washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Teixeira: Why Can’t the Democrats Be More Moderate?

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, co-founder and politics editor of  The Liberal Patriot, is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

What kind of voters do Democrats need more of?

David Leonhardt had the answer in a recent column. He calls them “Scaffles”—socially conservative and fiscally liberal voters. These are cross-pressured swing voters—and there are a lot of them. Socially liberal, fiscally liberal voters vote Democratic. Socially and fiscally conservative voters vote Republican. And there just aren’t very many socially liberal, fiscally conservative voters. So the Scaffles are where the action is. If the Democrats hope to vanquish the Republicans decisively, this is where the Democrats should be concentrating. As they say down South, you gotta go hunting where the ducks are.

So why don’t they? After all, as Leonhardt points out:

These socially conservative and fiscally liberal voters… have voted for progressive economic policies when they appear as ballot initiatives, even in red states. Arkansas, Florida, Missouri and Nebraska, for instance, have passed minimum-wage increases. Idaho, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Utah have expanded Medicaid through Obamacare. Republicans without a college degree are often the ones who break with their party on these ballot initiatives.

On the other hand:

At the same time, Scaffles are the reason that a Times poll last year showed that most voters, including many Latinos, prefer the Republican Party’s stance on illegal immigration to the Democratic Party’s. Or consider a recent KFF/Washington Post poll on transgender issues, in which most Americans said they opposed puberty-blocking treatments for children.

There are many, many other examples along these lines. Echelon Insights tested a series of basic values statements on sociocultural issues including: Racism is built into our society, including into its policies and institutions vs. Racism comes from individuals who hold racist views, not from our society and institutions. The result: Hispanics endorsed the second, allegedly “conservative” statement that racism comes from individuals by 58-36, as did working-class (noncollege) voters by 57-33.

Or consider the findings from a recent USC Dornsife survey on “What Americans Really Think About Controversial Topics in Schools”. The survey, among other things, asked about what topics respondents thought elementary school students should learn about. Overwhelming majorities thought elementary school children should learn about slavery, the environment, critical thinking, patriotism, the contributions of women and persons of color, and the contributions of the Founding Fathers. But just 29 percent thought elementary school children should learn about gender identity. The figure was even lower among working-class respondents.

The survey also asked respondents whether they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements about race in America. One was a classic statement of colorblind equality: “Our goal as a society should be to treat all people the same without regard to the color of their skin”. This Martin Luther King-style statement elicited sky-high (92 percent) agreement from the public, despite the assaults on this idea from Critical Race Theory (CRT) and the likes of Ibram X. Kendi and large sectorsof the Democratic left. In a fascinating related finding, the researchers found that most people who claim to have heard about CRT believe CRT includes this colorblind perspective, rather than directly contradicting it. Perhaps they just can’t believe any theory that has anything to do with race would reject this fundamental principle.

These and other findings fairly scream out for compromise on the part of Democrats to meet the Scaffles closer to where they live in cultural and value terms. So why aren’t they doing so?

To put it in the simplest possible terms: follow the money. The Democrats are a far different party than they were back in their heyday as the party of America’s working class. They are far more dependent in every way on more affluent and educated voters. Today Democrats control around two-thirds of the Congressional districts where median income exceeds the national average, while Republicans control around two-thirds of the districts where the median income is below the national average. That’s quite a change.

Political scientist Sam Zacher reports in “Polarization of the Rich: The New Democratic Allegiance of Affluent Americans and the Politics of Redistribution” that we are now seeing majority Democratic support among the top 5 percent, the top 1 percent, stock owners, and the highest income occupations. This is truly not your father’s Democratic Party.

Of course, the trend where Democrats do ever-better among college-educated voters and ever worse among working-class voters is well-documented. In 2022, Democratic performances among college-educated and working-class voters were perfect mirror images of each other. Democrats were +10 among college-educated voters in the national two-party House vote and -10 among working-class voters.

And what do these affluent, educated voters want? I think it’s fair to say that it’s quite different from what Scaffles have in mind. These affluent, educated voters are very socially liberal voters. Among white Democrats—who are increasingly affluent and educated—there has been an astonishing 37-point increase in professed liberalism between 1994 and today according to Gallup. White Democrats are now far more liberal than their black and Hispanic counterparts, who are overwhelmingly moderate to conservative. Indeed, white liberals are now more liberal on many racial issues than black and Hispanic voters.

Gallup data also indicate that two-thirds of white college Democrats are liberal while 70 percent of black working-class and two-thirds of Hispanic working-class Democrats are moderate or conservative. As one example among many, by 13 percentage points, white college liberals disagree that there are just two genders, male and female. But moderates and conservatives from the nonwhite working class agree by 31 points that there are in fact just two genders.

