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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Teixeira: The Kids Are All Right: Gen Z Edition

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

For all the attention paid to the Millennials, Gen Z (born after 1996) is coming up fast. They too will have a big effect on politics. As I have noted before, early data on the first tranche of Gen Z’ers coming into the electorate suggests that they will be as liberal as the Millennials and possibly more so.

This is confirmed by a new release from Pew that details some of this generation’s key views and preferences relative to older generations.

“One-in-ten eligible voters in the 2020 electorate will be part of a new generation of Americans – Generation Z. Born after 1996, most members of this generation are not yet old enough to vote, but as the oldest among them turn 23 this year, roughly 24 million will have the opportunity to cast a ballot in November. And their political clout will continue to grow steadily in the coming years, as more and more of them reach voting age….

Aside from the unique set of circumstances in which Gen Z is approaching adulthood, what do we know about this new generation? We know it’s different from previous generations in some important ways, but similar in many ways to the Millennial generation that came before it. Members of Gen Z are more racially and ethnically diverse than any previous generation, and they are on track to be the most well-educated generation yet. They are also digital natives who have little or no memory of the world as it existed before smartphones.

Still, when it comes to their views on key social and policy issues, they look very much like Millennials. Pew Research Center surveys conducted in the fall of 2018 (more than a year before the coronavirus outbreak) among Americans ages 13 and older found that, similar to Millennials, Gen Zers are progressive and pro-government, most see the country’s growing racial and ethnic diversity as a good thing, and they’re less likely than older generations to see the United States as superior to other nations.1

A look at how Gen Z voters view the Trump presidency provides further insight into their political beliefs. A Pew Research Center survey conducted in January of this year found that about a quarter of registered voters ages 18 to 23 (22%) approved of how Donald Trump is handling his job as president, while about three-quarters disapproved (77%). Millennial voters were only slightly more likely to approve of Trump (32%) while 42% of Gen X voters, 48% of Baby Boomers and 57% of those in the Silent Generation approved of the job he’s doing as president.”

The Pew data on political preferences are supported by findings from the Nationscape survey. Nationscape data also show Gen Z’ers with even stronger pro-Biden and anti-Trump leanings than Millennials. This applies to both Gen Z as a whole and to the white subgroup of Gen Z, a fact of no small significance.

Democratic Prospects in the State Legislatures

At Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Chaz Nuttycombe shares an insightful update on the battle for control of the 50 state legislatures, which is under-reported by major media. Nuttycombe, director of the election forecasting group CNalysis.com, writes:

With more than 5,000 districts at stake this year, there are many opportunities at the state level for either party to maintain or improve their advantage. We at CNalysis acknowledge the importance of these elections; we are currently casting ratings for most of these districts — 5,233 to be exact — as well as their respective state legislative chambers.

The consequences of state legislative control are enormously significant, including gerrymandering and and prospects for a broad range of social reforms at the state level, including health care, environmental protection and voting rights, to name just a few areas of critical concern.

Nuttycombe notes that “that there are only two states where party control of chambers is divided: In Minnesota, Democrats control the state House and Republicans hold the state Senate, while in Alaska, Republicans hold the state Senate while Democrats nominally control the state House thanks to a coalition of Democrats, Republicans and Independents (Republicans actually hold more seats in the chamber).” Here’s the map depicting the current line-up:

He notes further that “Overall, Republicans control 58 chambers, and Democrats control 40. Again, this tally excludes Nebraska,” while “Republicans have 20 trifectas [governors as well as majorities in both state legislative chambers], Democrats have 15, and 14 states are split. Again, Nebraska is excluded, but functionally the state could be counted as one where Republicans control both the governorship and legislature.”

