washington, dc

The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

A Democratic Political Strategy for Reaching Working Class Voters That Starts from the Actual “Class Consciousness” of Modern Working Americans.

by Andrew Levison

Read the Memo

RUBI Report Highlights Successful Approaches for Rural Democratic Candidates

Read the 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.

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.

“Peaceful Protest” vs. “Rioting” is a False Choice.

There’s a Militant, Powerful Strategy for Protesting Police Injustice

Read the Memo

Democrats Will Lose Elections in 2022 and 2024 if They do Not Offer a Plausible Strategy for Reducing the Surge of Immigrants at the Border.

Read on…

The Daily Strategist

February 7, 2023

Political Strategy Notes

Julia Mueller notes that “Betting markets heavily favor Warnock over Walker in Georgia runoff” at The Hill: “Online betting markets are heavily favoring incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) over Republican Herschel Walker in Georgia’s Senate runoff with two days until the election….The Democrat’s chances of winning the runoff were at 89.5 percent to Walker’s 10.5 percent as of Sunday afternoon, according to the tracker Election Betting Odds, which culls odds from other popular betting markets….The site, run by conservatives John Stossel and Maxim Lott, notes Warnock’s lead has climbed 1.4 percent in the last day….PredictIt and Polymarket both show Warnock at 89 percent. Smarkets, another betting market used by Election Betting Odds, puts Warnock’s odds even higher — at 92.6 percent to Walker’s 8.3 percent….Recent polling has also put Warnock in the lead, though only slightly….Results from Emerson College and The Hill released last week showed the Democrat up by 2 percentage points, and a CNN poll released Friday found Warnock leading by 4 points.” Lest Dems get too giddy with optimism about this report, Robert S. Erikson and Christopher Wlezien argue in the abstract to their Public Opinion Quarterly article, “Are Political Market Really Superior to Polls as Election Predictors?”  “Election markets have been praised for their ability to fore-cast election outcomes, and to forecast better than trial-heat polls. This paper challenges that optimistic assessment of election markets, based on an analysis of low Electronic Market (IEM) data from presidential elections between 1988 and 2004. We argue that it is inappropriate to naively compare market forecasts of an election outcome with exact poll results on the day prices are recorded, that is, market prices reflect forecasts of what will happen on Election Day whereas trial-heat polls register preferences on the day of the poll. We then show that when poll leads are properly discounted, poll-based forecasts outperform vote-share market prices.”

Alex Samuels ponders “How Either Candidate Could Win Georgia’s Senate Runoff” at FiveThirtyEight, and writes: “However, because of what happened during the 2020 cycle and the fact that recent polling shows that this race could be a tight one, it’s hard to rely only on historical data. The first poll of the runoff, a November Fabrizio Ward and Impact Research survey for AARP, showed the incumbent with 51 percent support from voters versus Walker’s 47 percent. But a second, more recent, Phillips Academy Poll of likely voters, on the other hand, showed Walker and Warnock essentially neck-and-neck (48 percent to 47 percent, respectively) with 5 percent of voters still undecided. And a third FrederickPolls, Compete Digital, and AMM Political survey of likely runoff voters had the two men tied at 50 percent support each….The 2021 Georgia runoff was different. Next week’s election will tell us if it was an outlier — or the potential harbinger of more Democratic statewide victories to come. If past runoffs are any guide, we’d expect there to be at least some dropoff in turnout. In 2021, for example, turnout was down about 10 percent from the total votes cast in November 2020, and historically that was an unusually small decline in runoff turnout. “There are fewer incentives to turn out this year than there were in 2021,” Bullock said. “So we might expect less people to show up to the polls this year.”….Still, the outcome of this race will tell us which side can better mobilize their base, even during a midterm year when control of the Senate isn’t at stake. And that could start to answer a much bigger question: Is the Peach State red enough to where we can regard recent Democratic wins as an off-chance phenomenon? Or is it now more competitive — or even purple — meaning races can swing in either party’s favor based on the circumstances and candidates?”

In “How Donald Trump is helping Raphael Warnock in Georgia” at CNN Politics, Harry Enten shares his perspective on the closing days of the Georgia run-off campaign: “Trump’s unpopularity in Georgia is causing him to stay out of the state in the campaign’s final days and is part of a deeper reshaping of political alignments in America….To understand the Trump impact on Georgia, take a look at the CNN/SSRS poll of the Senate runoffreleased on Friday. Trump came in with a favorable rating of just 39% and an unfavorable rating of 54% among likely voters….Not surprisingly, Walker leads among White voters and Warnock with Black voters. This is what you’d expect in most closely divided states….But what might have floored a political analyst a mere eight years ago is the extent of the educational divide among White voters in Georgia. Walker was ahead 83% to 17% among White voters without a college degree. His lead shrunk to 51% to 47% among White voters with a college degree….Indeed, arguably the biggest reason Democrats are now competitive in Georgia elections is how much more Democratic college-educated White voters have become….Unlike in most states, though, there wasn’t a lot of ground Republicans could gain among non-college-educated White voters in Georgia. They were already solidly Republican. There was a ton of ground, however, that the GOP could lose among White voters with a college degree….This made Georgia a perfect place for Democrats to make gains because a significant portion of the state’s White population holds a college degree. In the CNN poll, 45% of likely White runoff voters have a college degree….When Warnock combines support from these White college-educated voters with the deeply Democratic Black vote (who made up nearly 30% of the likely electorate in the CNN poll), it gives him a small advantage as the campaign comes to a close.”

