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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Rural Voter

The new book White Rural Rage employs a deeply misleading sensationalism to gain media attention. You should read The Rural Voter by Nicholas Jacobs and Daniel Shea instead.

Read the memo.

There is a sector of working class voters who can be persuaded to vote for Democrats in 2024 – but only if candidates understand how to win their support.

Read the memo.

The recently published book, Rust Belt Union Blues, by Lainey Newman and Theda Skocpol represents a profoundly important contribution to the debate over Democratic strategy.

Read the Memo.

Democrats should stop calling themselves a “coalition.”

They don’t think like a coalition, they don’t act like a coalition and they sure as hell don’t try to assemble a majority like a coalition.

Read the memo.

The American Establishment’s Betrayal of Democracy

The American Establishment’s Betrayal of Democracy The Fundamental but Generally Unacknowledged Cause of the Current Threat to America’s Democratic Institutions.

Read the Memo.

Democrats ignore the central fact about modern immigration – and it’s led them to political disaster.

Democrats ignore the central fact about modern immigration – and it’s led them to political disaster.

Read the memo.


The Daily Strategist

June 14, 2024

Do Voters Care About Veeps?

Decided to explore a hardy perennial topic in a period of intense speculation about various candidates for Vice President, and wrote it up at New York:

In political circles, it’s high season for veep speculation. Democrats worried about Joe Biden’s age and their ticket’s electability fret about whether incumbent Vice-President Kamala Harris is the best bet to serve as the presidential understudy in 2024 as Republicans yell and point at her as an alleged radical leftist. Republicans worried about their party’s post-Trump direction fret about the erratic former president’s choice of a running mate to replace his 2016–20 toady, the since-discarded Mike Pence. Independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is doing his own veep reveal on March 26; it has drawn interest partly because it could indicate which major party’s success might be spoiled by his bid and partly because ultracelebrity NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers could be in the mix. And the nonpartisan organization No Labels will soon be unveiling its own potential 2024 plans, which are likely to deploy a Democratic vice-presidential candidate to balance a Republican at the top of its “unity ticket.”

Do veep candidates really matter in determining the outcome of presidential elections?

To be clear, this is a very different question than the real-world relevance of vice-presidents. Fifteen veeps have gone on to become president, eight of them suddenly on the death of the boss and another when the boss was forced to resign. It is difficult to exaggerate the significance of Abraham Lincoln choosing Andrew Johnson as his 1864 running mate (making congressional Reconstruction necessary), or FDR replacing Henry Wallace with Harry Truman in 1944 (removing a Soviet sympathizer from the line of succession). The political insiders who often influence the choice of vice-presidential candidates understand why they matter, which is why they definitely care about them even in the absence of evidence that voters care at all.

And to be honest, there has never been much evidence that most voters care at all. Political scientists are generally in agreement that the identity of the second person on a presidential ticket matters mostly on the margins. Even St. Louis University’s Joel Goldstein, who is to vice-presidents what Andy Cohen is to Real Housewives, concedes that their identity is usually an electoral cipher. He has said, “Vice-presidential choice is unlikely to make much of a difference where potential swing voters have a strong preference for one presidential candidate over the other.” He points to very close elections with lots of swing voters, notably in 1960 when LBJ might have helped swing Texas into JFK’s column, as exceptions to a general rule.

On the other hand, there’s quite a bit of recent evidence that the selection of a particular running mate may play a role in preventing defections of voters from a presidential candidate with a shaky electoral base.

Most obviously, in 2016 Donald Trump was facing a potential revolt among movement-conservative and Evangelical voters, which he addressed by choosing the movement-conservative Evangelical politician Pence (who had the added reassuring value of a long résumé of elected offices). We can’t prove Trump would have lost without Pence onboard, but his victory was narrow enough that a Pence-less loss is a plausible counterfactual scenario. Similarly, in 2020 Biden’s choice of Harris made sense after a grueling nomination contest in which old white guy Biden prevailed over multiple women and people of color (not to mention two Jews), reversing the diversity trend established by his predecessors Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Biden himself, of course, was chosen by the first Black presidential nominee, who was also a freshman senator, in no small part because he was an old white guy with a Washington résumé as long as his arm.

What Trump must decide is whether he needs to worry about potential Republican defections in choosing a running mate or is instead more motivated by a determination to avoid the “disloyalty” Pence eventually displayed on January 6, 2021. And Democrats contemplating either a replacement of their entire 2024 ticket as a likely loser or just the selection of a new VP less likely to cause worries about a possible presidential disability or death need to assess the potential backlash to making Harris the first sitting vice-president in three-quarters of a century (since Henry Wallace) to get the heave-ho. (Yes, technically speaking, Gerald Ford booted Nelson Rockefeller from the 1976 ticket to placate conservatives, but it was theoretically a voluntary retirement and neither of these men was elected by voters in the first place.)

For non-major-party campaigns, like RFK Jr.’s or the putative No Labels effort, the veep selection could be more significant simply by giving a clearer definition to a fuzzy presidential candidacy.

In general, though, there’s a reason presidential candidates tend to play it safe with their running-mate selections: It usually doesn’t matter much unless it draws more attention than people aiming to become the “leader of the free world” typically want. John McCain’s “high risk, high reward” choice of an obscure first-term Alaska governor named Sarah Palin in 2008 is an eternal warning to would-be presidents that you don’t want a veep voters notice because she’s being regularly lampooned on Saturday Night Live.

