washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

Harry Enten explains why “There’s no sign of ‘hidden’ Trump voters” at CNN politics: “Even though the national polls were accurate in 2016, one of the complaints I hear most often about the polls is that Trump’s supporters are either lying or won’t talk to pollsters. Polls like Ipsos get around that argument because they use machines (e.g. they’re done online) to conduct the interviews. There’s no reason to lie to a machine. If Trump was doing significantly better in these non-live interview polls, then these critics of the polls may have a point…The evidence indicates these detractors are, at least in this moment, wrong. There’s no sign of shy Trump voters. Trump doesn’t do any better in polls without a live interviewer…The average of national surveys (accounting for the fact that some pollsters survey more often) this week from pollsters who didn’t have a live interviewer put Biden up over Trump 50% to 39% (10 points unrounded). That’s a huge advantage and very similar to the latest live interview poll average that has Biden up 51% to 41%…Biden’s lead over Trump this past week was double what it was a month ago in the non-live interview polls.”

“Biden, a lifelong Roman Catholic, has performed better in recent polling among white evangelicals — and other religious groups — than Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton did in 2016 and is widely perceived as more religious than the current White House occupant,” Gabby Orr writes in “Trump allies see a mounting threat: Biden’s rising evangelical support” at Politico. “A Pew Research study conducted earlier this year showed that a majority of U.S. adults (63 percent) think Trump is “not at all” or “not too religious,” versus 55 percent who said they believed Biden is somewhat or very religious…Rob Stutzman, a Republican strategist who has argued that Biden has an opening to make inroads with Christian conservatives, said the candidate should invoke his faith more often, as opposed to constantly referencing his accomplishments from his time as vice president and a member of the U.S. Senate…“He would be well-served to talk more in those terms, instead of telling people to check out his record,” Stutzman said. “There are a lot of themes that fit the moment related to justice, authority and loving your neighbor and not in a way that would necessarily make white evangelicals uncomfortable if Biden could speak to them.”

At The Nation, John Nichols argues that Kentucky State Rep. Charles Booker’s chances of winning the Democratic nomination have improved dramatically om recent weeks. Nichols says Booker “now has a real chance of beating the pick of DC insiders for the party’s nomination in one of the highest-profile Senate contests of 2020…A fresh Data for Progress poll puts Booker at 44 percent versus 36 percent for retired Marine fighter pilot and Democratic primary candidate Amy McGrath, whose “unimaginative and uninspiring” campaign has, in the words of the Louisville Courier-Journal, “fallen flat in these final weeks of the campaign.” In addition to securing the endorsements of Sen. Bernie Sanders and Alexandria   Ocasio-Cotez, “Booker has also collected endorsements from Kentucky’s two largest newspapers, the Louisville Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald-Leader; popular sports commentator Matt Jones; legislative leaders from across the state; former Kentucky secretary of state Alison Lundergan Grimes (who ran against McConnell in 2014); and former state attorney general Greg Stumbo.”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes, “Trump’s begging Chinese dictator Xi Jinping to help him win reelection and his praise for Xi’s detention of 1 million Muslim Uighurs in indoctrination and forced-labor camps are the most shocking revelations in former national security adviser John Bolton’s new book…These revelations matter because they show that the very heart of Trump’s appeal — to “Make America Great Again” by putting “America First” — is a lie all the way down. The paltry crowd he drew to his Saturday rally in Tulsa suggests that a spirit of doubt is taking hold even in his onetime strongholds…So from here forward, remember that whenever Trump uses the word “China,” he is talking about a regime he approached as a supplicant and whose repressive powers he envies.”

Sttephen Wolf reports that “House Democrats are poised to pass statehood for Washington, D.C., next week as Senate support grows at Daily Kos, and notes, “On Tuesday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced that the full U.S. House will vote on granting statehood to Washington, D.C. on June 26. With a majority of House members already in support, Washington, D.C.’s statehood is expected to soon pass a chamber of Congress for the first time in U.S. history. This vote comes in response to the nation’s recent wave of unrest over police brutality and discrimination against Black Americans. It would serve as a pointed rebuke to the Trump administration after it teargassed peaceful protestors and used the military to occupy parts of the city, which Trump was able to do largely because of the lack of statehoodand its legal protections against federal interference.” Among the political calculations: “If Democrats win back the Senate in November, statehood supporters come within striking distance of a majority, especially since Democratic candidates who’ve come out in support of statehood—such as Montana’s Gov. Steve Bullock—could flip Republican-held seats. If Democrats eliminate the filibuster, it would only take a simple majority vote to admit Washington, D.C. as a state, and if statehood-supporter Joe Biden wins the White House and his vice president breaks a tie in favor, statehood would only need 10 more Senate votes to pass.”

In “How Americans Feel About ‘Defunding The Police’,” Nathaniel Rakich writes at FiveThirtyEight, “There’s some disagreement about what exactly the slogan means. Some activists actually do want to disband police departments entirely, while others argue that police budgets should be radically decreased, but not brought down to zero. But even among those who want to abolish the police, some say they want to do so over time…But while the slogan is suddenly everywhere, so far it doesn’t poll well. Four polls conducted in the past two weeks1 found that Americans opposed the “defund the police” movement or “defunding police departments” 58 percent to 31 percent, on average…The slogan is unpopular with most demographic groups, too, with two notable exceptions: Black Americans and Democrats. In the two polls where results were broken down by race, Black respondents said they supported defunding the police by an average of 45 percent to 28 percent, while white respondents opposed it by an average of 61 percent to 23 percent.”

In “Other Polling Bites,” Rakich notes, “Researchers at Harvard, Stanford and the University of Texas at Austin are out with a cool YouGov poll surveying Americans on the cases before the Supreme Court this term… For example, respondents said 83 percent to 17 percent that they believed it should be illegal for employees to be fired because of their sexual orientation, the subject of Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia. Respondents also favored keeping the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the subject of Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, 61 percent to 39 percent. And this week, the court sided with the American public on both cases.”

“The Biden campaign plans to seize upon Trump’s Tulsa claim that he asked officials to “slow the [coronavirus] testing down, please” to focus on Trump’s broader policy goal of dismantling the Affordable Care Act (Trump’s campaign later said he was joking.),” Jonathan Swan reports at axios.com.The Biden strategy is pretty straightforward: Reiterate Biden’s commitment to Obamacare while signaling that he is open to revising it with a public option — all while drawing a contrast with President Trump, who continues to call for its repeal…Even during the pandemic, the Trump administration is continuing its assault on one of President Obama’s signature issues and is expected to file a Supreme Court brief to repeal the law this week…Biden’s campaign is salivating about that expected filing and will use it to bludgeon Trump on both his COVID-19 response and his opposition to Obamacare…Expect Biden’s team to call on Trump to explain how he plans to provide health care to an estimated 20 million Americans who have lost their jobs, and likely, their health insurance.”

At The Cook Political Report, Amy Walter writes, “Polling out this week from the Des Moines Register also found Trump’s standing to be weakening in the Hawkeye State. He led Biden by just one point, 44 to 43 percent. Back in March, Trump enjoyed a 10-point (51-41 percent) lead over Biden…Even so, the demographics of Iowa are still going to be a challenge for Biden. According to an analysis of the 2016 electorate for the liberal think tank, American Progress, Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin found that 62 percent of the Iowa electorate was white and did not hold a college degree. They voted for Trump by 23 points. As Teixeira and Halpin wrote last year about this state: “For the Democratic candidate, his or her fortunes are clearly dependent on moving the very large white non-college group in their direction…The Des Moines Register poll found some significant movement among non-college white women. According to the survey, Biden leads among this group by 18 points. In 2016, exit polls showed Trump winning with these women by two points (49-47 percent). Among non-college men, Trump still held a wide lead of 36 points.”


Political Strategy Notes

An excerpt from Geoffrey Skelley’s “The Latest Swing State Polls Look Good For Biden” at FiveThirtyEight: “As for the polling picture in the Sun Belt states — Arizona, Georgia and Texas — they all seemed more or less in line with what you would expect, once you account for Biden’s lead in the national polls and how these states voted in 2016. But they do signal potential trouble for Trump. For instance, the fact that Trump carried Arizona by 3.5 points in 2016 seems to have been erased by Biden’s polling lead. On average, Biden led by 3 points, including a high-quality early June survey from Fox News that showed him up 4 points. In Georgia and Texas, on the other hand, Trump was still in the lead, by 1 and 2 points, respectively. Yet this is not as cushy of a margin as one would expect for Trump, considering he carried Georgia by 5 points and Texas by 9 points in 2016. If this trio of states are all in play — and Arizona is possibly even leaning Democratic — that would give Biden many additional paths to 270 electoral votes…Polls in Florida, the über swing state, also tilted slightly toward Biden, though we didn’t have much in the way of high-quality polls here. These surveys all gave Biden a narrow lead ranging from 1 to 5 points. Meanwhile, North Carolina’s eight polls suggest a competitive race in the state — collectively, the results ranged from Trump by 3 points to Biden by 4 points, averaging out to about even.”

In “Other Polling Bites, Skelley notes, “60 percent of people who said they intended to vote for Biden in November said their support for Biden is more “a vote against Donald Trump” than “a vote for Joe Biden,” according to a new CNN/SSRS poll, while just 37 percent of Biden backers said that their support for Biden was more a vote for him. Conversely, 70 percent of Trump backers said that their support of Trump was more a vote for him than against Biden, while just 27 percent described it as more a vote against Biden than a vote for Trump.”

In “The Tea Party’s Last Stand: The legions that swept over the Republican Party in 2010 aren’t ascendant today—and they’ve scared a lot of other Republicans away,” Stanley B. Greenberg writes about Trump’s supporters at The American Prospect: “His relentless, venomous base strategy has created a bloc of Republican refugees who have nothing but contempt for his armed Tea Party, anti-stay-at-home protesters…The proportion of Republicans who call themselves moderates has dropped from 23 percent in 2018 to only 16 percent now. When the McCain conservatives are added to those moderates, they now constitute 35 percent of the party, down from 41 percent two years ago. That leaves President Trump with a secure hold over his enthusiastic base—but as I wrote in March in The Atlantic, the Republican Party is “a diminished party” that is “shedding voters.”…When Trump took office, about 39 to 40 percent of Americans identified with the Republican Party. That fell to about 35 to 36 percent. Today, in the wake of the George Floyd protests, Republican identification has fallen to 33 percent.”…President Trump is trapped by a pandemic and protests that only magnify his insecurity and weak hold on his own party—and by his need to provoke a Tea Party to make its last stand.”

