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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

August 4, 2020

Polls Show Trump In Real Peril

A wave of new polling data has been coming out showing Joe Biden’s lead over Donald Trump growing larger and deeper. So I wrote up the implications at New York:

 [T]hree weeks ago, I concluded that Biden’s lead in horse-race matchups with the incumbent was getting “seriously large.” A barrage of new polling data confirms the trend. In the RealClearPolitics polling averages, Biden now has a double-digit (10.1 percent) lead, and has also breached the 50-percent barrier (he’s at 51 percent). FiveThirtyEight, which weights results for pollster accuracy and adjusts them for partisan bias, shows Biden with a slightly smaller 9.7 percent lead, but with the same 51 percent.

To put Biden’s lead into a historical context, the last time a presidential candidate actually won by that margin was 36 years ago, when Ronald Reagan crushed Walter Mondale. And the only Democratic presidential tickets since 1976 to win a majority of the popular vote were the two Biden shared with Barack Obama.

Let’s take a look at the last two incumbent presidents to win reelection, and see if they were ever behind by anything like the margin by which Trump currently trails Biden. In 2012, Obama never fell behind Mitt Romney in the RCP averages by more than a single point. In 2004, George W. Bush’s maximum deficit against John Kerry was 2.7 percent.

Now it’s true that Hillary Clinton periodically held a double-digit lead over Trump in the RCP averages early in the 2016 race, when he was still struggling to consolidate Republican support. But by this point in the cycle, her lead had dwindled to 6.6 percent, and even in polling immediately after the Access Hollywood video scandal broke, which produced a vast wave of GOP repudiations of Trump, Clinton’s maximum lead in the RCP averages was 7.1 percent.

There is still, of course, a lot of time before November. Joe Biden could in theory make a spectacular mistake, though as time goes by his soundness as a candidate is becoming very apparent. Perhaps improving conditions in the country will give the incumbent a late lift, though you’d have to say right now that the odds of the coronavirus going away or the economy sharply recovering are getting lower every day, and in any event, Trump’s perpetually underwater job approval rating seems impervious to anything he does or fails to do.

The famous enthusiasm of Trump voters is also in question after they failed to fill even half an arena in Tulsa when Trump held his first post-pandemic rally. Additionally, Trump is inspiring a sort of negative enthusiasm boom. According to the latest high-quality national poll, from New York Times/Siena College, fully one-half of registered voters have a very unfavorable opinion of the president, as opposed to just over a quarter with a very favorable opinion. If, as is the case with most elections involving an incumbent president, Election 2020 is a referendum on Trump, this sort of finding could represent the greatest obstacle of all to his reelection.

There remains the possibility that Trump could make even a fairly sizable national popular vote loss irrelevant by again squeaking out a narrow electoral college win. But again, the polls aren’t looking so hot for him in the battleground states. According to current RCP averages, Biden is leading Trump by 8.0 points in Michigan, 7.0 points in Wisconsin, 6.2 percent in Florida, 5.6 points in Pennsylvania, and even by 4.0 points in Arizona.

It could in theory all change, or at least get a lot more interesting, but right now Donald Trump has become a clear 2020 underdog, and his situation could just as easily get worse instead of better. In the end we may realize that Trump’s mojo depended on his ability to pose as an insurgent outsider, and wasn’t transferable to an environment in which he was called upon to govern. And he may yet try, somehow, to run against the status quo for which he is now responsible. His 2016 upset is going to be a very tough act to follow.


Kraushaar: Trump on Track to Lose in a Landslide

From Josh Kraushaar’s “Prepare for a Biden landslide: The biggest warning sign for Trump’s reelection: He’s starting to see softening support from his base” at The National Journal:

The latest Fox News poll, showing Biden with a 12-point lead over Trump, offers the latest hint that some of the president’s closest allies are starting to lose the faith….Indeed, Trump is seeing a little bit of slippage among white evangelical voters, the core constituency that fueled his victory in 2016. His approval rating among that voting bloc is 72 percent, with fewer than half “strongly approving” of his performance in office. The president is only winning 66 percent of the vote against Biden in a head-to-head matchup, with the former vice president tallying 25 percent support with evangelicals.

For context, Trump won the evangelical vote by a 64-point margin against Hillary Clinton, 80 to 16 percent. Winning two-thirds of the vote may sound impressive, but slipping 14 points in four years is a major problem.

Rural voters also comprised another solid bloc of Trump’s support in the 2016 election, handing him 61 percent of the vote. But the Fox poll shows Trump only winning 49 percent of the rural vote this time around, holding a mere 9-point lead over Biden. His 53 percent job approval with these small-town voters is barely above water.

