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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Vote Blue! No Matter Who.


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.


No Matter Who.

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

Vote Blue No Matter Who bumper sticker

Vote Blue

No matter who.

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

RIP GOP book by Stanley Greenberg

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

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

Pre-Order Now.

The Daily Strategist

April 5, 2020

Democracy Versus Quick Election Results

I’ve been brooding over the Caucus Night disaster in Iowa, but then read a piece that cast light on broader questions, which I wrote about at New York:

During the long, agonizing evening of February 3, if you were watching cable news, you saw two interrelated things happening. The first and most obvious was that a terrible meltdown had struck the flawed volunteer-based and technologically afflicted system that Iowa Democrats had for tabulating results, which did not come in at the expected mid-evening juncture — or at all that night. The second is that a lot of highly paid, puffed-up talking heads were enraged that they were denied the raw material for their punditry. No telling how many planned and even paid-for witticisms and future catchphrases went unuttered, or how many maps of Iowa counties were tossed into digital wastebaskets.

As the renowned political scientist Norman Ornstein observes, we should beware putting too much stock in the perceived needs of those who want instant gratification on election nights. Some reforms that improve democracy make results harder to calculate and slower to harvest. Ornstein cites ranked-choice voting as one of those we are likely to see more of in the immediate future:

“It allows voters to give their first, second and subsequent choices, and allocates those second choices if no candidate gets over 50%, dropping off sequentially the lowest-performing candidates until a winner can be declared.

“This gives a truer picture of voter preferences and takes away the ability of independent or third-party candidates to distort the outcomes, or enable a candidate to win an election with a vote that is much less than a majority.”

But it takes time to tabulate ranked-choice votes, which is why when it was deployed in Maine in 2018 Democratic primaries the winners weren’t known for eight days. That was frustrating to a lot of people with a stake in the results, including journalists. But it arguably fulfilled the prime directive of the election in better reflecting the actual preferences of Maine Democrats.

As Ornstein also notes, there is a far more common democracy-enhancing reform that slows down election results — voting by mail:

“States have different ways to count those mail ballots, but because the envelopes have to be opened manually, one by one, and then tallied, they can take a lot of time — weeks in the case of California.

“And frequently, the mail ballots have voter preferences different from those of voters who go to the polls on Election Day, making the initial counts made on election eve misleading. In California, Democrats tend to vote more by mail, and several contests that had initial Republican leads were changed when the mail ballots were counted, leading many Republicans to cry foul.”

That was particularly true after California changed its laws to allow mail ballots postmarked by Election Day but received by the following Friday to be considered valid. And why not? Why does the act of filling out a ballot at a polling place on election day possess more civic virtue than filling it out at home or work and placing it in the mail or dropping it off the very same day?

Yet when late mail ballots slowed down and then (as Ornstein said, predictably) reversed the results of key California congressional races in 2018, Republicans (notably House Speaker Paul Ryan and his successor as House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy) erupted with 100 percent unsubstantiated cries of “voter fraud.” Their candidates were ahead on Election Night! Then they lost! Those godless socialistic Democrats must have cooked the books, right?

Wrong. Partial results are just partial results, and there’s nothing magic about those cast or tabulated or reported on Election Night. Perhaps part of the problem is that the older set of political observers grew up on lurid tales of candidates being “counted out” by crooked election officials who waited until the wee hours to see how many votes they needed for victory and then fabricated them one way or another. That likely still happens in isolated circumstances (along with the very new threat of hacking), and in others, incompetence or inadequate investment in election technology is to blame. But we really do need to get over the idea that instant results are some sort of testament to the integrity of elections and a media birthright.

Teixeira: The Case for Klobuchar

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

Matt Yglesias, who I’ve long suspected was the closet political realist among the Vox crowd, has a nice piece up on the case for Klobuchar. Well worth reading after Tuesday’s result in NH.

“Klobuchar…is a Sanders alternative who offers a genuine trade-off — she’s running on a less ambitious agenda, but that consists almost entirely of being careful to avoid politically unpopular positions. She’s for taking action on climate change, but not for a fracking ban. She’s for a public option and price curbs on prescription drugs rather than an expensive Medicare-for-all program. She’d do a better job than Sanders of appealing to swing voters, and Sanders would need to try to make it up by pulling in third-party supporters or new voters.

This is similar to the Biden pitch, but with stronger evidence…
She’s spent most of the 2020 campaign being largely ignored because she’s simply not that distinctive or interesting. She’s the typical age for a presidential aspirant, has the typical qualifications, and has somewhat banal Democratic Party policy views.

But typical is typical for a reason. If you want a political revolution or to take a shot at imposing a wealth tax on America’s billionaires, then probably none of this is very persuasive. Fair enough.

For a long time, though, Biden was riding high on something much simpler — the perception he could beat Trump and restore basic competence and integrity to government.

Over the past couple of weeks, Biden’s shortcomings have started to loom larger and he’s plummeting in the polls. But if his basic message appeals to you — and clearly it does appeal to a lot of Democrats — you owe it to yourself to ask if Klobuchar isn’t the most effective vehicle for that message.”

