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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

May 22, 2024

Political Strategy Notes

Read “Yes, Joe Biden Can Win the Working-Class Vote: Since 2020, Joe Biden’s support among working-class voters of all races has fallen alarmingly. Here are seven ways he and his party can reverse the slide” by Timothy Noah at The New Republic. Among bis observations: “Only half of the Democratic-candidate websites surveyed by the Center for Working-Class Politics bothered to mention Biden’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill. Only about one-quarter mentioned Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, or IRA, which is spending another half-trillion on technologies to reduce climate change. And only 15 percent mentioned the CHIPS Act, signed into law three months before the election, which will spend another $53 billion to boost domestic manufacture of semiconductors. The combined effect of these three bills has been to nearly triple the construction of manufacturing facilities since Biden took office….however unpopular Biden was (and remains), Biden’s policies are very popular, especially among working-class voters—on those rare occasions when they hear about it. The IRA, for example, was favored in a March 2023 poll by 68 percent of people earning between $50,000 and $99,999. But these working-class people needed the pollsters (from Yale and George Mason) to first explain what the Inflation Reduction Act was. A 61 percent majority had no idea….To prevail in 2024, Biden will need to win the working-class vote. Over the past century, no Democrat—with one exception—has ever won the presidency without winning a majority of working-class voters. The single exception was Joe Biden in 2020; Biden lost noncollege voters that year to President Donald Trump, 47 to 51. That was slightly worse than Hillary Clinton did with noncollege voters in 2016. Biden performed better than Clinton among noncollege whites, but 8 percentage points worse among noncollege Latinos and 3 percentage points worse among noncollege African Americans. Biden became president anyway, but under a unique set of circumstances—a deadly and economically costly pandemic that the incumbent mishandled badly. It’s doubtful the president can remain an exception in 2024 and win reelection….electoral math compels the Democrats to pick up two college graduates for every noncollege voter who leaves….The electoral math gets even worse when you consider this year’s battleground states. Battleground swing voters will likely determine who becomes president (not to mention whether the Senate remains Democratic), and they skew more heavily toward noncollege voters (72 percent) than the nation as a whole (63 percent). Democrats in those crucial states, according to Jared Abbott and Fred DeVeaux of the Center for Working-Class Politics, will need to pick up not two but three college grads for every noncollege voter they lose. Rather than obsess about further expanding its share of college voters, the party would do better to think hard about how it can shore up a working-class constituency that, even at this late date, remains essential to winning the White House.”

At nbcnews.com, Mark Murray reports that “RFK Jr. candidacy hurts Trump more than Biden, NBC News poll finds: The finding contrasts with a number of other national polls, and it comes amid concerted Democratic efforts to prevent Kennedy from harming Biden’s campaign” and writes: “The latest national NBC News poll shows the third-party vote — and especially independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — cutting deeper into former President Donald Trumps support than President Joe Biden’s, though the movement the other candidates create is within the poll’s margin of error….Trump leads Biden by 2 percentage points in a head-to-head matchup, 46% to 44%, in the new NBC News poll….Yet when the ballot is expanded to five named candidates, Biden is the one with a 2-point advantage: Biden 39%, Trump 37%, Kennedy 13%, Jill Stein 3% and Cornel West 2%….The big reason why is that the poll finds a greater share of Trump voters in the head-to-head matchup backing Kennedy in the expanded ballot. Fifteen percent of respondents who picked Trump the first time pick Kennedy in the five-way ballot, compared with 7% of those who initially picked Biden….Also, Republican voters view Kennedy much more favorably (40% positive, 15% negative) than Democratic voters do (16% positive, 53% negative).” Plug in all the caveats: It’s only one poll; it’s too early to take polls seriously. We’re only talking about a couple of points, anyway. And perhaps more important, it’s a national, instead of swing states polls, which would be more significant. Dems must guard against wishful thinking. As Murray writes, “The NBC News poll results on Kennedy’s impact are “different than other surveys,” said McInturff, the GOP pollster. “So there’s always two possibilities: One, it’s an outlier. … Or two, we’re going to be seeing more of this, and our survey is a harbinger of what’s to come….The Biden campaign has actively tried to peel support away from Kennedy. Most recently, Biden held an event Thursday with members of the Kennedy family who are endorsing the president over their relative.” One could also hope that Trump’s infantile behavior in his trials has finally become embarrassing for a few more of his supporters.

The Boston Review has a forum entitled “The New Blue Divide,” in which Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson probe  the possibilities for a “bold economic agenda” in the Democratic Party, despite relying on “affluent suburbanites” for support. As Hacker and Pierson write, “The place to begin is the changing geography of American politics. The partisan divide is now a “density divide.” Over the past few election cycles, Republicans have registered particularly big gains among white voters in lower-density regions of the country battered by the shift to a postindustrial knowledge economy. The consequences of the GOP’s retreat from dense metro areas are now well understood. It has powered the party’s embrace of Christian nationalism and right-wing populism as well as its growing attack on American democracy, leading to a base that is older, whiter, more heavily Evangelical, and less highly educated….Less well understood is the other half of the story—the transformation of the Democratic Party. Democrats are now firmly established as the political voice of multiracial, cross-class, metro America. Democrats have always done well in urban cores; what has changed over the past several decades is the party’s performance in the suburbs, which have grown more Democratic even as they have grown more affluent. Some of these gains have occurred because the suburbs have diversified racially and economically. Yet the most striking change in recent cycles is growing Democratic margins in the richest suburban communities—the biggest beneficiaries of U.S. economic growth over the last two decades. Most of these areas remain disproportionately white, and many leaned Republican not long ago….Because of these shifts, Democrats are now much less clearly the party of the “have nots.” In 2021–22, they represented twenty-four of the twenty-five congressional districts with the highest median household income—a striking change from the past. (Documentation for most of the statistics in this piece can be found in a recent academic article we wrote with Amelia Malpas and Sam Zacher.) At the presidential level, Democrats now win counties that produce the lion’s share of the nation’s economic output; some 71 percent of GDP came from the 1 in 6 counties that backed Biden in 2020. Indeed Biden won every one of the twenty-four most economically productive metro areas, and forty-three of the top fifty.”

