “somewhat liberal,” basically conceding the most liberal voters to Warren and Sanders.”

From Dylan Scott’s “Elizabeth Warren’s new Medicare-for-all plan starts out with a public option” at Vox: “In her new health care agenda for the first 100 days of her presidency, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) makes a tacit concession: The health care plan Democrats are most likely to pass in the near term is a robust public option…Warren rolled out a laundry list of health care executive actions on Friday that she said she plans to take in her first few months as president, making her the first Democratic candidate to offer such a robust administrative playbook…She also laid out her plan to get to Medicare-for-all, beginning with passing a bill at the start of her presidency that would create a new government health plan that would cover children and people with lower incomes for free, while allowing others to join the plan if they choose. It’s a particularly expansive version of a public option…Only later, in her third year in the White House, does Warren say she would pursue Medicare-for-all legislation that would actually prohibit private health insurance, as would be required for the single-payer program that she says she, like Bernie Sanders, wants.”

Brad Woodhouse explains why “Why Democrats are winning on health care” at The Hill: “The elections last week confirmed what we know to be true — health care is the number one issue for voters. Just as health care propelled House Democrats to win the majority in 2018, it once again delivered for Democrats in 2019 and is poised to be the issue that helps Democrats win elections in 2020…We are roughly a year from the 2020 elections and there’s every indication that health care will remain at the very top of voters concerns. Between now and then there will be a likely decision in the Trump-Republican lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act, which, if successful, would strip coverage from 20 million Americans and protections from 135 million more with pre-existing conditions. Democrats should be reminding voters of that fact every day…Looking ahead to next year, the argument for Democrats to keep winning on health care is a simple and effective one: focus on costs, focus on expanding access and contrast Democrats’ positive vision with that of Republican’s repeated and ongoing efforts to sabotage American health care.”

At The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein writes, “Perhaps the best that Democrats can do is persuade voters who already disapprove of Trump to fully back his removal. In the most recent Quinnipiac national survey, Trump’s supporters remained a brick wall on impeachment: Among voters who say they approve of his overall job performance, 99 percent oppose impeachment. Just 8 percent of those voters said he was acting to advance his personal, rather than the national, interest in his dealings with Ukraine…But voters otherwise skeptical of Trump aren’t as unified in their views about removing him. In the same poll, 94 percent of voters who disapprove of Trump’s performance say he was pursuing his own interests in Ukraine. A considerably smaller share of those voters, 81 percent, said they believe he should be impeached and removed. Similarly, just 79 percent of those who said he was pursuing his personal interests now support his removal. With the hearings, Democrats may have a chance to close the gap between those who express a negative opinion about Trump and support his removal, and those who think similarly but don’t want him removed.”

“The gap between those groups is especially pronounced within two key blocs in the modern Democratic coalition: college-educated whites and young people,” Brownstein continues. “While 60 percent of college-educated whites said Trump was acting in his own interest in Ukraine, and 58 percent disapprove of his job performance, just 47 percent backed his removal. The gap was even more pronounced among young adults ages 18 to 34. Sixty-seven percent thought Trump was pursuing his own interests in Ukraine, and 61 percent disapprove of his job performance. But, again, only 47 percent supported his removal. With other groups important to Democrats, including seniors and African Americans, there was a smaller gap between negative attitudes toward Trump and positive feelings toward his removal.”

In his New Republic article, “The Vigilante President,” Alexander Hurst warns “As impeachment and the 2020 election loom, Trump’s hard-core supporters are poised to unleash a wave of violence against their enemies.” Hurst echoes a concern shared by other progressive commentators. Indeed, from what we know of Trump’s bullying and penchant for threats, it’s hard to imagine him gracefully accepting a repudiation at the polls. There is every reason to believe that he will try to incite intimidation and violence. Hurst writes that, “Trump has made the prospect of violence more palpable. Since Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry into the president’s attempts to strong-arm Ukraine’s government into targeting Joe Biden, Trump has labeled the House of Representative’s constitutionally enumerated actions “a COUP, intended to take away the Power of the People, their VOTE, their Freedoms, their Second Amendment, Religion, Military, Border Wall, and their God-given rights as a Citizen of the United States of America!” He has said that a successful impeachment would “cause a Civil War.” He has called for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, the Democrat leading the impeachment proceedings, to be arrested for treason, while reminiscing about the death penalty punishment that crime had routinely carried. During an October rally in Pittsburgh, he mock-pleaded with his supporters, “Make sure you don’t hurt them, please. Thank you.” There will likely be some violence if Democrats win the presidency by a close margin. But there is no evidence that a significant number of Trump supporters are ready to risk their futures and indeed their lives by committing serious violence on a national scale. It would nonetheless be wise for Democrats to have a plan for addressing outbreaks of violence.

