washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

J.P. Green

Political Strategy Notes

Partisanship is the strongest predictor of coronavirus response: Among Americans, partisanship has been a stronger predictor than age, gender, geography, even personal experience, a study shows,” David Roberts reports at vox.com. Roberts adds, “A bit of research, published in March, from three leading political scientists shows pretty convincingly that, in the face of the pandemic, Republicans and Democrats are once again hearing different things, forming different understandings, and reacting in different ways.” Roberts quotes Shana Kushner Gadarian, Sara Wallace Goodman, and Thomas Pepinsky — political scientists at Syracuse University, UC Irvine, and Cornell respectively, who note, “Republicans are less likely than Democrats to report responding with CDC-recommended behavior, and are less concerned about the pandemic, yet are more likely to support policies that restrict trade and movement across borders as a response to it. Democrats, by contrast, have responded by changing their personal health behaviors, and supporting policies that socialize the costs of testing and treatment. Partisanship is a more consistent predictor of behaviors, attitudes, and preferences than anything else that we measure….What we find is that even when you account for the zip codes people live in, i.e., their actual level of exposure to the disease.”

Charlie Cook shares his insights concerning “Where Things Stand for the 2020 Elections” at The Cook Political Report: “Not long ago, GOP chances of maintaining their control of the Senate looked to be about two out of three, but Senate Editor Jessica Taylor’s reporting since March shows that Republican Senate majority is getting more precarious and now control appears to be a 50-50 proposition.  Now with popular Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock challenging GOP incumbent Steve Daines in Montana, newly-appointed Georgia Senator Kelly Loeffler mired in a horrific political situation and the possibility that Republicans could draw an exceedingly weak candidate in what should be a safe seat in Kansas (filing deadline June 1), among other problems adding to previous woes with incumbents Martha McSally in Arizona, Susan Collins in Maine, Cory Gardner in Colorado and North Carolina’s Thom Tillis all in races that are, at best, toss ups.”

“Combine those two Congressional situations with a recession that has effectively eliminated any tailwind that President Trump had been enjoying from a strong economy,” Cook adds, “and it is hard to see his re-election prospects looking anything but more dire by the week. Today there is more than a one-in-three chance that Democrats will win a trifecta in November, the White House, the Senate and the House.  The policy and governing implications are enormous…Keep in mind that these outcomes are not independent of each other, a Trump victory would be more likely to be accompanied by retention of the Senate, a Trump defeat would raise the odds of Democrats taking over the Senate.  This isn’t ‘coattails,” (I don’t believe in coattails), but the turnout dynamics, the issue agenda and priorities and the political environment that would exist to re-elect, or defeat Trump would also be in place for a Senate that is already teetering on the edge.  Our system isn’t quite parliamentary but is getting increasingly more so, the linkage is greater, the ticket-splitting diminishing.”

Republicans are slapping high-fives over their Tuesday win in CA-25 special. But in her CNN Politics article, “Republicans win back California House seat they lost in 2018 after Democrat concedes,” Clare Foran explains why Dems just lost the seat: “The win came after Democrat Christy Smith conceded to Republican Mike Garcia on Wednesday in the special election for seat left vacant when Katie Hill, a Democrat, resigned amid controversy last year.” However, “there will be a rematch. That’s because Smith and Garcia are still running as candidates for a November general election to decide who holds the seat in the next session of Congress.” Dems hope, not without reason, that an anti-Trump landslide in November will give Smith enough leverage to take back the House seat.

So how progressive is former Vice President Biden” Here’s an excerpt from a New York Magazine article by Gabriel Debenedetti, flagged by Ruy Teixeira: “Long before the pandemic, [Biden] described a range of actions he’d take on day one, from rejoining the Paris climate agreement to signing executive orders on ethics, and he cited other matters, like passing the Equality Act for LGBTQ protections, as top priorities…To date, the federal government has spent more than $2 trillion on the coronavirus stimulus — nearly three times what it approved in 2009. Biden wants more spending. “A hell of a lot bigger,” he’s said, “whatever it takes.” He has argued that, even if you’re inclined to worry about the deficit, massive public investment is the only thing capable of growing the economy enough “so the deficit doesn’t eat you alive.” He has talked about funding immense green enterprises and larger backstop proposals from cities and states and sending more relief checks to families. He has urged immediate increases in virus and serology testing, proposing the implementation of a Pandemic Testing Board in the style of FDR’s War Production Board and has called for investments in an “Apollo-like moonshot” for a vaccine and treatment. And he floated both the creation of a 100,000-plus worker Public Health Jobs Corps and the doubling of the number of OSHA investigators to protect employees amid the pandemic. If he were president now, he said in March, he would demand paid emergency sick leave for anyone in need and mandate that no one would have to pay for coronavirus testing or treatment. As the crisis deepened, he said he would forgive federal student-loan debt — $10,000 per person, minimum — and add $200 a month to Social Security checks.”

‘Tis a pity that Sen. Richard Burr (NC) is not up for re-election in November, in light of the buzz around todays’ revelations that he, not only had his phone confiscated by the F.B.I. as part of an investigation into alleged trading of 33 stock sales after his coronavirus briefing; he just stepped down as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee in the wake of it. As Christina Wilkie reports at cnbc.com, “On Feb. 13, Burr sold stocks worth $630,000 to $1.7 million in a one-day sale involved 33 individual trades. One week later, markets began a steep slide as investors panicked over the potential economic damage from coronavirus.” No doubt, NC Dems are hoping the GOP stench will stick on Burr’s fellow Republican Senator Tom Tillis, who is up for re-election in November, but is not at this time implicated in insider stock deals. Insider trading allegations have also tainted Georgia’s two Republican Senators, both of whom are up in November.

Although the national focus is on Covid-19 health care concerns, health insecurity in general remains a central concern for growing numbers of Americans. As Erin Schumaker of ABC News reports that “Soaring unemployment numbers could translate into nearly 27 million people losing their health insurance, according to a new report…”Between March 1st and May 2nd, 2020, more than 31 million people had filed for unemployment insurance,” notes the Kaiser Family Foundation report, which was released Wednesday…Eight states including California, Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, Georgia, Florida, Michigan and Ohio will account for roughly half of the people who lost health insurance they previously had through their job, the report estimated…Before the pandemic, 1 in 3 Americans said that they wouldn’t be able to pay a $400 medical bill without selling their belongings or borrowing money.”

Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman explain why “Why 2020’s Third Party Share Should Be Lower Than 2016” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Despite — or perhaps because of — the relatively high share of the vote third party candidates received in 2016, we expect the two major parties to have a better showing in 2020…Voters generally feel better about their major party nominees this year than they did in 2016, leaving third party options with less of a raison d’etre…The field of third party candidates this year doesn’t seem especially strong, and even when prominent names have launched third party bids recently, they’ve struggled to gain traction — even in their home states…The public health crisis could make it harder for third party candidates to get on some state ballots.”

Also at the Crystal Ball, Kondik and Coleman note that incumbent Governors are also in a position to benefit politically from the Covid-19 pandemic, because “Many state governors have received high marks for their handling of coronavirus…Three of them on the ballot this November get a boost in our gubernatorial ratings this week…As of now, the open seat in Montana seems to be the seat likeliest to change hands on the relatively sparse presidential-year gubernatorial map.” Republicans now hold 26 governorships, compared to 24 for Democrats, with 11 governorships up for election in November. Kondik and Coleman write that “Democrats probably would be relieved to get out of 2020 holding as many governorships as they do now.”

Political Strategy Notes

“Most people have already made up their minds,” novelist Joseph O’Neill writes in “Brand New Dems” in The New York Review of Books.  “But even in a time of partisan polarization, there persists a small demographic of persuadables—the low-information, temperamentally apolitical, ideologically squishy voters who are responsible for fluctuations in presidential approval polls. The perceptions of these voters is the subject of an intense public relations battle between Democrats and Republicans.” Noting the economic collapse and Trump’s botched pandemic policies, O’Neill adds, “Surely the chickens will come home to roost. The problem is that they won’t, unless they’re rounded up and forced into their coop. Republicans have long been better at this kind of work than Democrats. This is because Democrats are terrible at “messaging…Biden, to the extent that he is visible at all, is terrible at campaign messaging. He doesn’t connect well with his supporters, many of whom minimize their exposure to him for fear of demoralization. Nor does he connect well with persuadable independents…In April he devoted two of his biggest ads to defending himself against Trump’s accusations that he is dangerously soft on China and its role in the pandemic. Republican strategists, terrified of substantive electioneering, have decided that Trump’s best bet is precisely to lure Biden into an esoteric, anachronistic, and xenophobic fight about who will stand up to China. Biden has taken the bait. Even by the standards of easily rattled Democratic politicians, his is a remarkably rapid surrender of rhetorical ground.”

