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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Seniors Against Trump

Who Are the Key Voters Turning Against Trump?

They’re senior voters, and they could be Joe Biden’s secret weapon.

By Ruy Teixeira in The New York Times
Read the Article.

Stan Greenberg in The American Prospect

The Tea Party’s Last Stand

The legions that swept over the Republican Party in 2010 aren’t ascendant today—and they’ve scared a lot of other Republicans away.

BY STANLEY B. GREENBERG

Read the Article.

Democrats – Get Ready for the Inevitable Republican Counterattack

It’s coming, and we should be prepared.
By Andrew Levison

Read the Strategy Memo.

Seniors Against Trump

Key Voters Turning Against Trump?

They’re senior voters, and they could be Joe Biden’s secret weapon.

By Ruy Teixeira in The New York Times
Read the Article.

Stan Greenberg in The American Prospect

Tea Party’s Last Stand

The legions that swept over the Republican Party in 2010 aren’t ascendant today—and they’ve scared a lot of other Republicans away.

BY STANLEY B. GREENBERG

Read the Article.

The Daily Strategist

October 24, 2020

Brownstein: How Dems Can Leverage Health Care Concerns in SCOTUS Fight to Win Swing States

In his article, “Democrats’ SCOTUS Message Could Really Work in Swing States: The party may have an easier time taking back the Senate if it focuses voters’ attention on the Court’s impact on health care.” in The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein sees a powerful opportunity opening up for Democrats:

The struggle over Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s replacement on the Supreme Court could help propel Democrats to the brink of a Senate majority in November’s election. But whether it lifts them over that threshold could turn on the terms of the confirmation fight. Given the nature of the states that will decide Senate control, the Democrats’ path to a majority may be much easier if they can keep the debate centered on economic issues—particularly the survival of the Affordable Care Act—rather than social issues, especially abortion.

The reason: The confirmation fight is likely to further weaken the position of endangered Republican senators in Colorado, Maine, and Arizona—states where polls show that a solid majority of voters support legal abortion. But even if Democrats flip all three, they will still likely need to win one more seat to take the majority. And in the next tier of states where they could possibly flip a seat, the politics of abortion will make that more difficult.

What the confirmation fight could do is “give the Democrats a path to picking up two or even three Senate seats but make it harder in those other four or five states,” says Matt Mackowiak, an Austin-based GOP strategist.


The Big Moment Has Arrived For the Anti-Abortion Movement and Its GOP Servants

Nothing that Republicans said in the wake of the sad news of Justice Ginsburg’s death should have come as a surprise. This moment was a long time coming, as I explained at New York:

Most mainline anti-abortion organizations and politicians had the decency, or at least the self-discipline, not to celebrate openly at the news of Justice Ruth Bader’s Ginsburg’s death on Friday night. For example, the hard-core anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List put out this statement:

“We offer our sincere condolences to Justice Ginsburg’s children, grandchildren, extended family, friends, and colleagues. The prayers of the Susan B. Anthony List team are with her family, as well as for our nation, at this time.”

But that didn’t keep the group’s chair from acknowledging an urgent call to arms in virtually the same breath:

“This is a turning point for the nation in the fight to protect its most vulnerable, the unborn. The pro-life grassroots have full confidence that President Trump, Leader McConnell, Chairman Graham, and every pro-life Senator will move swiftly to fill this vacancy.”

Similarly, Christian-right leader Franklin Graham tweeted, “Pray for the family of SCOTUS Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who passed away today. May God comfort her loved ones.” But he’s mostly focused on preparing for a Washington Prayer March on September 26, where I am sure the upcoming SCOTUS confirmation fight will be on many hearts and minds.

Perhaps the most intellectually baroque anti-abortion argument on the occasion of Justice Ginsburg’s death was from New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, who suggested depoliticizing the Supreme Court by withdrawing its jurisdiction over such matters as abortion policy:

“[F]or many conservatives the high court eviscerated its own authority decades ago, when it set itself up as the arbiter of America’s major moral controversies, removing from the democratic process not just debates about sex and marriage and school prayer but life and death itself.”

But congressman and current U.S. Senate candidate Doug Collins of Georgia was about as subtle as a hammerhead shark:

RIP to the more than 30 million innocent babies that have been murdered during the decades that Ruth Bader Ginsburg defended pro-abortion laws. With Donald Trump nominating a replacement that values human life, generations of unborn children have a chance to live.”

Challenged by an Atlanta reporter for his lapse in etiquette in not preceding this attack with some token of respect for Ginsburg and her service to her country, Collins was having none of that:

“’I will never back [down] on life. It’s very personal for me. The truth was about being honest about where we’re going and what the president’s going to do,’ Collins said. ‘Sometimes in life, there’s just polite, and there’s just the truth. That was the truth.’”

Collins is locked in an intense competition with appointed Republican senator Kelly Loeffler, characterized by mutual efforts to out-Trump each other (Loeffler just ran an ad suggesting she is “more conservative than Attila the Hun”).

In the fever swamps of Christian-right opinion, commenters were far less diplomatic about Ginsburg’s death, expressing a blasphemy-risking willingness to credit God Almighty for smiting Ginsburg and giving Trump the opportunity to ban abortion. Peter Montgomery at Right Wing Watch has a good example:

“A group of ‘prayer warriors’ associated with the pro-Trump ‘prophetic’ network POTUS Shield is celebrating the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as an answer to prayer and a miraculous ‘move of God’ to allow President Donald Trump to name a third Supreme Court justice in his first term. Trump-supporting religious-right supporters have often prayed for God to ‘remove”’Supreme Court justices to give Trump the ability to name justices to the court who would overturn Roe v. Wade.

