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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Walter: Three Factors Could Decide Control of Congress

Amy Walter takes a look at the 2024 election possibilities and pinpoints “Three Key Factors for Control of Congress” at The Cook Political Report. An excerpt:


(The Senate version): If you define history as the last two presidential cycles, Republicans are in the driver’s seat in 2024. Since 2016, only one Senate candidate, Republican Sen. Susan Collins, won in a state the presidential nominee of their party lost. If (recent) history repeats, Democrats would likely lose at least three seats — West Virginia, Montana and Ohio.

If your version of history extends to 2012, Democrats have a path to holding their majority. That year, six candidates (five Democrats and one Republican), won in states that the presidential nominee of their party did not. It also happens that two of those Democratic “overachievers” — Senators Joe Manchin and Jon Tester — are on the ballot this time around. Today, the question is whether Manchin (should he run for re-election), Tester as well as Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown (whose state has since gone red) have the right combination of skill, luck and connection with voters to overcome the gravitational pull of polarization.

(House version). As my colleague David Wasserman has noted, the House hasn’t flipped in a presidential cycle since 1952 and hasn’t flipped to the party occupying the White House since 1948, when Harry Truman barnstormed against a Republican “do nothing Congress.” This has been the case even when the number of seats needed to flip was as small as it is this cycle. In 2000, Democrats needed just five seats to gain the majority in the House. They ended up gaining just one.

Turnout Turn-around 

One reason the House has only changed hands in midterm years is that lower turnout midterms tend to benefit the “out party,” while turnout in a presidential cycle is more evenly balanced. However, four straight cycles of higher-than-normal turnout and a more polarized electorate than ever have led to more unpredictable outcomes in the House. In 2020, Democrats were expected to pick up seats, but instead lost 12 and came within 30,000 votes of losing their majority. In 2022, Republicans underperformed expectations, winning their narrow majority by just 6,000 votes.

One way to look at the outcome of 2022 is to say that but for Democratic “underperformance” in dark blue states like California, Oregon and California, Democrats would have held the House. According to Wasserman’s calculations, House candidates in New York underperformed Biden’s 2020 margins on average by 13 points. In California and Oregon, Democratic House candidates underperformed Biden by 7.6 points.

Today, in New York and California alone, there are 11 GOP-held districts that Biden carried in 2020. Of those 11, five are districts Biden carried by double digits. In 2024, the thinking goes, “drop off” Democratic voters will return and, voila, there’s an 11-seat gain right there.

But, alas, it’s not that simple. The most existential threat to House Democrats is redistricting. As my colleague David Wasserman has expertly documented, Republican redraws in North Carolina and Ohio could put at least three to four Democrats in serious danger.

Another factor to consider is Democrats’ “overperformance” in 2022’s battleground states like Michigan and Ohio where abortion and weak GOP candidates helped juice Democratic turnout and dampen GOP enthusiasm.

In Michigan, for example, Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin outperformed Biden’s margin in her Lansing-based district by five points. Democrat Dan Kildee won his 8th CD by 10 points, an eight-point improvement over Biden’s margin in that CD in 2020. In the Grand Rapids-based 3rd CD, Hillary Scholten outran Biden’s margin by five points.

In Ohio, Emilia Sykes won her Akron-based district by six points, a three-point improvement over Biden’s showing in that CD in 2020.

What happens when/if those less-than-enthusiastic Republican-leaning voters show up in 2024?

In 2020, for example, Pew’s verified voter survey found that 13 percent of the overall electorate that year had not voted in 2018. Those “midterm drop-off” voters ultimately supported Trump by 8 points.

The Republican Party has become more reliant on non-college white (and increasingly non-white non-college) voters. Those voters, however, are also the most likely to show up to vote only in presidential elections.

Intra-party Headaches

(GOP version): My colleagues David Wasserman and Jessica Taylor recently wrote about the challenges Republican leaders face in getting their preferred candidates through contentious primaries. On the Senate side, Taylor highlights five states — West Virginia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Montana — where potentially complicated primaries could hurt Republican chances of taking back the Senate if a divisive, less broadly-acceptable nominee emerges.

Wasserman looked at five GOP incumbents who are likely to face serious primary opposition from more MAGA-aligned challengers. While none of those five races should be competitive in a general election, “that doesn’t mean, however, that primary contests won’t have an impact on House control. If, for example, Republicans nominate more MAGA-oriented folks in swing/competitive districts like they did in 2022 (WA-03, OH-09), they could give Democrats more opportunities for victories.”

(Democratic version): Sen. Krysten Sinema’s decision to switch from Democrat to independent may have saved *her* a primary, but it’s given Democrats a huge headache. First, and foremost the DSCC and other Democratic allies will have to decide whether to support the official Democratic nominee (likely Rep. Ruben Gallego), or their Senate colleague who, while identifying as an independent, still caucuses with Senate Democrats.