O’Neill continues, “Trump was able to spook Biden in part because of the second kind of messaging—party branding. This kind of messaging occurs day-in, day-out, regardless of whether there’s an election imminent, and it never stops. Its aim is to make party designation a durable asset for candidates—not only for presidential elections but for the countless other elections that color the political map red or blue. Republicans are good at party branding. Democrats are not, to put it mildly, and thereby cede deep structural advantages to the GOP…there are no branding handbooks for political operatives in the way there are for businesspeople. There are books about effective political language—for example, the GOP consultant Frank Luntz’s Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear (2007)—but these largely focus on messaging for campaigns, not on the question of how to build a lasting party brand. Corporations have long understood the importance of managing the social and cultural meaning of their products. They don’t think of a brand as an analytic tool but as an actual thing—an intangible asset, capable of being valued by accountants, that can make or break a company’s fortunes. The stakes are no different for political parties.”

“What are Democrats doing about this?,” O’Neill adds. “Very little, so far as one can tell. For years, their party-branding strategy, to the extent that one existed at all, has been to rely on the personal qualities of the president, or the quadrennial presidential nominee, to confer brand value on the party’s other candidates: the “coattails” effect. Even someone as charismatic and competent as President Obama couldn’t make that work after the 2008 election. When the White House is occupied by a Republican, Democratic branding is left even more to chance. A miscellany of liberal personages (the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Chuck Schumer, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, John Lewis) serve as the faces of the party while they pursue their differing political and messaging agendas. From the point of view of branding, the Democratic Party is a mess…Republicans, by contrast, understand the importance of party branding. They understand that favorable generic perceptions are crucial to the success of their candidates. As a result they are highly disciplined and highly aggressive communicators who notoriously stick to their partisan “talking points.””

O’Neill ventures a strategy for Dems: “The challenge, for the Democratic Party, is to turn the (D) designation into a resilient asset and the (R) designation into a resilient liability. What can Democrats do to make something like that happen?…A winning Democratic Party brand strategy would have two parts: a strategy for increasing trust in the party, and a strategy for diminishing trust in the GOP…The current Republican “product” is historically terrible. At this moment of liberal outrage and GOP brand instability, Democrats have an extraordinary opportunity to cement in the minds of Americans that Democrats can be trusted to govern and Republicans cannot…We’re talking, as always, about winning at the margins and winning for years. Democrats want marginal Republican voters to feel that they can’t trust the Republican Party—not anymore. There’s something off about those guys…There’s your master narrative, by the way: Republicans can’t be trusted anymore. “Anymore” is important, because your audience may have a history or culture of trusting them. The nature of your audience also dictates that your messaging can’t consist of trashing the other side. That would backfire. Your messaging goal is simply to make your audience feel uncomfortable about what (R) now stands for.”

Turning to the Democratic Brand, O’Neill writes, “A brand strategy for the Democratic Party must reckon with three audiences: squishy Republicans and squishy Democrats; the party base; and those on the left, often younger voters, who vote (D) reluctantly or not at all…The most obvious way for the Democrats to successfully position themselves, across their many audiences, would be by passing a universally popular piece of legislation that is strongly and durably associated with the party, as Social Security once was. This would require a transformative initiative—on health care, say, or on green energy—that not only comes to fruition but is touted in partisan and popularizing terms. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was flawed on both of these counts: it didn’t contain the public option, which disappointed a lot of people; and, calamitously, Democratic politicians were embarrassed, fearful, and apologetic about a policy initiative that Republicans loudly objected to. This was irrational as well as spineless. Republicans loudly object to anything Democrats do…The Democratic Party, at its strongest, has stood for ordinary people. There would be no more powerful, effective, and lasting way to restore trust in the party than to align its core identity with its practices. You do that by branding the party as the grassroots party, and you authenticate the brand by placing at the core of the party’s operations the technical, financial, and moral support of diverse grassroots organizing groups. You don’t interfere in primaries.You do support regionalism, variation, and an ethos of mutual respect. Montana Democrats, after all, may think differently from their counterparts in Massachusetts. In effect, the party ethos would be to validate, elevate, and sustain the passionate activism that represents its best bet for winning year after year…It might be said that the party would lose control of its brand. The answer is that the party doesn’t control its brand anyway, nor should it. This isn’t a conceptual argument; it’s a concrete one. It’s based on the actual political landscape, populated by citizen-consumers who demand a meaningful political product. If the Democratic Party wants to be viewed as the party of ordinary Americans, it must embody that vision. The DNCwebsite currently proclaims, “The Democratic Party elects leaders who fight for equality, justice, and opportunity for all.” That should read, “Democrats are Americans who fight for equality, justice, and opportunity for all. The Democratic Party exists to give them power.””

In his Washington Post column, “Why the GOP may lose everything,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes, “Having disastrously bungled the pandemic, Trump is not only falling well behind former vice president Joe Biden in the polls; he could also be creating a tidal wave that would give Democrats unified control of the federal government’s elected branches…My conversations with four of the top Senate challengers suggested that the coronavirus crisis has reinforced core arguments that helped the Democrats win the House in 2018, particularly around access to health care, while also increasing the saliency of inequality — in both economic and health outcomes — as a mainstream concern…At the same time, Trump’s brutal belligerence has turned Democratic candidates into missionaries of concord. This allows them to be implicitly critical of the president and reach out to his one-time supporters at the same time…If the GOP does lose everything, it will be because the Trumpian circus-plus-horror-show is entirely off-key for an electorate that has so much to be serious about.”

“Biden’s pick matters more in terms of where the party is heading over the next few years than in terms of who wins this year,” Charlie Cook argues in “Biden’s VP Pick Charts the Future Course for the Democratic Party” in The Cook Political Report. ” Cook notes that “Five of the last 13 vice presidents (Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and George H.W. Bush) have gone on to become president. Two assumed the highest post after the death of a president (Truman and Johnson), one assumed office after a resignation (Ford), one was elected at the end of eight years as vice president (Bush), and another was elected eight years after leaving the No. 2 post (Nixon). As Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns pointed out in The New York Times on Sunday, “The ramifications of Mr. Biden’s choice will be profound. Even if he loses in November, his decision will all but anoint a woman as the party’s next front-runner, and potentially shape its agenda for the next decade, depending on if she is a centrist or someone more progressive.”

Also at The Cook Political Report, Amy Walter observes, “In national polling, however, Biden’s favorable ratings look a little less impressive. The folks at fivethirtyeight.com found Biden’s average favorable/unfavorable rating at 45 percent to 46 percent (-1). That’s significantly lower than where then-Sen. Barack Obama was in the month after he became the presumptive nominee (+20), but 14 points higher than where Hillary Clinton was at the end of the 2016 primary(-15). The good news for Biden is that he starts the race as already well-known (91 percent can rate him), meaning it’s going to be harder to try and shape opinions of him than it was for candidates who had higher favorable ratings but were also not as well known (like Michael Dukakis or John Kerry). That doesn’t mean that Biden is immune to attacks. But, it also requires a level of discipline on Trump’s part to keep the spotlight on Biden instead of himself. The president has rarely if ever, shown that level of discipline.”

Walter continues, “More important, Trump had the luxury in 2016 of running as the outsider. This year, of course, it is his administration that is in charge. And, as we’ve seen in two recent interviews, one with Fox’s Bret Baier and the other with ABC News’ David Muir, Trump isn’t keen on having his administration’s handling of the pandemic be the focal point of the 2020 campaign. When asked by Muir on Tuesday if he’d be comfortable with the election as a referendum on his handling of the crisis, Trump replied, “Well I am and I’m not.” His response to a similar question from Baier met with a similar reply: “No, but it’s gonna be a factor.” In both interviews, the president was also nostalgic for the world that existed pre-COVID. A world where the economy was “the greatest” thanks to his leadership. Even now, as you can see in these polls, Trump’s job approval rating on the economy remains pretty solid. But, with the economy unlikely to recover anytime soon, it will be hard for those positive numbers to hold. As such, we should all be prepared for the Trump campaign to try and make the race a referendum on Biden’s fitness to be president rather than on Trump’s handling of this crisis.”

Political Strategy Notes

From Alex Daugherty’s “‘A huge missed opportunity.’ Democrats fail to challenge Miami’s only House Republican” at mcclatchydc.com: “When South Florida Democrats couldn’t find a candidate to challenge Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a nine-term Cuban-American congressman from a prominent political family, they ensured that Miami’s only Republican will remain in Congress until 2023 — even though his district only went for President Donald Trump by a slim two-point margin…That could prove to be a costly mistake, Democrats and others now say. If Trump’s support continues to sag in swing states including Florida, Democrats would have been in a position to capitalize on a potential blue wave in November that could carry even little-known, down-ballot candidates — the kind they might have fielded against Diaz-Balart — to unexpected wins…“There’s a huge missed opportunity now because of what you’re seeing at the national level … depending on how this presidential election turns out,” said David Perez, a Democrat who unsuccessfully sought a state Senate seat in 2018 that overlaps with Diaz-Balart’s district.” After all the excuses have been made, a two-point margin ought to insure a well-funded Democratic challenger anywhere in the U.S.