Observations from Rep. Jim Clyburn on the topic of police reform vs. ‘defund the police’, as reported by Zeesham Aleem  at Vox: “In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Clyburn firmly opposed embracing the concept amid Democrats’ push for criminal justice reform legislation…“I would simply say, as I have always said, nobody is going to defund the police,” he said. “We can restructure the police forces, restructure, reimagine policing. That is what we are going to do…“The fact of the matter is this is a structure that has been developed that we’ve got to deconstruct. So I wouldn’t say defund. Deconstruct our policing,” he said..The fact of the matter is, the police have a role to play. What we have got to do is make sure that their role is one that meets the times, one that responds to these communities that they operate in…Clyburn has previously suggested that he opposes defunding the police because he believes it is a phrase that is vulnerable to opposition messaging from the GOP…“You know all that will do is give Donald Trump the cover he needs,” Clyburn told CNN’s Ana Cabrera Saturday in a separate discussion about the slogan. “I’ve been saying to people all the time, ‘If you allow yourself to play the opponent’s game, you’re going to lose and the opponent will win.’ Let’s not play his game.”

In “As virus cases rise in states where Trump won, Republican attitudes may shift,” Tom McCarthy notes at The Guardian: “In the early stages of the pandemic, African Americans died of Covid-19 at three times the rate of white people, according to figures compiled by the non-partisan APM Research Lab. Only 21% of Covid-19 deaths by late May were recorded in counties won by Trump in 2016, according to a New York Times analysis…But coronavirus cases are now growing quickly in some rural and exurban areas with strong Trump support. Covid-19 cases are climbing in Arizona, Florida, South Carolina and Arkansas, and in Texas hospitalizations for Covid-19 are up 42% since Memorial Day…A relative lack of health infrastructure in parts of rural America and economic devastation from the Covid-19 closures mean that already vulnerable communities could be overwhelmed. Older, rural voters in Republican-led states that declined to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act are more likely to lack health insurance than the urban poor, according to a 2018 study.”

Simon Tisdale explains why “Joe Biden needs more than virtue to win. He will have to pick an exciting vice-president,” also at The Guardian: “Biden indicated last year that, should he win, he would only serve one term. Running again as an octogenarian was more or less ruled out, assuming he could count on a trusted successor. That makes his choice of vice president, or veep, vastly more important than usual. His pick can expect a ready-made launchpad for their own 2024 presidential bid – and a reasonable chance of success…More than anything, picking a black woman, with the possibility of her becoming the first female president, would be a historic move. It would inject excitement and moral authority into Biden’s campaign, especially among younger voters. It would be hailed as a major, practical advance for racial equality and a rebuff to the white supremacist Trump rump…It would be a signal that America really is changing. And it would offer posthumous vindication to George Floyd and the many, many others who have suffered as he did.”

“A lot of the reason why young people don’t turn out and vote is because they see voting and registration as overly complex and difficult and foreign to them,” John Holbein, co-author of ‘Making Young Voters: Converting Civic Attitudes into Civic Action Reforms‘ notes in an interview at The American Prospect. “Reforms that make registration easier, such as same-day registration that allow young people to register when they show up at the ballot box (if they missed a voter registration deadline) and other reforms that make registration more transparent and easy— increase youth voter participation quite a bit…So number one is teaching young people the skills and knowledge they need to participate. Number two is making the voting process more streamlined, more transparent and easier. Given that young people really want to engage, these types of things will actually help them follow through on that…The evidence that we have on vote-by-mail suggests that young people really latch onto this reform. There’s great evidence out of the state of Washington, which implemented its universal vote by mail system a couple of years ago that suggests that young people when given the opportunity to vote by mail, it increases the chances that they’ll go vote. They spring into action.”

Thomas B. Edsall shares perceptive insights about racial injustice and politics at this political moment from Democratic Pollster Celinda Lake”: “1) There has emerged a much stronger awareness of racism and discrimination especially around policing and the chance to get ahead. 2) The pattern of killings and the video have had a cumulative effect of creating a real turning point. 3) Trump’s response had been so out of touch with what people were feeling and the pain, healing, and change they want. 4) It’s a different America than Trump understands especially with young voters so diverse and white women so upset at his style of governing. 5) And then there are unexpected and vivid validators, the generals and police themselves.”

Washington Post coilumnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes that “the coming months are critical as the news turns inevitably back to the resurgence of the novel coronavirus. Former vice president Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress have an obligation to turn the shock of moral recognition from Floyd’s murder into a movement for a new community…Precisely because Biden is widely seen as a traditional figure of restoration, he has been given a historic opportunity to argue that restoration demands change. To become “who we think we are,” Americans must break decisively not only with the Trumpian present but also with the long history of reaction the president represents…More than that: Biden can make the case, as he has begun to, that those who genuinely seek, yes, law and order must embrace justice and reform as the only alternatives to fragmentation and ongoing chaos. We will continue to be tormented, as the Atlantic’s Adam Serwer observed, as long as we refuse to deal comprehensively with our legacy of racism.”


Political Strategy Notes

The Democrats have a nominee for the U.S. Senate seat in Georgia now occupied by Republican Sen. David Perdue. As Greg Bluestein reports at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Jon Ossoff captured the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, emerging from a crowded field that included two well-financed rivals to win an outright victory in the race to challenge U.S. Sen. David Perdue…Ossoff, 33, notched a clear win that eluded him three years ago when he waged a special election campaign for a suburban Atlanta congressional district that earned national attention..His victory comes after a primary marred by long lines, equipment malfunctions and missing absentee ballots that put the state’s voting problems in the national spotlight…Ossoff’s victory was called by The Associated Press as absentee ballots from metro Atlanta, his biggest base of support, steadily boosted his vote total above the 50% mark.” His message: “This is not a moment to let up. This is a moment to double down,” said Ossoff, who owns an investigative journalism firm. “We can no longer go down a path of authoritarianism, of racism, of corruption. We are better than this…“I expose corruption for a living,” he said at a forum, “and David Perdue sells access for campaign cash.”

Bluestein continues, “The coronavirus pandemic may have helped his campaign, too. All three candidates were forced to resort to virtual campaigning as restrictions took hold in March, but analysts said it could give candidates with high profiles and deep pockets an edge since old-fashioned retail politicking was largely off-limits…Armed with the endorsements of U.S. Reps. Hank Johnson and John Lewis — veteran Democrats he considers mentors — Ossoff has embraced left-leaning policies he didn’t emphasize during his 2017 campaign…Ossoff has talked often about deep racial inequities that shape every facet of American life, and he’s promised to fight for stronger civil rights protections, an end to mandatory minimum prison sentences and a ban on private prisons…One of his recent TV ads invokes the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old shot dead while running near his Brunswick neighborhood, in his push to overhaul the criminal justice system. He’s called the pandemic a “massive wake-up call” to expand health insurance and bolster public health funding.”

Ossoff had the endorsement of Rep. John Lewis, and he hopes to build a broad electoral coalition to win the seat. African Americans are nearly 1/3 of Georgia’s eligible voters. So it’s possible that Ossoff could win in November with 2 out of 7 white voters. Stacy Abrams, the Democratic candidate for Governor in 2018, has mobilized an energetic campaign against voter suppression, and if her efforts produce an increase in Black voter turnout, Ossoff could benefit. Georgia’s other senate seat, now occupied by  Republican appointee Kelly Loeffler, will also be on the ballot in a special election. Voters will chose from a long list of candidates on the ballot, with party identifiers by their names. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the top two finishers will advance to a runoff election on January 5, 2021. Both Republican incumbent senators are facing tough questions about insider trading and profiteering from the coronavirus pandemic.

At Newsweek, James Walker reports that “Donald Trump’s Economic Approval Rating Falls Below 50 Percent for First Time in Over Two Years.” Walker writes, “The latest presidential approval poll, published by Gallup on Wednesday, found that 47 percent of U.S. adults approved of the president’s record on the economy…When the same poll was conducted in January, Trump’s economy approval rating was 16 points higher—standing at 63 percent…The last time the president had an economic approval rating below 50 percent was in November 2017, when Gallup found only 45 percent of U.S. adults backed his record on the issue…In the pollster’s latest survey, 51 percent of respondents said they disapproved of the president’s handling of the economy—a level also unseen since Gallup’s November 2017 poll…Asked for their overall opinion of Trump’s performance in the Oval Office thus far, less than four in ten (39 percent) said they approved. Fifty-seven percent of surveyed Americans said they disapproved of the president’s record in office…The current unemployment rate exceeds anything seen since the Great Depression, when roughly a quarter of the working population was out of a job.”

John Cassidy explains why “Why the Polls Are Alarming for Donald Trump” at The New Yorker: “Here are some bad signs for Trump that struck me after I spent some time burrowing into the invaluable polling databases that are maintained by RealClearPolitics and FiveThirtyEight…In the past two months, Trump hasn’t led in a single national poll. The FiveThirtyEight general-election database contains the results of hundreds of surveys, and the last one showing Trump in front of Biden nationally was conducted by Change Research on April 2nd and 3rd—a moment at which Bernie Sanders was still contesting the Democratic primary. Back in 2016, Trump trailed Hillary Clinton in the vast majority of national surveys, too. But, during the two-month period from April 9th to June 9th of that year, he led in five of them, including a poll in May from ABC News/Washington Post that got quite a bit of attention. Since early April of this year, every single national poll in the FiveThirtyEight database, including some that tend to lean Republican, has shown Biden ahead.”

Cassidy adds, “Polls from key states are also pointing to trouble for Trump. The R.C.P. database lists thirteen states as battlegrounds: Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. According to R.C.P.’s poll averages, Trump is leading in just three of these states—Iowa, North Carolina, and Texas—and only in Iowa is his advantage more than three percentage points. In Arizona, Florida, and Ohio, all of which Trump carried in 2016, Biden is slightly ahead. And in Michigan, which was another linchpin of Trump’s 2016 victory in the Electoral College, a new poll released on Monday showed Biden doubling his lead, to twelve points, compared with a survey that the same pollster, EPIC-MRA, took in January…Finally, compared with this point in 2016, Biden is much less unpopular than Clinton was.” Hoever, “Biden’s polling lead in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin—two of the Rust Belt states that ensured Trump’s Electoral College victory in 2016—is small: 3.3 percentage points and 3.4 percentage points, respectively, according to the R.C.P. averages.”