But Democrats should also get real about the limitations of a Warnock victory, should they be so lucky. As Lauren Gambino notes at The Guardian, “Likely to remain in place, even with a 51st seat, is the Senate filibuster. Despite mounting calls from across the party to weaken the rule to protect voting rights and codify Roe v Wade, Democrats do not have the support of 50 senators to do so. Manchin and his Democratic colleague, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, oppose changes to the filibuster, which imposes a 60-vote threshold to pass most legislation. Democrats would have needed to gain at least two additional senators to overcome their resistance and even then, such legislation would be unlikely to advance in a Republican-controlled House….Without a majority in the House, Democrats’ streak of legislating will all but certainly grind to a halt. In the senate, Democrats’ priority will be to confirm federal judges and executive branch appointees nominated by the president. Here again having a one-seat cushion would help Democrats bypass a degree of obstinance within their ranks, in contrast to earlier this year when one of Biden’s nominees to the Federal Reserve was forced to withdraw her candidacy after Manchin announced his opposition.” However, looking toward the near future, Gambino adds, “Holding Warnock’s seat would also have longer-term political implications. Democrats face a daunting political map in 2024, when 21 senators who caucus with the party face reelection, including three who represent states Donald Trump won in 2020….“Winning or losing this race isn’t just about whether or not it puts Democrats at 50 or 51 for the next two years,” said Mary Small, national advocacy director at Indivisible, a progressive advocacy group with affiliates across the country. “It also locks in the seat for the next six years in a way that will shape the composition of the Senate in future Congresses as well.”….Having an extra vote in the Senate will free Harris, allowing her to travel even when the chamber expects a party-line vote. In her role as president of the Senate, Harris has broken 26 ties, the most for any vice president in a single-term….“Not having the vice president tied to DC all the time as a tie-breaking vote is another sort of overlooked piece of why senator Warnock’s win will be so important,” Small said, adding: “The ability of the executive branch to have high-profile people out there telling that story of what was accomplished will be a critical part of what [Democrats] need to do heading into 2024.”


Democrats Need to Worry a Bit More About Black Turnout Trends

Sifting through more data from the 2022 midterms, there was one indicator that surprised and concerned me, so I wrote about it at New York:

As analysts pick over the results of the 2022 midterm elections, there have been a lot of mixed messages for Democrats. Yes, they performed better than you might have expected for the party controlling the White House, especially considering the president has underwater job-approval ratings. And yes, Democrats benefited from an unusually robust performance among young voters, who often don’t participate in midterm elections. But at the same time, Democrats didn’t significantly improve their performance among other key demographics, notably Black, Asian American, and Latino voters. As my colleague Eric Levitz observed, Democrats remain dangerously dependent on white college-educated voters who remain sympathetic to Republican economic messages.

Worse yet for Democrats, there is growing evidence that their single most loyal demographic group, African Americans, was underenthused in 2022. The New York Times’ Nate Cohn looked at the preliminary numbers and sounded the alarm:

“Georgia and North Carolina are two of the states where voters indicate their race when they register to vote, offering an unusually clear look at the racial composition of the electorate. In both states — along with Louisiana — the Black share of the electorate fell to its lowest levels since 2006.

“In all three states, the turnout rate among Black voters was far lower than among white voters. In North Carolina, for example, 43 percent of Black registered voters turned out, compared with 59 percent of white registered voters — roughly doubling the difference from 2018 and tripling the racial turnout gap from 2014.

“While similarly conclusive data is not available elsewhere so far, the turnout by county suggests that a relatively weak Black turnout was a national phenomenon.”

Low Black turnout in Georgia and North Carolina is especially significant because Black candidates (Senate candidate Cheri Beasley in North Carolina and Senate Democratic candidate Raphael Warnock and gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams in Georgia) headed up the Democratic tickets in both states. It’s not like the old days when Black voters were being urged to support white conservative Democrats to thwart even more conservative Republicans.

If the signs of relatively low Black turnout in 2022 are accurate and representative, what do they mean? Cohn offers some possible explanations:

“Still, relatively low Black turnout is becoming an unmistakable trend in the post-Obama era, raising important — if yet unanswered — questions about how Democrats can revitalize the enthusiasm of their strongest group of supporters.

