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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Rakich and Lodi: Presidential Approval Ratings and Generic Ballot Polls in the Midterms

Nathaniel Rakich and Humera Lodho explain why “Why Democrats’ Midterm Chances Don’t Hinge On Biden’s Approval Rating” at FiveThirtyEight:

Earlier this month, FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief Nate Silver noted an interesting disconnect between two pieces of information most commonly used to predict the upcoming midterms: the president’s approval rating and polls of the generic congressional ballot (which ask Americans whether they plan to vote for the Republican or the Democratic candidate this fall).

On one hand, President Biden is historically unpopular: As of July 25 at 5 p.m. Eastern, he had an average approval rating of 38 percent and an average disapproval rating of 57 percent — a net approval rating of -19 percentage points. You have to go back to Harry Truman to find a president with a net approval rating that bad at this point in his term.

On the other, generic-congressional-ballot polls are pretty close. As of the same date and time, Republicans had an average lead of 1 point.

“Those two numbers feel difficult to reconcile. Biden’s approval rating suggests that the national mood is extremely poor for Democrats, while the generic-ballot polling suggests that the political environment is only slightly Republican-leaning. But in reality, these two types of polls aren’t in opposition as much as you might think. They’re separate metrics, and a look back at past midterm elections shows they don’t always line up. But history also shows that when they do diverge, one is more predictive than the other.

Rakich and Lodhi note further, that”plenty of Democrats tell pollsters that they disapprove of Biden’s performance, but almost all of them also say in the same breath that they will vote Democratic in the midterms (that is, if they turn out to vote — an important caveat).” Also, “it’s not unusual for presidential-approval polls and generic-ballot polls to disagree. Just take a look at where the polls stood on July 25 in the past four midterm election years: 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018.1

They review the historical data in more depth and ask, “So that leaves us with one final question: Which of those two indicators should we be paying more attention to?” Their answer:

The answer is the generic ballot. Unsurprisingly, polls asking Americans which party they plan to vote for in the midterms have historically been more predictive of the midterm results than polls asking about presidential approval. As Silver concluded, the president’s popularity just doesn’t add all that much new information when you have polls that directly ask the question you want answered….In the past four midterm elections, the generic-ballot polling average has missed the national popular-vote margin for the House of Representatives by an average of only 2.5 points, while the presidential-approval polling average has “missed” (we’re using scare quotes because presidential-approval polls are not intended to be measuring this) the national popular vote margin by 5.5 points. In each of those cycles, regardless of whether the two numbers were in sync or not, the generic-ballot polling average came closer to the final vote margin — sometimes significantly closer.”

But don’t uncork the bubbly just yet, because Rakich and Lodi write, “The generic-ballot polling got worse for the president’s party in all four cycles….a trend that’s especially pronounced when a Democratic president is in office….by the fall they will be conducted among likely voters — a group that will probably be disproportionately Republican, both because Democrats tend to be more infrequent voters in general and because, currently, more Republicans than Democrats say they are enthusiastic to vote.”

They conclude: “So Republicans may lead in generic-ballot polls by only 1 point on average today. But by November, their lead will probably be a few points wider. And while that wouldn’t be as disastrous for Democrats as it would be if everyone’s midterm vote was dictated by how they rated Biden’s job performance, it would still be a great result for Republicans.”

Could this year be different because of Trump, Covid or weak GOP Senate candidates? Rakich and Lodi apparently doubt it, since they don’t address the possibility. It doesn’t seem too much to hope that one of theses factors could make a small difference for the better. But every recent midterm election in their study has had its unique twists and turns, and not many get rich betting against such voting patterns in politics.

Teixeira: The Democratic Coalition Is Changing….and Not in a Good Way

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

From My latest at The Liberal Patriot:

“Democrats are betting on a small set of issues to mitigate their losses this November. Inflation may have just hit a 40 year high (9.1 percent) with concomitant recession risk but Democrats believe that campaigning against the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, arguing for more gun control in the wake of recent mass shootings and highlighting Trump’s anti-democratic malfeasance through the January 6th hearings can turn the tide in their favor.

It is true that recently the polls have tightened a bit in the Democrats’ favor (though some of this could be the eagerness of motivated Democrats to be polled). And there is general agreement that Democrats’ chances of holding the Senate are much better than their chances of holding the House.

Recent data indicate that success for the abortion-gun control-January 6th strategy, to the extent it is working (and might work in the future) is attributable to those voters for whom these issues loom large and are less likely to be influenced by current economic problems. Such voters are disproportionately likely to be college-educated whites and it is here that Democrats have been demonstrating unusual strength.

In the just-released New York Times-Sienna poll, Democrats have a 21 point lead in the generic Congressional ballot among these voters. Shockingly, white college Democratic support in this poll is actually higher than support among all nonwhite voters. This is remarkable and has much to do with anemic Hispanic support for Democrats, who favor Democrats over Republicans by a scant 3 points.

More broadly, the lack of Democratic support among working class (noncollege) voters is striking. Democrats lose among all working class voters by 11 points, but carry the college-educated by 23 points. This is less a class gap than a yawning chasm.”

Read the whole thing at The Liberal Patriot!

Political Strategy Notes

So how are Democrats doing when it comes to registering voters? Rhodes Cook takes a look at party registration trends at Sabato’s Crystal Ball and writes, “Party registration can be a lagging indicator of political change, but recent changes in some states are bringing registration more in line with actual voting….Republicans have taken the voter registration edge in states such as Florida and West Virginia somewhat recently, and Kentucky flipped to them just last week. Democrats have built bigger leads in several blue states….Democrats hold a substantial national lead in party registration, but a lot of that has to do with the fact that a number of states, many of which are Republican-leaning, do not register voters by party. A little less than two-thirds of the states register voters by party (31 states plus the District of Columbia)….Overall, Republicans have made gains over Democrats in 19 states since summer 2018, when we last looked at these trends, while Democrats have made gains over Republicans in 12 states and the District of Columbia. There are more registered Democrats than Republicans in 17 of these states plus DC, and more registered Republicans than Democrats in 14….Why does all this matter? For a long time, party registration totals have been viewed as a “lagging indicator” of a state’s political evolution, changing more slowly than dominance at the ballot box. As a consequence, registration data has sometimes not been very predictive of how a state would vote. Yet now, as states switch from Democratic to Republican across the South, the data is becoming more reflective of actual election outcomes.” It should also be noted that party registration is not the same thing as “party identification,” which can be revealed by opinion polls. I’m not sure if it is still the case, but for many years registration status was the most accurate predictor of voting.

