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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

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No Matter Who!

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Vote Blue! No Matter Who.

VOTE BLUE!

No Matter Who.

“Vote Blue, No Matter Who” do-it-yourself t-shirts and bumper stickers–just call your local, unionized print shop and ask for an estimate. They can contact editors@thedemocraticstrategist.org for the artwork.

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No matter who.

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The Daily Strategist

April 5, 2020

Political Strategy Notes

In “Joe Biden Now Has A Clear Path To Be The Democratic Nominee,” Geoffrey Skelley writes at FiveThirtyEight: “Biden’s hot streak will likely burn into next week with four delegate-rich contests in Florida, Illinois, Ohio and Arizona. Sanders had less than a 1 in 10 shot of victory in any one of those states before yesterday’s vote, according to our forecast, and the same was true for Georgia, which votes on March 24. As of 2 a.m. Wednesday, Biden had added 64 net delegates to his lead over Sanders with Tuesday’s contests, and now has 806 pledged delegates to 662 for Sanders, according to ABC News. If Biden wins around 60 percent of delegates in contests moving forward — roughly his share yesterday — he will be close to a pledged delegate majority by late May and a shoo-in to have a sizable plurality. The point is, Sanders’s path to the nomination — barring something very unexpected happening — is almost nonexistent.”

Nicole Narea reports at Vox that “Former Vice President Joe Biden won big with black voters in Michigan, the state with the largest delegate trove on Tuesday, and in Missouri and Mississippi, according to CNN exit polls. Black voters supported Biden at rates of 66 percent in Michigan and 72 percent in Missouri — states where he reaped double-digit victories over Sanders. And in Mississippi, where black voters made up 69 percent of the electorate, they backed Biden over Sanders nearly 9 to 1.” Sanders’s failure to secure a healthy share of African American votes was never about policy – one can make a very strong argument that his policy proposals were in most respects more beneficial to Black American communities than Biden’s or that of any other candidate. But Biden’s edge came from his connection to African American leaders and communities, amplified by President Obama’s trust in him and the Clyburn endorsement. Biden’s unique ability to connect with all kinds of people on a human level also served him well, while Sanders’s persona seemed more distant and chilly in comparison.

For now, however, Sen. Sanders says he is going to stay in the race and is looking forward to clashing with Biden on Sunday at a CNN-Univision debate, Gregory Krieg, Ryan Nobles and Annie Grayer report at CNN Politics. “Sanders’ decision to continue his campaign despite the growing odds against him is likely to anger Democrats outside progressive circles, who on Tuesday night began to openly clamor for a quick end to the contest. Biden was largely deferential in his speech and appeared to offer Sanders an off-ramp. But the Vermont senator, after a night of deliberations with his innermost circle, opted to fight on — and make his case at least one more time to Democratic voters.” It will likely be Sanders’s swan song. Some Democratic leaders, including Rep. Clyburn, have called on Sanders to quit. But he understandibly feels that he has earned at least a one-on-one match-up with the front-runner. After that, it’s unlikely that many voters will be paying Sanders much attention, and his endorsement of Biden seems inevitable.

At Politico, Gary Fineout reports, “Joe Biden is in line to deliver a knockout punch to Bernie Sanders in Florida in Tuesday‘s Democratic primary, according to a new poll that gives the former vice president a staggering 44-point lead over his opponent…Biden is lapping Sanders in voter support, with support from 66 percent of likely Democratic primary voters to 22 percent for Sanders, according to a University of North Florida poll taken March 5-10…The poll of 1,339 Democratic likely voters “paints a bleak picture for the Sanders campaign.” The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus 2.5 percent…Three other states also will vote on March 17: Illinois, Ohio and Arizona. In Florida, more than 728,000 Democrats already have cast ballots…Winning Florida, a state with a moderate and older electorate, was always an uphill climb for Sanders. The Vermont senator lost to Hillary Clinton in the state by roughly 30 points four years ago.”

What kind of effects could the Corona virus pandemic have on U. S. elections? Thurgood Marshall, Jr. and Steven Okun explore this question at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and write that “The spread of COVID-19 has already begun disrupting plans across the world. Congress must begin thinking about how it could potentially disrupt the upcoming presidential election…Measures taken to prevent the spread of disease could come into conflict with voting…The closer the election gets, the harder it will be for both parties to set aside partisan considerations and agree to take actions in the name of the greater good of the nation.” Marshall and Okun notes that “some poll workers did not show up because of fears of the new coronavirus according to the Travis County (Texas) clerk’s office…And what happens if people go to the polls but are concerned about that the voting machines may be contaminated with the virus?…“One of the things we’ve had to caution voters about is don’t get Purell on the ballots; it makes them stick,” said Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir, per the Austin American-Statesman.” Nobody knows how long the pandemic will last. But it might make sense for states to enact emergency legislation to institute a mail-in paper ballot system similar to that of Oregon.