But looking towards the November elections, “While Republicans hold an advantage in the number of chambers they control, the certainty of Republicans maintaining such a lopsided control of chambers is not assured…there are 11 competitive chambers remaining: nine held by Republicans, and just two held by Democrats.” Also, “Currently in the CNalysis forecast of over 5,000 single-member state legislative districts, Democrats are favored to have a net gain of 11 state Senate seats, and Republicans are favored to net 11 state House seats. Given how many seats are being contested, this would be a very modest shift in seats…only about 20% of all the districts are competitive, with the remainder either safe for one party or the other or uncontested.” In addition,

Minnesota is the greatest opportunity for Democrats to create a trifecta in state governments this year, with only the state Senate standing in their way. North Carolina and New Hampshire double as trifecta opportunities for both parties, because both states have competitive state legislative chambers and gubernatorial races. Alaska Republicans only have to flip the state House to create a trifecta in the state, though that will depend on how they fare against Republicans in the chamber who caucus with the Democrat-aligned majority coalition (more on that here).

As Nuttycombe sees Democratic goals in state legislatures for 2020:

Create more Democratic trifectas and create divided governments in Republican trifectas.

— Keep and expand their current projected net gain in state Senate seats by mostly flipping Clinton-won suburban seats that haven’t had an election since 2016, and minimize damage in state House seats.

— Continue to gain in suburban areas they gained in in the 2018 midterms and defend their earnings mostly in those areas from that election.

It seems like a realistic and achievable agenda, one which depends upon the commitment of the Democratic state parties and their ability to educate and mobilize voters.

Teixeira: ‘A Pox on Both Their Houses…..and I’m Voting for Biden!’

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

The data keep rolling in that Biden is flipping a pattern from 2016 that really hurt Clinton. In that election,those voters that didn’t like either candidate voted lopsidedly for Trump. This year, as David Siders notes in a useful article on Politico, it’s the reverse: voters who don’t like either candidate say they’ll vote for Biden by a wide margin. I checked this pattern on the Nationscape data (85,000+ cases since the beginning of the year) and find strong confirmation: voters unfavorable to both candidates prefer Biden by 35 points (55-20).

From the Siders article:

“Unlike in 2016, when a large group of voters who disliked both Trump and Hillary Clinton broke sharply for Trump, the opposite is happening now, according to public polling and private surveys conducted by Republicans and Democrats alike.

It’s a significant and often underappreciated group of voters. Of the nearly 20 percent of voters who disliked both Clinton and Trump in 2016, Trump outperformed Clinton by about 17 percentage points, according to exit polls.

Four years later, that same group — including a mix of Bernie Sanders supporters, other Democrats, disaffected Republicans and independents — strongly prefers Biden, the polling shows. The former vice president leads Trump by more than 40 percentage points among that group, which accounts for nearly a quarter of registered voters, according to a Monmouth University poll last week.

“It’s a huge difference,” said Patrick Murray, who oversees the Monmouth poll. “That’s a group that if you don’t like either one of them, you will vote against the status quo. And in the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton represented more of the status quo than Trump did. In this current election, the status quo is Donald Trump.”

Gardner and Greenberg: The partisan polarization of the pandemic CVI tracking, wave 2: April 31-May 5

The following memo by Page Gardner of the Center for Voter Information and Stanley Greenberg of Greenberg Research & Democracy Corps is cross-posted from DCorps:

The Tea Party-Trump Republican Party was forced to lead the country’s response to the pandemic and that accelerated the polarization of the country and marginalization of the GOP — at a very high human cost. Donald Trump took leadership of a modern Republican Party shaped profoundly by the Tea Party revolt against Barack Obama, government health care, and immigration. They sought to gridlock government and polarize America. Now, Trump leads an anti-government party that has been forced to oversee the biggest expansion of regulation and government since World War II.

Trump has cheered governors opening up the economy and protestors liberating their states, and the country and some Republicans fear this will prove tragic.

Fully two-thirds of the country and half of Republicans reacted with horror to the anti-stay-at-home demonstrators who looked a lot like the Tea Party movement protest in 2009 and 2010. Over 60 percent are intensely negative and that leads into the effectiveness of the strongest attack this poll tested against the president. It raised serious doubts for half the country, and left the Tea Party Republicans pretty isolated.