At The Boston Review, professor Jocelyn Simonson shares some insights regarding “Power Over Policing,” which Democratic candidates may find helpful in honing their messaging. Simonson notes that “There is a distressing disconnect between the ringing demands for justice on the streets and the suite of “police reform” proposals that many experts say satisfy these demands. Protesters and social movements talk about divesting from policing and investing in black communities. They talk about ensuring that “the most impacted in our communities need to control the laws, institutions, and policies that are meant to serve us,” as the Movement for Black Lives stated in its list of demands this week. The call is for stability, resources, control. The call is for power.” Further, “expert explications of the gold standard methods of “reforming police departments” focus on how to increase the efficiency and decrease the harmfulness of existing police forces. They emphasize measurable “success” in police reform: either instrumentally focusing on the “costs” and “benefits” of particular police tactics or seeking out “legitimacy” and cooperation between law enforcement and communities.”

In his article, “Biden: The 21st-Century FDR?” Harold Meyerson writes at The American Prospect that “the president who Biden now hopes to model himself on isn’t so much Lincoln as it is Franklin Roosevelt—specifically, the FDR who tilted public policy in favor of workers and a more and better managed capitalism…If Biden is serious about initiating the huge economic reforms and the economic recovery the country so manifestly needs, not to mention the reforms required to move us toward more actual, more lived racial equality, he’ll need to rely on advisers who aren’t the 21st-century versions of Douglas and Morgenthau—who aren’t, in short, Summers and Emanuel. He shouldn’t take my word for it; he should ask what would Roosevelt and Lincoln do?”

“Biden, by most accounts, has been a different man since the pandemic hit,” Michale Tomasky writes at The New York Review of Books. “Last year, he sometimes spoke of his presidency as a return to a pre-Trump era. Now, with unemployment nearing 15 percent and calls for change from protesters becoming more urgent—and with the crisis starkly laying bare the economic precarity in which so many Americans were living even before the virus hit—he sees himself in the mold of Franklin Roosevelt, a leader who would rise to the vast challenge history has thrust upon him and introduce sweeping change. The change in Biden has sometimes been overstated. But it is real, and it makes the prospect of a Biden presidency (provided it’s combined with Democratic capture of the Senate) far more intriguing than it was just two months ago…It’s not so much that the virus has moved Biden to the left. Rather, it has nudged reality leftward, and Biden has followed…So Biden’s current shift is probably less a policy shift than a persona shift. But we shouldn’t gainsay the potential importance of persona shifts. They can lead politicians to change their emphasis and their actual priorities.”


Political Strategy Notes

Stephen Collinson’s article, “Pressure mounts on Trump to project unity” at CNN politics iluminates a  glaring weakness of the GOP in the 2020 campaign, alongside one of Joe Biden’s unique assets as the likely Democratic presidential nominee. Collinson reports, “President Donald Trump, appearing badly out of touch with a national outpouring of support for racial justice and shedding political support just five months before the election, is edging toward a belated call for national unity…But after spending two weeks ripping at racial wounds and painting a picture of a nation under siege from looters, domestic terrorists and radicals, he’s probably already missed his chance…Trump’s team is beginning to signal a shift that might see the President tone down the rhetoric in a bid to win back independents and moderate suburban Republicans that he needs to win in November.” This would be a very tough sale for Trump, having squandered three and a half years dividing and polarizing Americans to an unprecedented extent. And it’s not just Trump. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has marinated in scorched-earth partisanship. Together, Trump and McConnell have branded the GOP as the party of polarization, and five months won’t be enough time to turn it around. At the same time, Joe Biden’s compassionate personality, his impressive ability to reach out to disadvantaged Americans and his appeals to polarization-weary Americans to build bridges of unity instead of walls of division should serve Democrats well in November.

In his article, “Voters Unlikely to Want to Stay the Course” at The Cook Political Report, Charlie Cook puts it this way: “As far as intraparty politics, it would seem that Trump now practically owns the Republican Party, having taken it away from those who had been its establishment figures and benefactors. According to the same strategist, there are three “institutional realities” that make Trump’s success within the party and how he wins his 90 percent approval rating among Republicans time and again. He cites “the Fox et al information system, greater credibility with and support from Republican voters than almost any of the 53 Republican senators enjoy in their own states, and a Republican Party that has been accelerating its abuse of norms in response to its diminishing popularity.” I have often wondered myself what was behind Trump’s hostile takeover of a party that he had only recently joined and whether the party’s back-to-back losses to Barack Obama, a figure reviled within the tea-party movement, might have contributed to this primal scream of frustration and rebellion against the long-dominant establishment…We still have just over five months until the election, which is plenty of time for things to change. But right now, this election is not headed in a direction that any Republican can like. Moreover, events of the past two months are hardly ones that would make voters want to “stay the course” or chant “four more years.”

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall explores the possible political fallout of the protests, coronovirus pandemic and economic meltdown, and writes, “While fear of disorder and crime tend to play into the hands of the Republican Party, at least traditionally, the opposite is true of health care and economic crises, which play to Democratic strengths as the party more sympathetic to the concerns of those who are suffering…In the context of three simultaneous crises — the pandemic, the economy and nationwide protests over police brutality toward African-Americans — Trump’s attempts to assert his role as the hard-nosed embodiment of law-and-order have been undermined by the public’s harsh assessment of his leadership role during the pandemic.”

Edsall continues, “How the protests, both peaceful and violent, will play out on Nov. 3 remains uncertain. Perry Bacon Jr., a senior writer at FiveThirtyEight.com, points out that over the last decade, many whites, especially white Democrats, “have become increasingly conscious of discrimination against black Americans — particularly in the years since Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in 2012 and Michael Brown was shot and killed in 2014.”…The looting of drugstores and high-end retail — much of it videotaped and repeatedly broadcast — may undermine the strength of these emerging liberal convictions. But will that matter more than Floyd’s stark death, which also exists on tape for all to see?…Which narrative prevails in the aftermath — legitimate grievance or rapacious looting — will play a key role in determining who our next president is and how the nation will resolve the tension between grief and anger.”

Noting the mess in last week’s primaries in Maryland and Washington, D.C., E.J. Dionne, Jr. warns, “Both the District of Columbia and Maryland hoped to push as much voting by mail as possible. It was an admirable instinct during a pandemic, but it didn’t work out so well…A big problem in both places: Optimism about voting by mail encouraged election officials to slash the number of polling places and voting centers — in Washington from the normal 143 to a mere 20. In Baltimore, a city with 296 precincts, there were only six Election Day voting sites…Mail voting means that even efficient systems can take a long time to get to a final result. Mailed ballots typically count as long as they are postmarked on Election Day. This means votes are still flowing in a week or more after the election. Americans need to be prepared for the possibility that because of mail voting, we may not know the winner until well after election night. Forewarning is the vaccine against the virus of Trump’s voter fraud claims.”

“Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden doubled his lead over President Trump in the battleground state of Michigan, according to a new poll,” Rebecca Klar writes at The Hill. ” Biden leads Trump by 12 points, earning 53 percent support compared with Trump’s 41 percent, according to a EPIC-MRA poll reported by the Detroit Free Press on Sunday…Biden’s lead in the latest poll is double his 6-point lead over the president in a poll conducted by EPIC-MRA in January, when Biden had 50 percent support compared with Trump’s 44 percent…The majority of independent voters, a key bloc in the battleground state, said they are backing Biden, with 63 percent saying they support the former vice president and 23 percent saying they support Trump, the newspaper reported…The same poll found that the majority of likely Michigan voters said they were not pleased with Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic…Fifty-eight percent of likely voters gave Trump a negative rating, 41 percent gave him a positive rating, and 1 percent were undecided or refused to say, according to the report of the survey.”

Alex Thompson and James Arkin write in Politico that “The left wing has been wiped out in Senate primaries or failed to recruit at all in states across the map this year, leaving a slate of centrist candidates more in the ideological mold of Joe Biden than Bernie Sanders…Still, some take heart that at least many of the candidates in swing states are more liberal than their counterparts just a decade ago. Every Senate candidate in a major race, from Mark Kelly in Arizona to Cal Cunningham in North Carolina, supports a public option to compete with private health insurance plans. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock supports repealing the Senate filibuster so that legislation can pass with a simple majority…Even if Democrats win control of the chamber and eliminate the filibuster from Senate rules, their majority would be slim — meaning any big ticket agenda items would need the support of more moderate incumbent senators like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin and Arizona’s Kyrsten Synema and the incoming moderates…Party strategists argue their recruited candidates have won or are poised to win because of their fundraising power, in-state political networks and voters’ desire to back the candidate seen as most likely to unseat the incumbent Republicans.”

At Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Alan I. Abramowitz writes that “Recent polling in 13 swing states shows a consistent advantage for the presumptive Democratic challenger, Joseph Biden, over the current Republican incumbent, Donald Trump. Biden leads Trump in all 13 states, although his margin in five states is less than five points. In several of these states, the final 2016 polling overestimated Hillary Clinton’s support. However, Biden is also doing considerably better in the polls than Clinton did in the final 2016 polls in these swing states…Not only is Joe Biden doing considerably better in recent swing state polls than Hillary Clinton did in these states in the 2016 election, but he is also doing considerably better than she did in the final polls in these states. In fact, Biden’s recent polling is better than Clinton’s final poll results in 11 of these 13 states, with Minnesota and Wisconsin the only exceptions. On average, Biden is polling almost five points ahead of Clinton’s final poll results in terms of margin.” Abramowitz adds, “The recent 2020 polling results correlate much more strongly with the 2016 election results than with the final 2016 polling results…This suggests that pollsters have adjusted their sampling and weighting procedures to correct for some of the problems that occurred in 2016 in light of the 2016 results.”

Christopher Reeves shares some thoughts on “Nuts & Bolts: Inside a Democratic campaign. Creating your own frame” at Daily Kos: “The one mistake that Democratic candidates make in trying to achieve the frame is that it cannot be about just a bumper sticker. It cannot be about a big, bold refusal. Republicans respond to bumper stickers. Democratic voters want paragraphs. To convince both, you have to have both. You have to have a quick point and substance, too…In your local races, you should find signature issues you are for and discuss them first. Make them simple to understand, advance the framework, and make sure your opponent answers the questions. You also have to be prepared to show that you understand that topic, really care about it, and that it isn’t just a buzzy talking point. You do so by making sure your argument demolishes the Republican counterargument…Use your arguments at every level to snare your opponent, get them talking about issues you are advancing, and deal with the true issues on the ground rather than in hypotheticals…If you allow Republicans to spend an election cycle talking about problems they create and bad guy straw men they must defeat, you will have very little time to get your own messages out into the race and start the discussion on those issues.”