Brownstein: Biden vs. Inflation

From Ronald Brownstein’s “How Biden hopes to recapture voters scarred by inflation” at CNN Politics:

Biden is portraying himself as committed to standing up for average Americans against powerful interests and the wealthy. But polls consistently show that significantly more Americans, including substantial numbers of Black and Hispanic voters, believe they personally benefited from Trump’s policies than Biden’s.

That sentiment risks blunting Biden’s populist arguments: even if he can convince voters that Trump’s policies helped the rich and corporations the most, they may not mind as much if they believe that they also benefited more under Trump than they have under Biden.

In a way, it’s Biden against a form of the “rising tide lifts all boats” tax strategy Republicans have deployed effectively for decades. “It’s Ok if the wealthy get huge tax breaks, as long as I get a modest one too.” Brownstein notes further,

Biden has plenty of ammunition to mount a traditional populist case against Trump. The former president’s principal legislative accomplishment was a massive tax cut that provided most of its direct benefits to corporations and the most affluent. Trump came within one Senate vote of repealing the Affordable Care Act, which has significantly increased health care coverage for lower-income working Americans. As a candidate in 2016, Trump pledged to seek legislative authority for Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices from pharmaceutical companies, but in office, under intense pressure from the industry, he abandoned that promise. Across a wide range of regulatory issues, from the environment to consumer protection, his administration consistently sided with business interests.

Biden has set a very different course. He won the legislative authority for Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices for seniors, and his administration is now negotiating lower prices for the first 10 drugs under that program; he also won authority to limit seniors’ monthly costs for insulin to $35 per month and to cap seniors’ annual out-of-pocket expenses for all drugs at $2,000. He passed significantly larger subsidies to help the uninsured buy coverage under the ACA, which has pushed enrollment to record highs. His administration has enforced the antitrust laws more aggressively than any in recent times and pursued a multi-pronged regulatory offensive against what he calls junk fees. The Covid-19 stimulus bill passed in 2021 included an expansion of the tax credit for families with children big enough to cut childhood poverty roughly in half, though the credit expired when West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin insisted on its removal in the Inflation Reduction Act. Biden did pass in that law a new 15% minimum tax for corporations.

Brownstrein adds:

The new proposals Biden highlighted in his State of the Union last week and new federal budget released Monday also lean heavily into economic populism.Overall, issues that economic populists have worked for years to put into the political mainstream got validated by President Biden,” said Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. Biden is proposing to raise the corporate tax rate, impose a 25% minimum tax on billionaires and end the Trump tax cuts for families earning over $400,000 per year (while retaining them for those making less). He wants to restore the expanded children’s tax credit, make permanent the larger subsidies for buying health insurance, provide a $10,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers, establish a nationwide paid family leave program, and subsidize families’ child care expenses, partly by establishing universal access to preschool. He also called for increasing five-fold annually the number of drugs subject to Medicare negotiations, and to extend the caps on insulin and out-of-pocket drug costs to all Americans, not just seniors.

Biden’s agenda, and the contrast it establishes with Trump’s policy priorities, gives Democrats plenty to work with in trying to portray themselves as champions of average families and Republicans as servants of the wealthy. “Our economic contrast is going to be that of Scranton, Pennsylvania, versus Park Avenue,” said Michael Tyler, the Biden campaign’s communications director. “We have the receipts because we are also running against a de facto incumbent. We saw what his economic policy looked like when he was in office and we have to clearly articulate that to people and remind people of what his priorities are.”

However, notes Brownstein,

But inflation, and its impact on the ability of working families to meet their bills, has greatly complicated Biden’s task in winning a conventional populist argument against Trump. Inflation has significantly moderated from its peak immediately after the Covid pandemic, but while prices are no longer increasing as fast, they remain about 18% higher than when Biden took office, and higher than that for such essentials as groceries, gas and rent. And while wages have been rising faster than prices since spring 2023, the cumulative increase in pay has not yet surpassed the cumulative increase in prices during Biden’s presidency, leaving many workers feeling squeezed. “What’s the disconnect between people’s experience and the [positive] economic movement that we’ve seen in the last four or five months?” asked Republican pollster Micah Roberts. “It’s three words: In-fla-tion. That’s it. It’s not a hard thing.”

Pollsters in both parties say it is common in focus groups to hear participants say that they felt they had more money in their pocket at the end of the week when Trump was president. “Right before Covid, people were telling us it was the best economy they had seen in their lifetime,” said Jim McLaughlin, a pollster for Trump. Now, he says, “They specifically blame Joe Biden for” their increased difficulty making ends meet. “Stand outside a grocery store,” McLaughlin added, “they’ll tell you how booming the economy is.”

Polls leave little doubt Biden today is not only losing the economic comparison to Trump, but facing substantial skepticism among constituencies that usually are the principal target for a populist Democratic economic message. In a CNBC poll last October, not only did White voters say they were better off financially under Trump than Biden by a margin of more than 4-to-1, but so did non-white voters by a margin of nearly 2-to-1, according to figures provided by Roberts, whose firm conducts the survey with a Democratic partner. In the latest national NBC News poll, conducted by the same Republican-Democratic partnership, voters who identified as low-income and working-class trusted Trump over Biden on the economy by a crushing margin of 61% to 25%.

