washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

Here’s an indication that, if Democrats don’t start focusing on linking reproductive freedom to the presidential race, the powerful issue may matter more down-ballot, according to Julianne McShane’s “Trump Killed Abortion Rights. But Voters Still Don’t Blame Him: He appointed three of the five Supreme Court justices who overturned Roe—but most voters don’t hold him responsible, a new poll found” at Mother Jones: “Despite Trump appointing three of the Supreme Court justices that were part of the majority that overturned the constitutional right to abortion established in Roe v. Wade, most voters don’t hold him responsible for rising abortion restrictions nationwide, according to the results of a new poll releasedMonday….The poll, conducted in December by the progressive think tank and polling firm Data for Progress, found that less than a quarter of voters overall (only 36 percent of Democrats—and, oddly, only 11 percent of Republicans) see Trump as “responsible for new bans or restrictions on abortions in states across the U.S.” So who do voters hold more responsible? Republicans in state office (33 percent), Republicans in Congress (34 percent), and the Supreme Court (50 percent). That’s not necessarily surprising, given that it was the high court that ruled in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to overturn Roe; that Republicans in Congress have already introduced several bills over the last few years aimed at essentially eliminating abortion rights; and that Republicans in statehouses across the country continue to say unhinged things as they seek to curtail abortion access….But, still, Data for Progress says the poll results—as well as another data point from that poll, showing that 52 percent of voters overall, and 67 percent of Democrats, believe the outcome of the next election will be significant for addressing abortion—show that “Biden’s focus on directing the blame to Trump” for the end of Roe “could help voters make more of a connection to the role Trump has played in curtailing abortion rights.”….Biden has also continued to attract criticism from some reproductive rights and justice activists who say he’s too tepid in his support for abortion rights, given that polling shows a majority of Americans not only disapprove of Dobbs, but also believe that abortion should be legal in all or most instances.”

“Twelve years ago,’ E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes in his syndicated Washington Post column, “political scientists Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein shook up Washington with their argument that the U.S. government wasn’t working because of what had happened to the Republican Party….They made their case in a book, “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks,” and in a powerful Post op-ed titled “Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem.”….“The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics,” they wrote. “It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.”….Power in the GOP has moved away from elected officials and toward those right-wing “commentators” on television, radio, podcasts and online. The creation of ideological media bubbles enhances their power. Republicans in large numbers rely on partisan outlets that lied freely about what Lankford’s compromise did and didn’t do, rather than on straight news reports….But the way things are going, Republicans in each chamber are just as likely to ignore the other’s better instincts. “Worsest” is not a word, but Mann and Ornstein might need it if they publish a new edition.”

At Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Kyle Kondik reports: “Following last week’s release of 2023’s fourth quarter campaign fundraising reports, we thought this was a good time to go through our House ratings and make a few revisions….The changes don’t alter the overall House rating math all that much: currently, we have 212 districts rated as Safe, Likely, or Leans Republican, 203 as Safe/Likely/Leans Democratic, and 20 Toss-ups. Splitting the Toss-ups down the middle would lead to… a 222-213 Republican House, or exactly zero net change from what happened in 2022. So Republicans are a little bit ahead in the ratings, but we’d classify the overall battle for the House as a Toss-up….The relatively scant House generic ballot polling generally shows a small Republican lead—the FiveThirtyEight average pegs it as half a point and the RealClearPolitics average has it as 2 points. This makes the overall environment seem like we’re still stuck in 2022, an observation we ran by several sources on both sides of the aisle without much pushback….In yesterday’s part one of our House analysis, we discussed the correlation between House and presidential results and what we saw in 2016 and 2020. Two of the relatively few “crossover” district members are Reps. Jared Golden (D, ME-2) and Don Bacon (R, NE-2). The pair are linked not only by being crossover members, but also because of the Electoral College quirk that is unique to their two states: Both Maine and Nebraska award electoral votes by congressional district. This allowed Donald Trump, by carrying Golden’s sprawling ME-2 in 2016 and 2020, to pad his electoral vote tally by one, and Joe Biden was able to do the same in 2020 by carrying Bacon’s Omaha-based NE-2….That both districts are likelier than not to award their electoral votes to the party opposite of their current House incumbent is the main reason we’re moving both districts from Leans to Toss-up, although they both are poised to have potentially strong opposition.”

In “Can America’s “sleeping giant” shake up the election? Let’s hope so.” Bob Hennelley writes at Salon: “It’s ironic that in 2024  the very fate of our republic rests entirely in the hands of the nation’s 85 million low wage potential voters, roughly a third of the American electorate that society and the corporate news media regularly ignore.  It’s the common Beltway wisdom that these folks at the base of the pyramid are marginal to the political conversation as compared to the vaunted middle class upon which both major parties have for so long fixated on….Columbia University researcher Robert Paul Hartley found that only 46 percent of voters with household income less than twice the federal poverty rate cast a ballot in 2016, as compared to a 68 percent turnout rate for voters who had a household income more than twice the poverty line. “They’re saying that they’re not voting because people are not speaking to their issues and that they’re just not interested in those candidates,” Hartley, told the New York Times  “But it’s not that they couldn’t be.”….In 2016, Trump carried Michigan by just 10,000 votes. 980,000 low-wage voters did not turn out. If. 1.1 percent of those voters had bothered the results would have been different. Michigan was no exception. In North Carolina, Trump’s margin of victory was 170,000 votes while 920,000 poor and low-wealth voters sat it out. If just 18.9 percent of those disengaged voters had been motivated to go to the polls history would have bent another way….n 2020, in Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin the Biden-Trump faceoff was really tight, close to just 3 percent. In Texas, a Republican bastion for decades, the margin was just over 5 percent….In 2016, in a ‘proof of concept’, the Poor People’s Campaign targeted specific low wealth and low wage voters in several states including in Georgia where they identified and mobilized 36,000 previously unengaged voters that helped produce the margin of victory in the pivotal U.S. Senate races won by Rev. Raphael Warner (D-GA) and Jon Ossoff (D-GA).”


Political Strategy Notes

In his latest email blast, Matthew Yglesias takes on “Trump’s middle class tax hike,” and writes, “Most people think (and I agree) that Trump flip-flopping the GOP away from its Reagan-Bush-Bush free trade positions helped him pick up votes in the Midwest. So Joe Biden has mostly kept Trump trade policies in place, which has induced Trump to raise his ambitions in an effort to outflank Biden. And what he’s stumbled on is an idea that, if explained properly to the American people, would be politically toxic. This isn’t a huge regressive tax increase that will finance useful public services — it’s a huge regressive tax increase that will partially offset the cost of tax cuts for the rich….But I worry that because a lot of progressive intellectuals are so invested in the industrial policy debate, they aren’t going to want Democrats to talk about why a 10 percent across the board increase in tariffs is bad….So it’s really worth saying that whatever you make of industrial policy, what Trump is suggesting is not a remotely strategic approach to national economic development. If anything, Trump’s entire trade agenda — not only these tariffs, but things like his 2020 effort to score a giant sale of soybeans to China — is geared around de-industrializing the United States and turning us into a primary commodity exporter….The right’s intellectual trajectory on these topics is somewhat alarming. Everyone in DC understands that Trump did not come up with this policy proposal based on any kind of detailed study of the issue. Unless it benefits him personally, Trump just pulls ideas out of his ass because he likes the vibe. Most professional conservatives have realized that the best way to wield influence in a Trump-dominated party is to say nice things about him and try to work behind the scenes. But the MAGA faithful don’t see the machinations behind the scenes. All they see is Miller talking about how amazing it will be for South Carolina to tumble backward to a more primitive state of development.”