Cook shares a couple of charts that reveal challenges Democrats face:

In “What Could Save Democrats From a Midterm Catastrophe?” at The Cook Political Report, Charlie Cook reads the donkey party the riot act, but lets in a sliver of hope: “Democrats fervently hope that the reversal of Roe v. Wade, gun legislation, and the findings of the Jan. 6 committee (or some combination thereof) might galvanize their voters enough to retain at least one chamber. But data suggests that even a combination of all three is unlikely to be the antidote for their problems….The public is exhibiting an incredibly high level of pessimism about the direction of the country thanks in part to a variety of economic indicators that are all flashing red. Inflation is running at its highest rate in more than 40 years, the National Association of Realtors reported in May that the ability of buyers to afford a home hit its lowest levels since 2006, and over half of Americans and a majority of economists are bracing for a recession in the next year or 18 months….With those factors, along with the inability of President Biden and congressional Democrats to even remotely deliver on all they promised, there is plenty to be pessimistic about for Democrats. Midterm elections are basically report cards halfway through a president’s term, an opportunity for voters to choose between “stay the course” or “time for a change.” History shows their proclivity is to opt for a midcourse correction, if not a total reversal of what happened two years earlier….Yet there might be one silver lining for Democrats on the distant horizon. Should former President Trump decide, against the advice of nearly every Republican strategist alive, to announce his candidacy before the midterm elections in November, he might energize Democratic voters enough to minimize their losses at the margins. I am not sure it would save one or both majorities, but it certainly has the potential to have a greater impact than abortion, guns, and Jan. 6 combined….As unpopular as Biden is currently, he still bests Trump in most head-to-head matchups. In fact, Trump is arguably the one Republican that Biden might have a decent chance of beating if he ultimately decides to run for reelection….under the Republican delegate-selection system of winner-takes-all rather than proportional representation, delegates allocated in rough proportion with vote share, the more rivals Trump has, the more ways the anti-Trump or non-Trump vote is split. If that’s the case, then it is more likely for Trump to prevail….But back to 2022. Clearly Democrats need to make this election about anything but Biden and the state and direction of the economy. Can Trump provide the change of venue that Democrats so desperately need?….He will need to for Democrats’ sake, because the stakes are far too high considering historic precedent when a party suffers an election wipeout like Democrats are looking at this year.”

In a FiveThirtyEight post that ought to be required reading for data-crazed political junkies, Nate Silver offers another mini-ray of hope for Dems: “We remain in something of a summer doldrums for polling, and the overall outlook for November remains about the same as in recent weeks. But polls on the race for Congress have continued to inch slightly toward Democrats in what may reflect the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade….In the Deluxe version of our midterm election forecast, Republicans have a 85 percent chance to win the House and a 51 percent chance to win the Senate, both largely unchanged from when we launched the model three weeks ago. Meanwhile, in the Classic version of the model, which sticks to purely quantitative factors and leaves out the expert race ratings published by the Cook Political Report and other such groups, Republicans are actually underdogs to win control of the Senate, with a 39 percent chance.” Silver’s column is really more about how “distinctive” New Hampshire is as a “swingy” state, what makes a state that way and which states fall into that category. But he does conclude, “My subjective experience is that New England is considerably weirder — excuse me, “more distinctive” — than our metric describes it, and that means New England tends to be quite loyal to its incumbents. Hassan will hope that pattern holds.” Hassan, who has recently been listed as one of the more vulnerable Democratic senators, surely knows that hope is good, but working like hell to win her ‘swingy’ constituencies in a tough midterm year is even better.

For a good round-up probe of the effectiveness of the ‘McCaskill strategy,’ in which Democratic campaigns give dough to the more extreme Republican primary candidates they hope to run against, check out “Democrats have been boosting ultra-right candidates. It could backfire” by Nicole Narea at Vox. Narea lists the campaigns in which the strategy has worked well for Dems, and it is an impressive list. The list of campaigns where it has backfired is shorter. But Trump’s victory over Clinton in 2016, which may or may not have been decided by the strategy, is the scariest backfire example. However, the stakes are not quite so high in the midterms, and Democratic campaigns can’t be fairly blamed for using it when it looks promising. It may have worked just last Tuesday, when a Dem-supported extremist got the GOP nomination to run for Governor of Maryland. The Democratic nominee, Wes Moore, now has a much better chance of winning the governorship, according to Maryland pundits. Moore would be Maryland’s first Black Governor if elected. Ovetta Wiggins and Erin Cox reported at The Washington Post, “Moore said in an interview that while he recognizes a victory in November would be historic, that isn’t his goal. “I’m not running to make history,” he said. “I’m running to make inequality history. I’m running to make child poverty history. I’m running to address the issues that Maryland families have been facing for generations, with an urgency that I think it deserves.” Great statement.

Political Strategy Notes

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes, “The Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol was not just an ugly outbreak of mayhem unleashed by an unhinged mob. It was certainly not a protest that got out of hand. It was a coordinated effort to overthrow our democratic system led by a president determined not to let the voters deprive him of power….And it was a warning that political violence, spawned by white supremacists and right-wing extremists, threatens to become a regular part of our nation’s political life….Tuesday’s chilling testimony before the House select committee investigating the insurrection should be a moment of truth. Most Republican politicians have, up to now, embraced a strategy of avoidance. They turn the other way and change the subject. But what they heard Tuesday should make the choice before them clear: If they care about the rule of law, they must break decisively with President Donald Trump and the dangerous forces ready to use coercion to upend majority rule….If more Republicans had done so before Jan. 6, the bloody destruction might well have been avoided. It could also have been prevented if the Trump aides who now portray themselves as the reasonable people in his administration had spoken publicly at the time about the absurdity of Trump’s claims and warned the nation about the dangers he posed….Only the willfully blind will deny that the Jan. 6 Select Committee has now connected the dots. Trump’s falsehoods about fraud, his groundless lawsuits, his assembling of slates of fake electors, and, finally, his last-ditch resort to force were all components of one effort to let him stay in the White House despite the voters’ democratically issued eviction notice….By relying on extremist thugs to lead the way into the Capitol, Trump has brought our nation back to some of its very worst moments. It is hard not to ponder the violence used to overthrow Reconstruction after the Civil War — a toxic part of our history….Ridding our politics of this poison ought to be a bipartisan cause. Unfortunately, it isn’t.”

At nbcnews.com, Henry J. Gomez reports that “Democrat Tim Ryan chases after Fox News viewers in Ohio Senate race: A new 30-second spot titled “Fox News Friends” highlights personalities from the cable network — including Tucker Carlson — heralding Ryan’s moderate credentials.” As Gomez writers, “Rep. Tim Ryan — a Democrat angling to flip what many believed would be a safe Republican Senate seat in increasingly red Ohio — is unsubtly ratcheting up his efforts to woo GOP voters….Ryan’s latest TV ad, shared first with NBC News, will begin airing this week exclusively on Fox News, although its reach could eventually expand beyond the cable network known for its conservative audience and prime-time programming….Titled “Fox News Friends,” the 30-second spot is stuffed with clips of Fox personalities heralding Ryan’s “moderate ideas,” including during his brief run for president in 2020. Even Tucker Carlson — a commentator reviled on the left who has frequently hosted Ryan’s Republican general election rival, J.D. Vance — makes an appearance via a 2019 segment in which he encouraged his viewers to take note of how Ryan positioned himself to the right of other Democrats on border security. Carlson’s on-screen headline: “Not Everyone in the Dem 2020 Field Is a Lunatic.”….”Even the most conservative voices on TV agree: Tim Ryan is a voice for commonsense policies who stays focused on the issues that matter most to Ohioans,” Ryan spokesperson Izzi Levy said in a statement announcing the commercial, which is part of the campaign’s ongoing, eight-figure advertising blitz….A robust campaign account has kept Ryan on TV for months and allowed him to vastly outspend Vance since the primary. Last week, Ryan announced he had raised $9.1 million in the year’s second quarter, more than double what he raised in the first. Vance has yet to report his latest fundraising numbers.”