Ruy Teixeira shares some good news from the mountain west, riffing on a poll cited in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle: “Montana is a Great State Even With One Democratic Senator; Imagine If They Had Two!..It could happen! I thought when Steve Bullock entered the race, he had a terrific shot at the Senate seat. The new Montana Statue University poll has him up 7 on incumbent Steve Daines (R). And as governor, he has a 70 percent approval rating on handling the coronavirus…Polling of course is thin in the state but this is a good sign. The more seats that are in play in November, the better for Democratic odds of picking up control of the Senate. Not a bad pick to send money to if you’re inclined to contribute to a reach Senate seat beyond the big four or AZ, CO, ME and NC.”

For a piercing critique of the major media’s coverage of coronavirus politics, read Eric Alterman’s “The Press Is Amplifying a Dangerous Know-Nothing Ideology: The anti-lockdown protests aren’t the first time the media has been swindled into cheerleading an extremist faux libertarianism” at The Nation. As Alterman obseerves, “Encouraged by near-saturation media coverage, the right-wing protests against commonsense social-distancing measures are getting out of hand. While the absolute numbers involved in the protests are tiny, their effect—when amplified by the credulous, cheerleading tone of the coverage—is massive and dangerous. On April 30 in Michigan, rifle-touting, Confederate-flag-waving, Trump-supporting militia types attempted to intimidate the legislature (to predictably sympathetic tweets from the president). These anti-lockdown rallies are popping up everywhere, often with nearly as many reporters covering them as there are protesters in attendancThe right to not only infect oneself with a potentially life-threatening disease but also to infect others and worsen the crisis that threatens the world’s public health and economy has become a symbol of the extremist libertarian right wing, whose members make up a significant segment of Trump’s political base. Governors—such as those in Georgia and Florida—who identify with Trump’s brand of faux libertarianism are embracing the right to infect, no matter the cost to their constituents, their country, and the world at large.”

Alterman cites several big media, including examples from The Times, Post, Politico and CNN. He concludes, “Chris Cillizza, a reporter at The Washington Post (later recruited by CNN), explained it thus: “My job is to assess not the rightness of each argument but to deal in the real world of campaign politics in which perception often (if not always) trumps reality. I deal in the world as voters believe it is, not as I (or anyone else) thinks it should be.”…One could hardly ask for a better an example of what New York University professor Jay Rosen’s diagnosed in 2011 as the “cult of the savvy,” which he defined as the quality “of being shrewd, practical, hyper-informed, perceptive, ironic, ‘with it,’ and unsentimental in all things political.” Rosen wrote, “Nothing is more characteristic of the savvy style than statements like ‘in politics, perception is reality.’” Of course, as Rosen notes, perception is not reality: “Reality is reality!”…So it’s no surprise that the miscreants demanding the right to infect themselves and others have no trouble receiving the loving attention of the uncritical mainstream media. It’s as if we’ve been in training for this death march for decades.”

Check out Greg Bluestein’s article, “Georgia’s Democratic U.S. Senate hopefuls make virus response top issue” at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for a peek at some of the messaging Democratic U.S. Senate candidates are using to wrestle away not one, but two Republican-held seats in the state. Of course, GA’s two do-nothing Senators are catching hell for the GOP’s dangerous coronavirus strategy. But the issue of corruption is now front and center, since both GA Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler have been accused on profiteering from the crisis. As Bluestein notes, “Each of the Democrats is also pressing to link Perdue with Loeffler, who is trying to tamp down an uproar over her stock transactions during the pandemic. At another recent virtual forum, the trio repeatedly mentioned Perdue and Loeffler in the same breath as they accused both of profiting from the disease…Loeffler has attracted most of the national attention for trades dating from Jan. 24, the day she and other senators attended a private briefing on the illness. She said financial advisers made those decisions without her input, and she announced she’ll no longer invest in individual stocks…Perdue’s opponents have highlighted a spate of trading from the month of March and purchases of stock from DuPont and other firms that are involved in the coronavirus response. Echoing her rivals, Amico accused Perdue of “blatantly profiting off of a pandemic.”

Brad Adgate discusses “The Impact COVID-19 Is Having On Political Ad Spending And Messaging” at Forbes and notes, “Expect political ads mentioning the pandemic to continue for the time being. Advertising Analytics says while it’s difficult to project messaging trends out too far, given how quickly the political landscape shifts, it seems that COVID-19 will be the largest topic of ads in 2020. Not   all of the ads will be on this topic, however. We’re already seeing the curve of ads mentioning COVID-19 smooth out at around 40-45% of political ads. However, this could easily increase or decrease depending on if there is a second wave or a vaccine or some other drastic event. For the week of March 10, in local broadcast, candidates spent $467,000 on ads that mentioned COVID-19. In the most recent available data (week of April 28), it had risen to $3.2 million.”

Adgate continues, “Looking ahead, Mark Lieberman, the President and CEO of Viamedia, believes the 2020 campaign with no rallies will be similar to the 19th century, when Presidential candidates relied on supporters acting as surrogates to reach voters. In 2020, these surrogates will be the media, especially television and digital. As Lieberman states, “Television with its sight, sound and motion remains the best medium to build awareness while digital media allows candidates to shake the virtual hands of voters. Bloomberg’s cross-platform media strategy of spending heavy on television combined with digital media with their superior targeting capabilities and memes, could be copied by Biden.”

Lest anyone get carried away with fantasies about a bipartisan response to the coronavirus pandemic, Charles P. Pierce writes that “Ohio Governor Mike DeWine Reminds Us That Without Fail, Republicans Gonna Republican” at Esquire: “Governor Mike DeWine, Republican of Ohio, was the recipient of a great deal of praise for leading his state’s response to the pandemic. He was the latest Republican cited as one of The Good Ones. But, as we all have come to realize, if you wait long enough, Republicans gonna Republican and, as the Great Reopening has begun, and as the national government has surrendered to the virus, DeWine is reverting to the mean…and we do mean mean…First, here’s the form with which Ohioans can nark on their friends who choose not to risk their lives by heading back to the widget plant in the middle of a pandemic when the governor and their bosses tell them to come in. If you don’t go back to your cubicle-shaped petri dish, and the guy from HR finks on you to the state, you lose your unemployment benefits. I was just saying the other day that what the American response to the pandemic was missing was just a little dab of East Germany…Second, DeWine announced on Tuesday that, in response to the economic impact of the pandemic, it’s time for another round of Austerity Follies in which Medicaid and public education get whacked and Ohio’s “rainy day” fund is left untouched, presumably for a rainier day than the one were soaking in now…”

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich chimes in with a similar warning regarding the Sunshine state’s Repubican rulers:

Will ‘Never Trumpers’ Vote for Dems Down-Ballot?

Perry Bacon, Jr. has a post up at FiveThirtyEight, discussing “How ‘Never Trumpers’ Crashed The Democratic Party.” Bacon covers a lot of ground about the   segment of Republicans who have become disillusioned with the head of their party, as well as the ones who were against him from the outset of his 2016 campaign. One of the more interesting questions about the ‘Never Trumpers” is, will most of them vote for Democratic candidates down-ballot – expecially for the U.S. Senate – in November?

Some Never Trumpers have pointed out that Republicans can oppose Trump and still vote for Republicans down-ballot. They want the Republicans to hold a Senate majority, so they can continue to shape the Supreme, federal, state and local courts in a conservative direction. For that goal, they are willing to endure another term for Mitch McConnell as Majority Leader.

Others, including Steve Schmidt, have argued that the GOP needs a thorough ass-whupping in November, in order to regain its senses and rebuild into a semblance of its more dignified and genuinely conservative identity of the not too distant past. It’s not hard to understand why many genuine conservative are embarrassed by Trump’s failed leadership and crass behavior. For good reason, they see McConnell as Trump’s enabler in chief, who should be defeated, even if Trump is re-elected. Without McConnell’s support, they believe Trump could be contained by the saner leaders of his party.

As Republicans George T. Conway III, Steve Schmidt, John Weaver and  wrote in their New York Times article, “We Are Republicans, and We Want Trump Defeated,”:

The 2020 general election, by every indication, will be about persuasion, with turnout expected to be at record highs. Our efforts are aimed at persuading enough disaffected conservatives, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in swing states and districts to help ensure a victory in the Electoral College, and congressional majorities that don’t enable or abet Mr. Trump’s violations of the Constitution, even if that means Democratic control of the Senate and an expanded Democratic majority in the House.

