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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The culturally traditional but non-extremist working class voters

The culturally traditional but non-extremist working class voters: who they are, how they think and what
Democrats Must Understand to regain their support.

Read the Memo.

American Business Has the Power to Stop the GOP Assault on Democracy – Here’s a Strategy to Make Them Do It.

America is now well on its way to creating an electoral system that functions like Mexico’s during its era of one-party rule.

The culturally traditional but non-extremist working class voters: who they are, how they think and what Democrats Must Understand to regain their support.

As the 2022 and 2024 elections approach Democrats have responded to their declining working class support by proposing variations on one or another of two strategies that they have advocated ever since the 1970’s.

Plausible Strategy for Surge of Immigrants

Democratic officeholders and candidates who plan to run in 2022 and 2024 need to face a simple, brutal fact – many will lose their next elections and will return control of government to the GOP if they do not offer a more plausible strategy for reducing the surge of immigrants at the border

Democrats in 2022 and 2024 will lose elections without a strategy.

The culturally traditional but non-extremist working class voters: who they are, how they think and what Democrats Must Understand to regain their support.

By Andrew Levison

Read the Memo.

The Daily Strategist

June 26, 2022

We Don’t Know For Sure What the Supreme Court Is Doing On Abortion Rights

Amidst all the understandable uproar over the leaked Alito opinion in the Dobbs case, I offered a small note of caution at New York:

The stunning leak of a draft majority Supreme Court opinion from Justice Samuel Alito entirely reversing Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey has suddenly confronted Americans with the immediate prospect of life without constitutionally protected reproductive rights. Yes, many observers predicted that would be the outcome of this case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, particularly after the Court’s oral arguments last December. It’s also what Donald Trump, who appointed three of the justices in the purported majority, promised would happen back in 2016. And it’s the goal the anti-abortion movement and its wholly owned subsidiary, the Republican Party, have been working toward for decades. But it’s still shocking that normally tradition-bound and precedent-venerating justices are taking this fateful step despite widespread public opposition, at a time when a backlash could roil politics in unpredictable ways.

Or are they, for sure?

The Supreme Court said in a statement released the morning after the leak, “Although the document described in yesterday’s reports is authentic, it does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case.” The draft is dated February 10, 2022, when it was circulated to other justices for comment. It is also far from polished; there are redundancies in the text, just as there are in “first drafts” of a lot of important documents. It was presumably prepared because Alito was chosen to write an opinion reflecting the will of at least five justices, as expressed in a conference just after oral arguments. But we do not actually know if the final decision will be substantially the same as this draft, or might differ in significant respects — just as we do not know at this point who leaked it to Politico and with what intent.

What we do know is that post-conference changes in the position of justices once draft opinions start circulating do happen, if not that often. And in fact, one of the most famous shifts in the Court happened on this very issue 30 years ago. Planned Parenthood v. Casey was widely expected to produce a reversal of Roe and then it didn’t, as I explained recently:

“As Justice John Paul Stevens (a Ford appointee and Roe defender) later revealed in his 2019 memoir, a preliminary-draft opinion circulated by [Chief Justice William] Rehnquist that overturned Roe got five votes. But during the long period of time before the decision was formulated and announced, Reagan appointee [Justice Anthony] Kennedy flipped, succumbing to a plea from [Justices Sandra Day] O’Connor and [David] Souter to help them find a solution that would make state restrictions like Pennsylvania’s constitutionally acceptable without the disruptive counterrevolution that reversing Roe would represent. This development surprised the suddenly displaced anti-Roe majority, and then the country.”

According to Stevens, Rehnquist’s draft was circulated on May 27, 1992. The ultimate 5-4 decision maintaining the essential holding of Roe with a new standard designed to accommodate more state restrictions on abortions was announced on June 29, 1992. It appears that Rehnquist’s majority evaporated right under his nose.

Although we have no particular reason to imagine this kind of switch might have happened in Dobbs, we do know from abundant reporting and from his conduct during oral arguments that Chief Justice John Roberts seemed uneasy with overturning Roe and Casey in one fell swoop, clearly preferring to uphold Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban without opening the door to any and all abortion bans. Just a week ago, the Wall Street Journal speculated that Roberts wanted to flip one of the other conservatives to a more limited ruling:

“Chief Justice John Roberts tried during the oral argument to find a middle way. He appeared to want to sustain the Mississippi law on grounds that it doesn’t violate Casey’s test of whether there is an ‘undue burden’ on the ability to obtain an abortion. If he pulls another Justice to his side, he could write the plurality opinion that controls in a 6-3 decision. If he can’t, then Justice Thomas would assign the opinion and the vote could be 5-4. Our guess is that Justice Alito would then get the assignment.”