“In remaking their coalition to bring in affluent college-educated voters,” Hacker and Pierson add, “Democrats are hardly alone. Left-of-center parties in most other rich democracies have evolved along broadly similar lines as the knowledge economy has built up steam—gaining highly educated professionals while losing white working-class voters, who increasingly embrace the populist right. In economist Thomas Piketty’s evocative depiction, parties that were once oriented toward the working class—the British Labor Party, the French Socialists, the German Social Democrats, as well as the U.S. Democratic Party—now represent the “Brahmin left.” In their efforts to court the affluent and educated, Piketty maintains, these left parties have retreated from their historical commitment to redistribution….This argument echoes the claims of many American observers, including prominent journalists and analysts such as David Leonhardt, Thomas Frank, Thomas Edsall, John Judis, and Ruy Teixeira. In their recent book Where Have All the Democrats Gone? (2023), for example, Judis and Teixeira lament that the party has “steadily lost the allegiance of ‘everyday Americans’” and that the “main problem” is its “cultural insularity and arrogance.” Democrats, these critics insist, have embraced the social liberalism of their affluent, college-educated white voters at the expense of the working class….Perhaps change will only come with greater direct investments in building a stronger network of supportive organizations, including labor unions. Or perhaps polarization is now so deeply entrenched—and the media landscape is now so noisy—that the ability of a party to build electoral support through economic governance is severely limited. Indeed, the changing media landscape is probably a major reason why sharply negative perceptions of Democrats are so hard to shake. Both GOP leaders and right-wing commentators relentlessly pillory the Democrats as obsessed with identity and culture. These narratives, amplified through mainstream as well as conservative media, make it extremely difficult for the party to reshape its image, especially when its policy initiatives so often fall victim to congressional gridlock….With a slightly stronger Democratic hand in Congress, the agenda of 2021 could be revived. The money will certainly be there—the only benefit of the spectacular transfer of financial resources to corporations and the wealthy over the past generation—and if the electoral shifts we have charted endure, there is a real chance that the political momentum could be as well.”

Will Chaos of Chicago ’68 Return This Year?

A lot of people who weren’t alive to witness the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago are wondering if it’s legendary chaos. I evaluated that possibility at New York:

When the Democratic National Committee chose Chicago as the site of the party’s 2024 national convention a year ago, no one knew incumbent presidential nominee Joe Biden would become the target of major antiwar demonstrations. The fateful events of October 7 were nearly six months away, and Biden had yet to formally announce his candidacy for reelection. So there was no reason to anticipate comparisons to the riotous 1968 Democratic Convention, when images of police clashing with anti–Vietnam War protesters in the Windy City were broadcast into millions of homes. Indeed, a year ago, a more likely analog to 2024 might have been the last Democratic convention in Chicago in 1996; that event was an upbeat vehicle for Bill Clinton’s successful reelection campaign.

Instead, thanks to intense controversy over Israel’s lethal operations in Gaza and widespread global protests aimed partly at Israel’s allies and sponsors in Washington, plans are well underway for demonstrations in Chicago during the August 19 to 22 confab. Organizers say they expect as many as 30,000 protesters to gather outside Chicago’s United Center during the convention. As in the past, a key issue is how close the protests get to the actual convention. Obviously, demonstrators want delegates to hear their voices and the media to amplify their message. And police, Chicago officials, and Democratic Party leaders want protests to occur as far away from the convention as possible. How well these divergent interests are met will determine whether there is anything like the kind of clashes that dominated Chicago ’68.

There are, however, some big differences in the context surrounding the two conventions. Here’s why the odds of a 2024 convention showdown rivaling 1968 are actually fairly low.

Gaza isn’t Vietnam.

Horrific as the ongoing events in Gaza undoubtedly are, and with all due consideration of the U.S. role in backing and supplying Israel now and in the past, the Vietnam War was a more viscerally immediate crisis for both the protesters who descended on Chicago that summer and the Americans watching the spectacle on TV. There were over a half-million American troops deployed in Vietnam in 1968, and nearly 300,000 young men were drafted into the Army and Marines that year. Many of the protesters at the convention were protesting their own or family members’ future personal involvement in the war, or an escape overseas beyond the Selective Service System’s reach (an estimated 125,000 Americans fled to Canada during the Vietnam War, and how to deal with them upon repatriation became a major political issue for years).

Even from a purely humanitarian and altruistic point of view, Vietnamese military and civilian casualties ran into the millions during the period of U.S. involvement. It wasn’t common to call what was happening “genocide,” but there’s no question the images emanating from the war (which spilled over catastrophically into Laos and especially Cambodia) were deeply disturbing to the consciences of vast numbers of Americans.

Perhaps a better analogy for the Gaza protests than those of the Vietnam era might be the extensive protests during the late 1970s and 1980s over apartheid in South Africa (a regime that enjoyed explicit and implicit backing from multiple U.S. administrations) and in favor of a freeze in development and deployment of nuclear weapons. These were significant protest movements, but still paled next to the organized opposition to the Vietnam War.

Political conventions are different today.

One reason the 1968 Chicago protests created such an indelible image is that the conflict outside on the streets was reflected in conflict inside the convention venue. For one thing, 1968 nominee Hubert Humphrey had not quelled formal opposition to his selection when the convention opened. He never entered or won a single primary. One opponent who did, Eugene McCarthy, was still battling for the nomination in Chicago. Another, Robert F. Kennedy, had been assassinated two months earlier (1972 presidential nominee George McGovern was the caretaker for Kennedy delegates at the 1968 convention). There was a highly emotional platform fight over Vietnam policy during the convention itself; when a “peace plank” was defeated, New York delegates led protesters singing “We Shall Overcome.” Once violence broke out on the streets, it did not pass notice among the delegates, some of whom had been attacked by police trying to enter the hall. At one point, police actually accosted and removed a TV reporter from the convention for some alleged breach in decorum.

By contrast, no matter what is going on outside the United Center, the 2024 Democratic convention is going to be totally wired for Joe Biden, with nearly all the delegates attending pledged to him and chosen by his campaign. Even aside from the lack of formal opposition to Biden, conventions since 1968 have become progressively less spontaneous and more controlled by the nominee and the party that nominee directs (indeed, the chaos in Chicago in 1968 encouraged that trend, along with near-universal use of primaries to award delegates, making conventions vastly less deliberative). While there may be some internal conflict on the platform language related to Gaza, it will very definitely be resolved long before the convention and far away from cameras.

Another significant difference between then and now is that convention delegates and Democratic elected officials generally will enter the convention acutely concerned about giving aid and comfort to the Republican nominee, the much-hated, much-feared Donald Trump. Yes, many Democrats hated and feared Richard Nixon in 1968, but Democrats were just separated by four years from a massive presidential landslide and mostly did not reckon how much Nixon would be able to straddle the Vietnam issue and benefit from Democratic divisions. That’s unlikely to be the case in August of 2024.

Brandon Johnson isn’t Richard Daley.

Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley was a major figure in the 1968 explosion in his city. He championed and defended his police department’s confrontational tactics during the convention. At one point, when Senator Abraham Ribicoff referred from the podium to “gestapo tactics in the streets of Chicago,” Daley leaped up and shouted at him with cameras trained on his furious face as he clearly repeated an obscene and antisemitic response to the Jewish politician from Connecticut. Beyond his conduct on that occasion, “Boss” Daley was the epitome of the old-school Irish American machine politician and from a different planet culturally than the protesters at the convention.

Current Chicago mayor Brandon Johnson, who was born the year of Daley’s death, is a Black progressive and labor activist who is still fresh from his narrow 2023 mayoral runoff victory over the candidate backed by both the Democratic Establishment and police unions. While he is surely wary of the damage anti-Israel and anti-Biden protests can do to the city’s image if they turn violent, Johnson is not without ties to protesters. He broke a tie in the Chicago City Council to ensure passage of a Gaza cease-fire resolution earlier this year. His negotiating skills will be tested by the maneuvering already underway with protest groups and the Democratic Party, but he’s not going to be the sort of implacable foe the 1968 protesters encountered.

The whole world (probably) won’t be watching.

The 1968 Democratic convention was from a bygone era of gavel-to-gavel coverage by the three broadcast-television networks that then dominated the media landscape and the living rooms of the country. When they were being bludgeoned by the Chicago police, protesters began chanting, “The whole world is watching,” which wasn’t much of an exaggeration. Today’s media coverage of major-party political conventions is extremely limited and (like coverage of other events) fragmented. If violence breaks out this time in Chicago, it will get a lot of attention, albeit much of it bent to the optics of the various media outlets covering it. But the sense in 1968 that the whole nation was watching in horror as an unprecedented event rolled out in real time will likely never be recovered.

Political Money and Democratic Strategy

Some nuggets from “Does it matter that Democrats are raising more money than Republicans?,” a 538 panel with Nathaniel Rakich, Kaleigh Rogers and Geoffrey Skelley:

Nathaniel Rakich: “President Joe Biden’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee say they raised a combined $90 million in March, while former President Donald Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee say they combined for $66 million. Democrats have an even wider advantage in cash on hand: $192 million to $93 million. But my first question is simple: Does it really matter that Republicans are so far behind in the money race?….Trump will probably be able to basically print money going forward….CNN’s Matt Holt highlighted just how much more cash on hand Democrats have than Republicans in nearly all competitive Senate races….Republicans have adopted a deliberate strategy of recruiting rich guys to run for Senate this year, meaning they can self-fund their campaigns — like Hovde in Wisconsin, as Kaleigh mentioned. Other examples are Dave McCormick in Pennsylvania, Bernie Moreno in Ohio and Tim Sheehy in Montana. The multimillion-dollar question, though, is how much they’re willing to dip into their own pockets.”

Kaleigh Rogers: “It doesn’t not matter, though I know that’s an unsatisfying answer. In a race in which both candidates are household names and — despite Trump’s current deficit — will raise and spend gobs of money before the election is over, these differences aren’t going to make or break a campaign….Money never guarantees success (my go-to example of this is former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s billion-dollar losing bid for president in 2020), but it’s not irrelevant. Money buys ads, campaign workers, billboards, yard signs and T-shirts with your respective campaign meme on them. All of this helps get out the vote, get a candidate’s message out and (especially in this race) possibly challenge voters’ preconceived notions of the candidates and what they bring to the table. That’s valuable, but having more digits in your receipts column for Q1 doesn’t equate to a decisive advantage….Democrats outraised Republicans in every single competitive race except Wisconsin, and that was only because GOP candidate Eric Hovde topped up his campaign with $8 million of his own funds in his bid to unseat Sen. Tammy Baldwin.”

geoffrey.skelley: “In the long run, a consistent spending advantage for one candidate could matter. For instance, if Biden were to steadily outspend Trump on ads in swing states down the stretch, that could make a slight difference in his support, as we’ve seen in past campaigns….Trump got an incredible $5.9 billion in earned media (that is, free publicity) in the 2016 campaign, dwarfing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s $2.8 billion and arguably minimizing her almost 2-to-1 edge in more traditional campaign spending….it’s mainly just a question of whether either one can sustain a significant financial lead throughout much of the campaign. My guess is no….No one should be equating Biden’s current fundraising lead with the idea that Biden has a superior campaign….the toughest seats for Democrats to hold this cycle (after Ohio and Montana) should be the open seats in Arizona and Michigan. And the likely Democratic nominees in both states notably outraised their GOP opposition.”

Read the whole article to get the flow of the panelists responses to each other. Also, for an insightful explanation of the unlimited spending power of Super Pacs and the role of the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision in elections, check out this video, featuring Chisun Lee, deputy executive director of The Brennan Center and read “Super PACs keep testing the limits of campaign finance law” by Jessica Piper at Politico.

Political Strategy Notes

Ronald Brownstein explains why “Why Biden’s fate may be settled in the Rust Belt not the Sun Belt” at CNN Politics: “The shift in expectations reflects the upside-down racial dynamics of the 2024 race,with most national and state polls showing Biden largely holding his 2020 support among White voters, while facing, at this point, unprecedented erosion among Black and Latino voters. Biden, as I wrote last year, is likewise maintaining his 2020 support better among older than younger voters. These surprising patterns have made the relatively older and Whiter three industrial blue wall states appear a better bet for Biden. That’s largely because his fate in them is less dependent on minority voters than in the younger and more diverse Sun Belt states that top his target list – Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and North Carolina….If Biden defends his 2020 victories in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – while also holding the single Electoral College vote he would gain by winning the Nebraska congressional district centered on Omaha – he would reach 270 Electoral College votes. That would be the case even if he loses Arizona, Nevada and Georgia, probably the three most vulnerable states among the 25 he carried last time, and fails to flip North Carolina, which narrowly backed Trump….James Carville, the veteran Democratic strategist, speaks for many in the party when he says that these Rust Belt states remain the indispensable building blocks of any Biden victory. “We used to say in 2020 it was Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin and everything else is lagniappe, which is a New Orleans term that means ‘a little something extra,’” Carville said….The issue environment is also pushing Democrats toward greater reliance on the Rust Belt states. Biden is heavily stressing his support for legal abortion, and while polls show broad support for that position across racial lines, many pollsters believe it resonates most powerfully as a voting issue among college-educated White voters, especially women. Conversely, economic issues loom largest for most non-white voters; that’s a difficult dynamic for Biden across the Sun Belt because polls consistently show widespread discontent with his management of the economy, including among many Black and Latino voters.”