Brownstein goes on to note that Biden’s poll numbers are even worse with Hispanic voters and cites anger about Biden’s immigration policy as feeding nostalgia for Trump’s pre-Covid years. But Biden may have found a powerful message point in populist economics:

“In a report released last week,” Brownstein notes, “the Winning Jobs Narrative Project, a consortium of liberal advocacy groups, concluded that Democrats’ best chance to overcome voters’ continuing concerns about meeting their bills is to hammer home the populist case Biden sketched out in the State of the Union. By framing the election as a choice between “middle-out” versus “top down” and “trickle down” economics, “we think the president is absolutely on to something central to the direction Democrats should take in this election – which is who gets prioritized and how,” said Bobby Clark, a senior adviser to the group.

After voters were exposed to Biden’s populist arguments, assessments of his economic record improved in the group’s polling, Clark said. But even after hearing that case, most voters in the group’s surveys still gave Biden negative marks for his economic performance, the study found….That finding may suggest the limits on how much Biden’s prospective agenda can offset voters’ discontent over their actual economic experience during his presidency. To win in November, most strategists in both parties agree, Biden doesn’t need to completely erase Trump’s advantage on the economy because so many voters resist the former president on other grounds, such as democracy, abortion rights, and the general chaos and conflict that he ignites.”

Brownstein concludes that “Biden needs positive trends on the economy to persist – in particular, for wages to continue rising faster than prices, as they have since last spring….But he also needs to persuade enough voters that his agenda will do more than Trump’s to help them make ends meet in the future – even if they mostly believe the opposite has so far been true of Biden’s time in the White House.”

Political Strategy Notes

Following his impressive SOTU, President Biden has hit the campaign trail with an equally-popular message and a sharply-focused attack against his predecessor. As Alex Gangitano reports in “Biden rallies crowd by citing Trump’s remarks on Social Security cuts” at The Hill,  “President Biden rallied a crowd in Milwaukee Wednesday by citing former President Trump’s recent remarks suggesting he’s open to cuts to Medicare and Social Security….“Just this week, Donald Trump said cuts to Social Security and Medicare are on the table. When asked if he’d change his position, he said quote, there’s a lot we can do in terms of cutting, tremendous amount of things we can do. End of quote,” Biden said….“I want to assure you, I will never allow it to happen,” he added during a visit to the critical swing state of Wisconsin….Biden vowed Wednesday to protect the entitlement programs….“I won’t cut Social Security; I will not cut Medicare. Instead of cutting Social Security and Medicare to give tax breaks to the super wealthy, I’m going to protect and strengthen Social Security and Medicare to make the wealthy begin to pay their fair share,” Biden said….The Biden campaign promptly dropped an ad with Trump’s comments and then launched an effort in battleground states to hold more than a dozen press conferences before Friday, all focused on entitlement programs, the campaign first told The Hill….“Many of my friends on the other side of the aisle want to put Social Security on the chopping block,” Biden said in the address. “If anyone here tries to cut Social Security or Medicare or raise the retirement age, I will stop you.”

In “New Study: Where Are All the Left Populists?” the editors of Jacobin write: “The political left is struggling with working-class voters around the world. In the United States, the Democratic Party has lost more of its support in election after election since 2012. Is there anything that can be done to stop the bleeding or even reverse the trend?….In 2023, with Jacobin and YouGov, the Center for Working-Class Politics (CWCP) published Trump’s Kryptonite, a studythat sought to provide some answers to this basic question. We designed a unique survey experiment that asked participants to choose between hypothetical pairs of candidates. We found that candidates who deployed populist messaging, who advocated bold progressive economic policies, and who came from working-class backgrounds were more likely to win support among working-class voters….With the help of a team of research assistants, we built a novel, comprehensive dataset on the 966 candidates who ran in Democratic primaries and general elections for the House and Senate in 2022. Using text from candidates’ campaign websites, we documented their campaign rhetoric, policy platforms, demographic characteristics, and class backgrounds. We were thus able to identify, among other things, candidates who our past research suggests would be effective at winning working-class voters: those who employed populist rhetoric, proposed progressive economic policies, or held working-class occupations prior to their political careers….More than anything else, our findings reveal just how few Democratic candidates actually meet these criteria.”

The Jacobin editors continue, “Despite the appeal of forceful, anti–economic elite messaging to the demographics that Democrats desperately need to reach — such as working-class and rural voters — few Democrats actually employ this kind of messaging. Even fewer run on bold progressive economic policies such as raising the minimum wage or a jobs guarantee. Finally, working-class candidates were extremely rare — 2 percent to 6 percent of candidates, depending on the measure — and those who did run were typically marginal primary candidates or ran Hail Mary general election campaigns in deep-red districts….How did progressives, populists, and working-class candidates fare when they did run? In short, quite well. Candidates who used economic populist rhetoric won higher vote shares in general elections, especially in highly working-class districts, rural and small-town districts, and districts where the majority were white and not college educated. We also find that Democratic candidates running on economically progressive policies were more successful overall than other candidates, especially in majority-white, non-college-educated districts….Democrats face little downside from running more working-class candidates in general elections, and a large potential upside…..Economic populists performed especially well in districts with majority-white, non-college-educated populations and in highly working-class districts. Their average vote shares were, respectively, 12.3 and 6.4 percentage points higher than other candidates’ in such districts. Economic populists also performed better than other candidates in rural and small-town districts, where their average vote share was 4.7 percentage points higher….You can read the full report here.”