Teixeira: Klobuchar as Republican Killer

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

You may have heard that Amy Klobuchar has run well in her elections in Minnesota. But you probably don’t realize how crazy good her performance has been there, as she’s swept across all demographics in the state, decimating the GOP in most groups, while reducing their margins to pathetic levels in their best groups.

Consider these data points, both from Klobuchar’s 2018 Senate run and, for comparison, from Clinton’s Presidential performance in the state in 2016. (All data from Catalist Analytics)

White college women: Klobuchar +52, Clinton +23 (!)
White noncollege women: Klobuchar +21, Clinton -4 (!!)
White college men: Klobuchar +28, Clinton even
White 18-29: Klobuchar +39, Clinton +8
White seniors: Klobuchar +14, Clinton -15
Rural white: Klobuchar -5, Clinton -34
Rural white college: Klobuchar +14, Clinton -23
Rural white noncollege: Klobuchar -12, Clinton -38

I rest my case.

Political Strategy Notes

For some timely Democratic presidential campaign horserace analysis, check out ricochet.com’s podcast interview, in which conservative Washington Post columnist Henry Olsen and TDS contributor Ruy Teixeira discuss in-depth the outcome of the New Hampshire primary and the possible trajectories of the candidates leading up to the contests in Nevada, South Carolina and beyond. Among Teixeira’s observations: “When you look at this budget, it’s a matter of political malpractice that the current candidates don’t seem to find much time to focus on it. But given the right candidate, I think the amount of ammunition here is enormous.”

“Despite all the democratic socialist hype, the moderates retain the edge inside the Democratic tent,” Bill Scher writes at Politico. “Moderate candidates gave Democrats the House majority in 2018. Single-payer health care has taken a beating on the debate stage over the past seven months—and coughing up the details of the proposal proved to be a political third rail for Elizabeth Warren’s campaign. In fact, moderation may be on the rise with grassroots Democrats; comparing the New Hampshire primary exit polls four years ago to last night, the share of voters who identify as “moderate” went up 9 points to 36 percent, while those who see themselves as “very liberal,” went down 5 points, to 21 percent…So why are moderates struggling to unite? The big moderate divide in 2020 is not about any major policy dispute, but between those who respect insider experience and those who are inspired by outsider energy…Advocates of outsider candidates have the stronger electability argument, which Buttigieg regularly articulates: “Every single time my party has won the presidency in the last 50 years, it’s been with a candidate who was new on the national scene, hadn’t spent a lot of time in Washington, and represented a new generation of leadership.” This covers the last three Democratic presidents—Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Except for the “new generation” part, it applies to Donald Trump as well.”

“However, two factors complicate Buttigieg’s case,” Scher continues, “One, he is pushing the limits of what can constitute a credible outsider candidate. He’s not a southern governor, or a first-term senator, or even a businessman/TV star, but a small-city mayor. Two, as Klobuchar put it in the last debate, “We have a newcomer in the White House, and look where it got us.” If Americans tend to elect the opposite of the sitting president, as many believe, does it make sense to put up another newcomer, when Democrats want to argue that Trump is in way over his head?…The insider-outsider divide helps explain why Klobuchar was the main beneficiary of the pummeling Biden took in New Hampshire. Compared to the final alignment totals in Iowa, Buttigieg’s share of the vote in New Hampshire (with 97 percent counted) was basically stagnant, ticking down 0.7 percent. Klobuchar, however, jumped almost 8 percent, suggesting a resistance among some moderates to an outsider candidate.”

In his post, “There is hard data that shows that a centrist Democrat would be a losing candidate” at salon.com, Keith A. Spencer draws insights from Thomas Piketty’s paper, “Brahmin Left vs. Merchant Right: Rising Inequality & the Changing Structure of Political Conflict (abstract here),” to explore the implications for the political moment in the U.S. As Spencer writes, “nominating centrist Democrats who don’t speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism’s ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a “bifurcated” voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between…Piketty’s paper is an inconvenient truth for the Democratic Party. The party’s leaders see themselves as the left wing of capital — supporting social policies that liberal rich people can get behind, never daring to enact economic reforms that might step on rich donors’ toes. Hence, the establishment seems intent on anointing the centrist Democrats of capital, who push liberal social policies and neoliberal economic policies.”

Memo to all those who are worried about Democratic candidates starting class warfare: That train has already left the station. See for example, “Trump Hires Union Busters to Oversee Unions” by Brian Young in Trades & Union Digest, which notes, “Within the Department of Labor, there is a section that is devoted to providing oversight to labor unions. It is responsible for auditing financial disclosures and investigating officer corruption…Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, has hired two new people to work in this oversight role who has a long history of working against unions. Rusty Brown, worked as a union-avoidance consultant. He helped to decertify a union of 27,000 home care workers in Minnesota and pushed the Labor Department to investigate a prominent Texas worker center that was a vocal critic of dangerous conditions in the construction industry. He will begin work in the Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS)…The other hire, Trey Kovacs will work as a “special assistant” to OLMS. Kovacs previously worked at the Competitive Enterprise Institute where he advocated for treating worker centers more like labor unions, requiring them to file detailed financial statements and oversight. He has also accused the department of dragging their feet on expanding union financial disclosures. According to his bio, Kovacs writing focuses on the adverse effects of public sector unions. He has written in support of ending the Obama-era Joint-Employer Rule, advocated for the end to exclusive representation for public sector unions, and claimed that eliminating union time would save veterans’ lives at the VA.”