That appears to be exactly the course of events that produced the Alito draft. But what we don’t know is whether Roberts has continued his efforts towards a “middle way” during the nearly three months since then, and if so whether they have borne fruit. And for that matter, we also don’t know if any of the four justices originally on Team Alito have issues with the scope and breadth of his draft opinion.

It can be argued that the difference between what Alito wrote and what Roberts wants is a distinction without a difference. Both men want ultimately to abolish reproductive rights, and differ only over the pace of the constitutional counter-revolution that would be required. And indeed, it’s not clear how any “middle way” would work. How do you get rid of the constitutional protection of pre-viability abortions without allowing the states to enact more ruthless ban’s than Mississippi’s? I surely don’t know, but would observe that nobody anticipated Casey’s “undue burden” standard until it was announced. Justices and their clerks can be quite innovative when they are putting together coalitions on the Court.

The fate of reproductive rights certainly looks bad right now, but we’ve been here before. So it would be prudent not to be overly confident of what the Court will ultimately do in Dobbs, exactly how it will affect people in need of abortion services, and what the political fallout will be. There’s a slim chance that the right’s long crusade to abolish Roe entirely will be frustrated at the 11th hour once again — in which case, the fury among pro-choice Americans over the Alito draft will be matched in intensity by the outrage of the anti-abortion minority.

 


Levison: How Dems Can Reach Culturally Traditional, Non-Extremist Working Class Voters

From the introduction to a new TDS Strategy Report: “The Culturally Traditional but Non-extremist Working Class Voters: Who They Are, How They Think and What Democrats Must Understand to Regain their Support” by Andrew Levison:

Democrats are making two fundamental mistakes in the strategic debate about how to regain lost working class support.

First, they discuss “working class voters who support the GOP” as if they were a single, homogeneous social group. In fact, however, there are two very distinct groups of white working class Republicans and only one of them can be persuaded, Democrats need to develop strategies that are specifically designed to appeal to the persuadable group

Second, the current discussion treats Democrat’s problems as being entirely about how candidates should present and popularize Democratic policies and positions – should Democratic candidates limit themselves to emphasizing the most popular Democratic programs or should they explicitly reject the most unpopular? Should they try to refute GOP attacks or stay strictly on the offensive?

In contrast, while the profound cultural and sociological gap that exists between many Democratic candidates and the working class voters in their districts is admitted to be a major problem, the advice that is offered is painfully basic: “don’t be condescending,” “show empathy,” “spend time in working class communities,” “explain how Democratic policies are in working people’s interests.”

Democratic candidates need strategies that specifically focus on the persuadable sector of the working class and which provide sufficient understanding of that distinct culture to allow democratic candidates to persuade working class voters that they are genuinely “on their side,” “care about them,” and “will fight for them.”

The Democratic Strategist is therefore pleased to present the following TDS Strategy Paper.

The Culturally Traditional but Non-extremist Working Class Voters: Who They Are, How They Think and What Democrats Must Understand to Regain their Support.

To Read the Report, Click Here:

The analysis cannot provide a simple “magic bullet” solution for Democrats’ problems with working class voters. But it provides the indispensable basis upon which any successful Democratic strategy must be designed.


Will Threat to Roe v. Wade Decision Affect Midterm Turnout?

Chris Cillizza explains why “The Supreme Court may have just fundamentally altered the 2022 election” at CNN Politics:

The draft opinion from the Supreme Court that would overturn the right to an abortion is a massive story with a myriad of implications for the American public. It also may be exactly what Democrats need to solve their passion problem heading into the 2022 midterm elections.

At issue for Democrats is that, with less than 200 days before the midterms, their base is significantly less motivated to vote than the Republicans.
Two numbers from a recently released Washington Post/ABC News poll make that disparity plain.
1. Republicans and Republican-leaning independents were 10 points more likely than their Democratic counterparts to say they are certain to vote in the fall.
2. 42% of Americans surveyed said they strongly disapproved of the job President Joe Biden is doing, while only 21% strongly approved.
Cillizza adds, “The Supreme Court’s looming decision on Roe v. Wade is one of those external factors that does have the ability to fundamentally alter how the parties — and their bases — see the coming election.
Sensing that, Democrats immediately began to cast the 2022 midterms as a straight referendum on the decision.

“If the Court does overturn Roe, it will fall on our nation’s elected officials at all levels of government to protect a woman’s right to choose,” Biden said in a statement Tuesday. “And it will fall on voters to elect pro-choice officials this November.”

“Republicans just gutted Roe v Wade, the Constitution’s guarantee of reproductive freedom, and will ban abortion in all 50 states, if they take over Congress,” tweeted New York Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who runs the Democrats’ House campaign arm. “Only Democrats will protect our freedoms. That is now the central choice in the 2022 election.”

“Women are going to go to vote in numbers we have never seen before,” Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said on CBS. “If they want to protect their fundamental rights to reproductive choice or their fundamental rights to anything, they had better go vote in the fall.”

