washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Teixeira: Fixing the Democrats’ Education Problem

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, politics editor of The Liberal Patriot newsletter and co-author with John B. Judis of the new Book “Where Have All the Democrats Gone?,” is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

For decades, the Democrats were “the party of education,” ringing up double-digit leads in polls asking Americans which major party they trusted most to handle education. During parts of the Clinton and Obama presidencies, that lead topped 30 points. Now, though, the Dems’ edge has shrunk to just a few points, with the occasional poll showing Republicans nosing ahead.

Why are Democrats fumbling the issue of education, which they dominated for so many years? There are multiple reasons: they mishandled the Covid-related school closures, they are letting the culture wars distract from the core mission of schools, and they are downplaying the importance of merit and academic achievement. Before I discuss how the Dems could effect a turnaround, let’s dig deeper into these missteps and unfortunate trends.

The school closures went on way too long. Democrats, far more than Republicans, worked to keep public schools closed during the Covid pandemic—longer than in other advanced countries and far longer than was justified by emerging scientific understanding of the virus and its effects. Pushed by their allies in the teachers unions, Democrats ignored the justified warnings that extended school closures would severely harm student learning and social development, especially for poorer children. The returns are now in, and it is clear that the warnings Democrats ignored were, if anything, too mild.

This was no minor error made by Democratic officials in the fog of pandemic confusion but a profound tragedy for millions of children that could have been avoided or at least substantially mitigated. To add to the shameful episode, parents in many communities around the country who wanted the schools reopened faster were frequently demonized by progressives as heartless, anti-science right-wingers who didn’t care about public health. The wounds from this still fester today.

Privileging politics over pedagogy. The culture wars rage on in the schools. Democrats argue that it is all the fault of the Right, who they say wishes to “ban books,” prevent children from learning about slavery, and subject gay and transgender-identifying children to bullying and worse. Progressive educators and school systems, on the other hand, simply stand for a modern, inclusive education that no decent, unprejudiced person should oppose.

This is disingenuous in the extreme. Over the last decade, and especially after the George Floyd summer of 2020, there has been a concerted effort by many school systems and educators to promote “anti-racist” education that goes way beyond benign pedagogical practices such as teaching about slavery, Jim Crow, the Tulsa Race Massacre, redlining, and so on. Instead, pedagogy itself is to be infused, from top to bottom and in every subject, with concepts drawn from the anti-racist playbook. As noted by sociologist Ilana Redstone, these concepts include the assertion that “[a]n unwillingness to recognize the full force of systemic racism as determining disparities between groups is a denial of the reality of racism today (and evidence of ignorance at best and racism at worst).” An army of diversity, equity, and inclusion consultants have stood at the ready to assist school systems in training their staff and teachers to implement this creed and incorporate it into their curricula.

This is politics, not pedagogy as traditionally and properly understood. It has little to do with what most parents want schools to do: develop their children’s academic skills and knowledge base so they can succeed in the world. Democrats have been hurt by their increasing identification with this ideological project rather than the traditional goals of public education.

Downgrading merit and educational achievement. Consistent with this ongoing politicization of educational practices, there has been a concomitant downgrading of academic merit and standard measures of educational achievement, especially standardized tests. In the name of fairness and “equity,” school systems in Democratic-controlled states and counties have taken steps to de-emphasize such measures as a means of evaluating students and controlling admissions to advanced courses, programs, and elite schools.

It hasn’t quite reached the “all shall have prizes” stage, but the message to aspiring students and parents who see educational achievement as their route to upward mobility and success in life is clear: students can no longer rely on hard work and objectively good academic performance to attain their goals. Other priorities of the school system may take precedence, reducing the payoff from their performance. This does not sit well with most parents, who see it as public schools’ responsibility to encourage and reward their children’s talent and hard work. Democrats have been hurt by their diminishing association with what parents care about the most.

Getting Their Groove Back

In light of all this, is it possible for Democrats to regain their mojo on education during the 2024 election cycle? I think it is, though it will require changing their approach considerably from current practices. And it’s worth doing so. Even if education is not a central issue in the presidential contest, it is sure to loom large in many congressional, gubernatorial, and state legislative races.

Here’s how Democrats can decisively change their current image on education and rebuild their advantage on the issue.

Get ideology, whether from the Left or Right, out of schools. Voters are sick of the culture wars around schools. Overwhelmingly, they just want children to get a good education based on standard academic competencies, not instruction in a politically inflected worldview. Democrats must assure voters that the former is their number-one priority. Just as they oppose attempts from the Right to inject their ideology into schools by restricting critical discussion of American history and society, so they must also oppose efforts by those on the Left to impose their views on curricula and analysis of social issues. Neither is appropriate. The job of schools is to give students the tools to make informed judgments, not tell them what those judgments should be.

[Editor’s note: Read the rest of Ruy’s prescription for the Democrats at Education Next.]

Biden Considers Bold Immigration Order

Hans Nichols an Stef W. Kight report at Axios that “The Senate’s bipartisan border negotiations are dead. But the  “dramatic actions that Biden is considering on the southern border – including an executive order that would restrict the ability of migrants to claim asylum — don’t require congressional approval.”

Nichols and Kight add thatThrough executive action, Biden would attempt to turn asylum seekers away at the border if they cross illegally, similar to what the Senate compromise plan contemplated, as first reported by CNN.… Trump repeatedly tried to restrict access to asylum – and is planning to do so again if he returns to the White House.”

However, Nichols and Kight note that “The actions under consideration will inflame Latino groups and the progressive wing of Biden’s party, which has expressed alarm about some of the policy changes Biden has been mulling.” But, “a White House official cautioned that a final decision has not been made on any potential executive actions.”

Camille Montoya Galvez adds at CBS News that “Mr. Biden is weighing citing a law dating back to 1952 to severely restrict access to the U.S. asylum system, which has buckled under the weight of record levels of migrant arrivals along the border with Mexico, the sources said, requesting anonymity to discuss internal government deliberations….That law, known as 212(f), allows the president to “suspend the entry” of foreigners when it is determined their arrival is not in the best interest of the country.”