“POTUS Shield founder Frank Amedia, a former Trump campaign adviser, prophesied early in Trump’s presidency that God would give Trump three Supreme Court justices in his first term. Amedia has also been talking for months about a ‘prophetic’ dream he had in which he saw Trump sinking into a swamp until God reached down and with his thumb and forefinger plucked Trump out by the head, flinging him in the air. Amedia predicted this divine intervention would take place in September, and on Sunday, he called Ginsburg’s death ‘the first breath’ of the prophesied ‘blast’ that God has in store. ‘The blast has just begun,’ Amedia exulted….”

What all these opponents of legalized abortion have in common is that they don’t give a damn about the hypocrisy of Senate Republicans blocking Merrick Garland in 2016 and rushing through a Trump nominee this year. Indeed, they would be in the streets protesting furiously if Mitch McConnell or Trump hesitated a moment before taking advantage of this opportunity to “save the babies.” This is holy war, and the upcoming Supreme Court confirmation fight is Armageddon. And even if their own interest in the topic is limited, nearly all Republican members of Congress have signed on to the reserves in this battle by taking a position opposing abortion rights and accepting the loyal support of those who are avid to turn back the clock for good.


Political Strategy Notes

E. J. Dionne, Jr. says it straight in “Capitulating to the right won’t end the judicial wars” at The Washington Post:Republicans lacked the guts to give Garland a hearing or a floor vote in 2016 because a great many in the GOP had praised Garland, a moderate liberal, as an ideal pick for President Barack Obama to make. The perfect way for cowards to avoid a vote on a jurist they admitted had sterling qualifications was — well, not to vote at all…There is no getting around the truth: A Democratic president couldn’t even get a hearing on someone named to the court eight months before a presidential election. A Republican president is entitled to a vote on someone who will be named less than seven weeks before the election. The partisanship is naked, and it’s on one side…This makes Republicans the real “court packers.” Memo to liberals: The GOP’s abuses make expanding the court morally necessary, but stop calling it “court-packing…If Republicans force through Trump’s nominee, they will have abused their power twice to create an illegitimate, long-term 6-to-3 conservative majority. Adding additional justices is thus an effort to make the court less partisan, less ideological and more balanced. It is a moderate aspiration, not a “left-wing” demand. It is a response to the other side’s court-packing…Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and all of the senators who vote with them are the radicals and the aggressors. The language of the fight going forward must make this clear.”

In “Chief Justice Roberts’s lifelong crusade against voting rights, explained,” at Vox, Ian Milhiser writes, “As chief justice, Roberts has occasionally shown moderation. He famously saved most of the Affordable Care Acttwice! And he more recently cast a surprising vote to preserve the constitutional right to an abortion (although he simultaneously signaled that this right is unlikely to last much longer)…But Roberts has shown no such moderation on voting rights. Among other things, Roberts dismantled much of the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder (2013), and he’s joined decisions making it much harder for voting rights plaintiffs to prove they were victims of discrimination. On the basic question of who is allowed to vote and which ballots will be counted, the most important issue in any democracy, Roberts is still the same man who tried and failed to strangle the Voting Rights Act nearly four decades earlier…Broadly speaking, the Voting Rights Act created two separate procedures to stop racist voting laws. Section 5 of the act laid out the preclearance regime I described above, while Section 2 permitted voting rights plaintiffs to bring lawsuits challenging racist laws that are already in effect…Ari Berman writes, “Roberts wrote upwards of 25 memos opposing an effects test for Section 2.” He “drafted talking points, speeches and op-eds for” senior Justice Department officials opposing the amendment, and “prepared administration officials for their testimony before the Senate; attended weekly strategy sessions; and worked closely with like-minded senators on Capitol Hill…This moment of profound peril for American democracy is, in many ways, Roberts’s doing. He’s worked his entire career to undermine voting rights. Whatever happens in the 2020 election, we cannot rely on the Roberts Court to protect those rights.”

Also at Vox, German Lopez has a long article explaining  “How Trump let Covid-19 win,” deailing the Administration’s disastrous mismanagement of the pandemic, including these observations: “America now has one of the worst ongoing epidemics in the world, with the second most daily new Covid-19 deaths among developed nations, surpassed only by Spain…In the months before the coronavirus arrived, the Trump administration also cut a public health position meant to detect outbreaks in China and another program, called Predict, that tracked emerging pathogens around the globe, including coronaviruses. And Trump has repeatedly called for further cuts to the CDC and National Institutes of Health, both on the front lines of the federal response to disease outbreaks; the administration stood by the proposed cuts after the pandemic began, though Congress has largely rejected the proposals…The Trump administration pushed for the cuts despite multiple, clear warnings that the US was not prepared for a pandemic. A 2019 ranking of countries’ disaster preparednessfrom the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and Nuclear Threat Initiative had the US at the top of the list, but still warned that “no country is fully prepared for epidemics or pandemics.”

Meredith Conroy and Perry Bacon, Jr. break down “The Partisan, Gender and Generational Differences Among Black Voters Heading Into Election Day” at FiveThirtyEight and observe: “According to recent Democracy Fund polling, 83 percent of likely Black voters favored former Vice President Joe Biden, 10 percent favored President Trump, and 8 percent said they didn’t know which candidate they will back.1Recent Morning Consult polling found almost exactly the same thing — 84 percent for Biden, 10 percent for Trump and 7 percent undecided or favoring a third-party candidate…But this gender gap is favorable to Biden in an important way — Black women tend to vote at higher rates than Black men (64 percent of voting-eligible Black women turned out in 2016, compared to 54 percent of Black men)…Among Black registered voters age 50 and older, 75 percent said they thought congressional Democrats were doing a good job, compared to just 22 percent who thought congressional Democrats were doing a poor job, according to a HIT survey conducted in June. But among Black voters under age 50, only about half (54 percent) approved of congressional Democrats, while 36 percent disapproved…Biden had more support among Black voters who were college-educated and those with higher-incomes, according to the Nationscape data. So it might be that more established Black people (older, more educated, higher income) are more satisfied with the Democratic Party than other Black Americans.”