The new “Cook Partisan Voting Index (Cook PVI) State List” is out, with a change in the calculation method: “A Cook PVI score of D+2, for example, means that in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, the state or district performed about two points more Democratic in terms of two-party vote share than the nation did as a whole, while a score of R+4 means the state or district performed about four points more Republican. If a state or district performed within half a point of the nation in either direction, we assign it a score of EVEN….Please note that the formula has been tweaked since we last released the state PVI scores in 2021. Instead of using a 50/50 mix of the two most recent presidential elections to assess partisanship as we’ve done in the past, we’re switching to a 75/25 weighting in favor of the more recent presidential election. For the 2022 dataset, that means that the 2020 result in each state or district is weighted three times as heavily as the 2016 result.” Here are the ratings for 10 states with close U.S. Senate races in 2022: AZ – R+2; FL – R+3; GA – R+3; IA – R+6; NC- R+3; NH – D+1; NV – R+1; OH – R+6; PA – R+2; and WI – RA+2. The Cook Report also released the data for House districts.

In his article “The Glaring Contradiction of Republicans’ Rhetoric of Freedom: Democratic governors are showing the national party how to challenge the red states’ rollback of rights” at The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein touches on a possible messaging strategy for Democrats: “….the systematic drive by GOP state officials and the Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices to roll back seemingly long-settled civil rights and liberties, including the right to abortion, has provided Democrats with a unique opening to reverse the terms of this debate, particularly in races for state offices, where the rights battles are now centered. An array of Democratic governors and gubernatorial candidates are presenting Republicans as a threat to Americans’ freedoms….“It has frustrated me that Republicans love to cloak themselves in this blanket of freedom and feel as though they own it somehow, when in fact what they are selling to the people of Pennsylvania, or the American people, really isn’t freedom at all,” Josh Shapiro, the state’s attorney general and Democratic nominee for governor, told me in an interview. “It’s far bigger government and more control over people’s everyday lives.”….One of the most dramatic expressions of this new thrust came last weekend when California’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, who’s rapidly increased his visibility in national culture wars, ran a television ad on Fox News in Florida jabbing at DeSantis as a threat to liberty. In the ad, Newsom stands without a jacket or tie in the California sun as “America the Beautiful” plays in the background and declares, “It’s Independence Day, so let’s talk about what’s going on in America. Freedom: It’s under attack in your state.”….Supposedly representing the party of smaller government, Republicans across red states have in recent months approved a wave of intrusive actions as they work to unravel the “rights revolution” of the past 60 years. These measures include authorizing vigilante lawsuits by private citizens against anyone involved in providing an abortion and state investigations of parents who approved medical transition treatment for their transgender children (both in Texas), as well as restrictions on how both teachers and private companies alike can talk about race and gender and how K–12 teachers can discuss sexual orientation (the “Don’t Say Gay” law, in Florida). DeSantis has penalized in various ways the Walt Disney Company, the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team, and the Special Olympics for objecting to his policies….In Ohio, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill allowing “genital inspections” of high-school athletes suspected of being transgender (though the Republican State Senate leader says this measure won’t make it into the final legislation).”

Political Strategy Notes

In “Ro Khanna Psychoanalyzes His Own Party” the Silicon Valley congressman, who is one of the sharpest thinkers of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, is interviewed by Puck’s Tara Palmer. Some excerpts: “Ro Khanna: I’ve had very good conversations with the White House. I’m hoping they will act on some of them. In addition to some of the ones I mentioned in the Times op-ed, I think having a temporary export ban would go a long way to reducing prices, and here’s how I know that: we did it before 2015. But if you look at the unfortunate explosion that happened in Louisiana, where natural gas was not able to be exported right after that, you had a massive decline in price in the United States. So there are tools that we have….Every day he [President Biden}has to be talking about the economy, the economy, the economy. He needs to be talking about prices and what he’s doing to lower prices. He needs to talk about what he’s going to do to put money in the pockets of Americans who are struggling. He needs to go much more aggressively against big oil and their price gouging. And he needs to mobilize the government in ways on baby formula. I mean actually start buying the baby formula from Europe. Tell the F.D.A. that if it’s safe enough for European babies, it’s safe enough for American babies. Start funding mass production of critical supplies. Give an Oval Office address on the semiconductor shortage, asking why we’re not passing this bill in Congress?….I think we need to spend 80 percent of our time, 90 percent of our time, talking about the domestic economy, and what we’re doing. I respect his foreign policy on Russia and his leadership, but I think that the key is to be talking about the economy, the economy, the economy….I would like him to see him be much bolder on economic policy and more focused on it, more imaginative. ”

Khanna continues, “I’m supporting the president. I believe everyone should try to strengthen the president because I fully expect him to run. It does us no good in my view to speculate on alternatives when he’s clearly said that he’s running….I think there’s a lot of talent in the party. Maybe other people could beat Trump, but I don’t think that they are going to beat Joe Biden in the primary….But to become president you have to have a vision, and you have to connect with people at an emotional level. Trump had a dystopian vision: They industrialized you, they shipped your jobs offshore, I’m going to bring them back! Now, he didn’t deliver, but I don’t see DeSantis, in my view, as having an emotional connection with the electorate. I think Biden could speak much more about how he’s going to improve the lives of people in Pennsylvania and Michigan and Wisconsin….We can pay attention to the state legislatures in a way that we haven’t. We need to pay attention to grooming a new generation of young law students, like The Federalist Society, but on our side. We need to take judicial appointments much more seriously. Hillary Clinton was right that even if you disagreed with her, not voting for her was giving up the Supreme Court.”

Harry Enten reports that “Democrats get bounce in polls after Roe v. Wade is overturned” at CNN Politics: “Last week, Monmouth University released its latest survey results on the generic congressional ballot. Among registered voters, Republicans still led by 2 points, 48% to 46%. The result closely matches the average of recent polls, which has Republicans with a 1-point advantage on the generic ballot, which usually asks respondents some form of the following question: “If the elections for Congress were held today, would you vote for the Democratic or Republican Party?”….The latest Monmouth result, though, marked an improvement for Democrats who had trailed 50% to 43% when the university last polled on the generic ballot in May….Normally, I’d dismiss movement from one poll to the next as statistical noise. These two Monmouth results are within the margin of error of each other….But a look at all polling shows the same thing: Democrats have been gaining on the generic ballot since Roe was overturned….By my count, there have been eight different pollsters who ask about the generic ballot and conducted a poll before and after the Supreme Court found there was no federal constitutional right to an abortion. Every single one of them found Democrats doing better in their poll taken post-abortion ruling compared with the one taken pre-abortion ruling. The average shift was about 3 points in Democrats’ favor….This 3-point change may not seem like a lot, and it could reverse itself as we get further away from the ruling. Still, it puts Democrats in their best position on the generic ballot in the last six months.”

