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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority


Political Strategy Notes

Christian Paz explains “How independent voters saved Democrats” at Vox: “Democrats would not have had such a good election night without the support of independent voters….These mystical swing voters don’t affiliate themselves with a specific party, tend to be more ideologically moderate, and represent a plurality of voters in the United States. But they are also hard to reach, often less politically engaged, and frequently confused with “weak partisans” (less energetic Democrats or Republicans) because they can have ideological leans….They also tend to swing elections — and this year’s dissipation of the much-hyped “red wave” is partially a result of independent voters picking the Democratic candidate in competitive contests in swing states and districts….Despite plenty of polling this year showing that independents were, like Republicans, primarily concerned with the state of the economy and inflation, they ended up making nuanced decisions in key statewide races — and that worked to benefit Democrats….In data provided to Vox from Navigator’s midterm voters survey, those numbers show that for independent men, inflation was a top concern for half of them, while abortion was the top concern for 23 percent. Among women, inflation was the top concern for 46 percent of respondents, while abortion was close behind at 34 percent. Though the numbers differ slightly between Navigator’s finding and exit polls, the same 17-percent gender gap shows up: Independent men supported Republicans slightly more than Democrats, but independent women backed Democrats by a much bigger margin.”

Joan McCarter says “Biden, Schumer, and Pelosi need to channel Harry Reid right now, and fight for our future” and writes at Daily Kos: “The number one thing Pelosi and Schumer needed to deal with started a few months ago, when House Republicans began announcing their hostage-taking intentions. The over-confident GOP announced that they would force cuts to Social Security and Medicare by refusing to raise the nation’s debt ceiling next year, now likely in June. That’s the promise the U.S. government makes to all its creditors and to the American people that the payments that have been promised to them—from troops’ paychecks to monthly Social Security checks to global debt servicing—will be covered. Not extending those guarantees by raising the debt ceiling threatens the entire global economy….So what should they do? Channel former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and cancel Christmas….The threat would probably be enough to bring some recalcitrant members—possibly even some outgoing Senate Republicans—into line to get priorities taken care of. Like starting a budget reconciliation bill in the House right now that will include dealing with the debt ceiling, funding the government, and whatever other steps necessary for maniac-proofing the government. Yes, budget reconciliation bills take time, and can include all-night vote-a-ramas in the Senate. Do what Harry did, on multiple occasions: keep the Senate in session all night. Tell Senators they will have to be there all night. Let them know that if they don’t play nice, they may have to be there until Christmas Eve, just like Harry made them do to give the nationaccess to health care. The Affordable Care Act passed the Senate on Christmas Eve, 2009, while a blizzard engulfed Washington, D.C. Threaten to do that again, this time to save Social Security….Make sure the whole nation knows that’s what you’re willing to do: forego your treasured time off, during the biggest holiday of the year, to make sure the programs that are so vital will continue, unharmed. Make House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy’s nightmare of a leadership fight even harder by focusing the nation’s ire on the House Republicans….Let Speaker Pelosi step away from the gavel having realized one last, huge achievement—saving Social Security….Be like Harry Reid. Fight.”

At The American Prospect, Austin Ahlman shares a provocative take on the midterm elections in his article, “Democrats Rediscover Populism—and Not a Moment Too Soon: As Republicans took a radical turn, Democrats learned to talk to normal people again.” As Ahlman writes that “there is one unifying explanation for why Democrats defied expectations and precedent—and perhaps there is not—it appears to be that the dire implications of losing the election cycle forced Democrats to do something they generally abhor: name enemies, and describe how they intend to beat them. Self-described moderate and centrist Democrats discovered a newfound willingness to attack the pharmaceutical industry, vote to threaten oil companies over their profit margins, and otherwise hold special interests to account. Clear enemies to women’s rights sitting on the Supreme Court, and enemies to democracy running for office, gave a sharper edge to Democratic messaging, and a real choice to voters….The newly resounding clarity of Democrats’ party-line messaging on economics—a phenomenon enabled by the Biden administration’s clear rejection of the constrained economic orthodoxies that guided the last two Democratic administrations—combined with Democrats’ attempt to build a popular front against Republicans’ growing authoritarianism could form the basis for a new populist Democratic movement. But it remains to be seen whether the party has the will to see that through….While Democrats largely succeeded in heading off a red wave, they fell short in areas where candidates failed to tell a cohesive and compelling story about the relationship between assaults on economic freedom and assaults on democracy and reproductive rights, especially with voters who were not facing immediate, tangible risks to their bodily autonomy or local democratic institutions. Those losses appear to have proved sufficient for the party to lose the House—stalling out any potential that Democrats will act on their bold rhetoric, and potentially souring their relationship with the voters persuaded by their message….But the encouraging number of candidates who managed to find success against daunting odds offers proof that the populist spark Democrats discovered this year may be their best shot in the future to build a broad enough coalition to pass significant pieces of the social and economic agenda Biden abandoned, and thwart ongoing attempts by Trumpists to bring a right-wing populist movement that openly flirts with authoritarianism into power.”