Democrats Who Use Twitter Are More Likely to Be Liberal: Pew Research Center found support for Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders among that group,” David Cohen writes at AdWeek. Cohen reports that Pew surveyed 6,077 U.S. adults who identify as Democrats or Democratic-leaning Independents, and he notes that “Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents who use Twitter are more likely to support Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) or Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), while former Vice President Joe Biden did not fare well among that group, according to Pew Research Center…However, it did not bode well for Sanders that 40% of Democrats on Twitter who said they are not registered to vote or unsure of their registration status tapped him as their first choice…”Sanders was the most-followed candidate among Democrats on Twitter, at 21%, trailed by Warren (16%), Biden (11%) and South Bend (Ind.) Mayor Pete Buttigieg (10%)…Former President Barack Obama was the most followed major political figure within this group, at 48% of Democrats on Twitter, followed by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (21%) and President Donald Trump (13%).

Cohen notes further, “Pew found that 56% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents on Twitter described their political views as liberal or very liberal, compared with 41% of non-Twitter-using Democrats…The think tank said 65% of Democrats who don’t use Twitter believe it is more important for a Democratic candidate to seek common ground with Republicans, even if it means conceding on some issues, while just 54% of Twitter-using Democrats felt the same way, with 45% preferring a candidate who will push hard for the policies his or her party wants.”

Speaking of ads, the wizards at AdWeek should be agog at the embarrassment of riches placed at the feet of the Democratic party this year, especially in the ever-increasing tally  of video clips of Trump, McConnell and Lindsey Graham contradicting themselves to a ridiculous extent on a vast range of topics, including impeachment, pre-existing health conditions, Trump’s integrity, Russia, Social Security, Medicare and others. Dems seem to have a sort of laissez faire attitude about attack ads — leave it up to the individual campaigns, which is a pretty dicey approach. So far, Bloomberg alone has risen to the challenge of vigorous, high quality attack ads, and you may have noticed that it has served him well. No other candidates have the dough for such a commitment. But it would be good for Bloomberg and Steyer to support Democratic senate candidates by kicking in a couple billion for ads and front-porch canvassing, which has also proven effective. Maybe invite Soros, Turner, Lucas and Spielberg to do likewise.

Virginia To End the Rebel Yell and Make Election Day a State Holiday

Something richly symbolic is underway thanks to Virginia Democrats, and I wrote about it at New York:

When Democrats won control of the Virginia legislature last year (along with the governorship under Ralph Northam), it gave them a governing trifecta. Bills more than doubling the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 are moving through both chambers of the legislature. A bill abolishing the Commonwealth’s ban on collective bargaining by public employees has been passed by the House of Delegates and is moving toward passage in the Senate.

But the most richly symbolic sign of a new day in the Old Dominion is undoubtedly this one, as reported by CNN:

“Virginia is one step closer to ending its tradition of honoring Confederate generals.

“This week, the Virginia House voted to strike Lee-Jackson Day from the list of state holidays. The holiday, observed on the Friday before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in January, honors Robert E. Lee and Thomas ‘Stonewall’ Jackson as ‘defenders of causes.’

“Both men owned slaves and fought to preserve slavery in the US.

“In its place, the House bill proposed that the state replace it with Election Day, the first Tuesday after the First Monday in November, instead.

“Gov. Ralph Northam included the measure in his 2020 legislative proposals. If Election Day becomes a state holiday, he said, it’ll be easier for Virginians to vote.”

Lee, of course, has been the object of an enormous and region-wide cult of Confederate memorial and neo-Confederate defiance. In Virginia, though, he has long been rivaled in esteem among admirers of the Lost Cause by his most famous field commander, General James “Stonewall” Jackson (given that nickname after heroics in the first major engagement of the Civil War at Bull Run). Military prowess aside, the intensely religious Jackson became known as the epitome of the “Christian soldier,” a reputation somewhat at odds with his advocacy of brutal treatment for disobedient soldiers and enemy combatants. And without question, part of the devotion surrounding him in subsequent decades derived from the belief that had he not died of an injury from friendly fire in 1863, the South would have won the war and its right to become an independent slave-owning republic.

Now, at long last, the rebel yell of defiance associated with a state holiday in honor of these two racist traitors (which, no matter how you judge them otherwise, they most definitely were) is apparently going to be silenced. And it is highly appropriate that this particular state replace this particular tradition with an Election Day holiday to encourage voting. Under Jim Crow and the Byrd Machine, Virginia famously disenfranchised poor whites as well as African-Americans; the great historian of southern politics V.O. Key said of the Commonwealth in the late 1940s: “By contrast, Mississippi is a hotbed of democracy.”

