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Dissident Republicans Form New Centrist Movement

Chris Vance, a former chair of the Washington State Republican Party, state representative and a Senior Fellow at the Niskanen Center, reports on “A new movement to restore or replace the Republican party” at The Seattle Times:

The rise of Donald Trump and the transformation of the Republican party created a new American political movement as millions of formerly Republican leaning voters, and hundreds of prominent former Republican leaders, turned against Trump and his new authoritarian Republican party. Multiple organizations were formed to help defeat Trump and elect President Joe Biden and other Democrats in 2020, including the Lincoln Project, Republican Voters Against Trump and Stand Up Republic. Together, we were part of the coalition that won the 2020 election.

….This week, I joined with dozens of prominent current and former Republicans, including former U.S. Reps. Barbara Comstock of Virginia and Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, former Gov. Bill Weld, of Massachusetts, Ambassador Jim Glassman, former Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters, former Director of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, former Chairman of the Republican National Committee Michael Steele, and many more, to announce our support for a manifesto, “A Call for American Renewal,” and to pledge ourselves to “either reimagine a party dedicated to our founding ideals or else hasten the creation of such an alternative.” In other words, over time we seek to either restore or replace the current Republican party.

Vance, now a self-described ‘Independent’, explains further:

Millions of us are now politically homeless. We believe there is a demand for a third option, for a movement dedicated to core American principles. Specifically, a movement or party which:

·  Supports a free, open society in which everyone can go as far as their efforts and talents will take them in a free-market economy, while maintaining a robust safety net for those who need assistance.

·  Welcomes America’s growing diversity and stands for the protection of the rights of all Americans to live their lives as they choose, free from racism, sexism, homophobia, and all forms of hate and intolerance.

·  Is committed to energetic American leadership around the world to protect democracy and human rights.

·  Opposes voter suppression and supports common sense reforms to enhance democracy.

·  And first and foremost, stands for truth, democracy, the Constitution, and the rule of law, and stands against nativist, isolationist authoritarianism.

Politically, we will work in partnership with others to elect candidates who share our goals, including moderate Democrats, courageous principled Republicans, or those running under a new party banner. As this movement takes shape, I will be working to explore the possibility of creating a Washington state chapter.

Vance adds,

The elections of 2016 and 2020 blew up our political system. The Republican party is shrinking, as record numbers of voters now call themselves independents. The number of Americans identifying as Republican is the lowest it has been in a decade, according to a recent Gallup poll. As I have written in these pages, and elsewhere, we live in an era of political realignment and instability as our party system is changing.

Could such a centrist movement play a pivotal role in the 2022 midterm elections, helping moderate Democrats win in swing districts and states? Anything that further divides the GOP is likely to be good for Democrats in the longer run. But 2022 is next year, and this group will have to move fast to have a significant impact on the midterm elections. If Republicans win Senate control and a House majority, they may not matter much.


Walter: How New Voters Helped Biden Win

The state level data regarding the 2020 elections many political analysts have been waiting for is starting to roll in. Here’s some analysis from Amy Walter’s “New Voters Helped Propel Biden in 2020” at the Cook Political Report:

We know that 2020 produced the largest voter turnout in modern history. But, for a detailed understanding of who voted—and how they voted—we had to wait until state voter files were updated and analyzed. This week, Catalist, a Democratic data analytics firm, released their first deep dive into the 2020 election using their database, which, they note “includes 15 years of voter registration records, supplemented by large-scale polling, modeling and precinct-level geographic analysis.”

What they found was a national electorate more diverse than any in American history. Overall, they estimate that 72 percent of the electorate was white, a 2-point drop from 2016. As recently as 2008, 77 percent of the electorate was white. Turnout among Asian Americans was up 39 percent from 2016, while Latino turnout was up 31 percent. Even so, white voters continue to have the highest turnout rates of any group. Seventy-four percent of white voters turned out in 2020, compared to just 50 percent of eligible Latino voters, 63 percent of Black voters and 62 percent of Asian voters. In other words, even as turnout among voters of color increased, they are still punching below their weight. This was especially pronounced in fast-growing and diverse sunbelt states. A Catalist estimate of voters and non-voters across battleground states in the South and West — Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina, and Texas found “nearly as many non-voting people of color (11 million) as there are voters of color (13 million), mostly concentrated in Latino communities. The numbers look quite different among white people in these states, with only 9 million non-voters and 24 million voters.”

