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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

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.

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

April 5, 2020

Political Strategy Notes

Looking at the contests for majority control of the U.S. Senate, Charlie Cook writes at The Cook Political Report: “With the Senate currently split between 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats, this year the GOP has 23 seats to defend to only 12 for Democrats. It’s a plausible bet that Democrats come out of November’s election with either 48 or 49 seats in the Senate, a net gain of one or two. But another seat-or-two gain for Democrats and a majority is distinctly possible, particularly if college-educated suburban women are on fire for Democrats the way they were in 2018. The current generic congressional ballot test, a rough measure of what direction the political winds are blowing and whether the velocity is light, moderate, or heavy, shows Democrats ahead by about the same margin as they were in 2018…Two years from now in 2022, the GOP is playing more defense again. They’ll have 22 senators up for reelection to a dozen for Democrats. It isn’t until 2024 that the shoe is on the other foot, when Democrats will have 21 seats up to Republicans’ 10, pending the winners of this year’s special elections in Georgia and Arizona.”

In his article, “Sanders and the Senate” at Sabato’s Crystal Ball, Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman observe, “Bernie Sanders may be a poorer fit for the Democrats’ Senate targets than some other Democratic contenders if he wins the nomination…There are two Senate rating changes this week: Colorado moves from Toss-up to Leans Democratic, while Alabama moves from Leans Republican to Likely Republican…Republicans remain favored to hold the majority.”

Table 2: Biden and Sanders vs. Trump in RCP polling average

Note: States in bold also have a Senate race this year (or two Senate races, in the case of Georgia).

Source: RealClearPolitics as of the afternoon of Wednesday, Feb. 19.

From E. J. Dionne, Jr.’s column, “Why Trump is gloating about Nevada” in The Washington Post: “The Vermont senator’s sweep of Nevada’s caucuses on Saturday is no proof he can win in November. But it does reveal a campaign that can back what for many voters is a trusted brand with the political machinery to close the sale…While Sanders’ more moderate opponents wring their hands over what to do next, they might consider that Sanders built this brand in part through a series of specific promises: single-payer health care, free college, a Green New Deal, universal child care and much more…Sanders may not have explained in detail how he’d pay for all this, let alone, as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) pointed out on Saturday night, how he’d shepherd it through Congress. But Sanders understands the hunger for very specific forms of relief within a significant part of the Democratic electorate, particularly the young who suffered most from the fallout of the Great Recession.”

Dionne notes further, “Because so many Latinos think of themselves as moderates or conservatives — roughly 40 percent of them labeled themselves this way in Nevada, according to the Edison Entrance Poll — their strong support for expansive government programs and economic progressivism is often ignored. Sanders never made that mistake. He thus carried even self-described moderate and conservative Latinos by better than 2-to-1…A key test for Sanders will come on Super Tuesday in Texas, where Latinos rejected him in 2016 for Clinton. But here is the dilemma for the divided moderates: Roughly two-thirds of Nevada caucus-goers said their priority was to find a candidate who could beat Trump, and Sanders received less than a quarter of their preferences. But the rest of that beat-Trump-above-all crowd was relatively evenly scattered across the candidacies of Biden, Buttigieg, and then Warren and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)…Sanders is beating them all because they are all beating each other.”

In his New York Times column, Thomas B. Edsall writes, “Thomas Mann, a senior fellow at Brookings and the author, with Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, of the book “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism,” was blunt in his assessment of the broad contemporary political environment. ‘Partisan polarization has become hard-wired in the American political system and is likely to be with us for the foreseeable future. Our constitutional system is not well matched with our current party system. Partisan asymmetry makes it even worse. The GOP has radicalized into an anti-system party that does not accept the legitimacy of its opposition and enables a slide toward autocracy. Very dangerous times for American democracy.'”

Edsall adds, “It is an environment in which negative campaigning, on TV and on social media, has become the instrument of choice, not a tool, but the beating heart of political partisanship…Two political scientists, Gaurav Sood and Shanto Iyengar, describe this shift to antagonistic campaigning in “Coming to Dislike Your Opponents: The Polarizing Impact of Political Campaigns”…’Negative ads are especially effective in increasing partisan affect. A strong negativity bias influences information processing, making people more likely to attend to negative rather than positive appeals.'”…Sood and Iyengar see the use of divisive campaign tactics increasing in the future: ‘It is likely that as a consequence of the data revolution, and burgeoning social scientific research, campaigns will learn to target individuals better, and will be able to deliver more “potent” messages to them.'”

“Nonvoters lean slightly Democratic overall, but they favor President Trump in some key states,” Dhrumil Mehta writes at FiveThirtyEight.The poll also asked nonvoters who they would vote for if they were to vote, and found they were almost evenly split — 33 percent say they would vote for the Democratic nominee, 30 percent say they would vote for Trump and 18 percent say they would vote for someone else. However, this breakdown varied quite a bit in battleground states, which Knight sampled heavily. Nevada’s “chronic nonvoters,”1 for example, split evenly, but those in Pennsylvania and Florida skewed heavily toward Trump while those in Georgia would skew Democratic if they all voted.”