Fare thee well, Lee-Jackson Day! Soon enough only open, hard-core racists will mourn its passing.

Yglesias: Why Dems Should Stop Freaking Out About Sanders

Somebody had to do it, and Vox’s Matthew Yglesias rises to the challenge of confronting Sanders phobia head on in his article, “Mainstream Democrats shouldn’t fear Bernie Sanders: He’d be a strong nominee and a solid president.” Yglesias tries out a ‘calm down, let’s reason this out’ approach in discussing the very real possibility of Sanders winning the Democratic nomination for president, and writes:

Sen. Bernie Sanders’s win in New Hampshire following his quasi-win in Iowa dashes the Democratic Party establishment’s big hope of the past four years — that he’d just fade away…Alarm, clearly visible in a range of mainstream Democratic circles over the past several weeks, is now going to kick into overdrive.

But this frame of mind is fundamentally misguided. For all the agita around his all-or-nothing rhetoric, his behavior as a longtime member of Congress (and before that as a mayor) suggests a much more pragmatic approach to actual legislating than some of the wilder “political revolution” rhetoric would suggest…On the vast majority of issues, a Sanders administration would deliver pretty much the same policy outcomes as any other Democrat. The two biggest exceptions to this, foreign policy and monetary policy, happen to be where Sanders takes issue with an entrenched conventional wisdom that is deeply problematic.

Yglesias points out that “Sanders comes with a strong electoral track record in practice, and he brings some unique assets to the table as someone who appeals precisely to the most fractious elements of the anti-Trump coalition.” But Yglesias notes further,

The specter of “socialism” hangs over the Sanders campaign, terrifying mainstream Democrats with the reality that when asked about it by pollsters, most Americans reject the idea. Given that Sanders himself tends to anchor his politics in Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal, it seems as though everyone involved would be better off if he labeled himself a New Deal Democrat and let us revert to the normal pattern where Republicans call mainstream liberals “socialists” and liberals push back rather than accepting an unpopular label.

It is remarkable that in 2020, the socialist boogeyman still has staying power. Certainly the fear-monger in-chief will make the most of it to crank up turnout. But are genuine swing voters really that gullible? Won’t the fear-mongering get stale after months of it? Is Sanders adept enough to confront the accusations and persuade enough voters to support his candidacy anyway?

Yglesias notes that, “in current head-to-head polling matchups with Donald Trump, Sanders does well and is normally winning. Skeptics worry whether that lead will hold up against the sure-to-come cavalcade of attack ads from Trump. It’s a reasonable concern.” Yglesias adds that Sanders has “separated that idealism from his practical legislative work, which was grounded in vote counts. He voted for President Barack Obama’s Children’s Health Insurance Program reauthorization bill in 2009, and again for the Affordable Care Act in 2010. He voted for the Dodd-Frank bill and every other contentious piece of Obama-era legislation.”

“It’s fine if you want to be annoyed that Sanders’s self-presentation as a revolutionary who will sweep all practical obstacles aside is at odds with his reality as an experienced legislator who does typical senator stuff in a typical way,” Yglesias writes. “But there’s no reason to be worried that Sanders is a deluded radical who doesn’t understand how the government works…Some of his ideas are not so good, but it’s important to understand that on the vast majority of topics, the policy outputs of a Sanders administration just wouldn’t be that different from those of a Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg administration. Whether a new president promises continuity with Obama or a break with neoliberalism, the constraints will realistically come from Congress, where the median member is all but certain to be more conservative than anyone in the Democratic field.”

However, “On foreign policy, by contrast, the president is less constrained, and Sanders’s real desire to challenge aspects of the bipartisan foreign policy consensus makes a difference. He’s much more critical of Israel than most people in national politics, he’s a leading critic of the alliance with Saudi Arabia, and he’s generally skeptical of America’s expansive military posture…These ideas are coded as “extreme” in Washington, where there’s significant bipartisan investment in the status quo. But polls show that most voters question the narratives of American exceptionalism, favor a reduced global military footprint and less defense spending, and are skeptical of the merits of profligate arms sales…Nobody should have illusions about Sanders somehow unilaterally ushering in a bold new era of world peace, but he is by far the most likely person in the race to push back against expansive militarism — and that’s worth considering.”

In his concluding summation, Yglesias writes that “Sanders’s record is not nearly as scary as many establishment Democrats fear. His “revolution” rhetoric doesn’t make sense to me, but he’s been an effective legislator for a long time, and he knows how to get things done — and how hard it is to get them done.” Also,

Some of his big ideas are not so hot on the merits, but it’s not worth worrying about them because the political revolution is so unrealistic. And on a couple of issues where the next president will probably have a fair amount of latitude, Sanders breaks from the pack in good ways. He’s perhaps not an ideal electability choice, but his track record on winning elections is solid and his early polling is pretty good. There’s no particular reason to think he’d be weaker than the other three top contenders, and at least some reason to think he’d be stronger.

A Sanders presidency should generate an emphasis on full employment, a tendency to shy away from launching wars, an executive branch that actually tries to enforce environmental protection and civil rights laws, and a situation in which bills that both progressives and moderates can agree on get to become law…That’s a formula the vast majority of mainstream Democrats should be able to embrace.

