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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

June 3, 2020

Trump May Be Blowing It With Seniors

The strength Joe Biden has been exhibiting among seniors is fascinating and potentially important, and I wrote about a new wrinkle in the story at New York:

Two of the political data points that currently spell bad news for Donald Trump are steadily worsening public assessments of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and Joe Biden’s strong position among voters over 65, who have leaned Republican in every presidential election since 1996. Since the elderly as a whole are more vulnerable than younger cohorts to a lethal dose of COVID-19 and since Trump at first minimized the threat and later expressed impatience with measures to arrest it, the obvious question is whether the one poll finding has anything to do with the other. Is Trump losing older voters because he seems callous toward their fears?

Morning Consult definitely has evidence that seniors are souring on Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, particularly now that he’s fretting so much over the economy:

“By a nearly 6-to-1 margin, people ages 65 and older say it’s more important for the government to address the spread of coronavirus than it is to focus on economic goals. And as President Donald Trump increasingly signals interest in prioritizing the economy, America’s senior citizens are growing critical of his approach.

“In mid-March, this group approved of Trump’s handling of the outbreak at a higher rate than any other age group, with a net approval of +19. A month later, that level of support has dropped 20 points and is now lower than that of any age group other than 18-29-year-olds.”

Similarly, Quinnipiac shows seniors approving of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus by a 48/45 margin in early March but disapproving by a 52/45 margin in early April. Quinnipiac also shows Biden’s lead among seniors swelling from 49/46 in March to 54/41 in April, even though the Democrat’s overall lead drops from 11 to eight points.

But any way you slice it, Trump is playing with fire in promoting a megastrategy for the pandemic that appears to make the safety of seniors a secondary concern, even as he agitates against allowing the robust voting-by-mail options that might make seniors feel safer in voting. His party needs to win seniors and needs them to vote at their typically high levels. It’s possible Biden’s success in polling of older voters reflects these specific concerns about Trump or simply a tendency to embrace a less erratic and more empathetic leader at a time of maximum insecurity. But it could be Uncle Joe’s ace in the hole.


Political Strategy Notes

On his Facebook page, Ruy Teixeira comments on “The Single Most Important Stat from the New NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll,” and notes, “In this poll, Biden leads Trump by 7 points. But the most interesting finding is Biden’s support among those who are not favorable toward either him or Trump. In 2016, Trump carried those unfavorable toward both him and Clinton by 17 points. This time ’round Biden is carrying those who don’t like either him or Trump by 50 points. 50 points! I would characterize this as a good sign.”

A hard-hitting new Biden for President ad:

“President Trump has chosen his pandemic re-election strategy,” Thomas B. Edsall writes at The New York Times. “He is set on unifying and reinvigorating the groups that were crucial to his 2016 victory: racially resentful whites, evangelical Christians, gun activists, anti-vaxxers and wealthy conservatives…Tying his re-election to the growing anti-lockdown movement, Trump is encouraging a resurgence of what Ed Kilgore, in New York magazine, calls “the angry anti-government strain of right-wing political activity that broke out in the tea-party movement” — a movement now focused on ending the virus-imposed restrictions on many aspects of American life…Steve Schmidt — a former Republican consultant and prominent Never Trumper who served as a senior adviser to John McCain’s 2008 presidential bid — described the shape he saw Trump’s 2020 re-election drive taking. As the “administration continues to lie, fumble and flounder,” Schmidt wrote in an April 17 Twitter thread,..”get ready for the noxious blend of Confederate flags, semiautomatic weaponry, conspiracy theorists, political cultists, extremists and nut jobs coming to a state Capitol near you.”

If you were wondering “What Would Virtual Democratic And Republican Conventions Mean For The 2020 Presidential Race?,” A FiveThirtyEight chat surveys the possibilities, including this observation by Nathaniel Rakich : “Sabato’s Crystal Ball had a great article the other day on this and how remote conventions could work. I recommend reading the whole thing, but the TLDR version is that the four important formalities that a convention must address — certifying delegates, approving the convention rules, electing convention officers and, of course, nominating the presidential and vice-presidential candidates — could all be done remotely but will require lots of advance planning…As for the glitzy, self-promoting elements … I think that’s more of an open question.” Julia Azari says, “It’s a really tricky question in some ways. Conventions are kind of a holdover from a past era when delegates reallypicked the nominee, but the transition from “conventions as real events” to “conventions as infomercials” has been kind of messy and slow…Geoffrey Skelley notes, “It’s tough to say what the impact might be, but I can see why the parties don’t want to go virtual if they don’t have to. There’s potentially less coverage of the event and less of a chance to get their message across.”