These findings come from the 2nd tracking survey sponsored by CVI, using 2,000 on-line interviews, weighted to match the baseline of mostly cell-phone surveys conducted over last two months.

And in states where Republicans have full control of the governorship and legislature, pro-Trump governors moved to open up their economies — led by Governor Kemp in Georgia, Governor DeSantis in Florida and Governor Abbot in Texas. Just 31 percent responded warmly to those governors, and 51 percent coolly, with about 15 percent unsure of what to make of them.

(Continued here)

Teixeira: How Is Biden Running in the Battleground States?

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

As all sentient humans know, simply winning the popular vote will not be enough for Biden since it is quite possible to do that and still lose the electoral college vote.

So, even though Biden has a solid lead nationally, how is he doing in the battleground states that will likely decide the election? Polls specifically targeted at battleground states mostly say he is doing quite well, though there is some disagreement between the polls.

Here are some recent ones:

1. Democracy Corps/Greenberg Research

Biden + 5 across 16 states: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia,

Wisconsin (Clinton performance in same states in 2016: -1)

2. Democracy for All 2021/Hart Research

Biden +9 across 6 states: AZ, CO, IA, ME, MT, NC (Clinton performance in same states in 2016 -2 (self-reported))

3. :Avalanche Strategies

Biden +6 across 7 states (AZ, FL, Mi, NV, NC, PA, WI)

4. CNBC/Change Research

Biden -2 across 6 states (AZ, FL, MI, NC, PA, WI)

Somewhat related, here is some recent commentary from G. Elliott Morris, the Economist’s US political data guy:

“Mentioned this the other day, but national and state polls disagree in a big way right now about the state of the 2020 race. National surveys put the contest around Biden +6 nationally, but state-level polls suggest he’s up by 8 or so.”….(Query from reader: “Is it possible that Biden is basically just replicating Clinton ‘16 in some big blue states (CA? NY? MA?) but running ahead of her elsewhere?”….(Morris answer: “Yep, this is what the polls are suggesting”)

Teixeira: Why Trump Should Probably Lose

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

I get it: you’re terrified the Orange One will somehow overcome all his problems and replicate his Electoral College win/popular vote loss performance of 2016. And you won’t stop being terrified until Biden gets the 270th electoral vote allocated to him on election night or next morning. I get that too.

But really….it is quite striking how big a hole Trump is currently in. Yes, maybe he’ll somehow climb out and come roaring into the November election with the wind at this back. But right now, that’s looking like a very tough assignment, for several reasons.

1. Approval ratings

Jonathan Bernstein:

“Trump’s current number ranks seventh out of the polling-era presidents through 1,202 days. What’s more telling is that there are clear historical patterns for presidents seeking a second term.

Trump’s net approval is -8.1 (that is, 43.2 approval minus 51.3 disapproval). The three recent presidents who were easily re-elected had solid positive net approval at this point: Richard Nixon at +17.7, Bill Clinton at +16.1 and Ronald Reagan at +15.3. The two most recent presidents both won somewhat narrowly; at this point, Barack Obama was at +1.7 and George W. Bush at -0.3. And then there were the two most recent losers. George H.W. Bush had fallen from a then-record approval down to -6.8. Jimmy Carter was only at -2.7, but that was probably just a quirk of the data, since he had recently been at -10 and would soon sink even further underwater.

Both Carter and the first Bush dipped lower by Election Day; the three easy winners all improved further. That suggests there’s still time for Trump to either rise to a level where he could win re-election — or to plunge low enough for former Vice President Joe Biden to win something around 400 electoral votes.

The truth is that if voters react to the current recession the way they typically do in an election year, Trump will lose, and lose badly.”

2. The economy

Incumbents with recessions on their watch close to the election–indeed within 2 years of the election–typically lose. And what a recession we are having; the Q2 (negative) growth projections are dire (-12 percent) and many swing state counties will be very hard hit (see graphic below from the FT). And no, better Q3 growth performance does not seem to help incumbents much.