Despite the turnout increases, however, “Biden underperformed both Obama’s 2012 and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 performance with Latino and Black voters. How is that possible? After all, the conventional wisdom has long held that any surge in non-white turnout would benefit Democrats exclusively.” Walter explains,

Catalist estimates that “22% of Latino voters were first-time voters, who we haven’t seen in our entire database of general election voting going back to 2008. By contrast, just 14% of the national electorate was entirely new. When we take a more expansive view of new voters, including people who were new to voting in a given state compared to 2016, a full 40% of Latino voters were new presidential voters, while the national number is 29% of the overall electorate. With such a large number of new Latino voters in the electorate, it is plausible that they drove a big part of the change in Latino’s overall support numbers. As marginal voters enter into the electorate, their partisan preferences may move closer to a 50 / 50 split naturally.” In other words, these new voters were likely less ideological and less partisan than habitual voters, which helped boost Trump’s overall share of the Latino vote.

However, the overall surge in Black turnout (Catalist estimates that turnout went up 14 points among Black voters from 2016) helped Biden yield “more net Democratic votes from Black voters as a whole in 2020 compared to 2016.” For example, in Georgia, “higher black turnout yielded an additional 200,000 net votes for Biden, above and beyond the margin that Clinton got from Black voters in 2016. This was key to winning the state, as Trump would have handily won the state without the extra 200,000 net votes.” In other words, despite the fact that Biden’s margin among Black voters was smaller than Obama or Clinton’s, the overall increase in Black votes more than overcame that shrinking margin.

Overall, Catalist concludes that the unprecedented surge of new voters into the electorate — especially younger voters and voters of color, ultimately benefitted Biden more than Trump. They estimate that new voters “supported Biden at substantially higher rates overall (56%) than 2016 voters who returned in 2020 (51%).”

However, Walter adds, “Even so, some states with the highest percentages of new voters — like Texas and Florida — voted for Trump, while states with fewer new voters — like Pennsylvania and Minnesota- voted for Biden.” Walter also notes that Boomer political influence is on the wane, according to the catalyst data: “Those under the age of 40 made up one-third of the electorate, a seven-point jump from 2016, while the share of the electorate of Baby Boomer age dropped to 44 percent. As recently as 2008, Boomers made up 61 percent of the electorate.”

We will report more analysis of the Catalist study as it comes in. For now, it’s a safe bet that both major parties will be reconfiguring their demographic outreach strategies in light of the new data.


Teixeira: Galston’s Explanation Why “They” Do Not Like “Us” and Why It Matters Hits Target

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

The growth of dynamic metropolitan America and the faltering of much of the rest of the country is hugely important to understanding the evolving political terrain of the country. Many on the left prefer to reduce the story to one of xenophobic, racist reaction to a demographically changing country but this is lazy, self-congratulatory thinking.

Bill Galston provides a more sympathetic–and more accurate–interpretation of the heartland revolt in an excellent article in Francis Fukuyama’s new site, American Purpose. Here Galston provides a concise summary of why “they” don’t like “us”.

“They” see “us” as presiding over a long-term decline in their quality of life without lifting a finger to help. Blue-collar wages have stagnated for decades; good jobs for which they are qualified have evaporated. Their suffering went ignored by elites in both political parties until Donald Trump emerged as their champion.

They fear falling even farther. (Behavioral economics tells us that losses sting more than gains please.) They do not understand why this is happening to them and are searching for an explanation, which only conservative populists bother to provide.

They have a sense of displacement in a country they once dominated. Immigrants, minorities, non-Christians, even atheists have taken center stage, forcing them to the margins of American life. The metropolitan areas we dominate—and that dominate the country—embody a way of life increasingly at odds with Americans in small towns and rural areas.

They believe we have rewritten the rules to rig the game against them. We have redefined success so that it is measured by test taking, which leaves them on the outside looking in. We have established a hereditary meritocracy based on our networks, resources, and inside knowledge of the rules. We tell them they should shape up and get with the New Economy, but never say how they are supposed to do that. They believe we have used our power for our own advantage, not to promote a common good that would include them.