These affluent, educated voters contribute an enormous amount to the Democratic Party. That ranges from direct support through money and party activism to indirect support through nonprofits, advocacy organizations, foundations, academia and much of the media. To put it simply, these voters now have a lot of numerical weight in the party and punch far above that weight due to their outsize contributions to party support.

No wonder the Scaffles are given short shrift. Democrats are simply too dependent on the votes and support of voters for whom social liberalism is a top—and frequently the top—priority. As political scientist Zach Goldberg puts it:

[I]ndividuals of higher socioeconomic status are more socially progressive and are more likely to prioritize post-material or moral-value-related issues (e.g., abortion, climate change, LGBT rights) over kitchen-table issues… The result of this phenomenon is the selection of candidates who are—or who are pressured and incentivized to be—far more socially progressive than would [otherwise] be the case… There are also opportunity costs: the more time invested in debating and attempting to pass progressive legislative agendas, the less time that can be spent on “normal” economic and quality-of-life issues…

And more crassly: who’s writing the checks? Lakshya Jain at Split-Ticket.org has reported some powerful findings:

There is a very clear correlation between the amount of money spent by a party and its college educated vote share; the greater the share of college-educated voters that a party gets, the greater its share of spending in a cycle. As an example, from 1998 to 2014, the Republican Party was responsible for 51% of the (non-third party, inflation-adjusted) money spent in elections, and in 2014, they were getting 51% of the college-educated vote, as per Catalist. From 2016-2020, their spending percentage plummeted to 43%; perhaps not coincidentally, they were only netting 41% of the college-educated vote by 2020.

This correlation should come as little surprise, given the strong relationship between income and education levels. As the Democratic Party continues to pick up educated suburbanites, its coalition has proceeded to become wealthier than ever before, and it is reflected in the asymmetric spending spike the Democratic Party has seen of late. In fact, by 2020, Joe Biden and the Democratic Party received six times as much secret donor support (termed “dark money” by some) as Donald Trump and the GOP did.

And so while it was once taken as a given by many Democrats that the increase of money in politics might result in Republican hegemony at the ballot box, the picture is now no longer as clear; campaign finance reform measures might genuinely hurt the Democratic Party more than it would harm the Republican Party.

This gives a whole new meaning to the traditional leftist slogan of “get money out of politics!” And also perhaps a whole new perspective on why Democrats can’t seem to moderate their approach on cultural issues to appeal to Scaffles, despite the trove of votes that might be awaiting them there. Follow the money. It’s really that simple.

I have a new book with John Judis coming out this November, Where Have All the Democrats Gone?: The Soul of the Party in the Age of Extremes. If you like what you read on The Liberal Patriot, you’ll love this book! Now available for pre-order on Amazon. Be the first one on your block, etc.

Gun Poll: Support for Reforms Increasing….for Now

It’s only one poll about gun safety reforms. But I’m beginning to wonder if proximity to an election is more important than poll averaging for evaluating public attitudes for reforms on this particular issue. Everyone is outraged after a mass shooting. Then there is big talk about enacting gun restrictions. Then the issue fades away with politicians until the next massacre, and the cycle starts again.

We can hope that this latest poll, by CNN/SSRS signals a more permanent change in public attitudes and support for political action. As reported by Ariel Edwards-Levy at CNN Politics, “Most Americans continue to say gun control laws should be generally stricter, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, which finds broad support for preventing people under the age of 21 from buying any type of gun. At the same time, the country remains closely divided about how the availability of guns affects public safety, with sharp differences in views across partisan and demographic lines.” Further,

Overall, 64% say they favor stricter gun control laws, with 36% opposed, little changed since a survey taken last summer in the wake of a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

About one-third of Americans, 36%, say that the presence of guns makes public places less safe, while 32% say that allowing gun owners to carry their guns in public makes those places safer and the rest that it makes no difference to safety.

Just over half the public, 54%, say they believe having stricter gun control laws would reduce the number of gun-related deaths in the country.

Public appetite for stricter gun laws has often tended to spike in the aftermath of high-profile mass shootings – but with the frequency of such incidents, that elevated support may have become somewhat more durable. CNN’s polling has found consistent majority backing for stricter guns laws since 2016, with 60% or more favoring tighter restrictions in every survey to ask the question since the 2018 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

There’s also been a sustained shift over the past decade in the intensity of opinions, which now consistently and substantially favor gun control advocates. In CNN polls conducted between 2013 and 2017, strong support for stricter gun laws outpaced strong opposition by an average margin of only 5 percentage points. In the years following the Parkland shooting, that margin has surged to an average of 30 points.