Political analyst Rachel Bitecoffer sees Democrats blowing a major self-branding opportunity in an interview by Chauncey DeVega at salon.com. As Bitecoffer explains, “Democrats have never responded with a positive version of their own brand. Instead, the Democrats present themselves as being “moderate.” The Democrats should be saying, “Hey, this is why economic liberalism is better for you, white working class.” Instead of presenting their values in a positive way and standing by them, in these swing states the Democratic candidates come out and say, “Well, I’m not like those other Democrats. I’m a fiscal conservative.” In fact, the record of fiscal conservatism in America is not a good one…Donald Trump is basically doing what Democrats are incapable of. Donald Trump understands that the American voter is disengaged, disinterested, thinks about images and stories and not about policy in a serious way, and is highly subject to emotion. Donald Trump and his team feed that dynamic. Whereas the Democratic candidates and leaders keep having — or at least they think they are having — big, deep policy discussions with each other.” Contrary to polling and ballot evidence thus far, Bitecofer argues, “Those who oppose Bernie Sanders and think he could doom the party are overlooking how Bernie Sanders is the one presidential primary candidate who can negate Donald Trump’s populist advantage in terms of messaging. It is probably a major disadvantage to go into the general election with a Washington establishment candidate such as Joe Biden.”

As the only Democratic presidential candidate who promotes health care reform that includes coverage for everyone, Sanders deserves credit for advancing the debate in a more humane direction. Joseph Zeballos-Roig writes that, in an open letter published on Tuesday, twenty of the nation’s leading economists argued in favor of Medicare for All. “They argue that existing research suggests there would be massive savings and it would reduce waste in healthcare…There’s been too much loose talk that Medicare for All is unaffordable. What’s really unaffordable is the current system,” signatory Gerald Friedman said in an interview…”We believe the available research supports the conclusion that a program of Medicare for All (M4A) could be considerably less expensive than the current system, reducing waste and profiteering inherent in the current system, and could be financed in a way to ensure significant financial savings for the vast majority of American households,” the economists wrote in the open letter…”Most important, Medicare for All will reduce morbidity and save tens of thousands of lives each year,” the group of economists said.”

Zeballos-Roig notes that “Among the letter’s signatories are prominent progressive economists like former Labor secretary Robert Reich; Jeffrey Sachs, a leading expert on poverty; Gabriel Zucman and Emmanuel Saez, two professors at the University of California, Berkeley, who laid outplans for a wealth tax; and Darrick Hamilton, a professor of economics at the Ohio State University and a pioneer in economic inequality research…Medicare for All is the signature plan of Sen. Bernie Sanders, the remaining progressive candidate in the Democratic primary. It would set up a new government health insurance system that provides comprehensive benefits to Americans and toss out deductibles, co-pays, and out-of-pocket spending. Private insurance would be eliminated as well.”

It’s fortunate that the timing of the Corona virus outbreak had little effect on the outcome of the Democratic presidential primaries. Had it hit the U.S. a few weeks earlier than it did, it might have had a more significant impact by shrinking crowds at political events and affecting debate about the health care reform policies of the Democratic presidential candidates, though possibly in a good direction. The outbreak has strongly underscored how “wildly unprepared” the nation’s institutions are for this kind of public health crisis, in terms of available medicines, public hygiene and medical research. The crisis also underscores how underfunded our public health care “system” is compared to that of other nations. When it is over, it will be interesting to see how well different nations and political systems performed in addressing the pandemic.


Is a Virtual Convention On the Way This Summer?

One of the many coronavirus-related topics under discussion this week is the potential effect of the crisis on the national political conventions, which I discussed at New York:

[I]n place of the fantasy of the first multi-ballot convention since 1952, we’re contemplating the unprecedented nightmare of a convention that cannot be held at all, at least in the sense of a physical gathering of delegates celebrating the coronation of a nominee and the launch of a general election campaign.

The two developments are related in a way. Joe Biden’s sudden progress toward becoming the presumptive nominee means that an authority structure for planning the July convention scheduled for Milwaukee should soon take shape, beyond the powers already exercised by the Democratic National Committee. And as the COVID-19 cases and the public health consequences proliferate, there’s already serious talk about how to hold a virtual convention. After all, if America is about to enter a regimen of “social distancing” for an indefinite period of time, packing thousands of people into a Milwaukee arena for a political convention in July won’t exactly set a good example, even if public health authorities somehow allow it.

report from the Daily Beast’s Sam Stein last week suggested that contingency discussions are well underway:

“[A]s coronavirus has spread and travel restrictions seem likely to be intensified, top officials are wondering whether attendees will or should make it.

“The result could be a convention that is not just sparsely attended but one where the act of formally nominating a presidential candidate is thrown into disorder …

“According to several top officials, the DNC’s charter and bylaws leave little ambiguity when it comes to the requirement that delegates be physically on site in order to cast their votes. Under Section 11, it states that ‘Voting by proxy shall not be permitted at the National Convention. Voting by proxy shall otherwise be permitted in Democratic Party affairs only as provided in the Bylaws of the Democratic Party.'”

Fortunately, national political conventions are masters of their own rules, so voting by proxy (or remotely) can be legitimized. But however they cast ballots, delegates do still have to be formally elected at the state level, and that process could be undermined by COVID-19 as well:

“’It is serious. The question for state chairs is, look, we all have to put on conventions coming up. Most of the delegates to the national convention are elected at [state] conventions. What happens if state parties have to cancel these events where delegates are elected?’ said Ken Martin, chairman of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and a Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee. ‘If things continue to evolve, It could dramatically alter the contest and severely hamper Democrats as we try to unify our party’.”

All these complications could become, well, even more complicated if Team Biden’s iron control over the convention is challenged via a platform fight or some other symbol of factional rivalry.

Republicans are not immune from the same problems in planning their August convention in Charlotte, though they don’t have to worry about anyone questioning the authority of Trump’s reelection campaign to make all the key decisions.