Bacon mines some data and notes.

“Trump won around 90 percentof self-identified Republican voters in 2016, similar to past GOP presidential nominees. About 90 percent of Republicans have approved of Trump throughout his first term, similar to George W. Bush’s standing in his first four years in office. And with Trump as the face of the party, Republican congressional candidates won around 90 percent of the GOP vote in the 2018 midterms, just as in recent midterm elections. There is really only one anti-Trump figure among the 249 Republicans on Capitol Hill: Sen. Mitt Romney…Polls also suggest most Republicans will be strongly behind Trump this November too — he is getting about 90 percent of the Republican vote in head-to-head match-ups with the presumptive Democratic nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden.

…Conservatives who really hate Trump probably no longer identify as Republicans — 11 percent of Republicans switched their party affiliation between December 2015 and March 2017, according to Pew. But surveys suggest that the share of Democrats switching affiliation in that same period is about the same. It’s hard to be precise about this: Data suggests at most 10 percent of American voters overall are anti-Trump but generally lean Republican.1 That’s not nothing, but between 40 and 50 percent of Americans are likely to vote for Trump in November.

Never Trumpers played a role in Democratic victories in the 2018 midterms, although the extent of their contribution is unclear. as Bacon notes:

It’s hard to quantify exactly how many anti-Trump conservatives backed Democrats in 2018 and how big a role they played in Democrats taking the House and winning many key governor’s races. But that temporary alliance between “Never Trump” Republicans and Democrats was strengthened in 2019 for two reasons. First, “Never Trump” Republicans found there was little appetite in the GOP for a primary challenge to Trump — another illustration of their declining influence within the party. And second, in a final blow for some of them, Republicans largely stood by Trump even as details emerged about his efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.

The third possibility is that Never Trumpers will vote for the most genuinely moderate candidates down-ballot, or not vote, or vote for a third party candidate when the choice is between an unnaceptable liberal or a Trump enabler. In every race, Democratic senate candidates in competitive races would be wise to pay close attention to the down-ballot views of Never Trumpers in their districts.

Political Strategy Notes

Perry Bacon, Jr. reports at FiveThirtyEight that “Several polling firms released surveys of Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in April. Former President Barack Obama carried all four states in 2012. Trump flipped all four in 2016 (as well as Ohio and Iowa, neither of which has much recent polling.) And Biden appears to lead in all four now. (North Carolina, which has gone Republican in both of the last two cycles, was also polled pretty often in April, with Trump and Biden looking basically tied there.)…at the moment, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are very close to the national tipping point — so they’re likely to be among the more determinative states this November.” However, noes Bacon, “Trump is likely to look stronger when pollsters start limiting their results to “likely voters.” Most of the April surveys in these four states were conducted among registered voters or all adults, two groups that include some people who may not vote in November…Fox News, Ipsos and Public Policy Polling all recently polled several swing states. All three found Biden had a larger lead in Michigan and Pennsylvania than in other swing states they surveyed (Florida for Fox, North Carolina and Wisconsin for PPP, Wisconsin for Ipsos.)”

Ruy Teixeira notes on his Facebook page, “Texas? Georgia?…Well, I wouldn’t get too frisky here. But there are two new polls out of TX and GA; the former shows Biden ahead of Trump by 1, while the latter has Biden only behind Trump by a point. No internals on the GA poll, so not much to comment on there, other than I’d have to see a lot more similar polling before I’d see GA as truly being on the edge between Trump and Biden. The TX poll has some internals available and encouragingly they show Biden with a much larger margin among Hispanics than Hillary had in the state in 2016 (47 vs. 26 points). However, Biden’s deficit among whites is basically the same as Clinton’s, about 40 points. I find it hard to believe that Biden can take the state or even make it very close without compressing that deficit…That said, it’s certainly worth keeping an eye on both these states as we move forward.”

Harry Enten explains why “Democrats are slight favorites for Senate control” at CNN Politics: “To gain Senate control from Republicans in November’s elections, Democrats will need a net gain of three seats (if former Vice President Joe Biden holds onto his lead over President Donald Trump and claims victory) or four seats (if Trump wins)…An early look at the data finds that Democrats are the slightest of favorites to take back the Senate. The chance Democrats net gain at least 3 seats is about 3-in-5 (60%), while the chance they net gain at least 4 seats is about 1-in-2 (50%)…The Democrats are doing fairly well not because they’re overwhelming favorites in any one or a select number of seats. Rather, it’s that they have a non-negligible to good chance in a lot of seats. Although Democrats only hold 12 of the 35 seats up, they have at least a 1-in-20 (5%) shot in 25 seats…They hold about an 8-point lead on the generic ballot. That’s about the same as it was in 2018, when it was 7 points, and about double what it was in 2016. Based on past trends, this large advantage suggests that races that may look like tossups right now are forecasted to move toward the Democrats over the course of the year.”

Enten continues: “Right now, Democrats are clear favorites in three seats Republicans currently hold: Arizona (Sen. Martha McSally), Colorado (Sen. Cory Gardner) and Maine (Sen. Susan Collins). They’re favored to defeat incumbents between about 2-in-3 times (65%) to three in four times (75%) in these states. All three are in states that were decided by 5 points or less in the 2016 presidential election, and where the national environment is helping the Democrats. The limited polling in Arizona and Maine also point to Democrats being ahead by a small margin.” However, ” Republicans are heavily favored in Alabama. Democratic Sen. Doug Jones won a shocking victory in a 2017 special Senate election. The polling and strong Republican tilt of the state indicate that Republicans should win this race about 6-in-7 in seven times (85%)…If Democrats are going to net gain three seats while losing in Alabama, their best shot to get that additional pickup is in North Carolina. This is another state that was determined by less than 5 points in the 2016 presidential election, and where Republican Sen. Thom Tillis has actually been running slightly behind Democratic challenger Cal Cunningham in an average of polling. Cunningham wins a little bit north of half the time (55%), though it’s best to regard this one as a tossup…The lack of Republican pickup opportunities again point why Democrats have a real shot of wrestling control: Democrats simply have a wider playing field.”

As former Vice President Biden ponders his choices for a running mate, a new group called The Committee to Draft Michelle Obama is making a case for the former First Lady, who was the “most admired woman in the world” in a YouGov poll taken less than a year ago. Supporters hope that there may be some wiggle-room in her statement, “I’ll say it here directly: I have no intention of running for office, ever,” as  she wrote in her best-selling memoir, “Becoming.” The group believes it would be hard for her decline if asked to join the ticket by Biden, who is a close friend of the Obamas. Biden has stated that his running mate will be a woman, and he is also being urged to select an African American woman. Only two Democratic women have 8 years of experience living in the White House and Mrs. Obama would also bring a younger, energetic feel to the ticket, as well as some bipartisan credibility. In addition, she has been thoroughly vetted. Asked if he thought Mrs. Obama would be a good running mate, Biden said, “I’d do that in a heartbeat if I thought there was any chance.”

“What should bring moderates and progressives together is an idea put forward long ago by the late social thinker Michael Harrington: “visionary gradualism,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes in his opinion essay, “Progressives and moderates: Don’t destroy each other” in the Washington Post. “The phrase captures an insight from each side of their debate: Progressives are right that reforms unhinged from larger purposes are typically ephemeral. But a vision disconnected from first steps and early successes can shrivel up and die. Vision and incremental change are not opposites. In our nation’s history, the two have reinforced each other — for example, in protecting the environment, achieving social security for the elderly and assistance to the unemployed, protecting civil rights, and expanding health insurance coverage. This lesson will apply for any new Democratic president, no matter which wing of the party she or he represents.”

Dionne continues, “A vibrant left has always been a central component of any successful era of social reform. By offering plans and proposals on what Harrington called “the left wing of the possible,” socialists, social democrats and left-liberals have redefined the political playing field…Moderates who think of themselves as problem solvers should welcome the left’s initiatives as part of a process of legitimizing the very act of public problem solving. Only when this happens can a real contest begin over how fast and how far we can move at any given moment.”

“The main reason crises don’t produce lasting change in social policy seems to be that people quickly forget or turn their attention elsewhere, so their beliefs and preferences snap back to where they were before the emergency.,” Lane Kenworthy argues in Foreign Affairs. Kenworthy, author of Social Democratic Capitalism, writes “Examining public opinion data going back to the early 1970s, the sociologist Lindsay Owens and I have found that recessions tend to have only temporary effects on Americans’ attitudes on a wide range of economic, social, and political issues. In addition, economic downturns cause some people to worry about their own financial well-being rather than the welfare of others, as the political scientist Ronald Inglehart has documented. And welfare state opponents and deficit hawks invariably warn against new public spending, arguing that the country can’t afford to take on additional debt.” Is Kenworthy underestimating the shelf-life of the fear factor in the current economic crisis as a force for lasting health care reform, or the relationship between public opinion and the actions of congress?