The Atlantic has a primer on “The Electoral College’s Racist Origins” by Wilfred Codrington III, a fellow at Brennan Center for Justice of NYU School of Law, which progressives may want to keep handy for the day when Dems have the power to abolish it. Among Codrington’s insights: “…The nation’s oldest structural racial entitlement program is one of its most consequential: the Electoral College. Commentators today tend to downplay the extent to which race and slavery contributed to the Framers’ creation of the Electoral College, in effect whitewashing history: Of the considerations that factored into the Framers’ calculus, race and slavery were perhaps the foremost…The populations in the North and South were approximately equal, but roughly one-third of those living in the South were held in bondage. Because of its considerable, nonvoting slave population, that region would have less clout under a popular-vote system. The ultimate solution was an indirect method of choosing the president, one that could leverage the three-fifths compromise, the Faustian bargain they’d already made to determine how congressional seats would be apportioned. With about 93 percent of the country’s slaves toiling in just five southern states, that region was the undoubted beneficiary of the compromise, increasing the size of the South’s congressional delegation by 42 percent. When the time came to agree on a system for choosing the president, it was all too easy for the delegates to resort to the three-fifths compromise as the foundation. The peculiar system that emerged was the Electoral College.” Even today, Codrington notes,  “The current system has a distinct, adverse impact on black voters, diluting their political power. Because the concentration of black people is highest in the South, their preferred presidential candidate is virtually assured to lose their home states’ electoral votes. Despite black voting patterns to the contrary, five of the six states whose populations are 25 percent or more black have been reliably red in recent presidential elections.”

It appears that former Vice President Joe Biden may have written off the youth vote. As Owen Daugherty reports at The Hill, “Biden defended his reasoning to not legalize marijuana on a federal level if elected president, saying there is not “enough evidence” as to “whether or not it is a gateway drug.”…“The truth of the matter is, there’s not nearly been enough evidence that has been acquired as to whether or not it is a gateway drug,” Biden said, according to Business Insider. “It’s a debate, and I want a lot more before I legalize it nationally. I want to make sure we know a lot more about the science behind it.”…Biden, as he has throughout his time on the campaign trail, said he supports medical marijuana and insisted possession of the substance “should not be a crime.”…But he also said Saturday that he thinks the decision to legalize marijuana should be left up to individual states.” If Biden loses the Democratic nomination by a close margin, his ‘gateway drug’ rationale will likely provide fodder for post-mortems attributing his defeat to being “out-of-touch.”


