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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Teixeira: The Democratic Convention and the Dog That Didn’t Bark

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

The Democratic convention generally went off very well and Joe Biden did a terrific job with his big speech.

But was something missing? It did seem like there wasn’t much of an economic message. Presumably this was intentional and one can understand the logic behind it–keep the election a referendum on Trump, get voters very comfortable with Joe Biden the person, be inclusive in every kind of way from Democratic base groups to defecting Republicans. I get it.

But still….was an opportunity lost to put forward a crisp, clear message of economic growth and renewal that would galvanize working class voters, both white and nonwhite, and make them less potentially susceptible to Trump’s economic messages? I do wonder about this. It could matter for the campaign and also to governing should Biden get elected.

John Judis remarks:

“The Democrats in the past have alternated between being the party emphasizing economic growth (Kennedy’s “get the country moving again”) or redistribution (Mondale’s “making the rich pay their fair share”). Biden’s party, as viewed at the convention, was a party of redistribution. There were scattered appeals to growth (Bloomberg’s speech). There was mention of the “Green New Deal” and “Infrastructure” but no attempt to visualize or in other ways dramatize the promise of economic growth in these abstractions. “Build back better” is a tongue twister, but lacks content. America remains a world leader in high technology, but you wouldn’t have known it from the convention — except for the magic of the virtual presentations….

The Democrats of 2000, 2004, and 2016 failed to make [the] case [that they were the party of the great American middle] . The Democrats of 2020 have a candidate in Biden who embodies this appeal, but much of their rhetoric and the program itself, more clearly reflected the identity politics of 2016 that emphasizes difference and ignores, whether intentionally or not, predominately white, flyover America. The point is not to appeal, as Trump undoubtedly will, only to this America, but to present an image of a unitary American small-d democrat. It may be hard to do,, but the party’s ability to sustain majorities depends on it.”

Ron Brownstein elaborates:

“[Biden’s] speech, as well as the convention itself, had a conspicuous blind spot: The event did not deliver a concise critique of Trump’s economic record or offer a tight explanation of Biden’s plans to improve the economic circumstances of middle-class families. Though Biden ran through an extended list of policy goals on issues including job creation and climate change during his address, he offered vanishingly little detail about how he would achieve them—though, in fact, he’s delivered a series of detailed speeches laying out his agenda….

Even if Biden emerges from the convention with a boost in the polls, his choice to focus less on economic appeals and more on sweeping themes and social issues, particularly racial justice, raises some of the same questions that surfaced after the Democrats’ last national meeting. Though Hillary Clinton’s 2016 convention drew strong reviews, it too emphasized the party’s embrace of diversity, the breadth of her coalition, and Trump’s deficiencies of character without delivering a clearly delineated economic agenda for working families. Those choices faced pointed second-guessing after Election Day, when Trump’s huge margins among non-college-educated white voters allowed him to dislodge the Rust Belt battlegrounds of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin from the Democrats’ “blue wall” and claim his narrow victory….

One senior Biden adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to talk frankly, told me that the issues highlighted during that sequence reflect the priorities of the party’s modern base, as the campaign sees it: young people (guns and climate), suburban women (guns and women’s rights), and people of color (racial justice and immigration).

Yet unless Biden can win across a wide range of Sun Belt states, he’s unlikely to reach 270 Electoral College votes without improving at least somewhat among working-class white voters in the key Rust Belt states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. And analysts have long observed that many older Latino and African American voters in particular are more motivated to turn out to the polls by concrete plans to improve their life than by broad promises of confronting discrimination.”

It’s worth pointing out here that my analysis of Nationscape and other data indicates that the largest contribution to Biden’s improved margin relative to Clinton 2016, both overall and in key Rust Belt battleground states, has been due to relative improvement among white noncollege voters. The campaign should not lose sight of this and the general necessity to have a clear and compelling economic message in the rest of the campaign.

Biden’s Acceptance Speech a ‘Home Run in the Bottom of the Ninth”

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s acceptance speech is being greeted with rave reviews. You would expect no less from fellow Democrats. But Biden is getting soaring praise for his address  even from Republicans. For example Fox News commentator Dana Perino, a former press secretary for George W. Bush, called it “a home run in the bottom of the ninth,” which “had pace, rhythm, energy, emotion and delivery. I think if he looks back, he’s got to say that was probably the best speech of his life. He really just took the moment, and I love that.”