Yes, there are a lot of things that can happen during the next 4 months. But there are no recent data  which the GOP can find encouraging. Kaushaar continues,

So what does it all mean for the November election? Right now, it looks more likely that Biden will win a landslide victory, picking up states uncontested by Democrats in recent elections, than it is that Trump can mount a miraculous turnaround in just over four months. Even as Trump tries to advance a law-and-order pitch amid growing violence and tumult in the nation’s cities, it’s unlikely to benefit the president because he’s the leader in charge. The chaos candidate is now the chaos president. Biden is the challenger pledging a return to normalcy.

Just look at the swing-state map: Biden is leading in every battleground state, according to the RealClearPolitics polling averages, with the exception of North Carolina where the race is tied. Trump trails by 6 points in the electoral prize of Florida, where the president’s newfound willingness to meet with Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro prompted a fierce backlash and quick White House retreat. He’s down 4 points in Arizona, a state that has only voted for a Democratic presidential candidate once since 1964. He’s not close to hitting even 45 percent of the vote in Michigan, Pennsylvania, or Wisconsin—the Midwestern states he flipped to win the presidency…Public polling even shows Biden within striking distance in Georgia and Texas, two electoral prizes that would normally be safely Republican … unless a big blue wave hits in November.

All of the usual caveats about 4 months to go being a long time to go and the polls always narrowing in the last week of the campaign notwithstanding, the best data indicates that the GOP is on a fast track a rout of historic proportions for both the presidential election and down ballot.


Teixeira: How Not to Build the Left

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

Free David Shor! Or at least give the poor data analyst a job, since he’s been fired and now ostracized for the thought-crime of promoting the idea, based on an excellent study by political science professor Omar Wasow, that maybe riots associated with social movements do more harm than good. You can read the sorry details in this piece by Jonathan Chait that reveals the bizarre attacks leveled against Shor by those now intent on policing the left against such thought-crimes.

This is madness. These kinds of attacks, cancellations and firings should have no place in the progressive movement and all those involved should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. This is not how you build an effective mass movement for change. On the contrary, this is how you undercut it at a moment when the public is quite open to large-scale change. Really, who wants to join a movement which utilizes such Orwellian tactics to deal with political disagreement? Well, some do I guess but most will check out the moment they get a whiff of this stuff.

The fact of the matter is that there is an emerging progressive coalition in this country–call it the Biden coalition–which has a fair chance of routing Trump and Trumpism and rebuilding our sorry country. This emerging coalition reaches far, far beyond the metropolitan woke and the feverish name-calling they marinate themselves in. These “normies”, hailing from all parts of this very large country, want their country back and are not interested in giving it to an intolerant left. That left must lose that intolerance and realize it’s a part and only a part of this much larger coalition.

Then, get to work on the hard task of actually persuading people that progressive solutions are the best ones for the country’s problems. That’s how you build the left.


Teixeira: Memo to the Left: Don’t Blow It!

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

I was interested to read this article by Sydney Ember In the New York Times on “Bernie Sanders Predicted Revolution, Just Not This One“. It wasn’t a particularly good article but it had some interesting material in it on the views of left activists now that the Sanders campaign is over. it included this paragraph:

“Progressives at both the national and grass-roots level are still trying to push Mr. Biden to the left even as he has begun to adopt the language of systemic disruption. His willingness to satisfy their demands — on policing perhaps most urgently but also on issues like climate change and health care — could help determine whether he is successful in the general election.”

Of course, this has it exactly backwards. The extent to which Biden satisfies their demands could determine whether he fails this November, not whether he succeeds. There is absolutely no reason for him to adopt these groups’ demands, which are generally far less popular than the positions Biden has already adopted. He should remember to ask the question, paraphrasing a 20th century dictator’s query about the Pope, “How many armies do these groups have?” The answer is clear; he doesn’t need these groups, he needs the people he already has.

What is just as bad is that these groups are stepping on the chances for success of the very causes they espouse. Sheri Berman lucidly explains in this must-read article on Social Europe:

“Just as the Trump presidency has made crystal-clear the role played by the politically polarising, racially-inflammatory tendencies built into the Republican party since the era of Richard Nixon, the left needs to recognise that denigrating compromises and coalitions and shouting down opponents, rather than engaging with and trying to convince them, are incompatible with democracy.

We have seen these tendencies over the last days, as defences and rationalisations of rioting have abounded in sections of the left. And in a widely-reported scene in Minneapolis the mayor, Jacob Frey, a civil-rights lawyer, progressive and second-youngest mayor in the city’s history, gave an impassioned speech in favour of ‘deep seated, structural reform’—only to be surrounded by protesters telling him, inter alia, to ‘get the f*** out of here’, having refused to commit to fully defunding and abolishing the city’s police department.

The demand to ‘defund the police’, which has been central to the protests, is designed to mobilise the already committed and express anger, rather than attract a broad array of citizens to the cause. The goal, of course, is to create a new model of policing—less violent and aggressive, more deeply and organically embedded in communities, more integrally paired with expanded social-service organisations to deal with mental health and poverty-related issues with which cops are not trained to deal.