In “Maybe Dobbs Did Change The Race. We’ll Need More Time To Know For Sure,” Nate Silver takes a similar view at FiveThirtyEight: “Usually, the generic ballot is a noisy measure, and if you know nothing about what’s causing the changes, the best empirical strategy is to be quite conservative in updating the average. If the polls move by several points and there’s no real underlying cause, it’s probably just noise….After all, most people — even most people who vote in congressional elections — are not following the news intensely on a day-to-day basis. Cable news ratings, for instance, reflect a tiny fraction of the American population: The most-watched cable news program is seen by something like 1 percent of Americans on a typical night….So, in figuring out whether shifts in a polling average represent signal or noise, the model averages out lots of times when there’s nothing much going on and a fewtimes when there is. The safe bet is usually “probably mostly noise, awaiting more evidence of signal.”….But given that we do have a huge story on our hands, let’s do a direct before-and-after comparison. Six pollsters1 have released generic ballot polls both before and after the Dobbs decision.2 All six of those polling firms have shown a shift toward Democrats. On average, Democrats trailed by 1.3 points in the pre-Dobbs version of these polls but led by 1.5 points in the most recent ones, a shift of almost 3 points toward the party….If this persists, then our generic ballot average — and also our midterm model — will eventually catch up and move toward Democrats. Of course, that might not happen. The change could still be a statistical quirk. Or it could be temporary, an artifact of partisan nonresponse bias. That is, if Democrats are more engaged than Republicans by news of the Supreme Court’s decision — and there’s evidence to suggest they are — they may be more likely to respond to polls for some period of time, at least until the next news story takes hold. Then again, if Democrats are more motivated than Republicans to vote by the decision, that could help them in a real way in November, too….Bottom line: Most of the time, polling averages are exceptionally useful, but be wary of using them in ways in which they weren’t intended. The FiveThirtyEight generic ballot polling average is designed to be conservative and slow-moving and not really equipped to deal with breaking-news developments.3 That our generic ballot polling average is steady in reaction to the news doesn’t really prove anything either way, then. But because of the Dobbs decision, there may be some electoral upside for Democrats beyond what our model currently shows.”

Political Strategy Notes

In “Progressives: Take the fight to the states, right now. It’s the only way to win,” Gaby Goldstein writes at Salon: “For decades progressives have over-invested in federal strategies, including legislation, advocacy and litigation. While conservatives have been consistent and ruthless in their efforts to build power at different levels of government, progressives have almost entirely neglected state-level power. Now, with state power dramatically expanding, progressives are structurally and rhetorically unprepared….It’s time for progressives to challenge their thinking about state power. It’s time to reject outdated and ahistorical nostalgia for a Supreme Court that stands on the side of rights and justice — something that only briefly and intermittently existed. It’s time to embrace the fight for state power as a necessary part of the progressive project, and it’s time to commit to reallocating energy and resources downward to political and policy battles in the states….Conservatives have spent generations building an entire political apparatus designed to stack the courts with ideological judges. At the same time, they have focused on winning state legislative races, knowing that these overlooked venues of power are the key to redistricting and voting rights, and that once the judiciary had been captured by conservative ideology, it would give states more discretion to write regressive laws. Republican power in state capitals accelerated dramatically after the post-2010 gerrymandering strategy known as Project REDMAP, which resulted in Republican control of 25 state legislatures. There’s a direct line between that state-level power and this wave of Supreme Court decisions, including the fall of Roe.”

“But while the right has woven state-level strategies into the very fabric of its efforts,” Goldstein adds, “the left has been almost exclusively preoccupied with federal strategies and an aversion to state-level power. For decades, Democrats prioritized federal elections over state-level races, and left-leaning interest groups — including national abortion advocacy organizations — often focused on federal strategies and institution-building, to the near exclusion of local and state ones….Democrats routinely invest far too much money in unwinnable federal elections, while underinvesting in state and local candidates who actually have a chance. FEC filings for federal candidates show that Democrats running in noncompetitive Senate races have raised more than $119 million for their 2022 races so far. To gain some perspective on that, in 2020 Arizona Democrats fell just four seats shy of flipping the state legislature, and raised less than $10 million. This year, Arizona’s Republican trifecta — both houses of the state legislature, plus the governor — passed and enacted an abortion ban….by ceding both institutional and narrative control about the importance and value of state power to their opponents, progressives have directly aided the conservative cause. Progressives’ staunch unwillingness to recognize the interdependence between state and federal power has created a false mutual exclusion between state and federal power-building efforts. That was never a good choice, and now it’s disastrous. We have to build power, sustain it and wield it at both levels of government. We’re behind, and we’ve got to work fast….That understanding can and must fuel a massive redistribution of progressive efforts, strategy and resources toward our states — beginning immediately….Let us reimagine what our states could do for us, envision them as expansive and transformative venues of positive power, and demand that our states create the conditions in which reproductive justice, climate justice and so much more can be achieved.”

Christopher Kang argues that “Democrats Are headed for Disaster With Unfilled Judicial Vacancies” at Slate, and writes: “It’s time for Senate Democrats and the Biden White House to push beyond their current practices in order to fill all of the judicial vacancies by the end of this Congress. As someone who worked on judicial nominations in the Senate and the Obama White House, I know how hard it can be for Democrats to challenge norms, but we have seen Republicans stop at nothing in their relentless push to take and retain control of the federal judiciary to impose their extreme, partisan agenda on a majority of Americans who oppose it. Our federal courts are so far out of balance that we need the president and the Senate to do everything in their power to ensure justice and equality. That means filling every vacancy, even if it means breaking with the few remaining judicial confirmation process norms left in McConnell’s wake or standing up to Republican senators. Beginning to bring balance to our judiciary is more important than respecting Senate traditions….A more aggressive approach to judicial confirmations starts at the White House. Today, there are more than 80 judicial vacancies without nominees, out of 119 announced vacancies. One of the driving causes for this is too much White House deference to senators—both Democratic and Republican. The Biden administration needs to take a more assertive approach and show it is willing to bypass Senate tradition if senators are not proving good partners….The White House must not undermine its well-earned legacy on the courts by curbing its focus on professional diversity or accepting deals that would include conservative extremists. Instead, it must rally Democrats together—at every stage of the nomination and confirmation process—to fill every vacancy with judges dedicated to justice and equality. More than 30 national organizations already agree.”

Noting recent polls indicating a slight bump for Democrats in the wake of the Supreme Court’s abortion ruling, Amy Walter writes at The Cook Political Report: “It’s not that these surveys are necessarily wrong. It’s that they are measuring the initial reactions of voters. As we go forward, the durability of this reaction is the more important. If Democrats’ interest and enthusiasm in the election has indeed been fundamentally impacted, we should see a generic advantage for Democrats hold over the course of several polls taken over several weeks. More importantly, we would see it hold once pollsters move to a tighter “Likely Voter” screen….However, given our polarized electorate, the generic ballot test is not always the best gauge for whether the issue of abortion will have a meaningful impact on the election….Instead, watch for where Democrats decide to ‘lean in’ on the issue (and where they don’t). If you want to know where Democrats think Roe v. Wade ruling could help, look at the states and districts where Democrats and/or Democratic-aligned outside groups are already advertising on the issue. Seven of the twelve states and districts where we’ve seen ads explicitly mention the overturning of Roe v. Wade (via the ad tracking firm AdImpact), are blue states: Connecticut GOV and SEN, Illinois GOV, Washington SEN, Rhode Island GOV, Maryland GOV, MI-11 (Stevens/Levin) and Vermont SEN. The other four states where we’ve seen these ads are in three swing states and two swing congressional districts: Nevada SEN, New Hampshire SEN, Pennsylvania SEN and GOV, NV-03 (Rep. Susie Lee) and WA-08 (Rep. Kim Schrier)….In other words, this issue will play much differently in certain states and districts than in others. Or, as one Democratic strategist put it to me the other day, this is an issue that has “has power in pockets” of the country.”