In the end, we could have conventions this year that complete the evolution of these institutions from unpredictable, deliberative, and sometimes chaotic events to slickly produced television shows for the two parties and their presidential nominees. The main question is whether they will have live delegates as props.


Teixeira: Biden’s Convincing Win in Michigan

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

Well, That About Does It

Stick a fork in him and all that. Sanders is done. Let me call your attention to a few exit poll results that caught my eye from Michigan.

First, as noted in this space a little earlier, the white working class was not enthusiastic about Bernie this year and they showed it. Sanders lost both white noncollege (43-50) and college (41-56) voters to Biden in Michigan. (Table below)

Looking forward to the general election, Biden is showing important strength in Michigan among the white noncollege demographic. In a recent Michigan Biden-Trump matchup where Biden leads Trump by 7 points (Monmouth poll), Biden does about as well among white college graduates today as Clinton did in 2016 in a comparison with States of Change data. But among white noncollege voters, he runs 9 points better (-12 vs. -21).

Second, note how well Biden especially did among white noncollege women who, as I have argued, could be they key to the 2020 election for the Democrats. Biden carried white noncollege women 55-42 over Sanders in Michigan. (Table below)

Finally, note that, as in other states, while Sanders got overwhelming support of young voters (actually slightly less than in 2016), he failed to get exceptionally high turnout from these voters. In 2016, 18-29 year olds were 19 percent of primary voters in Michigan in 2016; this year they were just 16 percent.

And so it goes. Pretty much every weakness Sanders displayed in Super Tuesday voting was on display again tonight. And of course he got crushed in the black vote.

There is no longer a viable Sanders theory of the case. Time to pack ’em up, Bernard brothers and sisters.


Teixeira: The No Malarkey Express Comes to Vox!

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

Ezra Klein, co-founder and Grand Poobah of the very woke “explainer” site, Vox, has commendably admitted “It’s time for a fresh look at Uncle Joe” He notes that:

“Before Super Tuesday, the conventional wisdom was simple. Bernie Sanders was the turnout candidate, and Biden the uninspiring generic Democrat. You could see this in Sanders’s packed rallies, his die-hard social media brigades, his army of individual donors — and in Biden’s inability to match those markers of enthusiasm. If new voters flooded the primary, it would be proof that Sanders’s political revolution was brewing. But if the political revolution failed and turnout stagnated, Biden might slip through. What virtually no one predicted was Biden winning a high-turnout contest. But he did.

So what did the narrative get wrong? As someone who believed that narrative, what did I get wrong?”

What indeed. Of course, if Klein had been following the non-woke commentary here on my FB feed and blog, he might have wised up a bit earlier. But better late than never!

“[O]ver and over again, we’ve seen that voters just don’t care that much about malapropisms and meandering rhetorical styles…Journalists who’ve based their professional lives on clear, crisp, stylish communication find it shocking when candidates get lost in rhetorical mazes of their own construction. But both Bush and Trump won the presidency. And Ronald Reagan won reelection in a landslide, even though he couldn’t recall what city he was in during the first presidential debate and admitted to being “confused.”

Biden’s most visible weakness in day-to-day campaigning, in other words, is a weakness the media consistently overrates, at least when it comes to election outcomes.”

Yep.

And even more important…..

“Lurking beneath the theory that high turnout would disadvantage Joe Biden is what we might call the “disappointed nonvoter thesis.” Scratch a political devotee and you’ll almost always find the same theory of turnout underpinning their plans: If only a candidate would say what I already think but louder. This reflects the disappointment that the very engaged have with their leaders: Practicing politicians have to appeal to mixed constituencies to win reelection or pass anything in Congress, and so they compromise their beliefs, sand down their edges, trim their ambitions.

The politically engaged perennially argue that the way to mobilize the nonvoters is to offer a clearer choice, rather than a muddled echo. Under this theory, Bernie Sanders is the clear turnout candidate, as his sharper and more ambitious agenda can mobilize nonvoters who don’t think either party speaks for them. Conversely, Biden is the business-as-usual choice.

In general, this strategy disappoints. The most famous “choice, not an echo” candidate, Barry Goldwater, lost in a landslide. And he’s the rule, not the exception. Political scientists have long found that more ideologically extreme candidates face an electoral penalty. There’s some evidence that the penalty is weakening, but as Matt Yglesias documents, it has not disappeared…..

One of the easiest and most common fallacies in politics is to imagine that one’s own political reactions are generalizable. But there’s no evidence that a more sharply ideological agenda and a more conflict-driven theory of politics will turn out nonvoters. That’s often what the most politically active voters find mobilizing, but the most politically engaged are, by definition, quite different than the least politically engaged, and so there’s no reason to believe that what the two groups want are the same.

The misperceptions here are likely compounded by Twitter, which has an outsize role in shaping how both media and political elites perceive politics but misrepresent the electorate. A February Pew study found that Democrats on Twitter were significantly more conflict-oriented than Democrats off Twitter, and perhaps for that reason, Democrats on Twitter were significantly more likely to support Sanders or Elizabeth Warren over Biden than Democrats off Twitter. This held true even when looking at Americans who leaned Democratic but weren’t registered to vote.”

Yep. I believe I’ve made these very points not just once but many times. It probably helps that I stay as far away from Twitter as I possibly can.

“In his new book Un-Trumping America, Pod Save America’s Dan Pfeiffer writes that “The biggest divide in the Democratic Party is not between left and center. It’s between those who believe once Trump is gone things will go back to normal and those who believe that our democracy is under a threat that goes beyond Trump.”

