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Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

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No matter who.

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Vote Blue No Matter Who bumper sticker

Vote Blue!

No Matter Who!

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

Vote Blue! No Matter Who.

VOTE BLUE!

No Matter Who.

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

Vote Blue No Matter Who bumper sticker

Vote Blue

No matter who.

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

RIP GOP book by Stanley Greenberg

R.I.P. G.O.P.

You can find out more about the return to progressive politics from our founder Stanley Greenberg in his new book!

Pre-Order Now.

The Daily Strategist

June 3, 2020

Trump Hates Polls Unless They Show Him Winning

Trump revived one of his more ridiculous routines this week, and I wrote about it at New York:

Nothing illustrates the self-interested moral relativism characterizing our president’s worldview quite like his purely instrumental view of public-opinion research. If it redounds to his power and glory, it’s wonderful and worth proclaiming to the whole world like some sort of heathen gospel. If it doesn’t, then it’s “fake” and the mendacious work of his anti-American enemies.

Since Trump hasn’t had that much to brag about in the way of polling results as president, it’s sometimes hard to remember that polls were about all he talked about in the early days of his 2016 campaign. Here’s a reminder from Politico in December 2015:

“Poll numbers are, unlike perhaps any candidate in history, central to Trump’s pitch to voters. In his telephone and in-person morning talk show interviews and his evening rallies, not to mention on his hyperactive Twitter account, he rarely lets an opportunity escape without mentioning his titanic standing. “Wow, my poll numbers have just been announced and have gone through the roof!” Trump tweeted Thursday morning …

“One Trump insider likens Trump’s obsession with his poll numbers to a TV executive’s hunger for ratings: ‘It’s a barometer of success.'”

He was fairly promiscuous in praise of pollsters, so long as they made him look good:

“After a favorable poll release from CNN last week, for instance, he tweeted his thanks to the network and political team for ‘very professional reporting.'”

After he won the Republican presidential nomination, however, the support he had been getting from a surprisingly large plurality of Republican primary voters didn’t project so well onto the much bigger landscape of a general-election audience. In the RealClearPolitics national polling averages of the general election, Trump led Hillary Clinton for two brief moments, in May and then in July. But for the most part, he trailed HRC, which led, of course, to the Myth of Bad 2016 Polls, which Trump is still repeating today, tweeting: “FAKE POLLING, just like 2016 (but worse)!”

The reality is that 2016 polling was reasonably accurate, as Nate Silver, who thought more highly of Trump’s chances than most observers, pointed out in his exhaustive postmortem about erroneous expectations of a Clinton win:

“Trump outperformed his national polls by only 1 to 2 percentage points in losing the popular vote to Clinton, making them slightly closer to the mark than they were in 2012. Meanwhile, he beat his polls by only 2 to 3 percentage points in the average swing state. Certainly, there were individual pollsters that had some explaining to do, especially in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, where Trump beat his polls by a larger amount. But the result was not some sort of massive outlier; on the contrary, the polls were pretty much as accurate as they’d been, on average, since 1968.”

Yes, many pundits relying on polls overinterpreted them and did not anticipate Trump’s success in threading the needle and winning the electoral vote even as he lost the national popular vote by a pretty decisive margin. There’s a fair amount of evidence that the results surprised Team Trump, too. But the polls weren’t “fake.” And even if they were grievously in error in 2016, many polling outlets have made adjustments to their methodologies to increase accuracy, most notably by weighting samples for education levels to avoid the undersampling of non-college-educated white voters that may have artificially depressed support for Trump in some 2016 surveys.

None of this seems to matter to the president, for whom polling results are nothing more than agitprop to be praised or attacked, depending on how well they show him faring. Since recent head-to-head polls matching Trump against Joe Biden have been pretty generally negative for him (he trails the Democrat by 6.3 percent in the RCP polling averages), he’s on the warpath again. According to multiple accounts, his campaign’s internal polls show pretty much the same thing, and he’s sufficiently upset about it to lash out at the people around him, which is par for the course. Here’s how Vanity Fair reported a recent blowup with campaign manager Brad Parscale:

“[A]fter Trump’s disinfectant comments set off a new political firestorm — the president reportedly took his anger over his dimming electoral prospects out on Parscale, whom he shouted at over the phone. ‘[Trump is] pissed because he knows he messed up in those briefings,’ one Republican close to the White House told CNN about the president’s attack. CNN, which first reported the news of Trump’s call with Parscale, notes that Trump ‘berated’ the campaign manager for the president’s poor polling numbers, and even threatened to sue Parscale, though the Post reports the comment was intended as a joke.”

 It’s clear Trump wants to undermine the credibility of adverse polls as part of a broader project of undermining the credibility of unfriendly media. The erroneous but pervasive myth that polls got 2016 terribly wrong will help him in this endeavor, and if his polling performance improves, he will have no inhibitions about boasting that “even” the fake-news media’s fake polls acknowledge his towering popularity among a grateful populace. The scarier prospect is that he’s preparing to declare adverse election returns “fake” unless they confirm he’s won.


Teixeira: What If Racial Liberalism Is Increasing?