Ahlman adds, “In a press call in early October, Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal relished the turn Democrats’ messaging had taken in the months leading up to the election. “The mainstream Democratic agenda has moved so much in terms of what we’re fighting for as a party, and that is really due to decades of organizing,” she told the Prospect in response to a question about her appraisal of Democrats’ overarching midterms message. She mentioned corporate price-gouging, antitrust reforms, and bans on insider trading as “key priorities of the Progressive Caucus.” Candidates, she suggested, would be wise to find specific examples in those veins that resonate with their constituencies, and really hammer those home….House Majority PAC, the largest Democratic outside spender for House races, has also been especially forward in claiming credit for Democrats’ messaging campaigns via ads that generally balanced populist economics with the myriad social issues that have motivated voters. PAC spokesperson C.J. Warnke recently indicated that across all spots the committee put out this year, economic issues featured in 48 percent of them, abortion in 42 percent, law enforcement in 22 percent, and extremism and the January 6th attack on the Capitol in 19 percent….Perhaps the best case for the centrality of populist economic messaging to Democrats’ success this midterm can be seen through the Democratic incumbents who didn’t succeed. The six sitting House Democrats who lost general-election bids—Cindy Axne, Tom O’Halleran, Al Lawson, Elaine Luria, Tom Malinowski, and Sean Patrick Maloney—are all consummate moderates and members of the centrist New Democrat Coalition. And five of the six ran behind President Biden’s 2020 performance with the voters in their districts; O’Halleran ran about even….Perhaps the biggest surprise winner of the cycle, Washington’s Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, cut a long video with anti-corporate news organization More Perfect Union that went to great lengths to highlight her background as a working-class auto shop owner who would fight to bring jobs back to southwest Washington. In the single ad posted on her campaign’s YouTube page, she made her populist pitch even more directly: “We don’t need another corporate shill or extremist in Congress. I will fight for working-class Washingtonians just like me.”….Democrats found a formula to counteract right-wing populism—if the leadership pays attention to the lessons.”

Teixeira: Democrats’ Hispanic Problem — The Sequel

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

Democrats are feeling pretty good about themselves these days after a 2022 election that went way, way better than they (and most observers) thought it would. Those on the Democratic left, in particular, are congratulating themselves that they were right about…well, everything. Ezra Levin, who co-founded the activist progressive group, Indivisible said:

The great thing about having your strategy being proven correct is that you don’t have to rethink your strategy…We would have, if the red wave materialized. But it didn’t have the potency that we thought.

God forbid anyone should do any rethinking. That would never do.

The fact remains, however, that while they held the Senate (and may possibly pick up a seat), they lost the House, as well as the nationwide popular vote by 3-4 points. That’s a swing of 7-8 points toward the Republicans compared to Biden’s 4 point national advantage in 2020. The Senate map for the Democrats in 2024 looks absolutely terrifying: Democrats will have to hold seats in a wide range of red and purple states—Arizona, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin and West Virginia. The Republican seats that will be up are all in solid GOP states, with the possible exceptions of Texas and Florida (and we saw what just happened there). Plus there’s no guarantee that the 2024 Democratic nominee—likely Biden—will get to run again against the Democrats’ preferred opponent, Trump. It could be someone much tougher to take down.

In light of this, it’s worth considering the possibility that Democrats did not, in fact, fix all their problems in 2022 and that some of these may be lurking beneath the surface to undermine their chances—perhaps fatally—in 2024. One such problem is the Democrats’ Hispanic voter problem. In 2020, Democrats’ advantage among Hispanic voters declined nationwide by 16 points relative to 2016. Democrats had hoped to stop the bleeding in 2022. Did they?

It does not appear so. Prior to the election, the AEI demographics tracker, which averages poll subgroup results, found the Democratic Congressional margin among Hispanic voters consistently 7-9 points below its 2020 level and 17-19 points below its 2018 level. Results from AP/NORC VoteCast indicate that the drop in the 2022 election was actually larger than that foreshadowed by the pre-election data. These data show Democrats carrying Hispanics nationwide by just 56-39 in 2022, a 12 point decline in margin relative to 2020 (18 points relative to 2018). For what it’s worth, the less-reliable network exit polls, show an identical decline in Hispanic support between 2020 and 2022.

Digging more into the available data, some other troubling signs can be discerned beneath this broad national trend (all data from VoteCast except election returns).

1. Democrats appeared to have done particularly poorly among Hispanic men in 2022. In the VoteCast data, Democrats carried this group by a scant 6 points (51-45).

2. Democrats did worse among Hispanic working class (noncollege) voters than college voters. They carried Hispanic working class voters by just 15 points, compared to 21 points among their college-educated counterparts. Compared to 2018, Democratic Hispanic working class support is down 20 margin points, more than double the decline among Hispanic college voters (9 points).

3. With a few exceptions like Nevada, Democratic decline in Hispanic support can be seen across states. The most striking example of this is in Florida where DeSantis carried the Hispanic vote by 13 points, a 22 point swing from Biden’s 9 point margin among this group in 2020. He carried heavily Hispanic Miami-Dade county, historically the Democrats’ firewall, by 11 points. He carried Osceola County by almost 7 points—a county where Puerto Ricans, among the most Democratic of Hispanic subgroups, loom large. Shockingly, statewide DeSantis actually split the Puerto Rican vote 50-50 with Democrat Charlie Crist.