There is broad support for such reforms, yet if couched as ‘defunding’ or abolishing the police majorities are consistently opposed. If the goal is to win elections and institutionalise major structural reforms, emphasising confusing and confrontational slogans such as ‘defund the police’ is counter-productive. Unless, of course, the real goal is not to win elections and power but rather to ‘make a point’ or mobilise the already discontented—tendencies towards which parts of the left are all too prone and have left it consistently vulnerable to being overwhelmed by a more strategic and focused right.

Now is the time the American left has been waiting for. The protests over recent weeks have been a remarkable manifestation of the power of democracy—citizens from every state and every background have made their voices heard and forced American society to confront problems which it ignored for too long. The protests have also helped turn the tide against a president who represents the greatest threat to progress and democracy our country has experienced in modern times.

But to seize this opportunity the left needs to recognise that in a democracy there are only two ways of achieving your goals: you can compromise with those who disagree with your views or you can convince them that your views are correct. Illiberal behaviour, purity tests and name-calling are antithetical to both. The US is indeed at a critical juncture—the democratic left must recognise this and act accordingly.”

In short: don’t blow it.


Political Strategy Notes

Harry Enten explains why “There’s no sign of ‘hidden’ Trump voters” at CNN politics: “Even though the national polls were accurate in 2016, one of the complaints I hear most often about the polls is that Trump’s supporters are either lying or won’t talk to pollsters. Polls like Ipsos get around that argument because they use machines (e.g. they’re done online) to conduct the interviews. There’s no reason to lie to a machine. If Trump was doing significantly better in these non-live interview polls, then these critics of the polls may have a point…The evidence indicates these detractors are, at least in this moment, wrong. There’s no sign of shy Trump voters. Trump doesn’t do any better in polls without a live interviewer…The average of national surveys (accounting for the fact that some pollsters survey more often) this week from pollsters who didn’t have a live interviewer put Biden up over Trump 50% to 39% (10 points unrounded). That’s a huge advantage and very similar to the latest live interview poll average that has Biden up 51% to 41%…Biden’s lead over Trump this past week was double what it was a month ago in the non-live interview polls.”

“Biden, a lifelong Roman Catholic, has performed better in recent polling among white evangelicals — and other religious groups — than Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton did in 2016 and is widely perceived as more religious than the current White House occupant,” Gabby Orr writes in “Trump allies see a mounting threat: Biden’s rising evangelical support” at Politico. “A Pew Research study conducted earlier this year showed that a majority of U.S. adults (63 percent) think Trump is “not at all” or “not too religious,” versus 55 percent who said they believed Biden is somewhat or very religious…Rob Stutzman, a Republican strategist who has argued that Biden has an opening to make inroads with Christian conservatives, said the candidate should invoke his faith more often, as opposed to constantly referencing his accomplishments from his time as vice president and a member of the U.S. Senate…“He would be well-served to talk more in those terms, instead of telling people to check out his record,” Stutzman said. “There are a lot of themes that fit the moment related to justice, authority and loving your neighbor and not in a way that would necessarily make white evangelicals uncomfortable if Biden could speak to them.”

At The Nation, John Nichols argues that Kentucky State Rep. Charles Booker’s chances of winning the Democratic nomination have improved dramatically om recent weeks. Nichols says Booker “now has a real chance of beating the pick of DC insiders for the party’s nomination in one of the highest-profile Senate contests of 2020…A fresh Data for Progress poll puts Booker at 44 percent versus 36 percent for retired Marine fighter pilot and Democratic primary candidate Amy McGrath, whose “unimaginative and uninspiring” campaign has, in the words of the Louisville Courier-Journal, “fallen flat in these final weeks of the campaign.” In addition to securing the endorsements of Sen. Bernie Sanders and Alexandria   Ocasio-Cotez, “Booker has also collected endorsements from Kentucky’s two largest newspapers, the Louisville Courier-Journal and the Lexington Herald-Leader; popular sports commentator Matt Jones; legislative leaders from across the state; former Kentucky secretary of state Alison Lundergan Grimes (who ran against McConnell in 2014); and former state attorney general Greg Stumbo.”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes, “Trump’s begging Chinese dictator Xi Jinping to help him win reelection and his praise for Xi’s detention of 1 million Muslim Uighurs in indoctrination and forced-labor camps are the most shocking revelations in former national security adviser John Bolton’s new book…These revelations matter because they show that the very heart of Trump’s appeal — to “Make America Great Again” by putting “America First” — is a lie all the way down. The paltry crowd he drew to his Saturday rally in Tulsa suggests that a spirit of doubt is taking hold even in his onetime strongholds…So from here forward, remember that whenever Trump uses the word “China,” he is talking about a regime he approached as a supplicant and whose repressive powers he envies.”