Political Strategy Notes

Brent Budowsky writes at The Hill: “Fateful and indescribably important moments in the history of our democracy will occur from former President  Trump’s attempts to steal the 2020 election, the 2022 midterm elections, and — presumably — the 2024 presidential election. These also will shape the next decade of American democracy and American life….These matters will have a profound  impact on  our politics and  elections — more than experts think, because they  powerfully  and  personally  affect  either  every  one  of  us, either directly  or  the  people  we  love  deeply.  Upon  such  things  voters  will  vote,  our nation  will  rise,  and  change  will  come….I  doubt  that  our  troubled  nation  will  stand  with  five  Supreme  Court  justices,  on  a  court  with  only  25  percent  approval  according  to  Gallup,  packed  by  Senate  Minority  Leader  Mitch  McConnell  (R-Ky.),  whose  average  approval  rating  is  only  25.5  percent,  according  to  RealClearPolitics….Even  today  McConnell  threatens,  shamefully,  that  if  Republicans  win  power  in  the  Senate,  he  may  refuse  to  give  President  Biden’s  nominees  a  vote.  Biden  should  challenge  McConnell  aggressively  about  this.  If  he  does,  he  will  prevail….I  doubt  our  troubled  nation  will  stand  with  five  Supreme  Court  justices  who,  according  to  their  opinions,  might  next  outlaw  same-sex  marriage  and  contraceptives,  in  their  rigid  view  of  how  all  Americans  must  exercise  the  lifestyle  rooted  in  their  faith. These five Supreme Court justices  promised  the  opposite  of what  they  are  doing  now,  when  they  were  confirmed  under  oath….The legal  extremism  of  the  Supreme  Court  in  Roe, which follows an attack against gun control, after another mass murder that destroyed the lives of American children, has set  loose  a  hyper-motivated  movement  for  change  that  is  happening  in  towns,  cities  and  communities  across  the  nation. …Women  and  the  men  who  love  them  are  organizing,  registering,  voting,  speaking  at  town  meetings,  supporting  state  initiatives  and  pressuring  Congress  to  act.”

In “Americans’ Views On Abortion Are Pretty Stagnant. Their Views On The Supreme Court Are Not” at FiveThirtyEight, Zoha Qamar takes a deep dive into public opinion about the Supreme Court’s abortion decision and writes, “According to a poll conducted by YouGov/The Economist from June 18-21, 50 percent of Americans did not want the court to overturn Roe. And when YouGov ran a survey after the release of the Dobbs decision on June 24, it found that the same percentage of Americans disapproved of the court overruling Roe. (Support for overruling Roe didn’t waver much, either: Thirty-two percent were in favor of overturning Roe in the earlier survey, compared with 37 percent in the later survey.)….But it’s not just that Americans largely disapprove of the Dobbs decision. A third YouGov poll, this one fielded June 24-25, gave respondents 11 different choices to describe their reaction to the decision, and Americans reported feeling disgusted (34 percent) at a higher rate than any other emotion. This was closely followed by feeling sad (33 percent), angry (32 percent) and outraged (31 percent). A far smaller share of Americans reported positive emotions about the decision, such as feeling satisfied (19 percent), grateful (18 percent), happy (17 percent) and thrilled (12 percent). Notably, only 20 percent of Americans said they felt surprised by the decision, perhaps due to the notorious leaked draft opinion from early May as well as the court’s recent track record, which has been very conservative….the breakdown of Americans who believe abortion should be always legal, mostly legal, mostly illegal and always illegal has been relatively stable since then….While public opinion on abortion has remained fairly steady, public opinion on the Supreme Court has not. According to Gallup data, Americans’ confidence in the court has been trending mostly downward since peaking in 1988, but it nosedived in the past year. Last June, Americans’ confidence in the court sat at 36 percent; however, in June 2022 — ahead of the Dobbs decision but after its draft opinion was leaked — it plummeted to 25 percent. This is the lowest confidence level since Gallup began the surveys almost 50 years ago, and it was driven primarily by a dramatic drop in confidence among Democrats and independents.”

Cognitive dissonance researchers may want to explore the disconnect between Biden’s low approval rates and public attitudes toward Republican policies. In “Other Polling Bites,” FiveThirtyEight notes, “As the Jan. 6 hearings continue, 51 percent of likely voters agreed that Trump-supporting Republicans’ challenges to the results of the 2020 election, including during the Capitol insurrection, were “[a]n attempt to claim and hold power and overturn the will of the people,” according to a poll from Data for Progress conducted June 15-21. Among Democrats, a whopping 87 percent agreed with that view. Only 19 percent of Republicans thought so, however. By contrast, 66 percent of Republicans agreed with the idea that Trump-supporting Republicans’ challenges were “[b]ased on legitimate evidence of fraud, illegal voting, and false results.”….Most Americans also disagreed with its ruling that New York’s gun-control law was unconstitutional, according to a recent survey from Monmouth University. Fifty-six percent said that states should be allowed to limit the ability of people to carry concealed handguns through permits and other protocols.”

Centrist contrarian Doug Schoen opines in the Orange County Register that “First and foremost, it is highly unlikely that abortion replaces inflation or the economy as the top midterm issue. While abortion access is becoming a more salient issue as of late, Americans are still nearly three times more likely to cite economic issues (41%) – like inflation – as their top national voting concern this year over women’s issues (16%) – including abortion access – per a recent Politico/Morning Consult poll….Moreover, nearly two-thirds of voters blame President Biden’s policies for inflation (64%) – including a majority of Independent Voters, as well as of Democrats – according to recent IBD/TIPP polling….The second major reason that the decision to overturn Roe will have a muted impact on midterms is that Democrats’ own messaging on abortion has often times been varying. The party has struggled to come together around a cohesive stance – beyond their standard ‘choice’ articulation – about when and under what circumstances abortion should be legal…This failure, along with the electorate’s general lack of knowledge on the subject, has made it possible for G.O.P.-led states around the country to pass very restrictive abortion laws – i.e., banning abortions after six weeks, which is effectively a complete ban – without much national political blowback….Though the public broadly supports abortion legality, Americans want some limits. Even among abortion rights supporters – 61% of the public – a majority (68%) say that, in some cases, abortion should be illegal, per data collected by Pew Research Center….Thus, some of the messaging on the left from the progressive wing – about legalizing abortion access in all cases – is at times out of touch with the American public, and could be harmful to Democrats’ political prospects in swing-states….To that end, there is also a real chance that Roe ends up backfiring on Democrats politically, as President Biden is now calling on Congress to end the filibuster to codify Roe into law….This is one of the worst political and practical moves that Democrats could make. Talk of killing the filibuster shifts the national conversation away from Republicans being anti-choice and anti-women’s health to Democrats being anti-bipartisanship….Moreover, doing so would contradict the administration’s claim that they are willing to work across the aisle, damage their credibility, and negate Democrats’ ability to sell their bipartisan successes on infrastructure and gun control.” After the midterm elections, however, the argument for ditching the filibuster might make more sense — in the unlikely event that Democrats get a net gain of 2 or more Senate seats.