Political Strategy Notes

At Mother Jones, David Corn has a perceptive take on why “The Democrats’ Impeachment Strategy Is Simple—and Risky.” As Corn writes, “Less is more. ..That’s the mantra for the House Democrats, as they take their impeachment inquiry into a new phase: public hearings. For weeks, the House committees leading this effort—the intelligence, foreign affairs, and oversight committees—have narrowly focused on one matter: the Trump-Ukraine scandal and the tale of Donald Trump apparently abusing the office of the president to obtain political dirt that could influence the 2020 election. Sure, there are a lot of other issues that Democrats have previously raised as possible grounds for impeachment—Trump allegedly obstructing justice (per the Robert Mueller report), Trump regularly violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution, Trump separating children from their parents at the border, and more—but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team determined that their best bet was to zero in on one episode of wrongdoing and leave the rest alone. “It’s the KISS strategy,” one senior House Democratic staffer says. “Keep it simple, stupid.” And as one House Democrat puts it, the goal is a “medium-sized impeachment.” Nothing too elaborate, nothing too hard to follow. After the somewhat complicated Trump-Russia scandal fizzled politically, Pelosi and her crew want to base impeachment on a straightforward and comprehensible narrative. Avoid tangential plots and the need for timelines, flowcharts, and complex explanations. Don’t get hung up on the past and the 2016 election. Skip all the Russia stuff—and don’t mention Mueller ever again. Trump tried to extort a foreign government to screw with the upcoming election—and that’s impeachable enough…a medium-sized impeachment—one that ducks the totality of Trump’s misconduct—could provide the Republicans greater opportunity to fast-track a trial, quickly dismiss the entire mess, and offer what Trump will embrace as a clean bill of health. Still, if that’s the scenario that plays out, Trump will be stained—and perhaps so will some Republican senators who stick with him (depending on how the case is presented). Yet at this stage, there is no telling what the ramifications will be for the 2020 election. You can now game out it assorted ways—it helps Trump, it hurts Trump, it makes no difference. This election is likely to be shaken, rocked, and rolled by a variety of factors that no one, no matter how strong a sense of imagination they possess, can predict at this point.”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. reflects on the differences between the Nixon and Trump impeachments and the strategic implications: “Gallup recently contrasted its surveys on removing Trump from office with comparable polls about Nixon in August 1974. Gallup found that while 92 percent of Republicans rejected removing Trump last month, only 59 percent felt that way about Nixon…Other polls have found somewhat more Republican support for driving Trump from office, and it’s also true that by August 1974, the country had gone through more than a year of highly public Watergate inquiries…Nonetheless, no one can deny how much partisan polarization has deepened since Nixon. Moreover, with the 2020 election looming, Democrats have much less time than their forebears did 45 years ago. And they are operating in an information environment that is not conducive to sober reflection…Democrats hope that piling up evidence offered almost entirely by people with no political axes to grind will shift public opinion against Trump. Republicans hope to obscure the facts by arguing that there is no such thing as objective truth anymore because anyone who says anything critical of Trump must have a partisan motive…”

Malachi Barrett reports at mlive.com that “A new Democratic advertising campaign launched to win back rural Midwest voters highlights a Michigan woman who expressed embarrassment for supporting President Donald Trump…American Bridge 21st Century, a Democratic opposition research group and political action committee, dropped $3 million on commercials that began airing Wednesday, Nov. 13, in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The ads, which feature first-person testimonials from former Trump supporters, as part of a larger effort to flip white, working-class voters in battleground states…The organization is aiming to cut into Trump’s margins in traditionally Republican parts of Michigan, according to a strategy memo shared with MLive…Trump won the state by a slim margin of 0.3%, less than 11,000 votes. American Bridge believes rural white voters could make the difference in 2020…The group doesn’t expect to win a majority of those voters, just enough to tip the scales. A smaller margin of victory among white working-class voters was critical to Democrats’ historic wins in the 2018 Congressional elections, American Bridge said in a statement.”

Here’s one of the ads from the campaign:

Unless the U.S. Supreme Court decides that Trump can hide his tax returns from congressional scrutiny, it looks like they will publicly revealed. As Alex Johnson reports at nbcnews: “A federal appeals court on Wednesday let stand a ruling allowing lawmakers to subpoena President Donald Trump’s accountants for years of his financial records. A lawyer for the president promised to appeal to the Supreme Court…On an 8-3 vote, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit declined to grant a hearing before the full court, upholding a ruling last month by a three-judge panel of the court to allow the subpoena…The decision means that unless Trump appeals to the Supreme Court and wins, the House Oversight and Reform Committee can enforce its subpoena ordering the accounting firm, Mazars USA LLP, to hand over any documents in its possession related to accounts of the Trump Organization dating to January 2009.” There is no word as yet regarding how long it will take for congress to get the returns, pending high court review.

“Priorities USA is focusing on Latinos early,” reports Laura Barron-Lopez at Politico. “The Democratic super PAC is launching a sustained digital effort to woo Latinos in the run up to the 2020 presidential election, according to details of the plan provided to POLITICO…This time they are starting before 2020 and in a state that is at the heart of President Donald Trump’s re-election efforts. The digital ads which will run on Facebook and YouTube, cover pocketbook issues that Florida Latinos care about, according to the super PAC. The group didn’t specify the amount of money being spent on the Latino outreach program…The digital program includes digital banners, audio and pre-roll ads. The program also includes promoting news articles across Facebook focused on the impact of Trump’s policies on Latinos in Florida…Priorities USA said the ads will be about rising health care costs, wages, and Trump’s racist rhetoric and immigration policies.”