Then there’s the question of what a three-way contest between Sinema, Gallego and a GOP nominee would look like. Recent polling in the state showing Gallego leading in a number of potential scenarios is a bit misleading. After all, unlike his potential challengers (Sinema and failed GOP gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake), Gallego hasn’t been hit with millions of dollars of negative advertising. The five-term congressman represents an overwhelmingly Democratic district and has never received less than 75% of the vote. Moreover, it’s likely that Gallego will be attacked not just from Republicans, but from Sinema as well. A messy GOP primary only adds to the uncertainty of how this thing plays out in the fall. And the BIden campaign can’t afford a “Democrats in disarray” scenario in this must-win state either. Overall, it’s just a big mess.

On the House side, there were fewer instances on the Democratic side than the Republican side of extreme or weak candidates defeating the stronger, more ideologically-aligned candidate in 2022. Even so, Democrats would likely be short just four seats instead of five had Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader not lost his primary to a more progressive Democrat.

Competitive open seats to watch on the Democratic side include CA-47, where Democratic Rep. Katie Porter is retiring to run for Senate, and MI-07, where Rep. Elissa Slotkin is also running for Senate.

Earlier in her post, Walter notes that issues like an inflation surge could make a difference in many races.  We can add the possibilities of game-changing events near election day in particular states or districts, such as a scandal, mass shooting or environmental disaster. Barring any such events, the chances for a flip in party control of both houses of congress look pretty good — unless either party wins the presidency in a landslide.

Untapped Dem Resource: Veterans in Labor

John Russo, co-editor of Working-Class Perspectives writes “Media stereotypes of military vets present them as right-wing and often reactionary, but as Steve Early writes in this week’s Working-Class Perspectives, that image ignores an important reality: working-class veterans are more likely to belong to unions than other workers. Veterans have led important labor battles, and, as Early’s profiles of today’s leaders makes clear, they are still fighting against the privatization of government services and for improving access for vets and others to higher education and health care.” An excerpt from Early’s Working-Class Perspectives article:

Even in the era of identity politics, one category of identity has largely been ignored: what UK journalist Joe Glenton calls “veteranhood.”19 million former soldiers — most of them working class — share a strong sense of personal identity as vets, but the media usually notices them only when they are involved in right-wing militias, white supremacist groups, and other MAGA-land formations. Some have noted their over-representation in U.S. law enforcement, which does reinforce  militarized policing, along with the better known Pentagon-to-police equipment pipeline.

Largely ignored is the positive role veterans from working-class backgrounds have played in key labor and political struggles since the mid-20th century.  In the heyday of industrial unionism in the 1950s and ‘60s, tens of thousands of World War II veterans could be found on the front-lines of labor struggles in auto, steel, electrical equipment manufacturing, mining, trucking, and the telephone industry.  Today, about 1.3 million former service members work in union jobs, and women and people of color make up the fastest growing cohorts in these ranks.

Veterans are, according to the AFL-CIO, more likely to join a union than non-veterans. In a half dozen states, 25% or more of working veterans belong to unions. Vermont AFL-CIO President David Van Deusen sees veterans as “an underutilized resource for the labor movement,” particularly in high-profile organizing campaigns. No one, he believes, is better positioned to “expose the hypocrisy and duplicity of ‘veteran-friendly’ firms like Amazon and Walmart, who wrap themselves in the flag, while violating the rights of working-class Americans who served in uniform and the many who did not.”

That’s why former SEIU organizer Jane McAlevey recommends that unions today learn from the example of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) in the post-war era. . CIO organizers understood that former soldiers have “strategic value” in strike-related PR campaigns. Veterans also have “experience with discipline, military formation, and overcoming fear and adversity,” all very useful on militant picket-lines.

Tony Mazzocchi was a good example. After World War II,  he became a catalyst for change within the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers (OCAW) and the broader labor movement for five decades. A survivor of the Battle of the Bulge, Mazzocchi spearheaded labor’s fight for the 1972 Occupational Safety and Health Act, which now provides workplace protections for 130 million Americans.  During his storied career, Mazzocchi also campaigned for civil rights, nuclear disarmament, labor-based environmentalism, and single-payer health care….

Read the rest of the article here.

Is Biden’s Sanctions Campaign Against Russia’s Invasion of The Ukraine Working?

Yahoo senior editor Mike Berbernes has a good update on the Biden Administration’s sanctions against Russia. Some excerpts:

When Russia invaded Ukraine last February, the United States and its Western allies swiftly put in place an unprecedentedly harsh series of sanctions designed to isolate the Russian economy from the rest of the world and undercut Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ability to fund his war effort.

At the time, President Biden said the sanctions — which targeted everything from Russia’s fossil fuel industry to its financial sector and individuals with ties to the Kremlin — would “impose severe costs” on the Russian economy. At first, that appeared to be happening. Russia’s currency, the ruble, abruptly dropped in value, citizens swamped banks looking to withdraw cash and hundreds of international companies ended their operations in the country. Forecasts predicted that Russia’s economy would contract dramatically in the intervening months, with some economists saying it would collapse entirely.