Myah Ward writes at Politico that “The administration is also discussing tying that directive to a trigger — meaning that it would only come into effect after a certain number of illegal crossings took place, said the three people, who were granted anonymity to discuss private deliberations….The administration is also discussing ways to make it harder for migrants to pass the initial screening for asylum seekers, essentially raising the “credible fear standard,” as well as ways to quickly deport others who don’t meet those elevated asylum standards. Two of the people said the policy announcements could come as soon as next week ahead of President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech on March 7.”

Ward warns that “There are other complications as well. The implementation of any action from the White House would come without the finding and resources that could make implementation easier, though the administration is looking into ways to unlock additional funding. The actions would likely face legal challenges as well.”

Noting that “The Administration spent months negotiating in good faith to deliver the toughest and fairest bipartisan border security bill in decades because we need Congress to make significant policy reforms and to provide additional funding to secure our border and fix our broken immigration system,” White House spokesperson Angelo Fernández Hernández explained that “Congressional Republicans chose to put partisan politics ahead of our national security, rejected what border agents have said they need, and then gave themselves a two-week vacation,” Mary Bruce and Molly Eagle report at ABC News. However, noted Hernandez “no executive action, no matter how aggressive, can deliver the significant policy reforms and additional resources Congress can provide.”

The political value added of such immigration restrictions to President Biden’s campaign would come from the President appearing tough and decisive on immigration policy, which is emerging as a top concern of working-class voters who fear a threat to their job security if nothing is done. The political value subtracted would come from anger expressed by progressive groups which favor a less restrictive immigration policy. But it is unlikely that many supporters of a less restrictive immigration policy would vote for Trump, or even not vote, if President Biden initiates the reforms under discussion. Given the large number of working class voters – more than half of the electorate – it appears that the greater risk to Biden and the Democrats is doing nothing.

Teixeira: The Way of the Fetterman

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, politics editor of The Liberal Patriot newsletter and co-author with John B. Judis of the new Book “Where Have All the Democrats Gone?,” is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

If Democrats lose Pennsylvania, they will have a lot harder time winning the 2024 election. Sure, there are non-Pennsylvania paths but it becomes a way heavier lift, closing off, for example, holding the “Blue Wall” as a sufficient path to victory.

Right now, Biden leads Trump in the RCP running average by three-tenths of a percentage point. Too close for comfort! (Plus the running average has Biden behind in every other swing state.)

So: how to do it—make sure Pennsylvania stays blue in 2024? Well, in 2022 there was exactly one Democrat who managed to flip a Senate seat: John Fetterman, who captured Pennsylvania’s Class 3 seat by a solid 5 points. Famously, Fetterman has a distinctive persona which makes him seem like not-a-typical-Democrat at all. This undoubtedly helped him with working-class (noncollege) voters among whom he did significantly better than Biden.

But there’s more to Fetterman’s persona than his massive stature, hoodie, and shorts. He’s also a straight-talker in a lot of areas where standard-issue Democrats fear to go. When he ran for Senate, while he wobbled a bit, he wound up declaring decisively:

Any of the issues that I ever had with fracking is really around environmental regulations and once those were passed and they were addressed…you know, I support fracking…I absolutely support energy independence and making sure that we can never be held by a country like Russia and making sure that we produce as much American energy as possible, and I fully support fracking.

Not too many Democrats are willing to go on record these days with full-throated support of producing fossil fuels! And since his election, he’s continued to carve out an independent path. Like this:

…I’m not a progressive, I’m not that kind of a label or anything like that…I said that before the primary in ’22, and that’s how I’ve always believed. And I think these have all been very easy calls. I follow the moral clarity, not the polls or any silly labels.

Or this:

We do have a crisis on the border—and we have to look at the numbers that are the size of Pittsburgh showing up on the border. You can’t just say, ‘Oh yeah, OK. It’ll all work itself out’…I think if you really want to address immigration in the way that it deserves, we first must also have a secure border.

Or this joint statement with Pennsylvania’s other Senator, Bob Casey, on the Biden administration’s decision to freeze approvals for liquified natural gas (LNG) export permits:

Pennsylvania is an energy state. As the second largest natural gas-producing state, this industry has created good-paying energy jobs in towns and communities across the Commonwealth and has played a critical role in promoting U.S. energy independence…

While the immediate impacts on Pennsylvania remain to be seen, we have concerns about the long-term impacts that this pause will have on the thousands of jobs in Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry. If this decision puts Pennsylvania energy jobs at risk, we will push the Biden Administration to reverse this decision.

And just in case anyone out there doesn’t “get” where he’s coming from relative to many in his party:

What I have found out over the last couple years is that the right, and now the left, are hoping that I die…There are ones that are rooting for another blood clot. They have both now been wishing that I die…

It’s just a place [the “progressive” label] where I’m not…I don’t feel like I’ve left the label; it’s just more that it’s left me.

Clearly, Fetterman has declared his independence from the progressive left. He’s modeling a combination of strategic flexibility, honesty, and courage, I will dub The Way of the Fetterman, in a nod to the ancient Japanese way of the samurai.

Looking at the situation in Pennsylvania today, you can see how The Way of the Fetterman is very much in order for Democrats in the Keystone State. In 2024, around two-thirds of Pennsylvania eligible voters will be working class, which projects out to around three-fifths of actual voters. Because we now live in the Upside Down, Democrats reliably win the college-educated but lose the working class. That means that, given the disproportion between the two groups, Democrats need to win the college-educated by way more than they lose the working class to win the state.

In 2020 Biden managed to do this, though by barely enough to win the state. In 2022, Fetterman did much better, almost breaking even among working-class voters and romping to victory. So far (where data are available), this pattern is not evident in Pennsylvania polling this cycle. In the high quality New York Times/Siena poll from the fall, Biden carries college voters by 18 points in Pennsylvania but loses working-class voters by an identical 18 points. That’s a sure recipe for defeat.