They believe our claims to expertise are mostly bogus. Why did elites in both parties allow China to join the World Trade Organization on such favorable terms? Why did they plunge us into endless wars in the Middle East? Why did they cause the Great Recession and botch the recovery? Why have their medical experts changed their minds so often during the pandemic? President Trump was at his best, they say, when he ignored the experts and went his own way.

They believe that we deny their freedom and tell them how to live their lives. Why do we regulate the way they farm, fish, and hunt? Why do we prefer endangered species over their human families, shut down their businesses, and try to close their churches?

They believe we have a powerful desire for moral coercion. We tell them how to behave—and, worse, how to think. When they complain, we accuse them of racism and xenophobia. How, they ask, did standing up for the traditional family become racism? When did transgender bathrooms become a civil right?

They see us using the law to make them act in violation of their deepest beliefs—making the Little Sisters of the Poor cover contraception, forcing public schools to allow entrance to bathrooms based on gender identity. They believe we want to keep them from living in accordance with their faith.

They believe we hold them in contempt. They point to remarks by 2008 and 2016 Democratic presidential nominees as evidence.

Finally, they think we are hypocrites. We claim to support free speech—until someone says something we don’t like. We claim to oppose violence—unless it serves a cause we approve of. We claim to defend the Constitution—except for the Second Amendment. We support tolerance, inclusion, and social justice—except for people like them.”

Galston pointedly remarks that this viewpoint is not entirely wrong, despite how many of “us” reflexively reject it.

“Although our natural inclination is to resent and reject these allegations, we should ask whether there is some merit to them. Donald Trump did not create these sentiments. They will not disappear just because his presidency has ended.”

It is my view that this lesson has not yet been absorbed by metro America’s cosmopolitan left. It is likely “we”–and the country–will pay a heavy price for this failure.


GOP’s Working-Class Branding Project Undermined by Tax Policy Favoring Wealthy

From “Battle over tax hikes muddies the GOP’s post-Trump push to be the party of the working class” by Christina Wilkie at cnbc.com:

WASHINGTON — The looming battle over tax hikes to fund President Joe Biden’s economic recovery bills threatens to undermine the Republican Party’s nascent, post-Trump effort to rebrand itself as the party of the working class.

Over the past decade, the share of Americans with only a high school education who identified as Republicans has risen by more than 10 points, from 34% to 45%, according to NBC News/Wall Street Journal polling.

Many of these voters were initially drawn to the GOP over cultural issues, not financial ones. But Trump injected economic populism into the party platform. In the 2020 election, despite losing the presidency, he won noncollege white men by 42 percentage points, and noncollege white women by 27 points….In the House, Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana , leader of the conservative Republican Study Committee, wrote a memo last month arguing that the only way for the Republican Party to win control of Congress was by “enthusiastically rebranding and reorienting as the Party of the Working Class.”

Wilkie notes that Republicans have joined with Democrats in supporting some legislation that benefits the worlking class, including: massive Covid relief bills, enhanced unemployment benefits; raising the child tax credit; and a tax credit to anyone earning less than the mean hourly wage of $16.50….All these initiatives reflect a party “trying to catch up with the people who are supporting them,” said John Russo, co-editor of the publication Working-Class Perspectives and a visiting scholar at the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor at Georgetown University….“Trump turned it upside down, especially when it comes to deficit spending. The GOP is trying to capture the voters he won over and keep them,” he said.

However, Wilkie explains, “Biden’s economic recovery package now threatens to drive a wedge between Republicans and the working-class voters they’re trying to hold onto, by forcing the GOP to choose between protecting corporate tax cuts or creating more blue-collar jobs….The Biden recovery plan is divided into two massive investment bills: the infrastructure-focused American Jobs Plan, and the American Families Plan, which expands education and child-care aid….The combined price tag for the plans is north of $4 trillion, but Biden intends to avoid ballooning the federal deficit in part by raising taxes on corporations and the very rich to pay for the programs. The chief beneficiaries of the plans will be Americans without a college degree and low-income workers.