But a year later, Russia is in much stronger shape than many had predicted. The ruble has regained its value. Russia’s oil exports, the lifeblood of its economy, have stayed steady as countries like China, India and Turkey have bought up supplies that used to go to Europe. The standard of living for everyday Russians hasn’t changed. Most important, Putin’s war machine has the funding to continue its assault on Ukraine.

Berbernes notes, however, that “Russia’s surprising ability to endure the West’s economic assault during the past year has fueled debate over whether the sanctions — which have caused a huge disruption to global markets, especially energy — are working at all.”  Further,

Optimists say disappointment about the impact of sanctions largely comes from misconceptions about what they’re designed to do. They argue that no level of economic punishment was ever going to win the war or lead to Putin’s being ousted from power. The real goal, many say, is to slowly chip away at Russia’s economic stability until it becomes increasingly difficult to fund the war and Russian citizens gradually start to feel the costs of the conflict.”

Many experts see signs that Russia is quickly exhausting the emergency measures it used to keep itself afloat, which could lead to a serious decline over the next year. Others say the sanctions have dramatically undercut Russia’s long-term economic prospects, which will steadily decrease Putin’s power on the global stage in the coming years and decades.

But pessimists fear that Russia is well positioned to weather the sanctions for as long as it needs, thanks to its powerful trading partners, its ability to evade lax enforcement and the West’s reluctance to risk creating a spike in energy prices by aggressively targeting Russia’s oil and gas industries. There’s also danger, some argue, that the focus on sanctions might draw attention away from the most important thing Ukraine’s allies should be doing: pouring in huge amounts of military and financial support so the war can be won on the battlefield.

Berbernes then shares perspectives of ‘optimists’ and ‘pessimists’ about the future of the sanctions success, including:

“The confusion around the effectiveness of sanctions stems from a lack of clarity about their goals. … First, Western countries are trying to send a strong signal of resolve and unity to the Kremlin. Second, sanctioning states aim to degrade Russia’s ability to wage war. Third, Western democracies are betting that sanctions will slowly asphyxiate the Russian economy and in particular the country’s energy sector. When judged on the basis of these criteria, sanctions are clearly working.” — Agathe Demarais, Foreign Policy.


“​​The most significant roadblock to sanctions being effective is the failure of Western governments to use their full diplomatic leverage to pressure many governments to cease trading with Russia or allow their banks and corporations to continue doing business in Russia. This failure continues to make life harder for Ukrainians as the war goes on.” — Frank Vogl, Inkstick

Putin may be betting on Biden losing the presidency next year, in which case there is a realistic chance that a Republican president will end or weaken the sanctions. Biden may be underestimating the ability of the Russian people and/or their military leaders to resist Putin’s invasion and also the importance of China and other countries support of Russia.

It’s impossible to measure the effectiveness of sanctions alone, since Zelensky and the Ukrainians are waging an amazing resistance to the Russians thus far. President Biden certainly knows that American voters don’t have the patience for indefinitely subsidizing the Ukrainian military. But Biden also has access to military, economic and political intelligence that no journalist has, and it could be that Putin is closer to collapse than we know, in which case Biden could come out of this in a stronger political position than ever.

Political Strategy Notes

If you have any creative ideas for your Democratic congressional rep, now would be a good time to give him/her a jingle at 202-224-3121 (works for all House members) and share them. As Michael Schnell reports at The Hill: “House Democrats are gathering in Baltimore for their annual issues conference this week to chart a path back to the majority in 2024.’ Dems will be “capitalizing on the legislative achievements they secured in the first two years of President Biden’s term, when they had the upper hand in the lower chamber. But success is far from certain as Republicans hammer Democrats on issues including rising costs and the southern border, and several high-profile and high-stakes battles loom this year….“All of us share the same goal,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) said during Wednesday’s opening press conference, “and that is to safeguard the progress that we have made for the last two years, and to make sure that Democrats take the House again in 2024.”….Democrats’ dominance on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue in the last Congress — controlling each chamber and the White House — propelled the caucus toward a number of legislative accomplishments that Biden signed into law….The party claimed victory with the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 rescue package and a $740 billion tax, climate and health bill — both of which were passed along party lines — in addition to the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, $280 billion CHIPS and Science Act and gun safety bill.” Not a bad showing, given the highly-polarized political climate in America. “Democrats have to flip at least five seats next November to retake control of the chamber, an undertaking that the caucus is already gaming out. Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), the chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said on Wednesday that there are 18 Republican-held seats in districts that Biden won in 2020, calling the map “incredible opportunity.”