Brownstein adds that “public polling shows Biden’s position is generally stronger in the Rust Belt. In most surveys, he’s running better in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin than in any battleground state; CNN’s latest Pennsylvania poll conducted by SSRS, for instance, showed him tied with Trump as did last week’s Wall Street Journal survey in Wisconsin….By contrast, polls consistently show Trump leading, often by around 5 points or more, in the big Sun Belt battlegrounds that Biden flipped in 2020 – Arizona and Georgia – as well as in North Carolina, which Biden hopes to put in play. Trump consistently leads more narrowly in polls of Nevada….In this configuration, Michigan is the potentially decisive outlier – a critical Rust Belt state where polls for months have showed Biden trailing….This general alignment upends the expectations of many political operatives and analysts, myself included, after Trump emerged as the GOP’s dominant figure in 2016. At that point, it appeared that Democrats would need gains in the Sun Belt battlegrounds to offset the possibility that Trump would lock in a GOP advantage in Rust Belt states crowded with the non-college-educated White voters who provided the cornerstone of his support….Since then, Democrats have indeed gained ground in the Sun Belt. When Trump took office, Democrats held just one of the six Senate seats in Arizona, Nevada and Georgia; now they control all six. (Although Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema recently declared herself an independent after being elected as a Democrat in 2018, she still caucuses with the party.) In 2020, Biden carried all three states, becoming the first Democrat to win Georgia since 1992 and Arizona since 1996. North Carolina was the conspicuous exception to this brightening picture for Democrats: though the party won the governorship there in 2016 and 2020, Republicans have continued to notch narrow victories in presidential and US Senate races….The key to these Democratic Sun Belt gains have been the twin demographic forces reshaping the region. Democrats have significantly improved their performance in growing well-educated upper-middle-income communities across the Sun Belt including Cobb and Gwinnett counties outside Atlanta, the suburbs of Charlotte and Raleigh and suburban areas in Maricopa County around Phoenix.”

Brownstein notes further, “As important, the Sun Belt states have been racially diversifying at a far more rapid pace than the Rust Belt states. From 2004 to 2020, the share of the vote cast by people of color increased by 10 percentage points in Georgia and 15 points in Arizona, according to calculations from Census data by William Frey, a demographer at Brookings Metro, a nonpartisan think tank. By contrast, the non-White share of the vote increased over that same period by only about 6 points in Pennsylvania, 3.5 points in Michigan and 2 points in Wisconsin, Frey found….But that contrast means that Democrats rely on minority voters for a much larger share of their total vote in the Sun Belt states than they do in the Rust Belt battlegrounds. And that’s made them more vulnerable to the striking pattern in most public polls this year that has found Biden largely holding his 2020 support among White voters, but running well below his previous numbers among Black and particularly Latino voters. Trump is “clearly on offense among Blacks and Hispanics, especially among Black and Hispanic men,” said Jim McLaughlin, a pollster for the former president….The biggest question for Democrats in the Sun Belt states is whether they can push Trump off the beachheads he has established among minority voters. The Biden campaign points out that voters of color, especially Latinos in the southwest, often fully tune in later in the campaign. Biden is pursuing Black and Latino voters with unprecedented levels of targeted early media. These include ads in the Southwest that highlight Trump’s comments that immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country,” and ads aimed at Black voters that charge Trump “stoked racial violence [and] attacked voting rights” over images of the Charlottesville, Virginia, march by White supremacists and the January 6, 2021, insurrection.”

In addition, Brownstrein argues, “Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were all part of what I called, in 2009, the “blue wall.” Those were the 18 states that ultimately voted Democratic in all six presidential elections from Bill Clinton’s first win in 1992 to Barack Obama’s reelection in 2012.  Trump’s success at knocking Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin out of the blue wall by a combined margin of about 78,000 votes was the key to his surprise victory in 2016….But since his victory, Democrats have regained the initiative in each state – at least until now. In 2018, Democrats won the governorship in all three, and reelected three Democratic senators. In 2020, Biden recaptured all three states. In 2022, Democrats again won the governorships in all three states, captured an open Senate seat in Pennsylvania, and won control of both state legislative chambers in Michigan and the state House in Pennsylvania. Last year, with strong support from state Democrats, the liberal candidate won a landslide victory in a Wisconsin State Supreme Court election that gave liberals a 4-3 majority on the body….In the 2022 governor races in the three key Rust Belt states, the Democrats maintained or exceeded Biden’s recovery with those working-class Whites, exit polls found. In 2024, the large number of blue-collar jobs flowing from the big three bills that Biden passed to promote more domestic manufacturing and infrastructure construction could help him maintain a competitive floor of support with these voters. “There are shovels going into the ground all over our state,” said Wisconsin Democratic Party chair Ben Wikler….Strong support for legalized abortion could allow Biden to run even better among college-educated White voters across the region in 2024 than he did in his first race. In 2022, the Democratic gubernatorial candidates in all three states exceeded Biden’s performance from two years earlier with both college-educated White men and women, the exit polls found….For Mark Graul, a veteran GOP consultant who ran George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign in Wisconsin, that history points toward the critical dynamic that will likely decide the state this year….Graul doesn’t think Trump can expand his advantage among non-college Whites further than he already has, partly because Biden can tout the blue-collar jobs tied to his big legislative achievements. “I think Trump really maxed that out,” Graul said. “I don’t know how you do much better than he did there.” If that’s right, the crucial question is whether Biden can notch enough gains among white-collar Whites in Wisconsin to offset a likely decline in his margin and/or turnout among Black voters and young people. “Things can change, but I think that dynamic is so baked in right now I don’t see it changing much,” Graul said.”….To offset losing Michigan, Biden would need a big Sun Belt breakthrough: winning either Georgia or North Carolina, or both Arizona and Nevada. None of that looks easy, which is why many Democrats view a Rust Belt sweep as the most plausible road to victory for Biden….If the president can defend those three states, “you are not going to lose,” said Carville. “And if you don’t do this you are going to have to catch an inside straight to win.”

A Closer Look at the “Uniparty” Fable

RFK Jr. and MTG are using the same dismissive term for major-party differences. I took at look at this phenomenon at New York:

Partisan polarization has been steadily growing in the U.S. since roughly the 1960s. Ironically, during this time, the complaint that the two parties are actually too alike has become increasingly prevalent. For years, right-wing Republicans have called people in the GOP who don’t share their exact degree of ideological extremism RINOs, or “Republicans in name only,” suggesting they’re basically Democrats. Left-wing Democrats occasionally echo these epithets by calling (relative) moderates “DINOs,” “ConservaDems,” or — back when maximum resistance to George W. Bush was de rigueur — “Vichy Democrats.”