Yet, “For Republicans, however, the bills’ prospects begin and end at the tax hikes.” Further,

Four years after passing the biggest tax cut in a generation in 2017, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said this week that any increase to the tax rates enshrined in the 2017 law would be a red line for Republicans….Calling the cuts among the most significant domestic accomplishments of Trump’s presidency, the Kentucky Republican said, “We’re not going to revisit the 2017 tax bill.”….He accused Democrats of wanting to “raise the corporate rate to the highest in the world,” despite the fact that Biden proposes raising it only to 28%, which is still 7 points lower than the pre-2017 rate of 35%.

Banks and the Republican Study Committee were equally outraged by the proposed tax increases on the wealthy and corporations…..“Biden and Congressional Democrats’ assault on American jobs and American taxpayers is simply unconscionable,” the committee said in a statement on the proposed tax hikes….the 2017 tax cuts didn’t win over many Americans, a reality reflected in a wide array of polls both during and after the bill’s passage in late 2017. But that’s not surprising, given that multiple analyses of the bill’s impacts have found that the biggest beneficiaries of the changes, by far, were the wealthiest Americans and corporations.

….By contrast, the first part of Biden’s package, the American Jobs Plan, appeals directly to noncollege educated voters: Three of every 4 infrastructure jobs created by the plan will require no more than a high school diploma….Biden has referred to the jobs plan as “a blue-collar blueprint to build America,” and it is widely seen as more likely to become law in a Congress where Democrats hold only razor-thin majorities in both chambers.

The second part of Biden’s agenda, the American Families Plan, faces a narrower path to becoming law, and there are competing estimates of how much it would actually cost to greatly expand public education, child-care subsidies and unemployment benefits. Like the infrastructure bill, this, too, relies on making changes to the 2017 tax bill.

Wilkie notes that “not all Republicans agree with McConnell’s iron-clad refusal to revisit the 2017 tax cuts,” and some are calling for more generous benefits for working-class families. But if historical patterns prevail, Republican leaders will prioritize giving the largest tax cuts to the wealthy, while pressing for deep cuts in spending for programs that benefit the working-class. The question is, how many white working-class voters, who are more than 40 percent of the electorate, buy the GOP re-branding in the 2022 midterm elections.


Linkon and Russo: Beyond Economic Populism

The following article by Sherry Linkon and John Russo of The Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor and co-authors of  Steeltown U.S.A.: Work and Memory in Youngstown and New Working-Class Studies, is cross-posted from Working-Class Perspectives:

Predictably, politicos and commentators spent much of 2020 debating why working-class voters supported Trump and how the Democrats could win them back. Although we’ve occasionally contributed to these conversations, we’re also getting tired of them. They tend to envision “the working class” as if it were one group with a well-defined set of interests, and worse, they treat working-class people as a marketing problem. These habits reflect not only the commentators’ distance from the working class but also, for many, a sense of meritocratic superiority to people they view as deluded, foolish, stupid, or even amoral. If we want to improve the lives of the working class, and especially if we want to heal the divisions of American political and public life, we need to reframe the problem.

That should start by resisting any effort to define the working class in any singular way. Simplistic definitions fuel both stereotyping and resentments. Defining based on occupation or income highlights important differences in economic interests, but it doesn’t address the resentments that even many fully-employed, unionized, economically-comfortable working-class people feel in the U.S. today. To define the working class based on the college degree, as many pollsters do, ignores the complex array of forms, amounts, qualities, and outcomes of education. Focusing on one variable, like education, might be necessary in polling, but it erases the relationships among education and occupation, social status, and cultural patterns. Electricians and plumbers may lack college degrees, but their specialized training yields them secure and well-paid work as well as pride in their blue-collar status. Meanwhile, K-12 teachers often have graduate degrees but earn less than plumbers or electricians. If we link class with unions, a common (if outdated) assumption, then we might also note that teachers may be more likely belong to active unions than many industrial workers these days.

One illustration of the problem of simplistic definitions is the either/or debate about how to appeal to “the working class” as a voting bloc: either promote economic populism or talk about racial justice, either embrace the dignity of work or value the dignity of marginalized people. These options suggest that the working class is either white, blue-collar, and struggling economically or Black and Latinx and focused on racial rather than economic justice. If we reject this false choice and envision a working class that includes all of these people, one that might not respond as a bloc to any one political strategy or message, it can seem like we’re ignoring class altogether. Addressing working-class concerns – economic, practical, but also social and cultural – requires more complex thinking about class, culture, and policy.