Another good Biden ad, this one from The Lincoln Project, an oganization of anti-Trump Republicans, including Steve Schmidt, George Conway and Rick Wilson:

From “Biden Quiet on Nationwide Vote by Mail. That’s on Purpose” by Scott Bixby and Hunter Woodall at The Daily Beast: “As concerns have risen about voter safety in the midst of a global pandemic, the past few weeks have seen proposed solutions put forward by voter-rights organizations, Democratic lawmakers, and almost the entirety of former Vice President Joe Biden’s short list of potential running mates…But Biden himself has held back on endorsing any particular plan for expanding access to mail-in ballots—a decision that campaign sources told The Daily Beast is by design…Last week, Sen. Kamala Harris of California introduced the “VoteSafe Act,” which would require states to permit no-excuse mail-in voting by absentee. In March, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota introduced the “Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act of 2020,” which would do the same, and reimburse states for additional costs of administering elections during the pandemic.” Biden made the right call because his endorsement would likely feed media distortion of the nonpartisan merit of voting by mail, since the need for the reform before the election is critical in light of the pandemic.

Mackenzie Zlatos spotlights “10 Republican Senators who are vulnerable to being swept out with Trump in November” at frontpagelive.com. Noting that “35 Senate seats are up for election on November 3: 12 Democrat incumbents and 23 Republican incumbents (along with two special elections),” Zlatos argues that Senate seats now occupied by the following Republicans are up for grabs: Susan Collins (ME); Martha McSally (AZ); David Perdue (GA); Joni Ernst (IA); Mitch McConnell (KY); Cindy Hyde-Smith (MS); Thom Tillis (NC); Lindsey Graham (SC); John Cornyn (TX); and Cory Gardner (CO). Zlatos provides “Why he (she) might be in trouble” nuggets for each of the GOP Senators, like this one for Tillis: “Tillis was booed while attending a Trump rally in North Carolina.”

Seth Moskowitz writes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “In order for Democrats to win an outright majority in the Senate and overcome the current 53-47 Republican split, they need to net four seats. In the case of a Senate tie, however, the vice president casts the tie-breaking vote. Given the 2020 Electoral College and Senate maps, it is difficult to imagine a plausible scenario whereby Democrats net four Senate seats but do not win the presidency and the tiebreaking power in the Senate. So three is the real magic number for Senate Democrats.” Here’s the current Senate election map, according to Sabato’s Crystal Ball:

Would you like to get election reminders via text on your cell phone? How about basic voting information for every state by hovering over an interacti ve map of the U.S. or Covid-19 voting information? Or maybe get a toolkit providing assistance for hosting a voter registration drive in your community? Or if you just want to register, check your registration status or updated poll location? You can also get “A suite of modern digital tools designed to empower organizations to drive civic action and track progress,” or take part in a “Democracy Class” with lesson plans designed to educate high schoolers about the importance of voting, local elections, the 2020 Census and other topics. All of this can be accessed through the Rock the Vote website.


Worker Safety May Be a Pivotal Concern of Voters in November

At The Nation, Jeet Heer argues that “The Coronavirus Class War Has Already Started: The combination of plutocratic bailouts and a physically endangered working class is sparking a new blue-collar militancy.” As Heer writes:

There is actually a two-pronged class war going on. Among the rich and their allies in both political parties, the crisis offers an opportunity to loot the Treasury. The stimulus packages that have passed or are being contemplated are all designed to lock in the privileged position of the existing rich, with only limited efforts made to soften the blow of the recession on the working-class majority. At the same time, blue-collar workers are expected to work in dangerous conditions with little compensation. Many of these same workers are being squeezed by furloughs, pay cuts and layoffs.

The combination of plutocratic bailouts and increasing precariousness and physical danger for the working class is an explosive one. It’s hard to see how it can last long without a breakdown of the social order.

Heer explains further, “It’s not just medical workers that are facing more precarious and dangerous workplaces. Writing in The New York Times, veteran labor reporter Steven Greenhouse observed that there was a strong class division in how the coronavirus crisis is being experienced.”

“Millions of white-collar workers are telecommuting from home to stay safe as the coronavirus extends its terrifying reach across America,” Greenhouse observes. “But millions of other workers—supermarket cashiers, pharmacists, warehouse workers, bus drivers, meatpacking workers—still have to report to work each day, and many are furious that their employers are not doing enough to protect them against the pandemic.”

Heer adds, “The growing lethality of the American workplace is fueling a wave of strikes, both union-led and spontaneous wildcat protests. Greenhouse listed a few of these workplace actions”:

Last Tuesday, after a mechanic tested positive for the coronavirus, more than half the workers at Bath Iron Works, a shipyard in Maine, stayed home from work to pressure their employer to thoroughly clean the shipyard. Workers walked out at a Fiat Chrysler truck plant in Warren, Mich., because there was no hot water for washing up. Bus drivers in Birmingham, Ala., went on strike because they felt not enough was being done to protect them from contracting the coronavirus from infected passengers, and bus drivers in Detroit staged a sudden sickout for the same reason. Sanitation workers in Pittsburgh engaged in a work stoppage over their coronavirus worries.