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

Tom Edsall has an excellent review of recent research on trends in racial liberalism/conservatism. Among several studies, he highlights one by Daniel Hopkins and Samantha Hopkins that avoids the huge methodological problem of using the standard “racial resentment” battery, which despite its name measures nothing of the sort. (I have posted previously about the problems with the racial resentment battery, if you are interested in searching my archives. And see the Riley Carney and Ryan Enos paper, “Conservatism , Just World Belief , and Racism : An Experimental Investigation of the Attitudes Measured by Modern Racism Scales”)

“Daniel Hopkins, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, and Samantha Washington, a former research assistant there, challenge the argument that racial polarization in the United States is increasing. They contend that on matters of race, the views of both groups — white Democrats and white Republicans — are liberalizing.

In their paper — “The Rise of Trump, the Fall of Prejudice? Tracking White Americans’ Racial Attitudes 2008-2018 via a Panel Survey” — Hopkins and Washington use a measure of prejudice that is significantly different from the [racial resentment battery] used by [Andrew] Engelhardt.

Hopkins explained in an email why he and Engelhardt differ in their assessment of white Republicans. In his study, Engelhardt uses responses to the battery of what are known as “racial resentment” questions. Hopkins argued that these questions tend to push Republicans in a conservative direction because some directly relate to a separate issue, the role of government, including questions asking whether the government should intervene to help minorities.

According to Hopkins, some Republicans will oppose intervention on the basis of ideological “small government” principle, not racism, nonetheless raising their racial resentment score.

Hopkins and Washington write that they used a separate measure designed to capture white respondents’ beliefs in stereotypes. Specifically, our panelists were repeatedly asked to rate Blacks, Hispanics/Latinos, and Whites on two stereotype scales, work ethic and trustworthiness.

The advantage in this approach, they argue, is that the use of in-group stereotypes helps address concerns about social desirability biases, as people can rate an out-group positively while also rating their own group more positively.

As the accompanying graphic shows, Hopkins and Washington found bipartisan declines in anti-black and anti-Hispanic prejudice.”

Now, none of this means Trump can’t win….but it does indicate that continued support for Trump cannot be explained simply on the basis of racism. It is (and was originally) a far more complex political impulse than that reductionist view suggests. That should be kept in mind as Democrats seek to undercut Trump and build the broadest possible coalition for 2020.

It is even possible, as Hopkins put it in an email to Edsall:

“Overall, I do think these results indicate that the share of white Americans who would rally to a general election campaign because of its explicit appeals to racial prejudice is smaller than many political strategists suppose.”


Political Strategy Notes

New York Times colmnist Thomas B. Edsall probes recent scholarship on racial attitudes of white Democrats and Republicans and notes: “In his 2019 paper, “White People’s Racial Attitudes are Changing to Match Partisanship,” Andrew Engelhardt, a political scientist at Brown, shows a dramatic increase in partisan racial polarization from 2016 to 2018…The accompanying charts show the percentage of white Democrats in the most racially liberal category growing from 10 percent in 2016 to 15 percent in 2018, the leading edge of a general turn to the left among party members. The percentage of white Republicans in the most racially conservative cohort, in contrast, grew from 14 percent to 21 percent, a tilt to the right with a potentially substantial impact…On a scale from zero to 100, ranking levels of racial resentment, the mean for white Democrats fell from 43 to 34. For white Republicans, the mean rose from 71 to 76…n a more recent paper, “Observational Equivalence in Explaining Attitude Change: Have White Racial Attitudes Genuinely Changed?” Engelhardt answers in the affirmative the question posed in his title….Poll data, he writes, supports “seeing changes in white racial attitudes as genuine. The decline in Democrats’ racial resentment levels between 2012 and 2016 appears sincere, not cheap talk.” And, Engelhardt contends, there will be significant political and policymaking consequences…

Edsall adds, “In their paper — “The Rise of Trump, the Fall of Prejudice? Tracking White Americans’ Racial Attitudes 2008-2018 via a Panel Survey” — [Daniel} Hopkins and [Samantha] Washington use a measure of prejudice that is significantly different from the one used by Engelhardt…Hopkins explained in an email why he and Engelhardt differ in their assessment of white Republicans. In his study, Engelhardt uses responses to the battery of what are known as “racial resentment” questions. Hopkins argued that these questions tend to push Republicans in a conservative direction because some directly relate to a separate issue, the role of government, including questions asking whether the government should intervene to help minorities…According to Hopkins, some Republicans will oppose intervention on the basis of ideological “small government” principle, not racism, nonetheless raising their racial resentment score…Hopkins and Washington found bipartisan declines in anti-black and anti-Hispanic prejudice.”

Edsall notes, further: “There is a third analysis that stands apart from those of both Engelhardt and Hopkins and Washington: that the growing racial liberalism of white Democrats is more about claiming a moral posture than deeply felt conviction…Hakeem Jefferson, a political scientist at Stanford, challenged the sincerity of white Democrats’ growing racial liberalism in an April 21 Twitter thread: “The white left” can sometimes look more “progressive” than black folks because the white left has the luxury of approaching questions that bear on marginalized people’s lives with a kind of reckless abandon that many others don’t have…I remain rather skeptical that we are in a period where black people can trust that white liberals have embraced a liberatory politics.” Edsll cites another study: “[Tufts political scientist Deborah J.] Schildkraut conducted a series of surveys to gauge liberal and conservative racial identity among whites. She found that just over 40 percent of conservatives said that their white identity was “very” or “extremely” important to them. A smaller percentage (23 percent) of white liberals saw their racial identity as similarly important…There were also vastly different perceptions of the level of discrimination against blacks and whites between white liberals and conservatives: “44 percent of white liberals said there is no discrimination against whites and 28 percent said there is a great deal of discrimination against blacks, while only 2 percent of conservatives said there is no discrimination against whites and only 8 percent said there is a great deal of discrimination against blacks.”

