washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Teixeira: What If Biden Actually Does Do Better Among White Working Class Voters?

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

There are certainly ways Biden could win the 2020 election without doing better among white working class voters than Clinton did. It is possible. But the thing to remember is that, if Biden does in fact do better among this demographic in November, Trump’s chances of winning are radically reduced–indeed, he become almost certain to lose.

That’s why the trends we’re seeing lately in the white noncollege vote are so important. From an article on Decision Desk HQ:

“[A]t this point in the Presidential race (April 2020) the polling is showing Biden making improvements with White Non-College voters nationally, and in key swing states.

From any analysis, it’s clear that the main demographic problem for the Democratic party is currently white working-class [voters]. While the Democratic party does well with minority voters, currently white working-class voters make up an overwhelming amount of the electorate in key swing states….While eventually Democratic strength with minority voters should theoretically give them an easy path to electoral college wins, that long term strength is meaningless as those future strong Democratic states (Georgia, Texas, Arizona) are still not in reach in a neutral environment, while those heavily white swing states become very hard to win when the Democratic candidate severely underperforms with White non-college voters….

While Clinton struggled to win White non-college heavy counties in the Primary against Sanders, once Super Tuesday happened Biden completely dominated those counties, nearly winning every similar county on Super Tuesday itself, but then winning all but a handful of counties after Super Tuesday….Additionally, at this point, the polling is showing a large swing towards Biden of White non-college voters nationally and in key swing states….

Of course, it is April of an election year, and the polls can always change. Perhaps those white non-college voters can be persuaded to come back to Trump in November, and are merely sitting on the sidelines because of the current crisis. Maybe Biden is riding a high from recent endorsements and winning the nomination, or has not gone through enough scrutiny yet, and his white non-college numbers could come down with the right mix of attack ads and messaging. It is too soon to know as there are still more than 6 months until November. At this point, only one thing is clear: Biden is doing better with white non-college voters than Hillary Clinton did, and if that trend continues until November, we won’t be missing much sleep on election night.”

Exactly. And that is why you should pray to the god or gods of your choice that that trend does continue.

Teixeira: It’s An Older Voter Thing, You Wouldn’t Understand….

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

It’s been widely observed that Biden is doing quite a bit better than Clinton among older voters (65+). Ron Brownstein:

“Biden led Trump among seniors comfortably in recent general election polling by CNN, Quinnipiac and NBC/WSJ and more narrowly in the latest Monmouth University poll. Though Pew and Grinnell College in recent polls still showed Trump leading with seniors, the overall direction of the surveys suggests that Biden might significantly improve on the Democrats’ recent performance among older voters. Each Democratic presidential nominee since John Kerry in 2004 has lost seniors, a preponderantly white age cohort, by at least 5 percentage points, according to exit polls; Al Gore in 2000 was the last Democrat to carry them.”

My analysis of the Nationscape survey (UCLA/Lucid//Democracy Fund Voter Study Group; over 70,000 cases since the beginning of the year) confirms this pattern. I find that Biden is leading Trump by 4 points on average among 65+ voters. That compares to Clinton’s substantial deficits among this group in 2016, according to the two best data sources about the election, States of Change and Catalist. States of Change has Clinton at -15 among seniors, while Catalist makes it -14.

That’s quite a large swing. Of course, many nervous Democrats fear Biden will lose those gains–if he even gets them–among younger voters. They fear a repeat of Clinton’s poor performance among these voters in 2016.

But that’s really a bit of a myth. The fact of the matter is that Clinton did about as well as Obama did among this group in 2012. That was not her problem. The Catalist data show the share of younger voters (18-29) identical (14 percent) across the two elections, while the Democratic margin was also essentially the same (+25 in 2016; +26 in 2012). The States of Change data show The States of Change data show youth voter share going up slightly from 15 percent in 2012 to 16 percent in 2016, with the youth turnout rate having the largest turnout increase of any age group. And the youth Democratic margin was identical across the two elections (+27).

Given what is happening with senior voters, it would take a catastrophic decline in Democratic margin among young voters to cancel that out. We’re not seeing it so far. The Nationscape data have that margin at an average of 22 points; the recent Harvard/Institute of Politics survey specifically of young voters has Biden’s margin at +23 among those registered to vote and +30 among those deemed likely to vote.

Given that the size of the senior vote should be around 24-25 percent of the electorate in 2020, compared to 14-16 percent among young voters, that’s a trade-off you’ll make every day. If it even winds up being a trade-off, about which I have my doubts.