4. Democrat Val Demings also lost the Hispanic vote in Florida to Marco Rubio by 11 points. And statewide Democrats lost the Hispanic House vote by 7 points to the Republicans.

5. In Texas, Republicans got 43 percent of the statewide House vote among Hispanics, losing it by only 10 points to the Democrats. Beto O’Rourke did somewhat better than Biden in the Rio Grande Valley but still carried Hispanics statewide by just 14 points.

6. The poor showing of Democrats in the Hispanic Texas House vote was driven by working class Hispanics. They gave Democrats a mere 6 point margin statewide (51-45) compared to 24 points among college Hispanics (61-37). But working class Hispanics are three-quarters of the Texas Hispanic vote.

7. In Arizona, the GOP got 41 percent of the statewide House vote among Hispanics, cutting their deficit with this demographic to 13 points. Democrats’ House margin was down 6 points from Biden’s margin among this group in 2020. Katie Hobbs also ran behind Biden in her Hispanic support while Mark Kelley did a little better. But Kelley’s healthy margin of victory (5 points) is clearly attributable to a sharp improvement in support among white college graduates relative to Biden.

8. Even in California, Democratic House candidates in 2022 ran 11 points behind Biden’s margin in the state in 2020. This decline can be illustrated by looking as some heavily Latino CDs in Los Angeles County (vote counts ongoing): CA-31, Biden +31, 2022 House +16; CA-35, Biden +28, 2022 House +12; CA-38, Biden +30, 2022 House +13; CA-42, Biden +46, 2022 House +34.

These data suggest Democrats are far from out of the woods in terms of their Hispanic voter support. In fact, they indicate the problem is getting worse. More broadly, Democrats would be well-advised to look at these results in the context of their ongoing decline in working class support among nonwhites. AP VoteCast estimates the decline in Democrats’ advantage among the nonwhite working class as 14 points between 2020 and 2022, 23 points between 2018 and 2022 and (splicing in some Catalist data, which are consistent with VoteCast data where they overlap) an astonishing 33 point drop between 2012 and 2022.

I’d say that qualifies as a problem—and one that’s very, very far from being fixed.

More On Florida’s Democratic Meltdown

From “Don’t call Florida a red state yet: Left-leaning groups say their voters stayed home” by Ashley Lopez at nor.org:

Florida Republicans won elections up and down the ballot by staggering margins this year….Dwight Bullard, a former state lawmaker and senior political adviser for a social justice advocacy group called Florida Rising….said he and other groups who predominantly work with Black and Latino voters in Florida — key voting blocs for Democrats — were dealing with unmotivated constituencies and a well-funded and well-organized opposition.

…Anthony Verdugo, founder and executive director of the Christian Family Coalition Florida, said conservative mobilization efforts like his have been working hard for years. He said they really caught a lot of momentum, though, in the past year.

“The governor’s office and the Republican Party focused on a very aggressive voter registration campaign,” he said. “Florida has always — since its founding — been a majority Democrat registered state. December of last year we crossed the threshold.”

Verdugo said his own group registered about 1,300 conservative faith voters in just a three-week period last fall. He also credits Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who he said did an effective job rallying the party’s base by running on a lot of cultural issues. As a result, Verdugo said, Republicans had a more consistent and clearer message for their voters than Democrats.

Joshua Karp, a Democratic strategist, said he’s skeptical that this amounts to a huge political victory led by DeSantis though….”He won about 4.1 million votes four years ago,” Karp said. “He won about 4.6 million votes this time. So, he certainly increased by a few hundred thousand people the size of his coalition. In a state like Florida that’s a few percentage points. What really happened is Democrats did not show up to the polls.”

It’s all about the money

Statewide turnout was down by more than half a million votes compared to 2018. Karp blames a lot of this lack of motivation among Democratic voters in Florida on money.

Tessa Petit, executive director of an immigrants rights group called the Florida Immigrant Coalition, said the electoral arm of her group was pleading with national donors to help them get out the vote. But she and other groups fell millions of dollars short in fundraising.

“The investment went down a lot,” Petit said. “The donors pulled back because I think they kind of — I don’t know maybe they lost faith in the party altogether.”

Four years ago, money was flowing into Florida for groups like the Florida Immigrant Coalition, Petit said. That year, DeSantis won the governor’s race by a mere .04% of the vote.

Petit said this lack of funding is why Miami Dade County in particular saw a 10 percentage point drop in turnout this year compared to the last midterm election. Because of the diversity in the state, she said, it takes a lot of money to get out the vote in communities of color. Petit said this is why national donors should not pick and choose what years to invest here if they want to see results.

“Florida is not a state that you can date,” she said. “You gotta get into a you know — you gotta get into a relationship, a committed relationship with Florida.”

Here’s a couple stat nuggets from Jennifer Borresen’s “DeSantis, Republicans win big: How Florida went from swing state to red state — in visuals” at USA Today:

DeSantis won 57% of the Hispanic vote, compared with 42% for Crist, according to exit polls by major news organizations. And he won not only the traditionally GOP-leaning Cuban-American vote but also Puerto Ricans, who historically tend to vote Democratic.