Every now and then I like to skewer headline writers for their myriad sins, unfairly ignoring the fact that most of them are pretty good. Occasionally, they produce gems, like “You probably won’t get any student loan relief, thanks to a GOP-controlled Supreme Court” over an article by by Ian Millhiser at Vox. It is a rare headline that allocates responsibility with such precision. Even the subtitle is good – “At the end of the day, the most important question in US law is which political party controls the Supreme Court.” The article also makes some good points, including “If you were hoping that your student loans would be forgiven under a program that President Joe Biden announced last summer, you should, unfortunately, make other plans….On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two cases, Biden v. Nebraska and Department of Education v. Brown, that ask the Court to strike down the student loan relief program. That program would provide $10,000 in relief to most borrowers who earned less than $125,000 a year during the pandemic, and $20,000 in relief to borrowers who received Pell Grants….The Brown case is laughably weak, and no justice appeared to believe that federal courts have jurisdiction to hear this case. But the Supreme Court only too needs to assert jurisdiction over one of these two cases to kill the loan relief program, and the Court appeared likely to split along party lines in the Nebraska case. Though there is an off chance that Justice Brett Kavanaugh or Amy Coney Barrett might break from their fellow Republican appointees, all six of the GOP-appointed justices appeared inclined to kill the program.” Millhiser addresses some of the complexities at issue, then concludes, “Meanwhile, the Court’s Republican appointees seemed more concerned that giving too much power to a presidential administration is itself inherently dangerous, and thus the Court must create some extratextual limits on the administration’s power. Under this approach to the law, the ultimate decision whether to cancel student loans rests not with any elected official, but with the Court itself….And, with six Republican appointees and only three Democrats on the Court, that means that it is likely that no one will have their loans forgiven.” Student loan debtors take notice.

Some perceptive insights from “What Are The Most Vulnerable Senate Seats In 2024?” a FiveThirtyEight chat session: “geoffrey.skelley (Geoffrey Skelley, senior elections analyst): In the grand scheme of things, Tester’s decision is one of the most important of the cycle. If he hadn’t sought reelection, Democrats would have been cooked in Montana….Tester’s ability to outrun Montana’s red partisan lean is a critical part of this. Former President Donald Trump carried Montana by 16 percentage points in 2020, placing the state roughly 21 points to the right of the country as a whole. In that same election, a relatively popular Democratic governor (Steve Bullock) still lost 55 percent to 45 percent against GOP Sen. Steve Daines. But Tester has survived a presidential cycle before, defeating a strong opponent (Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg) in 2012, even while Mitt Romney was carrying the state by 14 points. The state may be a tad redder now than it was back then, but Tester makes this election a toss-up instead of probably a “Solid Republican” race.” That’s good for Dems’ Senate prospects, but Tester might also make a first-rate presidential candidate, should the need arise. “geoffrey.skelley: As for Slotkin, she seems like a solid candidate for Democrats. Having worked for the CIA and Defense Department before entering congressional politics, she’s got a background in national security that might appeal to more centrist voters. She’s also a very strong fundraiser. To that point, her Senate campaign brought in $1.2 million on its first day….She won’t necessarily make people on the left happy, but Michigan is a purplish state and Slotkin has won on purple turf three times now in varied environments: In 2018, she beat an incumbent in a very Democratic-leaning cycle; in 2020, she held onto her seat in a more neutral presidential year; and in 2022, she won reelection by a larger margin than ever before, even though that was a more favorable year for the GOP nationwide.”

Looking at the larger picture Nathaniel Rakich and Alex Samuels note: “alex: ….candidate quality on the Democratic side is so good. The Democrats in the toughest 2024 races are arguably among the party’s strongest. Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia (assuming he runs for reelection), Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Tester have all been battle-tested in their respective red states, and they’ve all overcome their states’ Republican leans — even in presidential years…..nrakich: Yeah, Alex, as you allude to, the Senate map is really bad for Democrats this cycle. They are defending eight seats in states with FiveThirtyEight partisan leansthat are redder than the nation as a whole. And as a reminder, they currently have just a 51-49 majority in the Senate (thanks to three independents who align with them), so they can afford to lose only one seat if Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris win reelection. (And if they don’t, Democrats can’t afford to lose any!)….alex: If Manchin runs for reelection, he would easily be the most endangered Democratic incumbent given that West Virginia went to Trump by nearly 40 points in 2020. When Manchin was on the ballot last, in 2018, he was able to convince Republicans to split their ticket — but I think that’ll be really hard for him next year since it’s a presidential cycle and the top of the ticket could influence his chances down-ballot. (For what it’s worth, reader, the last time he was on the ballot in a presidential year, in 2012, Manchin won by 24 points, while Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney won the state by nearly 27. But partisan polarization has only gotten worse since then.)….geoffrey.skelley: ….Whereas Tester clearly outran the Democratic presidential ticket in 2012, Brown did about as well as President Barack Obama that year. And while Brown also won in 2018, he faced a very weak Republican opponent in then-Rep. Jim Renacci. So Brown may not be quite as much of an outperformer as some think…..alex: Brown is an interesting test case, Geoff, given that he’s the only Democrat to win a nonjudicial statewide race in Ohio since 2012. But between him, Tester and Manchin, I’d argue that Brown is in the best position given his populist street credand the fact that he’s found success working with Republicans while bucking conservative trends in his state.”….Color me skeptical, and I might regret saying this come next year, but I actually don’t think that the Democrats’ Senate outlook is that dire. If Manchin runs, their chances don’t look terrible; even without him, Democrats could hang on if Republicans struggle with candidate-quality issues again. Who knows.”