Cillizza notes further, “Polling suggests that the issue could absolutely be a galvanizing one — for Democrats and even independents. In a January CNN poll, almost 7 in 10 Americans (69%) said they opposed the Supreme Court overturning Roe. That includes 86% of Democrats and 72% of independents….More than 1 in 3 said they would be “angry” if the court overturned the decision, while another quarter said the decision would leave them “dissatisfied.” Just 14% said the decision would make them “happy.” Among Democrats, a majority — 51% — said the decision would make them “angry” while 29% of Republicans said it would make them “happy.”

As Cillizza concludes, “Simply put: There are very few issues that can make a claim to upend or fundamentally alter the trajectory of an election. But overturning Roe may well be one of them. Judging by the initial reaction to the draft opinion — and how Democrats sought to seize on it as the issue of the 2022 midterms — Democrats have at least some reason to believe that their base’s lethargy problem has been solved (or at least changed in a very real way).”


Teixeira: How Dems Can Leverage Public Opinion on Abortion

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

Public Opinion on Abortion
Time to get re-acquainted with the data, now that it looks the Supremes are going to strike down Roe v. .Wade! This is a complicated issue–more complicated than many Democrats think–but, handled carefully, this is an issue on which Democrats can potentially make real gains even in the current dreadful political environment.
Click thru the link for lots more charts and tables from Gallup.

Political Strategy Notes

Can Democrats knock Republicans off their two-faced midterm strategy?,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. asks in his Washington Post column. Dionne’s take: “Polls for congressional contests are closer than the conventional wisdom suggests about impending Democratic catastrophe. Some even give Democrats a slight lead in generic surveys for House races. A Washington Post/ABC News poll released Sunday found Democrats with 46 percent among registered voters, Republicans with 45. But the Republicans’ two-step, and enthusiasm in their base, give the GOP confidence about the fall….Democrats, being Democrats, are wringing their hands with apprehension. They often blame each other for the party’s troubles — the left goes after the center, the center assails the left, and the congressional and White House wings sometimes seem to be speaking different languages….But there are signs that Democrats, collectively, have begun to identify the first task in front of them: to call out the stark contradiction inherent in the GOP’s strategy and to force the Republican Party as a whole to own the meanness of its loudest voices….Even if they salvage some of the president’s climate and social spending this spring, Democrats realize they can’t prevail on accomplishments alone. They need to force voters to confront what a vote for Republicans could lead to….“I think we make a mistake if we don’t go straight at Republicans on their obsession with these very narrowcast, broadly unpopular cultural fights,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told me during an interview. “It’s just not true that it’s popular to pick on gay kids. That riles up a subsection of the Republican base.”….Murphy has been at the forefront in pushing Democrats toward a more aggressive strategy. His approach was on display in a widely shared tweet last weekend: “Republicans fight Disney to force them to discriminate against gay kids. Democrats fight drug companies to force them to lower insulin prices for sick kids. Run on that.”….The point, he told me, is to “call out their bigotry and their obsession with these wedge social issues and contrast it … with our decision to spend our time working on issues that matter to a much broader cross-section of Americans.”….Yes, 2022 will be a challenging year for Democrats. But playing offense is a better political bet than playing defense. And wagering that the basic decency of moderate voters will inspire a recoil from intolerance and culture-war obsessions is a fine place to start.”

Charlie Cook addresses the question, “Could Roe Change the Subject This November?” at The Cook Political Report, then responds:”Democrats need the subject of this election to change, to shift away from them and toward Republicans—a tall order indeed when the GOP is out of power and not held responsible for much that does or does not happen. Keeping in mind that election years are notoriously unproductive in terms of legislation, if something happens to shift the focus of this election, it is more likely to come from the opposite side of First Street than where the Senate and House chambers are situated: that is, the Supreme Court….A reversal of Roe would basically punt the entire abortion issue to the states to fight over, just as they did on partisan (though not racial) gerrymandering. But given how many states are already safely ensconced in the back pockets of one party or the other, a substantial share of the electorate lives in states where little change in state abortion law is likely. States that preponderantly favor abortion rights are unlikely to enact antiabortion legislation, and vice versa. Potential change is more likely in states on the bubble, where the partisan and state legislative balance is either evenly balanced or in transition….The states worth watching are pretty much the swing states that we see on the presidential, senatorial, and gubernatorial levels. One could do a lot worse than focus on the six states that political sage Doug Sosnik identifies as critical for 2022 and, arguably, 2024 as well: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Nevada….In terms of individual minds being changed, it is unlikely that a reversal or near reversal of Roe would have much more than a ripple. Those most likely to be outraged by a reversal are mostly either already in the Democratic camp or find themselves cross-pressured on many issues, thus hardly likely to be single-issue voters. Those who would greet such a decision in a jubilant fashion are already on the GOP side, making motivation the only game in town, not persuasion….If any issue or event on the radar screen could shift the focus of this election, it would be Roe, but the prospect of it changing which way the river is flowing is pretty unlikely.”