Political Strategy Notes – Conservatives Turn on Trump Edition

Every day brings news of more Republicans getting fed up with Trump’s polarizing insanity and his  ‘Reign of Rage.’ In “Bush administration alums form pro-Biden super PAC,” Tal Axelrod reports at The Hill: “Former officials from the George W. Bush administration have formed a super PAC to support former Vice President Joe Biden’s White House campaign…The super PAC, dubbed 43 Alumni For Biden, referring to the 43rd president, was formed Monday, according to a Tuesday filing with the Federal Election Commission…Karen Kirksey, a former Treasury Department official from the Bush administration, is listed as the group’s treasurer and custodian of records.”

At Newsweek, Jason Lemon reports, “Senator John Thune, the Senate Majority Whip, has come out against deploying military troops to quell unrest in cities across the country, backing similar remarks made by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, which were at odds with President Donald Trump’s previous warnings….”I think that these tasks ought to be relegated as much as possible to the state and local authorities, the law enforcement and police,” Thune, a Republican from South Dakota, told reporters on Wednesday. The senator noted that “the goal always is to de-escalate, not escalate.”…The GOP lawmaker added that he believes “the Defense Department by and large ought to stay out of the political fray. They’ve got a job to do and we count on them heavily to do it.”

A few other GOP senators added their comments. As reported by Marianne Levine, Andrew Desiderio and Burgess Everett at Politico: “There is a fundamental — a constitutional — right to protest, and I’m against clearing out a peaceful protest for a photo op that treats the Word of God as a political prop,” added Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who also decried rioting and looting. “Every public servant in America should be lowering the temperature.”…And Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said it was “definitely not” right for peaceful protesters, who were gathered around Lafayette Park in front of the White House, to be sprayed with tear gas. And he criticized the president for walking to St. John’s Episcopal Church right before the 7 p.m. curfew, because “everyone knew there were going to be protesters in that area.”

Then there’s Massachusetts Republican Governor Charlie Baker, who has a few choice words about Trump’s failed ‘leadership’ of recent weeks, as reported by Paul LeBlanc in “Massachusetts GOP governor rips Trump’s ‘bitterness, combativeness and self-interest‘” at CNN politics: “Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday excoriated President Donald Trump’s “bitterness, combativeness and self-interest” as nationwide protests have intensified over the death of George Floyd..The Republican governor made the comments at a press conference when asked about Trump’s video teleconference call, in which the President urged state leaders to aggressively target violent protesters. The call came after nearly a week of protests across the country that at times have turned violent over the death of Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man who died at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis…”I heard what the President said today about dominating and fighting. I know I should be surprised when I hear incendiary words like this from him, but I’m not,” Baker told reporters. “At so many times during these past several weeks when the country needed compassion and leadership the most, it was simply nowhere to be found.”…Instead, he continued, “we got bitterness, combativeness and self-interest. That’s not what we need in Boston, it’s not what we need right now in Massachusetts and it’s definitely not what we need across this great country of ours either.”

From The Guardian: “Former defense secretary James Mattis has broken his silence on the Trump administration, fiercely criticizing the president’s handling of the recent mass protests over George Floyd’s death….In statement published by the Atlantic, Mattis accuses the president of dividing the country and ordering the military to violate the constitutional rights of Americans….“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us,” Mattis writes. “We are witnessing the consequences of three years of this deliberate effort. We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership.” ..Mattis, who resigned as defense secretary in 2018 in protest over Trump’s widely criticized decision to withdraw US forces from Syria, goes on to accuse the president of having violated the rights of Americans for a photo op in Washington DC this week….“When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution,”the statement says. “Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.””

Conservative columnist George Will also weighed in, as Eric Black reports at MinnPost: “A long-time famous columnist with a large vocabulary lost his you-know-what with the latest – what’s the word, antics? lies? degradations? or depredations? or both, or all of the above? — committed by the current occupant of the Oval Office and the famous columnist wrote these three paragraphs which some (not me) might view as intemperate: “The president’s provocations — his coarsening of public discourse that lowers the threshold for acting out by people as mentally crippled as he — do not excuse the violent few. They must be punished. He must be removed. …This unraveling presidency began with the Crybaby-in-Chief banging his spoon on his highchair tray to protest a photograph — a photograph — showing that his inauguration crowd the day before had been smaller than the one four years previous…This weak person’s idea of a strong person, this chest-pounding advertisement of his own gnawing insecurities, this low-rent Lear raging on his Twitter-heath has proven that the phrase malignant buffoon is not an oxymoron.” Black continues, “Which squishy liberal said this about Donald John Trump? I won’t drag it out any longer. It was columnist George F. Will of the Washington Post, a long-time leader of American conservatism who still sets the standard for conservative thought and argumentation among those who haven’t traded in their lifelong principles for Trumpian lies, insults and other expostulations.”

Another passage from Will’s much-quoted article: “The nation’s downward spiral into acrimony and sporadic anarchy has had many causes much larger than the small man who is the great exacerbator of them. Most of the causes predate his presidency, and most will survive its January terminus. The measures necessary for restoration of national equilibrium are many and will be protracted far beyond his removal. One such measure must be the removal of those in Congress who, unlike the sycophantic mediocrities who cosset him in the White House, will not disappear “magically,” as Eric Trump said the coronavirus would. Voters must dispatch his congressional enablers, especially the senators who still gambol around his ankles with a canine hunger for petting…In life’s unforgiving arithmetic, we are the sum of our choices. Congressional Republicans have made theirs for more than 1,200 days. We cannot know all the measures necessary to restore the nation’s domestic health and international standing, but we know the first step: Senate Republicans must be routed, as condign punishment for their Vichyite collaboration, leaving the Republican remnant to wonder: Was it sensible to sacrifice dignity, such as it ever was, and to shed principles, if convictions so easily jettisoned could be dignified as principles, for . . . what?”

Former four-star Marine General John Allen joins the fray in his article, “A Moment of National Shame and Peril—and Hope: We may be witnessing the beginning of the end of American democracy, but there is still a way to stop the descent” at Foreign Policy (paywalled). As Ken Meyer reports at Mediaite, “Retired Marine Corps General John Allen, the U.S. envoy to the global coalition against ISIS who currently serves as president of the Brookings Institution, said President Donald Trump’s threats to wield the U.S. military against the American people could be a harbinger for the end of democracy in America…In an opinion piece for Foreign Policy magazine, Allen condemned Trump for his lack of leadership since the death of George Floyd sparked social unrest throughout the nation. The former envoy blasted Trump for his conduct earlier in the week, saying “to even the casual observer, Monday was awful for the United States and its democracy.”…“The slide of the United States into illiberalism may well have begun on June 1, 2020,” said Allen. “Remember the date. It may well signal the beginning of the end of the American experiment.”

Meyer continues, “The op-ed goes on to criticize the Trump administration for their focus on rioters and looters when “the truth is that they are minuscule in numbers. The vast majority of the people protesting in the streets are justifiably furious at the murder of George Floyd, but they’re even angrier over pervasive injustice, mass incarceration, frequent false arrests, and an institutionalized devaluation of black lives and property.”…Finally, Allen condemned the use of force against D.C. protesters who “had done nothing to warrant such an attack.”…“It wasn’t enough that peaceful protesters had just been deprived of their first-amendment rights — this photo-op sought to legitimize that abuse with a layer of religion,” Allen wrote. “Donald Trump isn’t religious, has no need of religion, and doesn’t care about the devout, except insofar as they serve his political needs. We know why he did all this on Monday. He even said so while holding the Bible and standing in front of the church. It was about MAGA—’making America great again.’”


Political Strategy Notes

Democrats can be proud that their party includes one of the most inspiring and credible visionaries in congress, Rep. John Lewis, whose statement about the protests – and the rioting and looting – in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor provides a lodestar for other Democratic candidates: “To the rioters here in Atlanta and across the country: I see you, and I hear you,” he wrote. “I know your pain, your rage, your sense of despair and hopelessness. Justice has, indeed, been denied for far too long. Rioting, looting, and burning is not the way. Organize. Demonstrate. Sit-in. Stand-up. Vote. Be constructive, not destructive. History has proven time and again that non-violent, peaceful protest is the way to achieve the justice and equality that we all deserve.”  Tia Mitchell of the Atlanta Journal Constitution notes further that Lewis said on MSNBC, “We must continue to teach the way of peace, the way of love, the philosophy and the discipline of non-violence…And never, ever give up on any of our brothers and sisters. We’re one people; we’re one family.”

Democratic candidates who like the idea of winning should also read Josh Kraushaar’s article, “Democrats risk backlash if they don’t condemn rioting” at The National Journal. Kraushaar notes that “It’s worth recalling this data in the wake of the riots and violence in Minneapolis this week, which occurred after a wrenching videotaped incident of police brutality against an unarmed African-American man, George Floyd. The episode brings to the political forefront a polarizing brew of issues surrounding civil rights and law enforcement…Polls already show most Americans support the arrest of the offending officer, who was charged Friday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.” But Kraushaar believes more Democratic candidates should emulate the strong statement of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms: “One of the few Democrats to loudly denounce the violence was Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who spoke with moral clarity as riots descended on her city Friday night. “What I see happening on the streets of Atlanta is not Atlanta. This is not a protest. This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. This is chaos,” she said. The mayor, who is also on Biden’s list of potential running mates, was one of the few Democratic voices to speak unequivocally against the riots.” Ruy Teixeira added on his Facebook page, “I Hope the Biden Campaign Is Taking a Very, Very Close Look at Bottoms for Vice-President.”

Kraushaar explains that “Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin, two senior fellows at the liberal Center for American Progress think tank, wrote one of the most trenchant political analyses in recent months. Using data from the in-depth Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape surveys designed to capture a nuanced portrait of the American electorate, the two scholars found that there’s a significant cohort of Donald Trump-Joe Biden voters emerging in this year’s election, a persuadable constituency large enough to tip the election…While the notion of swing voters may sound alien in these partisan times, the analysis showed that nearly one-tenth of Trump voters from the last election are poised to switch sides. They’re a demographically diverse mix: Just one-third make up the popular Trumpian stereotype of working-class white voters, while one-third are white college graduates, and the remainder are nonwhite…But the most important finding was the ideological makeup of these potential Trump defectors. They identified as economically progressive—supporting higher taxes for the wealthy, a higher minimum wage, and mandated paid family leave—but held markedly conservative positions on a wide array of social and cultural issues…A whopping 78 percent of these swing voters feel that government should promote family values in society. Nearly two-thirds oppose efforts to ban all guns. And by huge margins, they oppose racial reparations and believe there are only two genders. Put simply, this isn’t a politically correct bunch.”