Sttephen Wolf reports that “House Democrats are poised to pass statehood for Washington, D.C., next week as Senate support grows at Daily Kos, and notes, “On Tuesday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced that the full U.S. House will vote on granting statehood to Washington, D.C. on June 26. With a majority of House members already in support, Washington, D.C.’s statehood is expected to soon pass a chamber of Congress for the first time in U.S. history. This vote comes in response to the nation’s recent wave of unrest over police brutality and discrimination against Black Americans. It would serve as a pointed rebuke to the Trump administration after it teargassed peaceful protestors and used the military to occupy parts of the city, which Trump was able to do largely because of the lack of statehoodand its legal protections against federal interference.” Among the political calculations: “If Democrats win back the Senate in November, statehood supporters come within striking distance of a majority, especially since Democratic candidates who’ve come out in support of statehood—such as Montana’s Gov. Steve Bullock—could flip Republican-held seats. If Democrats eliminate the filibuster, it would only take a simple majority vote to admit Washington, D.C. as a state, and if statehood-supporter Joe Biden wins the White House and his vice president breaks a tie in favor, statehood would only need 10 more Senate votes to pass.”

In “How Americans Feel About ‘Defunding The Police’,” Nathaniel Rakich writes at FiveThirtyEight, “There’s some disagreement about what exactly the slogan means. Some activists actually do want to disband police departments entirely, while others argue that police budgets should be radically decreased, but not brought down to zero. But even among those who want to abolish the police, some say they want to do so over time…But while the slogan is suddenly everywhere, so far it doesn’t poll well. Four polls conducted in the past two weeks1 found that Americans opposed the “defund the police” movement or “defunding police departments” 58 percent to 31 percent, on average…The slogan is unpopular with most demographic groups, too, with two notable exceptions: Black Americans and Democrats. In the two polls where results were broken down by race, Black respondents said they supported defunding the police by an average of 45 percent to 28 percent, while white respondents opposed it by an average of 61 percent to 23 percent.”

In “Other Polling Bites,” Rakich notes, “Researchers at Harvard, Stanford and the University of Texas at Austin are out with a cool YouGov poll surveying Americans on the cases before the Supreme Court this term… For example, respondents said 83 percent to 17 percent that they believed it should be illegal for employees to be fired because of their sexual orientation, the subject of Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia. Respondents also favored keeping the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, the subject of Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, 61 percent to 39 percent. And this week, the court sided with the American public on both cases.”

“The Biden campaign plans to seize upon Trump’s Tulsa claim that he asked officials to “slow the [coronavirus] testing down, please” to focus on Trump’s broader policy goal of dismantling the Affordable Care Act (Trump’s campaign later said he was joking.),” Jonathan Swan reports at axios.com.The Biden strategy is pretty straightforward: Reiterate Biden’s commitment to Obamacare while signaling that he is open to revising it with a public option — all while drawing a contrast with President Trump, who continues to call for its repeal…Even during the pandemic, the Trump administration is continuing its assault on one of President Obama’s signature issues and is expected to file a Supreme Court brief to repeal the law this week…Biden’s campaign is salivating about that expected filing and will use it to bludgeon Trump on both his COVID-19 response and his opposition to Obamacare…Expect Biden’s team to call on Trump to explain how he plans to provide health care to an estimated 20 million Americans who have lost their jobs, and likely, their health insurance.”

At The Cook Political Report, Amy Walter writes, “Polling out this week from the Des Moines Register also found Trump’s standing to be weakening in the Hawkeye State. He led Biden by just one point, 44 to 43 percent. Back in March, Trump enjoyed a 10-point (51-41 percent) lead over Biden…Even so, the demographics of Iowa are still going to be a challenge for Biden. According to an analysis of the 2016 electorate for the liberal think tank, American Progress, Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin found that 62 percent of the Iowa electorate was white and did not hold a college degree. They voted for Trump by 23 points. As Teixeira and Halpin wrote last year about this state: “For the Democratic candidate, his or her fortunes are clearly dependent on moving the very large white non-college group in their direction…The Des Moines Register poll found some significant movement among non-college white women. According to the survey, Biden leads among this group by 18 points. In 2016, exit polls showed Trump winning with these women by two points (49-47 percent). Among non-college men, Trump still held a wide lead of 36 points.”


Making Juneteenth a National Holiday: the MLK Precedent

There is significant momentum for creating an important new national holiday, and I reviewed the situation at New York:

Texas Representative Sheila Jackson Lee has repeatedly offered legislation in Congress to make June 19, or Juneteenth – the celebration of slavery’s end that originated in her state – a federal holiday. As Fabiola Cineas explains at Vox, it’s an event with a long history:

“A portmanteau of ‘June’ and ‘nineteenth,’ Juneteenth marks the day in 1865 when a group of enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, finally learned that they were free from the institution of slavery….

“Newly freed black people celebrated the first Juneteenth in 1866 to commemorate liberation — with food, singing, and the reading of spirituals — and take pride in their progress. But a century and a half later, Juneteenth is still not taught in most schools, nor is the event a federal holiday despite decades of pushing from activists.”