From “Demographic shifts since 2016 could be enough to defeat Trump” by David Wasserman at the Cook Political Report: “In 2020, noncollege whites are on track to make up about 43 percent of the nation’s adult citizens, down from 46 percent in 2016…Meanwhile, whites with four-year degrees, who are trending blue and increasingly behave like a different ethnic group from noncollege whites, will make up 25 percent of adult citizens, up from 24 percent in 2016. And Black Americans, Latinos, Asians and other nonwhites, historically Democrats’ most reliable supporters, will make up 32 percent, up from 30 percent four years ago…A new interactive collaboration by NBC News and The Cook Political Report finds that if 2016’s rates of turnout and support were applied to 2020’s new demographic realities, Trump would narrowly lose Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — more than enough to swing the presidency to Joe Biden. And, Trump would lose the popular vote by about four points, roughly double his 2016 deficit…At the moment, Trump’s bigger problem is that Biden is winning more noncollege whites than Hillary Clinton did in 2016. The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows Biden losing them by 23 points, whereas exit polls showed Clinton losing them by 37 points. That would be more than enough to offset modest gains Trump has made since 2016 among Hispanics and other nonwhites.”

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall posits “Five Things Biden and His Allies Should Be Worried About.” and notes, “A Democratic strategist — who requested anonymity because his employer does not want him publicly identified talking about the election — analyzed the implications of the most recent voter registration trends for me. In Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, he said, overall registration is up by 6 points through August compared to the 2016 cycle, but net Democratic registrations are down by 38 percent. That’s about 150,000 fewer additional Democrats than were added in 2016. In addition, he continued, registration among whites without college degrees is up by 46 percent while registration by people of color is up by only 4 percent. That gap is made more stark when you realize that over the last four years, the WNC (white non-college) population has increased by only 1 percent in those states, while the number of people of color increased by 13 percent. The pattern was more pronounced in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin than it was in Michigan.”

“The biggest news out of The Economist’s release this week of its Senate model is that it gives Democrats a 67% chance of winning 51 seats (and the the majority) on November 3.” Chris Cillizza writes at CNN Politics. “But look a little deeper into the model’s projection and you see this: Democrats have a 1 in 3chance of winning at least 53 seats and a 1 in 5 chance of winning at least 54 seats…(Quick note: There’s no question, when looking at the landscape, that major Democratic gains — along the line of a 6- or 7-seat net pickup are possible.  At the moment the Cook Political Report, a non-partisan campaign tip sheet, rates 10 GOP-held seats in its most endangered categories as opposed to just two Democratic seats.)…If Schumer, say, is overseeing a 51-seat Democratic majority in 2021, he can only afford to lose two votes of his colleagues on any major legislation…And with West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema — both of whom have voted with Trump’s positions more than 50% of the time, according to 538, certain to be in the Senate at that time, it would complicate Schumer’s efforts to go BIG in terms of major reforms as a means of payback for what Senate GOPers are going to do with the Supreme Court…Now consider how different Schumer’s outlook would be if he was sitting on a 53- or 54-seat majority. He could afford to let Manchin and Sinema go their own ways on this issue or that — and still be left with wiggle room to get things passed by simple majority.”

In his post, “States of Play: Ohio: After Trump maxed out the Buckeye State’s rural areas and small town areas, can Biden max out the suburbs?” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Kyle Kondik writes: “Ohio insiders believe that the state is closer than last time, and that Donald Trump is struggling mightily in suburban areas…Still, Ohio should vote considerably to the right of the nation, thanks to its high percentage of white voters who don’t have a four-year college degree — a strong group for Trump — and its smaller-than-average nonwhite population, a group that is very Democratic…Suburban areas in general, and the Cincinnati and Dayton areas in particular, would likely be a key part of a Biden path to victory. But Trump is still better-positioned to win the state…Ultimately, the Crystal Ball still rates Ohio as Leans Republican…If Biden were to win Ohio, though, Trump’s path in the Midwest — and to a second term — would be blocked…That Trump spent precious time in Ohio earlier this week suggests that the battle for the state is not yet finished. In 2016, the Trump campaign felt good enough about Ohio that Trump skipped the state in his final tour of swing states the three days before the election. Whether Trump can do so again the final weekend of this campaign might tell us something about how well his campaign believes he’s doing.”

Almost every day, Trump threatens to disrupt the election and prevent a fair vote count, and yes there are reasons to worry about what he can get away with. A lot of attention will rightly be focused on election returns in the bigggest swing state, Florida, which looks like a close contest. At New York Magazine, Jonathan Chait notes that “the rickety constitutional structure is poorly suited to handle a disputed election. One of its massive loopholes allows state legislatures to ignore voters altogether and appoint any electors they want to the Electoral College. Respecting the results of the election is merely optional, a norm. And norms have been falling by the wayside.” However, “Biden is currently on the cusp of a victory decisive enough that Trump’s machinations probably cannot stop it. Florida, which is roughly tied, tabulates mail-in ballots quickly, and a Biden win could cut short Trump’s room for mischief.”


Dems Face Strategic Options on High Court

Manu Raju discusses Democratic strategic options regading Justice Ginsburg’s replacement  at CNN Politics:

The debate underscores the challenge facing Democrats as they try to nail down the right strategy to battle a nomination that appears to be on the glide path to confirmation on the backs of Republicans.

On private conference calls in the aftermath of the death last week of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Democrats have had a wide-ranging discussion about their plans and tactics.

Overwhelmingly, they believe they must focus their message on how the new nominee would jeopardize the health care of millions, with the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act before the Supreme Court and persistent court challenges against abortion rights. They also believe they should focus on what they view as a blatant power grab by the GOP to jam a nominee through on the eve of a national election, contradicting the Republican refusal to move on President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee eight months before the 2016 election.