It went like this:

Here is the full transcript of Biden’s acceptance address:

Good evening.

Ella Baker, a giant of the civil rights movement, left us with this wisdom: Give people light and they will find a way.

Give people light. Those are words for our time.

The current president has cloaked America in darkness for much too long. Too much anger. Too much fear. Too much division.

Here and now, I give you my word: If you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us not the worst. I will be an ally of the light not of the darkness.

It’s time for us, for we the people, to come together. For make no mistake. United we can, and will, overcome this season of darkness in America. We will choose hope over fear, facts over fiction, fairness over privilege.

I am a proud Democrat and I will be proud to carry the banner of our party into the general election. So, it is with great honor and humility that I accept this nomination for president of the United States of America.

But while I will be a Democratic candidate, I will be an American president. I will work as hard for those who didn’t support me as I will for those who did.

That’s the job of a president. To represent all of us, not just our base or our party. This is not a partisan moment. This must be an American moment.

It’s a moment that calls for hope and light and love. Hope for our futures, light to see our way forward, and love for one another.

America isn’t just a collection of clashing interests of red states or blue states.

We’re so much bigger than that. We’re so much better than that.

Nearly a century ago, Franklin Roosevelt pledged a New Deal in a time of massive unemployment, uncertainty, and fear. Stricken by disease, stricken by a virus, F.D.R. insisted that he would recover and prevail and he believed America could as well. And he did. And so can we.

This campaign isn’t just about winning votes. It’s about winning the heart, and yes, the soul of America. Winning it for the generous among us, not the selfish. Winning it for the workers who keep this country going, not just the privileged few at the top. Winning it for those communities who have known the injustice of the “knee on the neck.” For all the young people who have known only an America of rising inequity and shrinking opportunity. They deserve to experience America’s promise in full.

Roll Call Vote Celebrates Democratic – and American – Diversity

Day two of the Democratic convention generated lots of read-worthy articles. But please check out Stephen Collinson’s “A risky roll call turns into a surprise moment of national unity” at CNN Politics, which caught the vibrant spirit of the party that looks like America:

Out of many, One.

Locked down, isolated and fearful as a pandemic fractured national bonds and the power of community, America got a sudden, startling look at itself on Tuesday night as the Democratic National Convention’s virtual roll call vote whipped coast to coast and around the globe.
For a few sunny minutes, the despondency of the summer of Covid lifted during a celebratory glimpse into the country’s vibrant geographic diversity, cultural breadth and enduring common purpose. A risky television production experiment that could have gone badly wrong instead turned into a pageant of national unity, and injected unusual bounce into nominee Joe Biden’s basement campaign.
CNN’s Paul LeBlanc goes on to share his “notable moments from the DNC’s virtual roll call.” It was a good look that showed America which party has the positive, energetic spirit to lead the nation to a better future. It wasn’t just the racial and cultural diversity that was so impressive. The roll call vote creatively leveraged the power of place. As Collinson reports,
The virtual tour played out in short recorded videos, and live shots became a tantalizing glimpse of a vast and fertile land that is out there waiting once the current nightmare — in which more than 170,000 people have died, millions lost their jobs and tens of millions have been cut off from friends, coworkers and loved ones — finally abates…The vote poignantly started on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, where the recently deceased John Lewis had marched into history. And where else would “Amtrak” Joe Biden’s presidential nominating roll call wrap up but a platform of the Joseph R. Biden Jr. Railroad Station in Wilmington, Delaware?..[it] served up stunning backdrops from rocky crags in Colorado to the Bering Sea in Alaska and Arizona cacti. It swept from American Samoa, with a verdant mountain vista, to a farmyard in Maine and on to Michigan’s delegation in the Motor City, standing like salesmen in a local TV ad in front of three gleaming new vehicles.

In her NBC News article, “Virtual roll call at Democratic convention delights with digital tour of U.S. Democrats took their roll call on the road this year, turning a mostly sleepy procedural moment into a heartwarming virtual tour,” Jane C. Timm writes,

Plain winds briefly overpowered the audio of a young woman in Montana while cows grazed behind her unaware of the national audience. Representatives from the New Mexico and South Dakota delegations spoke Indigenous languages and English, while Puerto Rico’s representative made his remarks in Spanish, with English captions…Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania stood outside Biden’s childhood home in Scranton, announcing the state’s tally.