This year, amid a national wave of outrage and awakening over racial injustice, Juneteenth has seen wider national observance than ever before. Lee’s resolution to recognize the historical significance of Juneteenth has gathered 200-plus cosponsors, and on Thursday Senator John Cornyn said he will introduce bipartisan legislation to make it a federal holiday. In the last week the governors of Virginia and New York announced that they will observe Juneteenth as an official holiday with paid time off for state workers (joining Texas, which took the step in 1980). A growing list of corporations have made Juneteenth a paid day off for employees, including the NFL, Twitter, Nike, Uber, and Target, along with media companies such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Vox Media (New York Magazine’s parent company).

The easiest “dodge” for those resisting an official holiday is to offer less significant forms of recognition that do not command general attention, much less the widespread discussion of racial justice issues that both the MLK and Juneteenth commemorations are intended to promote. Currently 42 states “recognize” Juneteenth, but do not offer time off for public employees or close state offices. That was a problem in the early days of the drive for an MLK holiday, too.

Michigan’s John Conyers made the first congressional call for a federal holiday to honor Dr. King just four days after his assassination in 1968. But the original Senate bill, sponsored by Massachusetts Republican Senator Ed Brooke (at that point the only African-American in the chamber) simply called for a “national day of commemoration,” and Republicans in both chambers frequently sought to substitute less significant forms of recognition.

Conyers and other key sponsors never accepted half a loaf. Support for the holiday by President Jimmy Carter and congressional Democrats gave it near-success in 1979, but it took a sustained public campaign in the early 1980s to make it a reality despite Republican control of the White House and the Senate, as the Constitution Center explains:

“Musician Stevie Wonder helped in 1981 by releasing the song ‘Happy Birthday’ to promote the holiday. (He would later sing it at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial dedication in 2011).

“The King Center kept up its efforts. It organized a march on Washington that included an estimated 500,000 people. Coretta Scott King, along with Wonder, presented a petition signed by 6 million people to House leader Tip O’Neill.”

Finally Republicans began to come around to support for the holiday, with Representatives Jack Kemp and Newt Gingrich, and even Senator Strom Thurmond speaking out for it during the next push in 1983. After proponents finally overcame a filibuster by Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina (a bitter opponent of the holiday who was forever trying to draw attention to scurrilous smears of Dr. King cooked up by the FBI at J. Edgar Hoover’s direction), it passed both houses and President Ronald Reagan signed it into law.

One key moment in the House debate involved one of the most common objections to a MLK holiday: its cost in lost federal worker hours. As Don Wolfensburger observed years later:

“Republican manager [William] Dannemeyer complained in his opening statement about the cost of a paid federal holiday. Congressional Black Caucus Member Parren Mitchell (D-Md.) retorted, ‘What do you mean ‘”cost?”’ What was the cost of keeping us blacks where we were? All these extraneous things do not mean a thing to me. I am talking about what is the right and decent thing to do, and to urge a vote for this bill in the form that it is.’”

It took even longer to secure full recognition of the holiday at the state level. As of 1986, when the federal MLK holiday took effect, only 17 states had done likewise. In addition to the usual efforts to dilute the holiday, it became popular in southern states to incongruously draft it onto commemorations of Confederate generals. Notably, Virginia combined the MLK holiday with recognition of both Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson until 2000. To this day Alabama and Mississippi honor Lee and King together.

All told, it took 15 years from the time of Dr. King’s assassination for the federal holiday to be enacted, and then another 17 before all 50 states acknowledged it. That fight yielded three major lessons: (1) don’t accept some watered-down observance; (2) seek enough bipartisan support to overcome conservative opposition; and (3) mobilize the public and link the holiday to the eternal causes of equal rights and racial justice.

Advocates for a federal Juneteenth holiday have already made progress on each of these fronts, so hopefully its path to recognition can be shortened.


Teixeira: Biden-Trump – It Ain’t Just the Margins, It’s the Level or The Beauty of Hitting the 50 Percent Mark

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

Understandably, people focus on the margins in the trial heats and lately they’ve been very good for Joe Biden, averaging over an 8 point lead in recent polls. But that actually undersells how well Biden has been doing. Because the absolute level at which he’s been polling support is a very, very good sign. Put simply, he’s hitting 50 percent or higher consistently and that gives him a dominant position in the race.

We can see this in the RCP running average of Biden’s support, 50.2 vs. 41.7 for Trump.

And we can see it in the the soon-to-be-published and generally more reliable 538 running average, 50.2 for Biden vs. 42.1 for Trump.

Harry Enten explains why this is so important:

“Most times when we look at polling we talk about margins. For example, former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump by a 7 point margin in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll out on Sunday. What that can miss, however, is that Biden’s close to 50% (49%), while Trump isn’t anywhere close (42%) in the poll.

Indeed, if you look at the average of live interview polls released since last Sunday, Biden manages to eclipse 50% (51%). That is, he has a majority for now. This is a key milestone that shouldn’t be undersold.