It doesn’t help that discussions about working-class voters so often focus on how politicians should talk rather than on what they should do. That’s part of why we appreciated the invitation to contribute to a forum in Social Policy, due out next week,to suggest what the Biden administration could do to help the working class. Simply framing the question in terms of policy rather than politics is a step in the right direction.

We recommended a few fairly obvious actions, starting with getting the coronavirus under control, a concern for everyone but especially for the working class. Even before the pandemic, many working-class people had limited access to good health care, and they were more likely to have underlying medical problems that made them vulnerable to COVID. Contrary to the old blue-collar stereotype, most working-class jobs today are in the service industry, including many of the jobs we now deem “essential” – grocery clerks, nursing assistants, janitors, delivery drivers, postal workers. This has put many workers at risk. Others face economic risks because of lost jobs. To address the needs of the working class, we need to stop the spread of the virus and provide substantial economic relief to ensure that millions of Americans with little or no savings will not lose their homes or go hungry.

To strengthen the economy going forward, the Biden administration should also develop a broader industrial policy that includes infrastructure projects, a buy American program, improved labor laws, improved training opportunities, and a higher minimum wage. All of this will create jobs and improve economic conditions for working people. It can also help address some social problems. Expanded access to health care, improved early childhood and K-12 education, and support for elder and child care could decrease some of the despair that has played out in high rates of drug addition, family violence, and mental health issues for many in the working class.

These are not new ideas, nor are we alone in suggesting them (see, for example, the list from the Economic Policy Institute). But to make a real difference for the working class, Biden and Congress must move beyond talking about these ideas in campaign speeches, as they have done in the past. They need to take significant action.

This will all help, but we need to do more to heal the divisions that leave many in the working class feeling disrespected and aggrieved. That will require a change in attitude from those who so often look down on the working class, smugly certain that they have earned their privileges and are intellectually, culturally, even morally superior to those who are struggling. As philosopher Michael Sandel argues in The Tyranny of Merit: What’s Become of the Common Good?, the pandemic makes clear both our mutual dependence and the hollowness of the refrain that “we are all in this together.” We failed to come together, he suggests, because of a combination of unprecedented inequality that separates those who succeeded economically have become ever more disconnected from those who are struggling and a deeply-embedded belief that those on top deserve their success because they have the education needed to compete in the global economy. The winners see themselves as better than the losers, and the losers are all too aware that the winners not only don’t care but actually hold them responsible for their own problems. As a result, neither those on the top nor those on the bottom actually believe that we are all in this together.

Sandel argues that we must reject the toxic mix of professional-class hubris and working-class resentment that has shaped so much of our public life in recent years. That will require more than economic populism. We’ve spent a lot of time this year applauding doctors and nurses but we too often ignore the janitors, medical assistants, teachers’ aides, and food service workers who are less visible and widely underpaid, treated with disdain, seen as less valuable, less smart, less human. Raising their wages is a step in the right direction. Sharing their stories is a good start. Real healing will require a step beyond: to genuine respect.

To serve the interests of the working class, we should learn from the model of Bargaining for the Common Good, an organizing strategy that emphasizes connections between the needs of workers and the needs of communities and in the process builds relationships and collective power. It is time to embrace policies as well as attitudes and relationships that move us all toward a greater sense that we really are in this together.


Teixeira: Voter ID? Fuggedaboutit, That Ship Has Sailed

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

It makes sense to oppose Republicans’ efforts to make voting harder, though the potential efficacy of such efforts tends to be considerably exaggerated. (More potentially consequential are efforts to enhance partisan control over the vote-counting process.) But one thing Democrats and activists should stop worrying about is voter ID requirements. As poll after poll after poll has shown, voter ID requirements are widely popular and viewed as procedurally fair, rather than an onerous and unfair burden.

The latest confirmation of this comes from a UMass Amherst/WCBV poll which found 67 percent of the public favoring requiring all voters to show photo ID to vote, compared to just 25 percent who were opposed. Not only that, the requirement was favored by 62 percent of blacks, 64 percent of Latinos and 80 percent of Asians.

So let’s give up on this one OK? Voters are fine with this and we should be too.