Today the term “Uniparty” has come to denote the idea that Democrats and Republicans are actually working for the same evil Establishment enterprise, their loudly proclaimed differences being a mere sham. This contention was the culmination of a five-page letter Marjorie Taylor Greene recently sent her Republican colleagues calling for House Speaker Mike Johnson’s removal, unless he changes his ways instantly. She wrote:

“With so much at stake for our future and the future of our children, I will not tolerate this type of ‘leadership.’ This has been a complete and total surrender to, if not complete and total lockstep with, the Democrats’ agenda that has angered our Republican base so much and given them very little reason to vote for a Republican House majority …

“If these actions by the leaders of our conference continue, then we are not a Republican party – we are a Uniparty that is hell-bent on remaining on the path of self-inflicted destruction.”

Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. also leaned heavily into the Uniparty idea in his recent speech introducing running-mate Nicole Shanahan:

“Our independent run for the presidency is finally going to bring down the Democrat and Republican duopoly that gave us ruinous debt, chronic disease, endless wars, lockdowns, mandates, agency capture, and censorship. This is the same Trump/Biden Uniparty that has captured and appropriated our democracy and turned it over to Blackrock, State Street, Vanguard, and their other corporate donors. Nicole Shanahan will help me rally support for our revolution against Uniparty rule from both ends of the traditional Right vs. Left political spectrum.”

The Uniparty claim is ridiculous, of course, as FiveThirtyEight’s Geoffrey Skelley demonstrates:

“[O]ur current political moment is arguably farther away from having anything resembling a uniparty than at any other time in modern U.S. history. Based on their voting records, Democratic and Republican members of Congress have become increasingly polarized, and both the more moderate and more conservative wings of the congressional GOP have moved to the right at similar rates. Meanwhile, polling suggests that Americans now are more likely to view the parties as distinct from one another than in the past, an indication that the public broadly doesn’t see a uniparty in Washington. Although there are areas where the parties are less divided, the broader uniparty claim is at odds with our highly polarized and divided political era.”

Kennedy’s subscription to the Uniparty notion is understandable on two points. The first is that his candidacy is vastly more likely to tilt the 2024 presidential campaign in the direction of one of the two major-party candidates (likely Donald Trump, according to most of the polling) than to actually succeed in winning the presidency. Maintaining that it really doesn’t matter whether it’s Biden or Trump running the country is essential to maintaining RFK’s appeal as November approaches and the futility of his bid becomes clearer. Second, Kennedy’s pervasive conspiracy-theory approach to contemporary life lends itself to the argument that the apparent gulf between the two major parties is a ruse disguising a sinister common purpose.

MTG’s Uniparty contention also reflects dual motives. In part she is simply echoing Trump’s weird but useful contention that he’s an “outsider” battling a Deep-State Establishment that secretly controls both parties, which is pretty rich since he dominates the GOP like Genghis Khan dominated the Golden Horde. But there is a marginally more legitimate sense in which key elements of the two parties really are in line with each other on isolated issues that happen to obsess Greene, such as aid to Ukraine. If you are a hammer, as the saying goes, everything looks like a nail.

The same is true of other implicit Uniparty claims, particularly those made by progressive pro-Palestinian protesters who adamantly argue that the need to smite “Genocide Joe” Biden for his pro-Israel policies outweighs all the reasons it might be a bad idea to help Trump return to the White House (including the fact that Trump is palpably indifferent to Palestinian suffering). If the two parties do not appear to differ on your overriding issue, then the fundamental reality of polarization can fade into irrelevance.

So we’re likely to hear more Uniparty talk even as Democrats and Republicans head toward another highly fractious election with very high stakes attributable to their differences.

Why Dems Should ‘Lean In’ for Immigration Reform

An excerpt from “Democrats lean into border security as it shapes contest for control of Congress” by Stephen Groves at AP:

“Democrats aren’t going to win on immigration this year, but they have to get closer to a draw on the issue to get to a place where people take them seriously,” said Lanae Erickson, a senior vice president at Third Way, a centrist Democrat think tank. “Be palatable enough on that issue that people are then willing to consider other priorities.”

Still, Democrats face a difficult task when it comes to the politics of border security. A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research has found that almost half of adults blame Biden and congressional Democrats for the current situation at the U.S.-Mexico border, while 41% blame Republicans in Congress.

Despite the data, at least Democrats can point to reforms they have advocated, which Republicans have obstructed in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Democrats “believe they can tout their own proposals for fixing the border, especially after Trump and Republican lawmakers rejected a bipartisan proposal on border security earlier this year.”

“You’re going to be painted as an open border Democrat no matter what, so talk about solutions,” said Maria Cardona, a Democratic strategist.

She is urging candidates to lean into the immigration debate by discussing plans for border security and policies to help immigrants who have set up lives in the country. It’s an approach that worked under former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, she said.

Still, the shift in the way Democrats talk about the border could shape the future of immigration policy. The hardline immigration measures pursued by the Trump administration spurred a reaction by Democrats to oppose tough immigration enforcement measures. Now, some Democrats argue that the party should move away from a stance that border security and reforms for legal immigration should not be inextricably tied together. But that approach could also disenchant progressive and Latino voters.

Every Democratic candidate for the U. S. House, Senate, and state and local legislative seats should energetically address Republican refusal to even consider reforms they have previously advocated. The point is to portray the G.O.P. as the obstructionist, do nothing, finger-pointing party that would rather posture and blame than act for border security. Democratic candidates have to master the details of their proposed reforms and develop some sharp soundbites that highlight the Republican’s failure to win any legislative wins to protect America’s borders.

Teixeira: The Three Point Plan to Fix the Democrats and Their Coalition

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:

What’s wrong with this picture? The Republican Party seems a shambles, with the unpopular, erratic Trump, with all his massive baggage, as their standard-bearer. Yet the Democrats’ standard-bearer, Biden, is equally if not more unpopular.

For the last six months, Biden’s approval rating has been in the 39-41 percent approval range with 54-56 percent disapproval. As Harry Enten points out “Biden is the least popular elected incumbent at this point in his reelection bid since World War II.”

And critically, trial heats pitting Biden against Trump have consistently shown Biden running behind. Indeed, Biden hasn’t had a lead of any kind in the RCP running average since September of last year (though the race has tightened a bit in recent weeks). That compares to a Biden lead of over six points at this point in the cycle four years ago. As Enten also notes:

[A] lead of any margin for Trump was unheard of during the 2020 campaign—not a single poll that met CNN’s standards for publication showed Trump leading Biden nationally.