3. The coronavirus and the handling thereof

Harry Enten:

“We’ve only seen a few elections since polling began where the incumbent was eligible to run for reelection and the economy wasn’t clearly the most important issue, but these elections tell a consistent and worrisome message for President Donald Trump. Whoever is most trusted most on the non-economic issue is likely to win the election.

Right now, voters trust former Vice President Joe Biden over Trump on the coronavirus. In a new Marist College poll, Biden is more favored among voters on handling the coronavirus by a 56% to 40% margin. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll from earlier in April had Biden favored by 9 points.

The advantage Biden has on leading the effort against the virus comes at the same time his swing state polling has improved. He’s up in key swing states like Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Trump probably wishes he had the type of polling Franklin Roosevelt had going into the 1944 election. By a 42-point margin in a National Opinion Research Center poll, Americans thought Roosevelt was better equipped to win World War II than Republican rival Thomas Dewey. Roosevelt would go on to win an unprecedented fourth term.

Trump likely would settle for the numbers George W. Bush had ahead of his successful 2004 re-election effort. Bush was more trusted than Democrat John Kerry on the Iraq war and terrorism. The final Fox News poll, for example, found that Bush was more trusted on Iraq by 6 points. The same poll had Bush up by 12 points on who would do a better job on terrorism.

You’d have to go back 40 years to find an incumbent president who lost on the big non-economic issue of the day. In 1980, Republican Ronald Reagan was ahead of Democratic incumbent Jimmy Carter by an average of 4 points on who was best to handle the Iranian hostage crisis. Remember these pre-election polls tended to underestimate Reagan’s overall support, so the true margin on this issue was likely higher. Combined with job losses, this all proved too much for Carter to overcome.

Right now, the economy is shrinking. That Marist poll is one of the first I’ve seen where Biden led Trump on who would better handle the economy. Trump is very likely to get blown out if he loses to Biden on both the economy and the coronavirus pandemic.”

If all that seems like a lot to overcome, that’s because it is. Remember: Trump is a politician, not a magician. If Democrats play smart, tough politics, they should win this one.

Teixeira: Senate Majority Prospects Brighten for Dems

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

Are Democrats Favorites To Take Back the Senate?

It seems strange to even write this since, not so long ago, that seemed pretty far-fetched. But now we have had much more public polling and the contours of a 2020 election where Trump is on the ballot and every Republican candidate is tied to him have become clearer. As things stand, that’s not a good look for endangered Republican candidates.

Ron Brownstein:

“Public polls have shown a huge overlap between voter attitudes in the presidential race between Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden and their preferences in the Senate contest between Kelly and McSally, who lost her Senate bid in 2018 but was then appointed to fill the term of the late GOP Sen. John McCain. Every recent public survey in Arizona has found both Trump and McSally trailing Biden and Kelly, with the Democrat usually leading by even slightly more in the Senate contest than in the presidential race.

“McSally’s and Trump’s numbers are almost identical,” said Mike Noble, a former Republican consultant who now polls for nonpartisan clients in Arizona. “They are so tied together.”

These patterns in Arizona are just one measure of a larger trend: Senate elections are becoming more about the party and less about the individual candidates….All signals indicate that “this will be another election in which what people think about Trump determines almost everybody’s vote” in Senate contests, says Gary Jacobson, a University of California at San Diego political scientist who specializes in congressional races. “Elections are much more nationalized and partisan.”

One high-ranking GOP strategist, who asked for anonymity to discuss changes in the strategic landscape, agreed that very few Senate candidates may be strong enough to swim against the tide of a presidential defeat for their party in their state.”

For more info, see the detailed Crystal Ball assessment and Harry Enten’s take.

Teixeira: The White Noncollege Difference

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

The Economist has published some very interesting numbers on Biden’s performance relative to Clinton among various demographic groups (presumably, the number-crunching was done by G. Elliott Morris, who is their US politics data guy), The standout difference here is among white noncollege voters. As the chart below shows, the more white nonocollege the state is, the more Biden’s performance is superior Clinton’s in 2016.