Joe Trippi, a Democratic operative who managed Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential bid and Doug Jones’s two Senate campaigns in Alabama, told me in a phone interview that his major concern is that the Biden campaign should take the threats posed by third-party candidates “more seriously,” Thomas B. Edsall writes in his latest NYT opinion essay. “If Trump wins in November, it will be because of third parties getting a significant number of people,” Trippi argued. “No one who is a MAGA Trump supporter is going to vote for a third party. Most of it comes off Joe Biden.”….Polling supports Trippi on this score….In the RealClearPolitics compilation of recent polls pitting Trump against Biden, Trump led by 2.1 points, 46.7 percent to 44.6 percent….In the RealClearPolitics compilation of polls that add Robert Kennedy Jr., Cornel West and Jill Stein to the mix, Trump’s lead over Biden more than doubles, to 4.8 points, 41.6 to 36.8 percent. Kennedy gets 13 percent, and West and Stein each get 2.1 percent….Along with the threat posed by third-party candidates, two major crises — immigration and the Israeli assault on Hamas in Gaza — have become significant liabilities for the Biden campaign….Voters, as I mentioned earlier, overwhelmingly favor Trump over Biden to handle immigration and the southern border. Biden’s backing of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s prosecution of the war against Hamas in Gaza has weakened Democratic support, especially among young voters who were crucial to Biden’s 2020 victory….The Dec. 10-14 New York Times/Siena poll found that young voters, aged 18 to 29, favored Trump over Biden 49-43. These voters said they trusted Trump over Biden “to do a better job on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” 49-30. In the 2020 election, Biden beat Trump among 18-to-29-year-old voters by 24 points, 60-36, according to exit polls, by far his biggest margin in all age groups.”

Edsall continues, “Even so, Biden has the potential to regain ground on both immigration and the Gaza war….In the case of immigration, Biden has endorsed a hard-line, bipartisan border security bill — backed by most Democrats and some Republicans — that may be voted on in the Senate later this week, emphasis on “may.”….Many of the provisions of the act have been endorsed by conservative Republicans in the past, but the bipartisan measure is opposed by Trump and House Speaker Mike Johnson, on explicitly political grounds. They want to keep public anxiety over immigration festering through Election Day and they do not want to give Biden a victory on the issue….Trump and his allies have provided Biden the opportunity to counter the Trump-Johnson strategy by portraying himself as a proponent of vigorous border enforcement and Trump as a politically motivated politician who doesn’t actually care about the border….According to Jonathan Cowan, a co-founder of Third Way, a centrist Democratic think tank, Biden’s current strategy on immigration is a step in the right direction….“To win in 2024, Biden will need to convince voters that he is still the proud moderate they voted for in 2020,” Cowan wrote by email. “He has a lot of evidence on his side, but he still has a lot of convincing to do.”….The opening to win over swing voters, in Cowan’s view, “is there, including the blocs of soft Republicans and gettable independents we saw looking for someone else other than Trump in the New Hampshire G.O.P. primary.”….Douglas Schoen, a center-right Democratic operative and frequent critic of his own party, wrote in the Feb. 2 edition of The Hill that “evidence is beginning to emerge that Biden has at the very least, stabilized the race and that the ‘Trump surge’ has cooled off.”….Schoen concluded: “As for Biden’s chances one month into this election year, there is a lot of work to be done. However, if I were the Biden campaign, I’d be more pleased with the road ahead than just a few months ago.” Edsall concludes, “The biggest danger facing the Biden campaign is the possibility that Trump reins himself in. The chances of that happening, however, are virtually nil.”

In “The GOP Owns the Border Now. Here’s How Democrats Make Sure of It. Hard-right Republicans killed the Senate immigration deal out of fealty to Trump. That’s the perfect opening for Biden to go on the attack,” Michael Tomasky argues at The New Republic, “The GOP killed the border deal. The party that has been caterwauling for months—years—about the porous border dispatched one of its most conservative members, James Lankford of Oklahoma, to negotiate a bill. They had Democrats over a political barrel. President Biden was willing to sign a bill that included plenty of stuff that’s hard for many Democrats to swallow, but it’s an election year, and there’s Arizona to think about. They had a bill the likes of which they won’t see for another 15 years….So how can the Democrats be sure that voters get the message that the Republicans now own this chaos? Obviously, for starters, just say it and say it and say it. The Republicans blocked a bill because they and Trump want to run on the issue. They’d rather have the issue than fix the problem. Whatever Democrats settle on as the best way to say it, just say it over and over and over. They’ll never persuade MAGA voters, but that isn’t the point. The point is persuading the voters who’ll decide the election: the 20,000 in Wisconsin, the 15,000 in Michigan, and so on….Besides which, they may even persuade some Republicans voters of the merit of their message. They’re not all MAGA. A significant minority don’t love Trump. They won’t vote Biden, but they may stay home—and some of them may lose their ardor for Senate and House candidates who so cravenly kowtowed to Trump on this….Biden needs to rise up here. The State of the Union address will take place March 7. That’s the biggest audience he’ll have until his convention speech this summer, and he needs to use the occasion to drive home the Republicans’ naked hypocrisy. He should spell out all the strict provisions of the bill that made it a very tough sell to many members of his own party. He was willing to take some political heat to accept a compromise—one that included a number of Republican priorities—just to do something about the problem. And the Republicans killed it. They’ll boo him. Let them. It’ll be great theater, and to those few thousand Great Lakes voters, the Republicans will look ridiculous….How many times do swing voters need to see this movie before they understand the moral? Apparently a lot of times. Democrats: Remind them.”


Political Strategy Notes

From “What we’re getting wrong about 2024’s “moderate” voters: The voters who could decide 2024 are a complicated bunch” Christian Paz at Vox: “They constitute one of the most valuable, overlooked, and misunderstood chunks of the American electorate: the nation’s mythical moderates….They’re a complicated bunch. They’re often described as swing voters, fickle ideological creatures who exist around the center of the political spectrum. They get conflated with “independent” and “undecided” voters but aren’t exactly the same. They tend to be less politically engaged than their fierce partisan compatriots to their left and right. They’re both accused of not really existing and credited with winning elections for the major parties. And recently, they’re both the reason the Republican Party has been doing so poorly in the Donald Trump era and the reason Democrats should be careful that their winning coalition doesn’t collapse….you should break down moderate Americans into three discrete blocs….You have true moderates, whose opinions consistently fall around the center of the ideological spectrum. Then there are the moderates who are largely disengaged from politics and hold inconsistent opinions — sometimes, a mix of extreme views from both sides that, when averaged, often give them the false appearance of centrism. And then you have a kind of unicorn, the person who is engaged in politics but similarly has a mix of policy opinions that don’t place them cleanly on the ideological spectrum or in either major US political party….According to surveys of Americans’ ideological beliefs, those who call themselves “moderates” have tended to be a plurality of the American population since at least 1992. In 2022, they were roughly the same size as the segment of Americans calling themselves “conservative” — 35 percent moderate to 36 percent conservative, according to Gallup polling. Self-described “liberals,” meanwhile, trail at 26 percent of American adults, though that number has been trending up over the last 30 years….And Trump’s own brand of conservatism also appears to be less appealing to moderate Republicans in the first two states that have held primary contests so far: In Iowa, he garnered the support of about 20 percent of moderate GOP voters, a drop from his 34 percent showing in 2016 (the last time there were competitive GOP primaries). And in New Hampshire, he won about 25 percent of these moderates, down from 32 percent in 2016….Democrats face a challenge of their own: Their winning coalition counts on a bigger chunk of various kinds of moderate voters turning out for them than for Republicans.”

