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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Teixeira: The White Working Class – Why Writing Them Off Is Political Insanity

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

The excellent David Wasserman had some astute comments on Twitter about the white working class and how nuts it is for Democrats to write them off. He is correct in all respects and his data is spot on!

“The bottom line: Dems don’t need to win a higher % of the WWC than in ’16 b/c 1) it’s declining as a % of voters and 2) Dems have made robust gains among college whites.

But Dems *can’t* afford to backslide much further & hope to win MI/PA/WI etc. And avoiding that isn’t simple.

Not about winning the demog. It’s about Dems not getting absolutely annihilated.

Moreover, the notion that voting behavior is polarized to the point that there aren’t any swing/persuadable voters left isn’t based in reality.

Not only did we see above-average swings from ’12 to ’16, Dems wouldn’t have gone +40 in ’18 without converting lots of ’16 R voters.

Much of the analysis I’m seeing on this site assumes there’s no more room for Dems to fall w/ white non-college voters, who are simply a “lost cause.”

In fact, Dems have an awful lot more room to fall w/ them, and that’s especially true in many of the most critical EC states.

Dems’ path to beating Trump absolutely depends on retaining the gains they made in diverse, college-educated burbs – the kinds we saw in 2018 & #NC09.

But even a slight drop among white non-college voters could negate all of it, given the demog’s size & geographic distribution.

Dems’ backslide w/ these voters is the main reason IA (66%) and OH (60%) have already exited stage right off the EC battleground, and why a Dem nominee who performs even worse w/ them could risk losses in ME (66%), NH (61%) or MN (56%).

Here’s why the “let’s win without working-class whites” mentality doesn’t hold water for Dems. That demog comprises 45% of all eligible U.S. voters, but:

61% in Wisconsin
61% in New Hampshire
56% in Michigan
56% in Minnesota
56% in Pennsylvania
47% in North Carolina

Good luck.”

Teixeira: The Key Demographic in 2020: White Noncollege Women (and How to Reach Them)

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

Good advice from David Axelrod on the centrality of white noncollege women to the 2020 election and how to reach them. I estimate they’ll be 22-23 percent of voters in 2020. It won’t take a very large shift among these voters to fatally undercut Trump’s chances of re-election. And the signs of weakening support for the President among these voters is already there. But to take advantage of this, the Democrats have to play it smart.

“Mr. Trump’s serial assaults on the decency and the decorum upon which civil society depends are enraging — and meant to be. It is only natural to respond to his every provocation with righteous indignation.

My advice to the Democratic nominee next year is: Donʼt play….

Mr. Trump was elected to shake things up and challenge the political establishment. And to many of his core supporters, his incendiary dog whistles, bullhorn attacks and nonstop flouting of “political correctness” remain energizing symbols of authenticity.

But polling and focus groups reflect a growing unease among a small but potentially decisive group of voters who sided with Mr. Trump in 2016 but are increasingly turned off by the unremitting nastiness, the gratuitous squabbles and the endless chaos he sows.

Plenty of attention has been paid to the historic shift in suburban areas Mr. Trump narrowly carried in 2016 but that broke decisively with his party last fall. That revolt was led by college-educated white women, who overwhelmingly turned against Republican candidates.

But what should be of even greater concern to Mr. Trump is the potential erosion among the non-college-educated white women he is counting on as a core constituency. Those women gave Mr. Trump a 27-point margin over Hillary Clinton in 2016. Yet in a recent Fox News poll, Mr. Trump was beating former Vice President Joe Biden by just four points in that group.

If I were sitting in the Trump war room, this number, more than any other, would alarm me. He won the presidency by the slimmest of margins in three battleground states. With little place to grow, even a small erosion of support among these women could prove fatal to Mr. Trump’s chances. While they are inclined to many of his positions, the thing that is driving these voters away is Mr. Trump himself…..

Mr. Trump’s impulse is always to create a binary choice, forcing Americans to retreat to tribe. He wants to define the battle around divisive cultural issues that will hem in his supporters, and it would be seductive for Democrats to chase every tweeted rabbit down the hole. The president would welcome a pitched battle over lines of race, ideology and culture.