In the latest survey, strong support for gun control laws among the full public stands at 46%, while strong opposition stands at 20%. Democrats are more likely than Republicans to hold intensely felt views: 80% say they strongly support stricter laws, nearly doubling the 42% of strong opposition among Republicans.

There are more details to consider in Edwards-Levi’s report. Read it here.

When Feelings About Personal Finances Are More Negative Than Economic Stats

Lydia Saad reports that “Americans Remain Discouraged About Personal Finances” at Gallup, and writes,

“Americans remain guarded about their personal finances, with the majority (55%) saying their financial situation is “only fair” or “poor” rather than “excellent” or “good” (45%). More also report that their financial situation is worsening (50%) than improving (37%).

Consumers’ perspectives on their finances are nearly identical to what Gallup found a year ago but contrast with 2021, when Americans were generally upbeat about their financial circumstances and momentum.”

One indication of what’s weighing on consumers comes from an open-ended question in the new survey that asks respondents to name the most important financial problem facing their family. Inflation tops the list at 35%, the highest percentage naming inflation as their biggest financial problem since Gallup first asked the question two decades ago. Although inflation has eased over the past year, it remains higher than Americans were accustomed to before the pandemic, and prices for goods like food and gasoline remain elevated.

The survey was conducted April 3-25, before the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that inflation was 4.9% in April — the first time it has been below 5% in two years.

Nobody knows when or if public attitudes about personal finances will line up with economic indicators. But how voters feel about their economic status is more important for elections than the latest economic indicators. And the trend line is not good, as Saad notes:

An index summarizing the two financial assessment questions shows that consumers’ overall attitudes about their finances are essentially tied for the most negative they’ve been since Gallup began tracking these metrics annually in 2004. The index represents the average of Americans’ net positive evaluations of their current financial situations (the percentage rating them excellent/good minus the percentage only fair/poor) and their net positive outlook for their finances (the percentage saying their finances are getting better minus the percentage saying they are getting worse).

Today’s -12 score is the lowest since 2008 and 2009, when the financial index was at its numerical low point of -13 in the trend. Thereafter, the index gradually climbed to a high of +21 in 2019 before tumbling to -9 at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020….The index spiked to +18 in April 2021 — a hopeful period for consumers during the vaccine rollout and as the economy was getting back to normal — nearly matching the 2019 high. But it fell to -10 in 2022 amid high and worsening inflation and is essentially the same this year.

As usual, there are sharp differences in how adults of different household income levels view their financial situation. The financial index score is positive (+28) among those in the top third of households by income (currently those earning $100,000 or more annually), while it is modestly negative, at -22, among middle-income earners ($40,000-$99,999) and more deeply negative, at -43, among the lowest income tier (less than $40,000).

All income groups’ financial confidence was shaken in 2020, improved in 2021, and dropped again in 2022. However, over the past year, financial confidence has fallen further among middle-income Americans to the lowest Gallup has recorded for that group in the two-decade trend, while it has been steady among upper- and lower-income earners.

Despite evaluating their personal finances as subpar, most adults still report they have enough money to live comfortably; however, the 64% doing so this year is among the smallest proportions Gallup has recorded in two decades of tracking….Lower- and middle-income Americans’ comfort with their financial means is at new lows in 2023, while upper-income Americans’ sentiment is closer to the long-term average for that group.

It’s hard to get poll averages for feelings about personal finances since the questions vary from poll to poll, more than approval rates. Saad concludes, “Although inflation is down sharply from a year ago, it remains high relative to what Americans have been accustomed to in recent decades. Given that, inflation continues to be both a top-of-mind financial concern as well as a likely driver of continued pessimism and uncertainty among Americans about their own finances.”

If the Gallup poll flips the personal finances ratings to about 55 percent “good” and 45 percent “fair” by October of next year, that could help give Dems some needed momentum for the 2024 elections.

Teixeira: Where Is the Electoral Payoff to Progressivism?

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

There is a strong case that Democrats would benefit from moving to the center on a wide variety of cultural and “green” issues. Why don’t they? Surely this would help them with moderate, persuadable voters who are uncomfortable with Democrats’ recent embrace of uncompromisingly left stances in these areas.

The default response to this idea is that, while you might rope in some moderate swing voters with this strategy, you would lose significant support among Democratic base voters through such compromises and wind up a net loser. Despite its wide currency within the Democratic Party, particularly on the party’s left, there is remarkably little evidence for this assertion. The following details the many weak points in the case, so dear to the hearts of the party’s progressives.

Where is the turnout dividend?