The Democratic debates have, for obvious reasons, featured Democratic candidates arguing with each other. Differentiating from each other means going beyond their shared differences with Trump. At almost every debate, the various candidates say that it’s not enough to simply beat Trump — you need a bigger agenda, a more inspiring vision. “We’re trying to transform this country, not win an election, not just beat Trump,” Sanders told Rachel Maddow.

Biden is the closest thing to a candidate who disagrees. His tagline is that he’ll “beat Trump like a drum.” He routinely gets criticized by liberals for saying things like “History will treat this administration’s time as an aberration,” or “This is not the Republican Party.” His answers trade heavily on nostalgia for the Obama administration, which is to say, for the pre-Trump status quo. It’s basically as close to the Democrats’ 2018 congressional strategy as a presidential campaign can run.

This annoys leftists who think the Obama administration was characterized by neoliberal half-measures and liberal analysts who think, like Pfeiffer does, that Trump is a symptom, not the cause, of America’s political crisis….But most Democrats seem to agree with Biden. As CNN noted, “Majorities of Democratic voters in every Super Tuesday state said they would prefer a nominee who can beat Trump over one with whom they agree on the issues.”

As I believe I’ve also said many times, job #1 in this election is to turn Trump disapproval into Democratic voters. Biden understood that better than his opponents so, in the end, the voters have rewarded him. And that’s no malarkey.


Teixeira: Bernie to White Working Class: We’re In This Together; White Working Class to Bernie: What Do You Mean “We”?

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

The upcoming Michigan primary is generally seen as an important one, where Sanders could conceivably reignite his campaign in a state where he had great success in 2016. In that election, he dominated Hillary Clinton among white noncollege voters. As the chart of States of Change data shows below, Michigan Democrats are heavily white noncollege.

So could Sanders do the same thing to Biden in 2020 and build on that to win the state? It seems doubtful for the simple reason that Sanders has not done especially well with white working class voters this cycle. And he’s done very poorly among black voters. So that does not seem to be a recipe for success for Sanders in Michigan and similar states.

Sanders’ white working class problem was well-described by Nate Cohn in a recent article:

“Mr. Sanders has so far failed to match his 2016 strength across the white, working-class North this year, and that suggests it will be hard for him to win Michigan.

This pattern has held without exception this primary season. It was true in Iowa and New Hampshire against Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar. It was true in Maine, Minnesota, Massachusetts and even Vermont on Super Tuesday against Mr. Biden.

Over all, Mr. Biden defeated Mr. Sanders by 10 points, 38 percent to 28 percent, in counties across Maine, Minnesota and Massachusetts where white voters made up at least 80 percent of the electorate and where college graduates represented less than 40 percent of the electorate. According to the exit polls, Mr. Biden was tied or ahead among white voters in every state east of the Mississippi River on Super Tuesday.

This is a marked departure from 2016. Back then, Mr. Sanders tended to excel among white, working-class and rural voters across the North. This made Michigan, where white voters represent a well-above-average share of the Democratic electorate, one of his stronger states. He dominated in Michigan’s small towns and rural areas, losing only in few counties that tended to have older voters….

Mr. Sanders has often made up for losses in white, working-class areas this year with gains among Latino voters and white voters who live in left-liberal areas. In a sense, he has traded strength in states like Maine and Minnesota for strength in California. This is a bad trade in Michigan, where Latino voters make up only a sliver of the Democratic electorate. It may be an even worse trade in Michigan than it was in Minnesota or Maine, since there are relatively few overwhelmingly Democratic left-liberal enclaves akin to Minneapolis or Portland, Maine. Only Ann Arbor and Lansing fall into a similar category.”

This does not sound promising–at all–for Sanders.

No photo description available.

 


Political Strategy Notes

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes that “it would be a shame if Warren’s failure obscured what her candidacy actually achieved. When she was riding high, her popularity reflected something important: a widespread appreciation for her as a solutionist. She was willing to build a candidacy on detailed initiatives aimed at solving problems voters care about.Her political reform proposals were state-of-the-art and dovetailed well with H.R. 1, the big voting rights and campaign finance bill passed by the Democratic House. Her plan for universal access to child care was practical and answered an enormous need. Her bill of rights for gig economy workers spoke to radical changes in the nature of employment. Her emphasis on the dangers of monopoly and the need for new approaches to antitrust were part of a much larger trend toward challenging economic concentration…And while her wealth tax aroused controversy, it changed the direction of the tax debate. In one form or another, higher levies on the very wealthy will now be part of any debate over how to raise government revenue that will be needed to pay for new programs and narrow Trump’s deficits…Yes, sexism hurt Warren, and so did her own mistakes. She proffered “big structural change” to a party that mostly just wants to beat an abominable incumbent. But her agenda is not going away. And neither is she.”