But while Mr. Trump’s thermonuclear politics may rally both his base and Democrats who slumbered in 2016, it is the paralyzing disorder and anxiety his bilious behavior creates that is a distressing turnoff to voters at the margins who will make the difference.

To win, the Democrats will have to turn Mr. Trump’s negative energy against him without embodying it themselves.”

Teixeira: What Do You Mean “We”, Woke Person?

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

Today’s woke white liberals see themselves as committed allies of nonwhite voters, seeking to advance their well-being in a white supremacist society. Given this, one would assume that the views of these white liberals on various social and economic issues would be closely aligned with those of the nonwhites they seek to support.

One would think that but one would be wrong. The views of white liberals certainly represent their own preferences and perhaps those of some activist groups and intellectuals they use as reference points. But they do not, in fact, very closely match the expressed preferences of nonwhite voters.

Nowhere is this clearer than with black voters who are simply not as woke as the white liberals who aspire to advance their cause. In the simplest terms, black voters are more conservative on many social issues and more liberal, or at least more focused, on everyday economic issues. Tom Edsall goes a good job rounding up some of the relevant research and data in his most recent Times column. Some of the key parts:

“The African-American electorate has been undergoing a quiet, long-term transformation, moving from the left toward the center on several social and cultural issues, while remaining decisively liberal, even radical, on economic issues, according to a series of studies by prominent African-American scholars.

“There has been a shift in the attitudes of black masses about the extent to which systematic discrimination and prejudice are the primary reasons blacks continue to lag behind whites,” Candis Watts Smith, a political scientist at Penn State, wrote in a paper published in the Journal of Black Studies in 2014, “Shifting From Structural to Individual Attributions of Black Disadvantage: Age, Period and Cohort Effects on Black Explanations of Racial Disparities.”….

Contemporary polling provides evidence of moderation among black Democrats compared with the views of white Democrats. The poll data suggests a reversal of traditional roles. More conservative and more centrist Democratic whites were once the tempering force within party ranks. Now, on some of the most controversial issues currently under debate, African-Americans — who make up an estimated 25 percent of Democratic primary voters — have emerged as a force for more moderate stands as white Democrats have moved sharply left….

While less committed to many of the broad social and cultural issues important to white liberals, black Democrats remain more committed than their white counterparts to progressive stands on economic issues of the type that characterized the New Deal coalition of the last century that also established the Great Society programs of the 1960s like Medicare and Medicaid.”

The following data strike me as especially key and underscore how white liberals and blacks tend to have different priorities, despite the claims of white liberals that they struggling mightily against their “privilege”.

“Asked to rate the importance to them of jobs and wages, 84 percent of black Democrats said both are “very important,” 20 points more than the 64 percent of white Democrats who said so….

Asked if they “must hear” from candidates about their policies on creating jobs, 39 percent of whites agreed compared with 68 percent of African-Americans. Conversely, 76 percent of white Democrats and 48 percent of black Democrats said they must hear candidates’ proposals to combat climate change.”

This suggests that woke white liberals, if they truly want to help the people whose side they say they’re on, should listen more to the views of actually-existing nonwhite voters and less to trendy takes on the intrinsic perfidy of the country and all white people.

Teixeira: OK, So Here’s the Plan: We’ll Run on the Popular Stuff!

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

The debate last night didn’t seem like much of a game-changer. But maybe Elizabeth Warren’s Social Security proposal, rolled out on the eve of the debate, will actually turn out to be important. It’s exactly the kind of idea a Democrat should be running on in the general election against Trump. Social Security: Popular! Taxing the rich: Popular! Increasing and expanding Social Security benefits: Popular! This one could provide just the contrast a Democrat wants with Trump and should be exceptionally appealing to persuadable working class voters.

Let’s hope if Warren is the nominee she runs on this and not decriminalizing the border and Medicare for All (whether they want it or not). And if Warren isn’t the nominee, whoever it is should take up this idea.

Jonathan Chait:

“Democrats have been racing haphazardly to the left, with Warren often in the lead. Some of their ideas, like moving everybody off employer-sponsored insurance and onto a public plan, are toxic to general-election voters. But some ideas have appeal to the left and to swing voters. This is one of them.