The theory here is that, given a move to the center, progressives and the groups they claim to represent will simply fail to show up at the polls, canceling out any gains among swing voters. Conversely, the more Democrats reject that strategy and embrace the progressive program and world view, the higher turnout will be among Democratic base groups relative to the opposition.

To say the least, this does not appear to be happening. As Democrats have steadily moved to the left on cultural and green issues, relative turnout performance among base groups has actually been quite poor. Take 2022. Turnout fell across the board relative to 2018, according to recently-released Census data, but it fell more among Democratic base groups. While overall turnout declined a little over 3 points, it fell 10 points among black voters, almost 7 points among young (18-29 year old) voters and 5 points among Hispanic voters.

Or take the 2020 election. On the heels of the George Floyd summer and the Democrats’ ostentatious embrace of progressives’ racial and social justice priorities, one might have thought—progressives certainly thought—that Democrats would benefit greatly from high base group turnout. And it was indeed a high turnout election. The problem: everyone’s turnout went up, including among groups Democrats would have preferred stayed home. The net result of higher turnout did not significantly boost Democratic fortunes; if anything Republicans may have a benefitted a bit more from the higher levels of turnout. This helps explain why Biden’s 2020 victory was so much narrower than anticipated and why the election saw Democrats lose ground in the House and in state legislatures.

Black turnout was particularly unimpressive in that election. As noted in a New York Times analysis of the 2020 Georgia vote:

Joe Biden put Georgia in the Democratic column for the first time since 1992 by making huge gains among affluent, college-educated and older voters in the suburbs around Atlanta, according to an Upshot analysis of the results by precinct. The Black share of the electorate fell to its lowest level since 2006, based on an Upshot analysis of newly published turnout data from the Georgia secretary of state. In an election marked by a big rise in turnout, Black turnout increased, too, but less than that of some other groups….

The Black share of the electorate appears to have also dropped in North Carolina—another state where voters are asked their race on their voter registration form—based on initial data from counties representing about 10 percent of the state’s electorate. And there was no evidence of a turnout surge in Detroit or Milwaukee—along with an increase in Philadelphia that was smaller than in the state as a whole—where Democrats had hoped to reverse disappointing Black turnout from four years ago.

None of this fits very well with the alleged electoral benefits of progressivism nor with the presumed electoral liabilities of moving to the center.

Where is the support dividend?

But it’s more serious than the evident lack of a turnout dividend. If the progressive electoral case makes any sense at all, it should manifest itself by increased support for Democrats among key groups as the party moves to the left. After all, progressives reason, the currently-existing Republicans are only a hairs-breadth away, if that, from being fascists, so waving the progressive flag high should bring more of the disadvantaged and “marginalized” to the Democratic banner. Instead, the exact reverse has happened.

This is particularly obvious with Hispanics. In the 2020 election, Hispanics, after four years of Trump, gave him substantially more support than they did in 2016. According to Catalist, in 2020 Latinos had an amazingly large 16-point margin shift toward Trump. Among Latinos, Cubans did have the largest shifts toward Trump (26 points), but those of Mexican origin also had a 12-point shift and even Puerto Ricans moved toward Trump by 18 points.

Latino shifts toward Trump were widely dispersed geographically. Hispanic shifts toward Trump were not confined to Florida (28 points) and Texas (18 points) but also included states like Wisconsin (20 points), Nevada (18 points), Pennsylvania (12 points), Arizona (10 points) and Georgia (8 points).

But it’s not just Hispanics. Looking at 2022, it is clear that as the Democratic Party has moved to the left over the last four years, they have done worse among their base voters generally. They’ve lost a good chunk of their support among nonwhite voters overall and among young voters. Since 2018, Democratic support is down 18 margin points among young voters, 20 points among nonwhites, and 23 points among nonwhite working-class (noncollege) voters. The latter voters are overwhelmingly moderate to conservative in orientation and they seem distinctly unimpressed with Democrats’ fervent allegiance to progressive rhetoric and priorities.

Instead, the changing ideological orientation of the Democrats has simply made it easier for non-liberal nonwhites—especially conservatives and especially among the working class—to vote their ideology instead of a default loyalty to the Democratic Party. So much for the support dividend promised by progressives!

As the 2024 election looms, there are signs that the “missing support dividend” may continue to be missing. As Nate Cohn remarked, discussing a recent ABC/Washington Post poll particularly bad for Biden:

Even excluding ABC/Post polling altogether (in clear violation of the “toss it in the average” rule), Mr. Biden still has a mere 49-37 lead over Mr. Trump among Hispanic voters and just a 70-18 lead among Black voters. In each case, Mr. Biden is far behind usual Democratic benchmarks, and it comes on the heels of a midterm election featuring unusually low Black turnout.