Political Strategy Notes

Li Zhou writes at Vox “This past weekend, more than 30 Democratic senators had a message for President Joe Biden: They want him to do more to protect abortion rights, and they want him to do it now. “There is no time to waste,” they said in the letter, which was led by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and sent one day after the Supreme Court announced its decision to officially roll back Roe v. Wade. “You have the power to fight back and lead a national response to this devastating decision.”….This letter is the latest indication of growing pressure on the White House to take additional executive actions in response to the fall of Roe. While Biden is not able to reinstate the protections offered by Roe without Congress, lawmakers and activists have clamored for the president to take other steps, such as finding ways for the federal government to defend abortion access in every state…..Many of these proposals would likely be challenged in court, but proponents emphasize that they’d like to see the administration give them a try before forgoing them completely. For months, some abortion rights advocates have felt that the White House hasn’t been doing enough to address the urgency of the situation, whether that’s weighing more ambitious policies or simply speaking out more forcefully on the subject. Many were disappointed, for instance, to find that Biden hadn’t used the word “abortion” in any presidential speech until recently….Additional ideas that have been suggested include a proposal championed by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) that would establish abortion clinics on federal lands in states where there are existing bans. Because federal lands aren’t subject to states’ civil laws and there’s room to interpret criminal laws, clinics could theoretically establish themselves on places like military bases without having to deal with a state’s bans….Other ideas that have been floated include using federal money to provide vouchers to people traveling across state lines for abortions and enforcing the use of federal Medicaid dollars to provide coverage in the narrow instances in which they can be used. These schemes also face implementation questions, with the first possibly running afoul of the Hyde Amendment and the second facing uncertainty about enforcement.”

Some observations from “Politics in the Post-Roe World” by Kyle Kondik at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “It is not surprising that, in the immediate aftermath of the ruling, Democrats appear to be enjoying something of a bounce. The NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College poll, out Monday morning, hadDemocrats up 48%-41% on the House generic ballot. Most other recent generic ballot surveys have shown Republicans leading. The generic ballot did not really change when the Dobbs opinion was leaked back in early May, although that was a hypothetical decision, whereas this is a real one. We’ll have to see whether this is the start of a new trend, or just a blip….abortion is such a huge issue, and Republicans (through the court) have changed the status quo so dramatically, that one cannot just assume the issue won’t matter….it seems obvious to us that many key state legislators don’t possess the kind of expertise and nuance, particularly on abortion, to legislate in nuanced ways. The likelihood of Republicans overplaying their hand is high….there are opportunities for both parties to accuse the other of being extreme on the issue. It just may be that in the immediate aftermath of Dobbs, Republican extremism on abortion will be easier to pinpoint because of the coming flood of anti-abortion activity in the states and because the status quo has changed in the direction of their position….To be crystal clear: We still favor Republicans to flip the House, as they only need to win 5 more seats than they did in 2020 to win the majority. And we think we would still rather be Republicans in the race for the Senate, although we continue to have questions about the strength of GOP candidates in key states. The abortion issue could exacerbate those problems. For instance, former football star and Georgia Senate nominee Herschel Walker (R) opposes abortion even in the case of rape or incest (and he’s far from alone among Republicans in that regard). Perhaps that stance becomes difficult to defend as the salience of the abortion issue now increases….Elections are rarely ever just about one thing. Abortion is going to be a bigger deal in 2022 than it otherwise would have been, but it may not alter the basic trajectory of the election….The 2022 election will get the nation started down a future path on abortion, but the ultimate destination is very much unclear.”

Let the finger-pointing begin. Those who are looking for something more substantial than ‘it’s the Democrats fault’ should read Scott Neuman’s “The abortion ruling has forced progressives to confront past missteps in strategy” at npr.com. As Neuman writes, “With abortion already banned in at least seven states and more than a dozen others expected to either prohibit or severely restrict the practice in the coming weeks, progressives are being forced to confront their missteps in the defense of Roe as they assess how to move forward on abortion rights and other issues in the wake of the court’s landmark decision last week in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization….What occurred was “a failure to fight on a lot of different fronts,” [NYU Professor Melissa] Murray says….The overturning of Roe was, in large measure, the pinnacle of a methodical and highly effective conservative strategy patiently carried out over the past half-century. Murray points to the gradual stacking of the Supreme Court in favor of conservatives and state laws severely restricting abortion….But equally important was “an inattentiveness to the lower federal courts” on the part of progressives — as these courts were routinely upholding state-level anti-abortion legislation, Murray says….To that list, Murray adds an erosion of voting rights that made it more difficult for women of color — likely the group most affected by the reversal of Roe — to have a say at the ballot box….Samuel Lau, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, concurs. “Disenfranchising people, gerrymandering voters out of meaningful representation, confirming federal judges with records hostile to civil and reproductive rights, and instituting undemocratic voting restrictions is in large part how we arrived here — especially when you look at the erosion of abortion rights on the state levels,” he says….Many Black women see a connection between voting rights and efforts to end abortion, Murray says. But instead of fighting on both fronts, abortion-rights activists remained focused solely on abortion….Carol Sanger, a professor at Columbia Law School, says it is also important not to discount the anti-abortion movement’s deep pockets. Thanks to donors such as the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, there was no lack of funding, she says….”That’s a failure of the progressives not to have had [their] own Koch brothers,” Sanger says. “[But] I don’t know how you get [your] own Koch brothers.”….Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH), agrees. “This really was about the degree of funding and diligence and focus,” she says. The anti-abortion rights campaign “had multiple layers and was exceedingly well funded and well executed,” Miller says. “That’s really where the blame should lie. [Abortion opponents] were very clear about their goals. They were incredibly determined and refused to ever give any ground,” she says.”….Meanwhile, a majority of Americans have consistently supported abortion rights and, according to an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist National Poll that came out on Monday, that still holds….Progressives “have some advantages,” [Florid State University professor Mary] Ziegler says. “Namely that this is not a decision that’s in line with popular opinion, including in some red states.” The states are likely to be the prime battleground for abortion-rights advocates moving forward, Miller says….”The path forward really is through the states,” she says. “I believe that that is really the place where if greater attention had been paid, perhaps we wouldn’t have seen quite the tsunami in 2018 or the number of bills restricting access to abortion and now banning abortion.”

Will Cassidy Hutchinson’s testimony before the January 6th insurrection committee affect the midterm election results? Also at Vox, Ben Jacobs notes, “In conversations with a half-dozen Republican strategists who represent a spectrum of opinion within the party and were granted anonymity to speak frankly, there was a broad consensus that, yes, this might have an impact on Trump — but probably not on Republicans in the midterms. There was a sense that this would inflict real damage on Trump’s long-term ambitions, even if it did nothing to shift the needle for now…..”What more do you need to believe crimes were committed?” one Republican strategist asked, before also conceding that “There have been a million times when people say Trump is finished, but this could be the millionth and one, but I don’t see a way for him to come back from this testimony.”….As to where that breaking point was, the Republican operative noted the silence from most national Republicans. “It’s fascinating how little you’re hearing from people like Ron DeSantis,” they said, and marveled at “how few members of Congress have stepped in” to defend Trump since Hutchinson’s testimony….Whatever the impact on Trump, none of the Republicans I spoke to thought the testimony would damage Republicans in the midterms. As one veteran operative pointed out, “people right now are really focused on $5 to $6 a gallon gas and I think that’s where people’s heads are at. By and large people have tuned this out. … Maybe this would be different if the economy was better but people are focused on their own welfare right now.”….That was echoed by another Republican working on 2022 races, who said, “No one is going to vote based on something that is happening within Washington regarding something that occurred a year and a half ago.”