Of all the potential soft spots in the Republican party, Social Security is among the most underrated. George W. Bush’s failed pursuit of a privatization scheme in 2005 was a major cause of his political collapse. Conservatives, seeking to deflect blame from their own ideas onto external forces, preferred to blame his response to Hurricane Katrina for his poor polling. But Bush’s polling was dropping like a stone for months before Katrina struck. By July of that year, his plan to change the system was polling 29–62….

The trauma of the 2016 election has left many Trump critics so skeptical of political fundamentals they have failed to discern some basic political realities that allowed Trump to win in the first place. Trump was not a popular candidate, but his opponent was unpopular, too. He neutralized public distrust of his party’s economic agenda by positioning himself to the left on economics, both in substance and style, as an outsider who would threaten insiders and the rich. His failure to keep this promise is a major reason why his polling has stagnated in the low 40s…

Democrats don’t need to cheat to beat [Trump]. But they do need to stop dreaming up blue-sky notions catering to progressive activists and refocus on some ideas with gut-level appeal to persuadable working-class voters. An extra $200 a month in Social Security is just the stuff.”

The Good News for Dems in the NC-9 Loss

A loss is a loss. But sometimes a loss can reveal the seeds of a future victory. FiveThirtyEight’s  Nathaniel Rakich sets the stage regarding the NC-9 special election, one of two congressional seats the GOP held on to yesterday.

That race was the do-over election in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, where alleged election fraud tainted the results of the 2018 contest to such a degree that the state elections board opted to hold a new election. After the Republican candidate got just 905 more votes than the Democrat in the 2018 election, Republicans pulled off a clearer win this year: Based on unofficial results as of 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday night, Republican state Sen. Dan Bishop defeated Democrat Dan McCready 51 percent to 49 percent. However, Democrats did 11 points better in the district than we’d expect them to in a neutral political environment, as this is normally a heavily Republican district; it is 14 points redder than the nation as a whole, according to FiveThirtyEight’s partisan lean metric. And Trump won the district by 12 points in 2016.

The results also represent a continuation of the mini-realignment we’ve seen in the Trump era of suburbs getting bluer and rural areas moving even more toward the GOP. For instance, McCready lost the district even as he won suburban Mecklenburg County by 13 percentage points, an improvement on the 2018 results, when he won Mecklenburg by 10 points. (The portion of Mecklenburg that falls in the 9th District consists of affluent white areas of metro Charlotte.) But as noted by Ryan Matsumoto, an analyst at Inside Elections, McCready did worse than his 2018 performance in every other county, most of which are sparsely populated.

It is good news for Dems about the Mecklenburg suburb. But it’s also a little worrisome that McCready lost support in some rural districts. Bishop may have gotten a ‘Trump bump’ in the wake of the President’s visit to the district. It’s unclear how McCready’s campaign allocated resources, which could explain the changes from the midterms. Or it could be that Republican Bishop just had a better turnout effort in the rural districts.

The North Carolina State Board of Elections has a useful ‘hover map,’ which breaks down the vote by county. There is very little data on turnout or demographic breakdowns available yet.

Dems are less disappointed by the NC-3 loss, because they had more assets in play in NC-9, which has a Cook Partisan Voting Index score of R+8, compared to NC-3’s R+12.

In their article, “Why Republicans shouldn’t breathe a sigh of relief after N.C. win,” Steven Shepard, Laura Barron-Lopez and Alex Isenstadt write at Politico,

Meanwhile, Democrats were quick to find the silver lining in McCready’s narrow defeat. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), the chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee noted that there are nearly three dozen GOP-held House seats that are less Republican-leaning than North Carolina’s 9th District.

“We fell an inch short tonight, but it took more than $6 million in outside Republican spending and a last-minute Trump rally to scrape by in a district that the president carried by 11.9 points,” Bustos said.