Biden is also running behind Trump in six of seven key swing states, consistent with his failure to establish a solid lead in the national popular vote.

In addition, Democratic Party identification has been declining throughout Biden’s presidency and is now at its lowest level since 1988. Looming over this trend and all the other rough results for the Democrats cited here is the indisputable fact that Democratic poor performance is being driven by defections among working-class (noncollege) voters of all races. Polling consistently shows Biden running deficits among working class voters in the mid-teens, a dramatic fall-off from the 4-point deficit he experienced in the 2020 election.

It’s time to admit that the Democratic party brand is in deep, deep trouble, especially with working-class voters. That is why the Democrats cannot decisively beat Trump and the Republicans, despite the latter’s many liabilities, and find themselves fighting desperately at the 50 yard line of American politics. So it is and so it will continue to be until Democrats figure out how to stop the bleeding with working-class voters.

That means the Democratic approach needs to change. Here’s my three point plan for doing so, originally put forward in October of 2022 and more relevant than ever.

1. Democrats Must Move to the Center on Cultural Issues

2. Democrats Must Promote an Abundance Agenda

3. Democrats Must Embrace Patriotism and Liberal Nationalism

I expand on each of these points below.

The Culture Problem

Here’s the deal (as Biden might put it): the cultural left in and around the Democratic Party has managed to associate the party with a series of views on crime, immigration, policing, free speech and of course race and gender that are quite far from those of the median voter. These unpopular views are further amplified by Democratic-leaning media and nonprofits, as well as within the Democratic Party infrastructure itself, all of which are thoroughly dominated by the cultural left. In an era when a party’s national brand increasingly defines state and even local electoral contests, Democratic candidates have a very hard time shaking these cultural left associations.

As a direct result of these associations, the party’s—or, at least, Biden’s—attempt to rebrand Democrats as a unifying party speaking for Americans across divisions of race and class appears to have failed. Voters are not sure Democrats can look beyond identity politics to ensure public safety, secure borders, high quality, non-ideological education, and economic progress for all Americans.

Instead, Democrats continue to be weighed down by those whose tendency is to oppose firm action to control crime or the southern border as concessions to racism, interpret concerns about ideological school curricula and lowering educational standards as manifestations of white supremacy, and generally emphasize the identity politics angle of virtually every issue. With this baggage, rebranding the party as a whole is very difficult, since decisive action that might lead to such a rebranding is immediately undercut by a torrent of criticism. Democratic candidates in competitive races certainly try to rebrand on an individual level but their ability to escape the gravitational pull of the national party is limited.

Have things improved on this front in the course of the Biden administration? I don’t think so. A Liberal Patriot/YouGov poll found that more voters thought the Democrats had moved too far left on cultural and social issues (61 percent) than thought the Republicans had moved too far right on these issues (58 percent). In the latest Wall Street Journal poll, Trump is preferred over Biden by 17 points on reducing crime and 30 points on securing the border, now the second most important voting issue after the economy.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Democrats’ steady movement to the cultural left and ever “woker” stances on these issues is the steady movement of the intended audience for these stances away from the Democrats. These charts by John Burn-Murdoch of the Financial Times illustrate this trend. Whatever else the Democrats’ left turn on cultural issues is accomplishing, it’s not doing them much good among the nonwhite voters—especially nonwhite working-class voters—who, activists assured them, were thirsting for the maximally “progressive” position on these issues.

Chart showing that Democrats’ advantage with non-white voters has been rapidly eroding and is now at its weakest since the 1960s

This wasn’t supposed to happen! But it is. As Burn-Murdoch notes:

The image of the GOP as the party of wealthy country club elites is dimming, opening the door to working- and middle-class voters of all ethnicities…More ominous for the Democrats is a less widely understood dynamic: many of America’s non-white voters have long held much more conservative views than their voting patterns would suggest.

This is staring to bite as Democrats’ cultural evolution takes them farther and farther away from the comfort zone of these voters. Damon Linker describes the process well in a recent post on his Substack:

Our polity is deeply divided over politics, with Democrats and Republicans often residing in morally and epistemologically distinct worlds, and each side viewing the country’s history, current condition, and possible futures very differently. But there’s also a common public culture all Americans share and take part in. It is governed by certain implicit norms and expectations that apply to everyone.

But who determines those norms and expectations? The answer is that these days it is often progressive activists. How do they accomplish this exercise of political-cultural power? I will admit that I’m not entirely sure. Something like the following process appears to happen: A group of left-leaning activists declares that certain words, claims, or arguments should be considered anathema, tainted as they supposedly are with prejudice, bigotry, racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, or transphobia; then people in authoritative positions within public and private institutions (government, administrative and regulatory agencies, universities, corporations, media platforms, etc.) defer to the activists, adjusting the language they use to conform to new norms; and then, once the norms and expectations have been adjusted, a new round of changes gets mandated by the activists and the whole process repeats again, and again, and again.

I suspect that to many millions of Americans (and to lots of people living in democracies across the world where something similar is going on) the process feels a bit like a rolling moral revolution without end that makes them deeply uncomfortable. That response is no doubt a function of right-leaning views among some voters. But I’d be willing to bet that for many others, the negative reaction follows from the sheer bossiness of it, with schools, government bureaucrats, HR departments at work, movie stars, and others constantly declaring: You can’t talk that way anymore; you must speak this other way now; those words are bad; these words are the correct ones. A lot of people are ok with this. But many others respond with: Who the f-ck are you to tell me how I’m allowed to talk? Who elected or appointed you as my moral overseer and judge?

To many voters, especially working-class voters, this is the world Democrats are bequeathing to them and they flat-out don’t like it. And that’s important! I never cease to be amazed by Democrats’ touching, if delusional, faith that they can simply turn up the volume on economic issues and ignore these sentiments. Culture matters and the issues to which they are connected matter. They are a hugely important part of how voters assess who is on their side and who is not; whose philosophy they can identify with and whose they can’t.