In a more recent (January) Bloomberg/Morning Consult Pennsylvania poll, Biden actually carries college-educated voters by less than he loses the working class. Not good. In the same poll, working-class Pennsylvania voters prefer Trump over Biden by 19 points on the economy, 15 points on crime, 25 points on immigration, 17 points on the cost of everyday goods, and 17 points on gas prices.

This calls for The Way of the Fetterman! Convince these voters that you, like Fetterman, are a different kind of Democrat. Instead, as Matt Yglesias puts it:

[W]e continue to see incredible levels of over-emphasis on turnout and mobilization…To win the election, the important thing is to reassure people who are to Democrats’ right on key issues.

The Way of the Fetterman means not being afraid to offer such reassurance, in the recognition that this is strategically wise and that voters’ concerns on these issues are real and not just made-up by conservative media (the Fox News Fallacy). Oddly, as Yglesias also points out, Biden’s instincts are probably in this direction, so it is a shame he doesn’t follow them.

No doubt part of the reason for this faint-heartedness lies in his fear of displeasing the very vocal progressive left, which is well-represented both within and outside of his administration. He believes displeasing them would weaken him and his re-election bid. But the opposite is true. As Janan Ganesh astutely observes in the Financial Times, comparing Biden’s conduct to Keir Starmer’s:

For swing voters, a leader who disappoints their own party is bold. Holding the line against internal dissent is proof of vision and virility. When Starmer drops a commitment to spend an annual £28bn on the green transition and declines to reopen the question of Brexit, politicos suspect a faint heart. The public sees someone answering one of the central questions about an aspiring national leader: is he or she the master of their party, or the creature of it?…

Biden has hardly addressed the master-creature question. Democrats entertain all sorts of explanations for his low ratings—an inadequate White House spin operation is a favourite—except that he has given them too much….Outside of foreign affairs, where his support for Israel upsets a generation of progressives, there are few cases of President Biden displeasing liberal Democrats. (Unlike Senator Biden, who did it all the time.)

Very recent results also suggest the potential efficacy of The Way of the Fetterman. Democrat Tom Suozzi easily dispatched Republican Mazi Pilip in the special House election in New York’s 3rd congressional district. He was mercilessly attacked by Pilip on immigration and crime. And how did he respond? Like this, as reported in The New York Times:

If I run my campaign and just say, ‘I’m Tom Suozzi, I’m a Democrat and my opponent is a Republican,’ I’ll lose this race,” Mr. Suozzi told union carpenters on Saturday at a rally on Long Island. “People are upset Democrats haven’t been tough enough on things like the border.”

“Exactly!” “That’s right!” “Yes, sir,” some in the crowd hollered in approval.

“I’m tougher than you’ll ever be,” Mr. Suozzi razzed back….

At events across the district, he has bucked liberal orthodoxy to call on President Biden to lock down the border. He said a group of migrant men charged with assaulting police officers in Times Square should be deported: “That’s outrageous. Kick ’em out!

It’s The Way of the Fetterman! Time for Democrats to declare independence from the progressive left and follow in Fetterman’s footsteps.

Brownstein: Long Term Senate Control May Be on Ballot in November

In “Why November could decide Senate control for years,” Ronald Brownstein writes at CNN Politics:

In this fall’s Senate elections, Democrats will be defending more seats in precarious political terrain than in any other election during the 2020s. That list of challenging elections this year includes the final three Senate seats Democrats hold in states that voted for Donald Trump in 2020, and five more in states that President Joe Biden won by 3 percentage points or less. Meanwhile, Republicans this year are not defending any Senate seats in states that voted against Trump in 2020, or preferred him by 3 points or less.

That math underlines the stakes for Democrats in Biden improving his position in the key swing states by November. One of the most powerful trends of modern Senate elections is that it has become exceedingly difficult for candidates in either party to win seats in states that usually vote the other way for president.

The Senate Democrats running in difficult electoral terrain might break that trend this fall. Yet if they can’t, Biden’s fate in November could determine control of the Senate not only in 2025, but for years thereafter.

A strong recovery by Biden in which he wins most of the key swing states could position Democrats to remain competitive in the battle for Senate control through the remainder of this decade, even if they narrowly lose the majority in November. But if Biden loses most of the swing states, Democrats could fall into a Senate deficit too large to realistically overcome for years — especially because the party has so few plausible opportunities to flip seats now held by the GOP.

Brownstein adds that “That prospect has enormous implications not only for the passage of legislation but also for the composition of the federal courts, especially the Supreme Court. Four of the Supreme Court justices will be older than 70 by 2028. Even if Biden holds the White House in 2024, and a vacancy arises, a durable Republican Senate majority might refuse to fill any of those seats — just as then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did while Barack Obama was president in 2016.”

Further, Brownstein notes,”Heading into the 2024 election, Republicans hold 47 of the 50 Senate seats in the 25 states that voted for Trump in 2020. Democrats, in turn, hold 48 of the 50 Senate seats in the 25 states that voted for Biden last time….In 2020, Biden won three states by less than a single percentage point: Arizona, Georgia and Wisconsin. He won three others by less than 3 percentage points: Pennsylvania, Nevada and Michigan. Democrats now hold 11 of the 12 Senate seats from those six highly competitive states.

“By contrast,” Brownstein reports, “among the 25 states that backed Trump, North Carolina — where Republicans hold both Senate seats — was the only one Trump carried by less than 3 percentage points. Even extending the net to states Trump won by less than 5 percentage points brings in only Florida, where Republicans also hold both Senate seats….This contrast creates a huge disparity between the parties. Democrats now hold 14 inherently vulnerable Senate seats: their three from the states Trump won in 2020, and their 11 in the states Biden won only narrowly. For Republicans the total is at most six: two in states that Biden won in 2020, and four in states that Trump won narrowly, even with Florida included.” Also,

This year’s Senate races in the narrow Biden states include Democratic incumbents Bob Casey in Pennsylvania, Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, and Jacky Rosen in Nevada; also on the ballot is an open Democratic-held seat in Michigan (where the party is very likely to nominate Rep. Elissa Slotkin) and the Arizona seat held by Kyrsten Sinema, an independent who caucuses with Democrats. Sinema hasn’t indicated whether she will seek reelection, but Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego is already running for the seat. (Democrats also face an unexpected challenge in Maryland — a state that leans much more reliably toward them in presidential elections — after GOP former Gov. Larry Hogan last week said he would run for the open seat there.)