From Harry Enten’s “The 3 things that need to happen for Democrats to keep the Senate” at CNN Politics: “For Senate Democrats to have a good election night in November, some combination of at least three things needs to happen….1. Republicans nominate weak candidates. The 2022 Senate map is not that great for the GOP, with all Democrats up for reelection running in states Biden won in 2020 and Republicans defending two seats in Biden states. Most neutral observers have noted that the leading Republican candidates in high-profile Senate races in Arizona, Georgia and New Hampshire are not the strongest candidates. That accounts for 21% of all GOP Senate challengers this year. (While three weak challengers in the 435-member House is unlikely to make a difference to the final outcome, it can make a huge difference in the 100-member Senate.)….2. The economy improves. Inflation is sky-high, disposable income has dropped and even the nation’s GDP has declined. When the economy is the top concern, it’s hard to win as the incumbent party.The good news for Democrats is that the election is still six months away. Although none of these metrics are likely to improve dramatically, all are forecast to get at least a little better by November…..3. Everyone who approves of Biden votes Democratic. Biden’s job approval rating is going to be key this fall, at a time when straight-ticket voting is very high….Historically, the magic mark for a president in midterm elections has been 60% approval. But that may not be the case anymore with more Americans voting for the party in the White House when they approve of the president and voting against it when they disapprove….So Biden’s approval rating may only need to be around 50% — if not a little lower should Democrats have an advantage in candidate quality.”

Monica Potts and Jean Yi explain why “Why Twitter Is Unlikely To Become The ‘Digital Town Square’ Elon Musk Envisions” at FiveThirtyEight: “Overall, though, Twitter might be more accurately described as a scrolling newspaper than a public square. Other social media sites, like Facebook, stretch farther into the information ecosystem and are likelier to reveal what most Americans are currently reading, sharing and saying….The Pew Research Center conducts regular surveys on social media use in the United States, and the most popular networks across demographics and political affiliation remain, by far, YouTube and Facebook. As of early 2021, 81 percent and 69 percent of American adults, respectively, reported using these two sites, and the majority of each site’s users visited frequently. This is particularly true of Facebook: 71 percent of users said they visited the site daily, and nearly half of all users visited multiple times a day….By comparison, just under a quarter of American adults reported being on Twitter. And according to a Pew study released in April 2019, only a tiny portion (10 percent) of its adult users in America made up 80 percent of all tweets from that same group. And according to another Pew survey from 2021, only a very small share of tweets from American adults (14 percent) were original content. In other words, these users are mostly retweeting, quote-tweeting or replying….Overall, though, 66 percent of Americans said that social media does more to hurt than help free speech and democracy. That reasoning, however, broke starkly along partisan lines: Republicans were likelier to say speaking freely online was important, while Democrats were likelier to think it was more important that people felt safe and welcome online.”


Republicans Have Screwed Up Senate Opportunities Before

Thinking about recent history, it occurred to me that Republicans had blown some easy Senate wins. and might do so again. I wrote about it at New York:

The dynamics of this year’s battle for control of the U.S. Senate were nicely captured recently by Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman of Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball: “There is a push and pull in the race for control of the U.S. Senate between the big-picture electoral environment, which clearly benefits Republicans, and the day-to-day developments on the campaign trail, which do not always clearly benefit Republicans.”

In other words, the overriding factor in competitive Senate races is the size of the likely pro-Republican midterms “wave,” which should lift all red-painted boats. But an undertow is entirely possible in individual races, as Mitch McConnell remembers.

“From an atmospheric point of view, it’s a perfect storm of problems for the Democrats,” the Republican leader said last month. “How could you screw this up? It’s actually possible. And we’ve had some experience with that in the past.”

Indeed they have. As a bit of a tonic for Democrats who are sinking into a slough of despond about the midterms, and the possibility of a Republican Senate that can thwart Joe Biden’s appointments and legislation, here’s a reminder of the three ways recent Republican Senate candidates have managed to blow races they should have won.

Being too wacky

While Republicans generally performed extremely well in the 2010 midterms, they fumbled two Senate races they were initially expected to win, in Delaware and in Nevada.

In Delaware, Republicans had a star Senate candidate in five-term congressman, three-term governor, and one-term lieutenant governor Mike Castle, a moderate who had been in statewide office for an incredible 30 straight years. He was heavily favored to flip the Senate seat held by Democratic place-holder Ted Kaufman, appointed to the seat when its long-time occupant Joe Biden became vice-president. But then in a huge shocker, Castle lost the GOP primary to veteran right-wing crank and Tea Party celebrity Christine O’Donnell, who had lost to Biden in a landslide two years earlier. After a disastrous general election campaign best remembered for the efforts she had to undertake to deny that she was a witch (a possibility she had herself raised in a 1999 appearance on Bill Maher’s show Politically Incorrect), she lost badly to underdog local elected official Chris Coons, who holds the seat to this day.