Regarding “The Voters Who Don’t Like Trump Or Biden,” Geoffrey Skelley notes at FiveThirtyEight that “in 2020, Trump may have lost his edge among the “haters” — that is, the voters who hold an unfavorable view of both presidential candidates. Two recent national surveys found that former Vice President Joe Biden has a big lead over Trump among those who have unfavorable views of them both. An April survey from NBC News/Wall Street Journal put Biden ahead of Trump 60 percent to 10 percent, and an early May survey from Morning Consult gave Biden a lead of 46 percent to 14 percent…However, there are a couple of things to keep in mind when talking about the “hater” vote. First, this voting bloc is probably not as big as it was in 2016. According to the RealClearPolitics average of favorability polls, the two nominees aren’t as disliked this time around…the net favorability (the favorable rating minus the unfavorable rating) for both Trump and Biden is around 10 points higher than the figures for Trump and Clinton in November 2016.”

Some notes from Chris Brennan’s “Another loss from coronavirus: The rituals of election day” at The Philadelphia Inquirer: “More than 77% of the usual polling places in Philadelphia have been closed. More voters in the city have requested mail ballots than did across the whole state for the primary in 2016. Almost two million Pennsylvanians have requested to vote by mail…And after several election cycles that saw an increase in political activism due to the national political scene, this primary really holds only one competitive statewide race, the Democratic battle for the relatively low-profile post of auditor general…Philadelphia elections officials expect more than half the votes to be cast by mail. But it’s hard to know how many of the 220,000 or so voters who have requested ballots will actually return them on time for the election-night deadline, instead of voting in person or not at all. In the past, about one out of five voters who requested an absentee ballot ended up not using it…Who ends up voting by mail, and how the pandemic might reshape the electorate, is also impossible to predict. Voters in low-income neighborhoods requested mail ballots at lower rates than even past turnout would suggest, and the voters requesting mail ballots are also older than the overall electorate. Voters over 60 years old have requested 36% of the city’s mail ballots while making up 27% of the active voters on the rolls. Voters under 30, meanwhile, make up about 16% of ballot requests but 21% of active voters.”

A very well-done pro-Biden ad:

Lauren Egan reports at nbcnews.com: “As health experts warn that the country could still be grappling with the coronavirus pandemic this fall, lawsuits aiming to expand access to mail-in ballots in key battleground states could help determine the outcome of the presidential race…Nonpartisan groups, such as the Campaign Legal Center, as well as a handful of Democratic organizations, including Priorities USA, are backing lawsuits in more than a dozen states in an effort to eliminate administrative hurdles that could make vote-by-mail difficult or even inaccessible to voters.“…A large percentage of people are going to vote by mail, maybe even a large majority,” said Paul Smith, vice president of litigation and strategy at the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan organization that works to support access to voting and is currently litigating cases related to the coronavirus and vote-by-mail in Minnesota, Texas and New Jersey.”

Egan adds, “Most battleground states offer no-excuse absentee voting, meaning that any registered voter can vote by mail without needing a reason to do so. But all of these states have regulations — such as requiring a witness signature or requiring the ballot to be received by Election Day — that voting rights experts and activists say are onerous and could lead to mass disenfranchisement this fall…In North Carolina, for example, Democratic legal groups filed a lawsuit arguing that the state should provide prepaid postage for all ballots, eliminate the requirement for two witnesses to sign a mail-in ballot, extend the deadline for when a mail ballot must be received, and allow for voters to fix any signature discrepancies before the state can reject a ballot…In Florida, Democratic organizations filed a lawsuit seeking to suspend ballot-return deadlines and laws limiting who is allowed to collect vote by mail ballots and deliver them to local election offices…Similar lawsuits have been filed in Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, all of which will be critical in deciding the race between President Donald Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden…The North Carolina and Arizona suits could also affect tight Senate races in those states that could determine which party controls that body after Election Day.”

From a profile of Jessica Post, “the high energy leader of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, which is fighting to flip statehouses in November” at scoopsquare24.com: “Post leads the Democratic party’s national strategy for electing far more Democrats into every state legislature across the country. As she points out- “The impact of state legislatures is enormous. State legislatures actually control and govern most of your day to day life- the quality of the schools that your kids might go to, the quality of roads, mass transit, the economic opportunities in your area, voting rights, the districts that you might vote in- all of those are determined by state legislatures…Today, she is optimistically enacting her DLCC strategy to flip eight to ten state legislative chambers from red to blue in the November 2020 election. Since 2016, the Democrats have flipped more than 430 legislative seats from red to blue, and were successful in reclaiming the majority in 10 legislative chambers. “We only have to win four seats to flip the state legislature from red to blue in Michigan and in Texas we realized we only need to flip nine seats for the Texas state house to go from red to blue,” she says excitedly.”


Political Strategy Notes

Federal, state and local Democratic candidates must respond strongly to the horrific killing of George Floyd by a policeman in Minneapolis. Democratic Pesidential frontrunner Joe Biden’s comment is a good start: “George Floyd’s life mattered. It mattered as much as mine. It mattered as much as anyone’s in this country. At least it should have…“It cuts at the very heart of our sacred belief that all Americans are equal in rights and in dignity, and it sends a very clear message to the black community and to black lives that are under threat every single day.” Politico’s Quint Forgey reports, further, “Biden on Wednesday compared the circumstances surrounding Floyd’s arrest to the 2014 death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who was placed in a chokehold by police in New York and whose final plea — “I can’t breathe” — evolved into a rallying cry for protests against police brutality…“Watching [Floyd’s] life be taken in the same manner, echoing nearly the same words … is a tragic reminder that this was not an isolated incident, but a part of an ingrained, systemic cycle of injustice that still exists in this country,” Biden said…We have to get to the root of all this. You know, we have to ensure that the Floyd family receive the justice they’re entitled to,” Biden said. “And as a nation … we have to work relentlessly to eradicate these systemic failures that inflict so much damage on not just one family, one community, but on the people of color all across this nation.”

FromRevealed: conservative group fighting to restrict voting tied to powerful dark money network” by Sam Levine and Anna Massogliaat The Guardian: “This story was reported in collaboration with OpenSecrets…A powerful new conservative organization fighting to restrict voting in the 2020 presidential election is really just a rebranded group that is part of a dark money network already helping Donald Trump’s unprecedented effort to remake the US federal judiciary, the Guardian and OpenSecrets reveal…The organization, which calls itself the Honest Elections Project, seemed to emerge out of nowhere a few months ago and started stoking fears about voter fraud. Backed by a dark money group funded by rightwing stalwarts like the Koch brothers and Betsy DeVos’ family, the Honest Elections Project is part of the network that pushed the US supreme court picks Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, and is quickly becoming a juggernaut in the escalating fight over voting rights…it has also been extremely active in the courts, filing briefs in favor of voting restrictions in Nevada, Virginia, Texas, Wisconsin and Minnesota, among other places, at times represented by lawyers from the same firm that represents Trump. By having a hand in both voting litigation and the judges on the federal bench, this network could create a system where conservative donors have an avenue to both oppose voting rights and appoint judges to back that effort.”

If anyone was foolish enough to think that Trump couldn’t get much more hypocrtical, they should check out Kevin Liptak’s “Trump could have voted in person in Florida this year but chose not to” at CNN Politics, which points out: “As President Donald Trump rolled to his West Palm Beach, Florida, golf course on the morning of March 7, his motorcade filed past a library where local officials were preparing for the first day of in-person early voting in Florida’s presidential primary contest…Trump didn’t stop at that site or any of the 15 other early voting locations in Palm Beach County that were opening that day. By the time the library opened for voting at 10 a.m., Trump had already arrived at his golf course — whose main entrance is across Summit Boulevard from the library. When he departed the course hours later, he didn’t stop to vote either…Trump would drive past the library four more times that weekend without dropping in to cast a ballot. Instead, he voted by mail — the very option he has begun railing against as governors seek to expand remote voting amid the coronavirus pandemic.”

Thomas B. Edsall observes in his NYT column, “The partisan fight over the lockdown has shown us, once again, how differently the choices government leaders make look to different constituencies of our society. Whether you emphasize the imperative to save lives or the consequences of economic devastation, with more than 36 million unemployed as of May 14, determines what you think the proper response to the outbreak should be, to a degree that is astonishing even in our deeply polarized society.” Edsall notes that “two Pew surveys, one conducted April 7-12, the other April 29-May 5” indicate “that in a matter of three weeks, Republican voters shifted from a modest majority (51-48) concerned that the restrictions would be lifted too quickly, to a similarly modest majority (53-47) concerned that the restrictions will not be lifted quickly enough. Democrats, on the contrary, went from a decisive majority who feared (81-18) that restrictions would be lifted too quickly to an even stronger concern (87-13).”

If you were wondering which states had “The most expensive 2020 Senate races so far, by ad spending,” the NBC News Political Unit has the skinny: “Here are the top ten most expensive Senate races so far, by ad spending:

  1. Maine: $25.6 million
  2. North Carolina: $20.9 million
  3. Iowa: $13.3 million
  4. Michigan: $13 million
  5. Kentucky: 12.4 million
  6. Georgia (special election for the seat vacated by former Sen. Johnny Isakson): $10.1 million
  7. Arizona: $9.3 million
  8. Alabama: $6.1 million
  9. Colorado: $5.4 million
  10. Texas: $4.2 million”

The NBC News Political Unit also flagged some upcomming “Senate primaries and run-offs to watch,” including these Democratic contests:

June 2

  • Iowa Senate Democratic Primary: Who will take on GOP Sen. Joni Ernst in the fall? Theresa Greenfield is the favorite, but the Des Moines Register has endorsed rival Mike Franken, and there are three other candidates on the ballot, too. If Greenfield doesn’t get to 35 percent support, the nomination will be decided by a party convention later in June.
  • Montana Senate Democratic Primary: How much strength will Gov. Steve Bullock show in his likely lockup of the nomination to face GOP Sen. Steve Daines?

June 9

  • Georgia Senate Democratic Primary: Former special House election candidate Jon Ossoff competes against former Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, former Democratic lieutenant governor nominee Sarah Riggs Amico, and others for the chance to take on GOP Sen. David Perdue. If no one gets 50 percent, there’s a runoff August 11.
  • South Carolina Senate Democratic Primary: Jaime Harrison hopes for a strong showing as he preps for an expected run against GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham.