DeSantis’ strength with Hispanic voters helped him carry Miami-Dade County, a majority Hispanic county.

Since March 16, 2020, an estimated 394,000 active voters have flocked to Florida. According to voter and consumer data tracking firm L2, 193,300 Republicans and 96,900 Democrats have moved to Florida in that time.

If you are wondering if Florida and perhaps Texas Democratic campaign strategists could learn something from the GOTV skills of Georgia’s Democratic activists and candidates, you are not alone.

New Poll: Warnock Ahead With Young Voters, Lagging with Seniors

At The Hill, Chloe Formar reports that a “Huge age gap shows up in AARP poll of Warnock-Walker runoff.” As Formar writes,

A poll released on Tuesday by AARP, an interest group for those aged 50 and older, found a significant age gap in voters’ preferences in the Georgia Senate runoff election between incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) and former NFL player Herschel Walker (R).

Warnock leads Walker by 24 percentage points among voters aged 18-49, while Walker leads by 9 points among voters aged 50 or older, according to the poll from AARP Georgia. The two groups differ in their preferences by a total of 33 points.

Former notes that “Respondents aged 65 or older favor Walker over Warnock by 13 points, while that lead shrinks to 4 percentage points among those aged 50-64.” In addition, “Black voters aged 50 and up differ in preference from their age group overall, however, with Warnock holding an 83-point lead over Walker among such respondents.”

Further, “Overall, Warnock leads in the poll of all age groups by 4 percentage points, despite voters aged 50 and older constituting more than 60 percent of likely runoff voters….AARP found that 90 percent of voters 50 and older ranked themselves “extremely motivated” to vote in the runoff, which will take place Dec. 6.”

According g to Formar, “The poll was conducted between November 11 and November 17, with 1,183 likely Georgia voters participating, including 550 voters aged 50 and older.”

Although the Democrats will continue to control the U.S. Senate with at least 50 seats, Warnock’s election would insure that Senate Democrats have working committee majorities and empower Democrats to confirm appointments to the federal judiciary. Also, as Reuters reports via AlJazeera,

Because of the 50-50 Senate divide, committee memberships are currently doled out evenly. These committees oversee a range of federal programmes, from the military and agriculture to homeland security, transportation, healthcare and foreign affairs.

Tied votes in committees on legislation or presidential nominations block, at least temporarily, such measures from advancing to the full Senate. It takes time-consuming procedural manoeuvres to break the committee deadlock so the full chamber can pass bottled-up bills and nominations.

A Warnock win would give Democrats at least one more member on each committee than Republicans, making it harder for Republicans to stand in the way of Biden’s agenda.

That could also provide Democrats with a stronger counter-balance to House Republicans, allowing Senate committees to advance more liberal legislation and nominees that, in turn, could help energize their core voters in the 2024 elections.

The report adds, “If Warnock manages to defeat Walker, he will put the seat in Democratic hands for six years — a full Senate term…” In addition, “A victory by Warnock would mean that Schumer could lose the support of one member of his Democratic caucus and still win floor votes. But he may have less opportunity for flashy moves, as Republicans will hold a narrow majority in the House of Representatives.”

Teixeira: Dems Can’t Count on Trump in 2024

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from The Wall St. Journal:

We’re still waiting for the final results of the 2022 election. But it’s clear that Democrats decisively beat both expectations and the elections’s “fundamentals”—the incumbent party’s usual midterm losses, President Biden’s low approval rating, high inflation, voter negativity on the economy and the state of the country. Republicans look set to take back the House but only by a modest margin. And the Senate will remain in Democratic hands, albeit narrowly.

The Democrats’ relatively good night is attributable, above all, to their secret weapon: Donald Trump. Mr. Trump’s ability to push Republican voters into picking bad, frequently incompetent candidates with extreme positions on issues from the 2020 election to abortion was a disaster for Republicans.

They know it. Scott Jennings, a former deputy to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, tweeted: “How could you look at these results tonight and conclude Trump has any chance of winning a national election in 2024?” Chris Christie, the Republican former New Jersey governor, noted: “We lost in ’18. We lost in ’20. We lost in ’21 in Georgia. And now in ’22 we’re going to net lose governorships. . . . There’s only one person to blame for that, and that’s Donald Trump.” Mike Lawler, a newly elected Republican congressman from New York, suggested the party needed to “move forward” from Mr. Trump.

This rising chorus will create some pressure for change within the GOP. Where might they turn? This election provides an obvious model, which could present a big challenge for Democrats. Call it their Ron DeSantis problem.

In Florida’s gubernatorial election, Mr. DeSantis absolutely crushed his Democratic opponent, Charlie Crist, beating him by 19 points. This landslide included carrying Hispanic voters by 13 points and working-class (noncollege) voters by 27 points. Democrats nationally have been bleeding support from both these voter groups. Since 2018 the Democratic advantage has declined by 18 points among Hispanics, by 17 points among working-class voters and by 23 points among nonwhite working-class voters.