That same year Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid was in deep trouble in Nevada. His job approval ratings were terrible, he was losing in polling matchups against every named Republican opponent. But when the most formidable of those opponents had a campaign meltdown (see below), he drew a general election fight with far-right former legislator Sharron Angle. The Republican nominee proceeded to alienate voters with out-there statements opposing the regulation of health insurers even as Reid used his lavish campaign treasure to remind voters of her past remarks favoring the privatization or even the abolition of Social Security — a deadly position in senior-heavy Nevada. Reid came back from near-political death to beat Angle by five points.

The ultimate example of a Republican Senate candidate being too nutty even for deep-red-state voters came in Alabama in 2017, in a special election to fill the vacancy created when veteran senator Jeff Sessions resigned to (briefly) become Donald Trump’s attorney general.

The eventual Republican Senate nominee, Judge Roy Moore, was a perennial candidate and a globally notorious theocrat (at one point he drove around Alabama hauling a huge stone edifice of the Ten Commandments he had tried to place in the state Supreme Court chambers). Roy had been removed twice from a state judicial post for defiance of federal courts. That he managed to snag a Senate nomination was a testament to the weakness of his rivals. The appointed incumbent and beneficiary of a Donald Trump endorsement, Luther Strange, was fatally tainted by association with the man who put him in the Senate, disgraced Governor Robert Bentley (who was forced to resign shortly after he filled the Sessions seat). Another Moore opponent was congressman Mo Brooks, whose habit of running bad campaigns was reinforced when he lost a Trump Senate endorsement in 2022. By the time Moore won the GOP nomination to face underdog Democrat Doug Jones, the judge’s extremist record and platform was being overshadowed by a drumbeat of allegations that he had engaged in creepy and even illegal misconduct toward underaged women.

It took a whole lot of crazy and creepy for a Republican to lose a Senate race in Alabama, but Roy Moore got it done; he lost to Jones in December of 2017.

Committing fatal gaffes

Even in this era of straight-ticket voting and partisan polarization, candidates can occasionally make mistakes so large that they cancel out any prior advantages. In the aforementioned 2010 Nevada Senate contest, Republicans wound up nominating Sharron Angle because front-runner Sue Lowden blew up her own campaign in one terrible moment when she endorsed the idea of patients bartering for health care services.

“You know, before we all started having health care, in the olden days, our grandparents, they would bring a chicken to the doctor,” she said on a local TV show. “They would say I’ll paint your house … In the old days that’s what people would do to get health care with their doctors. Doctors are very sympathetic people. I’m not backing down from that system.”

Soon “chickens for checkups” became Lowden’s unfortunate signature, and her candidacy sank like a stone.

Even more unfortunately for Republicans, in 2012 not one but two Senate nominees who seemed to be cruising towards a general election victory were felled by variations on the same exceptionally stupid gaffe: remarks defending abortions bans even in cases of a pregnancy caused by rape.

In Missouri, Congressman Todd Akin was favored to defeat incumbent Democratic senator Claire McCaskill before he answered a question about rape exceptions for abortion in this manner:

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

The ignorant scientific assertion made immeasurably worse by the suggestion that victims are lying about rape was disastrous for Akin, leading to calls by both members of the Republican presidential ticket (Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan) for Akin to quit the Senate race and let the party choose someone less offensively bone-headed. Back-peddling and whining all the way, Akin stayed in the race and cost Republicans a Senate seat they expected to win easily.

A while after Akin’s fatal gaffe, Indiana treasurer and Senate nominee Richard Mourdock got caught in his own rape-abortion snare when he said:

“The only exception I have to have an abortion is in that case of the life of the mother. I just struggled with it myself for a long time but I came to realize: Life is that gift from God that I think even if life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

Tea Party favorite Mourdock was already in a tight race against Democrat Joe Donnelly after upsetting veteran Republican Senator Dick Lugar in a primary. His suggestion that God wanted women to be raped offended people across the political spectrum, and had a lot to do with his eventual loss to Donnelly.

The twin defeats in Indiana and Missouri produced a whole cottage industry of Republican consultants hired to train conservative men on how to talk about women.

Running bad campaigns and having bad luck

Almost by definition losing Senate campaigns are not ideally competent. And good candidates are often the victims of bad landscapes for their party in a given election cycle. But sometimes campaigns that should succeed are met with a perfect storm of candidate fecklessness and external crosswinds.

That arguably happened to Republicans in the two most fateful recent Senate contests: the twin general election runoffs defeats in Georgia in January of 2021 that gave Democrats control of the Senate and a governing trifecta in Washington.