Teixeira: Biden-Trump and the White Noncollege Vote

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

Nate Cohn recently published an article in the Times somewhat oddly titled “Is Biden Gaining Older Voters, and Losing Young Ones?” I say oddly titled since his data show a huge swing to Biden among older voters relative to Clinton’s 2016 performance but very little change relative to Clinton among young voters. So the implication of a trade-off does not seem to follow.

Anyway, the most newsworthy part of the article to me was his claim of no pro-Democratic movement among white noncollege voters relative to 2016. He has Biden’s current deficit among these voters at an average of 29 points, identical to his 2016 point of comparison. Is this believable?

Sure, it is possible but I do have serious reservations about this finding. First of all, his methodology seems idiosyncratic, using only “high quality RDD live interviewer polls” for his averages and not even all of them them (at least by any reasonable definition of high quality). And his point of comparison for 2016 is the same type of polls conducted after the third Presidential debate in that campaign. Huh? That doesn’t seem like the obvious point of comparison to me.

Second, while his chosen group of polls may indeed average out at this point to a 29 point Biden white noncollege deficit, there is other data out there. For example, the Nationscape data (70,000 cases since the beginning of the year and counting) has Biden’s white noncollege deficit at 15, a huge swing relative to the 31 point Democratic deficit from the actual 2016 election. On the other hand, the Nationscape data show Biden winning white college voters but by about the same amount as Clinton in the 2016 election.

Third, we have a raft of new polls from key swing states that do seem to show superior performance for Biden relative to Clinton’s 2016 election performance among this group. I’ll use here the just-released Fox polls from Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida (all presumably Cohn-approved since they are high quality, RDD, live-interviewer polls).

Start with Michigan. The poll has Biden ahead 49-41. His white noncollege deficit: 8 points. Clnton’s 2016 deficit: 21 points. Note especially Biden’s performance among white noncollege women–dead even. Note also that Biden and Clinton do about the same among white college voters.

Then look at Pennsylvania. The poll has Biden ahead 50-42. His white noncollege deficit: 15 points. Clnton’s 2016 deficit: 29 points. And Biden’s performance among white noncollege women is a mere one point deficit. Biden also does better among white college voters than Clinton, but not by as much.

Finally, look at Florida, The poll has Biden ahead 46-43. His white noncollege deficit: 24 points. Clnton’s 2016 deficit: 30 points (Quinnipiac–Cohn-approved!–also has an FL poll out and they have basically the same result). Here again Biden and Clinton do about the same among white college voters.

So am I sure these data are telling the right story and Cohn’s the wrong one? No, there is always room for argument–and new data!–on these matters. And I always applaud an effort to keep a focus on the white noncollege vote as an area of Democratic vulnerability. But, if I had to put money on it, I’d say the white noncollege swing–at least at this point in time–is real.

Teixeira: More on the Disappearing Trump Bump

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

As noted in my recent scribblings, Trump’s approval bump was (a) remarkably small, (b) had remarkably little effect on his standing in trial heats and (c) seems to be disappearing remarkably fast.

Harry Enten adds some good data to that story in a piece on CNN (I know I featured another Enten story yesterday, but what the heck–good work is good work!)

Looking at the data, Trump seems to have had one of the fastest retreats of a rally around the flag effect in modern polling history.

Trump’s net approval rating stood at -10 points among voters in an aggregate of polls as late as March 11. Less than three weeks later, it got up to -4 points on March 27. Today, it’s back down to -8 points.

Even at its peak, the jump of just 6 points is weaker than any well-known rally around the flag event that I know of for a president. It’s only about half that of what Barack Obama got after the killing of Osama Bin Laden. It falls well short of the nearly 70-point jump George W. Bush received after 9/11.

But even if Trump failed to reach the levels of any of his predecessors, you might have thought the bump would stick around for a while. Even the shortest of bumps (like Bush got after Saddam Hussein was captured) had residual effects for a few months. My study of rally around the flag events since World War II found that the median one still has some effect for more than 200 days after the event occurs.

We’re only about 40 days after Trump started to see his polling climb. Unbelievably, this is usually when rally around the flag effects hit their peak, not when they are almost entirely extinguished…..

In terms of his reelection prospects, it should be worrying to the President that even with a black swan pandemic occurring, he couldn’t get his net approval rating above 0 points. It’s going to be difficult to win the election if his net approval rating is -8 points among voters on election day.”

Make no mistake: The Orange One is in trouble.

Teixeira: Florida, Florida, Florida

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

Harry Enten has a good piece up on CNN about the centrality of Florida to the 2020 election. I agree. For all the attention observers–including myself–give the Rustbelt three of MI, PA and WI, the fact remains that Trump carried FL in 2016 by barely over a point; if the Democrats take it and its 29 EVs back in 2020, they’re practically done shopping, assuming they hold all their 2016 states. All they would need would be one other state–MI, PA, WI, AZ, NC–and they’re done (and so is Trump).