Kenworthy continues, “Temporary expansions of the safety net thus rarely become permanent. Time and again during downturns, the federal government has intervened to help people who lose their jobs and to rejuvenate the economy—by extending access to unemployment benefits, making stimulus payments, and declaring payroll tax holidays, loan payment delays, and more. But these temporary measures nearly always end once the economy recovers…When public social programs have been enlarged for good, it has tended to happen via the ballot box: progressive parties in government, not crises, make lasting social policy…Unless a new Democratic majority in the Senate is willing to do away with the filibuster, new social spending likely would have to be passed via the reconciliation procedure, which per Senate rules can be used only once a year…If the pandemic pushes us closer to social democracy, it will be because it boosts the electoral fortunes of the political party currently out of power, which happens to be one that’s already inclined to expand the social safety net.”

Political Strategy Notes

New York Times colmnist Thomas B. Edsall probes recent scholarship on racial attitudes of white Democrats and Republicans and notes: “In his 2019 paper, “White People’s Racial Attitudes are Changing to Match Partisanship,” Andrew Engelhardt, a political scientist at Brown, shows a dramatic increase in partisan racial polarization from 2016 to 2018…The accompanying charts show the percentage of white Democrats in the most racially liberal category growing from 10 percent in 2016 to 15 percent in 2018, the leading edge of a general turn to the left among party members. The percentage of white Republicans in the most racially conservative cohort, in contrast, grew from 14 percent to 21 percent, a tilt to the right with a potentially substantial impact…On a scale from zero to 100, ranking levels of racial resentment, the mean for white Democrats fell from 43 to 34. For white Republicans, the mean rose from 71 to 76…n a more recent paper, “Observational Equivalence in Explaining Attitude Change: Have White Racial Attitudes Genuinely Changed?” Engelhardt answers in the affirmative the question posed in his title….Poll data, he writes, supports “seeing changes in white racial attitudes as genuine. The decline in Democrats’ racial resentment levels between 2012 and 2016 appears sincere, not cheap talk.” And, Engelhardt contends, there will be significant political and policymaking consequences…

Edsall adds, “In their paper — “The Rise of Trump, the Fall of Prejudice? Tracking White Americans’ Racial Attitudes 2008-2018 via a Panel Survey” — [Daniel} Hopkins and [Samantha] Washington use a measure of prejudice that is significantly different from the one used by Engelhardt…Hopkins explained in an email why he and Engelhardt differ in their assessment of white Republicans. In his study, Engelhardt uses responses to the battery of what are known as “racial resentment” questions. Hopkins argued that these questions tend to push Republicans in a conservative direction because some directly relate to a separate issue, the role of government, including questions asking whether the government should intervene to help minorities…According to Hopkins, some Republicans will oppose intervention on the basis of ideological “small government” principle, not racism, nonetheless raising their racial resentment score…Hopkins and Washington found bipartisan declines in anti-black and anti-Hispanic prejudice.”

Edsall notes, further: “There is a third analysis that stands apart from those of both Engelhardt and Hopkins and Washington: that the growing racial liberalism of white Democrats is more about claiming a moral posture than deeply felt conviction…Hakeem Jefferson, a political scientist at Stanford, challenged the sincerity of white Democrats’ growing racial liberalism in an April 21 Twitter thread: “The white left” can sometimes look more “progressive” than black folks because the white left has the luxury of approaching questions that bear on marginalized people’s lives with a kind of reckless abandon that many others don’t have…I remain rather skeptical that we are in a period where black people can trust that white liberals have embraced a liberatory politics.” Edsll cites another study: “[Tufts political scientist Deborah J.] Schildkraut conducted a series of surveys to gauge liberal and conservative racial identity among whites. She found that just over 40 percent of conservatives said that their white identity was “very” or “extremely” important to them. A smaller percentage (23 percent) of white liberals saw their racial identity as similarly important…There were also vastly different perceptions of the level of discrimination against blacks and whites between white liberals and conservatives: “44 percent of white liberals said there is no discrimination against whites and 28 percent said there is a great deal of discrimination against blacks, while only 2 percent of conservatives said there is no discrimination against whites and only 8 percent said there is a great deal of discrimination against blacks.”

Edsall concludes, “If, as Hopkins and Washington find, whites are abandoning the relatively high levels of prejudice of 2016 in meaningful numbers, and if this decline contributed to Democratic victories in 2018, Trump will face a steeper climb in capitalizing on racial resentment than he did four years ago…The drop since Trump took office in what had been a fairly consistent sense of white racial superiority, according to Hopkins and Washington, would suggest that Trump’s ongoing racial appeals may have crossed a line, potentially endangering his re-election…Has the exploitation of racial anxiety reached the end of its politically useful life? No. Nor will it fade from American history anytime soon, if it ever does. But the very fact that more and more people now question whether Trump’s re-election is assured provides a ray of hope.”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. reports that “President Trump, who has largely declined to use his power under the Defense Production Act for needed medical and protective equipment, used that same power on Tuesday night to force meat processors to remain open. Never mind that food-processing and meatpacking plants are hot spots for covid-19 — at least 79 have reported outbreaks. Never mind that at least 20 workers in the industry have died from the disease or that the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) reports that at least 6,500 workers in the industry have been diagnosed or exposed. Dionne quotes Debbie Berkowitz, director of the worker health and safety program at the National Employment Law Project: “Trump has created a false choice between worker safety and feeding America,” Berkowitz, who has spent decades working on safety issues in meat processing, said in an interview. “We can do both. Other parts of the economy are doing both.” Dionne adds, “When social solidarity is essential, it’s common to hear pious sermons against class warfare. Unfortunately, there is a class war. And its victims, so many of them front-line workers, didn’t start it.”

At The Cook Political Report, Charlie Cook writes, “Simply put, a referendum on his performance is going to be a tough sell for Trump. He’s the first president in history to never have a majority job approval rating. Plus, as Bill Scher noted in Politico Magazine, third-party candidates are unlikely to make the ballot in many states this year because the coronavirus shutdown has made gathering petition signatures all but impossible. This makes Trump’s climb tougher in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In 2016, Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s vote share in each of those states was greater than Trump’s margin of victory. Thus, he will need to get closer to 50 percent in that all-important trio of states this time around than the 46 percent he got last time.” Cook warns, “The only way Trump wins is to make Joe Biden absolutely unelectable, to make him an unacceptable risk. That only happens one way, and it’s not by playing by the Marquess of Queensberry Rules for fair fighting…The Willie Horton, Bain Capital, and Swift Boat attacks that Michael Dukakis, Mitt Romney, and John Kerry faced, respectively, were child’s play compared to what is going to be thrown at Biden, his son, Hunter, and anyone else in the former vice president’s orbit. When this is over, Hillary Clinton will think she got off light from the 2016 Trump campaign. That’s the only way he can win, because a referendum isn’t going to go his way. Expect this to get ugly.”

Zack Stanton sketches “The Nightmare Scenario’: How Coronavirus Could Make the 2020 Vote a Disaster: Trump can’t cancel the presidential election. Here’s what you should really be worrying about” at Politico:=, and writes “the prospect that terrifies election experts isn’t the idea that Trump moves the election (something he lacks the power to do); it’s something altogether more plausible: Despite an ongoing pandemic, the 2020 election takes place as planned, and America is totally unprepared…The nightmare scenario goes something like this: Large numbers of voters become disenfranchised because they’re worried it’s not safe to vote and that participating makes it more likely they catch the coronavirus. Voter-registration efforts, almost always geared toward in-person sign-ups, bring in very few new voters. A surge of demand for absentee ballots overwhelms election administrators, who haven’t printed enough ballots. In some states, like Texas, where fear of coronavirus isn’t a valid reason to request an absentee ballot, turnout drops as Americans are forced to choose between voting in person (and risking contact with the coronavirus) or not voting at all…At the same time, confidence in the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service — whose coronavirus funding President Donald Trump has already threatened to block — teeters, and its involvement in handling so many absentee votes causes concern.”