Edsall concludes, “If, as Hopkins and Washington find, whites are abandoning the relatively high levels of prejudice of 2016 in meaningful numbers, and if this decline contributed to Democratic victories in 2018, Trump will face a steeper climb in capitalizing on racial resentment than he did four years ago…The drop since Trump took office in what had been a fairly consistent sense of white racial superiority, according to Hopkins and Washington, would suggest that Trump’s ongoing racial appeals may have crossed a line, potentially endangering his re-election…Has the exploitation of racial anxiety reached the end of its politically useful life? No. Nor will it fade from American history anytime soon, if it ever does. But the very fact that more and more people now question whether Trump’s re-election is assured provides a ray of hope.”

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. reports that “President Trump, who has largely declined to use his power under the Defense Production Act for needed medical and protective equipment, used that same power on Tuesday night to force meat processors to remain open. Never mind that food-processing and meatpacking plants are hot spots for covid-19 — at least 79 have reported outbreaks. Never mind that at least 20 workers in the industry have died from the disease or that the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) reports that at least 6,500 workers in the industry have been diagnosed or exposed. Dionne quotes Debbie Berkowitz, director of the worker health and safety program at the National Employment Law Project: “Trump has created a false choice between worker safety and feeding America,” Berkowitz, who has spent decades working on safety issues in meat processing, said in an interview. “We can do both. Other parts of the economy are doing both.” Dionne adds, “When social solidarity is essential, it’s common to hear pious sermons against class warfare. Unfortunately, there is a class war. And its victims, so many of them front-line workers, didn’t start it.”

At The Cook Political Report, Charlie Cook writes, “Simply put, a referendum on his performance is going to be a tough sell for Trump. He’s the first president in history to never have a majority job approval rating. Plus, as Bill Scher noted in Politico Magazine, third-party candidates are unlikely to make the ballot in many states this year because the coronavirus shutdown has made gathering petition signatures all but impossible. This makes Trump’s climb tougher in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. In 2016, Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s vote share in each of those states was greater than Trump’s margin of victory. Thus, he will need to get closer to 50 percent in that all-important trio of states this time around than the 46 percent he got last time.” Cook warns, “The only way Trump wins is to make Joe Biden absolutely unelectable, to make him an unacceptable risk. That only happens one way, and it’s not by playing by the Marquess of Queensberry Rules for fair fighting…The Willie Horton, Bain Capital, and Swift Boat attacks that Michael Dukakis, Mitt Romney, and John Kerry faced, respectively, were child’s play compared to what is going to be thrown at Biden, his son, Hunter, and anyone else in the former vice president’s orbit. When this is over, Hillary Clinton will think she got off light from the 2016 Trump campaign. That’s the only way he can win, because a referendum isn’t going to go his way. Expect this to get ugly.”

Zack Stanton sketches “The Nightmare Scenario’: How Coronavirus Could Make the 2020 Vote a Disaster: Trump can’t cancel the presidential election. Here’s what you should really be worrying about” at Politico:=, and writes “the prospect that terrifies election experts isn’t the idea that Trump moves the election (something he lacks the power to do); it’s something altogether more plausible: Despite an ongoing pandemic, the 2020 election takes place as planned, and America is totally unprepared…The nightmare scenario goes something like this: Large numbers of voters become disenfranchised because they’re worried it’s not safe to vote and that participating makes it more likely they catch the coronavirus. Voter-registration efforts, almost always geared toward in-person sign-ups, bring in very few new voters. A surge of demand for absentee ballots overwhelms election administrators, who haven’t printed enough ballots. In some states, like Texas, where fear of coronavirus isn’t a valid reason to request an absentee ballot, turnout drops as Americans are forced to choose between voting in person (and risking contact with the coronavirus) or not voting at all…At the same time, confidence in the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service — whose coronavirus funding President Donald Trump has already threatened to block — teeters, and its involvement in handling so many absentee votes causes concern.”

Stanton interviews Rick Hasen, author of Election Meltdown, who says, “I’ve always been concerned that [Trump] would claim that fraud was the reason he might lose an election. And I still think that might happen, should he lose — which brings up the Election Administrators’ Prayer: “Lord, let this not be close.” If you have a real blowout, it’s hard to claim that fraud is the result…How do we ensure that elections are not only conducted fairly, but that people have confidence in them, when recent public opinion polling shows up to 40 percent of the public is not convinced that elections are conducted fairly? I think there’s a role to play for elected leaders, social media companies, traditional media companies, lawyers, members of Congress, state and local election officials — there are steps that all can take to try to minimize the chances of a meltdown. And that’s really where we have to focus our efforts, especially now in this Covid-19 era.”

At Sabato’s  Crystal Ball, Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman have an update on Democraic prospects for winning a U.S. Senate majority in November. Calling the battle for majority control a “toss-up,” Kondik and Coleman write, “The focus on the evenly-matched battle for the Senate has in some ways narrowed to four GOP-held seats: Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and North Carolina…Practically speaking, Democrats probably have to win all four, and the White House, to win the Senate…However, the map may be expanding. Democrats’ best bet among the other targets probably is Montana, but we still see a small Republican edge there…We are making two rating changes this week on the periphery of the Senate map: Alaska and South Carolina move from Safe Republican to Likely Republican.”