We have learned that, with Republicans, you can never rule out voter supression and other vote rigging “irregularities.” Hell, fraud was the reason for the NC-9 do-over in the first place. At least one legit poll indicated that MaCready was in position for an upset. Yet, considering the big picture, Rakich explains:

Other indicators also suggest that the national environment has gotten slightly less blue since 2018 but still favors Democrats, though they disagree how much. As of April, Democrats were also overperforming in the average state-legislative special election (of which we have dozens of examples since 2018) by 5 percentage points, and they have had several even stronger performances recently. And our average of polls of the generic congressional ballot4 gives Democrats a 6.5-point lead; just before the 2018 election, Democrats had an 8.7-point lead, which almost exactly matched the eventual House popular vote.

So, let’s not read too much into the results of a special election. Sure, there would have been delerious dancing in the Democratic streets had NC-9 gone the other way. But maybe cautious optimism is the best consolation tonic for Dems at this juncture.

Teixeira: Defeat Trump with the ‘probability-maximizing strategy’

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

David Leonhardt Throws Down the Gauntlet

And I throw it down with him. Let’s hypothesize that it will not be easy to defeat Trump in 2020 (not to mention taking back the Senate). Let’s also hypothesize that a second term for Trump will be a huge disaster for the country and the world, making genuine progress on most progressive goals essentially impossible.

If these hypotheses are true–and I sure as hell think they are–one might further hypothesize that Democrats would be obsessively focused on crafting the probability-maximizing strategy for defeating Trump. No unforced errors. No risky position-taking that would push the public far out of its comfort zone.

But one would be wrong about this third hypothesis. Democrats are not, in fact, focusing obsessively on the probability-maximizing strategy of defeating Trump. Oh sure, there are many strategies that could possibly win under the right circumstances, with luck and just the right reactions from the voting public. You can always make a case.

But that’s different from the probability-maximizing strategy: the strategy that will make it most likely that Trump with lose if the Democrats run a reasonably competent campaign, have reasonable luck and run on ideas that can reasonably be expected to elicit positive voter reaction.

In a lot of cases, that ain’t what we got. Leonhardt:

“You would think that Democrats would be approaching the 2020 campaign with a ruthless sense of purpose. But they’re not, at least not yet. They are not focusing on issues that expose Trump’s many vulnerabilities. They have instead devoted substantial time to wonky subjects that excite some progressive activists — and alienate most American voters….

Over the past two decades, incomes for most Americans have barely grown. Median wealth has declined. Americans are frustrated, and a majority supports a populist agenda: higher taxes on corporations and the rich, expanded government health care and financial aid, a higher minimum wage, even a Green New Deal.

The Democrats are on solid ground, substantively and politically, by pushing all of these issues. They should be casting Trump as a plutocrat in populist’s clothes, who has used the presidency to enrich himself and other wealthy insiders at the expense of hard-working middle-class families. It’s a caricature that has the benefit of truth….

The mistake that Democratic candidates have made is thinking that just because they should activate their progressive id on some issues, they should do so on all issues.

There are two main examples, both of which have received a lot of airtime during the presidential debates. The first is the idea of decriminalizing border crossings, so that the illegal entry into this country would be only a civil violation. Most top Democratic candidates — Cory Booker, Julián Castro, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — support the idea. If illegal entry weren’t a crime, they say, Trump couldn’t lock people in cages.

Supporters of the idea make intricate, technocratic arguments about how decriminalization won’t make the border less secure. But most voters tune out. They don’t buy the long explanations for why the policy doesn’t mean what it certainly seems to mean: less border enforcement. In an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll, 67 percent of registered voters called decriminalization “a bad idea.”

The second example is a proposal to eliminate private health insurance and require people to have Medicare. Sanders and Warren back it. Again, supporters offer complex arguments about why Americans will love this idea (especially if it’s phrased in just the right way) — and, again, most Americans say no thanks. They’re dealing with enough economic anxiety, without having their health insurance taken away and replaced by something uncertain.

The shame is that both health care and immigration should be Democratic advantages. Most voters recoil at Trump’s racist immigrant-bashing, and most want the option to join Medicare. And if Democrats want to reverse Trump’s policies, they need to beat him, not offer policies, like decriminalization, that would hypothetically constrain him.”

Got it? We gotta beat Trump and any strategy/policy proposal has to be evaluated in that light. Will it reduce or increase the probability that Trump will be defeated? Activists that can’t plausibly make the case that their proposals will increase that probability should stop pushing them and Democratic candidates should have the courage to start ignoring them.