Stanton interviews Rick Hasen, author of Election Meltdown, who says, “I’ve always been concerned that [Trump] would claim that fraud was the reason he might lose an election. And I still think that might happen, should he lose — which brings up the Election Administrators’ Prayer: “Lord, let this not be close.” If you have a real blowout, it’s hard to claim that fraud is the result…How do we ensure that elections are not only conducted fairly, but that people have confidence in them, when recent public opinion polling shows up to 40 percent of the public is not convinced that elections are conducted fairly? I think there’s a role to play for elected leaders, social media companies, traditional media companies, lawyers, members of Congress, state and local election officials — there are steps that all can take to try to minimize the chances of a meltdown. And that’s really where we have to focus our efforts, especially now in this Covid-19 era.”

At Sabato’s  Crystal Ball, Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman have an update on Democraic prospects for winning a U.S. Senate majority in November. Calling the battle for majority control a “toss-up,” Kondik and Coleman write, “The focus on the evenly-matched battle for the Senate has in some ways narrowed to four GOP-held seats: Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and North Carolina…Practically speaking, Democrats probably have to win all four, and the White House, to win the Senate…However, the map may be expanding. Democrats’ best bet among the other targets probably is Montana, but we still see a small Republican edge there…We are making two rating changes this week on the periphery of the Senate map: Alaska and South Carolina move from Safe Republican to Likely Republican.”

Political Strategy Notes

In a “fiery” interview by Politico’s Michael Grunwald, former Vice President Biden “said that the next round of coronavirus stimulus needs to be “a hell of a lot bigger” than last month’s $2 trillion CARES Act, that it needs to include massive aid to states and cities to prevent them from “laying off a hell of a lot of teachers and cops and firefighters,” and that the administration is already “wasting a hell of a lot of money.”…He called for stronger assurances that small-business loans will go to small businesses, and that aid to larger corporations will come with strings prohibiting stock buybacks, executive bonuses or worker layoffs. But he also went beyond policy prescriptions, saying the pandemic might convince Americans that grocery clerks “and all the other folks out there saving our rear ends and risking their lives for eight bucks an hour” deserve a better deal. He thinks there could be a backlash against big corporations who have poured their profits into buybacks and dividends rather than worker training and research and development. He thinks the virus could deal a blow to short-term economic thinking and anti-government political thinking.”

At The Cook Political Report, Amy Walter cites four possible scenarios for the November elections, including “1. The virus is still raging, and most of us are still under some form of a shelter at home order. 2. We have regional hot spots, but the rest of the country gets back to normal. 3. We are more or less ‘back to normal,’ but the fear of crowded spaces continues. 4. Things get better over the summer, but a new wave is predicted to break out in October or November.” Walter notes further that “states theoretically have the time to prepare for any of the four scenarios I laid out above. But, we also know that partisanship and legislative wrangling is a big—or bigger—hurdle than the ticking clock. For example, the three most important battleground states of the midwest—Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan—all have split control of government, more specifically, Democratic governors and Republican legislatures. The idea that these states could agree upon new laws before November—especially at a time when many state legislatures are trying to avoid meeting in person during this pandemic— seems unlikely.”

What does it take to get voting by mail in a Republican-controlled state? The Associated Press reports that “North Dakota’s June 9 primary will be conducted entirely by mail after all 53 counties chose to avoid in-person voting due to the coronavirus…Gov. Doug Burgum, a Republican, signed an executive order in March to let counties opt out of a requirement that they open at least one physical polling location. On Thursday, the state announced that every county commission had authorized voting by mail only. The state said it would mail ballot applications to every eligible voter.” Apparently the GOP supports safe voting only when the citizens who would be standing in line are overwhelmingly white. According to the Census Bureau’s 2015 Population Estimates Program, “When it comes to race, North Dakota’s voting age population is 91 percent White, 1.9 percent Black or African American, 1.3 percent Asian, 4.4 percent American Indian/Alaska Native, and 0.07 percent Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander. The Hispanic voting age population represents 2.6 percent of the overall North Dakota population.” Voter suppression practices reduce voting by the state’s racial minorities even further.

Walter also notes that “a February Gallup survey found that 59 percent of Americans were enthusiastic about voting in November — 13 points higher than a similar point in 2016 and 12 points higher than early in the 2012 campaign…Since the outbreak of coronavirus, however, CNN polling has shown a dip in enthusiasm, from 66 percent in early March to 57 percent in early April. Of course, more Americans are worried about paying bills, getting sick, and losing their jobs than they were in early March. As such, an election in November suddenly seems much less relevant. It’s also worth noting that enthusiasm to vote is still 16-points higher now than it was in July of 2016 and 9-points higher than it was in March of 2012. However, it’s worth watching this “enthusiasm” number closely over these next few months to see which voters say they have become less motivated to participate in the fall election…At this stage, we also know that voters are uncomfortable about the prospect of showing up to vote at a traditional voting location. An early March survey by Pew Research found two-thirds of Americans worried about showing up to vote in person.”

“More than 200 black women on Friday signed an open letter to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden urging him to pick a black woman as his running mate,Kate Sullvan reports at CNN Politics. “The letter, signed by black women working in both the public and private sectors, lists several potential candidates: former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, California Rep. Karen Bass, Florida Rep. Val Demings, Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, California Sen. Kamala Harris, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, and former national security adviser Susan Rice.,,Signers include actors Vanessa Williams, Latanya Richardson Jackson and Pauletta Washington, the former chairman and president of the US Tennis Association, Katrina Adams, the former editor-in-chief of Essence magazine, Susan Taylor, and the first female African American president of Spelman College, Johnnetta Cole.” Rep. Jim Clyburn, whose endorsement Biden has credited with securing his pivotal victory in the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary, has also expressed support for an African American woman as Biden’s running mate.

Chris Cillizza drills down on “The Warren V.P. Problem” at CNN Politics, and writes about the implications for majority control of the U.S. Senate afyer the election: “I’ve had Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren ranked consistently in the top five potential vice presidential picks for Joe Biden in 2020. The reasons are obvious: She’s a hugely popular figure with liberals nationwide and would help Biden energize that wing of the party come fall. But increasingly, there’s chatter that picking Warren would come with a major potential downside: Republican Gov. Charlie Baker would be tasked with picking her Senate replacement — and he would almost certainly pick a Republican…That would hand the GOP a bonus seat at the start of 2021 — and trigger a special election in the summer for Warren’s full term…The rules in Massachusetts work like this: Baker has the right to appoint an interim senator but also must call a special election for the seats between 145 and 160 days after the vacancy occurs…If Warren was the VP pick and resigned on the day she and Biden were inaugurated (January 20, 2021), the soonest a special election could be held is Tuesday June 15, 2021, and the latest June 29, 2021. That would mean that for the first six months of Biden’s presidency, Republicans would have an extra seat, which could be hugely important if the margin for control in the Senate was tight…And, yes, Democrats would be favored to win Warren’s Senate seat in a June 2021 special election even against Baker’s appointed Republican. But special elections are weird things — and Scott Brown’s 2010 special election win will be on Democrats’ minds…Other potential VP picks Sens. Kamala Harris (California) and Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota) represent states with Democratic governors, making their selections far less problematic for Biden.” Yes, there is a chance Democrats will win a large enough Senate majority without Warren staying in the Senate, but that’s a dicey bet at this point.

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. proposes “a bipartisan coalition of responsible governors pick one of their own to lead a daily briefing aimed at the whole country. Many governors already make regular reports to their respective states, of course, and New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo has played a de facto role as a spokesman with effective news conferences well-timed for East Coast media…But individual governors often and understandably hedge what they say for fear of retaliation by Trump, who treats them the same way he treated Ukraine’s president. He is, once again, holding Washington’s assistance hostage to his own selfish interests…Workers realized long ago that speaking and bargaining collectively gave them power they didn’t have as individuals. Governors trying to act sensibly should learn the same lesson. Acting together, they could be far more fearless in calling out Trump’s failures, and more demanding when it comes to what their citizens need from Washington”

Dionne continues, “With his hands full in New York, Cuomo will continue his own briefings. But other governors could rotate the job of being the daily embodiment of practical ideas and thoughtful leadership…Americans across the country need to hear more from Republican governors such as Maryland’s Larry Hogan, Ohio’s Mike DeWine and Massachusetts’s Charlie Baker. And let Western and Midwestern Democratic governors become larger national voices, among them California’s Gavin Newsom, Oregon’s Kate Brown, Washington’s Jay Inslee, Colorado’s Jared Polis, Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer and Illinois’s J.B. Pritzker. Others could join. Each day, one of them should be empowered by their colleagues to speak for the group. They should do this even if Trump — no doubt influenced by the backlash against his Disinfectant Delirium — follows through on his Saturday evening tweet suggesting he might end his daily follies.”