In Louisiana, a little boy holding a sign showing Biden’s famous aviator sunglasses won the internet’s heart…Some states elevated rising stars — South Carolina’s votes were announced by the state’s Democratic Senate candidate, Jaime Harrison — while others recalled tragic moments in the country’s history. In Florida, Parkland parent Fred Guttenberg spoke about how his daughter was murdered in a school shooting in 2018, highlighting Biden’s record on gun control.

Also check out “Here Are The Beautiful, Powerful, And Funny Moments From The State Roll Call Nominating Joe Biden For President” at Buzzfeed News, which features a few choice clips from the segment.

CNN did screw-up the segment by interrupting the flow with several commercials. They won’t make that mistake again. But when it resumed, it was still powerful and effective. Republicans may try something similar, but a copy-cat video won’t have the same magic, partly because their product is an increasingly tough sell.

If you want to watch the complete roll call, click here and scroll down a bit to the video segment.

Teixeira: Can Joe Biden Hold the Democrats Together?

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

I have heard from a number of folks who can’t get through the WSJ paywall to read my pearls of wisdom. A tragedy! As a humanitarian gesture, I reproduce below the full text of the article–minus the snazzy graphics alas.

Since the New Deal, Democrats have struggled to hold together the eclectic elements of their coalition. Under President Franklin Roosevelt, who forged the party as we know it, the bedrock of Democratic support was the white working class, the “solid South” and Black Americans. But that alliance proved unstable. It came apart in the 1960s as the party struggled to incorporate the voters and demands of a range of new social movements—on civil rights, Vietnam, women’s liberation and the environment. Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 gave Democrats hope that they were forming a new coalition, perhaps one even more durable than its New Deal predecessor. President Obama brought together the rising, 21st-century constituencies of nonwhite voters—Black, Hispanic, Asian—as well as younger voters, educated urban whites and even a solid portion of the white working class.


Teixeira: State ‘O The Race

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

With the DNC starting tomorrow, this seemed like a good time to check in on the state of the Presidential race, looking at the most salient aspects based on available data.

Modeled Forecasts

Princeton Election Consortium: 93 percent probability Biden win
Economist: 89 percent Biden win
538: 72 percent Biden win

Electoral Vote Forecasts:

Princeton Election Consortium: 356-182 Biden
Economist: 350-188 Biden
538: 325-213 Biden

There are many other EV assessments outside of the modeled forecasts. They generally have Biden over 270 because they see him taking back MI, PA and WI. Assignment of other states varies and the overall split is affected by how many states they don’t call but put in a “toss-up” category.

National Biden-Trump Trial Heat Averages

CNN: 52-41 Biden (+11)
538: 51.2-42.5 Biden (+8.6)
RCP: 49.8-41.9 (+7.9)

State Biden-Trump Trial Heat Averages

Too much data to list here. But places where you can get trial heat averages for states of interest are 538, RCP, CNN and CBS Battleground. Currently, in 538 Biden is ahead in every state Clinton carried in 2016 plus: AZ, FL, MI, NC, OH, PA and WI.

National Vote/Electoral Vote Split

This remains a real possibility but probably less of one than in 2016. Evan Scrimshaw remarks at Decision Desk HQ: “[Nate Silver’s] estimates, at the launch of the model, say that Wisconsin is the tipping point state, and that a 1.9% Democratic lead nationally would be enough to win the state, down from the 2.8% it would have taken in 2016. In other words, Trump’s vaunted Electoral College advantage is now small enough that a Hillary Clinton margin of popular vote victory would be enough to win the Electoral College this time – at least, more often than not. A 2% Democratic lead is a ways away from the current high single digit averages, and even if there has been some recent movement, it is a lot easier to close a lead from ~11 to ~9, and incrementally harder to move it every unit after.” Harry Enten notes: “If the live interviews polls [are] exactly correct, the difference between the tipping state in the electoral college (i.e. state containing the median electoral vote plus one) and the national vote would be under two points and perhaps closer to one point. It was nearly three points in 2016. A slightly under two-point gap is much more in-line with what has happened historically.”