Teixeira: Voters Not Convinced Dems Can Deliver Abundance

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

The Abundance Problem

Abundance means just what you think it means: more stuff, more growth, more opportunity, being able to easily afford life’s necessities with a lot left over. In short, nicer, genuinely comfortable lives for all.

That’s what voters, especially working-class voters, want. But that’s not what they have. Recent Echelon Insights data show more voters think owning a home in a safe neighborhood with good schools is “out of reach” for the average American family (47 percent) than believe that is “financially within reach” (41 percent). That net negative score of 6 points is matched by views on the feasibility of caring for an elderly family member. And views are even more negative on whether starting a small business in financially within reach (-14), saving up for retirement excluding Social Security (-21), sending a child to college (-28), dealing with a major illness (-33) and raising a child on one parent’s income (-34).

Other Echelon Insights data find just 35 percent of working-class (non-college) voters saying they “can comfortably afford” paying their mortgage or rent on their current household income “without having to cut back in other areas”. Only 30 percent of these voters say they can comfortably afford medical and prescription drug costs; on child care it is 4 percent; on a vacation, 20 percent; on going out to eat, 37 percent; on insurance, 29 percent; on transportation, 34 percent; on new clothes, 29 percent; on saving for retirement, 15 percent; and on placing money in an emergency fund, 21 percent.

Whatever that is, it ain’t abundance. Of course, some of this has to do with the baleful effects of high inflation. Over the last two years, workers’ wages have actually lost ground relative to inflation. This is particularly true for workers in the middle of the income distribution. Compared to a year ago, prices are up 28 percent for fuel oil, 27 percent for utility gas, 15 percent for transportation, 12 percent for electricity and 11 percent for groceries. While overall inflation has abated relative to the middle of last year, it clearly remains a large presence in workers’ lives.

In light of all this it is unsurprising that voters’ views on the economy and the effects of Biden administration policies are distinctly negative. In a recent CBS News poll 53 percent said Biden’s policies have made the economy worse, compared to 27 percent who say his policies have made it better. The analogous figures on “your own family’s finances” are 49 percent vs. 18 percent; on inflation, 57 percent vs. 22 percent; and on gas prices, 55 percent vs. 21 percent.

Recent Gallup data found half in the country saying they are financially worse off today than they were a year ago, the highest level since 2009 in the midst of the Great Recession. Among the working class, the level saying they are worse off than a year ago is even higher.

Lux: Toward Building ‘Sustained Democratic Majorities’

From Mike Lux’s  Executive Summary of  “A Strategy for Factory Towns,” a report by American Family Values:

Hard times, effective right-wing messaging, the demise of local news, and sometimes the Democratic Party itself have led to big changes in the voting and opinions of people living in small and midsized towns that have been most impacted by deindustrialization and increased Big Business power in the economy. But these Factory Towns voters are not lost causes to the Democratic Party, and we cannot afford to write them off. They comprise 48% of the voters in Pennsylvania and the Midwest, and if we continue to lose ground with them, the entire region will become more and more like Iowa and Missouri – tough states for the foreseeable future. However, if these counties start to move back toward the Democrats, that kind of progress could be the linchpin to building sustained Democratic majorities that can usher our country into a more progressive future.

This report is part of a continuing effort by American Family Voices to do on-the-ground research and data analysis to understand the thinking and motivation of working-class voters, and to recommend strategies that can begin to rebuild the Democratic Party’s and progressive movement’s historic connection to America’s working class.

The project focuses on voters in “Factory Town” counties in six key states: Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. These states were Ground Zero in 2016, breaking down the “Blue Wall” critical to Democratic victories. Joe Biden did just enough better in 2020 to help win back Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, but these communities in all six states remain very tough for Democrats and will be among the most highly competitive counties for 2024.

Despite the challenges, this is a moment where Democrats have an opportunity to make more gains. Biden and the Democratic Congress have passed substantial legislation that can bring progressive change, all the way down to the community level, over the next two years. The president’s policies, background, and genuine affinity for these working-class communities make him an ideal leader for this effort.

This report combines data from our most recent polling, Facebook and digital analytics, and comparisons of county-by-county elections results in 2022 to the past decade of state election results. The report closes with recommendations on how Democrats and progressive issue advocates should move forward with Factory Towns voters and counties.

Here is the bottom line in our findings:

1. The presidential horse race numbers are very competitive in these counties, but Republicans are stronger in terms of the economic frame.

2. Voters have negative opinions of both parties: this presents both challenges and opportunities for Democrats. Voters in these counties tend to think Democrats lack an economic plan, but they see the GOP as the party of wealthy corporations and CEOs.