At medium.com Dr. Karin Temerius, a former psychiatrist, who is interested in political attitude change, probes how to “Flip Trump Voters the Easy Way: Leverage existing ambivalence with a few simple questions.” Temerius is more interested in peer to peer persuasion here than mass communications in a political campaign. Among her insights: “Most people are as ambivalent about politics as they are about changing bad habits. Even hardcore Trumpers will admit there are things they don’t like about the President — his use of Twitter, his disrespect of members of the military, his indifference to the ballooning national debt. But when they get into a conversation with a Trump opponent, they usually spend all their time thinking and talking about the ways in which Trump is great. As a result, they are likely to emerge from a transpartisan dialogue supporting the President even more strongly than they did before…So, how do we get people thinking and talking about what’s wrong with Trump instead of what they think is right?” She suggests “Use the commitment scale: On a scale from 0 to 10, with 0 being not at all and 10 being more than any other president ever, how strong is your support for President Trump?” It’s not easy to get a political conversation to this point, but if you can, “Then, when they answer, resist the urge to ask them what it is that they find so appealing about the President. (Trust me, that impulse will be strong and you will have to resist it.) Instead, nurture their ambivalence and support the part of them that wants to change with this response…When I use this approach with Trump supporters I am often shocked by how many aspects of the President they dislike. Things that — if I’d mentioned them in the form of an argument — would have triggered resistance and an unflinching defense of everything Trump stands for…As the French polymath Blaise Pascal once wrote, “People are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others.” The key to MI is giving people incentive and space to discover their own reasons for change rather than their reasons for staying the same.”


Combative Democratic Debaters Are Nothing Like 2016’s Republicans

There was a lot of Republican crowing about Democrats in Disarray after the February 19 Democratic candidate debate in Las Vegas. So at New York I offered a reminder of what real fighting looked like:

It’s probably a good time to remind everyone that last night’s battle in Vegas pales in comparison to the regular spectacle of insults, eye gouging, and kneecapping that characterized many of the 2016 Republican debates. Yes, Bloomberg got taken down a few notches as Elizabeth Warren showed why she got a debate scholarship for college. But it was nothing like the incredible disrespect and downright hatred expressed toward Trump by his 2016 rivals, which (unlike Bloomberg last night) he reciprocated in full, giving us all a preview of the depths to which he would plunge presidential communications.

“On the debate stage, Trump stretched his hands out for the audience to see — then insisted the suggestion that ‘something else must be small’ was false.

“’I guarantee you there’s no problem,’ Trump said to howls from the audience at the Fox debate.”

Then there was the endless insultfest between Trump and Ted Cruz, which extended beyond the debate season when “Lyin’ Ted” (Trump’s nickname for the senator) refused to endorse the nominee at the Republican convention (likely because of Trump’s bizarre, outrageous suggestion that Cruz’s father might have been involved in the JFK assassination).

And how about the endless war of contemptuous words Trump aimed at “low-energy” Jeb Bush and the two former presidents in his family? It all finally provoked the normally pacific Jebbie to fire back:

“Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida blasted Donald J. Trump for insulting the Bush family and ridiculed the idea that Mr. Trump could be commander-in-chief during a contentious and sometimes nasty Republican presidential debate in Greenville, S.C., on Saturday, a week before a crucial primary in the state.

“With Mr. Trump leading in the polls in South Carolina and elsewhere after his victory in the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday, he was a ripe target for his Republican rivals, especially Mr. Bush and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who are under intense pressure to halt his political momentum. But the vitriol was so intense that it seemed to surprise even Mr. Trump, a combative figure who had not been so roundly pummeled at a debate before.”

Were you impressed by Warren’s challenge to Bloomberg’s reputation for sexism? Well, its direct predecessor in presidential politics was Carly Fiorina’s angry rebuke of Trump during a September 2015 debate for insulting her appearance and treating it as a disqualifier.

To be clear, the 2016 Republican combat didn’t always require Trump to be a direct participant. Rubio and Cruz regularly took nasty personal shots at each other over the authenticity of their relative positioning on immigration policy. And one of the nomination contest’s key moments occurred in a debate just prior to the New Hampshire primary, when Chris Christie took down putative front-runner Rubio effectively and remorselessly:

“Christie, in the worst condition of any of the establishment challengers, in fifth place in the polls and with no obvious path to the nomination, landed the strongest blows on Rubio we’ve seen yet. Worse yet, Rubio responded to a pounding from Christie for being a paper-thin senator with no accomplishments by playing the part to a T: robotically repeating talking points even as the New Jersey governor mocked him for robotically repeating talking points.”

Now, in the end, all these Trump rivals other than Bush (Fiorina had withdrawn her endorsement of the nominee after the Access Hollywood video confirmed his arrogant piggishness) clamored onboard his foul-smelling bandwagon, and Rubio and Cruz are administration toadies in the Senate. And most obviously, in 2016 Republicans won the White House and both Houses of Congress despite all the discord. So I wouldn’t write off Democratic prospects this November simply because the candidates gambled a bit on aggressiveness in Las Vegas.


Teixeira: On Trump’s Approval Rating

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

Is Trump’s Approval Rating Really Going Up?

I’ve written about this before but there are reasons to be skeptical that his remarkably stable approval ratings are suddenly headed upwards. The excellent G. Elliott Morris explains in The Economist.

“[E]ven after correcting for demographic biases, pollsters’ data can still be unrepresentative. They may have the right shares of Latino voters and boomers, but nevertheless have too many Republicans or Democrats. This concern is pronounced when an event causes especially good, or bad, news for a political party. At such times surveys can suddenly be swamped with partisans who are eager to voice their love, or hate, for the president.