As I’ve noted in the past, Trump’s comeback in 2016 was made considerably easier by the fact that Democrat Hillary Clinton wasn’t polling close to 50%. The average live interview poll taken in June 2016 (when Libertarian Gary Johnson was included) had Clinton at a mere 42%. Not a single one of those polls had her even touching 50%. In fact, she never got close in the average of polls during the rest of the campaign.

Biden, meanwhile, reached at least 50% in three live interview polls this past week (ABC News/Washington Post, Monmouth University and NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist College).

When Trump closed the gap in the waning days of the 2016 campaign, he had to convince very few Clinton supporters to vote for him. Trump merely had to pick up support from those who were undecided or backing a third party candidate.

Right now, Trump’s road will be difficult if not next to impossible to win if he doesn’t take back voters who are already with Biden.”


Exploring Republican Over-Confidence About Trump’s Reelection

Sometimes you see a political phenomenon so often that you can forget to look into what it means. I chose one to write about at New York this week:

By any objective standard, the president’s prospects for reelection are looking down. Joe Biden is continuing to lead him in trial heats nationally (by 8.1 percent in the latest RealClearPolitics averages) and in most battleground states. The president’s job approval numbers are lower than they’ve been since last December. People are still very afraid of COVID-19, and despite one good monthly jobs report, the economy is still in the ditch, with unemployment higher than at any time since the 1930s.

There’s tons of time between now and November, the economy could somehow turn around and that second “wave” of the coronavirus could fail to appear, and Joe Biden could do or say something self-destructive. But the possibility of a Trump revival is not the same thing as its probability, much less certainty. Yet as Politico notes, there’s little doubt in MAGA-land that Trump will win in November, and maybe win big:

“Interviews with more than 50 state, district and county Republican Party chairs depict a version of the electoral landscape that is no worse for Trump than six months ago — and possibly even slightly better. According to this view, the coronavirus is on its way out and the economy is coming back. Polls are unreliable, Joe Biden is too frail to last, and the media still doesn’t get it….

“’The more bad things happen in the country, it just solidifies support for Trump,’ said Phillip Stephens, GOP chairman in Robeson County, N.C., one of several rural counties in that swing state that shifted from supporting Barack Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016. ‘We’re calling him “Teflon Trump.” Nothing’s going to stick, because if anything, it’s getting more exciting than it was in 2016.’

“This year, Stephens said, We’re thinking landslide.’”

Politico found that if you ask Republicans why Trump’s going to win, they generally offer explanations ranging from the hyper-optimistic (everything will be back to normal any day now and a happy back-at-work electorate will reward Trump for saving them), to the aggressively ignorant (all polls showing Biden ahead are fake, because they were dead wrong last time —well which they actually weren’t), to pure disinformation (Democrats are throwing away the election by calling for the abolition of police departments and confiscation of private property, beginning with guns).

So why are Trump-supporting Republicans so relentlessly upbeat, and dismissive of objective evidence that points in the direction of defeat? Here are five theories:

1. They’re drinking his own Kool-Aid

Trump supporters are by definition big fans of a man who never admits mistakes or weaknesses, expresses narcissistic, self-congratulatory hubris every other hour, and hates “losers” as much as Jesus Christ loved them. Perhaps they are simply following the leader, who appears to systematically block out any source of information that doesn’t tell him what he wants to hear.

2. They believe “enthusiasm” is the ball game

As is well known, Trump’s reelection strategy, and his behavior in office, have been heavily oriented towards “base mobilization,” to the extent of sometimes excluding any serious effort to identify or persuade swing voters, much less Democrats. To the extent that mobilization is facilitated by enthusiasm, getting the MAGA faithful to believe they are marching in a perpetual victory parade is presumably valuable. It’s possibly relevant that polls show a majority of Republicans are motivated by a desire to support Trump, while a majority of Democrats are more focused on beating Trump than on electing Biden. Trump voters want to know they are part of a historic reelection campaign that will take America another step closer to the paradise of the 1950s, not into some socialist nonwhite dystopia.

3. They want to “own the libs”

One bond Trump has with his supporters is in deeply enjoying the discomfort of their common enemies. They are aware that the vast majority of left-of-center Americans don’t simply dislike the president, but dislike him intensely. Many view the prospect of this strange “accidental president” serving another four years with genuine horror. So it’s great sport for Trump supporters to confront them with this possibility, raised to the level of certainty. It’s mass schadenfreude, with a dollop of Trump’s own signature cruelty.

4. They truly despise the “elite” sources of adverse information

If you are convinced that polls are all “fake” and most of the media — including Fox News on occasion — just systematically lie, all to benefit Trump’s enemies, then it’s a short leap to assume that the “truth” they are hiding is MAGA-rific or even glorious. Similarly, once one is convinced that “real Americans” are in the president’s corner, then anything (like a bad poll or mockery of a self-destructive Trump video clip) emanating from sources that either “don’t get it” or are actively hostile to this country and its interests simply cannot be credited as “real.” Believing that Trump might lose, therefore, can become an anti-patriotic act, or a sign of being duped by contemptuous wrong-doers.