In his article, “To Beat Trump, Democrats May Need to Break Out of the ‘Whole Foods’ Bubble” at The Cook Political Report, David Wasserman notes, “Last summer, Senator Elizabeth Warren electrified huge crowds at rallies in Seattle, Austin and New York. The events had one thing in common besides her populist pitch for “big structural change.” At each stop, her trademark selfie lines were less than a mile from a Whole Foods Market, a Lululemon Athletica and an Urban Outfitters…These high-end retailers and brands, popular with urban millennials and affluent suburbanites alike, are increasingly correlated with which neighborhoods are trending blue. The drawback for Democrats? Just 34 percent of U.S. voters — and only 29 percent of battleground state voters — live within five miles of at least one such upmarket retailer, and the Democrats’ brand is stagnant or in decline everywhere else…Once dominant in labor halls, Democrats are more ascendant than ever near galleria malls. But the reality for Democrats is if they aren’t able to stop their slide in less elite locales, President Trump’s advantage in the Electoral College could further widen relative to the popular vote…In fairness, Ms. Warren and the other top 2020 contenders are spending more of their time and energy seeking to woo voters in less cosmopolitan settings. They have no choice: Sixty-nine percent of U.S. voters live closer to a Cracker Barrel, Tractor Supply Company, Hobby Lobby or Bass Pro Shops location than to one of those high-end brands.”

Wasserman adds, “But it wasn’t always this hard for Democrats. In the 1990s, millions of less religious middle-class heartland voters opted for Democrats, in part because they viewed Republicans as the party of rich people and “Bible thumpers” who wanted to impose their moral values on the country. Today, many of those same voters might feel they have even less in common with liberal arts graduates in trendy ZIP codes willing to pay $14 for a half liter of avocado oil, $59 for a recycled tie-dye sweatshirt, $158 for yoga tights or $1,449 for a smartphone.”

“It’s cultural arrogance,” said the veteran Democratic strategist James Carville, who now teaches at Louisiana State University,” Wasserman notes. “On taxing the rich, health care, Roe v. Wade,” he added, “we’re in the majority on all these issues. But in this country, culture trumps policy. The urbanists — voters think they’re too cool for school. And voters pick it up.”…His advice to today’s Democrats: “If you want to win back loggers in northern Wisconsin, stop talking about pronouns and start talking more about corruption in Big Pharma…But the challenge for Democrats is that relatively few voters, especially in Electoral College battleground states, live in these upmarket bubbles…Consider that in the most recent presidential election, 53 percent of all California voters and 57 percent of all Massachusetts voters lived within five miles of a current Whole Foods, Lululemon, Urban Outfitters or Apple Store location. But in electoral battlegrounds, just 33 percent of voters in Florida, 32 percent in Pennsylvania, 24 percent in North Carolina, 20 percent in Wisconsin and 19 percent in Michigan did.”

Wasserman concludes, “Many Democrats who succeeded in 2018 — such as the Marine veteran Conor Lamb in a Pennsylvania House race, the water rights lawyer Xochitl Torres Small in a New Mexico House race and Senator Sherrod Brown, a longtime opponent of job outsourcing, in his re-election in Ohio — had profiles that appealed across this chasm. But it remains to be seen whether the Democratic presidential nominee will be someone whose background and message can bridge the gap…Most Americans have already chosen sides for the November election, and it’s easy to believe there isn’t all that much sorting left to do. It’s also easy to view the divide as purely urban versus rural. But something all eight of the retailers in this article have in common is a growing presence in the suburbs. That should serve as a reminder that when it comes to elections, not all suburbs look or behave alike …To beat Mr. Trump, Democrats will probably need a nominee who can relate to people in the modest suburbs of Harrisburg, Pa.; Eau Claire, Wis.; and Fayetteville, N.C. — not just the chic suburbs of San Francisco, Dallas and Washington, D.C.”

At The Daily Beast, Max Sawicky takes on the prevailing pundit consensus to explain “Why the Democratic Race Isn’t Close to Over,” and notes, “First, Joe Biden’s personal appeal is still in doubt. At this stage, more of it derives from who he isn’t—Donald Trump—than who he is. His strongest support has been from a demographic—African-Americans—for whom his actual record is uninspiring, to say the least. He can’t draw a crowd on a sunny day, while Bernie is still packing them in like nobody’s business. ..Second, Biden’s strength so far rests substantially on delegates from states that Democrats are not likely to win in November: Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, Alabama, South Carolina, and Oklahoma. Democrats in those states certainly have a right to a voice in the nominee. As the weeks pass, those wins will seem less impressive…The states that matter are the ones we all know: Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida. The Sunshine State is probably lost to Sanders, but it’s premature to write him off in the other four. If he wins two of them, we’re back to a horse race. ..Third, while Super Tuesday voters certainly pulled the lever for Joe, they seem to have liked Bernie’s ideas. Exit polls in Maine, Tennessee, North Carolina, Texas and California, for instance, found significant support for, and in some cases strong majorities of Democratic voters evincing a favorable view of, socialism. The rising socialist tendency is also reflected in polling on Medicare For All, Sanders’s signature platform proposal.”

Sawicky continues, “Fourth, the general strength of left-leaning sentiment may foretell a deficit of enthusiasm in November for a Biden-led ticket. Doubts as to Biden’s claim of superior electability will almost surely build once more as additional states run primaries. Even where Biden wins, a narrow victory accentuates doubts as to his electability, and consequently his progress in subsequent primaries. He has to win decisively in blue states to demonstrate his ability to lead the party. So far, he has done that in only three blue states – Minnesota, Massachusetts, and Virginia…Another potential pitfall for Biden is the aura of inevitability that is settling around his campaign, one that can give rise to complacency and tactical blunders. It is worth noting that Biden’s South Carolina victory was had without benefit of any surfeit of organization, funding, or beneficent external intervention. Immediately after Nevada, Biden was perceived as a spent bullet.”