Highlighting this short message from top Democratic strategist and pollster Stan Greenberg, founding partner of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (GQR) and Democracy Corps.

E. J. Dionne, Jr. explains “Why I changed my mind and think Trump should be thrown off the ballot” in his Washington Post column: “It is annoying when your political judgments come into conflict with what you decide is right. That’s what has happened to me on the question of whether Donald Trump should be barred from running for president under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment….Though I agreed that Trump had, indeed, engaged in insurrection, I thought it would be best for the country to have him go down to defeat again in a free and fair election. Keeping him on the ballot so voters could decide was the path to long-term institutional stability and might finally force a reckoning in the Republican Party….But the more I read and listened, the clearer it became that Section 3 was directed against precisely the conduct Trump engaged in. Its purpose is to protect the republic from those who would shred the Constitution and destroy our system of self-government. What Trump did in advance of the attack on the Capitol and on Jan. 6, 2021, legally disqualifies him from the presidency….to argue that barring Trump from the ballot is “antidemocratic,” wrote professors Carol Anderson and Ian Farrell in another brief, is “ironic … as he bears by far the most responsibility for attempting to subvert democracy on Jan. 6.” An effort to overthrow constitutional procedures, wrote Ifill, should be distinguished from political protests, even those “accompanied by sporadic acts of violence.” Demonstrators are not the same as a mob trying to hijack the government….There are paradoxes galore on this matter. Believing Trump should be unable to run, for example, is the opposite of a partisan wish, since he is without question the weakest Republican whom President Biden could face….The biggest paradox of all: Throwing Trump off the ballot would seem, on its face, the opposite of democracy. Yet the whole point of Section 3 is to protect constitutional democracy from anyone who has already tried to destroy it. If its provisions don’t apply to Trump, they don’t apply to anyone.”

Your daily downer comes from Harry Enten’s “The union vote is becoming more Republican” at CNN Politics, in which he writes: “Take a look at recent New York Times/Siena College polling in the six closest swing states that Biden won in 2020: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Biden and Trump were tied at 47% among union members when asked who they’d vote for in 2024. When these swing state voters were asked how they voted in 2020, Biden won the group by an 8-point margin….The union vote is especially important in Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania. Somewhere between 14% and 15% of employees in these three states are represented by unions. (Between 12% and 13% of employees in these states are themselves union members.)….Biden won union workers – who reside primarily in blue states – by 22 points, according to the 2020 Cooperative Election Study survey by Harvard University. Compare that with Bill Clinton’s performance in 1992, when he won the national popular vote by a similar margin to Biden 28 years later. But Clinton won union members by 31 points, according to an American National Election Studies survey….We’re a far cry from 1948, when Democrat Harry Truman won union workers by 62 points over Republican Thomas Dewey. Truman almost certainly wouldn’t have won the election that year without them….When Truman defeated Dewey, union workers represented about 30% of wage and salary workers. Today, they’re about 10%….Trump won non-college graduate union members by 6 points in 2020. Biden’s victory among union members was entirely attributable to those who had graduated college, winning them by 46 points….union workers are far likelierto be in education, training and library occupations (32.7%). Additionally, public sector employees are much likelier to be part of a union (32.5%) than private sector employees (6.0%)….About two-thirds of Americans approve of labor unions, which ranks among the highest percentages recorded since 1967. Just 15 years ago, only 48% of Americans approved of unions….In other words, it pays to be seen as friendly to labor unions even among those voters who are not members.”


Political Strategy Notes

New York Times opinion essayist Thomas B. Edsall addresses a question of strategic concern for Democrats in the 2024 campaign, “Can Biden Take a Page Out of Trump’s Playbook?” with respect to the immigration crisis.  As Edsall writes, “In a bid to weaken Donald Trump’s domination of the immigration crisis going into the 2024 election, President Biden has reversed his position and adopted a high-risk strategy….Biden is seeking enactment of border legislation that “would give me, as president, a new emergency authority to shut down the border when it becomes overwhelmed.”….On Monday, The Times described Biden’s rationale in “How the Border Crisis Shattered Biden’s Immigration Hopes”:

The number of people crossing into the United States has reached record levels, more than double than in the Trump years. The asylum system is still all but broken.

On Friday, in a dramatic turnaround from those early days, the president implored Congress to grant him the power to shut down the border so he could contain one of the largest surges of uncontrolled immigration in American history.

Trump, acutely aware of the critical importance of immigration to his campaign, is determined to block Biden’s border security proposal, now under negotiation in the Senate. Trump, of course, wants to make sure that the “crisis at the border” remains foremost in the minds of voters through Election Day….The prize in this struggle is the 2024 presidency and all the power that goes with it.”

Edsall notes further, “I asked political strategists and American and European scholars to evaluate the viability of Biden’s immigration initiative and received a wide range of responses….Ruy Teixeira, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute who has often argued that Democrats have moved too far to the cultural left, questioned the viability of Biden’s immigration strategy in an email:

It’s a steep political hill Biden has to climb on this issue. His approval rating on “handling the immigration situation at the U.S.-Mexico border” is now 18 percent. Eighteen percent! That’s really, really bad and the lowest presidential approval on the issue ABC News has measured since 2004. In the latest Wall Street Journal poll, Trump is preferred over Biden by 30 points, his greatest lead on any issue.

Illuminating detail, Teixeira continued,

comes from a December survey conducted by the Blueprint group. Between Trump and Biden, who are voters most likely to think is close to their views on immigration? It’s Trump by a country mile: 44 percent of voters say Trump is close to their position, compared to a mere 25 percent who say Biden is close to their position. Even Hispanic voters are more likely to say Trump is closer to their views on immigration than to say Biden is….It’s a bit late in the day to finally be moving on this issue and only under duress from the Republicans. The border debacle has been unfolding throughout Biden’s term and the political damage has been accumulating. A big part of the problem is that there are a lot of Democrats who didn’t — and don’t — really want to do much about border security….I don’t think Biden is really committed to being a different kind of Democrat, just a somewhat more palatable one. And I don’t think he really wants to go after some specific person or group to forcefully dissociate himself from “weak on border security” views in and around the Democratic Party. That limits the salience of his repositioning both in the general political discourse and to voters’ perceptions of him and his party.