Looking towards the near future, Heer believes, “This wave of protests is only likely to grow, not just because of the coronavirus but also because of the breaking of the social contract by the rich. By crafting bailouts that favored corporations and millionaires amid a pandemic during which blue-collar workers are being forced to work in life-threatening conditions, the American political elite is playing with fire. We could well see social strife far more intense than even the turbulence of Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party movement that emerged in the wake of the 2008 economic collapse.”

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, Trump and the Republicans gutted laws and enforcement of safety inspection regulations that protected miners and toxic peesticide protections for farmworkers. Greenhouse notes at The American Prospect that “Trump’s appointees have eased safety requirements for oil and gas drilling workers. His administration has even relaxed child labor rules, allowing 16- and 17-year-olds who work in nursing homes and hospitals to operate power-driven patient lifts without supervision—even though thousands of experienced adult health care workers get injured each year moving and lifting patients.”

The Republican war on unions has deprived millions of workers of the kind of representation that can prevent health and safety abuses on the job. Heer concludes, “The very collapse of American unions in recent decades means that the stabilizing force of organized labor is gone, making wildcat strikes the weapon of choice in this new class war. America may be heading into a period of working-class militancy unlike anything it has experienced since the 1930s and ’40s.”

If worker safety is not the pivotal issue in the November elections, it will certainly be one of the leading concerns that could make a substantial number of those who have stayed home on election day (about 40 percent of eligible voters in 2016) turn out.

Throughout Trump’s presidency, progressives have repeatedly called attention to the Administration’s gutting of consumer, environmental and health regulations, falling too often on the deaf ears of distracted voters. As the coronavirus death toll continues to soar, however, the likelihood that most voters will lose a family member, friend or co-worker is also growing. There is nothing like a life or death issue to get one’s attention.

If Democrats will loudly and frequently hold Trump, McConnell and the GOP accountable for the gutting of the CDC and a host of worker and consumer protections, it just might produce the margin of victory needed to win the White House and majority control of the U.S. Senate .


Teixeira: More on the Disappearing Trump Bump

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

As noted in my recent scribblings, Trump’s approval bump was (a) remarkably small, (b) had remarkably little effect on his standing in trial heats and (c) seems to be disappearing remarkably fast.

Harry Enten adds some good data to that story in a piece on CNN (I know I featured another Enten story yesterday, but what the heck–good work is good work!)

Looking at the data, Trump seems to have had one of the fastest retreats of a rally around the flag effect in modern polling history.

Trump’s net approval rating stood at -10 points among voters in an aggregate of polls as late as March 11. Less than three weeks later, it got up to -4 points on March 27. Today, it’s back down to -8 points.

Even at its peak, the jump of just 6 points is weaker than any well-known rally around the flag event that I know of for a president. It’s only about half that of what Barack Obama got after the killing of Osama Bin Laden. It falls well short of the nearly 70-point jump George W. Bush received after 9/11.

But even if Trump failed to reach the levels of any of his predecessors, you might have thought the bump would stick around for a while. Even the shortest of bumps (like Bush got after Saddam Hussein was captured) had residual effects for a few months. My study of rally around the flag events since World War II found that the median one still has some effect for more than 200 days after the event occurs.

We’re only about 40 days after Trump started to see his polling climb. Unbelievably, this is usually when rally around the flag effects hit their peak, not when they are almost entirely extinguished…..

In terms of his reelection prospects, it should be worrying to the President that even with a black swan pandemic occurring, he couldn’t get his net approval rating above 0 points. It’s going to be difficult to win the election if his net approval rating is -8 points among voters on election day.”

Make no mistake: The Orange One is in trouble.


Teixeira: Florida, Florida, Florida

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

Harry Enten has a good piece up on CNN about the centrality of Florida to the 2020 election. I agree. For all the attention observers–including myself–give the Rustbelt three of MI, PA and WI, the fact remains that Trump carried FL in 2016 by barely over a point; if the Democrats take it and its 29 EVs back in 2020, they’re practically done shopping, assuming they hold all their 2016 states. All they would need would be one other state–MI, PA, WI, AZ, NC–and they’re done (and so is Trump).

So what are the chances? Enter makes the argument that they’re pretty decent. He notes:

“Biden holds a three-point advantage in the Sunshine State in an average of nonpartisan probability polls that controls for pollster. That’s closer than Wisconsin (one-point Biden lead), and the same as what we see as in Pennsylvania. Biden is up four points in Arizona and five points in Michigan. (North Carolina, another close Trump won state in 2016, gives Biden a one-point edge, but the high quality polling there has been limited.)”