In the wake of Mr Trump’s acquittal in the Senate, pollsters suspect that such a bias could be affecting polls. Courtney Kennedy, the director for survey research at the Pew Research Centre, says that there is a “strong possibility” that the recent uptick in Mr Trump’s ratings has a wave of optimistic Republicans as its source. She says that outlets can control this problem by adjusting their data to have the correct shares of Democratic- and Republican-leaning voters, but the idea is relatively new and few pollsters have data good enough to perform such corrections.

The Economist’s analysis of polls taken during Mr Trump’s impeachment proceedings affirms Ms Kennedy’s suspicion. In polls that weight their data to represent America’s partisan balance or the results of the 2016 election, the share of adults who approve of Mr Trump’s job as president has risen by half a percentage point since impeachment proceedings began in earnest last October. But in polls that do not, Mr Trump’s ratings have increased by over three percentage points.”

Now if we only had a candidate who could take advantage of the fact that Trump is still really, really unpopular and likely to remain so….


Teixeira: What If Everyone Voted? Be Careful What You Wish For!

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

I’ve questioned the wonder-working powers of high voter turnout before but, shockingly, not everyone has agreed. But here is some more evidence undercutting the more-turnout-will-solve-everything thesis from a massive study by the Knight Foundation.

There’s a great deal in their report, including a very interesting typology of nonvoters, both their characteristics and reasons for not voting, which suggest a complex phenomenon not reducible to voter suppression and/or insufficiently radical candidates.

But, regardless of motivation,what if all those nonvoters really did vote? Surely the Democrats would kick Trump’s ass back to Mar-a-Lago for good. Sorry, it’s not that simple, as the chart of key swing states below shows. Democrats would benefit some in the national popular vote but wouldn’t be helped sufficiently in the Electoral College to take Trump out.

If this doesn’t make you question the turnout mythology currently popular in Sanders wing of the Democratic party, I don’t know what will.


A Close Look at Trump’s Rising Job Approval Ratings

After neurotically avoiding the topic for a two days, I buckled down at New York to consider POTUS’s significantly improving job approval numbers and what they might mean.

One of the stone verities of national life over the last three years, right up there with regular California wildfires and a dysfunctional Congress, has been the stability of Donald J. Trump’s job-approval assessments by the public. Yes, they sometimes went up well into the low 40s, and sometimes went down into the mid-to-high 30s, depending mostly on the presence or absence of conspicuously bizarre and destructive Trump behavior. But as Geoffrey Skelley noted in March last year, Trump has stood out from past presidents in this respect:

“Trump’s approval rating has the least variation of any post–World War II president. Granted, Trump hasn’t yet served a full term, but changes in his approval rating have been remarkably small.”

That may be changing, and at the perfect time for Trump. His average job-approval rating according to RealClearPolitics had but rarely drifted just above 45 percent since Inauguration Day. Today, it stands at 46 percent. And you can’t blame that on some unusual mix of pro-Trump surveys like Rasmussen or The Hill–HarrisX. The venerable Gallup Poll has for two straight months placed the president’s job-approval number at 49 percent, far above his average Gallup rating of 40 percent over the course of his presidency.

RCP does not weigh job-approval polls for reliability and partisan bias, so sometimes its numbers are suspect. But FiveThirtyEight conducts multiple adjustments to boost accuracy, and its job-approval ratings for Trump are also spiking in the direction of previously unreached levels. It’s at 44.3 percent utilizing all polls, and at 45.9 percent if you limit the sample to those of registered voters or likely voters (as opposed to “all adults”). Both these numbers are highs for Trump since early 2017.

The comparison to which some observers leap is, ironically, Barack Obama, whose job-approval rating also began to drift upward just before he faced voters for a second time in 2012. A year out, his job-approval rating was at 43 percent (per Gallup), much where Trump’s was in November 2019. By Election Day 2012, it was up to 52 percent, and he won 51 percent of the popular vote.

The most commonly cited explanation for why Trump’s approval rating might be spiking, of course, is that Greatest Economy Ever he keeps boasting about. Multiple public-opinion outlets are reporting that optimism about the economy is on the rise, and, along with it, confidence in Trump’s stewardship of the economy (despite the lack of evidence that his policies have much to do with the steady job growth that began when Obama was in office).

But Trump’s overall job-approval rating — by all accounts the measurement most closely associated with reelection prospects — has long lagged the positive economic numbers. Indeed, Ron Brownstein has capably shown that the key to his reelection or defeat may be a group of voters who basically can’t stand Trump personally, but like the economy for which he claims all credit. Is anything happening with the economy now that should flip these voters into enthusiasm for the president? Or is something else going on?

Another theory is that Trump’s impeachment and acquittal has revved up his MAGA base to a level of excitement associated with some sort of massive social movement, boosting the likelihood that his fans will show up in November to a near certainty as they seek to consummate the destruction of POTUS’ evil persecutors. And in that explanation lies the possibility of some distortion in the polling, since people excited about their politics are more likely to respond to polls to a degree that doesn’t necessarily correspond to higher voting turnout. There’s even a hint of that in the Gallup data that looks so good for Trump:

“Gallup has observed an increase in the percentage of Americans identifying as Republicans (32% in the past two surveys, up from 28% in the prior two surveys), along with a decline in the percentage identifying as independents (41%, down from 43%) and Democrats (27%, down from 28%).”