That is a very beneficial pattern for Biden in terms of electoral college results. The article notes:

“Currently our model estimates that 41% of whites who cast ballots would vote for Mr Biden if the election were held today, whereas 51% say they will cast their lot for Mr Trump—a ten-percentage-point margin. In 2016 Mrs Clinton lost this group by 15 points. Mr Biden has improved his standing both among whites who have college degrees and the ever-watched group of those who do not. He polls four and six percentage points better than Mrs Clinton did among each group, respectively. Mr Biden is currently polling 11 points better than Mrs Clinton in states where working-class white voters make up the largest share of the electorate, and he is performing roughly six points worse in those states where they are the lowest share (see chart).

That improvement has a disproportionate effect on Mr Biden’s chances of victory. Whereas Mrs Clinton lost the election by small margins in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, we find Mr Biden with a slight lead in all three. He is also likely to beat Mrs Clinton’s margin in Arizona, which is likelier than any of the midwestern battlegrounds to tip the election.”

The article also notes some underperformance by Biden among nonwhites and young voters relative to Clinton but this pattern appears to be less salient to electoral college results in their analysis. In the Nationscape data (80,000 cases since the beginning of the year), I find less of underperformance among these groups, but confirm the general pattern of Biden overperformance among noncollege whites with similar positive effects on Biden’s electoral college results.

If this pattern continues, Biden is in very good shape.

Teixeira: What If Racial Liberalism Is Increasing?

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

Tom Edsall has an excellent review of recent research on trends in racial liberalism/conservatism. Among several studies, he highlights one by Daniel Hopkins and Samantha Hopkins that avoids the huge methodological problem of using the standard “racial resentment” battery, which despite its name measures nothing of the sort. (I have posted previously about the problems with the racial resentment battery, if you are interested in searching my archives. And see the Riley Carney and Ryan Enos paper, “Conservatism , Just World Belief , and Racism : An Experimental Investigation of the Attitudes Measured by Modern Racism Scales”)

“Daniel Hopkins, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, and Samantha Washington, a former research assistant there, challenge the argument that racial polarization in the United States is increasing. They contend that on matters of race, the views of both groups — white Democrats and white Republicans — are liberalizing.

In their paper — “The Rise of Trump, the Fall of Prejudice? Tracking White Americans’ Racial Attitudes 2008-2018 via a Panel Survey” — Hopkins and Washington use a measure of prejudice that is significantly different from the [racial resentment battery] used by [Andrew] 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 write that they used a separate measure designed to capture white respondents’ beliefs in stereotypes. Specifically, our panelists were repeatedly asked to rate Blacks, Hispanics/Latinos, and Whites on two stereotype scales, work ethic and trustworthiness.

The advantage in this approach, they argue, is that the use of in-group stereotypes helps address concerns about social desirability biases, as people can rate an out-group positively while also rating their own group more positively.

As the accompanying graphic shows, Hopkins and Washington found bipartisan declines in anti-black and anti-Hispanic prejudice.”

Now, none of this means Trump can’t win….but it does indicate that continued support for Trump cannot be explained simply on the basis of racism. It is (and was originally) a far more complex political impulse than that reductionist view suggests. That should be kept in mind as Democrats seek to undercut Trump and build the broadest possible coalition for 2020.

It is even possible, as Hopkins put it in an email to Edsall:

“Overall, I do think these results indicate that the share of white Americans who would rally to a general election campaign because of its explicit appeals to racial prejudice is smaller than many political strategists suppose.”

Teixeira: The Sinema Strategy

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

Krysten Sinema: Live Like Her!