Bacon: Big Racial Divides Hurt GOP, But Limit Dems

In his article, “American Politics Now Has Two Big Racial Divides,” Perry Bacon, Jr. writes at FiveThirtyEight:

There’s been a recent flurry of studies and analyses that take a deeper look at the results of the 2020 election. These examinations don’t contradict our early interpretation of the results from the days and weeks immediately following Election Day: The overwhelming majority of voters backed the candidate from the party that they normally lean toward, though then-President Trump did slightly better with voters of color and slightly worse with white voters than he did in 2016. But the new examinations and other data tell a nuanced story about the role of race in the 2020 contest.

American voters …

  1. Remain deeply polarized based on ethnicity and racial identity;

  2. Were less polarized by racial identity in 2020 compared to 2016; and

  3. Are very polarized by attitudes about racial and cultural issues.

Bacon notes, further that “Despite the news coverage that sometimes implies that non-Hispanic white voters with college degrees are all flocking to the Democrats, about 42 percent of that group backed Trump in 2020, according to the recently released Cooperative Election Study. About 64 percent of Hispanic Americans backed Biden, per CES, which might be hard to remember amid the intense (and accurate) coverage of Trump’s gains among that voting bloc.” Drilling down, Bacon adds:

In many ways, the 2020 election was basically like every recent Americanpresidential election: The Republican candidate won the white vote (54 percent to 44 percent, per CES), and the Democratic candidate won the overwhelming majority of the Black (90 percent to 8 percent), Asian American (66 percent to 31 percent) and Hispanic (64 percent to 33 percent) vote. Like in 2016, there was a huge difference among non-Hispanic white voters by education, as those with at least a four-year college degree favored Biden (55 percent to 42 percent), while those without degrees (63 to 35) favored Trump. (There wasn’t a huge education split among voters of color.)1

Other surveys tell the same general story: Trump won white voters overall by a margin in the double digits and won whites without four-year degrees by even more; Trump lost among whites with at least a four-year college degree, lost by a big margin with Asian American and Latino voters and lost by an enormous margin among African Americans.

So the main reason that Trump nearly won a second term was not his increased support among Latinos, who are only about 10 percent of American voters and are a group he lost by more than 20 points. Trump’s main strength was his huge advantage among non-Hispanic white voters without college degrees, who are about 42 percent of American voters. His second biggest bloc of support was among non-Hispanic white Americans with degrees, who are about 30 percent of all voters. According to the CES, over 80 percent of Trump’s voters were non-Hispanic white voters, with or without a college degree. In contrast, around 70 percent of nonwhite voters supported Biden, and they made up close to 40 percent of his supporters. So it is very much still the case that the Republicans are an overwhelmingly white party and that the Democratic coalition is much more racially diverse.

There are no big surprises in those findings. But Bacon does note that Trump did a litle bit better with non-white voters in 2020, comapred to 2016. Specifically,

Trump did 7 percentage points better among Asian American voters in 2020 compared to 2016, 4 points better among Hispanic voters and 1 point better among both white and Black voters, per the CES. Biden did 4 percentage points worse among Asian American voters and 1 points worse among Hispanic voters compared to Hillary Clinton, while doing 1 point better among Black voters and 3 points stronger among white voters compared to Clinton.

Bacon explores possible some reasons for Trump doing a little better with these voters, but he sees no one reason that overwhelms all others. However, he notes, “It is a huge problem for Republicans that the clear majority of people of color vote against them, since that’s a big and growing bloc of the electorate. It is unlikely those broad dynamics will change.”


Why the 2022 Midterms Are a Toss-Up

At The Cook Political Report Charlie Cook explains why “The Midterm Elections Are a Jump Ball“:

With the Senate 50-50 and the current House split 218 to 212, with five vacant seats we’re headed toward another compelling cycle.

Republicans have more exposure in the Senate, as they’re defending 20 seats, against just 14 for Democrats. Republicans are also trying to hold onto five open seats, versus Democrats’ none.

Yet history is on Republicans’ side. In the House, the party holding the presidency has had a net loss of seats in 37 (95 percent) out of 39 midterm elections. The two exceptions were 1934, Franklin Roosevelt’s first midterm election when voters were not yet finished punishing Herbert Hoover’s party, and 2002, when George W. Bush still had an unusually high 63 percent Gallup job-approval rating 14 months after the Sept. 11 attacks.