The RCP average has it closer, just Biden by a whisker, though they throw all the polls in the hopper without adjustment for house effects. The UCLA/Democracy Fund/Lucid Nationscape data–70,000 cases and counting since the beginning of the year–actually has Biden ahead by more in the state, around 5 points. Those data also show Biden shaving 11 points off the Democrats’ white noncollege deficit in the state in 2016. These two things are related. More Enten:

“The story of the 2016 election has often been told like this: “Donald Trump secured victory by breaking through the big blue wall in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.” It’s how you end up with all those stories about Trump voters in Midwest diners. Heading into 2020, there’s still a lot of focus on those pivotal states.

But when you look at the electoral math, it’s pretty clear that former Vice President Joe Biden would be wise to look beyond those states and make a heavy investment in Florida.

Florida was a very close state in 2016. Trump won it by just 1.2 points, which is not significantly wider than the margins he won Michigan (0.2 points), Pennsylvania (0.7 points) and Wisconsin (0.8 points). The next closest state (Arizona) featured a significantly larger Trump win (3.5 points). In fact, the presidential margin in Florida has been within 6 points in every election since 1992, including when Democrat Barack Obama won it in 2008 and 2012. No other state has been within that range for so long….

Florida diversifies the types of states Biden would be competing hard in. When you want to give yourself as many electoral pathways as possible, you want states that are demographically and geographically diverse from each other. That way, if you underperform in one state, it doesn’t mean you have in the others. Florida has more nonwhite voters than any of the other close states Trump won in 2016. And it’s a southeastern state, unlike Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin. There’s really no other state like it.

Florida is the type of state where you’d expect Biden to outperform Clinton given the recent polling. It has the highest percentage of seniors in the country amongst its citizen voting age population. Right now, Biden actually leads Trump among those 65 years and older by nine points in an average of the five most recent probability national polls….

According to an analysis by the New York Times’ Nate Cohn… the southern swing state voters who didn’t cast a ballot in 2018 were much more friendly to Democrats than those in the northern swing states. In the sunbelt, a large portion were nonwhite. In the north, the clear plurality were whites without a college degree.

With presidential year turnout, Biden’s likely going to be very competitive in Florida. If he wins there, it’ll be awfully tough for Trump to beat him nationally.”


Political Strategy Notes

From “How the Coronavirus Could Create a New Working Class: Experts predict the outbreak will lead to a rise in populism. But will workers turn their rage toward corporate CEOs, or middle-class “elites”?” by Olga Khazan at The Atlantic: “When the dust settles, there’s of course a chance that low-income workers might end up just as powerless as they were before. But history offers a precedent for plagues being, perversely, good for workers. Collective anger at low wages and poor working protections can produce lasting social change, and people tend to be more supportive of government benefits during periods of high unemployment…The U.S. has long been the sole holdout among rich nations when it comes to paid sick leave and other job protections. Now that some workers are getting these benefits for the coronavirus, they might be hard for businesses to claw back. If your boss let you stay home with pay when you had COVID-19, is he really going to make you come in when you have the flu? “Is this going to be an inflection point where Americans begin to realize that we need government, we need each other, we need social solidarity, we are not all cowboys, who knew?” said Joan Williams, a law professor at UC Hastings and the author of White Working Class.”

Common sense suggests that American workers will become more concerned about job safety, or the lack of it and other worker protections. As Khazan continues, “A few months from now, the path we take will also depend on whether voters ultimately blame Trump for the pandemic and the ensuing economic collapse, and on whether Democrats are able to create a coherent narrative out of the calls for better worker protections. And in a year, it will depend on how severe the death toll turns out to be among service workers, and how well they’re able to organize in response. But if past epidemics are a guide, the workers may win out in the end.” However, Khazan adds, “Finally, organized labor has been gutted in recent decades, making any sustained workers’-rights movement seem like a long shot.” Yet, “Such a change would be a return to a 1950s-style view of the working class, in which low-wage jobs conferred a sense of dignity. “You viewed yourself as the backbone, the heart and soul of America,” Gest said. No one is more essential than the person bringing you food at the end of a long, frightening week.”

When Sen. Elizabeth Warren endorses a presidential candidate, she doesn’t just make a statement; she makes an impressive video ad. Other former Democratic presidential candidates should do likewise.

At Politico, David Cohen reports that a “Majority fear coronavirus restrictions will be lifted too soon,” andhe notes, “Almost 60 percent of American voters are worried that lifting restrictions on public behavior too soon will lead to a spike in coronavirus cases and deaths…According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday, 58 percent of registered voters expressed concern about a loosening of restrictions, compared with 32 percent who worried that the restrictions would stay in place for too long. Three percent said they were concerned about both scenarios…While a clear majority of Democrats (77 percent) and independents (57 percent) are more worried about the coronavirus, Republicans are very much divided on the issue — with 48 percent expressing more concern about the economy and 39 percent more worried about the pandemic…Those polled said they favor presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden over Trump by a margin of 49 percent to 42 percent. And 45 percent of those polled said they thought Trump has not handled the pandemic crisis well — and is still not doing so.”