Nothing else will do. This election is too important for self-indulgent progressive grandstanding.

Teixeira: On Wisconsin

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

There is a reasonable case that Wisconsin could be the tipping point for a Democratic victory in 2020. That is, of the “Rustbelt three” target states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, Wisconsin is the toughest challenge for the Democrats Therefore, if Democrats take Wisconsin, they are also likely to take Michigan and Pennsylvania and, through that, the Presidency.

The latest poll out of Wisconsin, the highly respected Marquette Law School poll run by Charles Franklin, has some encouraging news for Democrats. Biden runs ahead of Trump by 9 points, 51-42, while Sanders bests Trump by 4 points and Warren and Harris run even with the President.

It’s worth looking at these results a bit more closely, especially why Biden is running so far ahead of Warren (folks may disagree but I consider these two the two likeliest candidates to get the nomination at this point). Biden runs significantly stronger among both white voters (he actually carries them by 5 points) and noncollege-educated voters than Warren, suggesting he is a more appealing candidate to white noncollege voters (the poll does not provide a separate white noncollege break) than Warren.

To get a sense of the significance of this consider the following. If a Democratic candidate could simply replicate Obama’s 2012 performance among white noncollege voters in 2020, that candidate, all else equal, would win the state by six-and-a-half points. By comparison, if the Democratic candidate could match 2012 Obama election black turnout, the candidate would win the state, but only by half a percentage point. This gives you a sense of the relative magnitude of two demographic forces in Wisconsin.

Of course, the standard reply to the Biden vs. Warren numbers is that it’s too early, it’s all name recognition, any Democratic candidate can match Biden’s pull with these groups once the electorate gets to know them, etc., etc.

I’m not so sure. I think Josh Marshall has the right of it here:

“Biden’s stronger numbers in general election horse race polls have been open to differing interpretations. One is simply that he’s better known and credentialed by Barack Obama. So name recognition and trust allows a few more millions of voters to opt for him. But presumably that level of familiarity and trust is one less well known Democrats will be able to build up over time.

That theory is certainly right to a degree. The question is how much.

This poll along with other polls has the other, perhaps greater part of the explanation. In a handful of critical Midwestern states (Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, et al.) he simply runs better against Trump. Why that is we can debate – more ideologically conventional policy positions, Obama, race, gender, Senate experience. But that it is the case doesn’t seem open to much doubt. Those margins in a number of key states are what translates into that relative advantage in the national polls.

Whether this will persist we can’t know. But for now, polls suggest Biden is well positioned to beat Trump in Wisconsin. If he does, if any Democrat does, they are likely the next President.”

Marshall stresses–as do I–that he does not speak as a “Biden supporter” but rather as someone who thinks these patterns are important and should not be dismissed. I agree.

Dem Presidential Candidates Climate Policies Unveiled at Town Hall

The staff at Grist, one of the top environmental websites has a post, “How did Democrats fare at CNN’s climate town hall? We asked the experts.” The Grist staff notes that “Rather than arguing or talking over each other, the candidates actually had the time and space to speak substantively on this complex issue at CNN’s Climate Crisis Town Hall, discussing carbon taxes, geoengineering, lawsuits against the fossil fuel industry, and much more…So which Democratic candidates did the heavy lifting on climate policy and wowed us with their know-how?”

“I think Warren was the best by far,” noted Leah Stokes, a University of California at Santa Barbara political scientist. “She was so sharp. One point of weakness: her answer on nuclear was a little unclear. She sidestepped the issue of whether she’d extend the licenses of existing plants, which is what Sanders said he wouldn’t do. Nuclear is unpopular, so I think she was trying to thread a needle, but it left people saying she’s anti-nuclear. Otherwise, she knocked it out of the park.

Climate activist and cofounder of Zero Hour Jamie Margolin complained that “many candidates kept mentioning stupid late targets for net-zero carbon, like 2050, that are way, way past what we actually need in order to solve the climate crisis.”