Fair enough. But Democrats should entertain no delusions that the Republican Senators who will vote on Trump’s Supreme Court pick will care much about putting the health care of millions at risk or reproductive rights. Raju adds,

And increasingly, Democrats are trying to steer clear of talk that they would change the makeup of the Supreme Court by adding seats to it if they take the Senate majority this fall, with some arguing that gives the GOP ammunition in the battle for control of the chamber.

“I’m not for retaliatory moves,” said Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, the Democrats’ most vulnerable senator this cycle, pushing back on calls to add seats to the court. He wouldn’t say if he would oppose a Trump pick no matter what.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, who also faces voters in November, said: “No” when asked if she backs adding more seats to the court if Democrats take the majority.

“I think the important thing right now is that people need to make our Republican colleagues and the Trump administration aware … if they believe, as I do, that they should let the election go forward and the next president, whoever that is, nominate the nominee to the Supreme Court,” Shaheen said.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat and progressive firebrand, sidestepped questions when asked if she favored adding seats to the Supreme Court.

“We need to talk about what’s at stake now: What’s at stake in the lives of millions and millions of families,” Warren said Tuesday.

I hope Sens. Jones, Shaheen and Warren are nonetheless ready to kill the filibuster and enlarge the Supreme Court, if need be, as appears more likely, if Dems win the presidency and a senate majority (and if Jones and Shaheen win their races). Meanwhile, Democrats should start start honing their messaging on the topic to include a couple of key talking points.

1. Repeat whenever asked about “packing the court” that it is actually Mitch McConnell who is packing the court. McConnell, Republican senators and Trump have betrayed years of bipartisan agreement to pack the court with extremists. Make it a meme that sticks.

2. But Dems should say they are expanding the court, because the phrase, “packing the court” is using Republican terminology designed to make changing the court’s size sound radical. Dems should note also that the size of the Supreme Court has changed 7 times in U.S. history. The founders allowed flexibility for changing the size of the Supreme Court by not requiring a constitutional amendment.

Democratic senators should not be so intimidated by the GOP’s “packing the court” rhetorical boogeyman. If Trump and McConnell get their 6-3 majority, Democrats don’t have to eat it — if they win both the presidency and a senate majority. That should provide plenty of motivation for Dems to mobilize the most energetic GOTV effort ever.


Teixeira: Will the Impending Struggle Over the Next Supreme Court Justice Help Biden or Trump?

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

To be honest, it’s hard to game out exactly how this is going to go down but, as always, the data we currently have are a helpful guide. As Harry Enten points out, while the he polling data could change over time, right now it looks the situation could well help Biden more than Trump.

“A new Marquette University Law School poll paints the landscape well. Nationally, it finds that 59% of Biden voters say that appointing the next Supreme Court justice is very important to their vote. Compare that with only 51% of Trump voters.

This finding matches what we saw in a CNN/SSRS poll last month. In that poll, 78% of Biden backers told pollsters that nominating the next justice was extremely or very important to their vote. That compared with 64% of Trump supporters. (It was 47% Biden supporters and 32% Trump supporters who said it was extremely important.)

Compare these numbers to what we saw heading into the 2016 election. The final CNN/ORC poll in that cycle showed that 58% of Trump supporters said that nominating the next Supreme Court justice was extremely important to their vote, while only 46% of Hillary Clinton voters said the same. In the 2016 exit poll, Trump beat Clinton by a 15 point margin among those who put Supreme Court appointments as the most important factor to their vote.

In other words, it seems, at least initially, that unlike in 2016, a Supreme Court nominating fight could be more of a motivating factor for Democrats than Republicans….

New York Times and Siena College polled voters this week in Arizona, Maine and North Carolina about their views of the presidential candidates and the Supreme Court.

Biden was more trusted to pick a nominee in the average of all three states by a 53% to 41% margin. That was actually larger than his average lead against Trump in the horserace of 50% to 41% in the three states.

This phenomenon of Biden getting slightly more favorable numbers on who should pick the next Supreme Court nominee than in the horserace matches what a recent Fox News national poll found.

But perhaps more interesting is what the New York Times found among persuadable voters (i.e. those who said they could change their mind or were not backing either Biden or Trump). They preferred Biden to pick the next nominee by a 49% to 31% margin.

And among those voters who might not vote (i.e. those who said were less than very likely to cast a ballot), Biden led Trump by a 52% to 23% margin on who would be better at picking the next Supreme Court justice.”


Teixeira: Biden’s White Noncollege Gains, State by State

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

As noted, the key to Biden’s dominance of the race so far, and Trump’s inability to dislodge him, has been Biden’s ability to cut into Trump’s 2016 margins among white noncollege voters, the demographic Trump was depending on to get himself re-elected.

Morning Consult recently released data from a variety of swing states that, among other things, break down the race in each state by white college/noncollege. Here is Biden’s current performance among white noncollege voters in the consensus top six swing states (MI, PA, WI, AZ, FL, NC) with Biden’s margin improvement relative to Clinton 2016 in parentheses, as estimated by the States of Change project.

Michigan -6 (+15)
Pennsylvania -13 (+19)
Wisconsin 0 (19)
Arizona -7 (+18)
Florida -21 (+13)
North Carolina -33 (+17)

Pretty impressive eh? It’s very interesting that improvements are large not just in the key Rustbelt states but also in the key Sunbelt states. It continues to amaze me that this isn’t a bigger part of the narrative around the election when the data are so damn clear.


Political Strategy Notes

Republican lawyer and activist Chris Truax explains why “Filling Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court seat would be a disastrous Republican move” in a USA Today op-ed. As Truax writes, “even if Senate Republicans were to manage to vote on a nomination before Nov. 3, retribution would be swift, predictable and dire should Democrats seize control of both the Senate and the presidency. Here’s the likely scenario…On the first day of the new Congress, the Senate would amend its rules to eliminate the legislative filibuster…On the second day of the new Congress, a bill would be introduced to amend 28 USC 1 and increase the size of the court from nine to 15…Within a month, the Senate would confirm two new Supreme Court justices with the rest following shortly thereafter. The conservative Supreme Court Dream Team wouldn’t last a single term…There is simply no way congressional Democrats are going to smile ruefully at their Republican colleagues and let bygones be bygones. There will be retribution, and that retribution will be expressly calculated to teach Republicans the meaning of powerlessness. It won’t be pretty to watch. It won’t be good for the country. But it will happen, nonetheless.”