Polling Error

There was significant polling error in key states in 2016, primarily because state polls that did not weight by education undersampled white noncollege voters. That has generally been corrected this year. Also,there is little evidence that large numbers of “shy Trump voters” are being missed by polls, as a number of recent pieces have noted. Finally, with the kind of lead Biden has, any plausible polling error would not affect the outcome. Of course, if the race gets very, very tight, anything is possible.


Various indicators suggest that turnout should be very high this year. Michael McDonald, a leading expert on voter turnout and director of the US Elections Project says, “. “I expect voter turnout to be exceptional, perhaps the highest in over a century, since 1908.” It’s very difficult to gauge how much Trump’s obvious efforts to interfere with mail balloting, which is expected to skew Democratic, might affect turnout, as opposed to simply delaying the vote count. Mail balloting can also have higher spoiled ballot rates, which might also have some effect on ultimate Democratic totals.

Nonwhite Voters

Recent polling suggests that black, Hispanic and Asian support for Biden is firming up, where previously it had been running a little behind Clinton’s 2016 margins. Turnout of these groups is difficult to gauge in advance, but it would not have to be particularly robust to surpass that of the 2016 election. Also, it is worth noting that even if nonwhite turnout and support did not budge over 2016 levels,, Biden could still carry MI, PA and WI simply on the basis of underlying shifts in the population of eligible voters. Thus what is essential for Biden is less exceptional performance among nonwhite voters than reasonable performance among these voters, coupled with a Trump failure to expand his margin among white noncollege voters.

White Noncollege Voters

Biden is running 10-15 margin points ahead of Clinton among this demographic. Since Trump probably loses the election if he fails to expand his 2016 lead (+31) among these voters, Biden’s success in significantly cutting Trump’s margin, if maintained, is a death knell for Trump’s chances. As an illustration, since nonwhite college voters will be such a large group in the 2020 electorate, if Biden cuts Trump’s advantage by 10 points among this group (5 points more for Biden, 5 points less for Trump), that shifts the election 4.2 points in Biden’s direction nationally. The effect would be larger in midwest states like MI, PA and WI where the white noncollege population is significantly larger. In contrast, increasing black turnout by 5 points (assuming no other group’s turnout increases) would add .8 percentage points to Biden’s margin nationally, more or less in specific states depending on how large their black eligible voter share is.

White College Voters

Polls indicate Biden is running ahead of Clinton’s margin (+7) among white college voters by perhaps 5-10 margin points. Pew had Biden’s margin at +23 among this demographic but I suspect this is an outlier. As a rule, any given improvement in Biden’s margin among white college voters is worth about 30-45 percent less (depending on state) than an equivalent improvement in his margin among white noncollege voters.

Dems Face Daunting Challenges in Wisconsin

Wisconsin, where Democrats had slated their national convention in Milwaukee, presents a particularly difficult challenge for Democrats in 2020. As Mark Joseph Stern writes in his article, “The Most Important Thing Democrats Can Do in Wisconsin: If Democrats want to win Wisconsin this time, they’ll need to make sure Biden supporters can actually vote” at slate.com:

Stern recounts the horror story that Wisconsin voters encountered in the April primary elections, including the unanticipated rush on absentee ballot requests, the sudden shortage of older poll workers, the consolidation of poling places from 182 to 5, long lines and hours of exposure to Covid-19 infections.

Making matters more problematic, however, in June, “a federal appeals court upheld most of Republicans’ restrictions on ballot access, including a stringent voter ID requirement. Anyone requesting an absentee ballot for the first time will have to provide a copy of an acceptable ID. (State or federal employee IDs don’t qualify, nor do out-of-state driver licenses.) And everyone who votes absentee must procure a “witness” to watch them fill out the ballot, then sign the envelope. The Republican-controlled Legislature has refused to relax this witness requirement in light of the pandemic. But the commission has confirmed that a witness can watch through a closed window or over video chat to reduce risk of exposure.”

It got even worse. “The federal appeals court upheld another contentious constraint on voting: It approved a Republican measure that slashed in-person early voting to just two weeks, down from six in some urban areas.” Stern notes that Milwaukee will have 16 early voting sites, but “Anybody who votes in person will have to bring their ID, and poll workers can ask that they remove their masks for identification purposes. Voters who obtain their ballot through the mail can drop them off at an early voting site.”