Cohen adds, “More than two-thirds of those polled (69 percent) said they trusted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide accurate information about the coronavirus, followed by their state’s governor (66 percent), Dr. Anthony Fauci (60 percent), New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (46 percent), Trump (36 percent), Vice President Mike Pence (35 percent) and Biden (26 percent)…A total of 52 percent said they distrusted what Trump has to say on the subject, followed by Pence (37 percent) and Biden (29 percent). A mere 8 percent said they did not trust Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.”

“In a national Quinnipiac University survey released last week, just 37 percent of adults living in cities and 44 percent of those in suburbs said they approved of Trump’s management of the outbreak. By stark contrast, 63 percent of those in rural areas said they approved,” Ronald Brownstein writes at The Atlantic. “In the latest tracking polling conducted by the Democratic firms GBAO and the Global Strategy Group, a majority of Americans in all three regions said Trump failed to take the threat seriously enough at the outset of the pandemic. But the numbers were significantly higher in urban and suburban areas, where almost two-thirds of respondents said he acted too slowly…Other danger signs are sprouting for Trump in big urban centers. Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, was the largest county in America that Trump won in 2016. But a new poll, released this week by the Republican firm OH Predictive Insights, found Trump trailing former Vice President Joe Biden there by 13 percentage points. The survey also found Biden leading by nine points statewide, even though Democrats haven’t won Arizona in a presidential race since 1996. These results track with Maricopa’s movement away from the GOP in 2018, when Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema won the ordinarily Republican-leaning county by about four points.”

Also at The Atlantic, Kevin Townsend quotes Sherrilyn Ifill, the president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, from her interview by Edward Isaac-Dovere. As Ifill urged, “We need more early voting so that you don’t have lines, because you have a longer period of early voting. You do need to have drop-off absentee stations. You do need to expand the time for absentee ballots to be returned to the Board of Elections. We need all of this to deal with the challenges of this pandemic. There are ways to manage this. And I think that’s the menu we’re all sitting with right now and are prepared to lean in to, to ensure that in November we don’t have an election that causes people to risk their lives, but we also have an election that we don’t have to be ashamed of, that everyone who is a citizen who wants to participate can participate on November 3…it was shameful and a disgrace that we consigned people to have to choose between their health and their right as citizens to participate and vote. No question. But I also am compelled to see the extraordinary, powerful nobility of those people standing—some of them in wheelchairs—staggered and separated from each other as best they could by six feet, for hours on end, determined to participate in the political process.”

In his Washington Post column, “Trump’s war on pragmatism,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes, “What pragmatists know is that railing against formal distancing rules does nothing to solve the underlying problem. As several economist colleagues I contacted noted, the economy will not fully revive until Americans are given good reason to put aside their fears of infection. Yelling at governors won’t get us there….“Even if the government-imposed social distancing rules are relaxed to encourage economic activity, risk-averse Americans will persist in social distancing, and that behavior, too, will restrain the hoped-for economic rebound,” Gary Burtless, a Brookings Institution economist, wrote me…Those who shout for opening the economy in the name of freedom don’t think much about the freedom of workers to protect themselves from a potentially deadly disease. And employers do not want to find themselves facing legal liabilities for infected employees….If the economy is substantially reopened without adequate testing, said Thea Lee, president of the Economic Policy Institute, the most vulnerable would include “low-wage workers, women, people of color, immigrants, and the elderly.” They are “concentrated in the riskiest jobs, with the least financial cushion, and the least likely to have employer-provided benefits or protections,” she said…“Give me liberty or give me death” is a fine rallying cry in a war against freedom’s enemies. It’s is a perilous guide to policy during a pandemic. Pragmatists may be short on stirring slogans. But when the choices are hard and the problems are daunting, they’re the ones we should want in charge.”

“The battle for the Senate majority is tightening as the coronavirus threatens to plunge the economy into a severe recession and as President Trump’s handling of the crisis comes under increased scrutiny,” Alexander Bolton reports at The Hill. “With Election Day just more than six months away, some Senate Democratic candidates are starting to outraise vulnerable Republican incumbents in states where Trump’s approval rating has taken a hit…Senate Republicans, who control 53 seats, are still the favorite to retain control of the chamber, but Democrats are narrowing the gap…The Cook Political Report, another nonpartisan forecasting group, says “the chances of Democrats taking back the Senate are rising and now close to 50-50 odds” with “several plausible paths” for Democrats to win a majority…Democratic strategists say fundraising is only part of the story and point to record voter turnout in Democratic presidential primary contests before the pandemic struck as evidence of high party enthusiasm heading into the general election.”


Teixeira: Most Interesting Graphic from the Wisconsin Election

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

This is from a Sabato Crystal Ball article analyzing last Tuesday’s election. It shows the astonishing similarity between the results in Tammy Baldwin’s winning 2018 Senate race and Karofsky’s winning 2020 State Supreme Court Election. They almost look like the same election! Wild.