The geographic pattern of results in Florida underscores Mr. DeSantis’s strength. He carried heavily Hispanic Miami-Dade county, historically the Democrats’ firewall, by 11 points. He carried Osceola County by almost 7 points—a county where Puerto Ricans, among the most Democratic of Hispanic subgroups, loom large.

Democrats assumed that Mr. DeSantis’s flying migrants to Martha’s Vineyard would disqualify him among Hispanic voters. Evidently not. They also assumed that his sponsorship of a law prohibiting instruction in gender ideology for K-3 children would hurt him politically. Wrong again.

How does Mr. DeSantis do it? By being a smart, disciplined politician who knows how to pick his fights and has a strong sense of public opinion, particularly working-class opinion. I believe his combination of traits—Mr. Trump’s greatest strength, without his greatest weakness—could give the Democrats fits. He would be able to attack them on crime, immigration, race essentialism, gender ideology, inflation and energy prices without presenting the easy target provided by Mr. Trump and his acolytes’ extreme ideas.

Democrats, truth be told, are now in a weird codependent relationship with Mr. Trump. They know—and they are correct in thinking this—that the craziness associated with him is their most effective point of attack against the Republican Party and its candidates. Mr. Trump, of course, loves being the center of controversy.

But this codependent relationship makes the Democrats lazy. Instead of taking stock of their weaknesses and seeking to overcome them, they go back to the well on the evils of Mr. Trump, his nefarious supporters and their election denialism.

Meanwhile, the weaknesses remain. In a pre-election poll conducted by Impact Research for Third Way, respondents preferred Republicans over Democrats by 18 points on the economy and inflation and by 20 points or more on crime and immigration. The poll also found slightly more voters regarded the Democratic Party as “too extreme” (55%) than felt that way about the Republican Party (54%).

These election results seem unlikely to provoke the kind of introspection Democrats need to correct these vulnerabilities, especially among working-class and Hispanic voters. Mr. Biden, cheered on by the left, has already announced that he will do “nothing” differently. This puts them in an exceptionally poor position to address the DeSantis problem. What if 2024 arrives and they no longer have Donald Trump to kick around?

To compound the problem, Democrats are staring down the barrel of an unfavorable Senate map in 2024. Democrats will be defending 23 of the 33 seats in play. Holding those Democratic seats will mean winning in a raft of red and purple states: Arizona, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin and West Virginia. The Republican seats that will be up are all in solid GOP states, with the possible exceptions of Texas and Florida (and we saw what just happened there).

Imagine a DeSantis ticket, accompanied by saner, more competent Senate candidates. Are the Democrats prepared for that? I think not. But instead of addressing the problem—or even admitting it exists—they’re counting on Mr. Trump to bail them out. This seems exceptionally foolish. It’s also morally reprehensible: They’re trading a better chance of winning for the possibility that Mr. Trump might become president again.

Mr. Teixeira is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a co-editor of the Liberal Patriot, a Substack newsletter.

Dems Gain Leverage in State Governments

At FiveThirtyEight, Nathaniel Rakich explores the impact of Democratic gains in state governments as a result of the midterm elections, and writes:

Abortion bans, right-to-work laws, voting restrictions — for years, a lot of the major legislation coming out of state capitols has been conservative. But after Democrats’ clear victory in state-level elections last week, landmark liberal policies could be coming to a state near you.

For the first time in years, more Americans will live in a state fully controlled by Democrats than in one fully controlled by Republicans.1 Thanks to their wins in gubernatorial or state-legislative elections, Democrats2 took complete control of three new state governments in the 2022 elections: Michigan, Minnesota and Vermont. They broke the GOP monopoly on power in Arizona and, potentially, New Hampshire.3 They also kept full control of state government in four of the five states where they were in danger of losing it. And they prevented Republicans from taking full control of North Carolina, Wisconsin and maybe even Alaska.

Republicans, on the other hand, didn’t flip a single legislative chamber from blue to red. This is the first midterm election since at least 1934 that the president’s party hasn’t lost a state-legislative chamber, according to Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee President Jessica Post. And though it didn’t affect who controlled state government, Democrats flipped the Maryland and Massachusetts governorships and maybe the Pennsylvania state House.4

Democrats’ most significant win was probably Michigan. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was reelected, and Democrats took control of the state House for the first time since 2011 and the state Senate for the first time since 1984. Democrats won the popular vote for the Michigan state House in 2012, 2014, 2018 and 2020 but fell short of a majority each time because of state-legislative maps that favored Republicans.

The one major loss at the state level, according to Rakich was that “Democrats lost total control of just one state government this year. In Nevada, Republican Joe Lombardo defeated Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak in the gubernatorial race.” But, Dems held on to “Colorado, Maine, New Mexico and Oregon after winning the governorship and state legislature in each.”

As for the strategic implications, Rakich concludes, “State governments are often called the “laboratories of democracy” because they often pass ambitious or innovative policies before the federal government does. But with control of Washington, D.C., now split between Democrats and Republicans after the midterms, they could be the only places where meaningful policies are passed for the next two years.”