At The Daily Princetonian, Zachary Shevin conducts an interview with Andrew Gillum, former Tallahassee Mayor and 2018 Democratic nominee for governor of Florida. Gillum shares the following insights about how Democrats can win in Florida in 2020: “If you’re serious about winning this state, we’ve got to make the investment now. It boggles the mind how I hear and see and read people saying that Florida is now lost for Democrats. We got closer in the race for governor than any Democrat had in 24 years — 0.4 percent difference, 30,000 votes, at eight-and-a-half million votes cast. How in the world do you conclude that the biggest swing state in the country, the one state that could deny Donald Trump the presidency, is a state you give up on? That doesn’t make sense…The truth is, is that Florida does a terrible job on the Democratic side organizing outside of major election cycles. Republicans, however, organize inside and outside of election cycles…So what our strategy … is that, you know, we want to invest early on in registration, or reengagement. And when I say reengagement, I mean people who were registered to vote in ’16 and did not show up at the polls — right —  nationally, six million people. In Florida, there are four million eligible, registered people in my state who we got to go out there and get registered, not to mention reengage.”

As for pivotal issues, Gillum said, “Well, climate change is a real deal in Florida, so that’s going to be important for voters in my state. I also believe that health care is going to be important for voters that are sick. Whether you have it or not, in the state of Florida, and frankly around the country, when your premiums are increasing year over year over year, where Republicans are attempting to usher in the ability for insurance companies to yet again deny you coverage based off of preexisting conditions … We need a candidate who is going to speak to what can be done, if they were to be elected President, to help alleviate the unfair burden that saddles far too many families who are terrified of getting sick.”

From “Medicare for All a Vote Loser in 2018 U.S. House Elections” by Alan Abramowitz at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “An analysis of the impact of Medicare for All on the 2018 House elections indicates that Democratic challengers and open seat candidates in competitive districts who endorsed a version of Medicare for All similar to that proposed by Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren did significantly worse than those who did not. This negative effect, close to five points of margin after controlling for a variety of other factors, was clearly large enough to affect the outcomes of some House contests…It is possible that the estimated effect of Medicare for All was a byproduct of other differences between supporters and non-supporters. For example, supporters might have taken more liberal positions on a variety of other issues as well as Medicare for All. Even if that is the case, however, these findings are not encouraging to supporters of Medicare for All. They indicate that candidates in competitive races who take positions to the left of the median voter could get punished at the polls. Democratic presidential candidates would do well to take heed of these results, particularly as the eventual nominee determines what he or she wishes to emphasize in the general election.”


Public Support for Impeachment Holds Steady, But Dems Could Benefit by Keeping Focused on Constitutional Violations

From “What The Polls Say About Impeachment Before The First Public Hearing” by Laura Bronner and Nathaniel Rakich at FiveThirtyEight:

Support for impeachment first shot up in late September and early October, as news was piling up about Trump’s request that Ukraine investigate his political rival, but public opinion has leveled off. As of around noon Monday, according to our impeachment polling tracker, on average, 48.0 percent of Americans said they supported impeachment in one form or another, while 44.4 percent said they didn’t support it. That’s not too different from the 49.3 percent who supported impeachment and 43.5 percent who opposed it a month earlier.

In fact, even when you break impeachment polls into categories based on question wording — specifically, those that asked if people supported beginning the impeachment process, those that asked if people supported actual impeachment, and those that asked if people supported impeachment and removal — a similar picture emerges: Support for each “flavor” of impeachment has been pretty steady since early October. That said, support for beginning the process has consistently been noticeably higher than support for impeachment or support for impeachment and removal, the latter two of which have been very similar. As of Monday morning, 51.0 percent of Americans supported beginning the impeachment process, while 46.6 percent supported impeachment and 47.4 percent supported impeachment and removal.

Bronner and Rakich add, “Since Nov. 3, however, independents have been a bit more likely to support impeachment and removal than simple impeachment, and the numbers were 44.3 percent to 41.1 percent as of Monday. We’re not sure why this might be (again, it could just be noise), but it will be interesting to see whether that trend continues into the public hearing phase of the inquiry.”