“All this said, it’s still worth striking a tougher stance on border security,” Teixeira wrote. “It’s the beginning of a move in the right direction and could help Biden modestly….Would Biden “lose more support on the progressive left than he would gain in the center?” Teixeira asked. His answer: “My view is that, on this issue as on so many others, the progressive left is a paper tiger….The net for the Democrats,” he concluded, “is likely to be strongly positive”

Edsall also quotes Brooking Senior Fellow William A. Galston, who observes: “Biden’s shift on immigration will make a political difference to the situation on the ground well before the election only if his new policies change the day. In the last year of the Trump administration, encounters with illegal migrants at the southern border numbered less than 500 thousand. During the third year of the Biden administration, the total rose to 2.5 million, and the dispersal of these migrants throughout the country has produced fiscal and housing crises in large cities controlled by Democrats….Biden will have to undertake tough measures that won’t be easy to distinguish from Trump’s. The Democrats who understand the political stakes will probably go along with this, while those who see this issue through humanitarian or ideological lenses will balk. If he proceeds down this path, Biden will have to hope that gains among swing voters exceed the losses in his base.” Trump and the Republicans, in Galston’s view, “will pay a price if they are seen as being driven by politics rather than the desire to address a really difficult problem,” but Biden faces a big hurdle in his bid to take command of the immigration issue:

The administration has waited so long to act that it faces a credibility problem that will only get worse if it flinches and settles for half-measures whose effects are incremental at best. Turning this issue around will take determination — and a willingness to endure criticism from fellow Democrats that hasn’t been the administration’s long suit thus far.”

In addition, Edsall writes, “Joel Kotkin, of Chapman University and the Houston-based Urban Reform Institute, argued that adopting a tougher immigration stance is a plus for Biden that comes with little cost: “The progressives, faced with the odious Trump, will fall into line, except on the margins. The open border is not welcomed by most people.”….

It’s hard to see, Kotkin continued,

how either working-class Latinos or African Americans welcome their communities being inundated by people who have entered illegally and about whom we know nothing. Protests in New York and Chicago by working-class people should not be ignored. This year, if I were Biden, I would be more worried about them than far-left foundations or cheap-labor lobbyists who might object.

Edsall notes further that “in communities suffering economic decline and growing isolation, a relatively small influx of immigrants can propel voters to the right.”….Ed Goeas, a Republican pollster, replying by email to my inquiry concerning the current politics of immigration, argued that the Republican Party has increased the odds that the Biden strategy will work. “I believe the Republicans may have given the Biden campaign the opportunity to turn this issue into a real plus,” Goeas wrote, referring to the politicized reasoning Republicans are using to reject the legislation under consideration in the Senate.”….Overall, Kotkin contended, “The political rewards of standing up on the border are far greater than backing the current chaos. Everywhere in Europe support for stricter immigration is moving from the right to the center and even the left, particularly in the ‘enlightened’ North.” Edsall concludes, “The public clearly wants the government to take steps to control the border. If Biden does nothing, Trump will retain his advantage on immigration, which consistently ranks among the top three voter concerns in polls. And most progressive voters understand, deep down, that if they cast a ballot for a third-party candidate or abstain from voting at all, they are in practice supporting Trump.”


GOP Now the Party of Open Borders, Constant Chaos

Reasonable people can disagree about the complex causes of the immigration crisis on America’s southern border. But there isn’t much doubt about which party is trying to block a compromise to address it right now. As and Republicans Who Screamed About A Crisis On The Border Now Oppose A Plan To Fix It” at HuffPo:

For months, Republicans have shouted from the rooftops about a migrant crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border and how President Joe Biden needs to act to address it, insisting the flow of migrants is an urgent national security threat.

Now many on the right are urging their party to reject the very same things they said were needed to fix the problem, including tougher enforcement measures and a proposal to automatically shut down border crossings when it is overwhelmed….

The GOP’s contortions aren’t just grating for Democrats but also on some conservative Republicans who have been deeply involved in crafting bipartisan legislation, which is expected to be unveiled soon, that would overhaul how migrants are processed at the border.

“It is interesting. Republicans four months ago… locked arms together and said, ‘We’re not going to give you money for this. We want a change in law,’” Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), the GOP’s lead negotiator on a deal pairing immigration changes with assistance to Ukraine and other allies, said on “Fox News Sunday.”….“A few months later, when we’re finally getting to the end, they’re like, ‘Oh, just kidding. I actually don’t want a change in law because it’s a presidential election year,’” he added.”

The authors add, “In a statement last week, Biden called the deal the “toughest and fairest set of reforms to secure the border we’ve ever had in our country” and vowed that if given the authority to shutter the border when it is overwhelmed, he would “use it the day I sign the bill into law.”

Meanwhile, Republicans have boxed themselves into an embarrassing contradiction. On the one hand they say that the urgency of the current border mess cries out for swift, decisive action. On the other hand, they say “Ah, let’s just just let it slide until after Trump wins.” So letting the border security disaster fester for an entire year until the next president is inaugurated is the GOP “solution” to the huge crisis they say is destroying America?

Putting political gain for a leader of Trump’s character before national security shows who they really are.

Ideologues will undoubtedly continue to argue about the causes of the border crisis. Leaders who are more interested in implementing practical reforms to help fix it than worrying about who gets credit for it have become scarce in the GOP. But there are a few Republicans, who are not cowering in the shadows, and congressional Democrats are eager to work with them to get it done for the good of our country.

As for the ‘chaos’ part of this post’s title, Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich put it this way, “The Republicans’ election strategy is built on chaos. The more chaos they create, the more pessimistic Americans feel about the capacities of our democracy to govern the nation. So we give up on democracy and turn to a so-called strongman….Trump wants voters to believe America is ungovernable, and that the only solution is an authoritarian like him taking over….Folks, the political struggle of our time is no longer Left versus Right, Democrats versus Republicans. It’s now democracy versus fascism.”


Political Strategy Notes

Democrats may be able to flip the prevailing media narrative regarding immigration policy to “The GOP is now the open borders party” For those who are following the progress of current immigration policy proposals, the flip merits consideration. As Ted Barrett, Manu Raju & Melanie Zanona explain in their article “GOP senators seethe as Trump blows up delicate immigration compromise” at CNN Politics: “Senior Senate Republicans are furious that Donald Trump may have killed an emerging bipartisan deal over the southern border, depriving them of a key legislative achievement on a pressing national priority and offering a preview of what’s to come with Trump as their likely presidential nominee….In recent weeks, Trump has been lobbying Republicans both in private conversations and in public statements on social media to oppose the border compromise being delicately hashed out in the Senate, according to GOP sources familiar with the conversations – in part because he wants to campaign on the issue this November and doesn’t want President Joe Biden to score a victory in an area where he is politically vulnerable….“I think the border is a very important issue for Donald Trump. And the fact that he would communicate to Republican senators and congresspeople that he doesn’t want us to solve the border problem because he wants to blame Biden for it is … really appalling,” said GOP Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, who has been an outspoken critic of Trump….GOP Sen. Todd Young of Indiana called any efforts to disrupt the ongoing negotiations “tragic” and said: “I hope no one is trying to take this away for campaign purposes.”….Underscoring just how damaging Trump’s comments and campaign to kill the border deal have been in the Senate, one GOP senator on condition of background told CNN that without Trump, this deal would have had overwhelming support within the conference….“This proposal would have had almost unanimous Republican support if it weren’t for Donald Trump,” the Republican senator said.” If Trump’s Republicans succeed in killing a bipartisan immigration bill, Democrats should make sure they – and Trump – own the kill.