From “Notes on the State of Politics: March 13, 2024: Assessing the new House landscape as redistricting is (probably) over; looking ahead to next week’s down-ballot Ohio and Illinois primaries” by Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “Alabama: Somewhat surprisingly, the U.S. Supreme Court in last year’s Allen v. Milligan decision upheld Section Two of the Voting Rights Act, which can prompt the creation of majority-minority districts in places that can accommodate them based on certain criteria. A court-imposed map created a second Black majority seat in the state, which should cut the state’s 6-1 Republican delegation to 5-2….Louisiana: Allen v. Milligan effectively opened the door to a new map in Louisiana, too, and eventually the state legislature created what amounts to a heavily Democratic district, which should have the effect of reducing the GOP edge from 5-1 to 4-2….Georgia: Another case in the style of Alabama and Louisiana was decided in Georgia, but the Republican-controlled state legislature simply rearranged districts in the Atlanta area to create an additional Black majority district that won’t otherwise upset the partisan makeup of the state’s congressional delegation, currently 9-5 Republican….North Carolina: The state’s then-Democratic state Supreme Court imposed a map that resulted in a 7-7 tie in the delegation in 2022. Republicans took control of the state Supreme Court, which then re-opened the door to the GOP-controlled legislature re-imposing a partisan gerrymander. Republicans converted two Safe Democratic seats and one very competitive seat won by a Democrat in 2022 into three Safe Republican seats, and they also changed a northeast North Carolina district held by first-term Rep. Don Davis (D, NC-1) from one that Joe Biden carried by 7.3 points to just Biden +1.7….New York: After the state’s highest court imposed a map to replace an aggressive Democratic gerrymander in 2022, state Democrats got a more liberal version of the same court to re-open the state’s convoluted redistricting process. The end result was a mildly better map for Democrats, with potentially the most impactful change coming in Rep. Brandon Williams’s (R) Syracuse-based NY-22, which went from Biden +7.5 to Biden +11.4….So, who won? Probably Republicans, but only modestly….This is because the pro-Democratic changes in Alabama, Louisiana, and New York do not, together, offset the pro-Republican changes in North Carolina.”

Longest General Election Ever Begins

One phase of the 2024 presidential campaign came to an end while another very long one began, as I noted at New York:

Without a great deal of fanfare, Joe Biden and Donald Trump each clinched their parties’ presidential nominations in the March 12 caucuses and primaries. This sets up what is officially the longest general-election campaign ever, a 238-day marathon (2000 and 2004 were a day shorter) that will seem even longer because it’s a rematch between two universally known presidents.

Biden and Trump became “putative” nominees a week earlier when their last intraparty opponents, Dean Phillips and Nikki Haley, respectively, dropped out of contention. At this point, they are “presumptive” nominees pending the formal designation made at their national conventions (July 15-18 in Milwaukee for Republicans, August 19-22 in Chicago for Democrats). Biden has won 2,107 of the 2,130 Democratic delegates allocated so far (1,968 were needed for the nomination) with “uncommitted” running second with 20. Trump has won 1,241 of the 1,347 Republican delegates allocated to date (1,215 were needed for the nomination) with Nikki Haley second at 94.

The final day of the two nominating contests was a bit short on drama. Hawaii’s Democrats gave seven of 22 delegates to “uncommitted” after 29 percent of caucusgoers opted to make that gesture aimed at pushing Biden to support a permanent cease-fire in Gaza. But in Washington state, where a stronger protest vote had been expected, only 7.5 percent of primary voters went “uncommitted” (with 79 percent of ballots counted) and Biden was winning all 92 delegates at stake.

Former candidate Haley managed double-digit showings in two March 12 primaries in Georgia (13 percent) and Washington (22 percent), though keep in mind that both states allowed Democrats and independents to participate in the GOP contest and many of the votes were cast early, before Haley suspended her candidacy.

Because there have been rumblings in both parties about a hypothetical convention revolt against the presumptive nominee (Biden owing to electability jitters and Trump due to his legal problems), it’s worth noting that Trump’s delegates are “bound” to him by party rules (and can be liberated only by a candidate withdrawal or a two-thirds convention vote), while Biden’s are his strictly as a matter of moral obligation. Both conventions will, however, be totally wired by the campaigns of the two nominees. By the time these summer coronations roll around, Biden and Trump will be two of the most thoroughly known quantities in American political history.


Where Dems Can Win Votes with Improved Voter Registration

Some stats from “How voter registration rules discourage some Americans from voting: An explainer and research roundup” by Denise-Marie Ordway at Journalist’s Resource:

In 2022, 69% of U.S. citizens aged 18 years and older were registered to vote, according to a report the U.S. Census Bureau released last year. Registration rates ranged from 61% in North Carolina to 83% in Oregon.

The four most populous states — California, Texas, Florida and New York — had some of the lowest registration rates: 67%, 65%, 63% and 66%, respectively.

White U.S. citizens are much more likely to be registered to vote than citizens of other racial and ethnic groups. Nationally, about 71% of white adult citizens, 64% of Black adult citizens, 60% of Asian adult citizens and 58% of Hispanic adult citizens were registered to vote in November 2022, according to Census Bureau estimates.