Yglesias: Midterms Lessons, Bipartisan Prospects

In his slowboring.com newsletter, Matthew Yglesias shares observations about where he was wrong regarding some of the 2022 midterm campaigns. He reviews the history of the 2022 midterm campaigns, considers what he has learned from mistakes and looks toward the future with some hopes, including:

  • “I thought student loan relief was costing Democrats politically. This was dumb on my part. I thought this was a bad policy on the merits, and I let that cloud my judgment. I knew all along that the specific thresholds the White House picked in terms of means-testing and how much debt was forgiven were either heavily workshopped with pollsters or else by remarkable coincidence lined up with what pollsters told me was optimal for public opinion. I argued that the impact on inflation offset this kind of superficial read from the polls, but no loans have actually been forgiven yet, so it’s simply not possible that would happen. This was wrong, and I should have known it was wrong.
  • I also thought that Dobbs wasn’t hurting Republicans as much as it should have, because Democrats were refusing to give any ground to the popularity of restrictions on late-term abortions. I do stand by the idea that this is a political error, but Democrats’ television ads about abortion rights were extremely well-crafted and that let them really punish the GOP on this without moderating their stance.
  • This relates to my third error, which is that I’ve often accused Democrats of overrating what can be achieved with paid media versus through positioning in the free press. I continue to believe that earned media matters more than paid — see Jared Golden winning in a very tough seat despite being outspent because he got coverage for taking moderate stances — but paid media is more effective than I thought. Catherine Cortez Masto did basically nothing outside of her advertising to be anything other than a totally generic Democrat, and it worked out.”

Yglesias adds, “In life, it’s important to guard against overcorrection. I think a lot of people had exaggerated ideas about “firing up” young voters with student loan forgiveness or the ability to work miracles with pure campaign work. But that led me to tilt too far in the other direction. Democrats skated close to a real danger zone with this midterm, but in the end it worked out fine thanks to some very skillful political work and some good luck.”

Regarding prospects for bipartisan reform, Yglesias writes, “The left significantly underrated the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act rather than admitting they were wrong. And while the CHIPS and Science Act that ultimately emerged wasn’t as good as the original Endless Frontier proposal, it’s still a good law. I’m hopeful we can still get a bipartisan permitting reform bill done in the lame duck, there has been a lot of bipartisan legislating relating to Ukraine, and broadly speaking, it has been nice to see a functioning legislative process.”

Teixeira: Hispanic and Working Class Voters in the 2022 Election

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

We don’t yet have final results in the 2022 election but it is fair to say Democrats convincingly beat expectations and “fundamentals” (a midterm election, Biden’s low approval, high inflation, voter negativity on the economy and the state of the country) with their performance. Republicans will likely still flip the House but only by a surprisingly thin margin and the Senate could well remain controlled (just barely) by the Democrats, pending final results of the Nevada race and a Georgia runoff.

Putting this uncertainty to the side, the basic reason for the Democrats’ relative success is clear. A combination of the Dobbs decision and Trump’s interventions into nominating contests produced a slew of Republican candidates who could be successfully portrayed as extreme by moderate Democratic candidates, allowing them to escape the drag of the national party’s image and the negative national environment.

A finding from a pre-election survey by Third Way/Impact Research encapsulates this dynamic nicely. The survey found that about equal numbers of voters found the Republican and Democratic parties “too extreme” (54 percent vs. 55 percent), but that the story in this election was quite different when it comes to candidates.

Voters…perceive the current slate of Republican candidates to be more extreme; when asked which party has nominated more extreme candidates, voters choose Republicans by a seven-point margin (44%-37%). Among swing voters, that margin was twenty points (36%-16%). Conversely, when asked which party has nominated the most moderate candidates for Congress this cycle, 34% chose Democrats while 25% chose Republicans.

With this in mind, it’s interesting and important to ask how different voter groups responded to this situation. In particular, did the Democrats’ relative success signal a turnaround in their difficulties with Hispanic and working class voters? I don’t believe so. Here are some data from the AP-NORC VoteCast survey (far superior to the exit polls in my opinion) that cast doubt on the idea that Democrats’ problems with these groups have been solved—or even substantially mitigated.

1. Nationally, Hispanic support for Democratic candidates declined substantially, falling to just a 16 point advantage from 29 points in 2020 and 34 points in 2018. That’s an 18 point decline in Democratic margin across the two cycles. Moreover, the 40 percent of the Hispanic vote that Republican house candidates received in this election is a level of support among this demographic Republicans have not enjoyed since the days of George W. Bush.

2. Education polarization increased strongly across the two cycles. In 2018, Democrats actually carried working class (noncollege) voters as a whole by 4 points, while carrying college voters by 14 points, for a 10 point difference. In 2022, the Democrats lost working class voters by 13 points, while still carrying college voters by 7 points, a 20 point differential.

3. Looking at working class voters by race (white and nonwhite), there is an impressively large decline in the Democrats’ margin among nonwhite working class voters between 2018 and 2022. In 2018, Democrats carried this group by 57 points. By 2022, that margin was down to 34 points, a stunning 23 point decline.

4. This was even larger than the fall among white working class voters where the Democrats’ deficit ballooned from 20 points in 2018 to 35 points in 2022.