In addition, Democrats this year must defend all three of their remaining Senate seats in the states that voted for Trump in 2020. That includes incumbents Jon Tester in Montana, Sherrod Brown in Ohio, and the open seat being vacated by the retiring Joe Manchin in West Virginia. Neither of the two remaining Senate Republicans in states that Biden won last time (Susan Collins in Maine and Johnson in Wisconsin) are up this year; nor are either of the GOP senators from North Carolina, the state Trump won by his smallest margin.

Both parties agree the open West Virginia seat is virtually guaranteed to flip to the GOP. Tester and Brown both have strong personal brands, but Biden is almost certain to lose their states, and possibly by substantial margins. If he does, Brown and Tester could survive only by breaking a nearly inviolate recent pattern in presidential election years.

“If Democrats lose Senate seats in the narrow Biden states,” Brownstein points out, “they simply have very few places on the map to replace them, given the parties’ patterns of support. It’s that prospect that has led the Democratic data analyst David Shor to warn for years that if the party doesn’t perform well in the 2024 presidential election, the GOP could seize control of the Senate for a sustained period.”

There are some more optimistic scenarios for Democrats, as Brownstein explains: “David Bergstein, communications director for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, notes that in the 2022 midterm election, Democrats won Senate races in most of these same battleground states, although exit polls showed substantial discontent with the economy and Biden’s performance then, too. “Senate campaigns are candidate versus candidate battles,” Bergstein said. “We have the superior candidates, and Republicans are putting forward candidates who have big flaws, who lost races before, or are facing the prospect of damaging primaries. Certainly a presidential cycle is different than a midterm, but the laws of Senate campaigns, where candidate quality matters, are still in effect.”

Brownstein concludes, “Unless and until such a new political configuration emerges, both parties can realistically target many fewer Senate seats than they could even two decades ago. But the ceiling is clearly lower for Democrats than for Republicans. It leaves Democrats, even in good years, with achingly little margin for error to build a Senate majority. And unless Biden recovers more strength, 2024 may be very far from anything Democrats would call a good year.”

Teixeira: The Disappearing Democratic Coalition – Time for Democrats to break out of their bubble.

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, politics editor of The Liberal Patriot newsletter and co-author with John B. Judis of the new Book “Where Have All the Democrats Gone?,” is cross-posted from The Liberal Patriot:

In the latest RCP running average of Biden-Trump matchups, Biden is behind by a little under 2 points. He is behind Trump by 5 points in Arizona, 7 points in Georgia, 7 points in Nevada, 10 points in North Carolina, and about half a point in Wisconsin. He is only ahead in one state, Pennsylvania, by three-tenths of percentage point.

In the latest NBC poll, Biden is very far behind Trump in a variety of key areas, including the economy, border security, crime, and mental/physical fitness to be president. Particularly noteworthy here is Trump’s 22-point advantage on handling the economy. This is the largest advantage on the economy of any candidate in the history of the NBC poll going back to 1992. Also interesting is Biden’s exceedingly modest advantage (two points) on protecting democracy, which he is making a centerpiece of his campaign.

In light of these data, there are two basic choices for Biden and the Democrats: concentrate on voter mobilization to make up these deficits; or concentrate on reducing these deficits through persuasion. Naturally, these approaches are not mutually exclusive, but it’s important which one gets the greater weight.

We can look at data on the Democrats’ sympathetic voter groups to assess the potential of the mobilization approach. What jumps out from looking at these data is that Democrats’ core support in these groups has been going steadily down. That undercuts the potential of a voter mobilization strategy since there are fewer loyal supporters within these groups to get to the polls. Consider these recent data from Pew, Gallup, and Split Ticket, which provide the necessary demographic breakdowns.


Pew Biden approval rating

  • All Hispanics: 32 percent approval, 65 percent disapproval (-33 net).
  • Working-class (noncollege) Hispanics: 30 percent approval, 67 percent disapproval (-37 net).

Gallup party ID trend

  • All Hispanics: 12-point net Democratic advantage on leaned party ID. This is down 19 points from its recent high in 2021 and is the lowest net advantage for the Democrats among Hispanics since Gallup started interviewing in Spanish in 2011.

Split Ticket Biden-Trump crosstabular average

  • All Hispanics: ten-point average Biden advantage over Trump. This is 13 points down from Biden’s margin over Trump among Hispanics in the 2020 election (which in turn was 16 points down from the Democratic margin in 2016), according to Catalist data.


Pew Biden approval rating

  • All blacks: 48 percent approval, 49 percent disapproval (minus-one net).
  • Working-class (noncollege) blacks: 45 percent approval, 52 percent disapproval (minus-seven net).
  • Black adults under 50: 35 percent approval (!), 64 percent disapproval (-29 net)

Gallup party ID trend

  • All blacks: 47-point net Democratic advantage on leaned party ID. This is down 19 points from its recent high in 2020. This is also the lowest net advantage for the Democrats recorded by Gallup in its polling going back to 1999.

Split Ticket Biden-Trump crosstabular average

  • All blacks: 57 point average Biden advantage over Trump. This may seem high but it is actually 24 points down from Biden’s margin over Trump among blacks in the 2020 election.

To underscore the data on the black and Hispanic working class, here is a recent chart from the Financial Times:


Youth (18-29 years old)

Pew Biden approval rating

  • All youth: 27 percent approval, 71 percent disapproval (-44 net).

Gallup party ID trend

  • All youth: eight-point net Democratic advantage on leaned party ID. This is down 15 points from its recent high in 2019 and is the lowest net advantage for the Democrats among youth since 2005.

Split Ticket Biden-Trump crosstabular average

  • All youth: 13-point average Biden advantage over Trump. This is ten points down from Biden’s margin over Trump among youth in the 2020 election.