At The Guardian, Emily Holden and Oliver Millman noted that “Bernie Sanders painted an apocalyptic future wreaked by the climate crisis and pledged to wage war on the fossil fuel industry,” while “Biden meanwhile pitched himself as the candidate who could lead negotiations with the diplomatic might of the US. He said his first step as president would be to call an international meeting to strengthen the Paris climate agreement…“We should be organizing the world, demanding change, we need a diplomat-in-chief,” Biden said. “Look what’s happening now in the Amazon, what’s going on? Nothing.”

At CNN politics, Meg Wagner, Dan Merica, Gregory Krieg and Eric Bradner noted some of the policies other candidates are advocating:

Kamala Harris said  “she would direct the Department of Justice to go after oil and gas companies who have directly impacted global warming. “They are causing harm and death in communities. And there has been no accountability…”

Amy Klobuchar called for a reversal to the Trump administration’s move to rollback regulations on methane emissions. “That is very dangerous,” she said of the administration’s move.

New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker said that people who don’t think nuclear power needs to be part of the fight against climate change — a group that includes many of his presidential opponents — “aren’t looking at the facts.” Booker said that he warmed to nuclear power after reading studies about it and talking to nuclear scientists about technological advancements “that make nuclear safer.”

Millman and Holden noted that “According to Yale University polling, the climate emergency is now the second most important voting issue for Democrats, behind healthcare. Among all voting Americans, nearly seven in 10 are worried about climate change, the highest ever recorded level of concern. There are strong bipartisan majorities in favour of setting pollution limits on industry, businesses, cars and trucks.”

Several of the Democratic presidential candidates received high scores from the League of Conservation Voters for their votes on environmental legislative proposals in 2018, including: Booker (100%); Harris (100); Warren (99); Klobuchar (96); O’Rourke (95); and Sanders (92).

Galston: Why Dems Must Win Back ‘Obama to Trump’ States

In his Wall St. Journal column, “Here’s What’s Sure to Happen in 2020: Whoever Trump faces, voter turnout and the economy will be decisive,” William A. Galston, a Brookings Institution senior fellow and advisor to President Clinton and other Democratic presidential candidates, spells out “some propositions we can advance with reasonable confidence,” including,

Turnout will be very high. The 2018 election featured the highest midterm turnout since 1914, the first time U.S. senators were popularly elected. If the historical relationship between midterm and general elections holds, 2020 would bring the highest share of the voting-age population to the polls in half a century, and perhaps since 1908.

Much depends on whether voter mobilization crosses party lines or remains asymmetrical as in 2018, when Democratic turnout was much higher than Republican. On the one hand, President Trump’s presence on the ballot will draw out supporters who stayed at home last year. On the other hand, relative to 2012, African-American participation in 2016 fell while it surged among white working-class voters, which suggests that Democrats have more room for growth.

Despite the rise of cultural issues, the economy will matter. In every election since 1980 except 1992, an increase in economic growth between the third and fourth year of a president’s term has been followed by victory for his party, while a decrease was followed by defeat. The slowdown of economic growth from 2.9% in 2015 to 1.6% in 2016 roughened Hillary Clinton ’s road to the White House. A predicted slowdown from 2.9% in 2018 to an estimated 2.1% in 2019 and 1.8% to 1.9% in 2020 would create a headwind for President Trump’s reelection campaign.

President Trump is likely to receive significantly less than 50% of the popular vote, and a smaller share than his Democratic opponent. In the past three general elections, the Republican nominee has averaged 46.3%—almost exactly what Mr. Trump received in 2016—compared with 50.7% for the Democrat. In the past five elections, the Republican average has been 47.5% versus the Democrats’ 49.9%. Since Mr. Trump entered office, his job approval has seldom exceeded the share of the vote he received in 2016.

Mr. Trump prevailed narrowly not because he did better than the average Republican nominee but because Mrs. Clinton underperformed the average Democrat. The missing votes went to third-party and independent candidates, whose total share rose from 1.7% in 2012 to 5.7% in 2016.

Galston, author of “Anti-Pluralism: The Populist Threat to Liberal Democracy” and other works of political analysis, adds that “The 2012 figure was no fluke. In the four elections from 2000 to 2012, the share of the vote not going to the two major parties averaged 2%. The 2016 election was the outlier…” Galston notes further that in 2016, “the Libertarian candidate received nearly 4.5 million votes, about 3.3% of the total cast, including 3.6% in Michigan and Wisconsin and 4.2% in Arizona.”