In his article, “A New Poll Shows The Messaging Democrats Should Use To Defeat Trump” at forbes.com, Will Jeakle notes, “Of the three, the message that had the most impact on those polled was the idea that Trump’s response to the coronavirus crisis had not only been ineffective but had actually cost lives. This message moved voters’ perception of Trump almost a full percentage point in the Democrats’ direction….The next most effective message in voters’ eyes was the message that Trump and his allies had used the crisis as an opportunity to slash the social safety net, ensuring help for big business, but leaving workers and small businesses to fend for themselves. This message resonated despite that fact of the CARES act providing SBA loans and disaster relief for small businesses and the beginning of the delivery of $1200 per person relief checks (delivery which was held up in some cases by Trump’s insistence on affixing his signature to the memo field of the checks).”

Political Strategy Notes

On his Facebook page, Ruy Teixeira comments on “The Single Most Important Stat from the New NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll,” and notes, “In this poll, Biden leads Trump by 7 points. But the most interesting finding is Biden’s support among those who are not favorable toward either him or Trump. In 2016, Trump carried those unfavorable toward both him and Clinton by 17 points. This time ’round Biden is carrying those who don’t like either him or Trump by 50 points. 50 points! I would characterize this as a good sign.”

A hard-hitting new Biden for President ad:

“President Trump has chosen his pandemic re-election strategy,” Thomas B. Edsall writes at The New York Times. “He is set on unifying and reinvigorating the groups that were crucial to his 2016 victory: racially resentful whites, evangelical Christians, gun activists, anti-vaxxers and wealthy conservatives…Tying his re-election to the growing anti-lockdown movement, Trump is encouraging a resurgence of what Ed Kilgore, in New York magazine, calls “the angry anti-government strain of right-wing political activity that broke out in the tea-party movement” — a movement now focused on ending the virus-imposed restrictions on many aspects of American life…Steve Schmidt — a former Republican consultant and prominent Never Trumper who served as a senior adviser to John McCain’s 2008 presidential bid — described the shape he saw Trump’s 2020 re-election drive taking. As the “administration continues to lie, fumble and flounder,” Schmidt wrote in an April 17 Twitter thread,..”get ready for the noxious blend of Confederate flags, semiautomatic weaponry, conspiracy theorists, political cultists, extremists and nut jobs coming to a state Capitol near you.”

If you were wondering “What Would Virtual Democratic And Republican Conventions Mean For The 2020 Presidential Race?,” A FiveThirtyEight chat surveys the possibilities, including this observation by Nathaniel Rakich : “Sabato’s Crystal Ball had a great article the other day on this and how remote conventions could work. I recommend reading the whole thing, but the TLDR version is that the four important formalities that a convention must address — certifying delegates, approving the convention rules, electing convention officers and, of course, nominating the presidential and vice-presidential candidates — could all be done remotely but will require lots of advance planning…As for the glitzy, self-promoting elements … I think that’s more of an open question.” Julia Azari says, “It’s a really tricky question in some ways. Conventions are kind of a holdover from a past era when delegates reallypicked the nominee, but the transition from “conventions as real events” to “conventions as infomercials” has been kind of messy and slow…Geoffrey Skelley notes, “It’s tough to say what the impact might be, but I can see why the parties don’t want to go virtual if they don’t have to. There’s potentially less coverage of the event and less of a chance to get their message across.”

Another good Biden ad, this one from The Lincoln Project, an oganization of anti-Trump Republicans, including Steve Schmidt, George Conway and Rick Wilson:

From “Biden Quiet on Nationwide Vote by Mail. That’s on Purpose” by Scott Bixby and Hunter Woodall at The Daily Beast: “As concerns have risen about voter safety in the midst of a global pandemic, the past few weeks have seen proposed solutions put forward by voter-rights organizations, Democratic lawmakers, and almost the entirety of former Vice President Joe Biden’s short list of potential running mates…But Biden himself has held back on endorsing any particular plan for expanding access to mail-in ballots—a decision that campaign sources told The Daily Beast is by design…Last week, Sen. Kamala Harris of California introduced the “VoteSafe Act,” which would require states to permit no-excuse mail-in voting by absentee. In March, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota introduced the “Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act of 2020,” which would do the same, and reimburse states for additional costs of administering elections during the pandemic.” Biden made the right call because his endorsement would likely feed media distortion of the nonpartisan merit of voting by mail, since the need for the reform before the election is critical in light of the pandemic.

Mackenzie Zlatos spotlights “10 Republican Senators who are vulnerable to being swept out with Trump in November” at frontpagelive.com. Noting that “35 Senate seats are up for election on November 3: 12 Democrat incumbents and 23 Republican incumbents (along with two special elections),” Zlatos argues that Senate seats now occupied by the following Republicans are up for grabs: Susan Collins (ME); Martha McSally (AZ); David Perdue (GA); Joni Ernst (IA); Mitch McConnell (KY); Cindy Hyde-Smith (MS); Thom Tillis (NC); Lindsey Graham (SC); John Cornyn (TX); and Cory Gardner (CO). Zlatos provides “Why he (she) might be in trouble” nuggets for each of the GOP Senators, like this one for Tillis: “Tillis was booed while attending a Trump rally in North Carolina.”

Seth Moskowitz writes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “In order for Democrats to win an outright majority in the Senate and overcome the current 53-47 Republican split, they need to net four seats. In the case of a Senate tie, however, the vice president casts the tie-breaking vote. Given the 2020 Electoral College and Senate maps, it is difficult to imagine a plausible scenario whereby Democrats net four Senate seats but do not win the presidency and the tiebreaking power in the Senate. So three is the real magic number for Senate Democrats.” Here’s the current Senate election map, according to Sabato’s Crystal Ball:

Would you like to get election reminders via text on your cell phone? How about basic voting information for every state by hovering over an interacti ve map of the U.S. or Covid-19 voting information? Or maybe get a toolkit providing assistance for hosting a voter registration drive in your community? Or if you just want to register, check your registration status or updated poll location? You can also get “A suite of modern digital tools designed to empower organizations to drive civic action and track progress,” or take part in a “Democracy Class” with lesson plans designed to educate high schoolers about the importance of voting, local elections, the 2020 Census and other topics. All of this can be accessed through the Rock the Vote website.

Worker Safety May Be a Pivotal Concern of Voters in November

At The Nation, Jeet Heer argues that “The Coronavirus Class War Has Already Started: The combination of plutocratic bailouts and a physically endangered working class is sparking a new blue-collar militancy.” As Heer writes:

There is actually a two-pronged class war going on. Among the rich and their allies in both political parties, the crisis offers an opportunity to loot the Treasury. The stimulus packages that have passed or are being contemplated are all designed to lock in the privileged position of the existing rich, with only limited efforts made to soften the blow of the recession on the working-class majority. At the same time, blue-collar workers are expected to work in dangerous conditions with little compensation. Many of these same workers are being squeezed by furloughs, pay cuts and layoffs.

The combination of plutocratic bailouts and increasing precariousness and physical danger for the working class is an explosive one. It’s hard to see how it can last long without a breakdown of the social order.

Heer explains further, “It’s not just medical workers that are facing more precarious and dangerous workplaces. Writing in The New York Times, veteran labor reporter Steven Greenhouse observed that there was a strong class division in how the coronavirus crisis is being experienced.”

“Millions of white-collar workers are telecommuting from home to stay safe as the coronavirus extends its terrifying reach across America,” Greenhouse observes. “But millions of other workers—supermarket cashiers, pharmacists, warehouse workers, bus drivers, meatpacking workers—still have to report to work each day, and many are furious that their employers are not doing enough to protect them against the pandemic.”

Heer adds, “The growing lethality of the American workplace is fueling a wave of strikes, both union-led and spontaneous wildcat protests. Greenhouse listed a few of these workplace actions”:

Last Tuesday, after a mechanic tested positive for the coronavirus, more than half the workers at Bath Iron Works, a shipyard in Maine, stayed home from work to pressure their employer to thoroughly clean the shipyard. Workers walked out at a Fiat Chrysler truck plant in Warren, Mich., because there was no hot water for washing up. Bus drivers in Birmingham, Ala., went on strike because they felt not enough was being done to protect them from contracting the coronavirus from infected passengers, and bus drivers in Detroit staged a sudden sickout for the same reason. Sanitation workers in Pittsburgh engaged in a work stoppage over their coronavirus worries.

Looking towards the near future, Heer believes, “This wave of protests is only likely to grow, not just because of the coronavirus but also because of the breaking of the social contract by the rich. By crafting bailouts that favored corporations and millionaires amid a pandemic during which blue-collar workers are being forced to work in life-threatening conditions, the American political elite is playing with fire. We could well see social strife far more intense than even the turbulence of Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party movement that emerged in the wake of the 2008 economic collapse.”