So are Americans drifting into the Republican Party with its agenda of “entitlement reform,” militarism, nativism, climate-change denial, and unlimited presidential authority? Or are Trump’s bravos just skewing response rates?

It’s too early to know. For one thing, Trump has a habit of stepping on his best reelection messages with destructive behavior, such as his decision to throw a temper tantrum in late 2018 over border-wall money and shut down the federal government, which temporarily tanked his approval ratings. His sense of liberation in surviving impeachment could lead him to do really stupid things; would-be tyrants tend that way. But without question, he’s in better shape from the point of view of basic popularity than he has been for big stretches of his presidency, and if his numbers do improve, he may need to worry about his arrogance breeding complacency and overconfidence, matching Hillary Clinton’s in 2016.


Political Strategy Notes – Vegas Debate Edition

At The Daily Beast, Justin Baragona saw it this way: “Moments after former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was absolutely savaged by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in his first Democratic presidential primary debate on Wednesday night, CNN political commentator Van Jones didn’t pull back any punches in his description of the billionaire’s performance….“Listen, this was a disaster for Bloomberg,” Jones exclaimed during CNN’s post-debate coverage. “Bloomberg went in as the Titanic — billion-dollar-machine Titanic. Titanic, meet iceberg Elizabeth Warren.”…Jones went on to say that despite the stop-and-frisk issue, which Warren also hit Bloomberg on at the debate, a lot of African-American voters were “placing great hope” and “trying to move over” to the ex-mayor but he showed “he just wasn’t ready.”…“He was tone-deaf on issue after issue, and the reason why — he’s not been in those living rooms, he hasn’t been doing those town halls,” the former Obama adviser noted.”

Julia Manchester observes at The Hill: “Democratic presidential contender Pete Buttigieg swiped at progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg in his opening comments at Wednesday’s Democratic debate, saying primary voters don’t want the contest to come down to “one candidate who wants to burn this party down and another candidate who wants to buy this party out.”…“Most Americans don’t see where they fit if they’ve got to choose between a socialist who thinks that capitalism is the root of all evil and a billionaire who thinks that money should be the root of all power,” the former South Bend, Ind., mayor said at the forum, hosted by NBC News, in Las Vegas. …”Let’s put forward someone who actually lives and works in a middle-class neighborhood in an industrial, midwestern city. Let’s put forth someone who is actually a Democrat,” he continued.”

At Politico, John F. Harris notes one of Mayor Buttigieg’s more impressive responses: “We’ve got to wake up as a party,” Buttigieg implored. “We could wake up two weeks from today, the day after Super Tuesday, and the only candidates left standing will be Bernie Sanders and Mike Bloomberg, the two most polarizing figures on this stage. And most Americans don’t see where they fit if they’ve got to choose between a socialist who thinks that capitalism is the root of all evil and a billionaire who thinks that money ought to be the root of all power.”

But The Guardian’s Arwa Mahdawi was less impressed: “Pete Buttigieg’s performance was also noteworthy. The mayor may be able to read Norwegian but he can’t seem to read a room. Buttigieg’s constant attacks on Amy Klobuchar made him look like a mansplaining bully…“Mayo Pete” has been gliding through this election but I wouldn’t be surprised if more people start to find his patronizing demeanour a little hard to stomach.”

“Holy moly — what a debate for the Massachusetts senator. From the jump, Warren seemed to understand that she desperately needed a spark in the race. And she came out fighting — mostly against Bloomberg. “I’d like to talk about who we’re running against,” Warren said moments into the debate. “A billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians, and no I’m not talking about Donald Trump, I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg.” But that wasn’t even the most savage hit Warren scored on Bloomberg! That came later, when she absolutely destroyed his equivocation on whether he would release women who had worked for his company from non-disclosure agreements they had signed. It was a takedown — aided by Bloomberg’s inability to mitigate the damage — that you rarely see at this level of politics. If debates matter, Warren should overperform her current polls in Nevada.” – from Chris Cillizza at CNN Politics.

Also at The Guardian, Pulitzer Prize-winner Art Cullen also credits Warren with a great debate performance, and notes thart she “said Pete Buttigieg’s healthcare plans boiled down to a Power Point presentation and that Amy Klobuchar’s could fit on a postage stamp [actually, she said “post-it note”]. Mike Bloomberg was awful. Klobuchar was on the defensive. And the elephant in the room, Bernie Sanders, was able to point out that Medicare for All will actually save $450bn – and universal healthcare is what put him at the front of the pack in the first place. He did not appear to lose stride. Warren saw Klobuchar’s breakthrough in the New Hampshire debate. She spared no one, and savaged Bloomberg. Everyone was throwing punches but nobody hit as hard as Warren. With Super Tuesday less than two weeks away, this raucous debate was a clincher, and Warren might have saved her struggling campaign with direct appeals to minority women so important in the Nevada caususes. Joe Biden, not so much.”

If you were wondering what the protesters were screaming when Biden began responding, Time Magazine’s Madeline Carlisle reports: “As former Vice President Joe Biden prepared his closing statement at the Nevada Democratic primary debate on Wednesday night, protesters began to yell “You deported 3 million people.”…The crowed booed as protested continued to yell, and Biden began speaking again once they left the room…The undetermined number of protesters seem to be referring to to Biden’s role in the Obama administration, which deported over 3 million people…The immigrant rights organization the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, or RAICES, took credit for the protest on social media…“BREAKING: We are interrupting @JoeBiden at the #DemDebate chanting #DontLookAway and #NoKidsInCages. We need a Democratic candidate to adopt the #MigrantJusticePlatform and commit themselves to improve the lives of migrants and refugees!” they tweeted.”