Nate Silver isn’t having any of that in his article, “After Super Tuesday, Joe Biden Is A Clear Favorite To Win The NominationSanders has a window, but it’s small” at FiveThirtyEight. As Silver explains, “As mentioned, Biden will probably get a bounce in the polls as a result of his Super Tuesday wins. The model’s guess (accounting for its projected Super Tuesday bounce for Biden and the effects of Bloomberg and Warren dropping out) is that he’s currently ahead by the equivalent of 6 or 7 points in national polls. So although momentum could shift back toward Sanders later on, it may get worse for him in the short run…There aren’t that many delegates left after March. Some 38 percent of delegates have already been selected. And by the time Georgia votes in two-and-a-half weeks, 61 percent of delegates will already have been chosen. So even if Sanders did get a big, massive momentum swing late in the race, it might not be enough to allow him to come back, with only about a third of delegates still to be chosen.”

In addition, Silver writes, “Some of Sanders’s best states (California, Nevada) have already voted, and the upcoming states generally either aren’t good for him or have relatively few delegates. In fact, given how broadly Sanders lost on Super Tuesday — including in northern states such as Minnesota, Massachusetts and Maine — it’s hard to know where his strengths lie, other than among young progressives and Hispanics, who are not large enough groups to constitute a winning coalition in most states. Conversely, it’s easy to identify places where Sanders will likely lose badly to Biden. Our model has Biden winning a net of about 85 delegates over Sanders in Florida on March 17, where Sanders’s polling has been terrible, and a net of about 35 delegates in Georgia, which votes on March 24…..Finally, even if Sanders does come back, it might merely be enough to win a plurality rather than a majority of delegates. We project that roughly 150 delegates — or about 4 percent of the total of 3,979 pledged delegates available — belong to candidates who have since dropped out or to Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, even after accounting for the fact that statewide delegates are reallocated to other candidates once a candidate drops out.2 That creates an additional buffer that will make it harder for Sanders to win a majority.”


Teixeira: Time for Democrats To Get Their House in Order on the Immigration Issue

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

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Once it comes time to face Donald Trump in the general election, Democrats will need much clearer and more salable positions on immigration than the ones Democratic candidates drifted into in the primary season. Otherwise, Trump will do real damage to the Democratic nominee on the issue.

Jason DeParle of The New York Times sets up the problem well:

“Plunge into the progressive discourse on immigration, and you’ll quickly hear that it’s not enough just to legalize America’s 11 million unauthorized migrants, however cherished the goal may be and however long it has eluded reach.

Outraged at a president who has gone as far as seizing toddlers from their undocumented parents, a progressive vanguard seeks to decriminalize border crossing, ban deportations, end detention, “abolish ICE” (the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency) and make undocumented migrants eligible for government aid.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, the progressive standard-bearer, likens detention facilities to “concentration camps.” Eight advocacy groups have released an immigration plan they call “Free to Move, Free to Stay,” a slogan that suggests no limits.

Eager to court activists, whom they consider influential with the Latino vote, the candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination have moved sharply left from the party’s norms. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont vows a moratorium on deportations and a move to “break up” ICE. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts joins him in pledging to make border crossings a civil, not criminal offense. Both candidates include undocumented migrants in their plans for universal health insurance (as did the former mayor of South Bend, Pete Buttigieg, a moderate who recently left the race).”

As DeParle notes, none of these positions are necessary ones to take if you want to oppose Trump’s cruelty at the border and find a humane way to deal with undocumented immigrants who are already here. In fact, by shifting the conversation to ideas that are massively unpopular with the American public, advocates actually make it harder to achieve these goals.

And such ideas certainly make it harder for Democrats to focus on what they actually need to do: make a positive case for immigration that recognizes the need for limits and border security and outlines a new immigration system to manage immigration flows over the long term to benefit the country.

DeParle quotes Charles Kamasaki of UnidosUS:

“We can’t make progress without acknowledging the legitimacy of basic immigrant enforcement, and that means some people who come here unlawfully will have to be returned,” he said.

In his recent book, “Immigration Reform,” Mr. Kamasaki, who has worked for migrant rights for nearly 40 years, advises other progressives to moderate their tone — to seek bipartisan compromise, avoid assuming all opponents are racist, and question whether “unfettered immigration is necessarily in their community’s interest.” (UnidosUS itself has subtly broadened its image, dropping “La Raza,” sometimes translated as “the race,” for a name that evokes national unity.)”

But such sensible views are remarkably lacking among the various advocates DeParle talks to, who take one nutty position after another on various immigration issues. You read through them and just shake your head: what planet are these people living on?

The Democratic nominee in 2020 needs to decisively reject the open borders talk and utter lack of realism on border security and what a workable immigration system might look like that appears to dominate these advocates’ thinking. Otherwise Trump will have a field day and immigrants will be worse off, not better off.

Trump won’t stop talking and tweeting about them. But when it comes to immigration, what do Democrats actually believe?

Teixeira: Turnout Lessons of Super Tuesday

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

Who’s the Real Turnout Candidate?

Well, his last name ain’t Sanders. Aaron Zitner and John McCormick in the Wall Street Journal:

“The electorate that backed Mr. Biden in South Carolina on Saturday and fueled his victories in 10 of 14 states on Super Tuesday had many similarities to the one that boosted his party in the 2018 midterm elections. Suburban voters turned out in droves, along with more traditional elements of the Democratic coalition, particularly African-American voters.