Clock Already Running Down on Expanded Access to Voting By Mail

I’ve been following the battles in Congress over the idea of a federal mandate to allow expanded voting by mail this November. But whoever’s winning at any given moment, time’s running out, as I noted at New York:

The question of how to conduct elections during and immediately after a pandemic has been a red-hot topic during the relatively brief span of the U.S. coronavirus crisis. It blew up big time during the latter stages of the stalled Democratic presidential primaries (particularly in the last state that attempted to hold a live-voting primary, Wisconsin), and became a highly partisan issue in congressional negotiations over the $2.2 trillion coronavirus stimulus legislation enacted last month.

Generally speaking, Democrats want voting by mail to be made available as broadly as possible going forward — preferably by mailing all registered voters ballots they can cast if they choose — and want the federal government to push states in that direction via carrots (major new federal funding) and sticks (a mandate). Most Republicans oppose major changes in voting practices to one degree or another. Some Republicans, notably the president, have claimed, without any actual evidence, that voting by mail is inherently vulnerable to massive fraud. And they are more or less united in opposing the kind of federal push toward voting by mail that Democrats have demanded. They did go along with a modest amount of federal funding for election assistance in the coronavirus stimulus bill, but kept it free of any mandates for voting by mail.

Congressional Democrats have renewed calls for conditional election assistance in negotiations over the next coronavirus stimulus legislation, as the Hill reports:

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) declined to say on Friday how much money Democrats would try to include, saying she wouldn’t negotiate through the media. But Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said during a conference call with progressives groups on Friday that he would push to include $1.8 billion for mail-in voting and other ‘alternatives.’

“’I don’t think this president wants to have an election at all. I think he’s going to do everything he can to circumvent people going to the polls in November,’ Clyburn said during the call.”

But simply by waging a battle against expanded voting by mail, Republicans may be winning the war, because the clock is running down on major election rules and infrastructure changes in cash-strapped states that may not have the wherewithal to adopt near-universal voting by mail, even if they want to move in that direction, as Dominic Holden reports:

“’I would call it an emergency situation,’ said Carl Amacker, whose company, BlueCrest, makes Relia-Vote, a system that handles outbound mail ballots and processes them once they’re returned.

“BlueCrest currently supplies vote-by-mail systems to counties around the United States, yet like other leaders in the industry, it can’t expand those systems overnight. ‘Counties need to act very, very quickly,’ Amacker told BuzzFeed News, explaining that it can take months to build and install mail-in election systems. ‘The problem is we are going to run out of time.’

“Despite many inquiries in recent weeks, there are ‘not a lot of orders yet,’ added Jeff Ellington, president of Runbeck Election Services, which makes envelope sorters, prints mail-in ballots, and develops software to manage mail-in elections.”

The dirty little secret of American democracy is the ramshackle nature of our ridiculously decentralized system of elections. Starved of funds, staffed by elderly volunteers, often supervised by Republican state and local officials determined to hold down turnout for partisan reasons, that system didn’t get fixed after the Florida debacle in 2000 and now faces a supreme challenge. And in states with limited experience with voting by mail, it will soon be too late to change by November:

“The emerging consensus among industry leaders and election experts is that expanding voting by mail for November — particularly in large jurisdictions that haven’t processed a huge number of absentee ballots in the past — could require making commitments in the next few weeks …

“Getting ready for a big spike in mail-in ballots can involve months of preparation: In addition to building new machinery, the mere act of printing ballots is complex, as neighbors can be in different legislative districts, so ballots have numerous variations. Mail-in elections also entail constructing multilayer security envelopes, assigning each envelope a barcode for tracking, and installing computer systems to help verify voter signatures upon return.”

That’s in addition to the legal changes necessary in states that currently discourage voting by mail. Sixteen of them require an excuse for utilizing absentee ballots, though Democratic governors in Kentucky and New York have waived these requirements by executive order, and New Hampshire’s Republican election officials have announced that coronavirus fears represent a “disability,” which qualifies voters rationally convinced they are at risk to vote by mail there as well.

At some point, Democrats in Congress may need to decide whether fighting for weeks over conditions for federal-election assistance, or simply getting as much money into the pipeline as quickly as possible and hoping for the best, makes the most strategic sense. Any Democratic tack that delays election preparations, and thus elevates the odds of chaos, plays into the hands of the King of Chaos in the White House.


Teixeira: The Sinema Strategy

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

Krysten Sinema: Live Like Her!

Ron Brownstein has a detailed article breaking down the ways in which Biden’s emerging strength among older voters could be crucial to his chances for victory. He quotes some guy named Teixeira in a couple of places:

Many Democratic operatives still believe that the party’s long-term future will pivot on its capacity to increase turnout among younger and nonwhite voters, especially in the Sun Belt states growing in population. But that conviction is giving way to a growing awareness that the potential path to victory for Biden, given his own unique strengths and weaknesses, may rely less on that forward-leaning mobilization than on a throwback strategy of reducing Donald Trump’s elevated margins from 2016 among older and blue-collar white voters to the slightly smaller advantages Republicans enjoyed with them 15 or 20 years ago.

“The idea that expanding the map comes down to high mobilization of the constituencies that give you the most support doesn’t necessarily follow,” says Ruy Teixeira, a longtime liberal election analyst and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress. “You can do the same things by reducing your deficits or becoming competitive among groups where you had been doing quite poorly.”…

While some other national polls still show Trump leading with seniors and near-seniors, the general trend line with older voters is more favorable for Biden than it has been for recent Democratic nominees. At the same time, many political professionals in both parties remain uncertain that Biden can excite a large turnout among young people, especially those of color, who rejected him in big numbers during the Democratic primary and have displayed only modest enthusiasm for him in most early general election polls.