Political Strategy Notes

David Dayen targets a glaring GOP vulnerability in his article, “Republicans Are Objectively Pro–Junk Fee: A new congressional resolution aligns Republicans with the financial industry’s fight to preserve sky-high credit card late fees” at The American Prospect. As Dayen writes: “The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s $8 cap on credit card late fees has had a wild ride on the road to implementation. After being finalized last month, the rule drew a lawsuit from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which sought an injunction in Fort Worth. No credit card companies are located in Fort Worth; the venue choice was made purely to ensure that the case would be heard by a right-wing federal judge….The first district court judge assigned to the case owned a bunch of credit card company stocks and recused himself; the second judge, a Trump appointee, showed remarkable candor in saying the case had no business being in Fort Worth and should be heard in Washington. Then the far-right Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with the Trump judge and tried to pull the case back to Texas. Then one of the authors of that opinion, it turned out, also owned a bunch of credit card company stocks. He has asked for briefings on whether he should recuse himself, basically seeking outside opinions on his own personal corruption….That’s not the only attack on the late fee rule. Now congressional Republicans are coming after it, in the process finally setting up a partisan fight over the popular issue of junk fees, which the Biden administration has been pushing for the past few years. Republicans, it turns out, are objectively in favor of junk fees. And by next week, they’ll be on the record for them.” Dayen adds that “Republicans in the House and Senate have filed resolutions of disapproval of the late fee rule….Not only that, but Tim Scott, the South Carolina senator who is on the short list to be Donald Trump’s vice-presidential running mate, has taken on the role of the leading champion of junk fees. Scott, the ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, proudly announced this week that he’s introduced the resolution to kill the late fee rule….Every Republican, including those in swing districts, will now have to decide whether they support higher costs on Americans, which will be redistributed to the banks and the card companies….Even on the off chance that this gets through the Senate, President Biden has championed eliminating junk fees and would surely veto the bill. There’s no chance Republicans have enough votes to override him…..So not only does this vote put Republicans on the spot over junk fees, it’s a doomed vote, completely initiated by their own possible VP nominee….Few causes poll better than eliminating junk fees. One poll from Data for Progress found junk fee prevention to be at nearly 80 percent support, including 72 percent of self-identified Republicans.”

So how are American attitudes toward helping Ukraine resist Putin’s attacks playing out? According to Megan Brenan’s report on the latest Gallup poll on the subject, “As military aid for Ukraine remains stalled in the U.S. House of Representatives, Americans themselves are equally split, at 36% each, between those who believe the United States is doing too much to help Ukraine and those saying it’s not doing enough. However, this is a more favorable balance of opinion for Ukraine than last fall, when more thought the U.S. was doing too much (41%) than not enough (25%)….This comes as Americans’ perceptions of who is winning the war have also shifted, with more now saying Russia rather than Ukraine has the upper hand, although a majority of U.S. adults still see neither side as winning….Partisans remain sharply divided in their opinions of the war, with Democrats more supportive than Republicans of helping Ukraine. However, the gap is now at a record high, given the surge in Democrats’ belief since last fall that the U.S. is not doing enough. Republicans’ minimal agreement with this position hasn’t changed, and political independents’ views are closer to Republicans’ than Democrats’….The latest data are from a Gallup poll conducted March 1-17, several weeks after the U.S. Senate passed a bipartisan aid package that included $60 billion in funding for Ukraine. The bill has been stuck in the U.S. House as Speaker Mike Johnson has been working to get support from his Republican caucus, which currently holds a slim two-vote majority….Democrats — and, to a lesser extent, independents — are driving the increase since October in views that the U.S. is not doing enough in the conflict. Sixty percent of Democrats (up by 22 percentage points) say U.S. support for Ukraine is insufficient, while 34% of independents (up by nine points) agree. At the same time, Republicans’ view is essentially unchanged, with 15% saying the U.S. is not doing enough….In addition, between 25% and 28% of all three party groups think the current level of help for Ukraine is about right, while 57% of Republicans, 39% of independents and 13% of Democrats think the U.S. is doing too much….Fifty-five percent of Americans think the U.S. should continue to support Ukraine in reclaiming its territory, even if that requires prolonged involvement, rather than ending the conflict as quickly as possible, even if that means ceding territory to Russia (43%). These findings are unchanged from the previous readings in October. However, the percentage of Americans who now favor continuing the fight to win back Ukraine’s territory is lower than the 62% to 66% who preferred that approach between August 2022 and June 2023.”

Elise Gould has some welcome talking points for Democratic candidates in her article, “A record-breaking recovery for Black and Hispanic workers: Prime-age employment rates have hit an all-time high alongside tremendous wage growth” at the Economic Policy Institute web pages. Among her insights: “Unemployment has been at or below 4.0% for 27 months running, the longest such stretch since the late 1960s. Low-wage workers experienced an unprecedented surge in wage growth over the last four years, as shown in our new report….These historically robust outcomes extended to Black and Hispanic workers. In 2023, the share of Black and Hispanic people ages 25-54 with a job hit an all-time high. Further, real wage growth among Black and Hispanic workers experienced a significant turnaround from the stagnant wage growth they suffered in much of the prior four decades….Black and Hispanic workers hit all-time high employment rates in 2023: The Black PA EPOP hit 77.7% in 2023, better than its previous high in 1999 (77.3%). The Hispanic PA EPOP reached 77.9%, better than its pre-pandemic high of 77.4% in 2019….Due largely to the more robust policy response, it took only four years for Black and Hispanic workers to hit pre-pandemic employment peaks in this business cycle compared with the prolonged recovery from the Great Recession—when Black and Hispanic employment only hit pre-recession levels after 11 and 12 years, respectively….Black workers in particular experienced wage growth far above their historical norm: 1.4% annually over the last four years.”

Julia Mueller explains why “Suburban women are more complicated than ‘soccer moms’” and explores the political ramifications. at The Hill: “President Biden and former President Trump are both fighting for the suburban woman voter, but she’s no longer the “soccer mom” caricature that gained traction in the ’90s….The label connotes a stereotypical picture of a white, college-educated woman, married with a couple of kids….The country’s suburbs have grown more racially and ethnically diverse, and looking at a single archetype of the suburban woman voter for 2024 risks missing key differences across the demographic….“If you want to talk about suburban women, you want to get away from the caricature. It’s much different than it was … because there are many more people of color moving into the suburbs than there were before,” said Bill Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution….In 1990, a few years before the “soccer mom” moniker caught on in the 1996 election cycle and early aughts, roughly two in 10 suburbanites living around major metro areas were people of color – but by 2020, that number was approaching five in 10, according to research Frey conducted using Census data….the diversity of women in the suburbs – and even the attitudes of the suburbs’ white women with college degrees — appear to have shifted in recent years amid new pressures and social norms, experts said….“They’re becoming more diverse, and also, the motherhood component maybe isn’t as strong as it once was,” Betsy Fischer Martin, executive director of the Women & Politics Institute at American University, said of the suburbs….Women broadly lean toward Democrats, and Biden won 56 percent of suburban women in 2020, while 54 percent of suburban men went for Trump, according to Edison Research exit polling. A new NPR/NewsHour/Marist poll released earlier this month found Biden up 28 points over Trump among college-educated white women….But white women overall went to Trump in 2020, while 90 percent of Black women and 69 percent of Hispanic women backed Biden, according to the exit polls.” However, “NBC News data analyzed this month by the firm Public Opinion Strategies found Democrats’ advantage among suburban women overall has shrunk from a 10-point margin in 2016 to a five-point edge in 2023….“It’s kind of like a double-whammy of higher mobilization in the suburbs and then greater mobilization among women, and then mobilization on issues specific around abortion,” [University of Delaware political scientist Erin] Cassese said, and even a small shift among white women could be “significant enough” to swing things in key battleground states.”