Then read the Crystal Ball article for all the reasons why it would be risky to assume that the November election in WI will look like the Karofsky election. I agree. But that map comparison to the Baldwin election is still amazing.


Where’s That Republican Health Care Plan?

I kept thinking to myself that Republicans were missing something important during the coronavirus pandemic. Then it hit me, and I wrote it up for New York:

Despite provoking 70 congressional votes on measures to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Republicans still never developed any sort of consensus plan for addressing such basic problems as the millions of Americans without health insurance or the insurance-company practice of denying coverage to those with preexisting health conditions. Yes, they could tell you what they opposed. (Basically any Democratic-supported effort to expand coverage via public or private means or a combination of the two, like Obamacare.) And Republicans went to a lot of effort in the courts and state legislatures and, after 2016, via federal executive action to undermine the ACA and its protections, usually on grounds that Obamacare made health insurance more expensive for the people who didn’t much need it.

To a considerable extent, Republicans in Washington were inclined to dump all the problems of the health-care system on the states, which is why some described the idea of repackaging federal health-care dollars into block grants for the states as the GOP “plan,” though it was the very opposite of one in terms of providing national protections.

GOP fecklessness on health care was by nearly all accounts a significant factor in Democratic midterm gains in 2018. Given the continued efforts of the Trump administration and Republicans in the states to blow up Obamacare in the courts (though they rather disingenuously asked the Supreme Court to wait until after the 2020 elections to decide their case), and their continued inability to come up with a comprehensive approach to health-care reform of their own, Democrats entered 2020 planning to emphasize this issue again.

Has that changed the Republican posture on health-care policy? Not in any significant way. Yes, the Trump administration has endorsed the idea of using coronavirus stimulus funds to reimburse hospitals for treatment of uninsured coronavirus patients. But there’s still no plan for the millions of people without insurance who are at risk of infection (not to mention other life-threatening ailments), much less for the many millions of additional Americans who will lose employer-sponsored health insurance as they lose their jobs. And the GOP position is still characterized by unrelieved hostility toward existing programs that might help, as NBC News observes:

“The clarity in Trump’s health care vision begins and ends with repealing the Affordable Care Act …

“His budget proposals would strip away funding for the law, and he has endorsed a lawsuit to wipe it off the books. But the president hasn’t thrown his weight behind a replacement bill or even an outline, and he has rejected calls to reopen Obamacare for enrollment during the current crisis.

“Trump’s focus on mitigating the economic damage has kept health care on the back burner. Some allies worry that with millions of newly unemployed Americans poised to lose coverage during a public health crisis, Trump’s lack of a plan for the needy will be a political liability in his re-election bid.”

No kidding.

The focus by Democrats on the nonexistence of any GOP plan to expand health coverage — alongside efforts to shrink coverage via the Obamacare exchanges or Medicaid — is certain to become intense now that they are no longer arguing about the ultimate health-care plans of their own presidential candidates. Much as progressives may find Joe Biden’s health-care proposals inadequate, they look like a veritable horn of plenty compared to anything coming out of the opposing party. Yes, conservative policy wonks have developed theoretical plans, mostly involving high-deductible catastrophic care policies, perhaps supplemented by health-savings accounts. But now more than ever, in a national health emergency, they look howlingly out of proportion to the current situation.

Presumably, Trump will try to take credit for whatever emergency measures Congress provides for dealing with immediate coronavirus-related health costs and try to get across the finish line in November without the “phenomenal” plan he has been promising since 2016. But if they are competent, 2020 Democratic candidates from Joe Biden on down will make this not only a policy emphasis, but a token of all of Trump’s many broken promises, which have brought the country and its most vulnerable people to the gates of living hell.


Political Strategy Notes

President Obama’s endorsement of Joe Biden for President:

Washington Post E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes “Obama’s endorsement was important not just because of what he said about Biden and Trump, but also for what he revealed about Democrats. Obama went out of his way to declare that “if I were running today, I wouldn’t run the same race or have the same platform as I did in 2008. The world is different; there’s too much unfinished business for us to just look backwards.”…He praised Sanders and echoed Warren’s call for “real structural change” because “the vast inequalities created by the new economy are easier to see now.”…Perhaps I should confess to bias because I recently published a book making this point, but Obama’s speech underscored that Democrats are far less divided than their primary battle suggested. From health care to climate change to economic inequality, Democrats have moved across the board in a more progressive direction. Obama has done so himself because he sees openings for social reform now that he didn’t have when he was in office.”