June 23

  • Kentucky Senate Democratic Primary: Well-funded Democrat Amy McGrath wants a solid performance in the primary as she prepares a general election run against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

June 30 

  • Colorado Senate Democratic Primary: Former governor and onetime White House hopeful John Hickenlooper is the heavy favorite against progressive and past Senate and House candidate former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff to take on vulnerable GOP Sen. Cory Gardner.

July 14 

  • Maine Senate Democratic Primary: State House Speaker Sara Gideon is the favorite for the nod to take on vulnerable GOP Sen. Susan Collins.
  • Texas Senate Democratic Run-off: Deep-pocketed M.J. Hegar is fighting against longtime state Sen. Royce West before taking on Republican Sen. John Cornyn.

August 4 

  • Arizona Senate Democratic Primary: Mark Kelly has to dispatch a challenge from his left in order to face Republican Sen. Martha McSally in one of the cycle’s marquee races.

At The Nation Jeet Heer explains why “Mitch McConnell Is Even Worse Than Trump,” and writes, “As grotesque as Trump is, McConnell is worse. McConnell has been around longer and has helped create the conditions that made Trump’s rise possible. McConnell’s obstruction during the Obama years, including blocking the Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland, contributed to the demoralization of the Democratic base and the larger feeling in America that Washington is hopelessly gridlocked. In 2016 Trump skillfully exploited the anxiousness created by gridlock and sold himself as the outsider who can fix it…Democrats are eager to defeat Trump in the fall election. But they should bear in mind that McConnell is the bigger villain. The goal should be to make sure McConnell loses his position as majority leader. Even sweeter would be if he were ejected from his seat.” McConnell has declined to check Trump’s worst instincts all along. He is more responsible for the current gridlock and the death of bipartisanship than any other individual. Those who want to contribute to his defeat, click here.

“There’s a lot for a political party to like about absentee voting. As a get-out-the-vote matter, once someone’s submitted an absentee ballot, that’s one fewer voter whom the party has to get to the polls,” David Shorr and Kathleen Sullivan write in “WI Dems Acted Quickly To Spur Voter Turnout In April. Can They Maintain That Momentum This Fall? If the Wisconsin Democratic Party truly can learn and adapt on the fly, as it seems to have done in April, it could be a game-changer for the state and even the country” at Talking Points Memo. “And because absentee ballot requests are public, the transparency of the process makes it possible for a political party to track each step: from the voter’s initial request, to the local clerk sending out a ballot, to the clerk ultimately receiving a filled-out ballot. This permits the party to do multiple “touches”: to check in with voters and remind them of key races and issues, all while urging submission of a completed ballot and offering information that can assist in overcoming obstacles to the process…Tracking ballots as they’re requested and returned also can help the party make course-corrections on voter turnout methods and messages while they count — focusing and re-focusing on where efforts can be most fruitful…If the Wisconsin Democratic Party truly can learn and adapt on the fly, as it seems to have done in April, it could be a game-changer for the state and even the country. ”


Political Strategy Notes

At The Cook Politial Report, Amy Walter addresses the critical challenge Democrats will be facing in November: “So, which of these things— the way he has dealt with individual issues like health care, COVID or the economy or the way he has conducted himself as president — will be the most important for swing voters in November?…The challenge in answering that question is that we really have no idea which one of these things is going to be dominating our attention this fall. Will we be dealing with a ‘second wave’ of COVID infections, overstressed hospitals and climbing death rates? If so, it’s hard to see how Trump’s handling of the crisis and health care won’t be at the top of the priority list for voters. But, what if we have actually been through the worst of it? If that’s the case, it’s easy to see that efforts to revive the economy will be the topic that is getting the most attention.”

In his article, “The False Dichotomy” at Current Affairs, Nathan J. Robinson beings some needed clarity to the discussion of economic policy during the pandemic: “The United States has done an absolutely abysmal job of protecting people’s employment. The “paycheck protection program” has been an administrative nightmare, funneling money to companies that don’t need it and saddling small businesses with new debt. The government could have simply paid salaries during the crisis, but a choice was made not to do this, in part because people in government have a pathological hatred of “handouts” and would rather other people die needlessly by the thousands than give an inch on their ideology. Republican Senator Lamar Alexander, for example, said that there is simply “not enough money” to help people through the crisis. This is false; the U.S. government prints its own money. What he is saying is not that there is not enough money, but that he personally does not want the government to spend the money. And instead of giving a reason (the reason is free market Social Darwinist ideology that sees helping the vulnerable as rewarding weakness) he has to pretend it is impossible…If we were a sensible country, what we would instead be asking is: How do we stay locked down as long as public health experts think is necessary, while mitigating the economic consequences?”

David Atkins makes the case that “We Need to Speak Honestly About the GOP’s Evolution Into a Conspiracy Cult” at The Washington Monthly: “Unfortunately, the modern Republican Party’s abdication of seriousness, good faith and reality-based communications or policy-making has stretched even the most open-minded analyst’s capacity for forced balance. Donald Trump’s own inability to string together coherent or consistent thoughts has led to a bizarre normalization of his statements in the traditional media, as journalists unconsciously try to fit his rambling, spontaneous utterances into a conventional framework…Go to any conservative event and you’ll notice a shift from even the raucous detached weirdness of Tea Party rallies. They feel less like political events than cult rallies. Cult experts like Steven Hassan have taken note of this, calling it exactly what it is: a cult built around manufactured realities, shared grievances and us-against-them insular extremism. The increasing dependence of Republican politicians on a shrinking, embattled white evangelical base already given over to faith-based belief systems and racism-tinged “city on a hill” ideology has only exacerbated the phenomenon…It’s long past time for even the venerable pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post to start calling this what it is, and stop normalizing it as standard partisanship. It is deeply dangerous in a democracy whose constitution functionally guarantees a two-party system, for one of those two parties to become a conspiracy cult.

Much of the recent buzz about Biden’s likely running mate choice centers on Sen. Elizabeth Warren. At CNN Politics Greg Krieg and Dan Merica do a good job of explaining why Warren would add policy gravitas and progressive cred to the Democratic ticket. They point out that she is the leading choice of Sanders supporters, and that’s a bridge Democrats will need in November. But Krieg and Merica don’t address the downside risk — that Warren joining the ticket would likely cost Democrats a much-needed U.S. Senate seat, since Massachusetss has a Republican Governor who would pick her replacement, at last for a while. And it is unclear what effect Biden picking Warren would have on African American voter turnout for the Democratic ticket, also a significant concern.

Charlie Cook discusses “What Keeps Democrats Up at Night,” also at The Cook Political Report, and notes, “Democrats risk a perception of being one-dimensionally pro-lockdown, as if reopening was a simple matter of throwing a giant national on-off switch, an exclusive focus on public health above everything else, suggesting that the abilities of families to get back to work or have a life is of secondary or tertiary interest. While it is certainly true that economic well-being cannot be restored without addressing the more immediate health challenge of the coronavirus, the reality is that all Americans are not similarly situated. A one-size-fits-all policy for parts of the country or even entire states strikes some as arbitrary…The danger in both small town and rural America, as well as among working-class whites, is that this can play into a form of grievance and identity politics that could tar the Democratic Party as caring only about those who live in or near cities and along the coasts.”

“A federal judge on Sunday dismantled Florida’s restrictive felon voting rights law in a ruling that could open the door to hundreds of thousands of new voters being added to rolls just ahead of the 2020 presidential election,” Gary Fineout reports at Politico. “U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle declared key portions of the state’s felon voting law unconstitutional, ordering the state to put in place a new process that would help people register to vote in the state…Hinkle’s ruling could lead to a major addition to the state’s voting rolls just months before the election in the battleground state…The decision comes nearly a year after the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature passed the law that requires people with felony convictions to pay all outstanding court debts in order be eligible to vote. Legislators passed the bill after voters approved Amendment 4 to the state constitution, which aimed to end the state’s lifetime ban on voting for most ex-felons…Hinkle’s ruling did not completely strike down the law, but the judge asserted that requiring people with felony convictions to pay off costs and fees violated the U.S. Constitution’s ban on poll taxes.”

Politico’s Holly Otterbein reports on a warning for Democrats from Pennsylvania: “Pennsylvania could determine the presidency. But it might not be clear for days who won the state on Nov. 3…Election officials throughout the critical battleground, which is implementing no-excuse mail-in voting for the first time ever amid a pandemic, say they are unlikely to finish counting those ballots the night of the general election…Less than two weeks away fromPennsylvania’s primary, some state election officials said they lack the funding and staff needed to handle the massive influx of mail-in ballots they’ve received for that race. They also said the fact that they legally can’t start counting those ballots until the morning of Election Day is complicating matters. In addition to delaying a final tally, the chaos and confusion could sow distrust ahead of the general election and give fodder to those seeking to discredit its results…“We don’t just have a perfect storm. We have perfect storms,” said Republican Al Schmidt, one of the three Philadelphia city commissioners who oversee elections here. “We have new voting technology. We have an election reform that pushed back all the deadlines. And we have mail-in ballots and the pandemic.””

At The Daily Beast, Michael Tomasky warns, “There was a terrifying piece in the Times on Sunday laying out all the different moves he could pull to steal the election that his opponents are war-gaming to prepare for and counter. One little nugget from it: Trump could issue orders that impact cities in battleground states like “declaring a state of emergency, deploying the National Guard or forbidding gatherings of more than 10 people.”…Everyone knows he’ll cheat. Even his supporters know he’ll cheat. His cheating is one of the things they love about him…Here’s one of the scenarios, with Tomasky’s comments: “Imagine, first, an Electoral College tie, 269-269. Yes, it can happen. Under the 12th Amendment, a tie goes to the House, which votes for the next president. Easy-peasy, right? The Democrats control the House, so President Biden, your day has come…Not so fast. First of all, it’s not the current Congress that votes, it’s the next one, the one the nation will elect on Nov. 3 (yes, I’m correct about this). OK, but that Congress is still likely to be Democratic, so what’s the problem? Here’s the problem. The 435 members of the House don’t vote as individuals. They vote as state delegations, each delegation getting one vote. That’s right. So for this vote, Lynne Cheney (Wyoming’s lone legislator) will have a voting power equal to that of the 45 California Democrats (and seven Republicans). Let that sink in. Cheney’s vote on this matter would carry more than 50 times the weight of Nancy Pelosi’s.”