If the lesson from the ABC/Post poll is that Mr. Biden is vulnerable and weak among usually reliable Democratic constituencies, then perhaps the takeaway from [the] poll isn’t necessarily a misleading one.

If Republicans are so terrible, why aren’t Democrats crushing them?

Of course, none of this means that Democrats can’t or won’t win elections. The Republicans, after all, are a party with glaring and very major weaknesses not unrelated to the continuing influence of Donald Trump on the party. In fact, these weaknesses are so serious and have damaged the Republican brand so severely that it raises the question as to why Democrats can’t beat them decisively. Instead, Democrats are hemorrhaging votes among some of their most loyal constituencies and limping to razor-thin victories (or losses) against their weakened foe, who remains at rough parity with the Democrats.

This gets to the heart of the problem with progressives’ strategy. Democrats have moved to the left in accordance with progressives’ wishes, which was supposed to align the party more closely with voters’ preferences and set up a heightened contrast with the “semi-fascist” MAGA Republicans and their dark plans for America. That should have generated a big electoral payoff but it has not.

Progressives have answers for this failure of course. The favorite one is that the Democrats have not become progressive enough. They simply need to press the accelerator on their leftward transformation and the votes will flow. This is not a falsifiable proposition since any move to the left can always be deemed not far enough and hence an explanation for any given electoral loss. Conveniently, true progressivism—like true socialism—can never fail since it has never been tried.

A secondary argument is that progressives’ real priorities and real values—which are actually quite popular, progressives assure us—are not getting through to voters because of mis- and disinformation emanating from the right. If not for that, voters would be responding enthusiastically and the progressive electoral payoff would appear. A simpler explanation, since any political program is always attacked by its opponents, is that the program itself is not that convincing to voters. If it was, it could stand up to political attack.

A more plausible explanation for the lack of a progressive electoral payoff is that the whole progressive electoral theory is just wrong. It’s not the case that moderating Democrats’ approach results in more losses among base group voters than gains among persuadable voters. On the contrary, it is strenuous progressivism that results in losses among base group voters and certainly does little good among persuadable voters outside the Democratic base. The whole tradeoff posited by progressives to justify their approach and disparage a moderate alternative does not exist.

It’s time for Democrats to face up to the fact that the concerns of many of “their” voters do not track with the issues that motivate progressives. These voters would be more likely to turn out for a Democratic Party associated with safe streetsa healthy economy, and a sensible, non-divisive approach to social issues. That will necessitate doing some—perhaps many—things that progressives won’t like. But as Democrats look toward 2024, with its daunting presidential election and even more daunting Senate map, they would do well to ignore the predictable denunciations by progressives of any move to the center and instead head straight for the common-sense heart of the American electorate. That’s where the real electoral payoff lies.

Catalist Data Shows ’22 Bumps for Dems Among ‘Gen Z’, Women and White Working Class

In “That Gen Z midterm boost for Democrats might be real: A new analysis from the Democratic data firm Catalist helps explain how Democrats staved off disaster in 2022,” Steven Shepard writes:

Democrats avoided an electoral wipeout in the 2022 midterms. One way they did so was by reassembling a history-defying coalition of young voters who turned out at rates more commonly seen in presidential elections, according to a new study of voter-file data.

The Democratic data firm Catalist found that these voters bested 2018 turnout levels in states with the most competitive races for governor or Senate — and they overwhelmingly favored Democratic candidates, even if the overall political environment swung to the right.

Like other studies of the 2022 electorate — which mostly rely on surveys of voters on or around Election Day — the Catalist report finds that Democrats increased their support among women voters over 2020. Abortion is cited as a key factor in that shift: Polls and registration data show that Democratic women were more motivated to vote after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision.

The Catalist report does offer some warning signs for the party, particularly a drop in turnout among Black voters. But it mostly suggests that close, high-turnout elections continue to be the norm since Donald Trump’s election in 2016. Both sides are highly activated to participate in both presidential elections and years in between. That means we could be headed to another year of record or near-record voter turnout in 2024, even if both candidates wind up being unpopular.

High turnout was especially evident in the most competitive races, Catalist found. Democrats’ defiance of a so-called “red wave” came because Democrats managed to win the lion’s share of competitive races for Senate, governor and House.

….But Catalist’s findings are a bit counterintuitive. They found that Democratic candidates in competitive races won 40 percent of white voters without a college degree, up from 36 percent in 2020. By contrast, Democrats’ share of white college graduates in those contests dipped from 53 percent in 2020 to 51 percent in 2022.

To find out “How did they do it, and what does it mean for 2024 — and beyond,” read on here.