In one of his best Washington Post syndicated columns, E. J. Dionne, Jr. argues “Allowing President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to complete a judicial coup and install a 6-to-3 conservative majority will be, in both form and substance, a triumph for anti-democratic forces and anti-democratic thinking…This is why we must reject the fake moderation of those who pretend that both sides in this fight are equally partisan, equally stubborn and equally at fault. No. It’s the American Right that has been willing to abuse power again and again to achieve its goal of imposing a radical approach to jurisprudence that would undercut democracy itself…There is no liberal analogue to the Shelby County and Citizens Uniteddecisions, which changed the rules of the game in anti-democratic ways; no liberal analogue to the Merrick Garland blockade; and no liberal analogue to the lawlessness of Bush v. Gore…The real court-packers are McConnell, Trump and conservatives who draw inspiration from what some of them call a “Constitution in exile…If the court-packers succeed in forcing another conservative onto the court regardless of the outcome of the 2020 election, enlarging the court would be a democratic necessity, not payback.”

In “The wildly unpredictable politics of the SCOTUS opening” at CNN Politics, Chris Cillizza writes, “Several prominent Democrats have floated the idea of expanding the court, including California Sen. Kamala Harris, Joe Biden’s running mate. (Former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg said during his presidential campaign that he would go from 9 seats to 15 on the court.)…Biden, however, has been resistant to that idea. “I would not get into court packing,” he said at an October 2019 debate. “We add three justices; next time around, we lose control, they add three justices. We begin to lose any credibility the court has at all.”…The question for Democrats, then, is how much — if at all — they inject the idea of adding court seats into the fall campaign. On the one hand, it might excite their base. On the other, it could play into Trump’s hands by giving a preview of what Democratic control at all levels of government might look like.”

Reproductive rights are not the only reform that will be reversed if the Republicans get a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court. Abdul El-Sayed explains why “Obamacare could be doomed if Trump fills another Court seat.” El-Sayed writes, “The stakes couldn’t be higher. In the middle of a pandemic, a confirmation of one more Trump justice could end protections for Americans with preexisting conditions and kick millions off their health insurance…On November 10, the court is scheduled to hear arguments in California v. Texas, a case which could, yet again, decide the fate of the Barack Obama-era Affordable Care Act. Republican-appointed judges have already deemed it unconstitutional in a series of lower court rulings in 2018, setting up this appeal…Obamacare survived its last Supreme Court battle by one vote, and the man who has spent years trying to destroy it now wants to hand-pick the successor of one of the five justices who voted to uphold it. If Trump’s appointee is seated prior to November 10, it could mean the end of the law as we know it — and leave millions of Americans without healthcare in a pandemic.”

“Trump’s shortlist is littered with people who have spent years trying to get the Affordable Care Act overturned or repealed, El-Sayed continues. The list is a stark reminder that he has spent his entire presidency trying to kick millions of Americans off their healthcare — and is continuing to do so even during a global pandemic that has taken the lives of almost 200,000 Americans…With millions being thrown off their private health insurance, this moment calls for more protections for people with preexisting conditions and public healthcare — not less…ending the Affordable Care Act would be catastrophic for public health at any time, and even more so in the middle of a pandemic…More than 100 million Americans with preexisting conditions would lose legal protections that block insurance companies from denying them coverage. Tens-of-millions of Americans who rely on Medicaid expansion would have the rug pulled out from under them. Our healthcare system would be thrown into chaos at a time where it’s already scrambling to save lives.”

It should matter more that “62% Say Winner Of Election Should Choose RBG Replacement,” as Martin Perez reports at Forbes. “A majority of United States adults think the winner of the November election between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden should decide who fills Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Supreme Court vacancy, according to a new poll conducted by Reuters and Ipsos and published on Sunday, a sentiment not shared by Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and President Trump…Surveying Americans on September 19 and 20 following Ginsburg’s death on September 18, the poll found that eight out of 10 Democrats and five out of 10 Republicans believe lawmakers should wait until after the election to nominate a successor to the Supreme Court.”

Paul Waldman brings the political moment into clarifying focus at The American Prospect, and writes, “the ruthlessness gap between the two parties has widened to a chasm. As I’ve often said, Republicans are the party of “Yes, we can” while Democrats are the party of “Maybe we shouldn’t.”…That has seldom been more clear than it is right now. Should the Senate confirm whichever 40-something far-right Federalist Society judge Donald Trump picks, it will mean that conservatives will enjoy a 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court despite the fact that they lost the popular vote in six out of the last seven presidential elections…That majority will be used to reinforce this age of minority rule, in which Republicans enjoy the support of far fewer Americans than Democrats and pursue a remarkably unpopular agenda, but nonetheless control most of the country’s key centers of power…Does that make you angry? It should. And it should make you want to do something about it…But if you really want to get ticked off, think about what this new conservative Supreme Court—one so conservative that depending on how you measure it, Brett Kavanaugh will sit at its ideological midpoint—is likely to do…if Biden does win and Democrats take control of the Senate, they should immediately eliminate the filibuster, then pass bills to give statehood to the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Not only would it be the right thing to do, it would likely mean four more Democratic senators, which would at least begin to address the fundamental tilt that gives Republicans an unfair advantage in the Senate, where far more Americans vote for Democratic senators yet Republicans hold a majority.”