5. They are preparing to contest any defeat

The most troubling possibility is that Trump supporters understand the president is laying the groundwork for contesting a defeat, and want to help him do so. Here’s how I recently described Trump’s efforts to undermine, in advance, the legitimacy of the November election in case he happens to lose it:

“Trump is now regularly claiming that voting by mail is inherently illegitimate, except for grudging exceptions for people who can’t make it to the polls. So, presumably, states that allow for no-excuse voting by mail in November are holding ‘substantially fraudulent’ elections. That’s 34 states who do so by law (including battleground states Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin), 11 more that so far are waiving excuse requirements this pandemic year (including New Hampshire), and another that may be forced to do so by a lawsuit (Texas).

“So in a very real sense, unless Trump backs off his claims that voting by mail means a ‘rigged election,’ he’s letting us know that he and his supporters will be justified in challenging any adverse results in states that allow this terrible practice to take place.”

Keep in mind that Trump went to a lot of trouble to claim he was robbed of a popular-vote majority in 2016 (thanks to “millions of illegal votes” for Hillary Clinton for which he offered not a shred of evidence), even though it didn’t ultimately matter. One possible rationale was to convince his followers Democrats always cheat, meaning their victories should prospectively be discounted or challenged. If on Election Night 2020, Donald Trump claims victory on the basis of early returns, is there any doubt his fans and media allies will join him in crying out “fraud!” to the high heavens should late mail ballots drift in and reverse the results? I don’t think so. And either consciously or unconsciously, some of them may be anticipating that fraught scenario already. To a significant number of the faithful, Trump is not just a president, but an embodiment of America, and even God’s Annointed. He can’t fail. He can only be failed.


Political Strategy Notes

If you have wished for more ads and stories about pro athletes and popular entertainers raising hell about voter suppression, check out Alex Reimer’s “LeBron James’ Voting Rights Push Could Be A Historically Significant Athlete-Led Political Campaign” at Forbes. Reimer notes, “James is forming a voting rights organization along with several other prominent Black athletes and entertainers. The group, called More Than a Vote, will go beyond traditional get-out-the-vote campaigns. It will combat voter suppression, with James using his gigantic presence on social media to shed light on attempts to restrict voting access for minorities…“Because of everything that’s going on, people are finally starting to listen to us — we feel like we’re finally getting a foot in the door,” James told the New York Times in an interview. “How long is up to us. We don’t know. But we feel like we’re getting some ears and some attention, and this is the time for us to finally make a difference…James’ efforts against voter suppression promise to be widely broadcast. But the truth is, James has enough reach on his own to make a tangible difference in public awareness. The three-time champion and four-time MVP boasts more than 136 million followers across his Twitter, Instagram and Facebook feeds. To put that in perspective, 137 million people voted in the 2016 presidential election, the NYT points out.”

A good video to share with South Carolina voters who may want to elect a new senator with consistent principles — Sen. Lindsey Graham blasts Trump and lavishly praises Biden in 2016. from a new ad by Republican Voters Against Trump:

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall notes that, “in an unpublished working paper, “Sorting Apart: Partisan Polarization in the American Electorate, 1972-2016,” Stanley Feldman writes, “It’s clear that preferences have shifted significantly in a more conservative direction over this time period among Republican identifiers,” Feldman wrote, adding that contrary to those who argue that racial hostility among working class whites is the deciding factor in elections, he and his co-authors found that “It’s not the case that conservative racial issue preferences are concentrated among low-income whites. High-income Republicans are more conservative on racial issues than low-income Republicans.””

Edsall notes further, “Joe Biden’s lead over Trump has grown from 5.6 points to 8.1 points since Floyd was killed on May 25; Trump’s disapproval rating has risen and his approval level has fallen over the same period; and the Democratic advantage in the generic congressional vote has inched upward…While a leftward movement among voters, particularly on racial matters, is, at the moment, indisputable, these and other social and cultural issues remain volatile, and Republicans remain undeterred…Joe Trippi, a Democratic consultant, is thinking landslide too, but not Stephens’s landslide: ‘The more wound up we get on coronavirus and unemployment and race, the more chaos we see. If Trump is chaos and Biden is community, what will the country choose? I think a whole bunch of suburban G.O.P. women, younger G.O.P., business G.O.P. and college educated G.O.P. choose Biden and community. G.O.P. women are exhausted by the chaos.'”