Is the Good Economic News Good for Biden?,” Robert Kuttner asks at The American Prospect, and writes: “Thursday’s report from the Commerce Department displayed an exceptionally good economy. The economy grew at an annual rate of 3.3 percent in the last quarter of 2023, while core inflation, at just 1.7 percent, was actually below the Fed’s 2 percent target. The economy added nearly half a million jobs in the quarter, wage growth remains positive, and consumer spending is up….The index of consumer confidence soared 29 percent in the past two months, the largest such increase since December 1991. All of this means that the Federal Reserve, which meets next week to decide its next steps, is likely to stick to its plan to cut rates three times this year. It just doesn’t get much better….But can President Biden reap the political credit he deserves, come November? As pollster Stan Greenberg has pointed out, it’s a mistake to keep harping on how great the economy is, since it’s only marginally better for most working families. What Biden needs to do is make the election future-oriented—talk about how much more needs to be done, could be done in a second Biden term….“Soft landing” is one of the most dismal metaphors ever devised by economists. They, and their media mimics, use it to mean that we managed to get rid of inflation without resorting to unemployment. That’s to Biden’s credit….But the economy doesn’t need a soft landing, in the manner of, say, Alaska Airlines, that merely averts disaster. It needs a strong takeoff—even better jobs, wage growth, and more help for working families. Biden needs to emphasize that….This week’s endorsement of Biden by the UAW suggests the kind of help he will get from a resurgent labor movement. The best Biden “surrogates” in the campaign are working-class people and leaders.” In the NH GOP primary, “Fully 77 percent of Haley voters said they’d vote for Biden if Trump were the nominee. In about half the remaining primaries, independents can choose to vote in the GOP primary.” Haley’s cluelessness about American history and the role of trade unions notwithstanding, “The longer Haley stays in,” Kuttner adds, “the more she will remind voters of Trump’s deepening dementia, and the more she and Trump will argue about policy divisions that play to Democratic strengths (cutting Social Security, banning most abortion).”

Nikki Haley may not have much of a chance to unhorse Trump’s ride to the GOP nomination. But no Democrats should entertain the delusion that she is a political moderate just because her behavior appears less deranged than that of her GOP  competition. By any sensible standard, for example, Haley is one of the most virulent anti-labor extremists in the history of presidential candidates. As Noah Lanard writes in “Nikki Haley and Tim Scott Are Here to Remind You Republicans Hate Unions” at Mother Jones, “This weekend, Neil Cavuto of Fox News asked former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley what should have been an easy question about the ongoing UAW strike. Donald Trump had already made it clear how to respond from the right: Say something vaguely supportive about autoworkers, then pivot to claiming the Biden administration will send all their jobs to China by pushing electric vehicles. Instead, Haley portrayed workers in the largest industry in Michigan—a key battleground state that Trump won in 2016—as greedy and ungrateful….“It tells you that when you have the most pro-union president and he touts that he is emboldening the unions, this is what you get,” Haley replied. “The union is asking for a 40 percent raise; the companies have come back with a 20 percent raise. I think any of the taxpayers would love to have a 20 percent raise and think that’s great.” Land adds that “Haley, who as governor in 2014 said she didn’t want unions in South Carolina because “we don’t want to taint the water,” didn’t stop there. “I was a union buster,” she told Cavuto. “I didn’t want to bring in companies that were unionized simply because I didn’t want to have that change the environment in our state.” In “Nikki Haley’s Anti-Union Fanaticism Is Wild Even for a Republican,” John Nichols reports at The Nation, “She despises organized labor with a fury that is unrivaled in American politics….During her time as governor of South Carolina, she waged open war against labor—even going so far as to suggest she would sacrifice jobs for her state in order to keep unions out….“I will continue to be a union-buster, because every time you see me on national TV busting the unions, another CEO calls,” she said while serving as governor. “It just works.” All good Democrats hope that haley will continue to give Trump a hard time. On the outside chance that Trump tanks in the next few weeks and Haley somehow wins the nomination,  however, she would have a hard time convincing working-class voters that she would help them get better wages.

California Governor Gavin Newsom makes the case for President Biden on ABC News:


Teixeira: The Coming Working-Class Election

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, politics editor of The Liberal Patriot newsletter and co-author with John B. Judis of the new Book “Where Have All the Democrats Gone?,” is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

Here is a simple truth: how working-class (noncollege) voters move will likely determine the outcome of the 2024 election. They will be the overwhelming majority of eligible voters (around two-thirds) and, even allowing for turnout patterns, only slightly less dominant among actual voters (around three-fifths). Moreover, in all six key swing states—Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin—the working-class share of the electorate, both as eligible voters and as projected 2024 voters, will be higher than the national average.

It follows that significant deterioration in working-class support could put Biden in a very deep hole nationally and key states. Conversely, a burgeoning advantage among working-class voters would likely put Trump in a dominant position.

This very trend explains a lot about Biden’s current poor position in general election polls, where he is running behind Trump both nationally and in most swing states. In 2020, Biden lost working-class voters by 4 points, while carrying college-educated voters by 18 points. Biden would have lost the working class by more (and perhaps the election) if he hadn’t actually done slightly better than Hillary Clinton among white working-class voters; among nonwhite working-class voters, especially Hispanic voters, he did sharply worse.

In current polls, we see a marked decline in Biden’s support among bothcomponents of the working-class vote with the decline among nonwhite working-class voters if anything larger than the decline among white working-class voters. The result has been a double digit falloff in Biden’s margin among the working class as a whole. The Split Ticket crosstab aggregator has Biden losing working-class voters to Trump by 14 points, a 10-point drop from 2020 and the New York Times/Siena poll has Biden’s deficit among these voters at 17 points, 13 points worse than 2020.

This sets up some unforgiving political arithmetic. The same polls show modest increases in the Democrats’ advantage among college-educated voters, but not nearly as large as the fall off among working-class voters. And it should be stressed that, given the preponderance of working-class voters in the electorate, to truly set off widening deficits among the working class Democrats would need margin gains among the college-educated that are 50 percent larger than their margin losses among working-class voters. Not impossible, but a steep hill to climb.

Inspection of results from swing-state polls indicates the same basic pattern: big Biden losses among working-class voters relative to 2020, with approximate stability or slight gains among college-educated—not nearly enough to counter-balance the working-class losses.

It therefore seems obvious that the key to victory for either side in 2024 lies in their relative performance among working-class voters. For Biden, he needs to bring down his deficit among these voters so it is much closer to the modest levels of 2020, allowing his college voter advantage to be decisive. For Trump, if he is able to keep his working-class advantage at current levels—or even increase it!—he has an excellent chance of surviving even a very large advantage for Biden among college-educated voters.

All of this may be true, but will we actually see an election campaign focused on working-class voters? That remains to be seen. Right now, it looks more like a “Brahmin Left” vs. “Populist Right” election.