“Is it simply a return to the pre-Obama norm? Is it yet another symptom of eroding Democratic strength among working-class voters of all races and ethnicities? Or is it a byproduct of something more specific to Black voters, like the rise of a more progressive, activist — and pessimistic — Black left that doubts whether the Democratic Party can combat white supremacy?”

It’s possible to overinterpret Black voter trends. According to exit polls, the Democratic share of Black voters dropped from 90 percent in 2018 to 87 percent in 2020 and 86 percent in 2022 — not exactly a deep plunge. And some of the negative turnout trends may be attributable to voter-suppression efforts in Republican-controlled states rather than Black voter disaffection with Democrats. In Georgia, moreover, there are encouraging signs about Black early voting turnout in the U.S. Senate general election runoff contest between Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker.

But any way you cut it, Democrats have both a practical and a moral responsibility to boost Black voter participation in elections going forward. In particular, President Joe Biden, whose nomination and election in 2020 depended heavily on Black support, should devote a lot of attention to rekindling the fires of affection in this critical segment of the electorate.


Where the GOP’s ‘Crime Wave’ Meme Flunked….and Worked

Samantha Michaels has one of the more nuanced assessments of the effect of the GOP’s “crime wave” meme in the 2022 midterm elections. As Michaels writes at Mother Jones,

Leading up to the election, Republicans relentlessly blasted voters with campaign ads about crime, offering them brutal images of shootings and assaults and suggesting that if progressives got their way, murderers would run rampant on the streets and sex offenders would approach their children at barbershops. Journalists, too, fanned the flames, quoting voters across the nation who seemed terrified about the prospect of becoming victims. The only way to deal with the threats, some Republicans intoned, was to mount an aggressive and unforgiving campaign against criminals before the country devolved into chaos.

But amid the fearmongering, some Democratic candidates opted away from “tough on crime” messaging to focus instead on how they would change the criminal justice system, to make it more fair and effective. And on Tuesday, a substantial number of voters seemed willing to embrace their proactive vision: Perhaps to both parties’ surprise, many reform-minded candidates scored victories in the midterms.

In Pennsylvania’s closely watched Senate race, Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman beat Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz after underscoring his work on the state pardons board, where he gave second chances to some incarcerated people serving lengthy sentences. In New York, Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul staved off Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin’s allegations that she hindered public safety by supporting bail reforms. And in Minneapolis, in the first election for a county attorney since the murder of George Floyd in 2020, a former public defender and longtime critic of the police department won by a large margin over a former prosecutor with law enforcement endorsements.

Although Republicans with traditional “law and order” platforms triumphed in plenty of races, Tuesday did not bring the kind of election sweep they’d hoped for. “Fears that the crime-wave rhetoric would take down Democratic candidates just didn’t materialize at the national level,” says Insha Rahman at the Vera Institute of Justice, a nonprofit think tank focused on criminal justice issues. “Voters saw past the scare tactics.”

Michaels adds that “Democrats jumped on the defense, putting out their own tidal wave of TV spots on the subject. All together, both parties spent an estimated $85 million on crime ads after Labor Day, more than in recent years. And voters seemed to absorb these messages, with poll after poll showing that crime was a key issue as they prepared their ballots.”

Michaels provides other examples of the failure of the ‘crime wave’ meme, but also notes,

That’s not to say crime didn’t matter, or that Republicans who fearmongered had no impact. In Wisconsin, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson won reelection after attacking Democratic challenger Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes for being “dangerously liberal on crime,” in a tight Senate race that could help determine which party takes majority control. And in Georgia, another battleground state, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock lacked enough votes to avoid a runoff against Republican Herschel Walker, who falsely claimed that Warnock disrespected police and cut their funding.

“Tough on crime” rhetoric scored other victories, too: Ohio and Alabama voters passed ballot measures that make it easier to jail people before their trials, while those in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Arkansas rejected drug legalization measures. In San Francisco, moderate District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, who took office after the recall, maintained a big lead on Thursday despite criticisms that she hindered prosecutions of police.

And in some cases, progressive wins were too close for comfort. In Democratic strongholds that previously enacted controversial justice reforms, such as Oregon, where a 2020 ballot measure decriminalized the possession of small amounts of illicit drugs, or New York, where lawmakers enacted bail reforms the same year, Democrats found themselves in unusually tight races against Republicans. New York Gov. Hochul, for example, won by only 5 percentage points. “You have to wonder,” says Rahman, “are these candidates either losing ground or losing entirely, as we’ve seen with the sweep of the New York House races,” because they did not do enough to assure voters that reforms and public safety can go hand in hand?

Michaels writes that “Going forward, Democrats still have a lot of work to do on crime. They “may have dodged a bullet by avoiding the anticipated red wave” this year, says Rahman, “but this issue will continue to rear its head,” and “they need to seize the opportunity with a more proactive approach.”