On a more optimistic note, Tomasky also reports “A Surprising Sign of a Democratic Revival in Ohio” and observes: Some numbers from this year’s primary suggest—I don’t want to go too hard here; suggest—that something very interesting might be happening in the Buckeye State, and it’s not good news for Team Orange.” Tomasky notes that Democrats did much better than expected in  Ohio’s April primaries,  including Democrats requesting more absentee ballots in a historically-Republican district (OH-12) and “8,800 R to D switchers.”  Tomasky notes also that “Turnout in the Democratic primary last month was higher than Republican primary turnout for the first time since 2008. And it was a lot higher—more than 860,000 votes to about 680,000.”


Political Strategy Notes

In her CNN  Opinion article, “Democrats can’t keep ignoring this vital campaign issue,” Jen Psaki, White House communications director during the Obama administration, writes, “Few Democrats want to talk about the possibility of a liberal vacancy. After all, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the oldest justice at age 87, is an icon who broke through gender barriers to become one of the most influential and committed progressive voices on the Supreme Court in history. As a proud owner of a “Notorious RBG” shirt, I get it. But remember, she and Justice Stephen Breyer, another liberal member of the court in his 80s, cannot be justices forever…And if Republicans are talking about this, Democrats should be, too…I was the communications director in the White House when then-President Barack Obama nominated Garland. We naively thought that someone who had been confirmed to the DC Court of Appeals with 76 votes in the Senate would face some opposition — but would ultimately be confirmed…But Democrats should also turn that bitterness into action — and take a lesson from Trump and McConnell, making the next Supreme Court vacancy a centerpiece of the 2020 election. Unlike in 2016, when the Garland nomination was not mentioned during the Democratic National Convention, it should get top billing this year.”

Psaki continues, “Democrats should be clear that confirmation of another Trump judge could be the death knell of the Affordable Care Act, which Trump is currently asking the Supreme Court to overturn. In other words, they should make this vote the 2020 version of the ACA-repeal votes that contributed to the downfall of so many Republican members of Congress in 2018…Anyone voting to confirm a Trump nominee is voting to kick tens of millions of Americans off their health care in the middle of a pandemic that’s reminding families everywhere how important access to care really is…And Democrats should not let Senate decorum get in the way. It’s basic campaign 101 — when a candidate is down, you don’t let up. You deliver the clear knockout punch…Finally, Democrats can’t hem and haw for weeks. Democratic Senate candidates should announce the stakes of this election immediately and begin to mobilize grassroots opposition, putting vulnerable Senate Republicans in the hot seat.”

At The Cook Political Report, Charlie Cook writes that “While it is still a bit more likely than not that Republicans hold onto either the White House or the Senate, the chances of Democrats scoring a trifecta is at least one-in-three and going up. Very roughly speaking, both the presidential race and the Senate are 50-50 bets, while the odds for Democrats holding the House are very high and rising…Given that Democratic incumbent Doug Jones’s reelection hopes appear completely futile, Democrats had to run the table and beat McSally, Gardner, Collins, and Tillis to win a Senate majority—and that was predicated on their party winning the White House as well; otherwise, they would have to unseat yet another Republican…But adding Loeffler and Daines gives Democrats a couple of other paths to a majority. Now, new Republican polling shows the elected incumbent in Georgia, David Perdue, in a difficult race. The open Kansas seat is looking very problematic with a filing deadline now just two weeks away. Even challenges to Sens. Joni Ernst, Mitch McConnell, Lindsay Graham, and Dan Sullivan are drawing attention.”

Domenico Montenaro reports at npr.org that a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll finds that “A majority of Republicans (56%) would rather cast their ballots in person than by mail (42%), whereas 61% of Democrats and 53% of independents prefer voting by mail this November…The most likely to want to vote by mail were white women with a college degree (64%), whites with a college degree (62%), those who live in the West (62%) and Democrats (61%). Western states have been voting by mail for many election cycles…Among those most likely to say they want to vote in person are Republicans (56%), those in the South (45%), white women without a college degree (44%), those 45 and older (44%), whites (42%) and people without a college degree (40%)…Some 10% say they do not intend to vote, which the pollsters indicate is about what would be expected, but the groups with the highest percentages of members who say they won’t vote cut across key pillars in both parties: Gen Z and millennials, ages 18 to 38 (19%); Latinos (16%); suburban men (13%); those without a college degree (13%); white men without a degree (12%); and African Americans (11%).”

A CBS/YouGov poll conducted April 28-May 1 shed some light on public attitudes toward potential  running mates for the likely Democratic presidential nomineee, Joe Biden. “Democrats/Democratic Leaners” poll respondents were presented a list of frequently-mentioned potential Vice-Presidential running mates, and then asked “if Joe Biden were asked to pick a Vice Presidential running mate right now, which one of those should he pick?” Elizabeth Warren led the pack with 36%, followed by: Kamala Harris (19%); Stacy Abrams (14%); Amy Klobuchar (13%); Susan Rice (4%); Val Demings, Tammy Duckworth and Gretchen Whitmer (3%); Catherine Cortez-Masto (2%); Michelle Lujan-Grisham, Tammy Baldwin and Sally Yates (1%). Asked “If she wanted to run, should Joe Biden Pick Michelle Obama as his Vice-Presidential selection?,” 64% of the respondents said ‘Yes,’ while 36% said ‘No.’

Franklin Foer has a warning for Dems at The Atlantic: “The Russians have learned much about American weaknesses, and how to exploit them. Having probed state voting systems far more extensively than is generally understood by the public, they are now surely more capable of mayhem on Election Day—and possibly without leaving a detectable trace of their handiwork. Having hacked into the inboxes of political operatives in the U.S. and abroad, they’ve pioneered new techniques for infiltrating campaigns and disseminating their stolen goods. Even as to disinformation, the best-known and perhaps most overrated of their tactics, they have innovated, finding new ways to manipulate Americans and to poison the nation’s politics. Russia’s interference in 2016 might be remembered as the experimental prelude that foreshadowed the attack of 2020…What sort of operation could Russia execute in 2020? Unlike Ukraine, the United States doesn’t have a central node that, if struck, could disable democracy at its core. Instead, the United States has an array of smaller but still alluring targets: the vendors, niche companies, that sell voting equipment to states and localities; the employees of those governments, each with passwords that can be stolen; voting machines that connect to the internet to transmit election results.”

Georgia Republicans are road-testing how cancelling an election plays with the public. As Ian Milhiser reports at Vox, “The state of Georgia was supposed to hold an election Tuesday to fill a seat on the state Supreme Court. Justice Keith Blackwell, a Republican whose six-year term expires on the last day of this year, did not plan to run for reelection. The election, between former Democratic Rep. John Barrow and former Republican state lawmaker Beth Beskin, would determine who would fill Blackwell’s seat…But then something weird happened: Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and the state’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, canceled Tuesday’s election. Instead, Kemp will appoint Blackwell’s successor, and that successor will serve for at least two years — ensuring the seat will remain in Republican hands…On May 14, the state Supreme Court handed down a decision that effectively blessed this scheme to keep Blackwell’s seat in the GOP’s hands. The court’s decision in Barrow v. Raffensperger is unusual in many regards — among other things, six of the state’s regular Supreme Court justices recused from the case, and they were replaced by five lower court judges who sat temporarily on the state’s highest court. The court’s decision in Barrow turns upon poorly drafted language in the state constitution, which does suggest that Blackwell, Kemp, and Raffensperger’s scheme was legal.” No doubt the White House will be watching,

FiveThirtyEight has a chat addressing the question, “Will 2020 Be Another Blue Wave Election Year?” Among the shared observations: Geoffrey Skelley notes, “while the generic ballot does handily favor Democrats now, it could change. (Historically, the margin has narrowed, and as we’ve said, I found that it moved 4 points, on average, between six months out and Election Day.)..Of course, there’s no guarantee it’ll move as much this time, but as I noted in an article on the 2020 House map, there are a bunch of seats Democrats are defending that Trump carried in 2016, so even a 1- to 2-point move in the generic ballot might make it tougher for Democrats to hold on to some of these more competitive seats they won in 2018.” Nathaniel Rakich rsponds, “But even if the environment changes, I’m not sure it will be in Republicans’ favor. In addition to the polling evidence, there’s a good theoretical argument for a blue wave, which is that we’ve entered an economic crisis and the incumbent president (and his party) does not do well when the economy is struggling….The unemployment rate is currently 14.7 percent, and I think most experts expect it to get even worse.” Sarah Frostenson adds, “there’s no precedent for what we might see in 2020, and as Lee wrote, “The obvious implication is that efforts to expand absentee voting in a pandemic might work differently. And maybe there will be partisan differences in who chooses to vote by mail, as we saw in Wisconsin’s primary.”

In her column at The Wisconsin State Journal, Paula Niedenthal, professor of psychology at UW-Madison, shares “2 lessons for Democrats from social psychology,” focusing on Wisconsin’s elections: “Winning elections in Wisconsin these days takes far more than persuading people to vote for a platform that polls indicate a majority already endorses anyway. In an era of extreme partisanship, winning elections also relies on learning two lessons from social psychology…One lesson is to enhance voters’ feelings of intelligence and relevance by allowing them to define the conversation. About anything. The second lesson is to take control of the communication of social norms…Gerrymandering of voting districts influences perceived norms because people use simple logic to draw conclusions. The Legislature has a Republican majority, so most Wisconsinites must vote Republican, right? Wrong. Democratic candidates in 2018 received more votes than Republicans in Wisconsin’s U.S. House and state Assembly races. But Republicans won five of the eight U.S. House seats and 64 of the 99 state Assembly seats…Democrats have been less energetic at taking control of the narrative about political norms in the state. Wisconsin has progressive roots, a strong relationship to public education and a concern for small business and agriculture. Documenting and communicating Wisconsinites’ beliefs about education, guns, natural resources, immigration and health care would go some way in correcting perceptions that have been constructed on the basis of ideology (often by the national GOP) rather than democracy…But scolding won’t work. The average Wisconsinite is intelligent and expert in some domain. Empiricists by nature, the people of this state are able to understand honest information about social norms. When they learn that most people think as they do, democracy will prevail.”