Geoffrey Skelley of FiveThirtyEight saw a good night for Biden: “Biden had a good debate. Like an actual good debate, not just a relatively OK one compared to his many mediocre showings this cycle. He came into tonight needing a good performance that could produce positive headlines, and he might have done that. Thing is, I wonder if Warren’s strong showing will get the “comeback” treatment more so than Biden’s. She was involved in a number of potentially viral moments, going after Bloomberg as well as other candidates, that might have resonated more. So Biden probably did what he needed to, and now it’s just a question of how things are portrayed going forward…I liked Nathaniel’s take that Bloomberg may be making Biden look more liberal to viewers. Bloomberg is doing the dirty work of attacking Sanders from the right, so Biden doesn’t need to fill that role, which may be freeing for him. For the most part, Biden has continued to look quite sharp tonight. He fumbled a bit on the question about climate change policies, but he was arguably smart later when he didn’t take the bait when Lester Holt asked him what he thought about “socialist candidates.” Instead, he talked about his background as “the poorest man in Congress” and the fact that he thought taxes should be higher on people like Bloomberg and that, in his classic way of saying it, “the middle class is getting killed.”

As for the immediate impact of the debate, James Pindell writes at The Boston Globe: “One weird thing about this NBC/MSNBC/Nevada Independent debate was it took place after four days of early voting had already ended, which meant that an estimated 70,000 people had already participated in the state’s Democratic caucuses. For context, in 2016, when there was no early voting, an estimated 84,000 people caucused, so a candidate doing well or flopping won’t impact a huge chunk of voters…A second weird thing about this debate: Bloomberg isn’t even on a ballot for another two weeks.” The question arises, will similar attacks against Bloomberg seem stale in his next debate?


Bloomberg’s Pros, Cons and Role in 2020

Tonight’s televised debate in Nevada will be of special interest to voters who are looking for a presidential candidate who brings something new to the Democratic field. which is another way of saying that former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will pump up viewership for the event.

Bloomberg’s strengths as a candidate are impressive: He brings unprecedented financial resources to the campaign and he likes to spend it at a record pace. There will be no worries about his “burn” rate. He appears to be spending wisely, as indicated by his campaign’s extraordinary number of high-quality ads which provide the most plausible explanation for his significant bump in polls during the last month. (although lately I’ve been wondering if his ads will eventually meet the point of diminishing returns).

His wealth will also give him a top-quality staff. He will have a solid management team and campaign staff and offices everywhere it counts, good speeches, thorough research and daily briefings. He will be well-prepared tonight and ready to rumble every day.

Bloomberg also radiates confidence and focus, perhaps more than any other candidate. He really is the highly-successful, self-made business leader Trump pretends to be. This clearly scares the hell out of Trump, who also knows that Bloomberg probably has enough inside skinny on Trump’s history to do major damage.

Being a former Mayor of New York City is a pretty big deal, since the city has more people than 40 states.  In terms of hands-on experience, Bloomberg has managed more budget dollars than all of his opponents.

Bloomberg will get lots of populist flack tonight for being a billionaire and for trying to ‘buy it.’  He will also get a lot of heat for comments he has allegedly made about women and people of color. Recordings of any such comments will have more impact than hearsay.

He will also be held to account for some of his policies as mayor, including ‘stop and frisk.’ This will be a test of how well he handles intense criticism, the sincerity of his apologies and how convincingly he articulates his capacity for positive change. His admirable support for gun safety reforms may end up hurting his campaign in key swing states.

Bloomberg’s most significant liabilities include his inexperience in connecting with working-class voters. As Harold Meyerson observed in the L. A. Times,

It’s hard to imagine a Democrat less able to win working-class votes — those of young black and Latino workers, and those of the white workers who swung the 2016 election to Trump. Minority voters are unlikely to look kindly on his mayoral record: intensifying stop-and-frisk, vetoing legislation that banned predatory lenders from doing business with the city, and opposing city legislation to raise the living wage. Now that he’s running for president he says he backs a minimum wage hike, but in 2014, he told Fox News, “I’ve always thought that this impetus to raise the minimum wage is one of the most misguided things we can do.”

For those white workers who pushed Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania into Trump’s column, Bloomberg is the personification of everything they can’t abide. On one hand, he’s perhaps America’s biggest-spending proponent of gun control and a prominent advocate for other socially liberal positions — those the right denigrates as heralding “the nanny state.”

Many white working-class voters gave Trump the benefit of the doubt in 2016, but it’s unclear if that pass is still good in 2020. There is also the thorny issue of globalized trade policy, which provides some ammo for Bloomberg’s opponents. As Meyerson notes, “he’s been a constant advocate for deepening economic globalization, for the very trade deals many American workers believed decimated manufacturing here. To this very day, he remains, with Henry Kissinger, the American public figure most supportive of the Chinese regime.” Further,

In each of the past two years, his company (Bloomberg LP) has hosted a conference highlighting China’s growing and indispensable role in the new world economy, and last year, the gathering was held in Beijing. Bloomberg has defended the Chinese Communist Party as quasi-democratic (“they listen to the public”) and when asked whether President Xi Jinping is a dictator, answered, “No, he has a constituency to answer to.”