Yglesias doesn’t address some legitimate concerns, such as Sanders’s’ policies on fracking, which won’t help Dems in the pivotal swing state of Pennsylvania. Sanders also embraces voting rights for all incarcerated people, which Trump-heads will spin into ‘Look, he wants to give terrorists and killers voting power.’ Then there is the equally-distorted ‘open borders’ meme, in which Sanders and other liberal Democrats are characterized as strewing welcoming roses in the paths of undocumented hordes crosssing our southern borders. But it may be that those who buy into these two exaggerations are probably not going to vote for the Democratic nominee anyway.

Yglesias’s strongest argument is that any Democratic nominee, not just Sanders, is going to present some serious problems, and Democrats are going to have to prepare for vicious attacks from Trump’s campaign regardless of who leads our ticket. Whoever Dems nominate is going to face a relentless and unprecedented assault, including nasty personal accusations. Our 2020 nominee has to be tough and well-prepared, and so far, Sanders looks like he can handle it.

Teixeira: Maybe It’s Time to Start Thinking About Amy Klobuchar

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

Sure, the current 538 model gives Klobuchar only a ghost of a chance (less than one percent) of getting the nomination. But that estimate can change rapidly as results come in. Look at what happened to poor Joe Biden after he got hammered in Iowa.

Speaking of Biden and Klobuchar, check out these critiques of Medicare for All at the last debate (from Ryan LIzza’s Politico article):

Here’s Biden hitting Sanders on Medicare for All:

“Look, Bernie says that you have to bring people together and we have to have Medicare for All. But Bernie says — and he says he wrote the damn thing. But he’s unwilling to tell us what the damn thing is going to cost.

The fact that we’re in New Hampshire, a very level-headed group of people, look at the numbers. How much is it going to cost? Who’s going to pay for it? It will cost more than the entire — the entire federal budget we spend now. More than the entire budget. The idea middle-class taxes aren’t going to go up is just crazy.

When they did it in Vermont, what happened? They doubled the state income tax and then had a 14 percent tax on withholding. And they finally did away with it. So how much is it going to cost? When Bernie — you ask Bernie that — I’ll ask him again tonight — sometime — if you ask Bernie that, he says, go figure, ‘I don’t know, we’ll find out.’ I think that was on CBS. He said, ‘We’ll find out’ or something to that effect.

Imagine you’re going unite the country, walking into the Congress, and say, ‘I got this bill. It’s going to provide Medicare for everybody. I can’t tell you how much it’s going to cost, we’ll find out later; it’s likely to be double whatever the — everything we spend in the federal government.’ Who do you think is going to get that passed? I busted my neck getting Obamacare passed, getting every Democratic vote. I know how hard it is.’

Here’s Klobuchar:

“I keep listening to this same debate, and it is not real. It is not real, Bernie, because two-thirds of the Democrats in the Senate are not on your bill and because it would kick 149 million Americans off their current health insurance in four years.

And let me say what else. Elizabeth wants to do it in two years. And, Pete, while you have a different plan now, you sent out a tweet just a few years ago that said, ‘henceforth, forthwith, indubitably, affirmatively,’ you are for Medicare for All for the ages.”

And so I would like to point out that what leadership is about is taking a position, looking at things, and sticking with them. I have long believed that the way that we expand health care to more people and bring down premiums is by building on the Affordable Care Act with a nonprofit public option. That is the best way to do it.

And practically, look at this–the Affordable Care Act is now nearly 10 points more popular than the president of the United States. So why would we talk about blowing it up?

What we need to do is build on it — mental health care, addiction, long-term care — those are the things that would make it better for everyone.”

Whoa–quite a difference! I can definitely see Klobuchar being quite effective against Trump…..Biden, well, less so..

So does she have a shot? As the chart below shows, she’s now within a few points of Warren and Biden. If she had a good night and blew past them to wind up in third….that just might be the beginning of something interesting (though granted her odds would still not be great). We’ll see.

Political Strategy Notes

In his article, “Trump’s Biggest Vulnerability” His lies about health care at the State of the Union signal just how weak he is on the issue” at The Atlantic, Ronald Browstein writes, “he repeatedly lied about his administration’s unrelenting efforts to gut the Affordable Care Act. To Democrats, Trump’s determination to surround his health-care record with what Winston Churchill once called a “bodyguard of lies” clearly signaled that the president recognizes how vulnerable his record could prove this fall…Because people see health care as so central to both their personal well-being and their financial well-being, health care stands out as Trump’s No. 1 vulnerability,” says the longtime Democratic pollster Geoff Garin. “The simplest way for people to understand the Trump economy is that whatever wage increases they are getting are smaller than the increases in their health-care premiums and out-of-pocket health-care costs.”