Brahmin Left” is a term coined by economist Thomas Piketty and colleagues to characterize Western left parties increasingly bereft of working-class voters and increasingly dominated by highly educated voters and elites. The Brahmin left has evolved over many decades and certainly includes today’s Democratic Party.

As a Brahmin left party, the temptation is great for Democrats to lean into their emerging strengths and just hope for the best among working-class voters. That is the natural inclination of the elites and activists who now dominate the party.

And indeed there are a couple of potent issues Democrats are planning to run on that are dear to the hearts of their Brahmin left base: abortion rights and defending democracy (“Democracy is on the ballot”, etc.) While for sure these are good issues for the Democrats, especially for your college-educated next door neighbor who would sooner take a bath in hot coals than vote for Trump, it must be recognized that these issues are not as potent and overriding for working-class voters. They are less convinced—far less convinced—that a great analogy for America today is Weimar Germany, 1932. Their concerns are more mundane, connected to their everyday material concerns and relatively conservative values.


Political Strategy Notes

Feeling a bit bummed by Trump’s wins in Iowa and New Hampshire? and Why President Joe Biden should be feeling good about a rematch with Donald Trump” at MSNBC.com. As Tribe and Aftergut write, “The good news, as the election comes into sharper focus, is that there is strong reason to believe that the sensible American majority will preserve our democracy and our freedoms in the only way we can, by rejecting Trumpism and keeping President Joe Biden in office. The surest basis for optimism is evidence that the reality of a robust economy is sinking in with voters. Last week, The Wall Street Journal, citing a Federal Reserve Bank of New York survey, reported, “Consumer confidence last month saw its biggest one-month gain since March 2021.”….As Biden’s campaign shifts into high gear, you won’t need fantasy to find hope that he can win, so long as reality-based Americans — those clear-eyed about the economy and clear-eyed about Trump and the Republican Party — go to the polls like they did in 2018, 2020 and 2022….Though some worry about a lack of enthusiasm for Biden among Democrats, especially among young people, keep in mind the wise observation of The New Republic’s senior editor Brian Beutler: “[A]nti-Trumpism is the most powerful force in American politics.”….Biden opened the year powerfully framing the 2024 election as one whose stakes “are the preservation of democracy and freedom,” including reproductive freedom and freedom of the press….And Trump has done nothing but reinforce that framing with his constant anti-constitutional threats. On Jan. 17, for example, he said CNN and MSNBC should have their licenses taken away. With the right messaging, the Biden campaign can help the public see Trump’s rhetoric as a threat to every one of us.”

Tribe and Aftergut continue, “Biden is also sharpening his focus on abortion rights and the ways Republicans have eroded them. He has a gripping new ad running sure to appeal to those who cherish reproductive freedom….  The elections Democrats won from 2018 to 2023 tell us something important: Campaigning on the threats to reproductive freedom drives Americans who don’t want the government messing with their bodies or stalking their bedrooms to wake up and vote….But again, reproductive freedom is far from all. Biden’s 2022 legislative accomplishments, including getting Congress to pass the Bipartisan Infrastructure and Jobs Act, the Chips and Science Actand the Inflation Reduction Act, are big economic wins that ordinary Americans are now feeling….Bloomberg reported last week that “U.S. consumer sentiment has risen to its highest level since July 2021… according to the University of Michigan’s Survey of Consumers Preliminary Results for January 2024.”….As the Journal said in its report about consumer confidence, “[A]s inflation cools … [a]nd with the solid labor market putting money in the bank accounts of freely spending consumers, recession fears for 2024 are fading.”….“It’s the economy, stupid,” as James Carville famously framed Bill Clinton’s successful 1992 election message. It always has been, and Biden appears to have landed in an economic sweet spot for his re-election….Democrats who need an extra dose of hope should pay attention to how the GOP is stumbling. Local parties play a huge part in the ground game of presidential campaigns — getting out the vote — but, as CNN reported on Jan. 20, there are growing Republican concerns that the turmoil in state GOP organizations could improve Biden’s election prospects….One last point: As Haley herself pointed out, Trump isn’t as sharp as he was. His bizarre rambling, his mixing up the names of Republican politicians and Democrats and his remarks that suggest he previously ran against Barack Obama have grabbed headlines over the last week or so….When the U.S. electorate hears and sees him next to Biden, it will be clear that the incumbent is the candidate with presidential command.”

Thomas B. Edsall shares a similar conclusion in his New York Times opinion essay, “We Are Normalizing Trump Again.” As Edsall writes, “this election year may surprise us, it will test, under heavy fire, the strength of the Trump coalition.” Ryan Enos, a political scientist at Harvard, shares this view. In response to my inquiry, Enos emailed me to say:

It’s certainly not the case that a majority of voters have normalized Trump. He remains a candidate favored only by a slight majority of voters within a minority party. But, given the U.S. electoral system, that makes him a legitimate candidate.

Even though many voters are willing to vote for Trump, Enos argued:

It doesn’t imply that they have accepted his vision of America — only that they prefer him to the other candidate and are willing to look past things about him that others find disqualifying. To many, Trump’s rhetoric and past actions make him unfit to hold office — and to be clear, he is a genuine threat to American democracy — but, unfortunately, not enough people see it that way, so he remains electorally viable.

Edsall notes, further, ….”Jonathan Weiler, a political scientist at the University of North Carolina, put it this way by email:

The kind of scrutiny a presidential campaign brings is just beginning. So, in spite of the fact that Trump receives more attention than is typical of non-presidents, he still has not yet been under the microscope as a “presidential candidate” to nearly the extent that he will in the coming months. And that will expose his liabilities — including what appear to be his growing cognitive challenges — to a much larger swath of the public.

For nearly a decade, Trump has avoided, time and again, the kind of public condemnation that destroys political careers. At the age of 77, he has lost a step. The next nine months will test what remains of his stamina, agility and cunning.”

In “Nikki Haley, Dean Phillips Learn the Hard Way as Ageism Flops In New Hampshire,” Bill Scher writes at The Washington Monthly: ““I don’t think we need to have two 80-year-olds sitting in the White House when we got to make sure that we can handle the war situation that we’re in,” said Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley on CNN Sunday, referring to President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, “We need to know that they’re at the top of their game.”….Democratic presidential candidate Dean Phillips made the same argument this weekend as he closed out his New Hampshire campaign against Biden: “If you listen to the voters, people feel he’s at a stage of life that makes it incompatible to leading the free world,” said the Democratic representative from Minnesota. “And the same is true of Donald Trump.”…Both ran campaigns premised on explicit ageism. Both lost….Why? Despite pockets of discontent, most Republicans agree with Donald Trump’s views, and most Democrats agree with Joe Biden’s views. And in past presidential elections, old age alone was not reason enough for voters to dump a leader with whom they generally agree….In an argument equal to Haley’s in its incoherence, Phillips began his campaign by saying, “I think President Biden has done a spectacular job for our country. But it’s not about the past. This is an election about the future,” But Biden’s “spectacular job” is happening in the present, not the past. The policies he’s enacted—including investments in clean energy, infrastructure, and semiconductor manufacturing—are all about building for the future. What about Biden’s performance today argues it would not be of similar quality tomorrow? Phillips did not, and cannot, explain….to most Democrats, Biden has moved the country forward. He muscled through pandemic aid. He tackled supply chain disruptions that contributed to inflation, which is now cooling. He protected the Affordable Care Act, which has provided coverage to eight million more people. He capped monthly insulin costs at $35 for Medicare beneficiaries. He’s invested in clean energy and making it more affordable. He’s funding infrastructure, building semiconductors in America, and presiding over a record stretch of low unemployment….We have two presumptive nominees with different visions for the country, each with a successful record from the vantage point of their bases. Ageism cannot, and did not, erase those achievements. And now, because ageism failed in the primary, ageism is less likely to cast a shadow on the general election.”