All this suggests Democrats need to put on their persuasion hat and vanquish the thought that they can rely on bringing their loyal foot soldiers to the polls. There just aren’t as many of them as there used to be.

And when it comes to persuasion, touting the Biden record on economics does not seem likely to do the job. Nor does florid rhetoric about impending fascism. These play best among the Democratic faithful who, as we’ve seen, have diminished in number.

Instead the hard work of convincing persuadable voters, including many in traditionally sympathetic groups, that Democrats are actually better on the economy and at least not so bad on border security, crime, and other difficult issues must be embraced. That will be difficult and means above all that Democrats must leave the comforting confines of the bubble so many of them inhabit. They will have to talk about issues they’d rather avoid like immigration and crime. And they will have to confront, not dismiss, the realities of voter concerns on the economy rather than contentedly singing the praises of their fine economic performance.

On the latter challenge, Liam Kerr on The Welcome Party’s Substack correctly diagnoses a big part of the problem:

While inflation has come down, Biden is currently not well positioned to capitalize on the change. The first problem is that voters think Biden is more focused on jobs (43 percent say it’s his top priority) than prices (23 percent say it’s his top priority), while they are more focused on prices (64 percent of voters say it’s their top priority) than jobs (7 percent).

The second is that many of the policies that the administration most frequently touts are not viewed by voters as deflationary and aren’t viewed as benefiting them. Only 27 percent of voters believe tax rebates for EVs will benefit them, and only 21 percent believe tax rebates will reduce inflation, while 45 percent believe they will increase inflation.

Similarly, only 29 percent of voters believe canceling student debt will benefit them, but 45 percent believe it will increase inflation (20 percent believe it will reduce inflation)…[T]he policies the administration has centered the most are the ones that people are least likely to believe will benefit them and most inflationary.

The administration has a number of successful policy wins that it could tout, rather than EVs tax breaks and student debt cancelation. For instance, their investments in supply chain resilience are very popular, as is the provision of the Inflation Reduction Act that allows Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices…Declining gas prices represent another opportunity for President Biden to show how his administration is bringing down prices, but the administration is slow to claim credit for issuing permits for drilling, leaving voters with the mistaken impression that he has not increased drilling, and in fact has decreased it.

This seems, to put it delicately, sub-optimal. But correcting this does not seem like rocket science. Talk more about what concerns voters the most and what is popular. Talk less about other stuff that lacks salience and popularity. And above all, break out of the comfort zone of Democratic partisans and activists. The cavalry aren’t coming to save you this time. There’s not even enough cavalry to do so anymore.

How Dems Can Get More Traction in Red and Rural States

At Politico, Peter Schaefer interviews Greg Haas, organizing director of the Wyoming Democratic Party about the obstacles to organizing for Democratic candidates and policies in a deeply-red state. Some of Haas’s insights:

“Something I’ve experienced traveling around the state is that there is a palpable fear of even letting your friends know you are a Democrat, or even in line with what Democratic politicians are doing. There’s vandalism that takes place here, and people are scared of that.”

“In rural places, a candidate goes out on the campaign trail and they say that the first thing they have to do is distance themselves from the national party. Now, I don’t think they have to do that, but they feel like they have to do that. They say, “I’m not a Democrat like national Democrats.” So much news is nationalized, and there is so much news that is sensationalized. I think if you want to talk to people about local issues, that’s what you should focus on….Local Wyoming officials are not going to solve the border crisis in Texas. People’s emotions run high on those hot-button issues, but when it comes right down to it, this local community does not come together on party lines. It comes together on what’s best for the community.”

On job security: “There are more and more people who are really afraid of what’s going to happen to their family ranch, or am I going to lose my job? And when people are that scared, I think as humans we have a tendency to find somebody to blame.… You know, “This person that doesn’t look like me or the people I grew up with is either going to take my job, or my kids’ job, or they’re just going to mooch off or get everything for free.”

On key issues: “The important things for Democrats are fully funded public education, people being treated equally and freedom being afforded to all people. It’s also pretty important to a lot of people in Wyoming, Democrats or otherwise, that women have the right to control their own bodies and their health care and that agency isn’t taken away from them. Climate matters to a lot of people, not in terms of climate change necessarily, but clean air and clean water.”

On President Biden and other national Democrats showing up and claiming credit in rural states: “I absolutely think them showing up to explain and celebrate those programs could have immeasurable benefit. Them showing up would impact the narrative in the news, and it would help those who feel like they’ve been forgotten feel like they’re not. The people responsible for these good works are being too humble to talk about them….There’s a sign over there that says “Project funded by President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” and there’s a Wyoming Department of Transportation logo and U.S Department of Transportation logo….That’s the only sign I’ve seen for any project in the state that says exactly where the money is coming from.”

“People are so interested in the hot-button things. Right now, one of the parties is spending most of the time talking about the “invasion” at the southern border. There’s a lot of energy spent talking about that. That’s the go-to talking point. That distracts people from the good things going on — the successful economy, good things that are happening in Wyoming and across the country. From what I can see, the Republican strategy seems to be, “If we can just get people afraid, they’ll vote for us.”

To put Haas’s comments in perspective, keep in mind that “Wyoming is the most Republican state in the U.S. Wyoming has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of +25. Wyoming’s strong Conservative lean is attributed to its large rural, white, and Evangelical populations. Wyoming has voted Republican in every Presidential election since 1952, except for the 1964 election.” Even Liz Cheney was deemed not right-wing enough for Wyoming. It is also the smallest state in the U.S. in terms of population (less than 600,000), but has as many senators as the largest, California (nearly 40 million).

In his introduction to the interview Schaefer notes, “the national Democratic Party has invested millions of dollars in a “Red State Fund” to build out organizing in Republican strongholds. The Biden administration has also made huge investments in rural America through rural cooperatives and the bipartisan infrastructure law, which the president and his cabinet secretaries highlighted last fall on a two-week tour.” It will be a long, tough haul for Democrats to get some momentum in states like Wyoming, which gave Trump his largest popular vote margin in both 2016 and 2020. But it’s good to know that some long-haul Democrats, at least, are working hard on it.