3. Populist economics and the Democratic economic policy agenda play very well in these counties. These voters respond best to an agenda focused on kitchen-table economic issues.

4. Contrary to conventional wisdom, populist economic messaging works much better than cultural war messaging. Our strongest Democratic message on the economy beats the Republican culture war message easily. The Republican economic message is a bigger threat to us.

5. Community building needs to be at the heart of our organizing strategy.

6. I recommend that Democrats and progressives make major investments in local field organizing and door-to-door, special events that build community, online community building, existing local media and progressive media targeted to these counties, and progressive organizations that make sure voters know how to benefit directly from the Biden policy initiatives of the last two years.

Read The Poll.

Brownstein: Biden’s Pitch to Senior Voters Spotlights GOP Split on Social Security, Medicare

From “How an old debate previews Biden’s new strategy for winning senior voters” by Ronald Brownstein at CNN Politics:

In pressing Republicans on Social Security and Medicare, President Joe Biden is reprising one of the most dramatic moments of his long career.

During the 2012 vice-presidential debate, Biden engaged in a nearly 11-minute exchange with GOP nominee Paul Ryan over Republican plans to reconfigure the two massive programs for the elderly, several of which Ryan had authored himself.

Biden and many Democrats felt he had won the argument on stage. Yet on Election Day, Ryan and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney routed Biden and President Barack Obama among White seniors, and beat them soundly among seniors overall, exit polls found.

That outcome underscores the obstacles facing Biden now as he tries to recapture older voters by portraying Republicans as threats to the two towers of America’s safety net for the elderly. While polls consistently show that voters trust Democrats more than Republicans to safeguard the programs, GOP presidential nominees have carried all seniors in every presidential election back to 2004 and have reached at least 58% support among White seniors in each of the past four contests, exit polls have found. Democrats have likewise consistently struggled among those nearing retirement, older working adults aged 45-64.

Those results suggest that for most older voters, affinity for the GOP messages on other issues – particularly its resistance, in the Donald Trump era, to cultural and racial change – has outweighed their views about Social Security and Medicare. Those grooves are now cut so deeply, over so many elections, that Biden may struggle to change them much no matter how hard he rails against a range of GOP proposals that could retrench or restructure the programs.

Biden’s charge that Republicans are threatening the two giant entitlement programs for the elderly – which triggered his striking back and forth exchanges with GOP legislators during the State of the Union – fits squarely in his broader political positioning as he turns toward his expected reelection campaign.

Brownstein goes on to liken President Biden to “a pre-1970s Democrat, who is most comfortable with a party focused less on cultural crusades than on delivering kitchen-table benefits to people who work with their hands.” Brownstein cites Biden’s “blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America” – the planks in his economic plans, such as generous incentives to revive domestic manufacturing, aimed at creating more opportunity for workers without a college degree. Politically, Biden’s staunch defense of Social Security and Medicare, programs critical to the economic security of financially vulnerable retirees, represents a logical bookend to that emphasis.”

Teixeira: Revisiting the Three Point Plan to Fix the Democrats and Their Coalition

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

In October of last year, I wrote a widely-circulated post on “A Three Point Plan to Fix the Democrats and Their Coalition”. I argued:

The Democratic coalition today is not fit for purpose. It cannot beat Republicans consistently in enough areas of the country to achieve dominance and implement its agenda at scale. The Democratic Party may be the party of blue America, especially deep blue metro America, but its bid to be the party of the ordinary American, the common man and woman, is falling short.

There is a simple—and painful—reason for this. The Democrats really are no longer the party of the common man and woman. The priorities and values that dominate the party today are instead those of educated, liberal America which only partially overlap—and sometimes not at all—with those of ordinary Americans.

Since then, the Democrats had a relatively good election where, despite narrowly losing the House, they held their competitive Senate seats and even gained one (Pennsylvania). They also had strong victories in the Pennsylvania and Michigan governor’s races and netted two additional governor’s offices, thanks to their victories in the deep blue states of Maryland and Massachusetts. Democrats are also feeling their oats because of the two big bills passed shortly before the election—the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act (really a climate bill with a little bit of health care thrown in). Biden is attempting to build on these bills by launching a widely-covered “turn to the working class” touting the job-creating and Build America/Buy America effects of these bills. This recently culminated in his well-received (especially in Democratic circles) State of the Union address where he struck a distinctly populist pose and claimed the Democrats’ policies were nothing less than a “blue collar blueprint to rebuild America”.

Biden has been credited with stealing Trump’s populism, displaying the political savvy of Bill Clinton and practicing the class politics of FDR. Critics of Democratic Party strategy have been urged to take a victory lap and stow their criticisms. After all, “he’s doing what you said he should do”! There is no need for further reform; Democrats are on track.