“If the state faces another shortage of poll workers,” Stern writes, “Gov. Tony Evers may order members of the state’s National Guard to staff polling places.” Further,

There is another menace lurking in the background of Wisconsin’s coming election: A Republican law firm has urged the court to purge 129,000 people from the voter rolls. It claims, falsely, that state law requires the immediate purge of any voter flagged by an error-prone program designed to identify residents who may have moved. But the court will not hear arguments in the case until 34 days before Election Day. As one notoriously fringe-right justice has noted, this schedule effectively guarantees that the court won’t issue a decision before Nov. 3, keeping those 129,000 on the rolls at least through the election.

But there is still one issue that looms large: the counting of absentee ballots. Like every other swing state except North Carolina, Wisconsin bars election officials from even opening these ballots until Election Day. If the state counts Election Day votes first, then turns to absentee ballots, it will create a blue shift: The returns on election night may give Trump a lead that slowly disappears. A Marquette University Law School poll released on Tuesday showed that Wisconsin Democrats are 3.5 times more likely than Republicans to vote by mail. The poll gave Trump an Election Day lead of 67–26, yet showed Biden winning the state by five points. Trump’s assault on mail-in voting seems to be polarizing voters, guaranteeing a major blue shift if absentee ballots are counted after Election Day votes. The president could seize upon this shift to reject the legitimacy of the results if he loses.

Stern notes that some Wisconsin cities have set up a “central count location,” a strategy which worked “successfully” in Madison on Tuesday. “If everything goes right, then, Wisconsin should avoid the kind of massive blue shift that gives Trump room for chicanery.” Stern adds that “Wisconsin is now well positioned to handle a surge in absentee ballots. Plus, the state allows voters to register at the polls on Election Day, so anyone who can’t navigate the absentee process has a fallback option.”

Although Republicans have majority control of the state legislature, Wisconsin now has a Democratic governor, Tony Evers overseeing the election process as much as possible, which is a hell of a lot better than Republican Scott Walker, who was governor in 2016. Wisconsin Democrats are now on high alert for GOP voter suppression ploys, which will likely be unrelenting in the weeks ahead. It may be that the scaling back of the national Democratic convention in Milwaukee gives Wisconsin Democrats a little more breathing space to check Republican voter suppression. Still, a record-breaking early voter turnout of Wisconsin Democrats will provide the best insurance.

Teixeira: Nationscape Trial Heat Results in Every Swing State!

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

Here are the results from the last 12 waves of the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape survey (6,000 respondents a week) for every state that has been considerably even vaguely swingish in this election cycle. I order the trial heat results from largest Biden margin to least.

NM +25 Biden
NH +19
NV +17
VA +15
ME +14
CO +13
MN +12
WI +10
MI +8
AZ +8
PA +7
FL +7
GA +4
NC +3
TX +3
OH -1`
SC -1
IA -3

Interesting, eh?

Dreier: 2020 Voters Prefer Solutions to Polarizing Distractions

So how did Trump’s efforts to crank up racial polarization between city and suburban residents pan out? In “Trump’s Racist Appeal To The Suburbs Is Backfiring,” Peter Dreier, author of Place Matters: Metropolitics for the 21st Century, writes at Talking Points Memo:

President Donald Trump has failed to build a physical wall between the U.S. and Mexico, but now he wants to build another wall — between America’s cities and their suburbs. In recent weeks he’s sought to stoke white resentment with inflammatory rhetoric directed at white suburbanites. But so far they don’t seem to be buying what Trump is selling…On July 23, Trump tweeted a message targeted to what he called “The Suburban Housewives of America.” He warned that “Biden will destroy your neighborhood and your American Dream. I will preserve it, and make it even better.”

…Of course, the real purpose of Trump’s statements was not to inform Americans about some little-known, technical housing policy but to tell his political base that he opposes government efforts to address racism in any form. It banked on the idea that his statements would whip up fear among white suburban voters that, unless they re-elect him in November, they will confront a massive invasion of Black and Brown people into their communities. These statements were not a subtle dog whistle. They were a blast from a megaphone.