5. The demographic where Democratic support held up the best was among white college voters, perhaps not surprising given the campaign they chose to run. Their margin among this group fell a mere 6 points between their very good 2018 election and 2022. This pattern is consistent with the sort of suburban seats where Democrats managed to stave off Republican challenges this year.

All told, these data do not suggest Democrats’ Hispanic and working class voter problems are now in their rear view mirror. Not even close. And consider they are staring down the barrel of a very unfavorable Senate map in 2024, where Democrats will be defending 23 of the 33 seats in play. Holding those Democratic seats will mean winning in a raft of red and purple states like Arizona (again), Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada (again), Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and (gulp) West Virginia. That’s a daunting task and, oh, the Democrats will also probably need to win back the House. More attrition among working class and Hispanic voters could be fatal to these aspirations. Relying on white college voters to somehow insulate Democrats from this weakness would be a slender reed indeed in such circumstances.

And then there’s what we might call the Democrats’ Ron DeSantis problem. There’s no guarantee Trump will be the GOP’s candidate in 2024, despite the Democrats’ evident wish for it to be so. In the wake of Republicans’ underperformance in 2022, much of it attributable to Trump and his influence, voices are growing louder in the party for an alternative. Blake Hounshell of the New York Times reported:

Marc Thiessen, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush during his presidency, called the outcome “a searing indictment of the Republican Party” that demanded “a really deep introspection look in the mirror.”

When Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader, was asked for his reaction to the election results, he said, “I don’t deal in feelings.” But Scott Jennings, one of his former deputies, tweeted what many assume McConnell thinks: “How could you look at these results tonight and conclude Trump has any chance of winning a national election in 2024?”….

The National Review’s Jim Geraghty, in a blistering article headlined “The Red Splish-Splash,” called DeSantis “far and away the strongest candidate” and complained that Republican voters had “nominated clowns” in many races.

“Americans are tired of the circus, the freak show, the in-your-face, all-controversy-is-good, Trump-influenced wannabes,” Geraghty concluded.

Well then. Of course, there’s no guarantee that a groundswell against Trump would succeed in getting rid of him. But for the sake of a healthy democracy, shouldn’t we all be rooting for that—for Trump not to be the nominee? Hoping that he’s the nominee because he’d be relatively easy to beat, as many Democrats secretly (or not so secretly) do, is really rather appalling given the stakes.

Then indeed you might have to beat a candidate like DeSantis. That would not be easy given the Democrats’ current weaknesses. In DeSantis’ crushing victory over Democrat Charlie Crist, he actually carried Hispanics in the state by 13 points and working class voters overall by 27 points (!) A DeSantis ticket, accompanied by saner, more competent Senate and House candidates, would be quite a challenge for today’s Democrats.

That suggests that Democrats should take the task seriously of becoming America’s normie voter party and expanding the ranks of its working class supporters. If not—and Biden, cheered on by the left of the party, has announced he will do “nothing” differently going forward—it could be a very long decade.

Dem Gains in State Legislatures Brighten Party’s Future

From “Democrats make big gains in state legislatures after beating expectations” by Phil McCausland at nbc.com:

National Democrats were fairly happy on Election Day as they dodged a predicted trouncing at the polls, but state Democrats might have even more to celebrate.

As with Congress, the president’s party typically faces a shellacking in state legislatures in the cycle after his election and few expected 2022 to be different, as Democrats prepared to lose ground across the country and fought to keep the few majorities they had.

But Democrats had a much better night on the state level than expected. With votes still being counted across the country, the party has flipped the Michigan state Senate away from Republican control, according to The New York Times, citing AP data. And Democrats appear on track to flip the state House in Michigan, as well as in Pennsylvania and Minnesota, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), the nonpartisan organization that represents legislative chambers.

Democrats are also competitive in races to flip the legislative chambers in Arizona and New Hampshire, the NCSL said.

Republicans, meanwhile, consolidated power by creating supermajorities in both Florida legislative chambers as well as the North Carolina Senate, Wisconsin Senate, Iowa Senate and South Carolina House. They have not flipped any chambers as of yet.

Pennsylvania Democrats were already celebrating their wins in the state assembly, anticipating that they’ll take control for the first time since 2010. If Democrats do flip the Michigan House as well as the Senate, they’ll have full partisan control of the state for the first time in nearly 40 years following Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s re-election this week.

McCausland adds, “Changes in legislative control could also have an impact on future elections….Democrats in Pennsylvania were already gearing up to head off similar challenges that they said threatened democracy, while in Michigan, Democrats were pulling together a long list of policy priorities they haven’t addressed in four decades….“This is clearly turning out to be a very, very good election for the Democrats, and it could get even better,” noted Ben Williams, program principal of elections and redistricting for the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Political Strategy Notes