In their article, “There’s A Huge Gap In How Republicans And Democrats See Discrimination” at FiveThirtyEight, Meredeith Conroy and Perry Bacon, Jr report on “findings about perceptions of discrimination and perceptions of various groups in American society, based on recent polling from the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape project.” Conroy and Bacon report that “An overwhelming majority of Democrats thought black and Muslim Americans face “a great deal” or “a lot” of discrimination in America today, as opposed to “a moderate amount,” “little” or “none at all.” Perceptions of discrimination against black people have surged among all groups, including Republicans, in the wake of Floyd’s death. But the vast majority of Democrats thought that black people in America faced high levels of discrimination even before Floyd’s death.2 About half of Democrats also thought women face a lot of discrimination…In contrast, only about half of Republicans thought that black people and Muslims face high levels of discrimination, and only about a quarter thought that women do. The majority of Republicans thought those groups face “a moderate amount,” “little” or “no” discrimination at all.”

Conroy and Bacon note further that “Nearly half of Democrats expressed unfavorable views about police and evangelicals. Unfavorable views of the police have substantially increasedfrom polling before Floyd’s death,5 but Democrats’ unfavorable views of evangelicals were already very high and remain so. About a quarter of Democrats said they had unfavorable views of white Americans; a quarter said the same of undocumented immigrants,6 even though the Democratic Party is increasingly supportive of immigration and immigrants…In contrast, large shares of Republicans expressed unfavorable views of undocumented immigrants, LGBT Americans and Muslims. More than 20 percent of Republicans said that they had unfavorable views of black Americans and police, with the latter group having increased in unfavorability substantially since Floyd’s death.7

“There were also some notable differences among Democrats,” Bacon and Conroy note. “For example, Democrats under 45 were significantly more likely than those over 45 to say they had an unfavorable view of the police (54 percent compared to 38 percent). Black Democrats were more likely than white Democrats to have unfavorable views of the police (58 percent to 41 percent). Black and Hispanic Democrats were about twice as likely as white Democrats to view LGBT Americans unfavorably, and about 30 percent of both groups expressed unfavorable views of white Americans. And white Democrats, in particular, viewed evangelicals unfavorably (50 percent)…

Conroy and Bacon conclude, “When social identities are threatened (real or imagined threats, often made salient by group leaders), individuals retreat to the safety of their in-groups, and react defensively with more negative feelings toward outside groups. And given the effectiveness of in-group retreating for political outcomes, there is little chance of this changing anytime soon, at least from political leaders who stand to gain the most from these identity-based fights…The activation of social identities can have positive democratic outcomes, too. For instance, Trump’s anti-Latino rhetoric led to increased political activity from Latinos with a stronger racial identity. And as we wrote about last week, strong racial identity among black Americans leads to collective voting to defend group interests. Moreover, if a sense of shared identity can be triggered, partisans can come together to prioritize national interests…But so long as the parties remain largely distinct in terms of the group identities of their members — and how those members feel about other groups — ingroup and outgroup conflict is easily activated.”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. has this encouraging observation about Biden and his campaign for Democrats: “He has offered policy-laden critiques of Trump’s handling of covid-19, the economy and the policing issue. Later this month, those familiar with his thinking say, he’ll offer a plan for big investments in job creation. They will focus on strengthening the nation’s domestic industrial base, clean energy and caregiving to children, the elderly and the disabled…In other words, Biden is not acting as if he thinks the election is already won, and he’s not averse to big proposals. As one Biden insider notes, the former vice president’s agenda — on health care, education, climate change and policing, for example — is “much more progressive” than the programs offered by Obama in 2008 and Hillary Clinton in 2016…This doesn’t mean he’s moved “too far left.” On the contrary, the ideas he has plucked from the progressive portfolio are vote-winners, not vote-losers. Lowering the Medicare eligibility age to 60 is very popular with voters between the ages of 60 and 65. Free public college for students from families with incomes under $125,000 a year is popular, too.”


Teixeira: Biden’s Support Among Black Voters

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

Does Biden Need the “Enthusiastic Support of Black Voters”?

That’s the claim of a letter sent to the Biden campaign by 50 or so liberal organizations, who allege he will not get that enthusiastic support unless he embraces a lengthy series of demands included in their letter. These demands include reparations, defunding the police and withdrawing support for investments in community policing.

There are two things wrong with the letter’s argument. First, Biden already has sufficient black support to win the election, even though he is currently running a little behind Clinton’s 2016 pace. Moreover, recent data suggest that support is firming up (see below). The fact of the matter is that Biden is solidly ahead at the moment because he has reasonable nonwhite support and is running way ahead of Clinton among both white college and noncollege voters. He would benefit from increased black support relative to the current baseline–the more votes and the bigger margin he has, the better–but he does not “need” that to win the election.

Perhaps what the letter authors mean is that Biden cannot afford a catastrophic decline in black support and/or turnout relative to 2016. But that is not what the authors said and there is no evidence at the current time that he is risking that.

And we certainly have no evidence that embracing the demands of the letter would forestall such a decline or even increase black support much beyond where it already is. Much of what they advocate is not only not popular overall but is also not popular among black voters specifically. In contrast, the reforms Biden has already embraced are all wildly popular among black voters

Hopefully, Biden will ignore this letter and concentrate on the broad coalition he has assembled which does not fixing in the ways advocated by the letter writers.