Now that Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock are in the Senate representing a state carried by Joe Biden, it may not be fully appreciated how heavily David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler were favored when the runoff campaign began. But they were the betting favorites until late in the race, as Fortune reported:

“According to the bets placed on the race — which often predict outcomes more accurately than polls — Republican candidates David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler were both cruising to relatively easy wins. ‘Until just before the election, people betting their own money reckoned that Republicans had this in the bag,’ says Thomas Miller, a Northwestern University data scientist who calculated the chances of victory in each race based on prices from the PredictIt.org political betting site.”

How did Republicans blow it? It was a team effort.

Appointed senator Kelly Loeffler, who was running in an all-party special election for the right to finish Johnny Isakson’s term after the veteran senator resigned for health reasons, spent much of the cycle frantically trying to head off a challenge from conservative Trump ally Doug Collins. Indeed, a big part of her strategy for making the runoff against Democrat Raphael Warnock was to keep Trump from endorsing Collins by becoming more MAGA than any Senate candidate in the country. She pursued and received an endorsement from the already-notorious Marjorie Taylor Greene. And she ran ads calling herself “more conservative than Attila the Hun.”

Loeffler beat Collins for a runoff spot, all right, but only after alienating the swing voters she was originally appointed to attract, while giving Warnock a free ride until after November.

Meanwhile, incumbent David Perdue was running a reelection campaign that paled in self-discipline, aggressiveness, and grassroots organization compared to Democrat Jon Ossoff’s. At a crucial moment in late October, when Perdue was trying to reach 50 percent and avoid a runoff, Ossoff called him a “crook” in a debate, leaving the incumbent spluttering and then refusing to participate in further debates through the runoff. This enabled the Democrat to debate an empty podium in December.

Perdue also got unlucky, contracting COVID-19 and having to go into quarantine five crucial days before the runoff.

But both Georgia Republicans got unlucky (albeit justly) down the stretch when their professed political lord and savior Donald Trump undermined their campaigns by coming into the state to campaign for them and then spending much of his time complaining about the state’s “rigged” election machinery. By near-universal assent, Trump’s rhetoric dampened GOP base turnout and in combination with the smart, tough and well-organized Democratic campaigns, cost Perdue and Loeffler their seats and Republicans their Senate control.

None of these examples, of course, mean that Republicans will misplay enough 2022 Senate races to cost them a victory they might otherwise win. But you cannot blame Mitch McConnell for wondering if history might repeat itself in an unfortunate way.


One Way Dems Could Keep Their Senate Majority in November

Andrew Prokop explains “Why Republicans are favored to win the Senate — and how Democrats could stop them” at Vox:

In the past decade, there have been 20 individual Senate elections where a seat ended up flipping to the other party. The vast majority of those races (16 of 20) had the same partisan outcome as either the presidential race that year or, in midterm years without a presidential contest, the most recent one. Senate races have been falling in line with the state’s presidential party preference. “Mismatched” senators, who represent a state their party’s presidential nominee lost, are becoming rarer.

From that perspective, Democrats have a pretty okay map in 2022. In the two most recent midterm cycles, they were badly exposed, with several incumbents in states the Republican presidential candidate just won. This year, they have none at all. (They do have three such seats coming up in 2024, which will be a major challenge, but that’s a problem for another time.) Meanwhile, there are two GOP-held seats in states Biden narrowly won, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, on the ballot.

But that’s likely too optimistic for Democrats. Another way to think about the map is that there are six true swing states with races this cycle. At least once in either 2016 or 2020, Trump either won or came quite close to winning Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia, Arizona, and New Hampshire. Nevada, meanwhile, trended right relative to the country between 2016 and 2020, though Biden still won it….Senate seats in these states are in great danger of slipping out of Democrats’ grasp.

But while Senate race outcomes have become more correlated with national partisanship, individual candidates do frequently overperform or underperform the overall trend. Democrats’ Senate chances likely hinge on whether enough of their candidates can escape this partisan gravity, arguing either that they’re not just another Democrat, or that their opponent is a uniquely unfit Republican.

Prokop shares some indepth analysis of races in the six states, and provides this chart to illustrate Democratic hopes for picking up Senate seats:

History, as well as current polls, indicate that Democrats are facing an unusually tough combination of Biden’s lagging approvals numbers and a deteriorating party image. As Prokop writes, Democratic hopes require that “unique dynamics among candidates in individual races break in their favor.”