Mr. Sanders’s appeal among the young, the liberal and the politically independent was too weak in many places to create the revolution he promised. Speaking to reporters Wednesday in Vermont, he acknowledged that he hadn’t been as successful as he had hoped in increasing youth voter turnout. “It isn’t easy,” he said…

In many states, those backing Mr. Sanders were simply outnumbered by more centrist Democrats, who showed far more enthusiasm for voting than four years ago, when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was considered the front-runner for her party’s nomination and Donald Trump hadn’t yet come to dominate the nation’s politics. The electorate in many states was older and less liberal than in 2016….

Mr. Sanders has long argued that his brand of government activism would draw a broad coalition of voters eager to defeat Mr. Trump, describing his campaign as “the strongest grass-roots movement of any campaign in modern American history.”…

William Frey, a senior demographer at the Brookings Institution in Washington who studies political trends, said of the strong turnout of moderate voters: “I think it’s a continuation of the trend we saw in the 2018 midterms, when there was huge turnout. A lot of it is a reaction to Trump.”

White women with college degrees strongly supported Mr. Biden and could be a source of strength for Democrats against Mr. Trump in November. “They did a lot for Biden yesterday,” Mr. Frey said. “That’s going to be a part of the coalition that the Democrats will be banking on.”

Voter turnout jumped by nearly 70% in Virginia over 2016 levels, unofficial results showed, while rising more than 40% in Texas and 16% in North Carolina, all states that Mr. Biden won. Mr. Biden, the man who most embodied the Democratic establishment, won substantial margins among African-Americans, a core Democratic group, as well as older voters.

The twin pillars of Mr. Sanders’s support in 2016—voters under age 30, and political independents—were far less reliable this time around. Those groups either shrank as a share of the 2020 voter pool or were poached by rival candidates.

The senator barely won some of the biggest college communities, including Charlottesville, home to the University of Virginia. Montgomery County, home to Virginia Tech, favored Mr. Biden over Mr. Sanders. In North Carolina, Mr. Sanders won the county that is home to the UNC Asheville, but he lost to Mr. Biden in the home to UNC Chapel Hill.

Worse for Mr. Sanders: For all the talk that he would draw a wave of newcomers to the voter pool, those young voters made up a smaller share of the electorate than in 2016, while the share of voters age 65 and older rose.”


Political Strategy Notes

Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman put the Super Tuesday results in perspective at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, noting “That Joe Biden swept the South was not that big of a surprise; that he won states outside of it was…The overall delegate math is unclear and may very well have ended up close on Super Tuesday, but Bernie Sanders needed to come out of it with a significant lead. He didn’t do that…With Biden likely to win more big victories in the South, Sanders has to win some of the big upcoming Midwestern states — Michigan, Illinois, and Ohio — to keep pace.”

Arguing that “Donald Trump is the Democrats’ Best GOTV,” at The Cook Political Report, Charlie Cook writes that “The other thing that Biden lacked that literally, every other candidate had more of than he did: money and organization. Sanders and Warren had invested in field operations and the early vote for months. Bloomberg, of course, spent more than $500 million on TV ads and campaign infrastructure. But, in the end, Biden had the more powerful GOTV operation: Donald J. Trump. Democrats want to beat Trump. Biden is the guy who is most likely to do it. The end.”

From Ari Berman’s “Here’s Why Texans Had to Wait Six Hours to Vote: The state closed a record 750 polling places from 2012 to 2018” at Mother Jones: “While voters in California also faced delays due to a shortage of polling locations and problems with new voting technology, the longest waits took place in Texas, particularly in Houston’s Harris County, where the population is 43 percent Latino and 19 percent black…Texas’ troubles weren’t just a case of bureaucratic incompetence or aging election infrastructure: The long lines were also by design. As my colleague Sam Van Pykeren noted last night, from 2012 to 2018, Texas counties shuttered 750 polling places—more than any other state. The closures disproportionately harmed Democratic and minority voters. “The 50 counties that gained the most Black and Latinx residents between 2012 and 2018 closed 542 polling sites, compared to just 34 closures in the 50 counties that have gained the fewest black and Latinx residents,” according to a recent analysis in The Guardian…Texas was allowed to close these polling places because of a 2013 Supreme Court decision gutting the Voting Rights Act that enabled states with a long history of voting discrimination like Texas to take such actions without federal approval. All together, states previously subject to such supervision have shut down 1,688 polling locations from 2012 to 2018, according to a report by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.”

At The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein writes, “Stanley B. Greenberg, a veteran Democratic pollster, argued that Super Tuesday’s results establish Biden as the clear front-runner for the nomination at the convention in July….“Sanders has made no effort to reach out beyond his voters, his movement, his revolution,” Greenberg said. “It just has not grown. It is an utterly stable vote that is grounded in the very liberal portion of the Democratic Party, but he’s so disdainful of any outreach beyond that base. He seems content to just keep hitting that drum.” Brownstein notes that “big showdowns are looming over the next two Tuesdays in Florida, Arizona, and a quartet of Rust Belt battlegrounds: Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, and Michigan…But if Biden wins next week in Michigan, one of Sanders’s most significant victories four years ago, the rationale for the senator’s candidacy could quickly become murky.”

Brownstein continues, “Sanders failed on almost every front to enlarge his coalition. He faced a sharp recoil from groups that have long been the most skeptical of him, including African Americans and older voters. Biden, conversely, received exactly the kind of consolidation among black voters that his campaign had hoped for after his strong performance in South Carolina: He carried about three-fifths or more of African American voters in Virginia, North Carolina, Texas, and Alabama and a majority in Tennessee, according to the exit polls. Outside of Vermont, Sanders faced cavernous deficits among voters 45 and older, who composed a clear majority of the electorate in most states.”