Noting a Vera Institute study about public safety taken before the midterm elections, Michaels says the study found that “voters across the political spectrum gravitated away from ads that focused on fear and toward ads that highlighted concrete fixes….The vast majority of respondents wanted politicians to prevent crime, not just react to it. “Democrats should continue to lead with how they are supporting fairness, transparency, better use of resources, and why that improves public safety, and not just respond to these ads and say, ‘I’m tough on crime too,’ because that’s not the answer,” says Lauren-Brooke Eisen, a senior director at the Brennan Center for Justice, another think tank.”


November Surprise: The White House Party Unusually Got the Late Breaks

I took a vacation last week and a fresh look at the midterm results and some pertinent analysis struck me with a realization I wrote up at New York:

Ever since the results of the 2022 midterm elections became clear, it’s been a bit of a struggle to find a proper precedent. Yes, there have been a few past midterms where the party controlling the White House gained House seats (or just lost a few), but invariably that happened under presidents quite a bit more popular than Joe Biden, and usually in economic circumstances a lot more positive than those prevailing today. Still, the results weren’t all that crazy; Republicans did, after all, flip the House, and Democratic success in the Senate (much like Republican success in 2018) was heavily dependent on a favorable mix of contests.

The shock and awe that accompanied a relatively strong Democratic performance may have been because many were expecting a late Republican surge. The polls, after all, were pretty accurate. But it was hard for a lot of analysts from both parties to overcome the belief that the party opposing the White House would get all the late breaks and win most of the really close races. That wasn’t just a hunch; it used to be a political-science truism until late surges cemented the reelections of George W. Bush in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2012. It seemed even more probable in 2022 given the historical unlikelihood of a good Democratic midterm and the suspicion that the energy Democrats got from the Dobbs abortion rights backlash might have dissipated by November.

But that’s not how it turned out, as the Cook Political Report’s Amy Walter explains in a new analysis:

“Since 2006, the final House and Senate races we’ve rated as Toss-Ups have broken decisively in one direction. What was different about this cycle, however, is that both the House (69 percent) and Senate (currently 75 percent), broke for the White House party.”

Republicans in 2014 and Democrats in 2006 won sizable majorities of the toss-up House and Senate races. And Democrats won a majority of toss-up Senate races in 2010, as did Republicans in 2018, thanks to Senate landscapes that tilted the playing field (along with non-toss-up contests that flipped seats). So a late-breaking surge (against expectations, at least) for the White House party in both House and Senate races in a midterm truly is unusual. That Democrats also won four of five gubernatorial races identified as toss-ups by Cook reinforces the surprising late trend.

So what’s the explanation? That’s not so easy to determine. Take your pick among such factors as bad GOP candidate selection (though it wasn’t just “bad candidates” who lost), Republican extremism, or a stronger “Dobbs effect” than expected. Or, to cite the explanation that makes the most sense to me (and to Walter, who has written about “calcified” politics), maybe we are in an era where polarization and partisan attachments are so strong that midterm “swings” are less powerful and the party controlling the White House is going to be on stronger ground for the time being. As always, we’ll need more elections to supply the data needed to make postelection surprises less … surprising.

 


Political Strategy Notes

Christian Paz explains “How independent voters saved Democrats” at Vox: “Democrats would not have had such a good election night without the support of independent voters….These mystical swing voters don’t affiliate themselves with a specific party, tend to be more ideologically moderate, and represent a plurality of voters in the United States. But they are also hard to reach, often less politically engaged, and frequently confused with “weak partisans” (less energetic Democrats or Republicans) because they can have ideological leans….They also tend to swing elections — and this year’s dissipation of the much-hyped “red wave” is partially a result of independent voters picking the Democratic candidate in competitive contests in swing states and districts….Despite plenty of polling this year showing that independents were, like Republicans, primarily concerned with the state of the economy and inflation, they ended up making nuanced decisions in key statewide races — and that worked to benefit Democrats….In data provided to Vox from Navigator’s midterm voters survey, those numbers show that for independent men, inflation was a top concern for half of them, while abortion was the top concern for 23 percent. Among women, inflation was the top concern for 46 percent of respondents, while abortion was close behind at 34 percent. Though the numbers differ slightly between Navigator’s finding and exit polls, the same 17-percent gender gap shows up: Independent men supported Republicans slightly more than Democrats, but independent women backed Democrats by a much bigger margin.”