But recent polling data indicates that his efforts are predicated on some flse assumptions:

According to a recent ABC News/Ipsos poll, conducted July 29 and 30, over half of white Americans (55%), and clear majorities of Black Americans (92%) and Latino Americans (72%), disapprove of Trump’s combative response to the nationwide protests. The numbers aren’t much better among Trump’s supposed base. Among white non-college educated Americans only 42% believe that the presence of federal agents improves the situation. Over a third (37%) of this group think that Trump has made the situation worse. Moreover, 66% of Americans believe that Trump has mishandled the COVID-19 crisis, up from 54% in March.

Although Trump tailored his message to “suburban housewives,” the reality is that most suburban women now work outside the home. And polls suggest the President is in trouble with these voters. A Fox News poll conducted July 12–15 asked likely voters who they intended to vote for in November. Among suburbanites, Biden led Trump by a 47% to 38% margin, but among suburban women, Biden’s margin was even wider — 55% to 32%…According to a recent New York Times/Sienna College poll, 14% of voters in six battleground states (Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina) who supported Trump in 2016 say they won’t likely support him again this year. They are mostly suburbanites.

Recent election results also suggest that Trump’s polarizing approach is not working:

The trends don’t look good for Trump. In the 2018 midterms, voters delivered the House to the Democrats, mostly by flipping Republican seats in the suburbs. According to an analysis by Dan Balz of the Washington Post (which I updated to include California’s contested 21st Congressional District) Democrats won 38 of the 69 suburban districts that had been held by Republicans. The Democrats not only picked up seats in the densely-populated suburbs adjacent to cities but also in the more sparsely populated suburbs, according to an analysis by Geoffrey Skelly of FiveThirtyEight. In both cases, these are suburbs that include low-income people, people of color, and middle-class professionals of all races. For example, Lucy McBath, an African American woman and liberal Democrat, flipped a Congressional seat in an overwhelmingly white suburban district outside Atlanta. In fact, all nine African Americans who were elected to Congress for the first time in 2018 represent predominantly white and mostly suburban districts. Last November, Democratic candidates for the Virginia legislature, county boards in Pennsylvania, Kentucky governor, and elsewhere prevailed by winning suburban voters in traditionally Republican areas.

“Like most Americans,” Dreier concludes,  “suburbanites want a president who will address the COVID-19 pandemic, expand health care coverage, improve the economy with more good-paying jobs, deal with the impacts of climate change, provide more funding for both K-12 schools and higher education, renew respect for the U.S. around the world, and deal with Americans’ common problems rather than stoke division.”

Abramowitz: Pandemic Simplifies Election Forecast in 2020 – and It Looks Bad for Trump

In his article, “It’s the Pandemic, Stupid! A Simplified Model for Forecasting the 2020 Presidential Election,” Alan I. Ibramowitz writes at At Sabato’s Crystal Ball:

My “time for change” election forecasting model relies on three predictors to forecast the outcomes of presidential elections: The incumbent president’s approval rating in late June or early July, the change in real GDP in the second quarter of the election year, and a dummy variable based on whether a first-term incumbent is running for reelection. This time for change factor reflects the fact that first-term incumbents like President Trump generally enjoy a significant advantage even after controlling for their approval ratings and economic conditions.

There are good reasons to expect that two of these predictors — the change in real GDP in the second quarter and the time for change dummy variable — will not perform as they normally do in 2020. Although the U.S. economy is currently experiencing a severe downturn, with real GDP plunging by an almost unprecedented amount in the second quarter, voters do not appear to hold the incumbent president responsible for this. That is undoubtedly because the recession was deliberately induced in order to try to control the spread of the deadly coronavirus. Thus, despite a massive rise in unemployment and decline in real GDP, President Trump’s approval ratings on handling the economy have generally remained positive.

Abramowitz, author of The Great Alignment: Race, Party Transformation, and the Rise of Donald Trump, writes that “Given the concerns described above, for the 2020 presidential election, I am using one predictor to forecast the results: the incumbent president’s net approval rating in late June…Along with the current forecast, I will present conditional forecasts based on the president’s net approval rating in late October.” For now, he concludes:

When an incumbent president is running for a second term, the election is always largely a referendum on the president’s record during his first term. Normally, an important component of that record is the performance of the U.S. economy, especially during the first half of the election year. In 2020, however, due to the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic on American society and on the economy, it appears likely that the presidential election will turn much more on the president’s handling of that pandemic. By the summer of 2020, the public’s assessment of the president’s handling of the pandemic had turned decidedly negative.