As Exploration of the Disconnect Between Economic Realities and Public Perception

Will Historic Job Growth Bring an End to the “Vibecession”?, John Cassidy asks at The New Yorker, and writes:

During the past year, the economy has added 2.9 million jobs, and since Biden came to office it has added 15.2 million jobs. All told, there are now about 5.8 million more Americans at work than there were immediately before the covid-19 pandemic started. And for those who are still concerned about the inflation rate, which has fallen from a high of 9.1 per cent in June, 2022, to 3.2 per cent, the new jobs report contained some reassuring news on that front, too. In the twelve months before the report was issued, hourly wages rose by 4.1 per cent–—the lowest figure since June, 2021, and another indication that inflation is contained. Strong economic growth combined with low unemployment and low inflation is pretty much an ideal outcome for any policymaker.

There are at least three explanations for why Biden’s ratings haven’t benefitted from these developments: the consumer-prices theory, the lags theory, and the vibes theory. The prices theory emphasizes that price levels—and the over-all cost of living—remain high, despite much lower rates of inflation. The lags theory says that people’s perceptions about politicians and economic policymaking can take quite a while to catch up with a changing environment. The vibes theory says that, for whatever reason, many Americans’ subjective feelings about the economy have lost touch with reality. To use the term coined by the economic commentator Kyla Scanlon, many of them are still stuck in a “Vibecession.”

Evidence can be cited to support each of these theories. Although the price of food hasn’t climbed much in the past year, many groceries and other items, such as secondhand vehicles, are still a lot more expensive than they were when Biden was elected, in 2020. Wages have increased faster than prices in the past year, but they haven’t risen by enough to offset previous price hikes. That supports the prices theory. Supporting the lags theory are recent indications that broad economic sentiment has improved, even though this hasn’t yet made itself visible in political polls. Last month, the University of Michigan’s index of consumer sentiment was 28.1 per cent higher than it was a year ago. The same organization’s index of consumer expectations, which reflects survey respondents’ feelings about the future, has gone up even more. It seems reasonable to expect that improving consumer sentiment should eventually have an impact on people’s assessments of economic policymaking, including the President’s stewardship.

Cassidy has more to say about the disconnect between economic statistics and public perceptions, and you can read the rest of his article right here.

Presidential Race Is Back to Square One

As part of my regular poll-gazing, I took a look at the presidential trends at New York:

Joe Biden is continuing his snail-like progress toward a dead heat with Donald Trump in polling this week. The RealClearPolitics polling averages for a national head-to-head contest between the two presidents now show Trump up by a mere 0.2 percent (45.5 to 45.3 percent), his smallest lead in these averages dating back to last October. If you took a very outlierish Rasmussen Poll giving Trump an eight-point lead out of the equation, Biden would actually be ahead. As it is, he leads Trump in the most recent surveys by Reuters-IpsosI&I-TIPPData for ProgressNPR-PBS-Marist, and Quinnipiac, a pretty impressive collection of pollsters (all but I&I-TIPP are in the top-25 outfits, according to FiveThirtyEight’s ratings).

Trump is maintaining a slightly larger lead (1.9 percent) in the national five-way polls that include Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Cornel West, and Jill Stein, per RCP’s averages. RFK Jr. holds 10 percent of the 13.2 percent going to non-major-party candidates. So the larger field continues to help Trump and hurt Biden, albeit marginally.

Battleground-state polling has been sparse in recent weeks; the last public polls in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, and Wisconsin were from a March 24 Wall Street Journal survey. So Trump maintains his relatively robust leads in all those states. New polling in North Carolina (from High Point University and Quinnipiac) shows Trump’s lead in that state shrinking slightly to 4 percent. And fresh data from Pennsylvania via Franklin & Marshall has given Biden a slight (0.1 percent) lead in that state in the RCP averages. The trends for Biden overall are positive, albeit very slightly and slowly so.

In terms of where the numbers might go as we approach November, there are some even more positive sights for the incumbent. A fascinating new national survey from NORC published by FiveThirtyEight looked at how demonstrated propensity to vote affected presidential-candidate preferences, and the findings are potentially significant:

“When we broke out respondents by their voting history, we found dramatic differences in whom they support for president in 2024. President Joe Biden performed much better among frequent voters, while Trump had a large lead among people who haven’t voted recently. Specifically, among respondents who voted in the 2018, 2020 and 2022 general elections, Biden outpaced Trump 50 percent to 39 percent. But among respondents who were old enough to vote but voted in none of those three elections, Trump crushed Biden 44 percent to 26 percent.”

This survey reinforces evidence elsewhere that the traditional Democratic reliance on “marginal voters” has ended, and that now it’s Republicans who need an unusually high-turnout election to get Trump’s supporters to the polls. In the short term, this could mean that when pollsters begin to shift from registered-voter to likely-voter samples, Biden will probably get a boost (the sort of boost Republican candidates used to count on) in the comparative numbers. Whether that carries over to the actual results in November may depend on overall turnout levels, with Democrats holding an unusual advantage among the voters most likely to show up at the polls.

There are, of course, many other factors that will influence the direction of this contest, including the strength, wealth, and wisdom of the campaigns and of the national and state parties supporting them. But one thing to watch is whether the Kennedy candidacy, which is marginally hurting Biden right now, gets onto the ballot in all or most of the battleground states. At present, Kennedy’s campaign claims it has enough signatures to gain ballot access in Arizona, Georgia, and Michigan, and it’s in a dispute with Nevada over an early deadline for identifying a vice-presidential candidate that it missed, which may land in court. If Kennedy does gain the ballot access he needs, the big question will be whether his conspiracy-theory-drenched appeal has the sort of staying power that non-major-party candidates usually lack. If he fades, it will likely benefit Biden.

Real-world developments outside the campaign trail could matter as well. Team Biden has to worry about signs of renewed inflation. And all of Trump’s efforts to avoid a preelection criminal trial appear to have failed, at least in New York.

For now, this contest seems to be back to square one: very close and subject to a lot of cross-currents and events we can’t really predict.