Political Strategy Notes

Regarding the new Biden-Harris campaign ad on reproductive rights, Edward Helmore writes at The Guardian: “The campaign ad, titled Forced, is designed to tie Donald Trump directly to the abortion issue almost 18 months after his nominees to the supreme court helped to overturn a constitutional right to abortion enshrined in Roe v Wade, which would have turned 51 this week….Dr Austin Dennard, a Texas OB-GYN and mother of three tells the camera her story about traveling out of her state to terminate her pregnancy after learning her fetus had a fatal condition, calling her situation “every woman’s worst nightmare”….In Texas, she said, her choice “was completely taken away and that’s because of Donald Trump overturning Roe v Wade”….“Donald Trump is the reason that more than 1 in 3 American women of reproductive age don’t have the freedom to make their own health care decisions. Now, he and MAGA Republicans are running to go even further if they retake the White House,” Julie Chavez Rodriguez, Biden-Harris 2024 campaign manager, said in a statement to The Hill.” Here’s the ad:

“Trump’s victory in the Iowa caucuses created the feel of a party falling in behind him, E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes in his Washington Post column, “Trump is not a colossus. And his party is a mess.”….But even if the punditry proves right, the GOP is in no way cohesive or coherent. Just look at the Republican majority in the House, which can’t govern without Democratic help. Meanwhile, Senate and House Republicans are at odds on the most important foreign policy question of the moment: whether the United States will continue to stand up against Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine….Even Trump’s big victory in Iowa belied the idea that Trump’s army would walk through fire for him. Many were plainly unwilling to ignore the bitter cold and icy roads on caucus night. Only about 110,000 of the roughly 750,000 registered Republicans in the state participated, down more than 40 percent from the 187,000 who joined the last competitive caucuses in 2016….The divisions among those hardy voters were deep, pointing to President Biden’s opportunities to drive wedges into the GOP electorate. The entrance poll found that Trump drew just 37 percent among college graduates, compared with 67 percent among non-graduates. Caucus-goers split down the middle as to whether they considered themselves part of the MAGA movement (46 percent) or not (50 percent.). Three-quarters of the non-MAGA voters opposed Trump….And 31 percent said they would not consider Trump fit to be president if he were convicted of a crime — a significant number, considering the loyalty to the GOP of the small minority willing to brave the elements….Sure, Democrats have their divisions, too. Party loyalists range from the center to the left, and some of their loud fights doomed parts of Biden’s program in the last Congress. But what’s remarkable is how much they did pass with narrow House and Senate margins — and, in the case of the infrastructure and technology investments, with bipartisan support….Failing to see the GOP as a party torn asunder allows Trump to seem stronger than he is. He uses this perceived supremacy to cow Republicans who hold the quaint view that governing in a reasonable and (small-d) democratic way is the point of getting elected. Is it just wish-casting to think New Hampshire might seize the opportunity to send them the message that it’s their duty to fight back?”

Jason Linkins makes the case that “It’s Time for Democrats to Make Some Enemies: With the presidential primary all but over, a yawning void in the news hole just opened up. Biden and his allies should pick some fights—and give the media some fresh material” at The New Republic. As Linkins observes: “President Joe Biden opened this particular book by going long on the threat that Trump poses to democracy. There’s nothing wrong with restating these terms, especially as it was a winning message in the midterms two years ago. But not every voter that Biden needs to reach is going to be fully convinced that such an existential threat is in the offing. So it pays to locate some less esoteric enemies, to whom everyone can relate. Here, a slew of corporate enemies abound: junk-fee crooks; private equity goons; the gangsters of the pharmaceutical industry; banks plucking high overdraft fees out of the pockets of people living paycheck to paycheck; a small universe of price gougers, wage thieves, and consumer predators….Democrats should be using their bully pulpit to actually bully these miscreants, drawing down on anyone who’s preventing ordinary Americans from claiming their fair share of a robust economy….Democrats have to earn these stripes through political combat—and they need to force Republicans to pick a side, as well. More often than not, the GOP can be put on the defensive. Trump’s plan to team up with the privateers of the health care industry to dismantle protections for patients with preexisting conditions is already giving his fellow Republicans headaches….Republicans can be counted on to speak with one voice, picking topics on a daily basis on which to do a Two Minutes Hate, keeping the right-wing media Wurlitzer filled with fresh sheet music to call the next dance. Democrats can’t match the GOP in terms of propaganda infrastructure, but they can marshal far more relevant and substantive topics of conflict than the Republican Party’s typical culture-war fare.”

Call this one “anatomy of an R to D flip, Florida style.” Here’s a report from Andrew Polino at wtsp.com: “ORLANDO, Fla. — Florida Democrats flipped a Republican-held seat by winning Tuesday night’s special election in Central Florida’s 35th State House District….Democrat Tom Keen, a Navy flight officer, defeated Republican candidate and Osceola School Board member Erika Booth with unofficial counts totaling Keen with 11,390 votes and Booth with 10,800….Keen’s narrow victory came despite Republicans significantly outspending Democrats on the campaign, with Booth raising just over $300,000 compared to Keen’s $115,000….The special election for District 35, which covers parts of eastern Orange and Osceola counties, was launched when former GOP state Rep. Fred Hawkins resigned in 2023 to become president of South Florida State College in Highlands County….Keen’s campaign ran largely on the issues of protecting abortion rights and lowering the cost of property insurance. Booth’s campaign embraced former President Donald Trump’s “America First” rhetoric with slogans that included “stop the woke mob,” “cancel the woke agenda” and “stop the brainwashing.” Looks like another indication that reproductive freedom for women still has messaging power for Dems. And perhaps it’s a sign that woke-bashing is now being greeted more with eye rolls more than cheers among moderate voters. “We are engaging with voters through targeted messaging about non-partisan issues like the economy, education, and healthcare,” Keen said. “We’re also using data-driven approaches to identify and connect with voters who may be open to our message, regardless of their usual political leanings.”….That targeted approach may have paid off, as Democratic elections analyst Matt Isabel told the Orlando Sentinel….”What actually clinched the win for Democrats was this massive margin with [nonpartisan] and perhaps some Republican moderates as well,” Isbell said. “If anything, this should be concerning for the GOP because it indicates a voter anger that maybe they have not understood.”