“The Trial-Heat and Convention Bump Forecasting Models have an excellent record for accurate predictions of the presidential elections going back to 1992,” James E. Campbell writes in “The Trial-Heat and Convention Bump Forecasts of the 2020 Presidential Election” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball. “The forecasts, taking into account the economic indicator’s problem this year, indicate that the national popular vote division should be very close. The four versions of the forecasts are quite consistent in predicting an even narrower popular vote margin for Democratic candidate Joe Biden than Hillary Clinton received in 2016 when she won the popular vote, but lost the electoral vote. The electoral vote division in 2020 could easily go either way…And, lest we forget, there are a number of nearly equally brutal congressional races to be decided and with them the partisan control of the House and Senate. My “Seats-in-Trouble” forecasting models based on the Cook Political Report’s handicapping of congressional contests in mid-August predicts Democrats to gain five seats and with them majority status in the Senate and predicts Republicans to gain five seats in the House — but we should not be too surprised if the likely turbulence of the presidential contest in the remaining weeks reverberates into some of these congressional races as well.”

At FiveThirtyEight, Kayleigh Rogers shares some disturbing data about ballot-rejection: “In North Carolina, absentee ballots have already been sent back and the state has been updating statistics on those ballots daily. As of September 17, Black voters’ ballots are being rejected at more than four times the rate of white voters, according to the state’s numbers.1Black voters have mailed in 13,747 ballots, with 642 rejected, or 4.7 percent…North Carolina allows for a process called “vote curing,” where voters are notified that there’s a mistake and given a chance to fix their ballot. But that’s not an option in every state: only 19 states currently allow some form of ballot curing. And even that isn’t foolproof. In Nevada’s statewide primary in June, for example, 12,366 ballots had a missing or mismatched signature, but even after voters were notified to fix it, only 45 percent were successfully cured…In North Carolina alone, 837,685 of the state’s 7.1 million voters have requested absentee ballots so far…In Florida’s 2018 midterm elections, ballots cast by Black voters, Hispanic voters and voters from other racial and ethnic minorities were rejected at twice the rate of ballots cast by white voters, according to a report from the Florida ACLU. A team of university researchers found a similar pattern in Georgia that year, where ballots from Black voters were rejected at a higher rate than those from white voters, even when accounting for county-level differences in rejection rates…In Georgia, 5.8 percent of mail-in ballots were rejected [in 2016]. But there were a lot fewer voters casting ballots by mail in 2016. Any vote lost is a problem, but 1 percent of a few million votes can be an election-defining one…In Oregon, which has had mail-only elections for 20 years, 0.69 percent of mail ballots were rejected.”


Does Biden Need Yard Signs and Door-Knocking to Win?

As different attitudes towards the pandemic lead Rs and Ds in different directions in terms of campaign tactics, I wrote up the debate at New York:

Back in the 1990s, when disciples of James Carville dominated the ranks of Democratic campaign professionals, you could always get a big rise out of any of them by suggesting they should deploy more yard signs and billboards. Their contempt for such old-school tools was near-complete, as was their faith in a concise, poll-tested message conveyed heavily on TV. You saw an echo of this contrast in partisan preference in 2012, when Barack Obama’s data-hip team quietly mocked the conservative pundits aflutter over Mitt Romney’s yard-sign advantage.

Now even in the 1990s, Democrats didn’t completely eschew hard-core, visible campaign methods, as anyone who has ever heard a sound truck in an urban neighborhood conducting aptly named “knock and drag” get-out-the-vote operations can attest. Indeed, as partisan polarization has reduced the number of persuadable swing voters, such occasionally noisy mobilization efforts have become more important in both parties.

“This year, 83-year-old former Chrysler employee [Don Sabbe] says he’ll definitely vote for Joe Biden, but he’s getting concerned about Biden’s campaign here in Michigan.

“’I can’t even find a sign,’ Sabbe says outside a Kroger’s in Sterling Heights, where surrounding cars fly massive Donald Trump flags that say ‘No More Bullsh-t’ and fellow shoppers wear Trump T-shirts for their weekend grocery runs. ‘I’m looking for one of those storefronts. I’m looking for a campaign office for Biden. And I’m not finding one.’

“The reason Sabbe can’t find a dedicated Biden campaign field office is because there aren’t any around here. Not in Macomb County, the swing region where Sabbe lives. It’s not even clear Biden has opened any new dedicated field offices in the state; because of the pandemic, they’ve moved their field organizing effort online.”

Hilariously, when Alter asked one Biden campaign staffer how many people they had on the ground in Michigan, she was asked in turn: “What do you mean by ‘on the ground’?”

By contrast, for all its alleged social-media savvy and its heavy TV presence, the Trump-Pence campaign is very physically in-your-face, from the raucous live rallies the president loves so much to the boat parades and the huge flags and signs and every other campaign resource of the 1950s. The MAGA folk may choose to ignore polls because they allegedly miss “shy Trump voters.” But “shy” is not the word that comes to mind when you encounter bellowing red-hatted fans of the president eager to show their lack of political correctness.

In choosing a different approach, the Biden campaign is practicing what he preaches in the way of responsible behavior during a pandemic. The candidate’s representatives say they are compensating for the lack of sound and fury in other ways, according to Alter:

“Biden’s Michigan team says its campaign is significantly bigger than Clinton’s and may be the largest program in the state’s history. The campaign says it reached out to 1.4 million voters during the Democratic convention and the weekend that followed, with 500 digital-organizing events and 10,000 volunteer signups. In the week before Labor Day, the campaign sent 500,000 texts to Michigan voters — one every half-second. It has just replaced the trappings of a traditional ground game — volunteers knocking on doors, distributing literature, and so forth — with a digital field operation.”

The question is whether there’s something about the loud-and-proud Trump effort that is somehow contagious, or that helps build enthusiasm and willingness to vote in a tangible way. Looking at it conversely, does a field operation without physical voter contact forfeit something essential?