Rothenberg: The Nine States That Matter Most in the 2024 Elections

At Roll Call, Stuart Rothenberg makes the case that 9 states will decide which party can claim victory in the 2024 elections. Rothenberg identifies “the nine states that in November will decide (1) the presidential contest, (2) the fight for the Senate, and (3) the fight for control of the House of Representatives.”

In the presidential contest,

Three Great Lakes states (Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin) and three Southern/Sunbelt toss-ups (Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada) are likely to pick the next president of the United States.

Donald Trump carried five of the six states in 2016 (losing only Nevada), while Joe Biden carried all six four years later. The margins in all those states, in both 2016 and 2020, were extremely narrow, and most nonpartisan handicappers expect they will be close again this November.

Rothenberg adds “Two other states are worth watching but aren’t likely to be as crucial: New Hampshire (carried by Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Biden in 2020) and North Carolina (carried by Trump twice). Two states that divide their Electoral College votes by congressional district (Maine and Nebraska) merit your attention, as well. But none of those states come close to being as decisive as the Big Six.

As for the Senate,

“this year’s map strongly favors Republicans. Democrats (and independents who caucus with Democrats) sit in 23 seats that are up in November, while Republicans defend a mere 11 Senate seats this year….At least seven Democratic-held Senate seats are in play. Four of them are also in states that are crucial in the presidential contest: including Michigan (retiring Debbie Stabenow’s open seat), Nevada (Jackie Rosen), Pennsylvania (Bob Casey), and Wisconsin (Tammy Baldwin)…. Three of them are in reliably Republican states: Montana (Jon Tester), Ohio (Sherrod Brown), and West Virginia (Joe Manchin III), which is certain to flip to the GOP now that Manchin is retiring.

Also at risk is the seat of one independent who caucuses with the Democrats, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Sinema has not announced whether she will run for reelection (most likely as an independent). If she does, Arizona will likely have a three-way race in the fall.

Montana and Ohio stand out because of their conservatism and strong support of Trump in the last two presidential elections. But Tester and Brown have won in difficult circumstances before, and they survived during Trump’s 2018 midterm election (when Republicans picked up two seats) by delivering populist messages that appealed to working-class voters….Also at risk is the seat of one independent who caucuses with the Democrats, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. Sinema has not announced whether she will run for reelection (most likely as an independent). If she does, Arizona will likely have a three-way race in the fall.”

In House races, Rothenberg notes

“most states won’t have competitive contests next year. But due to extensive redistricting in New York state and court-ordered new districts that could elect a few more minority members, Democrats could add House seats in November….The Empire State has at least six Republican-held seats that look to be at risk later this year, a number large enough to determine whether Democrats can flip the chamber and make House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries the new speaker in 2025.”

Rothenberg concludes, “If you really want to identify the voters most likely to pick the next president, you can forget about strong partisans from competitive states. It’s swing voters from the swingiest states, like Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin, who will really matter if the race for the White House is close.”

NYT Interviews Ruy Teixeira

Ezra Klein interviews Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, politics editor of The Liberal Patriot newsletter and co-author with John B. Judis of the new Book “Where Have All the Democrats Gone?,  for The Ezra Klein Show at The New York Times. An excerpt of the interview transcript is cross-posted here:

EZRA KLEIN: From New York Times Opinion, this is “The Ezra Klein Show.”

So last week on the show we had Simon Rosenberg giving the very optimistic case on the Democratic Party, the view that the Democratic Party is doing great, they are winning at a rate we have not seen since F.D.R., and that all of this panic about the state of the party, about its prospects in 2024, is misguided.

Today is the other argument, the argument the Democratic Party is not doing great. That, in fact, it’s doing quite badly. That it is losing something core to who it is, core to its soul, and it’s losing it because it is making bad strategic and even, as you’ll hear in his views, substantive decisions. So Ruy Teixeira is very well known in Democratic policy circles, longtime pollster and political strategist. And he wrote in 2002, alongside John Judis, a famous book called “The Emerging Democratic Majority.”

When this book comes out, things are looking real bad for Democrats. It’s the 9/11 era, George W. Bush is super popular. And here come Teixeira and Judis to say, actually things look pretty good for Democrats, that if you look at how the country is changing, the growth of nonwhite voters, the growth of the professional class, if you look at how those and other groups vote for Democrats, that just based on demographics you should expect the Democratic slice of the electorate to really grow. And if it grows, Democrats are going to begin winning.

Now it’s a weird time for that book to come out. George W. Bush wins again in 2004. But in 2008, reality begins to look a lot like what they’ve been describing. And then in 2012, when Obama wins on the back of huge, huge turnout among nonwhite voters, he has a share of the white electorate that is about what Dukakis had when he loses in 1988.

When Obama wins with that coalition, it really looks like Teixeira and Judis were right. And even the Republican Party seems to think so. It begins to think it has to moderate on immigration and put forward a kinder face. And then, of course, comes Donald Trump and upends us once again, wins when people think he cannot. And that sets off a set of soul-searching. What was wrong in the emerging Democratic majority? What did Teixeira and Judis get wrong? What did Democrats get wrong?

And so now they have a new book out called “Where Have All The Democrats Gone?” And this book’s fundamental argument is that most of what they said came to pass. But one thing happened that they had worried about in that book, and people didn’t really pick up on, which is that in order for that Democratic majority to happen, Democrats needed to keep the working class. And they, in particular, needed to at least hold down the ground they were losing with the white working class. And that did not happen — Democrats getting stomped among the white working class. There is some evidence of them losing at least some working-class Black and Hispanic voters, particularly men.

So the question is, why? It’s a question that Judis and Teixeira are trying to answer in the new book. You will hear in here that the view is both political and, I would say, substantive. Right? There’s an argument about what is good policy and also an argument about why that policy, why a much more moderate Democratic Party would be a more politically-effective one.