In the 26 midterms since the direct election of senators began in 1914, the president’s party has lost seats in 19 (73 percent), remained even in one (Bill Clinton’s second midterm), and gained in six midterms, most recently 2018, when President Trump’s GOP picked up seats.

However,

How President Biden is faring on Election Day in 565 days is the great unknown. But at this stage, he’s at 53 percent approval in both the RealClearPolitics and FiveThirtyEight polling averages, and 54 percent in Gallup. Biden is doing better than Trump was at this point in his presidency, roughly on par with Clinton, and slightly below Bush 43, and Obama.

In addition,

While most voters cast ballots straight down party lines, the economic picture will be important. Right now, the forecasts are for very strong growth through next year but if some of the warnings about Biden’s spending initiatives overheating the economy come to pass and result in a round of inflation, it is pretty safe to assume that this would tank Democratic hopes to retain their majorities….While there are some struggles between the progressive and establishment wings of the Democratic Party, the potential for strife between the Trump acolytes and legacy Republicans looks potentially graver. Most critically, will the GOP nominate “exotic” nominees in critical races, which hurt its chances of winning.

Cook concludes:

Given that the current Democratic Senate majority was basically determined by their narrowest win in the last election—Sen. Raphael Warnock’s 55,354-vote victory in the Jan. 5 special runoff election in Georgia—and the House by a total of 31,751 votes in a handful of districts around the country, just about any factor could be determinative. Anyone who professes certainty at this stage is just blowing (or inhaling) smoke.

As usual, hold your bets to the closing weeks of the midterm elections.


Skelley and Rakich: Census Threatens Dems’ Edge In Midterms

Geoffrey Skelley and Nathaniel Rakich sort out ” Which States Won — and Lost — Seats in the 2020 Census” at FiveThirtyEight:

On Monday afternoon, the U.S. Census Bureau announced how many seats each state will have in the U.S. House for the next 10 years — a once-in-a-decade process called reapportionment. In total, five states will gain one House seat each starting with the 2022 elections — and Texas even added two. But for every seat these states gained, another state had to lose one — and indeed, seven states lost one congressional district each.

Overall, the gains and losses following the 2020 census largely continue a pattern in recent decades whereby states in the Midwest and Northeast have lost seats because their population growth has stagnated, while states in the South and West have mostly gained seats because their populations have boomed. (There is one exception to this overarching trend: California actually lost ground for the first time in its history.)

Texas is on track to pick up 2 seats as a result of the census, while FL, NC, CO, OR and MT will each gain a seat. California, NY, IL, PA, OH, MI and WV each lost a seat. Worse, “As a result, we can now say with finality that Republicans will control the redrawing of 187 congressional districts (43 percent) — or 2.5 times as many as Democrats (who will redraw 75 districts, or 17 percent).” In adddition,

There are also 167 districts (38 percent) where neither party will enjoy exclusive control over redistricting (either because of independent commissions or split partisan control). And, of course, there are six districts (1 percent) that won’t need to be drawn at all (because they are at-large districts that cover their entire state).

But just because most of the states that are gaining seats are red and most of the states that are losing them are blue does not necessarily mean that reapportionment will help Republicans — in the House, at least.1 That’s because many of the fastest-growing areas of red states are increasingly Democratic, so it matters a lot how the new districts will be drawn.

Skelley and Rakich also note, “The three most populous states to gain seats are Texas, Florida and North Carolina, and in each, Republicans will control the redistricting process. For the first time in decades, they won’t have to seek preclearance from the Justice Department either before implementing their maps thanks to the 2013 Supreme Court decision that struck down part of the Voting Rights Act. That, in turn, could open the door for more extreme gerrymandering in these states, which historically disenfranchised voters of color. “

The share a summary of the emerging political demographics and redistricting process in each affected state, and conclude:

Of course, we’re a long way from knowing the full political ramifications of redistricting, as the 31 other states that didn’t lose or gain a seat and will have more than one representative will also have to redraw their congressional lines. We also don’t know how the 13 states we’ve examined here will draw their maps. But today’s announcement of the reapportionment numbers marks the first step toward knowing what the lay of the land will be ahead of the 2022 election.

All in all, it’s a tough redistricting map ahead for Democrats, which makes Biden’s success even more critical for Democratic prospects in the 2022 midterm elections.