Dionne observes further, “Any doubts that the 2020 playing field is very different from 2016’s were laid to rest by the unexpected — and unexpectedly comfortable — victory of liberal Jill Karofsky over conservative incumbent Daniel Kelly in a race for a state Supreme Court seat that was a party contest in all but name…So what will they say now about Karofsky’s inroads into conservative areas that allowed her to build a margin of more than 160,000 votes? Yes, Karofsky was helped by the presidential primary between Biden and Sanders that drew Democrats to the polls. But in going to court to force an election in the midst of a pandemic, Republicans figured they would win by holding down turnout in Democratic urban areas most affected by the virus. A shameful ploy was foiled because Democrats mobilized absentee ballots in unprecedented numbers. This speaks to where the energy in politics is right now. It’s not on Trump’s side…Thus, a wager: When Americans see Trump’s name on those stimulus checks, most won’t regard him as their benefactor. They will see a weak, desperate and selfish man who pretends that the money they pay in taxes is his own.”

Ronald Brownstein notes at The Atlantic that “In the states that will likely decide the 2020 presidential election, Donald Trump has already lost his newly declared war against voting by mail…All six of the swing states that both sides see as the most probable tipping points allow their residents to vote by mail for any reason, and there’s virtually no chance that any of them will retrench their existing laws this year. That means that, however much Trump rages, the legal structure is in place for a mail-voting surge in those decisive states: Florida, North Carolina, and Arizona in the Sun Belt and Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin in the Rust Belt…Such an increase “is going to happen” in states across the country this year, says Wendy Weiser, the director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. “The president can’t prevent it from happening, his protestations notwithstanding. Voters are going to choose that option, and jurisdictions are going to need to make that option widely available in order to protect public health and administer their elections.”

However, Brownstein adds, “That doesn’t mean Trump’s new crusade will have no effect. It’s so far stiffening Republican opposition to plans for furthering expand mail-voting access in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Those proposals include calls from Democrats and election-law reformers to preemptively mail all eligible voters a ballot, as five states do now, or to require all states to allow their residents to vote absentee for any reason. In the 28 states that already allow this “no excuse” absentee balloting, partisan struggles are nevertheless looming over whether to make the voting process easier.” Yet, “But experts in voter turnout and mail voting anticipate that however these fights play out, the share of Americans who cast ballots by mail in November may roughly double from the previous presidential election, from just under one-quarter in 2016 to about one-half this year.”

New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edall notes, “William B. McCartney, a professor of finance at Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management, points out that “a large share of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck and say they would not be able to come up with $1,000 for an unexpected expense.” Based on the findings in his 2017 paper, “Does Household Finance Affect Elections? Evidence from a Housing Crisis,” a study of voting in the wake of the 2007-9 financial meltdown, McCartney said by email that he was “deeply concerned that household-level financial distress will decrease turnout, in addition to low turnout caused by the health crisis.”…He bases his fear on the following: Voting is a costly activity and, when households’ financial situations have deteriorated, they cut back on everything optional. They, rationally, choose not to spend their scarce resources learning where their polling places are and then waiting in line, potentially for hours….McCartney’s fear of the effects of depressed voter turnout materialized in Wisconsin last week, but it did not prevent a key liberal victory.”

Robert Reich’s blog, via Alternet and Youtube, has a useful timeline of Trump’s disastrous mismanagement of the response to the coronavirus pandemic:

Former Vice President Joe Biden is currently vetting and evaluating potential Veep picks. Biden has said he will chose a woman. But, one of the most important considerations in his selection is what is the replacement cost of the selection. If he picks a senator, as is most often the case, it is important that a Democratic Governor can chose her replacement, since Democrats have a good chance of winning a Senate majority. Joel K. Goldstein writes at Sabato’s Crystal Ball that “Choosing a senator from a state with a Republican governor could cost the Democrats a Senate seat for at least some amount of time, which might make the difference between controlling the upper house or not. This consideration could cut against choosing Warren or New Hampshire’s senators Shaheen or Hassan.” The other women Senators said to be on Biden’s short list, including Kamala Harris, Tammy Duckworth, Catherine Cortez Masto, Tammy Baldwin, Amy Kobuchar would all be replaced by choices made by Democratic Governors. For a more thorough list of potential women Veep picks, check out Goldstein’s article, cited above.

“Media outlets have played a crucial role during the COVID-19 crisis to educate the public and provide needed emergency information. To ensure the legitimacy of this year’s elections, they should go a step further and offer regular, timely instructions about how to vote during this national emergency,” Adam Eichen and Joshua Douglas write at TPM Cafe. “And they should start right away, every day and in every publication, perhaps with a “democracy box” on their front page or home page with details about how to register and cast a ballot…But newspapers and other media outlets can bridge the gap. They can educate the public by dedicating ongoing print space to update readers on any legal changes and to explain how to request an absentee ballot in the weeks leading up to a primary or the general election in November. Newspapers could, for instance, include a “democracy box,” or “voting updates” section on the paper’s front page that lists the state’s voter registration deadline, absentee ballot request deadline and a website for more information…Now, more than ever, newspapers should copy the Ithaca Times and distribute voter registration forms within their publications. They should also provide regular reminders about the voter registration and absentee ballot request deadlines. “


Trump’s Reelection Odds Heading Down

After noticing that Trump fans were still crowing triumphantly about his certain victory in November, I offered an assessment at New York of where he currently stands:

Given the near-universal belief of Republicans that POTUS was cruising in style toward a second term, I was beginning to feel lonely not long ago in my skepticism about the Keep America Great cause. And I even felt some doubts about my own judgment as a booming economy boosted Trump’s job-approval ratings out of their stagnant position in the low 40s, with signs they might even drift up toward where Obama’s were in 2012 when he was reelected. Adding in the GOP’s Electoral College advantage, the historic value of incumbency, and Trump’s lavishly financed and unscrupulous campaign, and you had the look of a plausible, if hardly certain, winner.