Older adult citizens are more likely to be registered than younger ones. While 77% of citizens aged 65 years and older were registered to vote in November 2022, 63% of citizens aged 25 to 34 and 49% of citizens aged 18 to 24 were.

Voter registration rates differed by job status in November 2022. For example, 60% of unemployed adult citizens reporting being registered compared with 72% of self-employed adult citizens and 79% with government jobs.

Adult citizens with lower incomes are less likely to register to vote than those with higher incomes. For example, 83% of adult citizens with family incomes of $150,000 per year or higher were registered to vote in November 2022. Meanwhile, 58% of adult citizens with family incomes of $15,000 to $19,999 were.

The voter registration rate among Hispanic adult citizens in November 2022 was lowest in Mississippi, at 23%, and highest in Minnesota, at 75%.

In Iowa, 76% of white adult citizens were registered to vote, compared with 41% of Black adult citizens, 45% of Asian adult citizens and 58% of Hispanic adult citizens.

In 10 states, fewer than half of Black adult citizens were registered to vote in November 2022. In 15 states, fewer than half of Asian adult citizens were.

In Florida, younger voters and racial and ethnic minorities were more likely to have their voter registration applications put “on hold,” meaning they needed to correct errors and provide additional information before their applications can be processed.

Although there are no shockers in any of these statistics, they do suggest that Democrats can improve their prospects with specific demographic groups in places with a little extra effort.

Teixeira: Nonwhite Working Class Bails Out on Democrats

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

Cast your mind back to those heady days of 2012 when Barack Obama vanquished Mitt Romney and won a second term in the White House. In that election, Obama carried nonwhite working-class (noncollege) voters by a massive 67 points, while losing white college graduates by 7 points. That means Obama did 74 points betteramong the nonwhite working class than among white college graduates.

In the next two presidential elections, that differential steadily narrowed as Democrats did worse among nonwhite working-class voters even as they improved among white college graduates. In 2020, Biden carried the nonwhite working class by 48 points (19 points less than Obama did in 2012) while carrying white college graduates by 9 points (16 points better than Obama). That cut the Democrats’ positive differential between these two groups almost in half, down to 39 points.

Now it’s Biden running for a second term and, astonishingly, that positive differential may have entirely disappeared. According to the just-released New York Times/Siena poll, Biden is actually doing worse among the nonwhite working class, carrying them by a mere six points, than among white college graduates, where he enjoys a 15 point advantage over Trump. Amazing. There is perhaps no better illustration of the Democrats’ transformation into a Brahmin Left party, beloved by the educated but increasingly viewed with suspicion by the working classes of all races.

The Times data allow us to dig into the attitudinal differences that currently exist between white college graduates and the nonwhite working class and help explain these trends.

1. Biden’s job approval. Biden’s job approval among the nonwhite working class is a dreadful 34 percent. Among white college graduates it’s a comparatively healthy 47 percent. The nonwhite working class is actually closer to the white working class’ assessment of Biden (28 percent approval) than to white college graduates’ view of Biden.

2. Trump favorability. Trump has a 44 percent favorability rating among nonwhite working-class voters. That’s lower than the 55 percent rating among the white working class but still closer to that rating than Trump’s 29 percent favorability among white college graduates.

3. Personality and temperament to be an effective president. White and nonwhite working-class voters are very close on the assessment of Biden (42 percent vs. 46 percent say Biden has what it takes to be an effective president), way lower than the 63 percent thumbs up from white college grads. And on Trump’s capabilities, the two working-class sectors are almost identical (48 percent vs. 47 percent think Trump can do the job), way higher than the 29 percent among white college voters who agree.

4. Assessments of the economy. About three-fifths (59 percent) of the nonwhite working class characterizes current economic conditions as “poor.” That’s identical with views among the white working class and way more negative than among white college voters, only 38 percent of whom believe the economy is that bad.

In terms of whether the economy is better or worse than a year ago, a mere 15 percent of nonwhite working-class voters believe the economy has gotten better while 51 percent believe it has gotten worse. That’s close to white working-class voters, where 21 percent say better and 42 percent say worse. But for white college graduates views are much sunnier: 32 percent better and 29 percent worse.

Looking back further, the nonwhite working class deems the economy worse rather than better than four years ago by 67 percent to 12 percent, quite similar to the white working class at 74 percent worse/16 percent better. That compares to white college grads at 50 percent worse/30 percent better.

5. Personal assessments. Just 12 percent of the the nonwhite working class are willing to say that Biden’s policies have helped them personally. That’s actually slightly less than the 14 percent of the white working class who are willing to say the same thing. Both sectors of the working class trail white college voters, who are much higher (if hardly enthusiastic) at 28 percent on this measure.

An even starker contrast is on assessments of personal financial situation. Over half of nonwhite working-class voters describe their financial situation as only fair (33 percent) or poor (23 percent), as do white working-class voters (33 percent only fair/20 percent poor). But only a third of white college grads feel that way (27 percent only fair/just 7 percent poor).

6. Cost of living. Specifically asked to rate “prices for food and consumer goods” as an aspect of the current economy, 70 percent of the nonwhite working class assesses the situation as poor, as does 71 percent of the white working class, while white college graduates at 54 percent are significantly less negative. The same pattern is evident on gas prices. Fifty-five percent of both nonwhite and white working-class voters characterize the situation as poor, compared to only 35 percent of white college grads.