Political Strategy Notes

As the nation celebrates the 2024 Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, Democrats would do well to emulate the broad, bipartisan coalition that Dr. King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, mobilized to pass the legislation. It may be that such bipartisan coalitions created by Democrats can help to enact future reforms now languishing on the party’s legislative agenda. After Dr. King was assassinated, some public figures called for establishing a national holiday in his honor. The legislation stalled for more than a decade, as right wing members of the House and Senate were able to block the legislation. In the late 1970s, however, a petition campaign launched with the support of Atlanta-based The King Center headed by Mrs. King began to pick up steam – and millions of signatures. Mrs. King and superstar Stevie Wonder, whose song “Happy Birthday” helped galvanize grass roots support for the holiday, personally delivered petitions bearing six million signatures in two truckloads to Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill, who was impressed enough to prioritize the holiday legislation. Drawing on lessons she learned from serving as Chair of the National Committee for Full Employment and the Full Employment Action Council in the 1970s, Mrs. King organized a large coalition to urge congress to pass the holiday bill. The King holiday bill began to clear committees and by 1983 made it to a floor vote. 1983 was also the 20th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington, and Mrs. King mobilized a coalition of more than 800 diverse human rights organizations which gathered at the Lincoln Memorial to mark the occasion. The coalition adopted a legislative agenda with the MLK holiday at the top of the list, and the gathering exceeded the turnout for the original March on Washington. The 20th Anniversary March took place after the House approved the bill, but  before the Senate vote, and the event’s high turnout and group lobbying helped win the votes needed for approval. Indeed, the bipartisan coalition she led secured the votes of quite a few Republicans, including Rep. Jack Kemp (NY-31), who was instrumental in winning support from his fellow Republicans. Even Sen. Strom Thurmond, once an arch-segregationist, supported the bill and Republican President Reagan signed it into law. Although far fewer of today’s Republican members of congress support bipartisan initiatives, Democrats could benefit from the coalition-building strategy Mrs. King leveraged so effectively.

The consequences of today’s Iowa caucuses vote are not likely to have much impact on Democratic campaign strategy. Trump is expected to win big, and the only suspense is whether former SC Gov. Nikki Haley will finish ahead of FL Gov. Ron DeSantis and by how much. Then it’s on to New Hampshire for the GOP, and Iowa will become a fading memory. Democrats should probably expect that former Gov. Haley will be Trump’s running mate, because of GOP hopes that she will draw some added women votes. If Florida presidential polls get closer near the GOP convention in the summer, Trump may pick DeSantis instead. There are not a lot of strategic implications for Democrats in Trump’s choice of a running mate, since his outsize media persona and legal problems will likely render his veep choice of even less consequential than usual. Most women voters who are paying attention and care about their reproductive rights will likely vote Democratic, no matter who Trump choses. As for democratic chances to win Iowa’s electoral votes in November, it’s doubtful, but not impossible. Trump won the state’s electoral votes in 2020 by 53.1 to 44.9, a margin of 8.2 percent. That’s a bit better for Dems than 2016, when Trump’s margin of victory was 9.5 percent. Before that, President Obama won the state’s electoral votes in both 2008 and 2012. Barring a major upset, the Iowa vote tallies today won’t influence President Biden’s campaign strategy.

In “Did Trump or Biden deliver more for farmers? The answer may surprise you. The former president is using his ag record to appeal to Iowa voters. Farm income, however, rose under Biden,” Garrett Downs writes at Politico: “….Net farm income has actually gone up since the Democrat entered the White House. On average, net farm income has totaled $165 billion between 2021 and 2023, compared to $94 billion between 2017 and 2019. Farm income reached a record high of nearly $189 billion in 2022. And while it is projected to drop off in 2023 (USDA is still tallying receipts from December 2023), it remains above the 20-year average for receipts….The challenge for Biden is convincing farmers, who lean heavily Republican, that he’s been just as good if not better for their bottom lines than Trump, should the two face a rematch in 2024. For Democrats, chipping away at Republicans’ margins of victory in rural areas is critical to their 2024 hopes of maintaining the White House and Senate — and winning back the House….The administration has leaned heavily on Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and USDA to try and change voters’ minds in agriculture-heavy areas. In the past several months, the former Iowa governor has visited Minnesota, Maine, Washington and the early primary state of New Hampshire to tell farmers about the gravy train Biden has brought to town — and how his administration is working to distribute the recent surge in ag profits to farmers across the spectrum, not just the largest ag conglomerates….“Beyond providing over $56 billion in specific direct federal assistance programs to support American farmers who feed our country and the world, the President has taken unprecedented executive action to level the playing field so small and mid-sized farmers can get a fair price for their products, while making billions of dollars in transformative investments through the American Rescue Plan and Inflation Reduction Act,” White House spokesperson Jeremy Edwards said in a statement to POLITICO….”the Trump years were pretty low in terms of income,” said [Joe] Glauber, who now serves as a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute. “That would have taken it down to probably one of the lowest levels that we’ve had in several years.”….But the former president’s proposals on trade are rattling some in the agriculture industry, which is fearful of another prolonged trade war….Glauber, for one, warned that should Trump be reelected, the former president’s plan to aggressively expand tariffs risks triggering another trade war that would “really hurt U.S. agriculture.”…“If I were a presidential candidate, I certainly would be pounding on that point,” Glauber added.”

From “Why older voters have stuck with Biden more than younger generations” by Ronald Brownstein at CNN Politics: “Many of these same polls have found Biden running at least even with Trump among seniors, or slightly ahead, as a CNN survey in early November did; recent national polls by NBC and Quinnipiac University have even shown double-digit advantages for Biden among voters 65 and older. (A project that attempts to average the crosstabs of all major surveys, including some that CNN does not consider methodologically sound, found Biden slightly trailing Trump among seniors but improving on his 2020 showing with them.) In several of these surveys, seniors are now Biden’s best group against Trump; in others they are tied with young people as the most supportive. But the two generations are moving in opposite directions, with Biden gaining or holding steady with seniors in most polls compared with 2020, while his vote among young people is often around 15 points lower than his performance last time….Older Americans are hardly immune to all the crosswinds that have battered Biden’s standing. But they have proven somewhat more resistant than younger voters to those trends. In the latest CNN national survey, for instance, most seniors describe the economy as fair or poor, but the share that describe it in positive terms (43%) is at least 15 percentage points higher than among any other age group. LeaMond noted that while inflation obviously pinches seniors living on fixed incomes, they are benefiting from a significant Social Security cost-of-living increase and higher interest rates on savings. “The way we look at it is, seniors seem to feel, in general, more comfortable economically than other groups,” she said….Seniors also appear somewhat more resistant to the idea that Biden should step aside because of his age. In the New York Times/Siena poll, most swing-state seniors agreed that Biden is too old to serve effectively as president, but fewer of them said so than younger generations. In that same survey, seniors were far more likely than younger generations to say that Biden has the mental sharpness to serve effectively (though only about half of them agreed with that sentiment)….A bigger problem for Biden is that KFF polling in November found that only about one-fourth of Americans know about his major initiatives to constrain drug prices, with awareness among seniors only slightly better. (More seniors know about Medicare’s new authority to negotiate lower prices, but just 44% of them are aware even of that, KFF found.)….Whatever happens with seniors, Biden’s weakness with younger Americans remains a huge source of concern for Democrats. Younger voters born after 1980 (millennials and Generation Z) are growing a share of the electorate, while older voters born before 1964 (the baby boomers and Silent Generation) are shrinking: The nonpartisan States of Change Project forecasts that for the first time, the younger group will equal the older as a share of all voters in 2024.”