“Democrats are used to measuring their strength by their ground game, and without physical boots on the ground, the effect can be unsettling. It brings up uncomfortable questions about whether a ‘digital field’ operation can really replace a ‘traditional field’ operation without something being lost. Sure, it sounds like digital field organizing should work. But does it actually? Nobody knows, because it’s never been tried on this scale before.”

The polls look good for Biden in Michigan, but they looked good for Clinton in 2016, too — though fewer of them were being taken. If nothing else, though, perhaps the dominant physical presence of the Trump campaign and its supporters will help prevent the kind of Democratic overconfidence that may have done in HRC.


Political Strategy Notes

In “Election Update: Where Biden And Trump Have Gained The Most Ground,” Geoffrey Skelley explains at FiveThirtyEight: “underneath the topline numbers, there has still been some fairly big movement in a handful of key battleground states, and the news has been mostly good for Biden. If we look at how much Biden’s odds have changed in states where both he and Trump have at least a 1 in 10 shot of winning since we launched the forecast on Aug. 12, Biden has improved his chances in 17 of 20 states. And in some cases, Biden’s improvement has been considerable — +15 percentage points in Minnesota, +12 points in Arizona and +10 points in Wisconsin, for instance. By comparison, Trump’s odds have really only improved in Florida, although he hasn’t lost much ground in states such as Georgia and Ohio, which may signal that Biden’s electoral gains will not be that expansive. (Trump still leads in Texas, for instance, despite Biden’s improvement there.)”

Charlie Cook has some cautiously-comforting observations for Democrats at The Cook Political Report: “The new CNN poll gives Biden a 48-percent-favorable, 43-percent-unfavorable rating for a net of plus-5 points. Trump’s current numbers are 40 percent favorable, 56 percent unfavorable—a net -16 points,”  the same as Hillary Clinton’s net unfavorability in September, 20-16. Also “given that voting has already begun in some states, Trump does not even have 54 days to make a comeback. Similarly, an October Surprise may need to happen in mid-September for it to have any impact. It is a good bet that a lot of votes will be cast before that first debate on Sept. 29…I understand the caution that many in my business have after the surprising outcome in 2016, but the only way this year resembles 2020 is that they both are presidential years, Trump is the Republican nominee, and both years begin with a 2. That’s it. Alan Greenspan’s irrational exuberance has given way, in my mind, to irrational caution. This is not 2016.”

In his syndicated Washington Post column, E. J. Dionne, Jr. warns “Because of the pandemic, this is an election in which unprecedented numbers of Americans will vote by mail…This is no problem in states such as Washington and Colorado that have well-established mail voting systems. It is an enormous challenge in states where massive mail balloting is something new, and where antiquated laws don’t even allow election officials to certify ballots and slit open envelopes to get legitimate votes ready for counting until after the polls close…Fortunately, states are responding, but about a dozen still have highly restrictive laws that will slow the tallying of mail ballots.” In Pennsylvania, “Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, is asking the Republican state legislature to allow officials to begin processing ballots three weeks before Election Day, though a compromise at 10 day.” Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson “wants the GOP legislature in her state to give local officials a week, but so far the state Senate has approved only a 10-hour window, which, she said, amounts to only three hours in practice given various extra reporting requirements legislators tacked on..She said she has pointed GOP skeptics toward states with Republican legislatures or secretaries of state or both, including Kentucky, North Carolina, Florida and Ohio, where the law already provides for reasonable amounts of time to process mail ballots…Trump, as my Post Opinion colleague Greg Sargent shrewdly observed, is simply “trying to get within cheating distance.” It will be harder for him to cheat, lie, distort and divide if we follow the advice of the Bipartisan Policy Center and give election administrators “a chance to do their jobs well.” Rarely have our liberties depended so much on simple competence.”

There are good reasons to root for a Biden landslide, other than raw partisanship, like, well, a riot-free transition. Thomas B. Edsall writes in his New York Times column, “As Election Day approaches, the incentives are already plentiful to protest an adverse outcome in the courts, in Congress, in state capitols and on the streets. The intensity of such protests will increase in proportion to the closeness of the results. One thing is virtually certain: If the outcome is unresolved by the day after the election, or if Biden wins by a slim margin, Trump will do everything in his power to discredit the process and to ignite the anger and resentment of his most ardent supporters.” Edsall quotes Danish political scientist Michael Bang Petersson: “The final match that might set this bonfire ablaze is Covid-19. Stress and marginalization is key contextual driver of aggressive responses. If a second wave hits the U.S. hard in November, the lives and jobs lost will create an additional psychological push toward a potentially very dangerous situation.”

There are some indications that Democrats are not going to quietly accept anything resembling a scenario like the 2000 “Brooks Bothers Riot,” or other forms of intimidation of the election or ballot counting. As Ronald Brownstein writes at the Atlantic, “Adam Green, a co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, another group participating in postelection planning, told me that he can “guarantee” that “we will not have asymmetric warfare this time around. We won’t have litigation on the left and thuggery and election disruption on the right.” If Trump tries to stop the counting of mail-in ballots after Election Day, or otherwise tries to short-circuit the results, Green predicts, the scale of protests would be that of “the Black Lives Matter protests on steroids, as people come into the streets to defend their democracy and to defend the counting of votes.”…The prospect of massive protests on both sides is only one of many ways the contest between the parties could extend beyond Election Day in an unprecedented manner—perhaps up until Inauguration Day, on January 20. If the November 3 voting produces anything less than a blowout lead for either side—and perhaps even if it produces a blowout lead for Joe Biden—the post-election period is likely to test how far both GOP leaders and rank-and-file Republican voters will go in tolerating efforts from Trump to subvert the rules of small-d democracy…“Al Gore made a big point of accepting the Supreme Court [ruling] even though he disagreed with it,” Foley says. “That’s a way, 20 years on, [that] the situation could be very different” now.”