‘Durham Report’ a 6-Million Dollar Nothingburger

From “John Durham has to know his final report is a mess” by Hayes Brown at MSNBC.com:

The Department of Justice on Monday finally released the long-awaited final report from special counsel John Durham, who, almost four years ago, was tapped to review the FBI’s decision to open a counterintelligence investigation into Donald Trump’s presidential 2016 campaign. For much of that time, Trump supporters were positive that the bombshells Durham would drop would validate Trump’s characterization of the Russia investigation as the “crime of the century.”

However, over the course of more than 300 pages, the Durham Report doesn’t just fail to live up to Trump supporters’ expectations of a spectacular vindication; it manages to fail on every other level as well. Durham fails to rebut the previous findings from special counsel Robert Mueller or the Department of Justice’s inspector general. He fails to provide suggested changes that the FBI could make moving forward. He fails to acknowledge how much of the winking innuendo the report includes wasn’t proved in court. And, ironically, he fails to realize that his central argument includes a standard for politically charged investigations that Trump would absolutely hate to see put into practice.

The Durham Report doesn’t just fail to live up to Trump supporters’ expectations of a spectacular vindication; it manages to fail on every other level as well.

None of these failures is particularly surprising given the arc of Durham’s investigation. When he began to wrap up in September, it was clear that he would be unable to live up to the right-wing hype. The only two cases that he brought to trial resulted in acquittals; the one guilty plea he obtained was of an FBI attorney for altering an email used to obtain a surveillance warrant for a Trump campaign adviser. But Durham still includes many of the allegations that the juries rejected, a move more likely to muddy the waters than provide clarity.

Read more of Brown’s article and watch a revealing interview about the Durham nothingburger here. Also check out Rachel Maddow’s coverage here.

Dems Pin Hopes on Trump’s Meltdown with Suburban Women

The 2024 Presidential campaign is still in the early stages. But the case for Democrats focusing strategy on winning suburban women keeps mounting, as Julia Manchester writes at The Hill:

Former President Trump increasingly looks like the favorite to win the GOP’s presidential nomination, but that strength masks what many Republicans see as a huge weakness against President Biden: Trump’s problems with suburban women.

All of Trump’s vulnerabilities with the key demographic were on high display during a rowdy town hall last week with CNN, where at one point the former president called moderator Kaitlan Collins a “nasty person.”

Trump also mocked a woman who won a civil lawsuit against him for sexual battery and defamation, and he dodged questions on abortion — a top issue that has increasingly been a strength for Democrats since the Supreme Court, which includes three justices who Trump nominated, overturned Roe v. Wade.

However, “The CNN town hall came just days after a Washington Post-ABC News poll showed Trump leading Biden in a general election, sparking worry among Democrats,” Manchester notes. “According to the survey, Trump leads Biden by 7 points in a hypothetical matchup.” Manchester adds,

….Suburban women voters have also largely turned their backs on Republicans since the former president was elected in 2016. According to CBS News exit polling from 2018, 53 percent of suburban women voters said they voted for Democrats in 2018, up from 47 percent in 2014 and 51 percent in 2016. In 2020, Biden won 54 percent of suburban voters in general, according to the Pew Research Center. And in last year’s midterm elections, suburban voters, including women in this group, helped deliver major victories to Democrats in key states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Georgia, with many of Trump’s endorsed candidates facing defeat.

“Many of those women the first time around they voted for him because he was a Republican, and we know that party is the best predictor of a vote,” Walsh said. “But the lived experience of Donald Trump turned them away from the Republican Party.”

“In the same way that he kept the Republican Party from winning big in the midterm elections this year, then he will make it difficult for the Republican Party in a general election,” she said.

On top of that, many have pointed to how the Supreme Court’s decision last year to overturn Roe v. Wade — the 1973 landmark ruling that federally legalized abortion — swayed women voters in the midterms. According to the Brookings Institution, 47 percent of female voters felt angry about the decision, and 83 percent of those women voted for a Democratic candidate.

Nonetheless, says Manchester, “It’s still unclear and too far out to know what role abortion access will play in 2024. It’s also unclear what role the economy will play in voters’ decision-making because it’s normally a top-of-mind issue. Republicans have continued to hit Biden on this as inflation continues and interest rates rise. The Washington-Post ABC News poll also shows Trump dominating Biden on handling the economy, with 54 percent of Americans saying Trump did a better job of handling the economy than Biden has done in his term so far. Only 36 percent said they preferred Biden’s handling.”

Manchester concludes, “I know Biden’s poll numbers are not great, but at the end of the day, when you’re really looking at whatever we watch in this campaign, if it is Donald Trump, it may not be a vote for Joe Biden, but a vote just to please make it stop with Donald Trump,” Walsh said.”