And so I wanted to offer this as the second way of thinking about the Democrats right now. That they have lost a constituency that, at their very soul, they are built to represent, and that they should be treating that as a real emergency. And then there’s the question of, what do you do about it? It’s a place where I think Ruy and I have some different views, but I was grateful that he joined me here.


Ruy Teixeira, welcome to the show.

RUY TEIXEIRA: Hey. Thanks for having me, Ezra.

EZRA KLEIN: So I want to begin with the older book, “The Emerging Democratic Majority,” which gets published in 2002 and later takes on this status as a kind of artifact of a certain era of Democratic triumphalism. But it was helpful to me to remember that it was in 2002, which was a really bad time for the Democratic Party. So tell me what you were seeing then that made you write the book. What was the context for it? Because at that time it was counterintuitive.

RUY TEIXEIRA: The context in which John Judis and I wrote the book was looking at the way the United States had evolved away from the Reagan coalition through the Clinton years and the very early part of the 21st century. If you looked at how their political base was changing and how the country was changing, it was clear that Democrats were going to benefit from the sort of inevitable rise of the nonwhite population, which was heavily Democratic. We saw the realignment of professionals toward the Democrats. We saw dramatic shifts in the voting patterns of women, particularly single, highly-educated working women.

And we looked at the more sort of dynamic Metropolitan areas of the country that we called ideopolises, and it was clear they were realigning toward the Democrats. So you could put these sort of demographic, ideological, and economic changes together and say, well, it looks like the way the country’s changing overall is moving in a direction that’s consistent with what we called at the time Democrat’s “progressive centrism,” and if they played the cards right, could conceivably develop a dominant majority that might last for some time. Even though, of course, it didn’t mean they’d win every election or even the very next election after the book was published, which was 2002.

Roiling underneath the surface there, Ezra, was a caveat we had in the book about the white working class, because we were very careful to note that secular tendency of the white working class to move away from the Democratic Party was a problem, and the Democrats really needed to stop the bleeding there and keep a strong minority share of the white working class vote overall nationally, maybe around 40 in the key Rust Belt states that were heavily working-class, more like 45. And if they did that, they could build this coalition. But the political arithmetic would get vexed and difficult if the white working class continued to deteriorate in their support for Democrats.

EZRA KLEIN: You mentioned something there, which is the ideological trends of the time, like the professional class becoming more Democratic. That hadn’t always been true. So what did you see happening ideologically in the parties around that time that was shifting these coalitions?

RUY TEIXEIRA: Right. Well, the professionals part was really important in our analysis. And if you looked at professionals, not only were they becoming a much larger part of the US occupational structure and of the electorate and, of course, they vote way above their weight in terms of turnout, but they were moving in a direction in terms of their views on cultural issues which was quite liberal.

Then also professionals, by virtue to some extent of their position in society and their occupational structure, they tend to be more public-spirited. They tend to be more sympathetic to the role of government. And those views seemed to be strengthening as professionals became a larger part of the American electorate. And we thought that was really going to help the Democrats. And, in fact, that turned out to be true, in a strict quantitative sense. They did, in fact, realign heavily toward the Democrats. It really starts in the late ’80s, kind of strengthens in the ’90s, and goes forth in the 21st century to the point today where professionals, by and large, can almost be considered a base Democratic group.

EZRA KLEIN: So then tell me what happens on the way to the Democratic majority. So you have this new book called “Where Have All The Democrats Gone?” It just published in late 2023, and it’s a bit of an update. Why didn’t this durable Democratic coalition emerge?

RUY TEIXEIRA: Well, point number one is something that we foreshadowed in “The Emerging Democratic Majority,” which was that the Democrats had a potential Achilles’ heel in their coalition in terms of the white working class. If that group started moving away smartly from the Democrats again, that would throw the whole thing into question. And that did, in fact, happen after Obama’s victory in 2008.

If you look at 2010 election where the Democrats get crushed to lose 63 seats, it’s a lot because white working-class voters bail out from the Democratic Party in lots of areas of the country, particularly the upper Midwest. 2012, Obama manages to get re-elected, and that was viewed or characterized as the return of the Obama coalition. But the part of the Obama coalition they missed is, he ran a kind of populist campaign against the plutocrat Mitt Romney, running on the auto-bailout and other things like that, and he really managed to grab back a lot of those white working-class voters in the upper Midwest. And if he hadn’t done that, he would have lost that election.

But the coalition of the ascendant kind of analysis that Democrats had been playing with becomes ever stronger. In fact, after 2012, in an odd sort of way, the Republicans even embraced it with their post-election autopsy. The Democrats were riding this demographic wave, it was going to wash over the country, and the Democrats were going to potentially be dominant.

But I think Trump — [LAUGHS]: Trump had a different opinion. He thought that, in fact, there was a wellspring of resentment among the working class in the United States that a politician like him could tap, and that the Democrats were going to have a lot of difficulty defending against, and that turned out to be the case.

So that’s part of what happened to the Democratic coalition. Another part of the Democratic coalition that is — I mean, the change that’s really still unfolding today that’s very important is, if you look at 2020, even though Biden did manage to squeak through in that election, not nearly as big a victory as they thought they’d get, he managed to hold what white working-class support they had, in fact, increase it a little bit. But what was really astonishing is the way Democrats lost nonwhite working-class voters, particularly Hispanics. There was big, big declines in their margins among these voters, declines that we’re still seeing today in the polling data.

So one way to think about 2020 and where we are today, is that racial polarization is declining but class polarization, educational polarization, is increasing. And that’s a problem for a party like the Democrats which purports to be the party of the working class.

EZRA KLEIN: Well let’s pick up on this question of the working class and how do we define it. At different times we’ve talked about the working class here, the white working class. What is your measure of the working class?

RUY TEIXEIRA: I use the standard definition at this point, which is those voters lacking a four-year college degree. There’s obviously different ways you could do it. If you’re going to use a more traditional definition, which is essentially impossible to operationalize in most polls, you would use blue-collar and low-level service workers as opposed to managerial and professional workers.

