washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Political Strategy Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Political Strategy Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Political Strategy Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Political Strategy Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


October Debate Takeaways

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Political Strategy Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Political Strategy Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Political Strategy Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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