Libertarians have reason to be displeased with Trump, including his tariff policies, rejection of Libertarian tolerance values and accommodation of rigid evangelical views on reproductive rights. But it is unclear whether Democrats can win an adequate share of their votes in the key states. Glaston notes further that,

If the popular vote is close, the states that proved decisive in 2016 probably will remain pivotal in 2020. In the Blue Wall triad—Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin—Mr. Trump’s job approval has been consistently lower than in Florida, Georgia and Texas, where it stands at or above 50%, as it also does in Ohio. Three other states—North Carolina, Iowa and Arizona—occupy an intermediate zone in which Mr. Trump’s popularity is higher than in the Blue Wall but lower than in the South.

In other words, if the president can hold his Democratic challenger’s popular-vote advantage at or near the 2 percentage points of 2016, he may well prevail again in the Electoral College. At the other end of the spectrum, if the Democrat were to approach Barack Obama ’s 7-point margin in 2008, victory over Mr. Trump would be assured. Even if there is a huge mobilization of Democrats in solidly blue states, a 4-point popular-vote advantage would probably include enough voters in swing states to create a blue Electoral College majority. It’s impossible to determine exactly where the tipping point lies between 2 and 4 percentage points.

Galston concludes that “Democrats should have learned from 2016, the outcome of a presidential election is starkly binary, and the cost of defeat is very high. They should choose the candidate who maximizes their chance of winning…this means—first and foremost—the candidate who has the best chance of carrying the states that Mr. Trump pried off the Blue Wall.”

This is the foremost challenge facing Democratic rank and file and each of the presidential candidates when the primary and caucus season begins in five months. In addition to front-runner Biden, there are several other candidates who can make a compelling case that they can win back enough of the rust belt states that are required for an electoral college victory. The time to hone that message and pitch it with gusto has arrived.

Teixeira: Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin: Understanding Some Key Demographic Differences

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

Dan Balz’ lengthy article in the Sunday Post is a useful summary of the 2020 electoral map. He identifies four states as being key to the upcoming contest: Florida and, quite properly, the Rustbelt trio of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Let me focus here on that trio of states and run down some of the key demographic differences between them which are perhaps harder to see than their obvious similarities.

Start with the white noncollege population. It is high in all three but in Wisconsin it is highest. States of Change data predict this demographic will make up 59 percent of Wisconsin eligible voters in 2020. Michigan will have 56 percent white noncollege eligibles in 2020 and Pennsylvania 54 percent.

In 2016, States of Change analysis indicates that Pennsylvania had the largest white noncollege deficit for the Democrats, 29 points. The white noncollege Democratic deficit was 21 points in Michigan and just (!) 19 points in Wisconsin.

In terms of white college eligibles, they will be highest in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania (26 percent) and lowest in Michigan (22 percent). In all three states the share of white college voters will likely be significantly higher than these figures because of this group’s high turnout.

In 2016, we find interestingly, that Wisconsin had the largest white college advantage for the Democrats–15 points. Pennsylvania had a 9 point white college Democratic advantage and Michigan actually had a slight deficit of 2 points.

Turning to nonwhites, Wisconsin should have the lowest share of this demographic segment in 2020–just 15 percent of eligibles. Pennsylvania will have 20 percent nonwhite eligibles and Michigan 22 percent.

In Wisconsin, the shares of eligible voters in 2020 should be fairly close to one another between blacks (6 percent), Hispanics (5 percent) and Asian/other race (4 percent). In the other two states, black eligible voters will dominate: 13 percent black eligibles in Michigan to 3 percent Hispanic and 4 percent Asian/other; 10 percent black eligibles in Pennsylvania to 5 percent Hispanic and 4 percent Asian/other.

In 2016, black turnout was down slightly in Michigan and Pennsylvania and strongly in Wisconsin. If black turnout in 2016 had matched 2012 levels in these states, Michigan and Wisconsin probably would have gone Democratic. But Pennsylvania probably wouldn’t have.