It also appears unlikely that President Trump will enjoy the electoral advantage that normally accrues to first-term incumbents. Partisan polarization has drastically reduced the ability of incumbent office-holders at all levels to appeal to voters across party lines. Moreover, unlike previous incumbents, Trump has made little effort to expand his base of support during his time in office.

Based on these considerations, I have presented a simple incumbent referendum model for forecasting the outcome of the 2020 electoral vote. The president’s net approval rating of -15 percent in late June yields a forecast of a decisive 319-219 vote victory by Joe Biden in the Electoral College. Yet the model still gives Trump about a 30% chance of winning the election due to uncertainty about what will transpire between June and November. However, if Trump’s approval rating remains at -15 in late October, the model predicts an even more overwhelming defeat with 361 electoral votes for Joe Biden to only 177 for the president. At that point, Trump would have only a 9% chance of winning the election according to the model.

All in all, it’s an encouraging forecast for Democrats. But it is not a signal to relax, because Republicans in all swing states are already mobilizing to suppress pro-Democratic voters as much as possible – the wild card in the 2020 election.

Teixeira: Now That You Mention It, Biden’s Running a Pretty Darn Good Campaign

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

John Cassidy has a good article at The New Yorker site praising Biden’s “big tent” strategy. He talks about three big challenges Biden is surmounting:

1. Uniting the Democratic Party after a chaotic primary season.
2. Fashioning a coherent response to the tumultuous events of 2020
3. Avoiding giving Trump an easy target

On #3, he breaks it down this way, with the help of some fellow named Teixeira:

“The third challenge that Biden faced was to avoid giving Trump an easy target. The pandemic has made the dodging part easier. Hunkered down in Wilmington, Biden largely has left the President to dig his own hole—which he has done, ably. But Biden has also reached out to Trump Country. The first of his Build Back Better speeches was delivered in Rust Belt Pennsylvania: it included calls to restore American manufacturing and “buy American.” As well as adopting some of the language of economic nationalism, Biden has rejected certain progressive proposals, such as defunding the police and enforcing a complete ban on fracking, that might alienate moderate whites in battleground states.

This is smart politics, Ruy Teixeira, a polling expert and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, told me. Despite the changing demographics of the United States, whites who don’t have a college degree still make up about forty-four per cent of the eligible electorate, according to Teixeira; in some places, such as parts of the Midwest, the figure is even higher. “You cannot cede massive sections of the electorate if you want to be successful politically,” Teixeira said.

In 2016, Trump carried the white non-college demographic by thirty-one percentage points at the national level, according to Teixeira’s analysis of exit polls and election returns. Biden has narrowed the gap to twelve points, Teixeira said, citing a recent survey. That is similar to the margin in 2008, when Barack Obama defeated John McCain and the Democrats increased their majorities in both houses of Congress. As it is often defined, the Obama coalition consisted of minority voters, college-educated white liberals, and young people. Teixeira pointed out that Obama’s ability to restrict McCain’s margin in the white non-college demographic was also important, and if Biden matched that feat in November, he said, it could be of enormous consequence. “This is not the only thing that is going wrong for Trump,” Teixeira said, “but it is the thing that could give the Democrats the big victory that they need to govern effectively.”

None of this means that Biden is a lock for the Oval Office. Between now and November 3rd, something could conceivably shift the momentum against him, such as a Vice-Presidential pick that backfires, a major slipup in the debates, or a surprising economic upturn. Right now, though, the challenger’s strategy of keeping the focus on the incumbent and pitching a broad tent that accommodates anyone who wants to see the back of Trump is working well.”

Data note: despite my best efforts, they managed to garble my description of the data sources. The 2016 data are from the States of Change project and have nothing to do with the exit polls; we modeled data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Survey, the Census’ American Community Survey and election returns down to the county level. The 2020 data are from the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape weekly surveys and are based on surveys from May 1 onward, a total of 43,000 cases.

That said, still a great article!