Will the outcome of Impeachment help Democrats in 2020?  Matthew Yglesias and Andre Prokop write that Trump is “plausibly down just a point or two in approval ratings — in part because most Americans already disapproved of him before the story broke, so the people he’s left with are relatively hard-core supporters. Looking at Trump’s approval as a whole, his two worst moments were the unpopular 2018 tax law and the government shutdown in early 2019. Nothing that’s come out about Ukraine has been nearly that bad for his approval numbers.”

Prokop and Yglesias add, however, “to the extent that Trump’s goal was to hurt Joe Biden’s presidential prospects, his strategy is arguably working.” However, “Biden himself is, like Trump, only down slightly since the story broke, but Warren is up quite a bit.”

In his article, “Impeachment Legalism Is a Trap Democrats Must Avoid” at Bloomberg Opinion, Noah Feldman cautions, “The single most dangerous pitfall” Democrats face “is allowing too much legal talk to obfuscate the fundamental wrongness of Trump’s conduct: using the might of his office to pressure a foreign country to destroy the candidate he thought most likely to threaten his re-election.”

Feldman warns further that “laws passed by Congress — statutes — are very detailed descriptions of specific acts that count as crimes. House Republicans will likely use statutory law to come up with legal-sounding arguments to maintain that Trump has done nothing wrong. Democrats could then fall into an abyss of prattling on about “quid pro quo” and the statutory definition of extortion. What Democrats need to do instead is name Trump’s impeachable conduct for what it is: a constitutional violation and an abuse of power…Using the presidency to get Ukraine to investigate Biden was – obviously  — a brazen attempt to gain unfair advantage in the 2020 election. That abuse of power is a high crime and misdemeanor. It merits impeachment. And legalism shouldn’t be allowed to distract the public from it.”


Political Strategy Notes

In “The ultimate guide to the Donald Trump impeachment saga,” Matthew Yglesias and Andrew Prokop address the question, “What’s Going on in the Polls? Is any of this hurting Trump?”: “The potential impeachment of Donald Trump has been a hot topic of political discussion for a long time, and it’s mostly been unpopular. According to FiveThirtyEight’s comprehensive tracker of impeachment polls, in the period between the release of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report and the storm of Ukraine news, support for impeaching Trump ranged between 35 and 40 percent, with opposition consistently above 50 percent…That has changed since the Ukraine story became public knowledge, with support for impeaching Trump now hovering around 50 percent and opposition a bit below 45 percent. Note, however, that while impeachment has gotten a lot more popular, it lags behind overall approval of Trump’s job performance. A somewhat larger share of the public say they disapprove of Trump than those who say they want to see him impeached.”

Will Impeachment Matter in 2020?” Elaine Kamarck addresses the question at Brookings and observes, “Impeachment has taken on enormous importance to the political class because it is an issue of constitutional and historical import. But in the end it may not matter to voters very much at all. Opinion about Trump has been fairly stable since he was elected—he is probably the most polarizing American president since the Civil War—so impeachment may simply play into people’s already hardened attitudes. In addition, other things might end up being more important in 2020. Demographic trends like the maturation of a generation of Latino voters, for instance, may start to have electoral consequences in 2020…The fact that public opinion on impeachment and opinion on Trump appears to be stuck in a holding pattern may simply be a reflection of a firmly polarized electorate. If, as appears to be the case, a trial in the Senate is wrapped up by early 2020, impeachment may be a distant memory by November.”

E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s Washington Post column, “Democrats have put their differences above beating Trump. Bloomberg is a symptom not a cure,” merits a thoughtful read by Democrats. As Dionne, writes, “Democratic presidential candidates are doing a bang-up job of suggesting that their differences matter more than defeating Trump. And former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s preparations to enter the contest won’t help…Let it be said that despite serious blind spots, Bloomberg was a very good and, on many fronts, broadly progressive mayor. He deserves our thanks for using his wealth to finance an increasingly powerful gun-control movement…But it’s hard to see his winning a lot of Democratic primaries, and not just because he turned himself into a temporary Republican to get to City Hall. From the moment word went out that he was pondering a campaign for president, he sharpened the class and ideological divisions within the Democratic electorate…Somewhere on the seventh tee, the phony populist Trump is laughing. One side of the Democratic Party is denouncing its foes as class enemies and apologists of the rich. The other argues that champions of the left will destroy the American economy. Is this how Democrats want to spend the next few months?”