Then the coronavirus pandemic hit after Trump very publicly dismissed its significance, and it was legitimately in question for a while as to whether the rally-round-the-flag effect that usually boosts national leaders in times of emergency – enhanced by Trump’s opportunity to commandeer media attention with daily “briefings” – would offset the universal tendency of voters to sour on incumbent presidents in hard times.

The evidence is beginning to mount that the damage COVID-19 is doing to the economy Trump so often touted as his supreme achievement, along with meh public assessments of his leadership, have together reversed the arrows and made the incumbent an underdog, as National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar — by no means a liberal or partisan Democrat — explains:

“[T]he reality is that, absent a speedy V-shaped economic turnaround by the fall, Trump is now a decided underdog for a second term.”

Yes, it’s true that past precedents of poor economic conditions blowing up presidential reelection candidacies (from Herbert Hoover to Jimmy Carter to George H.W. Bush) seem inadequate to the kind of disaster COVID-19 poses. But there’s also no example of a president being reelected in the midst of economic calamity on the grounds that it wasn’t entirely his fault. Given the extraordinarily polarized foundation on which Trump has built his political career and his presidency, it’s hard to imagine a figure less likely to inspire sudden respect and appreciation among those not already in his camp (even the regularly pro-Trump polling from Rasmussen currently shows as many Americans strongly disapproving of the job he is doing as approving of it by any degree). To the extent that every presidential election involving an incumbent is basically a referendum on life during the previous four years, you have to figure Trump’s current mediocre approval ratings (at 44 percent at FiveThirtyEight and 45 percent at RealClearPolitics) are a ceiling rather than a floor, assuming no shocking turnaround on either the public-health or economic conditions of the country.

And, as Kraushaar suggests, the nationally darkening climate for Trump’s reelection is being matched by bad news from states he needs to eke out another Electoral College win:

“In traditionally Republican Arizona, a must-win state for Trump, he trails Biden 52 to 43 percent in a new OH/Predictive Insights poll. He’s down by 6 points to Biden in Florida, in an April University of North Florida survey, despite his generally sunny track record in the state. Biden led Trump in a trifecta of Michigan polls conducted in March. According to the RealClearPolitics statewide polling averages, Biden is ahead in every swing state.”

Add to that the shocking, and shockingly large, Democratic win in a Wisconsin Supreme Court contest (ostensibly, but not really, nonpartisan), during which Republicans went to extraordinary lengths to hold down turnout from pro-Democratic constituencies, and you’ve got a landscape that’s no longer friendly to Trump and his party. Joe Biden’s strong showing in trial heats against Trump points to another expected advantage the president has lost: Democrats are not in disarray, as they were four years ago. Biden’s efforts to keep his party united have gotten off to a good and early start, and all the indications are that third- and fourth-party options for disgruntled progressives aren’t looking nearly so alluring this time around, as The Economist noted in a recent profile of Green Party presidential front-runner Howie Hawkins:

“Polling by YouGov for The Economist shows support for third-party candidates at 3%, half of what they won in 2016. More probably, then, Mr. Hawkins is in a fight to avoid humiliation. Even getting on the ballot in many states, which Greens usually manage, is proving difficult. The problem is getting signatures (and the tightening of some requirements). The party’s presidential candidate is eligible to stand in just 21 states so far. Mr. Hawkins guesses 1.6m more signatures are needed to qualify in the remaining ones. The arrival of COVID-19 makes that look almost impossible.”

No, I am not predicting an end to the Trump administration on January 19, 2021. The pandemic’s course and its impact — in terms of lives and political side effects — are far too unpredictable for that and, at this point, we aren’t even sure a normal election with normal procedures can be held in November.

But the idea that Trump has some infernal hold on the presidency (the combined product, I believe, of perennial shock over what happened in 2016 and the endless braying braggadocio of Trump’s conservative media voices) is looking shaky now. He clearly will not be able to campaign as the triumphant engineer of an economic boom created by bulldozing the environment and shiftless workers and godless foreigners while showering tax dollars on wealthy American job-creators. His other credentials for a second term are compelling mostly to people who want to return this country to the 1950s. That’s always going to be a decided, if loud, minority.