Brownstein continues,  In an Associated Press/National Opinion Research Center survey last month, just 38 percent of Americans said they approved of his record on health care—a grade that has stayed relatively stable since he took office—compared with 56 percent who approved of his handling of the economy, the highest of his presidency…The latest monthly health-care poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation drilled down further into those views. In the survey, just about a third of adults gave Trump positive marks for dealing with preexisting conditions, the ACA, and prescription-drug costs. Detailed results provided to me by Kaiser showed that two key groups of swing voters shared this deep skepticism of Trump’s health-care record. A majority of college-educated white men disapproved of how Trump has handled each of the three issues. And while white women without a college degree—a group that could decide the Rust Belt states that tilted the 2016 election to Trump—broke against him more narrowly on the ACA and preexisting conditions, just 31 percent of them gave him positive marks on prescription-drug costs.”

“The Republican pollster Gene Ulm told me,” Brownstein notes, “that easing those doubts about his handling of health-care issues is crucial for Trump’s reelection prospects. “No president would be in the game without people believing the economy is getting better than it was,” Ulm said. But for “the next cluster of voters” beyond those immediately drawn to him, “it’s the cost of health care, prescription drugs, and the whole cluster of premiums, co-pays, [and] out-of-pocket expenses” that matter most…And on those fronts, the best measure of Trump’s anxiety was his mendacity in describing his record on Tuesday night…Trump, not for the first time, flatly lied about his efforts to revoke the ACA’s protections for those with preexisting conditions. Not only is his administration currently in federal court seeking to invalidate the entire ACA, but in 2017 he endorsed Republican proposals in Congress to effectively erase those protections by allowing insurance companies to charge people who have greater health needs more. “It’s notable that the president feels the need to say he’s protecting people with preexisting conditions,” Levitt says, “but the facts just don’t back that up.”

“Trump has talked about confronting prescription-drug costs since his 2016 campaign,” Brownstein adds, “when he embraced the long-standing Democratic idea of allowing Medicare to negotiate for lower prices with drug companies. But amid opposition from the pharmaceutical industry, and Republicans leery of an aggressive federal role in health care, he renounced that proposal…Democrats, meanwhile, have picked up the mantle, putting it at the center of the H.R. 3 legislation that the House passed in December. (That was the bill House Democrats were alluding to when a group of them rose to chant “H.R. 3” during Trump’s State of the Union address.)..The GOP-led Senate hasn’t taken up the bill, but the public’s intense focus on drug costs makes it possible that Trump will offer some proposals on the issue before Election Day. That’s why it’s so essential for Democrats to more sharply define the terms of debate right now. “It is really important for Democrats to set the bar on the drug-pricing issue at whether someone supports or opposes giving Medicare the power to negotiate,” Garin warns.”

“Trump’s religious supporters, most of whom preach the most conservative versions of Christianity, either don’t realize or don’t care that they are ratifying what so many young people have come to believe about religion: that it is nothing but a cover for conservative politics,” E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes in his syndicated Washington Post column, “Political idolatry is the enemy of religious faith.” Dionne adds that “it is far more about identity than faith, that it upholds a static traditionalism rather than a living tradition…Thus do 4 in 10 Americans under 40 declare that they have no religious affiliation whatsoever. They are far from devoid of profound moral commitments, and some of them still think of themselves as spiritual. But organized religion just doesn’t speak to them anymore…I acknowledge you have every right to be suspicious that I’m as inclined as anyone to see faith as blessing my own politics. Nonetheless, Romney showed us how religion is most usefully invoked in public life: when it prompts self-doubt rather than self-celebration, when it encourages us to build solidarity with those unlike us and when it promotes dissent rather than conformity.”

So, given the current political landscape, “Was Impeachment a Mistake?” Robert Kuttner, co-editor of The American Prospect addresses the question: “There is no evidence that the impeachment will hurt Democrats in November, and some evidence that it helped. During the entire investigation, polls scarcely moved. To the extent that public opinion shifted at all, it moved very slightly in the direction of favoring Trump’s removal from office, especially among independents…As a sheer matter of politics, there is one strong benefit. Depending on whom you include, between seven and eleven Republican Senate incumbents are up for re-election in swing states next November…Their vote to excuse Trump’s dictatorial behavior by refusing to convict will force them to answer extremely damaging questions during the campaign. These include Cory Gardner of Colorado, Martha McSally of Arizona, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and Susan Collins of Maine. McConnell himself, up for re-election, has approval ratings in his home state of Kentucky of just 37 percent…Whether or not Trump is re-elected, Democratic control of the Senate is crucial for maintaining a semblance of democracy in America. So no, impeachment did not remove Trump, and may not even have damaged him. But it had to be done, and could yet produce major benefits for the Democrats and the country.”