Perhaps Biden boosters should contain their enthusiasm. As was predictable, ordinary voters, as opposed to the Democrats’ amen corner, were unmoved by the speech. Morning Consult:

After remarks focused on touting his achievements and urging lawmakers to help “finish the job” with his agenda, 39% of registered voters said Biden “has been keeping his promises” while in office, unchanged from a survey conducted before his Feb. 7 speech. Just under half of voters (46%) said he has not kept his promises.

The 538 rolling average of Biden’s approval rating shows that Biden approval has been remarkably static since September, not dipping below 41 percent and not rising above 44 percent. The great majority of time it has been in the 42-43 percent range with 52-53 percent disapproval. On the day Biden delivered his speech, his approval rating was 43. 2 percent; a week later it was 43.1 percent. Now that’s stability.

Even more concerning, Biden has not been running strongly against his probable opponents in 2024, Trump or DeSantis. The Washington Post/ABC News poll just tested Biden against Trump and found Biden behind by 3 points, 48-45. The internals of the poll are pretty brutal. Biden loses to Trump by 17 points among all working class (non-college) voters. He lost these voters by just 4 points in 2020. And he gets crushed by Trump among white working class voters by 38 points; Biden “only” lost them by 25 in 2020.

That’s quite a hill for “blue collar Joe” to climb! And for those inclined to dismiss these results as too early, too weird, etc. to mean anything, I refer you to Harry Enten, here:

Multiple surveys since last year have shown Trump ahead of Biden in a potential 2024 election. Some polls also have Biden trailing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Over the entire 2020 campaign, not a single reputable poll found Trump ahead of Biden.

Quite simply, the polling today looks nothing like it did when Biden won his first term. If anything, it looks considerably worse for him.

And here:

There was not a single poll in 2019 or 2020 that met CNN’s standards for publication in which more respondents said they preferred Trump over Biden to be the next president. That ABC News/Washington Post poll is one of a number that already put Trump in a better position than Biden in the 2024 general election.

And have I mentioned the 2024 Senate map? The top 8 competitive seats for 2024 are all Democratic-held: West Virginia, Montana, Ohio, Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.. The white working class share of eligible voters in West Virginia is 74 percent; in Montana, 60 percent; in Ohio and Wisconsin, 58 percent; in Michigan, 55 percent; and in Pennsylvania, 53 percent (States of Change 2020 data). The other two states, Arizona and Nevada are “only” around 40 percent white working class but the overall working class share of eligibles in these states is astronomical: 71 and 75 percent, respectively. Ouch.

Dionne: Class Politics Taking Center Stage Among Dems

From E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s “Biden and Democratic governors embrace the new (old) class politics” at The Washington Post:

Leading figures in both parties have decided that the future of American politics rests in the hands of working-class voters. With the most affluent voters now largely sorted by ideology, the “working middle class” in the poll-tested phrase popular among politicians, will be getting a lot of love.

Biden’s bet — and it’s a wager many successful Democratic governors made last year — is that Democrats can win back blue-collar voters. This means not just gaining ground among Whites without college degrees but also winning back Hispanic voters who have drifted toward the GOP, and boosting turnout among the Black working class.

The president reiterated one of his favorite formulations on Tuesday, describing his agenda as “a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America.” His first stop the day after his big speech was at a laborers’ union training center in Wisconsin. “For decades, the backbone of America — the middle class — has been hollowed out,” Biden said, adding: “Once-thriving cities and towns became shadows of what they used to be. … Now we’re going to turn that around.”

But Biden isn’t the only Democrat  zeroing in on class conflict, as Dionne explains:

Nonetheless, one group of Democrats that sees promise in Biden’s emphasis on jobs, investment and a blue-collar political blueprint is made up of the party’s governors. This is not surprising since all governors, as Utah’s Republican Gov. Spencer Cox said during a White House meeting of state chief executives on Friday, like to think of themselves as “the get-stuff-done caucus.”

Dionne quotes Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a rising star among potential Democratic presidential candidates, who notes, “In the case of schools, for example, “the culture wars … are not fueled by what the average parent of school age kids is thinking about,” Whitmer said. “They want their kids to be safe when they’re at school. They want a reasonable class size so their kid gets enough attention.” What parents are deeply concerned about is “learning loss” during the pandemic, one reason she is pushing a program of “individualized tutoring” to help students catch up.”

Dionne also quotes New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who “spoke of her family’s journey to the middle class and the need to create comparable opportunities in a very different economic moment. “We have to go back to the soul of an FDR Democrat,” she said, describing her parents’ political faith. “You take care of people. You let them know that you’re on their side.” Roosevelt, she said, “was the voice of a nation and gave hope to people impoverished and those struggling to even find a way into the middle class. Shame on us if we don’t reconnect with that history.”

Shame indeed. Reclaiming the “soul of the FDR Democrat” may be the Democrat’s ticket back to a working majority, provided they learn how to listen to the working class — and build a consensus in support of their priorities.