So what are the chances? Enter makes the argument that they’re pretty decent. He notes:

“Biden holds a three-point advantage in the Sunshine State in an average of nonpartisan probability polls that controls for pollster. That’s closer than Wisconsin (one-point Biden lead), and the same as what we see as in Pennsylvania. Biden is up four points in Arizona and five points in Michigan. (North Carolina, another close Trump won state in 2016, gives Biden a one-point edge, but the high quality polling there has been limited.)”

The RCP average has it closer, just Biden by a whisker, though they throw all the polls in the hopper without adjustment for house effects. The UCLA/Democracy Fund/Lucid Nationscape data–70,000 cases and counting since the beginning of the year–actually has Biden ahead by more in the state, around 5 points. Those data also show Biden shaving 11 points off the Democrats’ white noncollege deficit in the state in 2016. These two things are related. More Enten:

“The story of the 2016 election has often been told like this: “Donald Trump secured victory by breaking through the big blue wall in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.” It’s how you end up with all those stories about Trump voters in Midwest diners. Heading into 2020, there’s still a lot of focus on those pivotal states.

But when you look at the electoral math, it’s pretty clear that former Vice President Joe Biden would be wise to look beyond those states and make a heavy investment in Florida.

Florida was a very close state in 2016. Trump won it by just 1.2 points, which is not significantly wider than the margins he won Michigan (0.2 points), Pennsylvania (0.7 points) and Wisconsin (0.8 points). The next closest state (Arizona) featured a significantly larger Trump win (3.5 points). In fact, the presidential margin in Florida has been within 6 points in every election since 1992, including when Democrat Barack Obama won it in 2008 and 2012. No other state has been within that range for so long….

Florida diversifies the types of states Biden would be competing hard in. When you want to give yourself as many electoral pathways as possible, you want states that are demographically and geographically diverse from each other. That way, if you underperform in one state, it doesn’t mean you have in the others. Florida has more nonwhite voters than any of the other close states Trump won in 2016. And it’s a southeastern state, unlike Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin. There’s really no other state like it.

Florida is the type of state where you’d expect Biden to outperform Clinton given the recent polling. It has the highest percentage of seniors in the country amongst its citizen voting age population. Right now, Biden actually leads Trump among those 65 years and older by nine points in an average of the five most recent probability national polls….

According to an analysis by the New York Times’ Nate Cohn… the southern swing state voters who didn’t cast a ballot in 2018 were much more friendly to Democrats than those in the northern swing states. In the sunbelt, a large portion were nonwhite. In the north, the clear plurality were whites without a college degree.

With presidential year turnout, Biden’s likely going to be very competitive in Florida. If he wins there, it’ll be awfully tough for Trump to beat him nationally.”

Teixeira: Most Interesting Graphic from the Wisconsin Election

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

This is from a Sabato Crystal Ball article analyzing last Tuesday’s election. It shows the astonishing similarity between the results in Tammy Baldwin’s winning 2018 Senate race and Karofsky’s winning 2020 State Supreme Court Election. They almost look like the same election! Wild.

Then read the Crystal Ball article for all the reasons why it would be risky to assume that the November election in WI will look like the Karofsky election. I agree. But that map comparison to the Baldwin election is still amazing.

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 Facebook page:

Wisconsin is perhaps the key state for Democrats in the 2020 election–and universally acknowledged to be a very tough challenge. It’s likely to be close under almost any circumstances. But it’s still hard not to be encouraged by the results of Tuesday’s election in the state, where the liberal candidate Jill Karofsky soundly defeated conservative incumbent Daniel Kelly for a seat on the State Supreme Court. Make no mistake: while nominally a nonpartisan election, in the context of Wisconsin politics, this was very much a red vs. blue affair.

I can’t really comment on the demographics of the vote, since no data are directly are available. However, the geographic patterns of the vote are very revealing. Charlie Sykes, a conservative, albeit a Never Trump one, who really knows his Wisconsin politics, summarizes these results on The Bulwark:

“[The Democratic] formula for winning Wisconsin looks roughly like this: Run up big margins in Milwaukee and Dane Counties, cut into GOP margins in the suburban WOW Counties (Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington), win western Wisconsin, and hold Republican margins down in the rural parts of the state.

Which is basically what happened here. As Reid Epstein noted in the New York Times, “Wisconsin’s map on Monday night looked like a dream general election result for former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic nominee—stronger than typical for Democrats in the suburbs and a respectable showing among the state’s blue-collar white voters in rural counties.”