This convergence of views between the nonwhite and white working class, and their divergence from those of white college graduates, helps explain the trends we have been seeing. Clearly, the Biden years have been experienced by nonwhite working-class voters in a different and less pleasant way than they have been by white college graduates. As the data reviewed here suggest, a lot of this is about the economy. But there are other factors.

As I noted last week, as the Democrats have moved to the left on sociocultural issues, they are increasingly diverging from the comfort zone of the moderate-to-conservative supermajority of nonwhite working-class voters. Democratic positions in these areas are, however, congenial to white college graduates who have rewarded Democrats with increasing support. The accelerating “Brahminization” of the party is the result.

Can Democrats escape the negative effects of this Brahminization? It’s certainly possible though oddly their chances will be best in a relatively low turnout election, where their educated, engaged voters are more important and working-class voters less. And it is mathematically possible for Democrats to drive up their support among white college grads sufficiently to counterbalance whatever losses they might experience among working-class voters. Mathematically possible but not easy.

To get a sense of how heavy the lift could be here, consider a scenario where both the white and nonwhite working class move away from the Democrats by 10 margin points—slightly more than indicated by the Times data among white working-class voters but far less than indicated among nonwhite working-class voters. This can be simulated using States of Change data that allow both nonwhite and white working-class preferences by detailed subgroup (race, gender, age) nationally and within states to be estimated for 2020 and then moved to the right by the specified amount. Those adjusted estimates (with all other preferences held constant at their 2020 levels) are then applied to the projected structure of the eligible electorate in 2024 and subsequent elections.

In 2024, this shift toward Republicans among both nonwhite and white working-class voters produces a solid 312-226 GOP electoral vote majority. The states that move into the GOP column are Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Nevada by 3 points, Arizona and Georgia by 4 points and Wisconsin by 5 points—all six of the key swing states for the coming election.

Republicans also carry the popular vote, albeit by just a point. Thereafter, the GOP starts to lose the popular vote but continues to win the electoral vote through 2040. Again, the Democrats can conceivably counter these—or any other losses—by a sufficiently improved performance among other parts of the electorate. But it does give you a sense of the working class-sized hole the Democrats may be digging for themselves.

It might be worthwhile for Democrats to start seriously thinking about how they can de-Brahminize their party. The rewards could be great—and the penalties for not doing so even greater.

Political Strategy Notes

“The emerging Democratic strategy is two-fold,” David Weigel writes at Semafor. “One: They need to counteract “Trump amnesia,” the catchall term for voters forgetting aspects of his presidency that they hated in real time. The top of Biden’s remarks, invoking the Jan. 6 riots and how Republicans had memory-holed them, was part of that….Outside of California’s central valley, where the House GOP’s super PAC spent money to help Rep. David Valadao beat a challenger who attacked his vote for Trump’s post-Jan. 6 impeachment, the party was nominating MAGA candidates who kept insisting that the 2020 election was stolen. As Trump locked up the nomination this week, Arizona U.S. Senate candidate Kari Lake was picking up support from GOP leaders, ensuring that the swing state’s Republican ticket would be led by two candidates who’d lost it….The second part of the strategy looks forward — a people-versus-the-powerful message, portraying Trump as a catspaw for right-wing economic interests….“I wish there was more coverage of the Trump record of tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy,” said North Carolina Rep. Wiley Nickel, a Democrat leaving the House this year after Republicans re-drew the state’s map and made his seat unwinnable. “That’s their record. If Republicans have unified government, Social Security and Medicare will be on the chopping block.”….Biden worked that angle on Thursday, repeatedly, calling out United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain in the gallery and highlighting the GOP’s least popular economic policies. As Semafor’s Shelby Talcott reports, the campaign is increasingly focusing on Project 2025, the Heritage Foundation’s compendium of policy and personnel advice for the next Republican president. Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful 2016 campaign separated Trump from the rest of the GOP, citing then-House Speaker Paul Ryan as a character witness. Biden is binding them together.”

Check out the Biden campaign’s first ad, post SOTU:

In “DLCC unveils ambitious “Multi-Cycle” strategy for long-term democratic dominance,” Stacy M. Brown writes at insight news.com: “The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) on Monday, Feb. 26, revealed an expansive strategy memo, charting a multifaceted plan to venture into historically Republican strongholds and solidify Democratic power over the next decade. Departing from the typical focus on immediate elections, Democrats are now adopting a forward-thinking approach to counter the historical trend of losing gains in subsequent cycles….Distinguishing itself as the sole party committee investing in multi-cycle victories, the DLCC said it aims to tackle this challenge head-on. Officials said the strategy is to secure immediate electoral triumphs and establish a lasting infrastructure that will fortify Democratic influence for years to come. Investments made in 2024 will lay the foundation to claim the majority in state legislatures throughout the decade, officials declared….The DLCC stressed the urgency of countering the Republicans’ successful long-term game, citing underhanded tactics, gerrymandering, and substantial financial investments that have consistently allowed them to dominate state legislatures. To thwart these efforts, the DLCC advocates for significant resources, investments, and a clear strategy for sustained power….The DLCC also asserted its capability to secure immediate electoral gains while strategically building Democratic power over multiple election cycles. Officials pointed to recent elections reflecting this approach’s success, with state Democrats now controlling 41 of the 99 state legislative chambers, marking a significant shift in political power.”