Political Strategy Notes

At CNN Politics, Harry Enten explains “Why Trump’s enthusiasm edge over Biden could matter,” and notes: “Former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump in pretty much every single national poll. Yet the same polls find that Trump’s supporters are much more enthusiasticabout voting for their candidate than Biden’s supporters are voting for theirs…This split is potentially a good sign for Trump because the candidate who has led on enthusiasm (or a closely related question) has won every presidential election since 1988, though there are reasons to think Biden could break this streak…Importantly for Trump, the leader on enthusiasm has gone on to win in close elections as well as ones with wider margins…One of those close elections was four years ago. Trump had a consistent edge over Hillary Clinton in enthusiasm. His voters were 4 points more likely to say they were very enthusiastic in voting for him than Clinton’s were for her in the final ABC News/Washington Post poll, even as Clinton led overall. That enthusiasm advantage should have been one of the warning signals to the Clinton campaign…Trump’s current edge in enthusiasm over Biden is even larger. In a late March ABC News/Washington Post poll, 53% of Trump backers said they were very enthusiastic about voting for him. Just 24% of Biden backers said the same about their guy.”

Brian Schwartz reports that “Mike Bloomberg plots spending blitz to support Joe Biden’s run for president” at cnbc.com: “Though it’s unclear how much Bloomberg will eventually spend, some of the people familiar with the matter noted that they anticipate Bloomberg to end up spending in excess of $250 million to support Biden, the apparent Democratic nominee. Any major financial support from Bloomberg backing Biden does not include what he could put toward assisting congressional Democrats. After dropping out of the Democratic primary for president in March, Bloomberg endorsed Biden and later announced his campaign would transfer $18 million to the DNC…The coronavirus pandemic has forced all campaigns to go virtual and, although Biden kept up with Trump in fundraising in April, raising $60.5 million, he is still behind in cash. The president’s campaign and the Republican National Committee have a combined $255 million in reserve. The Biden campaign told reporters on Friday that it had $103 million on hand at the end of April when combined with the DNC. ..Bloomberg’s team has previously said that he spent $110 million on Democrats throughout the 2018 congressional campaign…The former New York mayor has previously said he would not rule out spending up to $1 billion against Trump, whether he was running for president or not. Trump’s campaign manager, Brad Parscale, has said they plan to spend at least $1 billion defending the president and getting him reelected.”

“Biden needs something more than ritualistic endorsements from Democrats who feel they have no other choice, a home-studio campaign strategy, and the hope that Americans will remember that Trump peddled bleach as an antidote to the coronavirus. He needs a political party that is prepared to turn this campaign into a movement…the policy task forces announced this week by the Biden and Sanders camps hold out the promise that the party could in this period of social and economic crisis become something that the vast majority of Americans can believe in…What Democrats require is a coherent agenda, and a campaign, that breaks sufficiently from the old politics to capture the imagination of the American electorate at a time when the coronavirus pandemic and an economic meltdown preclude a return to normal. The party has to propose a new direction. And these task forces on the economy, immigration, health care, criminal justice, education, and climate action could do just that…Task forces are supposed to come up with ideas—ideally, new and innovative ideas. If Biden and his campaign let these groups do their work, and if the presumptive nominee and the party use the agendas that are developed as cues to move in a sufficiently progressive direction, Democrats might again be what they were in the days when Franklin Roosevelt and his New Deal Coalition won overwhelming victories: the dynamic force in our politics and our governance.” From “A Progressive Democratic Party is Possible—and Biden Needs It to Win: The Biden-Sanders task forces are charged with framing a bigger, bolder Democratic agenda—exactly what the party needs to win” by John Nichols at The Nation.

Could ‘rogue electors’ tilt the balance of the US election?“, asks Lawrence Douglas at The Guardian. Douglas writes, “May states penalize and replace electors who fail to vote in accord with their states’ popular vote outcomes, or do such actions violate the right of electors to vote free of legal control?…That was the question debated before the supreme court this week in an extraordinary oral argument. At issue were a pair of cases emerging from the 2016 election, which witnessed no fewer than 10 electors either voting, or trying to vote, in defiance of their pledge. In Colorado, a state Hillary Clinton handily won, three Democratic electors sought to vote for the Ohio governor John Kasich as part of a long-shot effort to find a consensus alternative to Donald Trump. The Colorado secretary of state ordered the three to cast their votes as state law required or face replacement. Two of the electors complied; the third, a 23-year-old graduate student named Michael Baca, refused, and found himself replaced by a Democratic elector, who then promptly cast his vote for Clinton…32 states and the District of Columbia now have laws that aim to make sure that electors do not vote “freely” as they were originally intended…It seems safe to expect that the court – in a ruling to be issued this summer – will uphold the states’ authority to constrain presidential electors… In the absence of a law in place before electors cast their votes, it isn’t clear that a state could replace a faithless elector. A handful of rogue electors could hypothetically trigger a crisis of succession with no clear exit…Of course, the entire problem of the rogue elector could be more elegantly solved by simply abolishing the electoral college, but that would require a constitutional amendment, and the process of amending the constitution is no less dysfunctional than the electoral college itself. So the electoral college will probably remain our constitutional appendix, a vestigial organ that has long since lost its animating function and now can only create potentially toxic problems for the body politic.”

At salon.com, Cody Fenwick explores an alternative possibility in “Biden is a direct threat to Trump’s electoral college advantage: Many just assume that Trump will continue to have an advantage in Electoral College. Is that really so?” As Fenwick explains, “So how do we know who has an Electoral College advantage? The key is to look at the swing states…Since the demographics of Biden’s support look different than Clinton’s, though, Trump’s advantage is not guaranteed. And in a recent piece for David Faris in The Week, he argued that current polls show Biden actually has a very slight edge in the Electoral College…How does he come to this conclusion? He looked at Biden’s polling averages from FiveThirtyEight both nationally and across the swing states. And in the key states Biden would need to win the Electoral College, he’s polling just slightly better than he is nationally…Now for the caveats. State polling is spotty and inconsistent, and in 2016, it had serious flaws. It’s not clear those flaws have been corrected. So we can’t rely too heavily on the findings of these polls…But I think Faris’s argument compels us to reconsider the assumption that the Electoral College favors Trump. It might, and Trump might win a second term in November even while being defeated once again in the popular vote. But it’s not guaranteed that he still has this advantage — it may have already slipped away…It’s also important to note that, even accepting all of Faris’s data on its face, Biden’s Electoral College advantage is extremely narrow. He would be much less likely, according to this analysis, to lose the popular vote but win the presidency than Trump was in 2016.”

E. J. Dionne, Jr. weighs in on  the Electoral Collge in his column, “Grading the electoral college: C for chaos.” Dionne writes, “So all the claims about the electoral college reflecting the “wisdom of the Founders” and what they had in mind are pure rubbish. The Founders’ design failed, which is why it was changed just 16 years after the Constitution was adopted. And the states’ shift to the popular vote for electors so fundamentally altered the original scheme that it amounted to creating a new system in the garb of the old one…The case before the Supreme Court makes plain the absurdity of how we choose our president. The entire presidential campaign is waged on the premise that the people decide. And victors inevitably claim to be “the people’s choice” — even if they lose the popular vote…And it’s easy to envision a scenario this year in which Trump loses the popular vote by 5 million to 6 million — or even more — yet ekes out a two-vote margin in the electoral college by hanging on to every electoral vote he won in 2016 except for those of Pennsylvania and Michigan.”

In her Cook Political Report article, “Georgia Senate’s Perdue Moves to Lean Republican,” Jessica Taylor writes, “The conventional wisdom has been that it’s the Loeffler seat that is more vulnerable, and thus more appealing to Democrats as a possible pick-up to attain (or even add to) a Senate majority. Given the weaknesses that Loeffler has shown as a candidate and questions about her and her husband’s stock transactions, she is facing pressure from both her right (from Rep. Doug Collins) and from several on the left (the DSCC has backed Rev. Raphael Warnock). The added uncertainty of a jungle primary on Election Day that isn’t likely to be decided until the runoff on January 5, 2021 is why we have this race in the Lean Republican column…A May 4-7 poll from Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies (conducted for a group supporting Gov. Brian Kemp, who appointed Loeffler to her post) found that Perdue was leading Democrat Jon Ossoff by only two points, 43%-41%, with Libertarian Shane Hazel getting 7% and 8% undecided. The same GOP poll also found a statistical tie in the presidential race, with Trump at 46% and Biden at 47%…Those tightening numbers are in line with another survey from Republican firm Cygnal, conducted April 25-27 for the Georgia House GOP caucus, which gave Perdue a six-point lead over Ossoff, 45%-39%. Both Democrats and Republicans privately believe this is a single-digit race, though Perdue still maintains the advantage.”

Also at The Cook Political Report, Charlie Cook comments on the Georgia races in his article “Why We’re Not Ready to Call Georgia a Toss Up“: As Cook observes, “There’s little doubt that Georgia is becoming more competitive. While Mitt Romney carried the state in 2012 by 53 percent, both Trump and 2018 GOP nominee, Brian Kemp, took just over 50 percent of the vote. A lot of this movement can be traced to shifting voting patterns in and around Atlanta. For example, in 2012, Obama carried Fulton County (Atlanta) by 19 points. Just four years later, Clinton carried it by a whopping 44 points and Abrams expanded that gap to 46 points. Suburban Gwinnett and Cobb Counties, long known as traditional GOP strongholds, flipped to Clinton in 2016 and gave even more of their votes to Abrams in 2018…Even so, it will take more than just an improvement in the Atlanta and urban/suburban areas of the state to flip it Democratic. It also takes shaving points off the large share of the vote Republicans like Trump and Kemp can generate from small town, exurban and rural parts of the state. Biden supporters argue that the former VP is much better suited for this challenge than Clinton or Abrams. He’s not as polarizing and starts the race with higher positive ratings than Clinton…For Democrats, winning Georgia is like trying to lose those last 5-10 pounds. On paper, it doesn’t seem all that hard. But, once you spend two weeks desperately looking down at a scale that doesn’t budge, you realize it’s going to take a ton of effort to lose each and every pound. For now, Georgia stays in Lean Republican. ”

“As of today, 490 women have filed as candidates for U.S. House seats, a new record high,” according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. This surpasses even the record- breaking 2018 midterm election, in which 476 women filed to run for House seats. In 14 states, filing deadlines have yet to pass…295 Democratic women have filed as candidates in House races. They are on track to modestly improve on their own high for House candidacies, which was set in 2018 at 356.” At present, there are 26 women serving as U.S. Senators, including 19 Democats and 9 Republicans, the Center reports and 31 Democratic women are running for Senate in 2020. At present, 88 Democratic women currently hold House of Reps seats, while 6 Democratic women currently serve as Governors, with 3 Republican women.