Bloomberg’s interest in China is also financial. As Josh Rogin has reported in the Washington Post, Bloomberg LP doesn’t only sell its terminals there, but through the Bloomberg Barclays Global Aggregate Bond Index, it enables U.S. investors to buy Chinese bonds. Last year, Rogin noted, “the index began a 20-month plan to support 364 Chinese firms by directing an estimated $150 billion into their bond offerings, including 159 [companies] controlled directly by the Chinese government…This is the same government that subsidizes its steel industry, allowing it to undersell the American steel industry with devastating effect. It has done the same with solar panels, at a time the U.S. industry was gearing up…It’s Bloomberg, not Bernie, who’s the Manchurian candidate.”

It’s going to take some fancy footwork for Bloomberg to sidestep this minefield. How he handles this issue may determine his viability as a candidate.

Bloomberg will also take some heat for being a ‘Johnny-come-lately’ Democrat. But this hasn’t hurt Sen. Sanders much. Indeed, with the rising share of voters who self-i.d. as “independent,” it may be an asset for Bloomberg’s campaign.

All of this considered, Bloomberg may not have the right combination of assets needed to capture the Democratic nomination. But rest assured that he is all-in, if the trajectory of his career thus far is any indication. He will bring the fight to his adversaries, as well as Trump.

Meanwhile, Dems can take some comfort that Bloomberg has pledged to support the Democratic nominee after the convention, and hopefully that means financially, as well as verbally. And if his support extends generously to Democratic senate candidates, he may have a pivotal role in securing the 4 or more U.S. Senate pick-ups we need to prevent catastrophic Republican damage to the nation, regardless of who wins the White House. Whether he wins or loses the Democratic nomination, Bloomberg may have an historic contribution to make in redeeming our democracy.


Teixeira: No, radical policies won’t drive election-winning turnout

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

No myth is stronger in progressive circles than the magical, wonderworking powers of voter turnout. It’s become a sort of pixie dust that you sprinkle over your strenuously progressive positions to ward off any suggestion that they might turn off voters. That is how Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), now the Democratic presidential front-runner, has dealt with criticism that his more unpopular stances — including eliminating private health insurance, decriminalizing the border and covering undocumented immigrants in a government health plan — might cost him the votes he needs to beat President Trump.

Sanders’s explanation of why this is not a problem is simple, and he has repeated it endlessly. When a member of the Los Angeles Times editorial board asked him whether “a candidate as far to the left as you” would “alienate swing voters and moderates and independents,” the senator replied: “The only way that you beat Trump is by having an unprecedented campaign, an unprecedentedly large voter turnout.” Faiz Shakir, Sanders’s campaign manager, adds: “Bernie Sanders has very unique appeal amongst [the younger] generation and can inspire, I think, a bunch of them to vote in percentages that they have never voted before.”

This has remarkably little empirical support. Take the 2018 midterm elections, in which the Democrats took back the House (a net 40-seat gain), carried the House popular vote by almost nine points and flipped seven Republican-held governorships. Turnout in that election was outstanding, topping 49 percent — the highest midterm turnout since 1914 and up 13 points over the previous midterm, in 2014 — and the demographic composition of the electorate came remarkably close to that of a presidential election year. (Typically, midterm voters tend to be much older and much whiter than those in presidential elections.) This was due both to fewer presidential “drop-off” voters (people who voted in 2016 but not 2018) and to more midterm “surge” voters (those who voted in 2018 but not 2016).

Nonetheless, the overwhelming majority of the Democrats’ improved performance came not from fresh turnout of left-of-center voters, who typically skip midterms, but rather from people who cast votes in both elections — yet switched from Republican in 2016 to Democratic in 2018. The data firm Catalist, whose numbers on 2018 are the best available, estimates that 89 percent of the Democrats’ improved performance came from persuasion — from vote-switchers — not turnout. In its analysis, Catalist notes, “If turnout was the only factor, then Democrats would not have seen nearly the gains that they ended up seeing … a big piece of Democratic victory was due to 2016 Trump voters turning around and voting for Democrats in 2018.”

Crucially, Democrats in 2018, especially the successful ones, did not run on particularly radical programs but rather on opposition to Trump himself, and to unpopular GOP actions on economic policy and health care (tax cuts for the rich and efforts to repeal Obamacare’s protections, for example). In the end, the 2018 results do not support Sanders’s theories — not the central importance of high turnout, nor the supposed non-importance of changing mainstream voters’ minds, nor the most effective issues to run on.

Or take 2016. Many pundits, including Steve Phillips of Democracy in Color, have suggested that Hillary Clinton failed to inspire core Democratic voters — notably African Americans — and that a more progressive candidate would have done so (and won). “The Democratic Party’s fixation on pursuing those who voted for Mr. Trump is a fool’s errand,” Phillips wrote. But an analysis using data from the States of Change project, sponsored by, among others, the Brookings Institution and the Center for American Progress, indicates that, even if black turnout in the 2016 election had matched that of 2012 (it dropped from 62 to 57 percent), Clinton would have still lost. On the other hand, if she had managed to reduce her losses among white noncollege voters by a mere one-quarter, she’d be president today. That’s an issue of persuasion, not turnout.