Ominously for Republicans, Kelly’s margin shrank in all of the crucial suburban counties (see tweet below):

The liberal candidate made gains throughout the eastern part of the state, including the suburbs, while also making big gains in the western part of the state. While cautioning against drawing too many conclusions for November, polling guru Charles Franklin also notes that the challenger Karofsky won Brown, Outagamie, and Winnebago counties—swing counties that had been trending Republican.”

All in all, a great night for Team Blue. Rinse and repeat in November.

Teixeira: Sanders Endorsement of Biden and Dems Progressive Future

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

Happy Sanders Endorsement Day!

Hats off to Bernie for doing the right thing and endorsing Biden now, rather than dragging it out as many feared he would. This is helpful. And to those on the left who are disgruntled that he lost and perhaps upset that he has now endorsed Biden, I would say, take heart. The fact of the matter is the country’s moving to the left, as is the Democratic party, and Biden will run as a pretty faithful representative of that change. As well-summarized by David Atkins in a post of the Washington Monthly blog:

“Defeatism would be the wrong lesson for leftists interested in passing social democratic policies in America and Britain. The reality is that leftist policy has never been more ascendant in the Democratic Party since at least the 1960s if not the 1930s. The Biden 2020 campaign platform is well to the left of the Clinton 2016 platform, which was itself well to the left of the Obama 2008 platform. Every major candidate in the 2020 field ran either on some version of Medicare for All, or at least a public option and Medicare expansion as a pathway toward it. Every major candidate proposed much bolder action on climate change than the Obama administration, and major policies to address student debt and college tuition. And on social policy from LGBT rights to criminal justice, the difference between the Democratic Party of today and that of 10 years ago could not be more stark. Most of those advances are due to the hard work of leftists whose tireless advocacy has successfully won the force of moral argument and persuaded mainstream Democratic base voters and independents.”

So, despite Sanders’ defeat, I would argue that his supporters of the left have quite a lot to play for in this election, even beyond the sacred task of defeating Trump. Forward to November!

Teixeira: The Most Important Trend in American Politics – The Disappearing Trump Bump

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

Presidential approval isn’t everything. But probably more than any single metric you could look at, it shapes electoral outcomes. Therefore, when Trump’s approval rating went up modestly as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, people noticed–though it was modest and seemed to have relatively little effect on trial heat measures. But now, even that bump seems to be disappearing fast See the charts below, national from 538 and two swing states, Wisconsin and Florida, from Civiqs data.

Teixeira: The Two Sides of Bernie Sanders

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

Now that Sanders has dropped out–a commendably responsible move in my view–the post mortems have begun in earnest. We now have two successive failed campaigns for fhe nomination to look back on and it seems highly unlikely he will run again.

So what did he accomplish?

The consensus of the left–and I think it’s fair–is that he helped move the entire political conversation in America to the left and create space for much bigger policy ideas than had been the case before 2016. In other words, the famous Overton Window has been moved to the left and that’s a good thing. Of course, the country didn’t move left just because of him but he did play an important role in channeling existing outrage at inequality and the multiple deficiencies of contemporary American capitalism into a concrete and progressive political form.

But there is another side to Sanders and I think his left supporters would be wise to think about it long and hard. Simply put, he didn’t really know how to win. Putting together a majoritarian coalition in American politics is hard, both within the Democratic party and the general electorate. Sanders simply did not have a good idea of how to do this, relying instead on untenable assumptions about the appeal of his uncompromising brand of politics. In particular, as Perry Bacon Jr. argues:

“Sanders and his aides..made new mistakes in 2020. There were some clear indications that some of Sanders’s success in 2016 — among white voters without college degrees, in particular — had more to do with anti-Clinton sentiment than strong support for Sanders. But the senator’s advisers seemed to think that Sanders had a unique appeal to white working-class voters that would simply continue in 2020. So the Sanders campaign decided to invest heavily in the March 10 primary in Michigan, a state packed with white voters without a college degree. Biden not only won Michigan easily, but he won overall among white voters without a college degree (and pretty comfortably).

Sanders stayed in the race for about a month after Michigan, but that loss was really the end of his campaign. It undermined one of Sanders’s central arguments — that his brand of politics appealed to white voters without a degree in a way that the more centrist vision of Biden and Clinton did not, making the Vermont senator a stronger candidate than Biden in the general election.

Sanders and his team also expected that he would boost turnout among younger voters. This did not pan out.”

Moving the Overton Window is a great thing. But it is only a necessary, not sufficient, condition for progressive advance. You still gotta win and for that you need a broad coalition. One hopes that his supporters internalize that lesson.