SemDem probes “What Florida Democrats can learn from Virginia … and why they need to” at Daily Kos and offers some strategy suggestions, including, “Long-term investments in pink and red counties can make a dent in Republican dominance in those areas, and they will be critical for victory in 2020… Florida will be lost again if red counties, like Pasco County, are allowed to drive up 50,000 vote margins…Look at Virginia: Just a few years ago, as one candidate put it, the rural western region was written off as hopeless by the state Democratic Party. That started changing in 2015, thanks to the work of several groups. One such group, 90 for 90, was organized by lawmakers and the Chesterfield County Democrats to register voters, encourage voter participation, and recruit candidates outside of the Democratic strongholds. Another initiative, started by Sen. Tim Kaine in 2017, banded multiple rural candidates together to pool resources, share consultants, and create operational support for campaigns across the rural districts. One of these candidates was Daily Kos’ own Beverly Harrison. Although she lost her election, Harrison found success in her work on the successful state campaign to get Virginia to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment…The goal was to build relationships within rural areas, and identify and focus on issues those communities care about, like broadband access and farming. The renewed care that the Virginia Democrats showed these neglected areas paid dividends right away: The GOP suddenly realized that it could no longer rely on these areas it had formerly depended on to retain its majority.”

SemDem notes also that “The Haitian American population in South Florida has grown to over 300,000 strong, expanding their political clout. Scott appeared at a major Haitian American religious event, the Haitian Evangelical Crusade, in Greenacres, Florida; he ran ads in Haitian Creole. Never mind that Rick Scott strongly supports a president who called Haiti a “shithole.” All any of the Florida Democratic candidates had to do was make an effort—at least show up. They didn’t, and we lost every major race by razor-thin margins…Contrast this with the new East Asian and Indian immigrants in Virginia. The situation there was reversed: The Virginia GOP had a tremendous opportunity to get a foothold in these immigrant communities, as these voters spoke positively about the GOP’s rhetoric on taxes and on family values. Yet the Virginia Republicans made very little effort to reach out and counter Trump’s constant, vile attacks on immigrants. That got noticed…It was the Virginia Democrats who welcomed them, visited year-round, and listened to their needs. They didn’t just assume that immigrant communities would fall in line behind Democrats because of Trump’s hatred. It’s as if the Florida Republicans and the Virginia Democrats are following the same playbook, and it’s working for both. In Virginia, immigrant communities turned out in droves and helped Democrats capture the trifecta.” Democrats should also note that Florida has more eligible African-American voters than any other state. Even a modest increase in Black turnout in Florida can make the difference on November 3rd.

To close out this edition of Political Strategy Notes, Nancy LeTourneau reports some good news for Democrats at The Washington Monthly: Although the “Democrats in disarray” crowd is having a field day. As someone who tends to chafe at conventional wisdom, I thought I’d go against the grain and bring you some good news about Democrats. Almost no one is noticing that the party has successfully implemented a 50-state strategy when it comes to fundraising…Howard Dean is the one who popularized the idea of a 50-state strategy back in 2005. What most people don’t know is that in promoting that idea, he was posing a direct challenge to the Democratic “establishment” of his day. Prior to his chairmanship of the DNC, the party was the focal point for fundraising and its leadership doled money out to candidates in a top-down strategy based on who they thought would be viable. Very little of that money was spent to support state parties or candidates in red states or districts that were deemed to be unviable.” Citing “the emergence of ActBlue as the powerhouse of online grassroots fundraising,” LeTourneau writes, “What we have is a Republican Party that has become increasingly dependent on large donations from outside groups and a Democratic Party fueled by grassroots donations directly to candidates. That is how a 50-state strategy is attempting to level the playing field in the era of Citizens United.”

Teixeira: Bernie as Nominee – Be Careful What You Wish For!

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

With the Iowa results (finally) in, the 538 model has flipped and now sees Sanders as the most likely candidate to garner a majority of delegates to the convention and therefore the nomination. This should make Sanders fervent supporters–and they tend to be very fervent–quite happy, even if his current advantage in this metric is fairly modest.

But let’s say Sanders does ride his current advantage to the nomination. Where would that leave the Democrats? Tom Edsall covered this topic in his Times column today and detailed both the reasons why Democrats might be optimistic and might be pessimistic. On the pessimistic side:

“Most political scientists I contacted this week saw greater disadvantages for the Democratic Party in a Sanders nomination than in the possible selection of other leading candidates.

Andrew Engelhardt, a postdoctoral researcher at Brown, wrote, that

“a Sanders nomination would be helpful for other party races to the degree he can encourage individuals who would otherwise not participate to actually turn out. It’s unclear if he helps Democrats win in more moderate districts.”

Engelhardt then noted that a January Economist survey “found that independent and Republican identifiers see Sanders as quite extreme relative to most other prospective Democratic candidates.”

Winning Republican voters is a lost cause for any Democrat, Engelhardt noted, but nominating Sanders could turn away
any who may at least consider someone like Biden or Buttigieg. Further, it may go so far as to encourage these individuals to turn out and vote against Sanders and other Democrats.

Wendy Schiller, a political scientist who is also at Brown, noted in an email that

“Sanders appears to generate the most fervent and intense enthusiasm among his supporters, but polls continue to show that Biden attracts more support among the key groups that are known to get out the door to vote in general elections, especially black voters and voters over the age of 35.”

At the moment, Schiller continued,

“the evidence today just isn’t there that Bernie Sanders at the top of the ticket can generate high enough turnout among black voters to put the Democrats in the White House 2020.”