Ron Brownstein has a detailed article breaking down the ways in which Biden’s emerging strength among older voters could be crucial to his chances for victory. He quotes some guy named Teixeira in a couple of places:

Many Democratic operatives still believe that the party’s long-term future will pivot on its capacity to increase turnout among younger and nonwhite voters, especially in the Sun Belt states growing in population. But that conviction is giving way to a growing awareness that the potential path to victory for Biden, given his own unique strengths and weaknesses, may rely less on that forward-leaning mobilization than on a throwback strategy of reducing Donald Trump’s elevated margins from 2016 among older and blue-collar white voters to the slightly smaller advantages Republicans enjoyed with them 15 or 20 years ago.

“The idea that expanding the map comes down to high mobilization of the constituencies that give you the most support doesn’t necessarily follow,” says Ruy Teixeira, a longtime liberal election analyst and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. “You can do the same things by reducing your deficits or becoming competitive among groups where you had been doing quite poorly.”…

While some other national polls still show Trump leading with seniors and near-seniors, the general trend line with older voters is more favorable for Biden than it has been for recent Democratic nominees. At the same time, many political professionals in both parties remain uncertain that Biden can excite a large turnout among young people, especially those of color, who rejected him in big numbers during the Democratic primary and have displayed only modest enthusiasm for him in most early general election polls.

“He is not the spark to that flame, for sure,” says Republican strategist David Kochel.

Those trends among the young still concern many Democratic operatives. But a closer look at the demographics of the swing states makes clear that for Biden a strategy centered on appealing to older voters, most of them white, could substitute for mobilizing young people, many of them diverse, in all of the places that both sides consider pivotal in 2020.

“It was never clear to me that the way you expand the map was by enormous turnout among young people,” said Teixeira. “Other moving parts were just as important, if not more important.”

That guy Teixeira may be onto something. But perhaps the most interesting part of Brownstein’s article is where he makes the case the Krysten Sinema’s successful campaign for a Senate seat in Arizona in 2018 could be a model for what Biden’s trying to do.

“Democrat Kyrsten Sinema won a US Senate seat in Arizona that same year by moderating her earlier liberalism and running as a centrist who would build bridges across party lines. Like the other three Sun Belt Democrats, Sinema struggled among older working adults aged 50-64, according to the exit polls; but unlike them she carried a majority of seniors, which helped her squeeze out a narrow victory over Republican Martha McSally. Sinema carried 44% of whites older than 45, a measurable improvement on the other three.

One of the most striking aspects of Sinema’s win was her victory in Maricopa County, centered on Phoenix. Maricopa was the largest county in the US that Trump won in 2016, but Noble’s post-election analyses found that 88 precincts that backed the President in 2016 switched to Sinema two years later. Those included many suburban areas crowded with college-educated voters who broke from Trump nationwide. But when Noble and his team analyzed the Maricopa precincts that moved away from the GOP from 2016 to 2018, he found two retirement communities at the very top of the list: Sun City and Leisure World.

Noble says he believes that those seniors first pulled back from the GOP around its efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017. His latest statewide poll, which showed Biden leading overall, showed him besting Trump among voters older than 55.

That’s catastrophic for Republicans in Arizona, he notes, since the heavy Latino presence in the younger population reliably tilts it toward the Democrats. (Sinema won three-fifths of voters younger than 45 in 2018.) If Biden can maintain an advantage with those older voters through November, Noble says, “it’s smooth sailing” for him in the state, especially since Trump and the GOP are also eroding among younger college-educated suburbanites.

Sinema’s path, though not as flashy as the approach embodied by Gillum, Abrams and O’Rourke, might be a model for Biden. Polls released over the past week by Fox News likewise found Biden leading with older voters in Pennsylvania and Michigan and tied with them in Florida; a Quinnipiac University survey in Florida showed Trump still leading among older working-age adults but Biden holding a double-digit lead among seniors. An average of all three University of Marquette Law School polls in Wisconsin this year similarly shows Trump trailing by 8 percentage points among voters 60 and older (who broke about evenly in the state last time).”

That’s the Sinema–and now the Biden–formula. And it’s kryptonite to Donald Trump.