Joan McCarter says “Biden, Schumer, and Pelosi need to channel Harry Reid right now, and fight for our future” and writes at Daily Kos: “The number one thing Pelosi and Schumer needed to deal with started a few months ago, when House Republicans began announcing their hostage-taking intentions. The over-confident GOP announced that they would force cuts to Social Security and Medicare by refusing to raise the nation’s debt ceiling next year, now likely in June. That’s the promise the U.S. government makes to all its creditors and to the American people that the payments that have been promised to them—from troops’ paychecks to monthly Social Security checks to global debt servicing—will be covered. Not extending those guarantees by raising the debt ceiling threatens the entire global economy….So what should they do? Channel former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and cancel Christmas….The threat would probably be enough to bring some recalcitrant members—possibly even some outgoing Senate Republicans—into line to get priorities taken care of. Like starting a budget reconciliation bill in the House right now that will include dealing with the debt ceiling, funding the government, and whatever other steps necessary for maniac-proofing the government. Yes, budget reconciliation bills take time, and can include all-night vote-a-ramas in the Senate. Do what Harry did, on multiple occasions: keep the Senate in session all night. Tell Senators they will have to be there all night. Let them know that if they don’t play nice, they may have to be there until Christmas Eve, just like Harry made them do to give the nationaccess to health care. The Affordable Care Act passed the Senate on Christmas Eve, 2009, while a blizzard engulfed Washington, D.C. Threaten to do that again, this time to save Social Security….Make sure the whole nation knows that’s what you’re willing to do: forego your treasured time off, during the biggest holiday of the year, to make sure the programs that are so vital will continue, unharmed. Make House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy’s nightmare of a leadership fight even harder by focusing the nation’s ire on the House Republicans….Let Speaker Pelosi step away from the gavel having realized one last, huge achievement—saving Social Security….Be like Harry Reid. Fight.”

At The American Prospect, Austin Ahlman shares a provocative take on the midterm elections in his article, “Democrats Rediscover Populism—and Not a Moment Too Soon: As Republicans took a radical turn, Democrats learned to talk to normal people again.” As Ahlman writes that “there is one unifying explanation for why Democrats defied expectations and precedent—and perhaps there is not—it appears to be that the dire implications of losing the election cycle forced Democrats to do something they generally abhor: name enemies, and describe how they intend to beat them. Self-described moderate and centrist Democrats discovered a newfound willingness to attack the pharmaceutical industry, vote to threaten oil companies over their profit margins, and otherwise hold special interests to account. Clear enemies to women’s rights sitting on the Supreme Court, and enemies to democracy running for office, gave a sharper edge to Democratic messaging, and a real choice to voters….The newly resounding clarity of Democrats’ party-line messaging on economics—a phenomenon enabled by the Biden administration’s clear rejection of the constrained economic orthodoxies that guided the last two Democratic administrations—combined with Democrats’ attempt to build a popular front against Republicans’ growing authoritarianism could form the basis for a new populist Democratic movement. But it remains to be seen whether the party has the will to see that through….While Democrats largely succeeded in heading off a red wave, they fell short in areas where candidates failed to tell a cohesive and compelling story about the relationship between assaults on economic freedom and assaults on democracy and reproductive rights, especially with voters who were not facing immediate, tangible risks to their bodily autonomy or local democratic institutions. Those losses appear to have proved sufficient for the party to lose the House—stalling out any potential that Democrats will act on their bold rhetoric, and potentially souring their relationship with the voters persuaded by their message….But the encouraging number of candidates who managed to find success against daunting odds offers proof that the populist spark Democrats discovered this year may be their best shot in the future to build a broad enough coalition to pass significant pieces of the social and economic agenda Biden abandoned, and thwart ongoing attempts by Trumpists to bring a right-wing populist movement that openly flirts with authoritarianism into power.”

Ahlman adds, “In a press call in early October, Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal relished the turn Democrats’ messaging had taken in the months leading up to the election. “The mainstream Democratic agenda has moved so much in terms of what we’re fighting for as a party, and that is really due to decades of organizing,” she told the Prospect in response to a question about her appraisal of Democrats’ overarching midterms message. She mentioned corporate price-gouging, antitrust reforms, and bans on insider trading as “key priorities of the Progressive Caucus.” Candidates, she suggested, would be wise to find specific examples in those veins that resonate with their constituencies, and really hammer those home….House Majority PAC, the largest Democratic outside spender for House races, has also been especially forward in claiming credit for Democrats’ messaging campaigns via ads that generally balanced populist economics with the myriad social issues that have motivated voters. PAC spokesperson C.J. Warnke recently indicated that across all spots the committee put out this year, economic issues featured in 48 percent of them, abortion in 42 percent, law enforcement in 22 percent, and extremism and the January 6th attack on the Capitol in 19 percent….Perhaps the best case for the centrality of populist economic messaging to Democrats’ success this midterm can be seen through the Democratic incumbents who didn’t succeed. The six sitting House Democrats who lost general-election bids—Cindy Axne, Tom O’Halleran, Al Lawson, Elaine Luria, Tom Malinowski, and Sean Patrick Maloney—are all consummate moderates and members of the centrist New Democrat Coalition. And five of the six ran behind President Biden’s 2020 performance with the voters in their districts; O’Halleran ran about even….Perhaps the biggest surprise winner of the cycle, Washington’s Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, cut a long video with anti-corporate news organization More Perfect Union that went to great lengths to highlight her background as a working-class auto shop owner who would fight to bring jobs back to southwest Washington. In the single ad posted on her campaign’s YouTube page, she made her populist pitch even more directly: “We don’t need another corporate shill or extremist in Congress. I will fight for working-class Washingtonians just like me.”….Democrats found a formula to counteract right-wing populism—if the leadership pays attention to the lessons.”