“Biden reversed Sanders’s previously consistent advantage among white voters without a college degree,” Brownstein adds. “That latter breakthrough could be especially important for Biden in the upcoming midwestern states, where blue-collar white voters constitute a larger share of the Democratic primary electorate than in most places. A poll from Michigan released last night showed Biden pulling past Sanders there, even before the Super Tuesday results…In 2016, Sanders won Michigan on the strength of a solid 15-point advantage among those working-class white voters. To keep them in his corner, he’s likely over the next week to stress his opposition to free-trade agreements that his rival supported, such as the now defunct North American Free Trade Agreement.

Brownstein notes further: “The reversal among white voters without a college degree was equally striking. During his 2016 race, Sanders carried most of them, according to the cumulative exit-poll analysis, and he won most of them in each of the first four states this year too. But last night showed that Sanders now has genuine competition: The exit polls found that Biden carried most of them in Virginia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Alabama, Massachusetts, and Minnesota, while Sanders won them in Texas, Vermont, Colorado, and California. (The two split them closely in North Carolina.)”

The good news from Montana, from The Week: “Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) is reportedly now inclined to run for the state’s Senate seat, which is occupied by Trump ally Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), three Democratic officials told The New York Times. Bullock, whose term limits prevent him running for governor again, has long maintained he wasn’t interested in the Upper Chamber, partially because he views himself as an executive (he briefly ran for president last year), but also because he reportedly didn’t want to put a strain on his family by commuting between Montana and Washington every week…But Democrats kept pushing in the hopes that Bullock’s popularity as a Democrat in his red home state could help flip at least one Senate seat blue as the party tries to reverse the 53-47 Republican majority in 2020.”

Cal Cunningham, an Army veteran and former state senator, will take on Sen. Thom Tillis (R) in what’s expected to be an extremely competitive North Carolina Senate race this fall,” Li Zhou reports in “This North Carolina Democrat will try to unseat Thom Tillis this fall: The state is one of Democrats’ biggest targets come November” at Vox. “Cunningham beat out a slate of opponents, including progressive state Sen. Erica Smith, to win Democrats’ North Carolina Senate primary on Tuesday night. Viewed as a more moderate option, he’s centered his campaign on the expansion of the Affordable Care Act, opposed the Green New Deal, and garnered the backing of Senate Democrats’ national campaign arm…With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Cunningham won 57 percent to Smith’s 35 percent. Cunningham, now in-house counsel for an environmental consultancy, ran for the Senate in 2010 and lost in the runoff.”


As Candidates Withdraw, What Happens to Their Delegates?

The above is a question that arose after the Buttigieg and Klobuchar withdrawals, but it all may become more relevant after Super Tuesday and its fallout, as I discussed at New York:

What happens with the voters who would have otherwise supported Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar in Tuesday’s elections and beyond remains an open question.

Meanwhile there is the related question of what happens to delegates pledged to candidates who subsequently quit. There aren’t very many of them: Buttigieg won only 26 delegates and Klobuchar only 7. But down the road it could matter more if, say, Bloomberg or Warren drop out after accumulating a significant pile of delegates on Super Tuesday or later in the contest.

The first thing to understand is that there is a small but very real difference in how the national-party rules treat delegates of candidates who have suspended their campaigns versus those who have formally withdrawn. Buttigieg and Klobuchar fall into the former category; it’s the most common thing for failed candidates to do since it gives them more time to settle the financial affairs of their campaigns, while also leaving the door cracked to a zombie campaign in case things get weird later on. And as nomination-contest wizard Josh Putnam (of the invaluable Frontloading HQ websiteexplains, the candidates retain some rights:

“Their campaigns have been suspended but they are still technically candidates in the race. Even without any involvement from those two campaigns, delegate candidates of those two candidates in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada will continue in the delegate selection process. …

“Most of the delegates won by these two candidates are district delegates. Buttigieg claimed nine district delegates in Iowa, six district delegates in New Hampshire and three district delegates in Nevada. Klobuchar was allocated one district delegate in Iowa and an additional four in New Hampshire. Ten of those 23 district delegates — the ones from New Hampshire — have already basically been chosen. Slates of district delegates were elected for each active candidate at pre-primary caucuses in the Granite state on January 25. Iowa district delegates will be selected on April 25 and Nevada Democrats will select their district delegates at the party’s May 30 state convention. If the Buttigieg and Klobuchar campaigns are still in suspension at those points, then they will retain those delegates and they will all become free agents upon selection.”

This last point is important. Delegates pledged to candidates who have quit the race really are free agents, since the only real compulsion governing them is a “pledge” required by the national party to do their best to represent the jurisdictions that elected them. Unlike Republicans, who called such delegates “bound,” Democrats rely on more of an honor system, aside from the fact that campaigns typically choose delegate slates from which delegates are “pledged” (yes, a few states have laws that seek to bind delegates until “their” candidates have formally withdrawn, but it’s unclear they can be enforced at a convention).

Ultimately, there’s no real way to force any pledged delegate to honor the spirit of the system and stay committed at the convention, much less in the case of a second ballot in which 771 superdelegates would come into play. But you’d have to figure that delegates pledged to candidates who are no longer really in the race would be the loosey-est gooses of them all if the nomination isn’t already buttoned down tight before the opening gavel falls in Milwaukee.