Political Strategy Notes

One of the top progressive organizers, Heather Booth, rallies activists in the wake of the SCOTUS decision in her article, “Fighting for Abortion Rights All Over Again: This Supreme Court decision is a call to action. And the key message is—ALWAYS—if we organize, we can change this world, and we need to” at The American Prospect: “The Supreme Court decision is outrageous, but not surprising. The Court has taken away the ability of people to control their own bodies and lives and turned that power over to politicians. It is outrageous because it is against the popular will, against morality, against precedent, against the expansion of freedom….This is an undermining of the most basic freedom and most intimate decision of a person’s life: when or whether or with whom to have a child. It is against the popular will. Eighty percent of people in this country believe that no politician should come between a woman and her doctor in this most intimate decision. Seventy-five percent of people do not think Roe should be overturned….One in five people who can have a child will have an abortion in their lifetime. One in five. This means it could be your friend, your sister, your mother (and the majority of people who have abortions already have one child—and so know what it means to bring a child into this world). It could be you.” Booth shares some moving personal memories of her involvement in the movement for reproductive rights, and adds “Now we are on a knife’s edge in this country—not only about reproductive freedom, but about freedom to vote, freedom to marry who we love, freedom itself. But we do have the majority of the country on our side. We do have morality on our side. And now we need to organize to have the power to make these decisions to reflect the popular will….But just imagine what two more senators and holding the House could do. We could overturn the filibuster and codify Roe—and have sensible gun laws, and expand voting access, and address climate, and more. And the same is true at every level—including in the states and local areas….We need to use every tool at our disposal….We need to tell our stories, educate, activate, agitate, elect, and organize….We need the 4 M’s: Members, Message, Money, Movement.” Booth goes into more detail about the 4Ms and “When we organize, we have changed this world—won voting rights, expanded participation in the society, and elected a Senate and president who made Roe the law of the land. And we can do that again … but for that we need to organize. And if we organize, we can change the world.”

In “Dems hope to harness outrage, sadness after abortion ruling,” AP’s Steve Peoples and Mike Catalini report on the immediate political fallout of the Supreme Court decision and note, “Pregnant women considering abortions already had been dealing with a near-complete ban in Oklahoma and a prohibition after roughly six weeks in Texas. Clinics in at least eight other states — Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, South Dakota, Wisconsin and West Virginia — stopped performing abortions after Friday’s decision….In Pennsylvania, the future of the procedure could hinge on November’s elections. For now, women here will continue to have access to abortion up to 24 weeks. Republicans are poised to change state law, however, should they maintain control of the legislature and seize the governorship in November. Doug Mastriano, the GOP nominee for governor, opposes abortion with no exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother. Democrats in Pennsylvania and beyond initially appeared to unite behind their collective outrage, fear and sadness. They planned widespread protests. From the White House on Friday, President Joe Biden urged protesters to keep the peace, even as he described the court ruling as “wrong, extreme and out of touch.”….The Democratic president also called on voters to make their voices heard this fall: “Roe is on the ballot.”…At the same time, members of the Democratic National Committee raised the prospect of a silver lining within the high court’s historic gut punch….“Democrats have a real opportunity right now to harness this anger, to harness the sadness,” Democratic strategist Mo Elleithee said during a meeting of a DNC subcommittee. “We are setting the foundation to ensure that Democrats stay in the White House, so that the next time, there’s an opening on the bench, on the federal bench anywhere, that we’ve got a Democratic president making that appointment.”

It’s a non-starter until Democrats win an actual, not just a nominal, working majority of the U.S. Senate. But on ABC News ‘This Week,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren made a case for increasing the size of the Supreme Court, as reported by Julia Cheney at abcnews.com: “In a Friday decision, the high court overturned the landmark holding in Roe, instead ruling that there was no constitutional guarantee to abortion access. Justices voted five to four to reject Roe and six to three in favor of Mississippi’s ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, in the underlying case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization…The Supreme Court has “burned whatever legitimacy they may still have had” with their ruling last week overturning Roe v. Wade, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren said on Sunday….”They just took the last of it and set a torch to it,” Warren, a Democrat, told ABC “This Week” co-anchor Martha Raddatz in an exclusive interview. “I believe we need to get some confidence back in our court and that means we need more justices on the United States Supreme Court. We’ve done it before, we need to do it again.” (Warren has previously called for expanding the number of justices, including in an op-ed in The Boston Globe in December.)….[ABC’s Martha] Raddatz asked Warren on “This Week” why abortion should not just be decided by individual states and their elected officials, rather than ensured as a constitutional right….”‘Go to the polls,’ you say. President [Joe] Biden says, ‘Go to the polls.’ But look at the states outlawing abortion,” Raddatz pressed. “Those are largely conservative states, Gov. [Kristi] Noem had a point there — people go to the polls. They went to the polls just like your constituents in Massachusetts where abortion is legal, so why not leave it to the states?”….”We have never left individual rights to the states. The whole idea is that women are not second-class citizens and the government is not the one that will decide about the continuation of a pregnancy,” Warren responded. “Access to abortion, like other medical procedures, should be available across the board to all people in this country….”We [need to] get two more senators on the Democratic side, two senators who are willing to protect access to abortion and get rid of the filibuster so that we can pass it,” Warren said. “John Fetterman, I’m looking at you in Pennsylvania. Mandela Barnes, I’m looking at you in Wisconsin. We bring them in, then we’ve got the votes, and we can protect every woman no matter where she lives….the Republicans have been very overt about trying to get people through the court who didn’t have a published record on Roe but who they knew, wink, wink, nod, nod, were going to be extremist on the issue of Roe v. Wade and that is exactly what we have ended up with.”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. comments on the irony of the Supreme Court decisions on abortion rights and New York’s “open carry” law just as congress, led by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) passed the most significant gun safety reform in decades, signed in to law by President Biden on Saturday:  “The Supreme Court’s right-wing majority is so pro-life that it is willing to risk more killing by making it easier for people to carry concealed firearms. It extolled states’ rights in overturning Roe v. Wade but showed no such solicitude a day earlier for state gun regulations….The court’s precedent-shattering decision on Roe will dominate our public debate, but its irresponsibility on guns cannot be forgotten. Supporters of smarter, tougher weapons statutes should be very afraid that the Supreme Court’s radical conservatives will abuse their power to impose the gun lobby’s jurisprudence. But they should also take heart that a decade of organizing and public pressure has culminated in congressional passage of the first meaningful gun reform in 26 years….The upshot: Proponents of stronger gun control need to keep pushing — to restore the ban on assault weapons, to enact universal background checks, to raise the age for gun purchases, to establish gun buyback programs and much more. And friends of democracy need to challenge the justices’ arrogant overreach by strengthening support for enlarging the court and, where possible, containing its jurisdiction….Which brings us to the irony of the court issuing its gun ruling on the same day the Senate passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. House passage followed on Friday, and President Biden signed it into law on Saturday, declaring that “lives will be saved.” Do not underestimate the significance of this victory. The bill is certainly not all we need, but it takes major steps in the right direction….It strengthens background checks, imposes tougher regulations against illegal “straw” purchases of guns, tightens rules on access to guns by those accused of domestic abuse and promotes state red-flag laws that allow authorities to confiscate guns temporarily from people deemed dangerous. It also provides for reviews of juvenile and mental health records of gun purchasers younger than 21….In a democracy, public opinion matters. Organizing matters. Persistence matters. They finally paid off this week in modest but landmark gun reform. All three must be brought to bear in battling a partisan Supreme Court majority unwilling to acknowledge any limits to its power.”