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, Trump and the Republicans gutted laws and enforcement of safety inspection regulations that protected miners and toxic peesticide protections for farmworkers. Greenhouse notes at The American Prospect that “Trump’s appointees have eased safety requirements for oil and gas drilling workers. His administration has even relaxed child labor rules, allowing 16- and 17-year-olds who work in nursing homes and hospitals to operate power-driven patient lifts without supervision—even though thousands of experienced adult health care workers get injured each year moving and lifting patients.”

The Republican war on unions has deprived millions of workers of the kind of representation that can prevent health and safety abuses on the job. Heer concludes, “The very collapse of American unions in recent decades means that the stabilizing force of organized labor is gone, making wildcat strikes the weapon of choice in this new class war. America may be heading into a period of working-class militancy unlike anything it has experienced since the 1930s and ’40s.”

If worker safety is not the pivotal issue in the November elections, it will certainly be one of the leading concerns that could make a substantial number of those who have stayed home on election day (about 40 percent of eligible voters in 2016) turn out.

Throughout Trump’s presidency, progressives have repeatedly called attention to the Administration’s gutting of consumer, environmental and health regulations, falling too often on the deaf ears of distracted voters. As the coronavirus death toll continues to soar, however, the likelihood that most voters will lose a family member, friend or co-worker is also growing. There is nothing like a life or death issue to get one’s attention.

If Democrats will loudly and frequently hold Trump, McConnell and the GOP accountable for the gutting of the CDC and a host of worker and consumer protections, it just might produce the margin of victory needed to win the White House and majority control of the U.S. Senate .

Political Strategy Notes

From “How the Coronavirus Could Create a New Working Class: Experts predict the outbreak will lead to a rise in populism. But will workers turn their rage toward corporate CEOs, or middle-class “elites”?” by Olga Khazan at The Atlantic: “When the dust settles, there’s of course a chance that low-income workers might end up just as powerless as they were before. But history offers a precedent for plagues being, perversely, good for workers. Collective anger at low wages and poor working protections can produce lasting social change, and people tend to be more supportive of government benefits during periods of high unemployment…The U.S. has long been the sole holdout among rich nations when it comes to paid sick leave and other job protections. Now that some workers are getting these benefits for the coronavirus, they might be hard for businesses to claw back. If your boss let you stay home with pay when you had COVID-19, is he really going to make you come in when you have the flu? “Is this going to be an inflection point where Americans begin to realize that we need government, we need each other, we need social solidarity, we are not all cowboys, who knew?” said Joan Williams, a law professor at UC Hastings and the author of White Working Class.”

Common sense suggests that American workers will become more concerned about job safety, or the lack of it and other worker protections. As Khazan continues, “A few months from now, the path we take will also depend on whether voters ultimately blame Trump for the pandemic and the ensuing economic collapse, and on whether Democrats are able to create a coherent narrative out of the calls for better worker protections. And in a year, it will depend on how severe the death toll turns out to be among service workers, and how well they’re able to organize in response. But if past epidemics are a guide, the workers may win out in the end.” However, Khazan adds, “Finally, organized labor has been gutted in recent decades, making any sustained workers’-rights movement seem like a long shot.” Yet, “Such a change would be a return to a 1950s-style view of the working class, in which low-wage jobs conferred a sense of dignity. “You viewed yourself as the backbone, the heart and soul of America,” Gest said. No one is more essential than the person bringing you food at the end of a long, frightening week.”

When Sen. Elizabeth Warren endorses a presidential candidate, she doesn’t just make a statement; she makes an impressive video ad. Other former Democratic presidential candidates should do likewise.

At Politico, David Cohen reports that a “Majority fear coronavirus restrictions will be lifted too soon,” andhe notes, “Almost 60 percent of American voters are worried that lifting restrictions on public behavior too soon will lead to a spike in coronavirus cases and deaths…According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday, 58 percent of registered voters expressed concern about a loosening of restrictions, compared with 32 percent who worried that the restrictions would stay in place for too long. Three percent said they were concerned about both scenarios…While a clear majority of Democrats (77 percent) and independents (57 percent) are more worried about the coronavirus, Republicans are very much divided on the issue — with 48 percent expressing more concern about the economy and 39 percent more worried about the pandemic…Those polled said they favor presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden over Trump by a margin of 49 percent to 42 percent. And 45 percent of those polled said they thought Trump has not handled the pandemic crisis well — and is still not doing so.”

Cohen adds, “More than two-thirds of those polled (69 percent) said they trusted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide accurate information about the coronavirus, followed by their state’s governor (66 percent), Dr. Anthony Fauci (60 percent), New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (46 percent), Trump (36 percent), Vice President Mike Pence (35 percent) and Biden (26 percent)…A total of 52 percent said they distrusted what Trump has to say on the subject, followed by Pence (37 percent) and Biden (29 percent). A mere 8 percent said they did not trust Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.”

“In a national Quinnipiac University survey released last week, just 37 percent of adults living in cities and 44 percent of those in suburbs said they approved of Trump’s management of the outbreak. By stark contrast, 63 percent of those in rural areas said they approved,” Ronald Brownstein writes at The Atlantic. “In the latest tracking polling conducted by the Democratic firms GBAO and the Global Strategy Group, a majority of Americans in all three regions said Trump failed to take the threat seriously enough at the outset of the pandemic. But the numbers were significantly higher in urban and suburban areas, where almost two-thirds of respondents said he acted too slowly…Other danger signs are sprouting for Trump in big urban centers. Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, was the largest county in America that Trump won in 2016. But a new poll, released this week by the Republican firm OH Predictive Insights, found Trump trailing former Vice President Joe Biden there by 13 percentage points. The survey also found Biden leading by nine points statewide, even though Democrats haven’t won Arizona in a presidential race since 1996. These results track with Maricopa’s movement away from the GOP in 2018, when Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema won the ordinarily Republican-leaning county by about four points.”

Also at The Atlantic, Kevin Townsend quotes Sherrilyn Ifill, the president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, from her interview by Edward Isaac-Dovere. As Ifill urged, “We need more early voting so that you don’t have lines, because you have a longer period of early voting. You do need to have drop-off absentee stations. You do need to expand the time for absentee ballots to be returned to the Board of Elections. We need all of this to deal with the challenges of this pandemic. There are ways to manage this. And I think that’s the menu we’re all sitting with right now and are prepared to lean in to, to ensure that in November we don’t have an election that causes people to risk their lives, but we also have an election that we don’t have to be ashamed of, that everyone who is a citizen who wants to participate can participate on November 3…it was shameful and a disgrace that we consigned people to have to choose between their health and their right as citizens to participate and vote. No question. But I also am compelled to see the extraordinary, powerful nobility of those people standing—some of them in wheelchairs—staggered and separated from each other as best they could by six feet, for hours on end, determined to participate in the political process.”

In his Washington Post column, “Trump’s war on pragmatism,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes, “What pragmatists know is that railing against formal distancing rules does nothing to solve the underlying problem. As several economist colleagues I contacted noted, the economy will not fully revive until Americans are given good reason to put aside their fears of infection. Yelling at governors won’t get us there….“Even if the government-imposed social distancing rules are relaxed to encourage economic activity, risk-averse Americans will persist in social distancing, and that behavior, too, will restrain the hoped-for economic rebound,” Gary Burtless, a Brookings Institution economist, wrote me…Those who shout for opening the economy in the name of freedom don’t think much about the freedom of workers to protect themselves from a potentially deadly disease. And employers do not want to find themselves facing legal liabilities for infected employees….If the economy is substantially reopened without adequate testing, said Thea Lee, president of the Economic Policy Institute, the most vulnerable would include “low-wage workers, women, people of color, immigrants, and the elderly.” They are “concentrated in the riskiest jobs, with the least financial cushion, and the least likely to have employer-provided benefits or protections,” she said…“Give me liberty or give me death” is a fine rallying cry in a war against freedom’s enemies. It’s is a perilous guide to policy during a pandemic. Pragmatists may be short on stirring slogans. But when the choices are hard and the problems are daunting, they’re the ones we should want in charge.”

“The battle for the Senate majority is tightening as the coronavirus threatens to plunge the economy into a severe recession and as President Trump’s handling of the crisis comes under increased scrutiny,” Alexander Bolton reports at The Hill. “With Election Day just more than six months away, some Senate Democratic candidates are starting to outraise vulnerable Republican incumbents in states where Trump’s approval rating has taken a hit…Senate Republicans, who control 53 seats, are still the favorite to retain control of the chamber, but Democrats are narrowing the gap…The Cook Political Report, another nonpartisan forecasting group, says “the chances of Democrats taking back the Senate are rising and now close to 50-50 odds” with “several plausible paths” for Democrats to win a majority…Democratic strategists say fundraising is only part of the story and point to record voter turnout in Democratic presidential primary contests before the pandemic struck as evidence of high party enthusiasm heading into the general election.”