Political Strategy Notes

At Politico, Burgess Everett spotlights Senator Elizabeth Warren’s ideas for Democratic midterm election strategy in the next few months: ““We’ve got nearly 200 days. If we don’t deliver, if we don’t get up off our rear ends and make it happen, we’re in real trouble,” the Massachusetts Democrat said in an interview in her office on Tuesday. “But if we do deliver, if we can get some tangible results that touch people’s lives, then we can go to the polls in November with our heads held high.”….She wrote a New York Times op-ed last week claiming Democrats are “headed toward big losses in the midterms” without delivering on their goals, sat for a lengthy Crooked Media podcast interview to push the party to make deals on issues it ran on in 2020, then did a rare three-network sweep on the Sunday shows….Warren is offering a prescription that’s in keeping with her policy-wonk identity during the 2020 primary. She wants anti-price gouging legislation and a ban on lawmaker stock trades on the Senate floor ASAP and quick work on a drug pricing and tax reform bill to wash away the bad taste of Build Back Better’s failure….she also wants President Joe Biden to cancel student loan debt, raise overtime pay and use executive actions to bring down drug prices. With the evenly divided Senate struggling to pass even a $10 billion coronavirus bill, it’s a tall order; still, Warren is pitching her revitalized agenda as a vital antidote to conservative framing of the election….She wants Democrats to put a bill allowing the Federal Trade Commission to investigate price gouging responsible for costly consumer goods and “dare the Republicans to vote against it. A clean, simple bill….Let’s put it to the Republicans. Do they care about price gouging from the perspective of helping the consumers?”

“As we assess the Senate map right now, we do currently see the Republicans as favorites to take the majority,” Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman write at Sabato’s Crystal Ball. “This is because, of the most competitive seats — the ones we call Toss-ups — Republicans are defending just 1 (Pennsylvania) and Democrats are defending 3 (Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada). And while we’re holding at a Toss-up rating in all of these races, there are some indications that the Republicans are better-positioned in several if not all of them.” Kondik and Coleman provide a map reflecting the latest trends in public opinion:

Map 1: Crystal Ball Senate race ratings

Robert Kuttner takes a more optimistic view of Democratic midterm prospects for the Senate at The American Prospect: “Conversely, several Democratic pickups seem possible, notably the open seat in Pennsylvania, which Biden carried in 2020, as well as in Wisconsin, another Biden state, and where far-right incumbent Ron Johnson is a lightning rod for Democratic turnout. Elsewhere, Republicans face a divisive primary in Ohio, where Democrats have a strong candidate in Tim Ryan. In the open seat in North Carolina, a competitive state with a Democratic governor, Democratic chances depend on the degree of voter suppression. In Missouri, Republican incumbent Roy Blunt barely won the seat in 2016. Blunt is retiring, and the leading contender for the Republican nomination is Eric Greitens, who resigned as governor after accusations of abuse by a woman with whom he had an extramarital affair….The most serious at-risk incumbent is Raphael Warnock of Georgia, because of the degree of that state’s voter suppression. In New Hampshire, however, Sen. Maggie Hassan got lucky when her strongest potential opponent, Gov. Chris Sununu, decided not to make the race. In Arizona and Nevada, both blue-trending states, vulnerable incumbents Mark Kelly and Catherine Cortez Masto could well hold their seats given decent mobilization.”

From “Our commitment to Ukraine will be tested. Americans must stay strong” by Washington Post columnist Dionne, Jr.: “While the widespread solidarity with a people under siege is a refreshing break from cynicism and division, it’s easy to fly a flag and swoon over a fluent and courageous leader. It’s harder to stick with a commitment that will entail spending billions of dollars on behalf of a faraway people….Inevitably, some share of Americans will express sentiments that always arise about engagements abroad, even when no U.S. troops are involved: Why are we sending money to Kyiv and Odessa instead of Kansas City and Omaha?….The question should be taken seriously, and leaders of both parties will have to join in answering it convincingly. Remember how bipartisan support for the Marshall Plan after World War II was critical to its success. We and our allies must keep faith with Ukraine, even if the cost is high. The price of Russian success in subjugating Ukraine would be even higher, not only to Ukrainians but also to democratic countries everywhere. Aggression cannot be rewarded….Progressives are wary of throwing money at the Pentagon. They rightly argue that advocates of high levels of military spending typically turn around and insist on stringency when it comes to domestic needs, especially those of the least advantaged. Conservatives are often wary of foreign aid. And when they back big defense budgets, they never seem willing to increase taxes to pay for what they say we need….But in this moment of emergency for democracy, we must put aside our disharmony….The truth is that the United States is wealthy enough to do right by both Kyiv and Kansas City — and standing up for Ukraine now is an investment in a more secure future. The cost of bolstering Ukraine today pales in comparison to the price of allowing Putin’s treacherous adventure to succeed.”


How Dems Can Win More Young Voters – Without Congress

Ed Burmilla shares some creative ideas for “How Biden Can Save Democracy From the GOP” at The Nation.