Teixeira: Democrats’ Hispanic Problem — The Sequel

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

Democrats are feeling pretty good about themselves these days after a 2022 election that went way, way better than they (and most observers) thought it would. Those on the Democratic left, in particular, are congratulating themselves that they were right about…well, everything. Ezra Levin, who co-founded the activist progressive group, Indivisible said:

The great thing about having your strategy being proven correct is that you don’t have to rethink your strategy…We would have, if the red wave materialized. But it didn’t have the potency that we thought.

God forbid anyone should do any rethinking. That would never do.

The fact remains, however, that while they held the Senate (and may possibly pick up a seat), they lost the House, as well as the nationwide popular vote by 3-4 points. That’s a swing of 7-8 points toward the Republicans compared to Biden’s 4 point national advantage in 2020. The Senate map for the Democrats in 2024 looks absolutely terrifying: Democrats will have to hold seats in a wide range of red and purple states—Arizona, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin and West Virginia. The Republican seats that will be up are all in solid GOP states, with the possible exceptions of Texas and Florida (and we saw what just happened there). Plus there’s no guarantee that the 2024 Democratic nominee—likely Biden—will get to run again against the Democrats’ preferred opponent, Trump. It could be someone much tougher to take down.

In light of this, it’s worth considering the possibility that Democrats did not, in fact, fix all their problems in 2022 and that some of these may be lurking beneath the surface to undermine their chances—perhaps fatally—in 2024. One such problem is the Democrats’ Hispanic voter problem. In 2020, Democrats’ advantage among Hispanic voters declined nationwide by 16 points relative to 2016. Democrats had hoped to stop the bleeding in 2022. Did they?

It does not appear so. Prior to the election, the AEI demographics tracker, which averages poll subgroup results, found the Democratic Congressional margin among Hispanic voters consistently 7-9 points below its 2020 level and 17-19 points below its 2018 level. Results from AP/NORC VoteCast indicate that the drop in the 2022 election was actually larger than that foreshadowed by the pre-election data. These data show Democrats carrying Hispanics nationwide by just 56-39 in 2022, a 12 point decline in margin relative to 2020 (18 points relative to 2018). For what it’s worth, the less-reliable network exit polls, show an identical decline in Hispanic support between 2020 and 2022.

Digging more into the available data, some other troubling signs can be discerned beneath this broad national trend (all data from VoteCast except election returns).

1. Democrats appeared to have done particularly poorly among Hispanic men in 2022. In the VoteCast data, Democrats carried this group by a scant 6 points (51-45).

2. Democrats did worse among Hispanic working class (noncollege) voters than college voters. They carried Hispanic working class voters by just 15 points, compared to 21 points among their college-educated counterparts. Compared to 2018, Democratic Hispanic working class support is down 20 margin points, more than double the decline among Hispanic college voters (9 points).

3. With a few exceptions like Nevada, Democratic decline in Hispanic support can be seen across states. The most striking example of this is in Florida where DeSantis carried the Hispanic vote by 13 points, a 22 point swing from Biden’s 9 point margin among this group in 2020. He carried heavily Hispanic Miami-Dade county, historically the Democrats’ firewall, by 11 points. He carried Osceola County by almost 7 points—a county where Puerto Ricans, among the most Democratic of Hispanic subgroups, loom large. Shockingly, statewide DeSantis actually split the Puerto Rican vote 50-50 with Democrat Charlie Crist.

4. Democrat Val Demings also lost the Hispanic vote in Florida to Marco Rubio by 11 points. And statewide Democrats lost the Hispanic House vote by 7 points to the Republicans.

5. In Texas, Republicans got 43 percent of the statewide House vote among Hispanics, losing it by only 10 points to the Democrats. Beto O’Rourke did somewhat better than Biden in the Rio Grande Valley but still carried Hispanics statewide by just 14 points.

6. The poor showing of Democrats in the Hispanic Texas House vote was driven by working class Hispanics. They gave Democrats a mere 6 point margin statewide (51-45) compared to 24 points among college Hispanics (61-37). But working class Hispanics are three-quarters of the Texas Hispanic vote.

7. In Arizona, the GOP got 41 percent of the statewide House vote among Hispanics, cutting their deficit with this demographic to 13 points. Democrats’ House margin was down 6 points from Biden’s margin among this group in 2020. Katie Hobbs also ran behind Biden in her Hispanic support while Mark Kelley did a little better. But Kelley’s healthy margin of victory (5 points) is clearly attributable to a sharp improvement in support among white college graduates relative to Biden.