You could do it by income. There’s no right, scientific way to do this. But the way I typically do it is to look at the four-year degree and more, and less than a four-year degree. And that’s pretty standard at this point, and it’s certainly the easiest thing to operationalize in polls.

And it’s not like it’s without substantive value. I mean, we look at the economic and cultural trajectory of non-college as opposed to college folks, and they look very different. I mean, this has been a country, in the last 40 years, that has been much, much better to people with a four-year college degree than people who lack it. That’s very well-established in all the empirical data.

So it’s not like we’re making something up here. It does really capture a lot about people’s economic trajectories and the jobs they have and their position in the society.

EZRA KLEIN: One thing you do see is that, depending on which definition you choose, the situation looks a little bit different. So if you look at who wins college educated voters and who wins non-college voters in 2020 and 2016, Trump does. But if you look at who wins voters making less than $100,000, Biden does. And if you look at who wins voters making more than $100,000, Donald Trump does. And you can slice that even a little finer. You look at who wins voters making between $0 and $50,000, Biden. Between $50,000 and $100,000, Biden. And then above that it tends to tilt more towards Donald Trump.

So why do you prefer an educational definition here than an income definition? And what different things might the two tell us?

You can read the rest of the interview transcript and listen to the podcast here.

New Q Poll May Offer Insight About Third Party Effects

The new Quinnipiac Poll, which finds Biden leading Trump, is generating a lot of buzz, even though it could be an outlier and it’s only one poll. Sarah Fortinsky reports on it with a slightly different take at The Hill:

Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley leads President Biden by 5 points in a hypothetical head-to-head 2024 match-up, according to a poll released Wednesday, but she trails him by 7 points in a five-person race including third-party candidates.

In the Quinnipiac University national poll, Haley’s popularity among independents would boost her numbers in a one-on-one match-up against Biden, but her weak support among Republicans would hurt her when factoring in independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

In a two-person race, Haley receives 47 percent support and Biden receives 42 percent support. Among independents, 53 percent support Haley and 37 percent support Biden. Among Republicans, 79 percent support Haley and 4 percent support Biden. Among Democrats, 89 percent support Biden and 10 percent support Haley.

In a five-person race, however, Haley loses independent and Republican voters, letting Biden pull ahead with a 7-point lead. Biden receives 36 percent support, Haley receives 29 percent, Kennedy gets 21 percent, Independent Cornel West gets 3 percent and Green Party candidate Jill Stein gets 2 percent.

With five people in the race, Haley sees her support among Republican drop from 79 percent to only 57 percent. Kennedy would get 24 percent GOP support, Biden would get 3 percent and West would get 1 percent.

Fortinsky adds that “Biden holds a 6-point lead over Trump one-on-one, 50 percent to 44 percent. A five-person race, however, narrows his lead, bringing Biden’s support to 39 percent, followed by Trump’s support at 37 percent. Kennedy then follows with 14 percent, West receives 3 percent and Stein receives 2 percent….In a head-to-head matchup against Biden, Haley outperforms Trump, thanks to independents. Add third party candidates to the mix and her numbers slip in part because of her weakness among Republicans,” Quinnipiac University Polling Analyst Tim Malloy said in the poll’s press release.”

As always, one poll doesn’t flag a credible trend, especially this early in the 2024 campaign. But if other polls going forward reveal similar results, the Kennedy factor may be significant in deciding the election outcomes in November – one way or the other.

Trump-Groveling GOP Senators Block Border Security Agreement

From “GOP senators seethe as Trump blows up delicate immigration compromise” by Manu Raju, Melanie Zanona, Lauren Fox and Ted Barrett at CNN Politics:

Senior Senate Republicans are furious that Donald Trump may have killed an emerging bipartisan deal over the southern border, depriving them of a key legislative achievement on a pressing national priority and offering a preview of what’s to come with Trump as their likely presidential nominee.

In recent weeks, Trump has been lobbying Republicans both in private conversations and in public statements on social media to oppose the border compromise being delicately hashed out in the Senate, according to GOP sources familiar with the conversations – in part because he wants to campaign on the issue this November and doesn’t want President Joe Biden to score a victory in an area where he is politically vulnerable.

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged in a private meeting on Wednesday that Trump’s animosity toward the yet-to-be-released border deal puts Republicans in a serious bind as they try to move forward on the already complex issue. For weeks, Republicans have been warning that Trump’s opposition could blow up the bipartisan proposal, but the admission from McConnell was particularly striking, given he has been a chief advocate for a border-Ukraine package.

Now, Republicans on Capitol Hill are grappling with the reality that most in the GOP are loathe to do anything that is seen as potentially undermining the former president. And the prospects of a deal being scuttled before it has even been finalized has sparked tensions and confusion in the Senate GOP as they try to figure out if, and how, to proceed – even as McConnell made clear during party lunches Thursday that he remains firmly behind the effort to strike a deal, according to attendees.

“I think the border is a very important issue for Donald Trump. And the fact that he would communicate to Republican senators and congresspeople that he doesn’t want us to solve the border problem because he wants to blame Biden for it is … really appalling,” said GOP Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, who has been an outspoken critic of Trump.

He added, “But the reality is that, that we have a crisis at the border, the American people are suffering as a result of what’s happening at the border. And someone running for president not to try and get the problem solved. as opposed to saying, ‘hey, save that problem. Don’t solve it. Let me take credit for solving it later.’”

The CNN Politics writers note that, “Underscoring just how damaging Trump’s comments and campaign to kill the border deal have been in the Senate, one GOP senator on condition of background told CNN that without Trump, this deal would have had overwhelming support within the conference….“This proposal would have had almost unanimous Republican support if it weren’t for Donald Trump,” the Republican senator said.

One of the few Republican senators who favor the border security deal, “Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who has made no secret of her frustration with Trump over the years, said members need to remember how big this moment is for the border and for Ukraine and put their own politics aside.

“I’m not giving up. This is not about Trump and this is not about me. This is about our country. This is about democracy around the world. This is about security for our own country and so let’s keep pushing to get this border deal,” she said. “Let’s stand by the commitments that we have made for our friends and our allies so that our word actually means something.”