Experience indicates that, with few exceptions, midterm election outcomes are reliably linked to the incumbent President’s approval rate. Noting that “Biden’s approval rating has plummeted among younger voters more than among any other group. Sanctimonious lectures about the obligation to Vote Blue No Matter Who seem unlikely to motivate young people to the polls,” Burmilla advises:

“Federally reschedule marijuana and expunge federal marijuana-related convictions. Pitch it to timid moderates as boosting tax revenue and freeing up police resources to deal with serious crimes, if you must. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service conservatively concluded that “the President cannot directly remove marijuana from control under federal controlled substances law, [but] he might order executive agencies to consider either altering the scheduling of marijuana or changing their enforcement approach.” Surely all the Ivy League brainpower that makes up modern Democratic administrations can construct a plausible case for doing even more than the CRS is willing to advise. This is low-hanging fruit; the House has passed a bill along these lines. Yet Biden remains coy. Younger voters and communities most directly affected by the woefully unequal ways “justice” is doled out in this country are overwhelmingly opposed to our antiquated federal drug laws. Democrats have no path to victory without those votes. This doesn’t even rise to the standard of a tough choice; it’s an easy call, and long overdue.”

Also, strengthening worker leverage in collective bargaining could help Biden’s image and the Democratic brand with all workers, including the young. As Burmilla writes,

“Keep pushing with the National Labor Relations Board. The recent organizing success in the service industry signals the direction of the wind among the younger, mostly non-college-educated voters we’ve heard so very much about Democrats’ struggling to woo. The NLRB just recently called for an end to employer-mandated anti-union sessions. Keep going. Do more than give Amazon warehouse workers a pat on the back for their organizing efforts. Redefine the Reagan-era Meyers Industries standard of “concerted activities” that gives workers the right under the National Labor Relations Act to “engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” Interpretations of this vague phrase were narrowed to employers’ advantage in 2019; the current administration has the same powers today that the Trump NLRB had then. Close the numerous and embarrassingly obvious loopholes in Duty to Bargain, the fundamental concept that gives workers input into decisions made on their behalf by an employer. Currently, management can shutter a workplace and relocate it by fiat simply by claiming that work at the new location “varies significantly from the work performed at the former plant.” Upsetting the Chamber of Commerce by revising employer wish-list fodder like that is a risk worth taking today. Anti-labor sentiment exists in the electorate, but how many voters for whom that is a deal-breaker are not already voting Republican?”

In addition,

“Act on student debt. You’re tired of hearing it. You’ve heard all the arguments. A president staring down a 34 percent youth approval rating needs to suck it up and do it already. We are creeping toward de facto loan forgiveness anyway with the repeatedly extended deadlines for restarting federal student loan repayment. Even the person Trump put in charge of the issue calls for loan forgiveness, admitting that the overwhelming majority of student debt is never, ever being repaid and serves only to burden and discipline borrowers. And even the noted Marxist-Leninists at… Forbes note that Biden not only has the power to do this unilaterally but there are multiple ways he could do it. A choice between standing before young voters cajoling “C’mon, vote, man!” and “Look at what I just did for you, like I promised… Now it’s on you,” is no choice at all.”

Burmilla writes in his conclusion, “This isn’t guaranteed to work. But the strategy in which the threat is enormous and the response is timid is—historically, even logically—bound to fail. If the stakes are as high as we are regularly told, leaving bold options on the table makes no sense.”


Teixeira: Are Democrats Fiddling While Rome Burns?

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

Are Democrats Fiddling While Rome Burns?

That’s been more or less my point of view and that of a few others like David Shor. It’s a positive step though that more and more left-leaning analysts are coming to share that viewpoint. The latest is G. Elliott Morris, as expressed in a recent commentary on his substack newsletter.

“[M]any Democrats do not seem to be taking the prospect of being locked out of power for the short- to medium-term seriously enough. If Republicans win back the House in 2022, take back the White House in 2024, and defend a very favorable map in 2026, Democrats may not regain full control of the federal government until 2028 or 2030. To quote [Ross] Douthat: “The political landscape after 2024, however, might look more like liberalism’s depictions of its Trump-era plight.”…

I have to say [that progressives’ current strategy]…. sounds like more of the same strategy that got Democrats where they are today. That is not to say [their policies are] not the normatively or morally right thing to do. If I had my way, Democrats (including Joe Manchin) would immediately expand universal child care, pass a public option for government-subsidized health care, and dramatically radicalize their approach to climate policy. As a bonus, most of those things in isolation are popular with a majority of voters.

Instead, my argument is that this unified progressive agenda does nothing to bring back into the fold the conservative working-class voters — mainly white, but growing significantly more Latino recently — who have abandoned the Democrats and caused the structural disadvantages that are dragging them down today. The party needs a renewed identity as a pro-worker party, not one where coastal elites control the party line on policy and messaging. And it needs to be substantially more diverse in its approach to talking to voters in different areas of the country; messages that work in young, diverse urban cores do not work in educated white suburbs or shrinking exurbs.”

Ah but how to do that? That is what every Democrat should be thinking hard about instead of acting like they live in a different country than they do.