8. Even in California, Democratic House candidates in 2022 ran 11 points behind Biden’s margin in the state in 2020. This decline can be illustrated by looking as some heavily Latino CDs in Los Angeles County (vote counts ongoing): CA-31, Biden +31, 2022 House +16; CA-35, Biden +28, 2022 House +12; CA-38, Biden +30, 2022 House +13; CA-42, Biden +46, 2022 House +34.

These data suggest Democrats are far from out of the woods in terms of their Hispanic voter support. In fact, they indicate the problem is getting worse. More broadly, Democrats would be well-advised to look at these results in the context of their ongoing decline in working class support among nonwhites. AP VoteCast estimates the decline in Democrats’ advantage among the nonwhite working class as 14 points between 2020 and 2022, 23 points between 2018 and 2022 and (splicing in some Catalist data, which are consistent with VoteCast data where they overlap) an astonishing 33 point drop between 2012 and 2022.

I’d say that qualifies as a problem—and one that’s very, very far from being fixed.


More On Florida’s Democratic Meltdown

From “Don’t call Florida a red state yet: Left-leaning groups say their voters stayed home” by Ashley Lopez at nor.org:

Florida Republicans won elections up and down the ballot by staggering margins this year….Dwight Bullard, a former state lawmaker and senior political adviser for a social justice advocacy group called Florida Rising….said he and other groups who predominantly work with Black and Latino voters in Florida — key voting blocs for Democrats — were dealing with unmotivated constituencies and a well-funded and well-organized opposition.

…Anthony Verdugo, founder and executive director of the Christian Family Coalition Florida, said conservative mobilization efforts like his have been working hard for years. He said they really caught a lot of momentum, though, in the past year.

“The governor’s office and the Republican Party focused on a very aggressive voter registration campaign,” he said. “Florida has always — since its founding — been a majority Democrat registered state. December of last year we crossed the threshold.”

Verdugo said his own group registered about 1,300 conservative faith voters in just a three-week period last fall. He also credits Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who he said did an effective job rallying the party’s base by running on a lot of cultural issues. As a result, Verdugo said, Republicans had a more consistent and clearer message for their voters than Democrats.

Joshua Karp, a Democratic strategist, said he’s skeptical that this amounts to a huge political victory led by DeSantis though….”He won about 4.1 million votes four years ago,” Karp said. “He won about 4.6 million votes this time. So, he certainly increased by a few hundred thousand people the size of his coalition. In a state like Florida that’s a few percentage points. What really happened is Democrats did not show up to the polls.”

It’s all about the money

Statewide turnout was down by more than half a million votes compared to 2018. Karp blames a lot of this lack of motivation among Democratic voters in Florida on money.

Tessa Petit, executive director of an immigrants rights group called the Florida Immigrant Coalition, said the electoral arm of her group was pleading with national donors to help them get out the vote. But she and other groups fell millions of dollars short in fundraising.

“The investment went down a lot,” Petit said. “The donors pulled back because I think they kind of — I don’t know maybe they lost faith in the party altogether.”

Four years ago, money was flowing into Florida for groups like the Florida Immigrant Coalition, Petit said. That year, DeSantis won the governor’s race by a mere .04% of the vote.

Petit said this lack of funding is why Miami Dade County in particular saw a 10 percentage point drop in turnout this year compared to the last midterm election. Because of the diversity in the state, she said, it takes a lot of money to get out the vote in communities of color. Petit said this is why national donors should not pick and choose what years to invest here if they want to see results.

“Florida is not a state that you can date,” she said. “You gotta get into a you know — you gotta get into a relationship, a committed relationship with Florida.”

Here’s a couple stat nuggets from Jennifer Borresen’s “DeSantis, Republicans win big: How Florida went from swing state to red state — in visuals” at USA Today:

DeSantis won 57% of the Hispanic vote, compared with 42% for Crist, according to exit polls by major news organizations. And he won not only the traditionally GOP-leaning Cuban-American vote but also Puerto Ricans, who historically tend to vote Democratic.

DeSantis’ strength with Hispanic voters helped him carry Miami-Dade County, a majority Hispanic county.

Since March 16, 2020, an estimated 394,000 active voters have flocked to Florida. According to voter and consumer data tracking firm L2, 193,300 Republicans and 96,900 Democrats have moved to Florida in that time.

If you are wondering if Florida and perhaps Texas Democratic campaign strategists could learn something from the GOTV skills of Georgia’s Democratic activists and candidates, you are not alone.