Regarding the highest policy priority of the Dems, Dionne ads, “Democrats have the high ground on health care now. In Kentucky’s race for governor, Democrat Andy Beshear demonstrated that even Trump voters want to save and build on the Affordable Care Act. Why throw away this advantage? All Democrats should support universal coverage, but we can get there, as other countries have, through mixed public-private systems. Arguments over Medicare-for-all would make sense after we finish the initial work of covering everyone…But here’s the larger issue: Democrats need a leader who can remind progressives and moderates that they have far more in common than their current strife would suggest. These competing camps agree on the urgency of ousting Trump, but also on getting health insurance to everyone, moving forcefully on climate change, acting humanely on immigration, defending civil and voting rights, and pushing back against growing inequality…The person who rises to the task of pulling these sides together will deserve the nomination. Will one of these candidates even audition for the part?”

It turns out that 2019 has been a very good year for Democratic women. As Julia Manchester explains at The Hill: “Democratic women candidates backed by groups such as Emerge America continued to make gains in the 2019 elections, closing the gender gap in a number of state and local governments…In Virginia, a record 65 Democratic women won their races in the House of Delegates and the state Senate, giving Democrats majorities in both legislatures…Tuesday’s elections also saw women win mayoral races for the first time in Scranton and Tucson, and make up a majority for the first time on Boston’s City Council…Officials at Emerge, an organization devoted to electing Democratic women, emphasized the adoption of a strategy that targeted GOP-controlled districts that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016 in Virginia…The group reported having backed over 230 candidates on the ballot in the 2019 election, with 125 of those women winning their races as of Wednesday.”

Nathaniel Rakich writes at FiveThirtyEight: “There’s one last lesson that the 2019 results suggest about 2020, but it’s one that we already knew: Turnout is likely to be through the roof. In Kentucky, we estimate based on preliminary data that 43 percent of the voting-eligible population cast a ballot for governor; not only is that much, much higher than the 30 percent of the voting-eligible population that we estimate turned out in 2015, but it’s also higher than the 42 percent who voted in the Senate race in the regular 2010 midterm election. In Virginia, we already know that more people voted than in any state-legislative-only election since at least 1976 — and The Washington Post estimates that there could be thousands of votes left to count. If we see a corresponding spike in turnout between 2016 (already a pretty high-turnout election by recent standards) and 2020, polling places could be overwhelmed with voters. Americans are telling pollsters that their levels of interest in the upcoming election are at unprecedented highs — and according to one recent poll, they are already more excited about voting than they were on the eve of the 2016 and 2012 elections!”

In his article, “A Dem for All Seasons” at The New York Review of Books, Michael Tomasky concludes, “So it might turn out that all this hand-wringing about the Democrats is misplaced. On the other hand, if they should have learned one lesson from 2016, it would be about the perils of overconfidence. They need to put the Obama coalition back together. And they mustn’t choose between Obama-to-Trump white working-class voters and younger, more multiracial and “woke” voters. They need both. It’s the nature of the Democratic coalition, which is far more diverse—racially and ideologically—than the Republican one. Right now, the two current front-runners are speaking to only part of the coalition. The nominee will be the one—Biden, Warren, or in this still-fluid contest perhaps someone else entirely—who can best reassure the other part.”

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall focuses on whether “deepening animosity between Democrats and Republicans based on genuine differences over policy and ideology or is it a form of tribal warfare rooted in an atavistic us-versus-them mentality?” Edsall presents arguments for both alternatives, and quotes “an astute Democratic strategist,” who says there are more voters who “have a very negative opinion of just one party (87 percent) than identify with one of the parties (67 percent). So, negative partisanship explains the behavior of many more voters…negative partisans vote more consistently against the opposite party than partisans vote for their party.” Edsall adds that “The remaining “persuadables” — an estimated 13 percent of voters, with little or no partisan commitment — will play a central role in determining the outcome in 2020.”

Further, Edsall notes, “My source cited polling data from a “consortium of Democratic groups” showing that in 2016 the small fraction of the electorate made up of persuadables voted for Trump 41-36, but in 2018 they voted for Democratic House candidates 57-41. At the moment, he said, polling shows that these swing voters currently prefer a generic Democrat to Trump 54-28, with 19 percent undecided.” Edssall’s source adds that ““no one — including political commentators — has evidence-based answers to your question of what will move this group (or any other definition of ‘swing’ voters).”


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.”