“He is not the spark to that flame, for sure,” says Republican strategist David Kochel.

Those trends among the young still concern many Democratic operatives. But a closer look at the demographics of the swing states makes clear that for Biden a strategy centered on appealing to older voters, most of them white, could substitute for mobilizing young people, many of them diverse, in all of the places that both sides consider pivotal in 2020.

“It was never clear to me that the way you expand the map was by enormous turnout among young people,” said Teixeira. “Other moving parts were just as important, if not more important.”

That guy Teixeira may be onto something. But perhaps the most interesting part of Brownstein’s article is where he makes the case the Krysten Sinema’s successful campaign for a Senate seat in Arizona in 2018 could be a model for what Biden’s trying to do.

“Democrat Kyrsten Sinema won a US Senate seat in Arizona that same year by moderating her earlier liberalism and running as a centrist who would build bridges across party lines. Like the other three Sun Belt Democrats, Sinema struggled among older working adults aged 50-64, according to the exit polls; but unlike them she carried a majority of seniors, which helped her squeeze out a narrow victory over Republican Martha McSally. Sinema carried 44% of whites older than 45, a measurable improvement on the other three.

One of the most striking aspects of Sinema’s win was her victory in Maricopa County, centered on Phoenix. Maricopa was the largest county in the US that Trump won in 2016, but Noble’s post-election analyses found that 88 precincts that backed the President in 2016 switched to Sinema two years later. Those included many suburban areas crowded with college-educated voters who broke from Trump nationwide. But when Noble and his team analyzed the Maricopa precincts that moved away from the GOP from 2016 to 2018, he found two retirement communities at the very top of the list: Sun City and Leisure World.

Noble says he believes that those seniors first pulled back from the GOP around its efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017. His latest statewide poll, which showed Biden leading overall, showed him besting Trump among voters older than 55.

That’s catastrophic for Republicans in Arizona, he notes, since the heavy Latino presence in the younger population reliably tilts it toward the Democrats. (Sinema won three-fifths of voters younger than 45 in 2018.) If Biden can maintain an advantage with those older voters through November, Noble says, “it’s smooth sailing” for him in the state, especially since Trump and the GOP are also eroding among younger college-educated suburbanites.

Sinema’s path, though not as flashy as the approach embodied by Gillum, Abrams and O’Rourke, might be a model for Biden. Polls released over the past week by Fox News likewise found Biden leading with older voters in Pennsylvania and Michigan and tied with them in Florida; a Quinnipiac University survey in Florida showed Trump still leading among older working-age adults but Biden holding a double-digit lead among seniors. An average of all three University of Marquette Law School polls in Wisconsin this year similarly shows Trump trailing by 8 percentage points among voters 60 and older (who broke about evenly in the state last time).”

That’s the Sinema–and now the Biden–formula. And it’s kryptonite to Donald Trump.


Teixeira: What If Biden Actually Does Do Better Among White Working Class Voters?

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

There are certainly ways Biden could win the 2020 election without doing better among white working class voters than Clinton did. It is possible. But the thing to remember is that, if Biden does in fact do better among this demographic in November, Trump’s chances of winning are radically reduced–indeed, he become almost certain to lose.

That’s why the trends we’re seeing lately in the white noncollege vote are so important. From an article on Decision Desk HQ:

“[A]t this point in the Presidential race (April 2020) the polling is showing Biden making improvements with White Non-College voters nationally, and in key swing states.

From any analysis, it’s clear that the main demographic problem for the Democratic party is currently white working-class [voters]. While the Democratic party does well with minority voters, currently white working-class voters make up an overwhelming amount of the electorate in key swing states….While eventually Democratic strength with minority voters should theoretically give them an easy path to electoral college wins, that long term strength is meaningless as those future strong Democratic states (Georgia, Texas, Arizona) are still not in reach in a neutral environment, while those heavily white swing states become very hard to win when the Democratic candidate severely underperforms with White non-college voters….

While Clinton struggled to win White non-college heavy counties in the Primary against Sanders, once Super Tuesday happened Biden completely dominated those counties, nearly winning every similar county on Super Tuesday itself, but then winning all but a handful of counties after Super Tuesday….Additionally, at this point, the polling is showing a large swing towards Biden of White non-college voters nationally and in key swing states….

Of course, it is April of an election year, and the polls can always change. Perhaps those white non-college voters can be persuaded to come back to Trump in November, and are merely sitting on the sidelines because of the current crisis. Maybe Biden is riding a high from recent endorsements and winning the nomination, or has not gone through enough scrutiny yet, and his white non-college numbers could come down with the right mix of attack ads and messaging. It is too soon to know as there are still more than 6 months until November. At this point, only one thing is clear: Biden is doing better with white non-college voters than Hillary Clinton did, and if that trend continues until November, we won’t be missing much sleep on election night.”

Exactly. And that is why you should pray to the god or gods of your choice that that trend does continue.


Teixeira: It’s An Older Voter Thing, You Wouldn’t Understand….