What’s more, States of Change data does not suggest that youth turnout, which Sanders promises to increase so significantly, was a particular Democratic problem in 2016. In fact, young voters (ages 18 to 29) increased their turnout more than any other age group in that election, from 42 percent in 2012 to 44 percent in 2016. They also increased — if only slightly — their margin of support for the Democratic candidate. In 2016, the age cohort that really killed Democrats was voters ages 45 to 64, who had split evenly in 2012 but leaned Republican by six percentage points four years later. Sanders’s bouquet of unpopular positions hardly seems likely to help the Democrats make up ground among these voters.

But perhaps 2020 will be different if a Sanders candidacy can truly catalyze massive turnout. Then Democrats won’t have to worry about persuading Obama-Trump voters or anyone else in the “swing” category. Wrong!

As Nate Cohn of the New York Times has noted after scrutinizing the data, it’s a mistake to assume that Democrats would benefit disproportionately from high turnout. Trump is particularly strong among white noncollege voters, who dominate the pool of nonvoters in many areas of the country, including in key Rust Belt states. If the 2020 election indeed has historically high turnout, as many analysts expect, that spike could include many of these white noncollege voters in addition to Democratic-leaning constituencies such as nonwhites and young voters. The result could be an increase in Democrats’ popular-vote total — and another loss in the electoral college.

This analysis shreds an implicit assumption of Sanders and other members of the turnout-will-solve-everything crowd: that if they polarize the election by highlighting progressive issues, “their” nonvoters will show up at the polls, but none of the nonvoters from the other side will. That view is also contradicted by many political science studies. Stanford political scientists Andrew Hall and Daniel Thompson, for example, studied House races between 2006 and 2014 and found that highly ideological candidates who beat moderates for a party nomination indeed increased turnout in their own party in the general election — but they increased the opposition turnout even more. (The difference was between three and eight percentage points.) Apparently, their extreme political stances did more to turn out the other side to vote against them than to turn out their own side to vote for them.

The turnout equation does not necessarily return positive results for a candidate like Sanders. The reverse is more likely. It is truly magical thinking to believe that, in a highly polarized situation, only your side gets to increase turnout. And if the other side turns out in droves, you might not like the results — a warning Democrats would be wise to heed.


Metzgar: How Polarized Are We?

The following article by Jack Metzgar, is cross-posted from Working-class Perspectives:

When I talk with relatives who are not only Trump voters but Trump enthusiasts, I feel pretty damned polarized – especially when I lose my temper and find myself saying some of the things my tribe often hatefully says about theirs.  But as long as we don’t talk about abortion or gun control and tippy-toe carefully around immigration, we share a lot of common ground on a wide range of economic justice issues.  This broad agreement is reflected in survey research that almost never gets reported in the mainstream media.

Worse, that media seems completely unaware of any common ground.

One night during the impeachment trial coverage on MSNBC, for example, as the talking heads were marveling at polling results that showed more than 70% of people supported Democrats’ demands for new evidence and witnesses, Brian Williams quipped that this was astounding in a country that can’t agree that today is Thursday and tomorrow will be Friday.

The polarization around Trump is real, both intellectually and emotionally, but there are a whole bunch of people – not just the Russians and Trump – who have vested interests in keeping us ignorant of how much we agree with each other on economic justice.  It is, in fact, not at all unusual for some 70% of Americans to agree on:

  • Reducing inequality by creating a 2% wealth tax (70%)
  • Reducing poverty by “ensuring that all families have access to basic living standards such as health care, food, and housing if their wages are too low.” (72%)
  • Creating good jobs by “investing $1 trillion in our nation’s infrastructure, including . . . expanded production of clean energy.” (78%)
  • Capping prices on prescription drugs (81%), and
  • Allowing “people who don’t get health insurance through their employer to buy health insurance from a public plan.” (81%)


Political Strategy Notes

In his post, “Dems Should Temper Their disappointments” at The Cook Political Report, Charlie Cook shares a more hopeful perspective on the Iowa caucuses turnout:  “Washington Post columnist Karen Tumulty, whom I think very highly of, wrote the other day that Democrats “should worry” about the “mediocre” turnout at the Iowa caucuses, it being roughly the same as the 170,000 who attended in 2016 but far less than the 240,000 from 2008, when Barack Obama won. Another word for the turnout might have been “normal.” We shouldn’t use as a baseline for comparison a caucus that had unprecedented turnout, featuring not only an electric candidate like Obama, but also Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, in a three-way photo finish instead of the two-way this year between Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg.”

“Face it, Democrats,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes in his Washington Post column, “You are the diverse party and Republicans are the homogeneous party. Democrats include moderates and the left; Republicans are almost uniformly conservative. Among their elected officials, Democrats are the party of racial and gender diversity; Republicans aren’t. In the House, 37.9 percent of Democratic members are women, and 36.6 percent are African American or Latino. The numbers for the GOP: 6.6 percent women, 3.6 percent black or Latino.”

From Ruy Teixeira’s blog, The Optimistic Leftist: “Meanwhile, In Wisconsin – In the most recent Marquette Law School Wisconsin poll, Biden, who has been running the strongest of tested candidates in the state, was up on Trump by 4 points. That’s better than the December poll (a one point advantage) and the November poll (3 point deficit)…What’s Trump’s Achilles’ Heel in the state? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: white noncollege women. In a recent Global Strategy Group study, Trump’s net approval was +28 among white noncollege men and -2 among white noncollege women. Wow. That’s a really big difference. Leverage that difference and the Democratic candidate wins the state.”