From the early days of the feminist awakening of the 1970s on down to Monday, the expression “sisterhood is powerful” seemed more of an unfulfilled ideal than a prophesy realized. No more. Although we don’t have solid data yet showing the impact of women voters on midterms outcomes, a top priority of the women’s rights agenda got a huge boost on Tuesday. As Amelia Thomson-Deveaux writes at FiveThirtyEight: “Results are still pending in some key states like Arizona, but Democrats won many contests that will shape abortion access for the next few years — and in some cases, much longer. Abortion-rights supporters managed to enshrine the right to abortion in three state constitutions, including the crucial state of Michigan, where a near-total ban on abortion from 1931 has been tangled up in court battles for months. And supporters notched another consequential win in Kentucky, where a majority of the state’s voters opposed a ballot measure that would have explicitly clarified that abortion rights was not protected under the state constitution….These are significant victories for Democrats and abortion-rights supporters, particularly as Democrats faced significant headwinds on other topics important to Americans. That success almost certainly means abortion will remain a defining political issue as the 2024 presidential race looms on the horizon. There will be plenty of opportunities for Democrats to push their message: Abortion-rights activists now have momentum to push for ballot measures like the one that passed in Michigan, perhaps in states with active or pending bans like Ohio, Oklahoma and Missouri. And candidates may see this week’s results as evidence they need to talk more about abortion than they may have otherwise.”

Thomson-Deveaux adds that, “the unpopularity of the Supreme Court’s decision isn’t just registering in polls – it’s also reshaping the country’s political landscape…abortion did make it to the ballot in five states – Michigan, Vermont, California, Kentucky and Montana – and although we don’t have final results everywhere, abortion-rights supporters appear poised to sweep the board.” However, Thomson-Deveaux notes that “turning the general air of displeasure about extreme abortion bans into electoral victories could be tricky for Democrats in red states like Kentucky. Many anti-abortion candidates were also elected in races across the country last night, too — so simply prioritizing abortion doesn’t necessarily translate into support for Democrats.” Yet, “In key purple states, though, abortion rights seem to have lifted Democratic candidates, and although some races are still outstanding, Democrats have already won most of the state-level races that will shape abortion access going forward. In Pennsylvania, where Republican legislators were making noises about stricter abortion bans, Democrat Josh Shapiro won the governor’s race handily, defeating an opponent who was one of the most ardent anti-abortion advocates in the statehouse….We’ll keep looking into how abortion shaped the results of the midterms in the coming days. But for now, it’s clear that the Dobbs decision did turn abortion into one of the most salient issues in the country — which means you’re going to be hearing a lot more about it as the 2024 presidential campaign creaks into gear.”

Nate Silver explains why “Candidate Quality Mattered,” also at FiveThirtyEight: “For one thing, just look at the large difference between Senate and gubernatorial results in states with both types of races on the ballot. In the nine states with battleground1 Senate races in states that also had a gubernatorial race on the ballot, there were significant discrepancies between the performance of the candidates. We could wind up with as many as five of the nine states where one party wins the governorship and the other wins the Senate race. It’s already happened in New Hampshire and Wisconsin. It could happen in Nevada and Arizona depending how the remaining vote comes in. And it will also happen in Georgia if Democrat Raphael Warnock wins the Dec. 6 runoff after Republican Brian Kemp comfortably won the gubernatorial race….And even in states where there weren’t split-ticket winners, there were still big gaps in candidate performance. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, won reelection by nearly 26 percentage points at the same time the GOP Senate candidate, J.D. Vance, won by just 6.2 In Pennsylvania, Democrat John Fetterman did well enough in the U.S. Senate race against Mehmet Oz, but Josh Shapiro nonetheless won by a much larger margin against Doug Mastriano in the gubernatorial contest….In the 2018 midterms, the results in a number of major Senate races also significantly diverged from the partisan lean of the state. Republicans nominated a series of inexperienced Senate candidates, and such candidates tend to underperform statewide benchmarks.” It appears primary meddling was an effective way for Democratic political campaigns to reduce candidate quality of Republicans in the midterms.

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. shares his early take on the midterm elections, arguing that “Republicans failed to put forward anything that could be considered a governing agenda….The consensus seemed to be that the GOP had run a very disciplined campaign focused on inflation and crime, with attacks on Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) layered in to fertilize discontent….It didn’t work, partly because Republicans offered nothing in the way of solutions to the problems they were bemoaning. They also fudged what was supposed to be an issue of high principle, fleeing in horror from the abortion question once they realized how much anger a right-wing Supreme Court had inspired by overturning Roe v. Wade….Their evasion didn’t help them. Exit polls showed that three-quarters of voters who cast ballots on abortion backed Democrats. And the GOP’s inability to specify what the party might do with power undercut Republicans on the issues that were supposed to be their salvation….It’s probably too much to hope that Democratic success will tamp down warfare between the party’s progressive and centrist wings. But both sides would do well to acknowledge a core fact of political life: Democrats win only when they can unite the left and the center. Democrats needed the turnout and the 88 percent vote share they won from the slightly more than a quarter of the electorate that described itself as liberal. But they also needed the 54 percent they won among the one-third of voters who said they were moderate….For all the good news for Democrats, the fact remains that the outcome of this election is up in the air. Many House seats and the decisive Senate seats remain undecided. Republicans could yet emerge with very narrow control of the House and possibly the Senate. A Republican Congress would make governing hell over the next two years….But even if it does gain a share of power, the GOP will have to reckon with how its fealty to Trump and trafficking with extremists is lethal, and how voters demand more from their politicians than rage. After six years of bowing, scraping and blustering, you wonder whether Republicans have any capacity for introspection left in them.”