Political Strategy Notes

There is a pretty good counter-argument to the belief that the January 6th investigation will not help Democrats in the midterms. In his article, “Truth about Trump “starting to sink in” for Republicans, says Morning Joe” at Salon’s Raw Story, Travis Gettys flags some comments by former Republican congressman and now MSNBC commentator Joe Scarborough regarding the political fallout of the January 6th investigation. As Gettys writes, “Scarborough was shocked by the results of a new [ABC/Ipsos] poll showing a majority of Americans — including one in five Republicans — think Donald Trump should be prosecuted….The survey conducted after the first week of public hearings by the House select committee found 58 percent of Americans believe the former president should be charged with a crime for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection, and the “Morning Joe” host found the results astonishing….”You look at the number — only 19 percent of Republicans, let’s stop for a second and think about this,” Scarborough said. “In this world of small margins that we play by every election, whether it was 2016 or 2020, let’s just stop for a second and go, oh, wow. Only 19 percent of Republicans think he should be charged with a crime and go to jail. That’s one in five Republicans.”….”Now, I must say, I ran four times and won easily four times,” he added. “But if one in five of my base thought I should have been charged with a crime and gone to jail, I mean, I would have gone and practiced law a lot earlier. Again, this is starting to resonate, this is starting to sink in. I just — we love to knock around Washington institutions. I’m not saying you, but all of us, we love to talk about how ineffective people in Congress or committees are. This committee has gotten the truth out to the American people, and even at the beginning of the summer, they’re listening….”

Dylan Scott reports that “A new study claims Medicare-for-all could have saved more than 200,000 lives during the pandemic” at Vox, and notes: “….a new study from a group of scholars at Yale and UMass-Amherst says the US had more deaths per capita than most economic peers due to something more specific: the lack of universal health care….According to that paper, published this month in PNAS, at least 212,000 fewer Americans would have died of Covid-19 in 2020 alone if the US had a single-payer health care system similar to the Medicare-for-all plan proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). The country would have also saved $105 billion in pandemic-related health care costs….The researchers ticked through different factors that would have reduced the number of Covid-19 fatalities under a system in which the government insures everyone and pays almost all of their health care costs:

  • Nobody would have lost health insurance as a result of job loss from the pandemic’s shock to the economy. (The study estimates about 14.5 million Americans lost employer-based coverage in March and April of 2020, though some of those people would end up being covered by Medicaid.) Research has repeatedly shown being uninsured leads to patients delaying health care and worse health outcomes. More insured people would have meant more cases being diagnosed and getting treated sooner, reducing the likelihood of severe disease or death.
  • Vaccination rates would likely have been higher — and therefore there would have been fewer severe cases and deaths — if more Americans had a relationship with a primary care doctor, which one in four people in the US don’t.
  • And by reducing the number of Covid-19 hospitalizations through more vaccinations and earlier diagnoses, US hospitals would have come under less strain. That would have made it easier for them to manage all of their patients, rather than the situation last summer — after vaccines were widely available — when people showed up at hospitals with no room or staff to treat them. Some of those people died.

….And if you take a look at countries that have universal health care systems — the UK, Taiwan, Australia, and the Netherlands, countries we covered in our Everybody Covered series on universal health care, plus France and Germany — they have experienced fewer deaths per capita than the US has.”….Countries with universal health care did outperform the US during the pandemic — that part of the paper’s conclusion appears beyond dispute. But they have deployed different programs to achieve that goal. It’s not clear to me that Medicare-for-all would necessarily lead to better outcomes than, say, a system modeled on the Australian or Dutch approach.” It won’t be much of an issue for the midterm elections, but leaning toward some form of M4A may get some traction for Dems in 2024.

Democratic strategists would be wise to enhance their dossiers on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. As Chris Ciliizza reports at CNN Politics: “A new poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire has some startling news for Donald Trump: He’s no longer the big dog on the block (at least in the Granite State)….Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis takes 39% in a poll of the Republican presidential primary in New Hampshire, while Trump is at 37%. No other potential GOP contender manages double-digit support, with former Vice President Mike Pence in third place at 9%….That’s a MAJOR change from where the race was last fall. A UNH poll in October 2021 showed Trump with 43% to DeSantis’ 18%….Another interesting nugget from the poll: Just 6 in 10 self-identified Republicans (62%) want the former President to run again in 2024. Which is, well, sort of low?…Now, this is just one poll in a state expected to be one of the first to vote in the 2024 primary season. If you look at all the polling done in the broader Republican White House race, Trump still leads in the preponderance of it. And he would start a third bid for president as the favorite for the GOP nomination….(Check out my rankings of the 10 Republicans most likely to win the 2024 nomination.)…And DeSantis just got the New Yorker profile treatment. (The headline: “Can Ron DeSantis Displace Donald Trump as the G.O.P.’s Combatant-in-Chief?“) That story includes this telling line: “Articulate and fast on his feet, he has been described as Trump with a brain.” Expect a hard-fought, maybe a vicious Republican presidential primary season in 2024, but don’t assume that they won’t unify at the end of it.

In “Yes, Democratic Messaging Sucks. But It’s Harder to Fix Than You Think.It’s a lot easier to be the party that wants to break government than it is to be the one that wants to use it,” Editor Michael Tomasky observes at The New Republic: “Democrats simply give the impression of being afraid of a fight. They want to be the party of comity. Even Biden is still trying to give Republicans a path to redemption in this regard….Democrats and their consultants need to think outside the box in which they’re trapped. Show elected Democrats doing things and going places you wouldn’t normally expect to see a Democrat, things that reinforce that they’re on the side of working people of all kinds, even those who don’t vote for them. And name names. Take on enemies. Every time you name an enemy you also name the people you’re trying to defend. People have a much better sense of what you stand for when you tell them what, and who, you’re against. They’ll trust you more if they think you’re on their team….I submit that this kind of approach will help address the structural problems I laid out above. Democrats across the ideological spectrum—from the conservatives to the very liberal—will respond favorably to a politics that emphasizes the idea, “We’re against the powerful interests that are scheming against you.” If people see liberal politicians taking creative and brave stands, we might even bump that liberal number up above 25 percent, since liberalism will stand for something positive again to your average person. This kind of politics can also slice through the media chatter: Republicans understand that the media loves conflict, so they serve up some new ones every week. The public always knows who the GOP is mad at, and they don’t pay a price for being the “angry” party….We don’t know if Biden will run in 2024. He often looks tired. But I’ll say this for him. He is more unambiguously on the side of working people than any Democratic president in a very long time. He’s an old-school, Truman-type Democrat. He and his team need to do more to show it.”