Perry Bacon, Jr. notes in “Other Polling Nuggets” at FiveThirtyEight that “Only 45 percent of Americans say they will vote for a “‘well-qualified” candidate who is a socialist, according to new Gallup polling. More Americans say they would vote for a candidate who is an atheist (60 percent), a Muslim (66 percent), over the age of 70 (69), under 40 (70), gay or lesbian (78), an evangelical Christian (80), a woman (93), Jewish (93), Hispanic (94), Catholic (95) or black (96.)”

However, Jason Sattler contends that “Moderate Democrats have a duty to consider Sanders. He has a clear path to beating Trump.” Subtitled “Bernie Sanders isn’t even my favorite senator running for the 2020 nomination. But I see his potential to unite the Democratic Party and oust Trump,” Sattler’s article explains that “If you believe in saving democracy, the courts and the planet, and reversing the unrepentant cruelty, corruption and carelessness that define the current administration, you have a duty to at least consider the candidacy of the most popular senator in America, the top fundraiser in the Democratic primaries, and the man who has generally beaten Trump in head-to-head polls for five years now…Sure, you can’t ignore a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that shows “socialism” — half of Sanders’ “democratic socialist” brand — about as unpopular as capitalism is popular. Conventional wisdom suggests Republicans would love to run against a socialist as the stock market continually hits new highs, raising all boats that happen to float on a sea of 401(k)s…

“Establishment Democrats seem to live in terror of reliving the 1972 presidential election, when a triangulating Richard Nixon crushed lefty George McGovern,” writes Sattler. “But two much more recent nightmares — 2000 and 2016 — are far more instructive. When Democrats fail to bring their left-most flank into the fold, Republicans are able to swipe elections…Beyond his ability to woo the party’s most reluctant supporters, the best case for the strength of Sanders’ candidacy is that pretty much every argument against him ends up pointing to why he might be uniquely electable…Claims that “nobody likes him” in Washington, or that he can’t overcome his socialist branding, ignore what sets him apart from others. Brian Fallon, former spokesperson for the Hillary Clinton campaign, calls it an “authenticity factor.” …Bernie may be a lot of things, but he’s no one’s idea of a Capitol Hill slick…Yes, Sanders is not a Democrat. Neither are most voters. Independent is the most popular party affiliation in America by far.”

But Sanders is in 4th place in the largest swing state, as indicated by a recent Florida poll. As Max Greenwood reports at The Hill, “Michael Bloomberg is leading the pack of Democratic presidential hopefuls in Florida, according to a new survey from St. Pete Polls, a sign that the former New York City mayor has picked up traction in a crucial swing state before most of his rivals have even started to campaign there…The poll shows Bloomberg with 27.3 percent support in the Sunshine State, up 10 points from a similar poll released late last month. Biden, meanwhile, has seen his support in Florida plummet, falling from more than 41 percent in January to 25.9 percent this month…Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are jockeying for third place in the state, notching 10.5 percent and 10.4 percent respectively, while Sen. Amy Klobuchar sits in fifth with 8.6 percent support.”

At Vox Recode, Theodore Schleifer reports that “Furious Oracle employees are demanding that Larry Ellison cancel his Trump fundraiser,” and writes, “Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison’s decision to host a fundraiser for Donald Trump next week has awoken the usually passive workforce at his company, angering some employees who are going public with their disgust over Ellison’s actions…Ellison, the fifth-richest person in the US, surprised the tech industry on Wednesday when news broke that he would host Trump for a golf-filled fundraiser at his estate in California’s Coachella Valley next week. The event is, by far, the most significant public display of support for Trump 2020 by a tech titan…It is not as though Ellison’s support for Republicans is a total shock. Oracle has been one of the Silicon Valley giants that has worked hardest to cultivate ties to the Trump administration. Other tech giants have tried to keep at least some distance from the administration, but Oracle CEO Safra Catz has reportedly been under consideration to take senior roles within the White House, and she has hired several former senior Trump aides at Oracle.” The company’s products include database software and technology, cloud engineered systems, and enterprise software.

Ryan Fan’s medium.com post “How to Make Trump Supporters Change Their Minds” has some painfully-satirical ‘instructions’ for Democrats, which amplify James Carville’s recent comment about too many Dems emitting superiority “vapors.” Here’s a sample: “First, make sure to let Trump supporters know how stupid they are. Pull up a study that says educated people, like yourself, are less likely to support Trump to prove your point. Then, flaunt how much smarter you are than they are. Let them know they’re deplorables, and that if they lost their jobs or are going to lose their healthcare, they deserve it — especially the white working class…Let them know, verbatim, what John Oliver said last night, and then pat yourself in the back for being so funny and original. Ridicule them — that’s always the best tactic. Make sure to destroy them for reading fake news like Breitbart and Fox News, and then brag about how you read credible sources like The Huffington Post. Make sure to show them articles from The Borowitz Report, and then say “look at how ridiculous your President is.”…Let them know they’re on the wrong side of history. If they say something remotely racist, make sure to announce it to the world so no one can forget how much they deserve to be shunned. Attack anyone else that dares defend them as racist as well, and smirk at what a phenomenal debater you are.”