What would America’s powerful corporate leaders do in the event of ballot-counting chaos? Brownstein quotes Rashad Robinson, the executive director of Color of Change, who believes “that a cornerstone of progressives’ postelection strategy will be to try to isolate Trump by pressuring business and other social leaders to fight any effort to overturn an apparent Biden win. “There will be absolute focus on enablers, corporations, and media and other elite institutions,” he said. “There will only be so many yachts and towers for them to hide in, and I think a lot of folks will direct their energy [toward that]. I hope they don’t actually need that. I hope they show up. I want to invite them into the early thinking and work about what they are going to do.” No doubt some business leaders who prioritize deregulation and corporate tax cuts will be all-in for Trump during any ballot-counting chaos. But others will realize that Trump’s re-election will guarantee continued chaos in trade and public health, chronic civil unrest and the possibility of boycotts of companies that support Trump.

But don’t place any bets on any Republican leaders outside of the Lincoln Project standing up for Democracy if Trump tries to steal the  election. Brownstein cites “the lack of meaningful protest from leading Republicans as Trump has moved to tilt the results of the Census, attacked the use of mail-in balloting, regularly repeated wild and disproven allegations of voter fraud, weakened the Postal Service, and dispatched federal law-enforcement agents into Democratic cities over the objections of local officials—not to mention the decision by every Senate Republican except Utah’s Mitt Romney to side with Trump during his impeachment trial, despite the overwhelming evidence that he tried to extort Ukraine into manufacturing dirt on Biden. “From the very beginning, I have urged progressives [to recognize] … that moderate Republicans are not going to save us,” Robinson said. “They are way more invested in maintaining their status quo of leadership than they are in defending democracy and defending basic rules.”

For the outrage du jour, consider Fredreka Schouten’s report at CNN Politics, which notes “A federal appeals court last week sharply restricted Florida’s successful 2018 referendum that aimed to restore voting rights to more than 1.4 million ex-felons who had completed the terms of their sentences, including parole and probation…Last year, the Republican-controlled legislature and the state’s GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis approved a law that defined “all terms of sentence” as including outstanding fines, fees and restitution before they could register to vote. By a 6-4 ruling, the US Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit upheld that law, reversing a lower court decision that concluded Florida had set up an unconstitutional “pay-to-vote” system…The ruling also has big political implications for November’s election. An expert witness testified at trial that more than 774,000 people with felony convictions were ineligible to register to vote because of outstanding financial obligations. That represents a significant number of potential voters left on the sidelines in a presidential swing state. Recent polls show a close contest in the state between Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden…Voting-rights advocates argue the state lacks a centralized system to let former felons know exactly how much they owe, leaving them to navigate a patchwork of court systems across Florida’s 67 counties…Time is running out. The last day to register to vote in Florida is October 5.”

More And More Americans Aren’t Religious. Why Are Democrats Ignoring These Voters?,” ask Daniel Cox and Amelia Thomson Deveaux at FiveThirtyEight. My short answer would be” because they are not organized into a political force.” Also, their religious/spiritual beliefs are enormously disparate, which makes them hard to target. Cox and Deveaux note, however, “Right now, voters with no religious affiliation look like they might back Biden in record numbers. According to a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center in early August, 72 percent of nonreligious voters — a group that includes people who identify as atheists, agnostics and nothing in particular — are planning to support Biden. That’s 4 percentage points higher than the 68 percent who supported Hillary Clinton in 2016. And that’s a big deal, because despite being frequently overlooked, nonreligious people make up a sizable part of the electorate. An analysis of validated voters by Pew found that religiously unaffiliated voters accounted for one-quarter of the electorate in 2016, and 30 percent in 2018… A majority (56 percent) of religiously unaffiliated Americans — including nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of atheists and agnostics — say Trump has been a “terrible” president. And there are signs that religiously unaffiliated people have become more politically engaged since Trump was elected — one survey conducted in 2018 found that nonreligious people were more likely than their religious peers to have attended a rally or contacted a political official.”


A Comparative Check-In on Polls 50 Days Out

I decided to compare Biden’s poll position to those of the Democratic nominees in the last four elections, and wrote up the results at New York:

Fifty days from Election Day (November 3), Joe Biden leads Donald Trump in the RealClearPolitics polling averages nationally by 7.4 percent (50.5 to 43.1). He’s led every day of the last year, by margins ranging from 11.8 percent on September 17, 2019, to 4 percent on January 24, 2020.

Biden’s current lead is the largest a candidate has held at the 50-day mark in any of the last four presidential election cycles. In 2004 George W. Bush led John Kerry by 5.7 percent; he would ultimately win by 2.4 percent. In 2008 John McCain actually led Barack Obama by 1.3 percent; he would eventually lose by 7.3 percent. In 2012 Obama led Mitt Romney by 2.8 percent 50 days out; his actual margin was 3.9 percent. And in 2016 Clinton was up 1.3 percent 50 days out; her final popular-vote margin was 2.1 percent.

It is possible Trump will get those kind of late breaks, but unlike Obama in 2008, he’s now the incumbent president with a consistent “very unfavorable” rating in the polls hovering at or just under 50 percent. Heavy early voting this year means that with each passing day the slice of the electorate (with an already-low undecided vote) that could be “turned around” by a Trump surge is shrinking. And Biden’s polling lead is enhanced by the fact that most national pollsters have already completed the “switchover” to a likely voter screen that often benefits Republican candidates.

While Trump partisans trash the national polls as inaccurate “like they were in 2016” (they actually weren’t), and mindlessly claim his manifest greatness will generate a landslide win, his best hope remains an Electoral College advantage that could again give him a narrow win despite a popular-vote deficit. From state polls and what we can infer from regional trends, Trump might well pull off an upset if he gets Biden’s national lead down to around three points.

But again: Trump hasn’t been within three points of Biden in the RCP national polling averages even once in the past year. So it might take something exceptional to make that happen now.