Teixeira: White Liberals vs. the Working-Class

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

Joe Biden in his generally well-received State of the Union address made a clear attempt to reach out to working class voters. As he recounted his administration’s achievements, he said:

Jobs are coming back, pride is coming back, because choices we made in the last several years. You know, this is, in my view, a blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America and make a real difference in your lives at home.

Much of the first part of his speech was devoted to laying out the receipts for his pro-working class claims and the promise of much more bounty to come. This may reflect Biden’s genuine desire to turn the Democratic party back into a forthrightly working class party and, not unrelated, his recognition that a Democratic coalition with steadily declining working class support is electorally very fragile.

That may be what Biden wants. But will his party cooperate? This is a party whose image and priorities are increasingly determined by white liberals not working class voters. The party’s claim to be a working class party these days rests primarily on its undeniable—though diminishing—strength among nonwhite working class (noncollege) voters. These voters made up about 28 percent of Democratic supporters in 2020 according to States of Change data and probably about the same in 2022. But a substantially larger 37 percent of Democratic voters are white liberals (Gallup datacross-walked with States of Change data). This size mismatch is heavily exacerbated by the high educational levels of white liberals which translates into much higher levelsof political attention, interest, knowledge, donations and activism among these voters than among working class nonwhites. Add to that the dominance of educated white liberals in the Democratic party infrastructure and in sympathetic media, nonprofits, advocacy groups, foundations and educational sectors and you have a group that punches way, way above its already considerable weight in the party.

It would be strange indeed, given these facts, if the values and priorities of white liberals weren’t over-weighted in the Democrats’ values and priorities, particularly as perceived by working class voters. That suggests it will take quite some time and a determined, if not single-minded, focus to make the Democratic party once again the party of the working class rather than the party of white liberals. Here are some data that suggest the immensity of the task.

  1. Pew just released data about the public’s top policy priorities. They found that of the 21 priorities tested, protecting the environment and dealing with global climate change ranked 14th and 17th, respectively, on the public’s priority list. But among liberal Democrats, these issues ranked first and third, respectively. The story was basically the same among white college-educated Democrats, who are heavily dominated by liberals.
  2. A new CBS News poll confirms the low priority of dealing with climate change. Among the ten priorities tested, addressing climate change ranked ninth (interestingly, protecting abortion access ranked dead last).
  3. The same poll indicates a poor evaluation of the Biden administration’s actions in areas that rank much higher in working class concerns. On the US economy 53 percent said Biden’s policies have made it worse, compared to 27 percent who say his policies have made it better. The analogous figures on “your own family’s finances” are 49 percent vs. 18 percent; on illegal immigration, 51 percent vs. 21 percent; on inflation, 57 percent vs. 22 percent; and on gas prices, 55 percent vs. 21 percent.
  4. Recent Gallup data show half in the country saying they are financially worse off today than they were a year ago, the highest level since 2009 in the midst of the Great Recession. Among the working class, the level saying they are worse off is even higher.
  5. New Washington Post/ABC News data further document the depth of working class discontent. In the poll, 41 percent of the public say they are worse off today than they were when Biden took office, the highest level the poll has recorded on analogous questions dating back 37 years. But the negative judgement is even higher among working class respondents at 44 percent to a mere 14 percent who say they are better off. This undoubtedly has a lot to do with the fact that, despite the low unemployment rate, real wages are still lower today than they were when Biden took office.
  6. In the same poll, working class respondents were not sanguine about the Biden administration’s accomplishments. By 68 percent to 30 percent the working class view was that Biden had accomplished not much/little or nothing as opposed to a great deal/a good amount. But Democratic liberals—who are overwhelmingly white—had a diametrically opposed view; 85 percent credited Biden with a accomplishing a great deal or a good amount and just 15 percent thought not much/little or nothing had been accomplished.
  7. Moreover by 2 or 3:1 the working class thought Biden had not made progress in four specific areas. Only 21 percent thought he had made progress of making electric vehicles more affordable compared to 60 percent who saw no progress; just 27 percent saw progress on lowering prescription drug costs; and a mere 31 percent, respectively, thought he had made progress on improving roads and bridges and creating good jobs in their communities. Liberal Democrats, however, were happy campers. By 2:1 they thought Biden had made progress on the first three items and by a ringing 3:1 they endorsed Biden’s progress on creating good jobs in their communities.

Biden clearly has his work cut out for him if he truly seeks to make the Democrats the undisputed party of the working class rather than the chosen vehicle for white liberals. Zach Goldberg puts it well in his recent detailed report on the demographic evolution of the Democratic party.

[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 be the case with proportional constituent input, as well as legislative time and energy being expended on niche progressive causes, programs, and amendments that are likely to polarize the chambers and produce congressional gridlock. 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 that are far more relevant to the lives of many working class nonwhite Democrats.

There are indeed opportunity costs! Biden and his party will continue to pay those costs, which put a ceiling on their coalition, unless and until they are prepared to break the hegemony of white liberals and concentrate unreservedly on working class concerns.