Manchester didn’t probe the political fallout from the epidemic of mass shootings this year. But suburban women have to be worried about the GOP’s foot-dragging on gun safety reforms, as well as the party’s dependence on NRA contributions.

Why Dems Should Calm Down About Biden’s Age, Early Polls

Walter Shapiro has a zinger and insight-rich post, “Democrats, Don’t Panic! Seriously, Don’t”  up at The New Republic’s The Soapbox.

Shapiro argues that “Running protest candidates to act out policy frustrations is a luxury that the Democrats can ill afford at a time when the Republican Party has abandoned conservatism for trumped-up authoritarianism. A nomination fight against an incumbent president is an invitation to general election defeat, as Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush found out.”

“Immigration remains a can’t-win issue for the Democrats,” Shapiro claims. “Every president (with the possible exception of Trump) is blamed for failing to solve insolvable issues. And the crisis at the Mexican border defies workable and humane solutions. No matter how far Biden tacks to the right (and suddenly the buzzword of this administration is “enforcement”), Trump and the Fox News megaphone will demonize the issue and rail against “open borders.” Short of actually building Trump’s phantom wall, there is no plausible way for Biden to avoid being permanently on the defensive on immigration.”

In terms of his image,  Shapiro gets brutal: “Biden will never be a compelling candidate. That was not his persona when he limped through the 2020 Iowa caucuses (fourth-place finish) and the New Hampshire primary (fifth place). As Biden insiders will privately concede, the pandemic helped Biden in the 2020 general election since it gave him an excuse to limit public campaigning. President Biden, to be honest, is boring. Last Friday, he gave his first TV interview since declaring his candidacy in April with a three-minute video. His White House conversation with MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle produced little news and less excitement….The combination of Biden’s workmanlike oratory and the unprecedented ability of Americans to change channels means that this president cannot command a national audience for anything less than a flying saucer landing on the White House lawn.” Further,

“Television ads, no matter how slickly produced, will not create a “morning in America” mood for Biden. A saturation ad blitz this early in the political season would require funds well beyond the current resources of the Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee. And anything less than Michael Bloomberg–level spending will only be seen by hard-core viewers of CNN and MSNBC.” Also,

“Try as he might, Biden cannot defuse the age issue with a clever quip or a poll-tested boast. In his MSNBC interview, Biden argued, “I have acquired a hell of a lot of wisdom and know more than the vast majority of people. And I’m more experienced than anybody that’s ever run for the office.” The problem is that voters are not only judging the Biden of today but also imagining an 86-year-old Biden in the White House in 2028.”

Now for the good news: “But every election is a choice between two candidates, not a quest for a modern-day Pericles. And whether GOP voters choose Trump the Sexual Abuser or another candidate from the right-wing fever swamps, that nominee is going to come with more baggage than a 1930s movie star on a trans-Atlantic crossing.” In addition, says Shapiro,

“Unless the GOP miraculously picks someone like Asa Hutchinson, the former Arkansas governor and ardent anti-Trumper, the Republican nominee will find it impossible to locate the political center even with a guide and a compass. From abortion to book banning, the Republicans are saddled with the politically unpalatable side of almost every emotionally potent issue except immigration. And if the nominee is Ron DeSantis, he may never live down the Peggy Noonan line that he “carries a vibe … that he might unplug your life support to re-charge his cellphone.”

If the Trump resurrection lasts until the Republican convention, negative partisanship will become a powerful force for the Democrats. Biden may be old and boring, but he has not been judged by a civil jury to be a sexual abuser. Biden may be old and boring, but he is not facing indictment in New York or maybe soon in Atlanta. He simply has to ask voters, in Reaganesque fashion, “Do you feel better about Trump today than you did four years ago?” The question, for almost all the voters who handed Biden the 2020 election, will answer itself as they contemplate an unhinged president motivated only by ego and revenge.”

President Biden may not be Mr. Excitement. But given the flaws of most of his opponents, he is beginning to look like Mr. Sane and Stable – which is not such a bad image at the launch of his 2024 campaign.

A Cornerstone Issue for Dems

It ought to be obvious by now. But just in case it isn’t, Jeet Heer explains why “Democrats Should Make Abortion a Cornerstone Issue” at The Nation:

Ballot initiatives are the best electoral bellwether for where the abortion fight stands in the United States in the post-Dobbs era. There were ballot initiatives in six states in 2022 and they revealed a remarkable consensus that cut across the usual regional divides: The pro-choice side won not just in blue states like Vermont and California but also in purple states like Michigan—and even in very red states like Montana, Kansas, and Kentucky. In an otherwise polarized country, abortion has become the opposite of a wedge issue. It doesn’t matter if voters are Black or white, women or men, Democrats or Republicans, college-educated or high school dropouts: Overwhelming majorities of most major demographics support a woman’s right to control her own fertility as previously enshrined under Roe v. Wade. When given a chance to vote for it, they will vote for reproductive freedom.