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

It’s been widely observed that Biden is doing quite a bit better than Clinton among older voters (65+). Ron Brownstein:

“Biden led Trump among seniors comfortably in recent general election polling by CNN, Quinnipiac and NBC/WSJ and more narrowly in the latest Monmouth University poll. Though Pew and Grinnell College in recent polls still showed Trump leading with seniors, the overall direction of the surveys suggests that Biden might significantly improve on the Democrats’ recent performance among older voters. Each Democratic presidential nominee since John Kerry in 2004 has lost seniors, a preponderantly white age cohort, by at least 5 percentage points, according to exit polls; Al Gore in 2000 was the last Democrat to carry them.”

My analysis of the Nationscape survey (UCLA/Lucid//Democracy Fund Voter Study Group; over 70,000 cases since the beginning of the year) confirms this pattern. I find that Biden is leading Trump by 4 points on average among 65+ voters. That compares to Clinton’s substantial deficits among this group in 2016, according to the two best data sources about the election, States of Change and Catalist. States of Change has Clinton at -15 among seniors, while Catalist makes it -14.

That’s quite a large swing. Of course, many nervous Democrats fear Biden will lose those gains–if he even gets them–among younger voters. They fear a repeat of Clinton’s poor performance among these voters in 2016.

But that’s really a bit of a myth. The fact of the matter is that Clinton did about as well as Obama did among this group in 2012. That was not her problem. The Catalist data show the share of younger voters (18-29) identical (14 percent) across the two elections, while the Democratic margin was also essentially the same (+25 in 2016; +26 in 2012). The States of Change data show The States of Change data show youth voter share going up slightly from 15 percent in 2012 to 16 percent in 2016, with the youth turnout rate having the largest turnout increase of any age group. And the youth Democratic margin was identical across the two elections (+27).

Given what is happening with senior voters, it would take a catastrophic decline in Democratic margin among young voters to cancel that out. We’re not seeing it so far. The Nationscape data have that margin at an average of 22 points; the recent Harvard/Institute of Politics survey specifically of young voters has Biden’s margin at +23 among those registered to vote and +30 among those deemed likely to vote.

Given that the size of the senior vote should be around 24-25 percent of the electorate in 2020, compared to 14-16 percent among young voters, that’s a trade-off you’ll make every day. If it even winds up being a trade-off, about which I have my doubts.


Political Strategy Notes

In a “fiery” interview by Politico’s Michael Grunwald, former Vice President Biden “said that the next round of coronavirus stimulus needs to be “a hell of a lot bigger” than last month’s $2 trillion CARES Act, that it needs to include massive aid to states and cities to prevent them from “laying off a hell of a lot of teachers and cops and firefighters,” and that the administration is already “wasting a hell of a lot of money.”…He called for stronger assurances that small-business loans will go to small businesses, and that aid to larger corporations will come with strings prohibiting stock buybacks, executive bonuses or worker layoffs. But he also went beyond policy prescriptions, saying the pandemic might convince Americans that grocery clerks “and all the other folks out there saving our rear ends and risking their lives for eight bucks an hour” deserve a better deal. He thinks there could be a backlash against big corporations who have poured their profits into buybacks and dividends rather than worker training and research and development. He thinks the virus could deal a blow to short-term economic thinking and anti-government political thinking.”

At The Cook Political Report, Amy Walter cites four possible scenarios for the November elections, including “1. The virus is still raging, and most of us are still under some form of a shelter at home order. 2. We have regional hot spots, but the rest of the country gets back to normal. 3. We are more or less ‘back to normal,’ but the fear of crowded spaces continues. 4. Things get better over the summer, but a new wave is predicted to break out in October or November.” Walter notes further that “states theoretically have the time to prepare for any of the four scenarios I laid out above. But, we also know that partisanship and legislative wrangling is a big—or bigger—hurdle than the ticking clock. For example, the three most important battleground states of the midwest—Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan—all have split control of government, more specifically, Democratic governors and Republican legislatures. The idea that these states could agree upon new laws before November—especially at a time when many state legislatures are trying to avoid meeting in person during this pandemic— seems unlikely.”

What does it take to get voting by mail in a Republican-controlled state? The Associated Press reports that “North Dakota’s June 9 primary will be conducted entirely by mail after all 53 counties chose to avoid in-person voting due to the coronavirus…Gov. Doug Burgum, a Republican, signed an executive order in March to let counties opt out of a requirement that they open at least one physical polling location. On Thursday, the state announced that every county commission had authorized voting by mail only. The state said it would mail ballot applications to every eligible voter.” Apparently the GOP supports safe voting only when the citizens who would be standing in line are overwhelmingly white. According to the Census Bureau’s 2015 Population Estimates Program, “When it comes to race, North Dakota’s voting age population is 91 percent White, 1.9 percent Black or African American, 1.3 percent Asian, 4.4 percent American Indian/Alaska Native, and 0.07 percent Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander. The Hispanic voting age population represents 2.6 percent of the overall North Dakota population.” Voter suppression practices reduce voting by the state’s racial minorities even further.

Walter also notes that “a February Gallup survey found that 59 percent of Americans were enthusiastic about voting in November — 13 points higher than a similar point in 2016 and 12 points higher than early in the 2012 campaign…Since the outbreak of coronavirus, however, CNN polling has shown a dip in enthusiasm, from 66 percent in early March to 57 percent in early April. Of course, more Americans are worried about paying bills, getting sick, and losing their jobs than they were in early March. As such, an election in November suddenly seems much less relevant. It’s also worth noting that enthusiasm to vote is still 16-points higher now than it was in July of 2016 and 9-points higher than it was in March of 2012. However, it’s worth watching this “enthusiasm” number closely over these next few months to see which voters say they have become less motivated to participate in the fall election…At this stage, we also know that voters are uncomfortable about the prospect of showing up to vote at a traditional voting location. An early March survey by Pew Research found two-thirds of Americans worried about showing up to vote in person.”