Brown adds, “As the DLCC gears up for the 2024 cycle with its largest-ever $60 million budget, officials outlined a bold, evidence-based plan to achieve majority control in 50 chambers by 2030. The multifaceted strategy includes:

  • Breaking Republican supermajorities.
  • Expanding into traditionally Republican territory.
  • Setting the stage for new Democratic trifectas.
  • Combating gerrymandering.
  • Tracking other races that influence power balances.
  • Taking advantage of special elections.

Specifically, the DLCC’s multi-cycle strategy targets states like Kansas, North Carolina, and Wisconsin to break or prevent Republican supermajorities. The committee has already invested in Wisconsin and North Carolina as part of its battleground initiatives. Additionally, the DLCC aims to gradually chip away at Republican trifectas in states like Georgia, which is identified as a prime location for political change in 2024….The DLCC stressed the importance of holding key seats in states that don’t align gubernatorial and legislative elections in the same year. This strategic move allows Democrats to establish governing trifectas over multiple cycles. With half of its Senate seats up for election in 2024, Pennsylvania serves as a crucial target for the DLCC, aiming to secure a trifecta in 2026 alongside a competitive gubernatorial race….“With new redistricting maps decided by 2030 elections and in order to fundamentally transform the balance of power in states, we need a long-term strategy to break into territory that Republicans have long dominated,” DLCC President Heather Williams said in an email. “That’s exactly what this plan does. The DLCC is the only party committee tasked with working cycle over cycle to build Democratic power in state legislatures. Our 2024 target map includes states like Kansas, North Carolina, Georgia, and Wisconsin – states where we must build infrastructure and position Democrats to gradually chip away at Republican power. 2024 is the year of the states, and what happens this year will shape the arc of Democratic power in the states for the decade. Today, Republicans have been put on notice that the DLCC has the plan to win not only the year, but also the decade and decades to come.”

Why No Labels Is Moving Ahead With No Candidates

Since J.P. Green covered the SOTU Address and response, I’ll end the week with a report on the potentially significant maneuverings of the No Labels organization, which I wrote up at New York:

The nonpartisan group No Labels has announced a decision by a group of “delegates” from around the country to move forward with a 2024 presidential ticket, despite having no discernible candidates lined up.

Former Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings, the chairman of the virtual convention that made this decision on Friday, put out a statement saying: “They voted near unanimously to continue our 2024 project and to move immediately to identify candidates to serve on the Unity presidential ticket.” At some point in the next couple of months, assuming the group can identify qualified candidates to fill out the “unity ticket,” it is expected to reconvene the delegates for an up-or-down vote that will conclude the deliberative process. Says Rawlings: “Now that No Labels has received the go-ahead from our delegates, we’ll be accelerating our candidate outreach and announcing the process for how candidates will be selected for the Unity Ticket on Thursday, March 14.”

The political logic of this two-step process is pretty simple: The idea of a bipartisan “third option” has always been more popular than any actual ticket. A poll from Monmouth last summer showed support for such a ticket dropping by half when specific candidates (in that case, West Virginia senator Joe Manchin and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, both No Labels leaders) were identified. And just this week, Third Way, a centrist Democratic group that has been relentlessly warning that No Labels may pave the way to a second Trump administration, released new polling with the same bottom line:

“Only a third of the electorate would even entertain voting for an unnamed No Labels ticket. (Again, we tested this before we named Haley.) That recedes quickly when details are added …

“When we asked about a third-party ticket led by Nikki Haley, we found it to be non-competitive. Indeed, it performs worse than an unnamed moderate, independent ticket:

“Nikki Haley has 80% name ID and boosts a better net approval rating than either Biden or Trump. Despite her strengths, a No Labels ticket with Haley as the nominee gets just 9% of the vote, losing badly to Trump and Biden and trailing even RFK Jr. (13%). Thus, a No Labels ticket led by one of the most well-known and respected GOP leaders available is more likely to finish fourth than win a single electoral vote.”

Nikki Haley, of course, spent a good part of her last week as an active presidential candidate disclaiming any interest in a No Labels candidacy, reminding everyone that she is a lifelong “conservative Republican” who would never consider running on a ticket with any kind of Democrat. But if her name isn’t capable of mobilizing support for a unity ticket, whose would? No one comes to mind.

The presidential general election has just entered a new phase, with Joe Biden and Donald Trump dispatching their final opponents on Super Tuesday and the incumbent throwing down the gauntlet in a State of the Union Address that seemed to galvanize Democrats. This contest is too volatile to tell exactly how a future No Labels ticket would affect the outcome, though Third Way and other Democrats will continue to warn of its perils. For now, it does make sense for No Labels to make every effort to show support for a no-name presidential ticket before taking the final plunge, even if it knows an identified ticket is likely to lose altitude once the blanks have been filled in.

At the moment, No Labels has ballot access in 16 states: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah. ABC News reports the group believes it is still on a trajectory to secure a spot on the ballot in 33 states ultimately. It’s a high-stakes, dangerous game No Labels is playing, and there remains a chance it will flip the board at the crucial moment and back off the unity-ticket plans. Everyone connected to No Labels claims to be revolted by the idea of playing spoiler, and most say they’re particularly horrified by the idea of Trump as the 47th president. But the lack of empirical data that their “third option” would actually work with real candidates is a problem these self-styled “problem-solvers” need to address definitively very soon.