Heer dissects the evolving Republican confusion and splintering on abortion rights, then says that “Democrats, however, face their own divisions on abortion.” Heer adds,

In a wide-ranging survey in New York, Rebecca Traister noted that the party is torn “between a calcified leadership that remains ambivalent about making abortion access truly central to a Democratic rhetorical and policy framework, and frustrated politicians who see the fight for reproductive autonomy as both a moral and strategic linchpin.” The main example of “calcified leadership” is Joe Biden, accurately described by Traister as “a Catholic boy from Scranton, first sworn into the Senate weeks before Roe was decided in 1973, who spent the early decades of his career as an opponent of abortion rights.” Over time, Biden has moved into line with his party’s position on abortion—but only half-heartedly and reluctantly.“Calcified leadership” can also be seen in the Senate Judiciary Committee, where the health problems of the octogenarian Dianne Feinstein have kneecapped Democratic efforts to rebalance the courts.

As opposed to this “calcified leadership,” Traister points to younger politicians like Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer who are pushing to make abortion a cornerstone issue.

Abortion rights may not be the issue of broadest concern for 2024 voters. It could be easily subordinated to economic trends, depending on how the economy performs over the next 18 months, or perhaps even gun violence. But abortion rights will likely remain the issue on which the Democrats have the largest advantage in polls, even in red states, and Democrats should not be shy about making the most out of their edge on the issue.

Why Biden, Dems Must Focus on Hispanic Voters

From “Hispanic voters have soured on Biden. Now he needs to win them back” by Marissa Martinez at Politico:

The stakes for Biden are high. As he launches his reelection, there are doubts about whether he’ll be able to replicate that multiracial excitement, even if he might face off against Trump again. His favorability has dropped across the board since last year, falling nearly 30 points among Latinos in some polling.

There’s evidence that Hispanic voters helped deliver Democrats big Senate wins of 2022 in Arizona and Nevada. A coordinated effort by Democratic groups focused on turning out more voters in a non-presidential election year and ramping up spending on Spanish-language advertising. By doing so, the demographic stretched several margins during the midterms, tipping the scale for Democratic senate and gubernatorial candidates. Hispanic voters are the second-largest voting bloc in the country, which means improving margins among this group can pay dividends in key states.

So what should Democrats do to hold a stable majority of Hispanic voters? As Martinez writes,

“They need to engage these voters more deeply, earlier, and focus on strengthening their economic message,” said Janet Murguía, president of Latino advocacy organization UnidosUS. “Not all of the achievements and outcomes and impacts that have resulted from the Biden administration’s proposals and policies are clearly understood to be connected to the president.”….Murguía said the party’s strategy should focus on touting Biden’s economic policies, consistently the top issue among Latino voters. The impact of the child tax credit and pandemic-era stimulus checks were important for financially boosting Hispanic households, she added. Though those policies are all in the rearview mirror. Officials close to the campaign said lower healthcare costs, job creation and decreasing unemployment rates will also be top messaging priorities this year.

It won’t be easy, as Martinez explains:

Though the Biden administration is less than a week into the campaign, some polls show the slight majority of Hispanic registered voters have a negative impression of the president. He has an average of about 35 percent favorability across the last three relevant Quinnipiac polls with Hispanic voters. That’s even with his performance among white voters, where he had a 36 percent favorability rate within the same period.

Those numbers among Latinos are a stark drop from a sweeping poll conducted by UnidosUS following the 2022 midterms that showed Hispanic support at a 64 percent approval rate compared to 42 percent of white respondents who approved of Biden’s performance.

However, “Favorability at this point doesn’t always track with vote share,” Martinez notes. “Former President Barack Obama’s approval fell to 49 percent at the end of 2011, though he rebounded to garner 71 percent of the Hispanic vote during his 2012 reelection.

Yet, Dems should keep in mind that unforeseen factors like a spike in inflation can sour voters of any and every community. There are encouraging signs that President Biden is prioritizing Latino voters, including his designating Julie Chávez Rodríguez, granddaughter of Cesar Chavez, as his campaign manager. And by now, we can hope at least that President Biden understands that it is not enough to propose and enact popular reforms and legislation; Dems have to remind voters that they passed all of these measures and their opponents tried to kill all of the reforms — and that’s what Republicans will do if voters let them.