Eitan Hersh, the Tufts political scientist, raised a different set of concerns about a Sanders nomination, primarily that he would mobilize conservatives:

“Democrats will turn out no matter who their nominee is because they are mostly motivated by their opposition to Trump. Republicans would look at a moderate like Biden or Klobuchar and think the stakes are lower than if the candidate is Sanders or Warren. So they might stay home more.”

How would a Sanders nomination influence the outcome of races for Senate, House and local offices?

“Lots of caveats here,” Hersh wrote,

“but if you want my best guess, it’s that the logic does apply: Democrats should be concerned about heightened counter-mobilization that limits their chances up and down the ballot if they nominate a more ideologically extreme candidate like Sanders.”

Now it may be that the country is ready to elect as president a 78-year-old angry democratic socialist calling for revolution. But if I were a partisan whose top priority was to bring the Trump presidency to an end, I would not bank on it.”

I would add to these observations, the data on key suburban community types recently released by Dante Chinni’s American Communities Project (ACP).

“This year, the ACP is partnering with Dynata, the world’s largest first-party survey insights company, to conduct monthly surveys to measure how each of the 15 community types is reacting to politics in 2020. Now that Dynata has completed its initial December survey, the ACP examines how each of the four big Democratic potentials — Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren — does in a head-to-head matchup against Trump in the Exurbs (1159 responses) and Middle Suburbs (569 responses).

The early results are good for Biden, less so for Sanders….

The Exurbs and Middle Suburbs are more than bellwether communities. Together they represent the pull and push of Trump and his unique brand of politics. The Exurbs underperformed for Trump, giving him less support than other recent GOP nominees. On the other end, the Middle Suburbs surged for the president. (Furthermore, the groups hold lots of voters in the states that were very close and that won Trump the White House: Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.)…

Among the big four Democratic frontrunners, Joe Biden’s numbers are the strongest with voters in both community types. In the Exurbs, Trump’s eight-point victory margin would be a Republican low for this century and big red flag for his campaign.

And a one-point win for Trump in the Middle Suburbs would likely mean a big defeat overall. It’s the kind of number that suggests Democrats would win back Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Overall, Biden beats Trump by about six points in the national popular vote….

The numbers are less impressive for Sanders. Trump runs up a big 15-point win the Exurbs. That’s not a huge surprise. Exurban voters probably don’t see a lot to like about the idea of a “Democratic Socialist” as president. They have money in their bank accounts and in the stock market.”

Yep. Be careful what you wish for. The stakes will be pretty high this November.

Teixeira: Is Trump’s Approval Rate Increase for Real?

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

How Worried Should You Be About Trump’s Rising Approval Ratings?

On the one hand, if his approval rating is truly going up a lot, you should be very worried. No matter who the Democratic nominee is, they’ll have a hard time beating Trump if his approval rating starts pushing 50 percent..

Since Gallup just reported a reading of 49 percent, perhaps it’s time to panic? Not really. The Gallup number appears to be an outlier; the current 538 poll-averaged approval number is 43.9 percent, at the high range of Trump’s first term but far below 49 percent. Still, the 538 rolling average does show an increase of about 2 and a half points in Trump’s rating since August.

Interestingly, even that increase could owe more to survey sampling problems (“differential nonresponse bias”) than an actual rise in Trump’s popularity. Political scientist Jacob Long explains on the Post’s Monkey Cage blog:

“As occasional Monkey Cage contributor [statistician] Andrew Gelman has explained, differential nonresponse bias refers to situations in which changes in polling results are caused by shifts in who responds to the polls rather than actual changes in public opinion. It may be that Trump’s approval is going up because Democrats feel demoralized by the apparently hopeless impeachment trial and so don’t feel like talking to pollsters. Or it could be that Republicans feel so moved to support Trump at when he’s under attack that they are more likely to talk to pollsters than usual.

One example of this occurred during the 2012 election. Gelman and his collaborators Sharad Goel, Doug Rivers, and David Rothschild showed that after Barack Obama’s poor first debate performance against Mitt Romney, the polls showed Romney’s chances of beating Obama surging. But when looking at the survey responses from a group of people who had been asked about their voting intentions repeatedly throughout the campaign, Gelman and colleagues found that survey respondents’ minds weren’t changing after the debate. Rather, Obama supporters were less likely to respond to the surveys during that negative news cycle.

As Trump was heading toward a widely-expected acquittal in the impeachment trial, were Democrats similarly just feeling unenthused about talking to pollsters?…

With Gallup, it looks like almost all the variation in Trump’s job approval from one poll to the next can be explained just by looking at how many of each party’s supporters are in their sample…..Gallup’s shift is the clearest and most dramatic among the pollsters, but there remains a general pattern that is largely consistent with probability that results are partly determined by differential nonresponse….

This means there is reason to believe Trump’s historically stable job approval hasn’t changed much since before the impeachment process began.”

Of course, none of this proves that Trump’s “true” approval rating is not creeping upwards in the real world. It could be and Long responsibly outlines some of the reasons why such a trend cannot be ruled out. But his quantitative analysis does make differential nonresponse bias a very plausible explanation for the recent upward trend in Trump’s approval rating.

So don’t panic…at least not yet.