President Biden’s SOTU Shames GOP

I wish every swing voter viewed President Biden’s State of the Union address. More likely only a fraction of them tuned in. Usually the annual speech is a glorified laundry list. But not this time. This time President Biden seized the opportunity to confront the GOP’s bullshit meme that he is too old to be a strong leader, as if his tangible accomplishments weren’t enough to disprove it. The President shredded the ageist bigotry, not only with the focus and substance of his remarks, but also with his alert and energetic speech delivery. The gaffe-counters were undoubtedly disappointed.

The President was supremely confident in almost every sentence. At several points he stopped to bandy with hecklers, even challenging the Republicans in a good-humored way when they weren’t expecting it. They appeared toothless and stunned by Biden’s confidence. The most fun was when he nailed them for showing up at ribbon-cutting ceremonies for infrastructure projects they voted against. The best they could manage was howls and groans, while their Speaker grimaced and made smirky little faces up on the podium behind the President, as Vice President Harris stood and applauded joyfully.

President Biden channeled some of the “Is that all you got?” attitude that FDR deployed so successfully as he rebuilt America. Biden revived the spirit that empowered the visionary leadership of JFK and get-it-done determination of LBJ. The Democrats are back from their long nap. I hope President Biden gets a bump in his approval ratings. He certainly deserves it. No matter what happens, Dems should be assured that he did his best.

As for the GOP’s official response to the SOTU, I doubt Sen. Katie Britt’s whispery and breathless rant will get much traction. She trotted out a couple of cherry-picked immigration horror stories, and that was pretty much it. Regarding the media coverage of Biden’s SOTU, so far it is less than impressive. Speeches don’t have all that much shelf-life anyway.

Enough gush. Here’s the the very dry C-SPAN summary, and those who haven’t yet viewed the SOTU can click on this link to watch full video of the speech :

President Joe Biden delivered his 2024 State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. Throughout the speech, he drew a contrast between himself and former President Trump, the leading challenger against Mr. Biden in the 2024 presidential election. The president addressed a range of domestic issues, including his record and plans for manufacturing and jobs, safeguarding reproductive rights, taxing billionaires, making health care more affordable, eliminating junk fees, and calling on Congress to pass a bipartisan border bill. He also discussed international issues, such as stopping Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression against Ukraine and delivering more aid to Palestinians amid the Israel-Hamas war.

All in all, it was a very good night for the Biden-Harris campaign.

Haley Doesn’t Understand Her Own Party

Again, I don’t regularly share posts here that are strictly about Republicans, but it’s important that Democrats don’t share Nikki Haley’s misconceptions about the GOP, which I addressed at New York:

After being trounced by Donald Trump on Super Tuesday, Nikki Haley announced on Wednesday morning that she is suspending her presidential campaign. Haley outperformed low expectations in the 2024 race. Initially, she didn’t stand out in a crowded field of candidates who hoped Trump would self-destruct or that Republicans would return to the old-school conservatism of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. But as other candidates (notably Ron DeSantis and her fellow South Carolinian Tim Scott) flailed around in Iowa trying to resurrect archaic strategies for winning the nomination, Haley timed her brief moment in the spotlight well. She survived a demolition derby among non-Trump candidates via strong debate performances and an increasingly explicit appeal to Republicans who cherished their party’s past and dreaded its MAGA future.

But Haley never resolved her perpetually ambiguous attitude toward her vanquisher, promising to support him in the general election even if he’s a convicted felon yet criticizing him in increasingly sharp and personal terms as her own campaign lost steam. The ambiguity continued in her announcement of that campaign’s end; she refused to “endorse” Trump right now but pointedly observed that she has always backed her party’s nominees. Her demand that Trump “earn” the votes of her supporters doesn’t make much sense; half of them are Biden supporters, and the other half want Trump to become somebody else….

So despite her habit of congratulating herself regularly for the courage she has exhibited in promoting her own career, Haley is ending her campaign in a state of strange irresolution. She might have made her peace with Trump earlier and climbed aboard his bandwagon, perhaps even becoming his running mate and heir apparent. Conversely, she seemed to have the money to continue losing to Trump in post–Super Tuesday primaries, for a while at least. And she definitely could have made a very big splash by offering to head up a unity ticket sponsored by the nonpartisan No Labels organization, which may be deciding this very week whether to run a candidate for president. Instead, she’s just going away, surely leaving some of her backers wondering what Haley 2024 was all about.

Perhaps, as David Freedlander’s recent foray into Nikki-land for New York suggests, Haley shares the delusion of some of her core supporters that her campaign represents a righteous remnant of Goldwater-Reagan conservatives who will recapture the Republican Party when the temporary madness of the MAGA movement melts away. It’s often forgotten that Haley originally emerged from the right-wing DeMint-Sanford wing of the South Carolina Republican Party and won her first gubernatorial race as the protégé of Sarah Palin. As she insisted in slapping aside overtures from No Labels, she’s always viewed herself as a “conservative Republican,” not any sort of moderate. And in her brief announcement ending her campaign, she gave shout-outs to the drab agenda of fiscal discipline, term limits, and national-security hawkishness that characterized the conservative movement before Trump came along and blew up “entitlement reform” and “forever wars” as the unpopular causes they undoubtedly are.

Nikki Haley would be well advised to adjust to the evolution of her party or to leave it. Instead, she is suspending her political career along with her campaign, and it’s anybody’s guess if she knows where she is going next.