“More than 200 black women on Friday signed an open letter to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden urging him to pick a black woman as his running mate,Kate Sullvan reports at CNN Politics. “The letter, signed by black women working in both the public and private sectors, lists several potential candidates: former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, California Rep. Karen Bass, Florida Rep. Val Demings, Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, California Sen. Kamala Harris, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, and former national security adviser Susan Rice.,,Signers include actors Vanessa Williams, Latanya Richardson Jackson and Pauletta Washington, the former chairman and president of the US Tennis Association, Katrina Adams, the former editor-in-chief of Essence magazine, Susan Taylor, and the first female African American president of Spelman College, Johnnetta Cole.” Rep. Jim Clyburn, whose endorsement Biden has credited with securing his pivotal victory in the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary, has also expressed support for an African American woman as Biden’s running mate.

Chris Cillizza drills down on “The Warren V.P. Problem” at CNN Politics, and writes about the implications for majority control of the U.S. Senate afyer the election: “I’ve had Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren ranked consistently in the top five potential vice presidential picks for Joe Biden in 2020. The reasons are obvious: She’s a hugely popular figure with liberals nationwide and would help Biden energize that wing of the party come fall. But increasingly, there’s chatter that picking Warren would come with a major potential downside: Republican Gov. Charlie Baker would be tasked with picking her Senate replacement — and he would almost certainly pick a Republican…That would hand the GOP a bonus seat at the start of 2021 — and trigger a special election in the summer for Warren’s full term…The rules in Massachusetts work like this: Baker has the right to appoint an interim senator but also must call a special election for the seats between 145 and 160 days after the vacancy occurs…If Warren was the VP pick and resigned on the day she and Biden were inaugurated (January 20, 2021), the soonest a special election could be held is Tuesday June 15, 2021, and the latest June 29, 2021. That would mean that for the first six months of Biden’s presidency, Republicans would have an extra seat, which could be hugely important if the margin for control in the Senate was tight…And, yes, Democrats would be favored to win Warren’s Senate seat in a June 2021 special election even against Baker’s appointed Republican. But special elections are weird things — and Scott Brown’s 2010 special election win will be on Democrats’ minds…Other potential VP picks Sens. Kamala Harris (California) and Amy Klobuchar (Minnesota) represent states with Democratic governors, making their selections far less problematic for Biden.” Yes, there is a chance Democrats will win a large enough Senate majority without Warren staying in the Senate, but that’s a dicey bet at this point.

Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, Jr. proposes “a bipartisan coalition of responsible governors pick one of their own to lead a daily briefing aimed at the whole country. Many governors already make regular reports to their respective states, of course, and New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo has played a de facto role as a spokesman with effective news conferences well-timed for East Coast media…But individual governors often and understandably hedge what they say for fear of retaliation by Trump, who treats them the same way he treated Ukraine’s president. He is, once again, holding Washington’s assistance hostage to his own selfish interests…Workers realized long ago that speaking and bargaining collectively gave them power they didn’t have as individuals. Governors trying to act sensibly should learn the same lesson. Acting together, they could be far more fearless in calling out Trump’s failures, and more demanding when it comes to what their citizens need from Washington”

Dionne continues, “With his hands full in New York, Cuomo will continue his own briefings. But other governors could rotate the job of being the daily embodiment of practical ideas and thoughtful leadership…Americans across the country need to hear more from Republican governors such as Maryland’s Larry Hogan, Ohio’s Mike DeWine and Massachusetts’s Charlie Baker. And let Western and Midwestern Democratic governors become larger national voices, among them California’s Gavin Newsom, Oregon’s Kate Brown, Washington’s Jay Inslee, Colorado’s Jared Polis, Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer and Illinois’s J.B. Pritzker. Others could join. Each day, one of them should be empowered by their colleagues to speak for the group. They should do this even if Trump — no doubt influenced by the backlash against his Disinfectant Delirium — follows through on his Saturday evening tweet suggesting he might end his daily follies.”

In his article, “A New Poll Shows The Messaging Democrats Should Use To Defeat Trump” at forbes.com, Will Jeakle notes, “Of the three, the message that had the most impact on those polled was the idea that Trump’s response to the coronavirus crisis had not only been ineffective but had actually cost lives. This message moved voters’ perception of Trump almost a full percentage point in the Democrats’ direction….The next most effective message in voters’ eyes was the message that Trump and his allies had used the crisis as an opportunity to slash the social safety net, ensuring help for big business, but leaving workers and small businesses to fend for themselves. This message resonated despite that fact of the CARES act providing SBA loans and disaster relief for small businesses and the beginning of the delivery of $1200 per person relief checks (delivery which was held up in some cases by Trump’s insistence on affixing his signature to the memo field of the checks).”


Trump Could Suffer the Fate of Late-Second-Term W.

In looking at various scenarios for how things will unfold politically between now and November, I landed on one nobody is much taking about, and I explained it at New York:

As signs proliferate that the coronavirus is spreading to nonurban Trump country, the odds of the president being able to seek reelection as the vengeful tribune of red America infuriated by a blue America pandemic that has wrecked the economy grow smaller. That’s not to say Trump won’t use every angle he can to divide voters along the same racial, cultural, and geographical lines that undergirded his 2016 victory. But he may now be vulnerable to growing unhappiness about his management of the crisis right there in his electoral base. Indeed, the rapid business reopening some of his Republican allies are engineering in pro-Trump states could expose the MAGA folk to the kind of infection rates normally associated with urban hot spots.

As Ron Brownstein explains, positive assessments of Trump’s handling of coronavirus has up until now closely tracked less-hard-hit areas where things could soon go terribly wrong:

“[Trump’s] precarious public support on the virus heavily depends on preponderant backing from voters in the places that have been least affected. The Pew Research Center divided respondents in its mid-April poll into three groups: those living in counties that faced high, medium, and low incidences of the disease as of early in the month. The high- and medium-impact counties on one side and the low-impact counties on the other each accounted for almost exactly half of the nation’s population.

“These areas diverged strikingly in their assessments of Trump’s response. And ominously for the president, assessments in the medium-impact counties were closer to the (mostly negative) high-impact group.”

So as the impact of the pandemic spreads, so too may downward pressure on Trump’s approval ratings, which are already very slowly sinking. And there could even be a tipping point where dismay with POTUS begins to eat into his base:

If this scenario seems unlikely given Trump’s strong hold on red America — and perhaps it is — we should remember another president who appeared to have unshakable support from his party’s base: George W. Bush.

In late July of 2005, W.’s job-approval rating among his fellow Republicans stood at 87 percent, a bit below where Trump’s are today. Among independents, he was at 46 percent. After his clueless performance in the management of Hurricane Katrina, his numbers began eroding, dipping to 79 percent among Republicans and 32 percent among indies in November and then 68 percent with Republicans and 28 percent with indies in May 2006, when the occupation of Iraq was beginning to become unpopular across party lines. By the time the economic crisis of 2008 kicked in, the president who had won two close red-blue slugfests by uniting the GOP and enthusing the conservative movement saw his job-approval rating drop to 55 percent among Republicans and 19 percent among independents. The “uniter, not divider” was doing neither very successfully.

I am by no means predicting that sort of trajectory is in store for Donald J. Trump, but it’s a scenario worth considering, particularly if he gambles on a highly partisan approach to COVID-19 that backfires with an increasingly infected red America, while failing to revive the economy. The whole country’s watching him on TV every day, and if he fails in this crisis, everyone’s going to see it, and only the most fervent supporters (or those lucky enough to live in the shrinking parts of the country with low rates of infection) will still be cheering. Yes, there are plenty of voters who will cast ballots for him no matter how he handles the coronavirus and the economic fallout. But even though pundits remembering 2016 will likely give him every benefit of the doubt, there’s now legitimate doubt he’s going to keep the race close.


Teixeira: Biden-Trump and the White Noncollege Vote

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

Nate Cohn recently published an article in the Times somewhat oddly titled “Is Biden Gaining Older Voters, and Losing Young Ones?” I say oddly titled since his data show a huge swing to Biden among older voters relative to Clinton’s 2016 performance but very little change relative to Clinton among young voters. So the implication of a trade-off does not seem to follow.

Anyway, the most newsworthy part of the article to me was his claim of no pro-Democratic movement among white noncollege voters relative to 2016. He has Biden’s current deficit among these voters at an average of 29 points, identical to his 2016 point of comparison. Is this believable?

Sure, it is possible but I do have serious reservations about this finding. First of all, his methodology seems idiosyncratic, using only “high quality RDD live interviewer polls” for his averages and not even all of them them (at least by any reasonable definition of high quality). And his point of comparison for 2016 is the same type of polls conducted after the third Presidential debate in that campaign. Huh? That doesn’t seem like the obvious point of comparison to me.

Second, while his chosen group of polls may indeed average out at this point to a 29 point Biden white noncollege deficit, there is other data out there. For example, the Nationscape data (70,000 cases since the beginning of the year and counting) has Biden’s white noncollege deficit at 15, a huge swing relative to the 31 point Democratic deficit from the actual 2016 election. On the other hand, the Nationscape data show Biden winning white college voters but by about the same amount as Clinton in the 2016 election.

Third, we have a raft of new polls from key swing states that do seem to show superior performance for Biden relative to Clinton’s 2016 election performance among this group. I’ll use here the just-released Fox polls from Michigan, Pennsylvania and Florida (all presumably Cohn-approved since they are high quality, RDD, live-interviewer polls).

Start with Michigan. The poll has Biden ahead 49-41. His white noncollege deficit: 8 points. Clnton’s 2016 deficit: 21 points. Note especially Biden’s performance among white noncollege women–dead even. Note also that Biden and Clinton do about the same among white college voters.

Then look at Pennsylvania. The poll has Biden ahead 50-42. His white noncollege deficit: 15 points. Clnton’s 2016 deficit: 29 points. And Biden’s performance among white noncollege women is a mere one point deficit. Biden also does better among white college voters than Clinton, but not by as much.

Finally, look at Florida, The poll has Biden ahead 46-43. His white noncollege deficit: 24 points. Clnton’s 2016 deficit: 30 points (Quinnipiac–Cohn-approved!–also has an FL poll out and they have basically the same result). Here again Biden and Clinton do about the same among white college voters.

So am I sure these data are telling the right story and Cohn’s the wrong one? No, there is always room for argument–and new data!–on these matters. And I always applaud an effort to keep a focus on the white noncollege vote as an area of Democratic vulnerability. But, if I had to put money on it, I’d say the white noncollege swing–at least at this point in time–is real.