Political Strategy Notes

For a really good update on the U. S. Senate run-off in Georgia, check out Greg Bluestein’s “Boots on the ground could be key to how US Senate runoff is won” at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Some excerpts: “After years of playing catch-up to Democrats’ vaunted get-out-the-vote efforts, Republicans poured more resources than ever into closing the gap in the midterm. Gov. Brian Kemp invested more than $10 million into building his own apparatus….It appears to have paid off. Amid underwhelming turnout, Republicans won every statewide race except for the U.S. Senate contest between Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker. Since neither won a majority of the vote, a Dec. 6 runoff is required….“Runoffs are about turnout. It’s a sprint, not a marathon — and whoever does a better job getting their folks to the polls wins,” said Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. “We intend for it to be us.”…His group plans to spend $2 million during the runoff to boost Walker’s campaign, with goals to knock on 400,000 doors and make 1 million calls through the election……the ongoing efforts to personally connect with voters play a paramount role in campaigns. Armed with sophisticated voter data and old-fashioned flyers, these door-to-door trips are no blind scavenger hunts for voters. Staffers and volunteers use apps and well-rehearsed scripts to target their most likely supporters with pinpoint accuracy.”

Bluestein adds, “About 200,000 Georgians backed Kemp and not Walker in the midterm, a crucial bloc of voters whose wariness of the Senate nominee helped plunge the race into overtime….Walker’s drop-off was sharply pronounced in Atlanta’s suburbs, an area where GOP canvassers have been particularly active during the runoff campaign….The RNC and state GOP boast 400 staffers to augment Walker’s team of about 30 field operatives. Pro-Walker outside groups are providing at least 100 more paid canvassers, some assigned to specifically target voters of color. Warnock’s campaign added about 300 more people to its payroll, for a total of more than 900 assigned to knock on doors, send texts and find other ways to connect with voters….Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition will distribute voter guides in 5,000 churches. Warnock’s campaign planned what an aide called an “impossible to miss” blitz, complete with airborne messages, to appeal to hard-to-reach voters….“The ground game is mission-critical during this runoff election, especially for Black and brown voters. And we knew we had to prepare for a runoff election well before the general election ended,” said Hillary Holley of Care in Action, part of a coalition that has knocked on 1.5 million doors since the day after the midterm.” On Wednesday, we reported on a recent poll showing an edge for Warnock. Democrats get extra traction from extremely dedicated and effective Black community GOTV organizers, including LaTosha Brown and Nse Ufot, who helped engineer the ‘Georgia flip’ of 2020-21, which elected two Democratic senators in the heart of the deep south. On the GOP side, however, Ralph Reed is also a highly experienced lead organizer for Walker, and he has lots of campaign money to spread around.

At The Hill, Julia Mueller reports ” Even though Senate control is not on the line, as many predicted it would be, Georgia is seeing high early voting turnout in the runoff. Data from the Georgia Secretary of State’s website showed early Sunday that some 90,000 voters had already cast their ballots just a day after early voting opened in some Georgia counties — after the Georgia Supreme Court denied a Republican bid to block Saturday early voting….More Georgians voted on Sunday than on any Sunday in the 2018, 2020 and 2022 general elections, or in the 2021 Senate runoff, according toWarnock’s campaign director Quentin Fulks. The Hill has reached out to the Georgia secretary of state for confirmation of that data….Polls show the two candidates are again neck-and-neck heading into the runoff….The latest FiveThirtyEight polling averages put Walker up 1 percentage point over Warnock, 47.8 percent to 46.8 percent. However, a poll released last week by AARP put Warnock ahead by 4 percentage points, though Walker was leading among voters older than 50….Warnock touted his character in a new television ad, after Walker has defended himself against abuse allegations from his ex-wife and claims from a former girlfriend that he paid for her abortion….“Character is what you do when nobody is watching. It’s about doing the right thing simply because it’s the right thing, and doing it over and over again,” the Democrat says in a recent ad, without naming Walker.”

Holly Otterbein and Madison Fernandez take a look at “The overlooked constituency both parties are now targeting in the Georgia runoff” at Politico. As the authors write: “Powered by a multimillion-dollar get-out-the-vote program, turnout among Asian Americans nearly doubled in Georgia from 2016 to 2020, according to the Democratic firm TargetSmart — a major boon for Democrats, who they backed overwhelmingly….The same analysis found that the number of ballots cast by Asian Americans in the state increased by upwards of 60,000 votes in 2020, more than the amount by which President Joe Biden carried Georgia. Now Asian American and Pacific Islander elected officials, donors and activists who support Warnock are trying to prove that those voters can be the margin of victory in this year’s runoff — and grow their clout in the process….“We’re the only demographic group that keeps going up,” said Georgia state Sen.-elect Nabilah Islam, who will be the first South Asian woman in the chamber. “So I’m confident that we’re going to be a huge voting bloc that will help deliver a win for Sen. Raphael Warnock.”….Though the GOP made some gains among Asian Americans this cycle, the voting bloc tends to lean Democratic nationally. In Georgia, exit polls in the November general election showed that Warnock beat Walker among Asian American voters by 20 percentage points, 59-39. By contrast, Kemp lost the voting bloc by only 8 percentage points, carrying the state in the process.” Making the campaign for this constituency more difficult, the term “Asian-American” represents a diverse constituency that speaks many different languages and embraces equally diverse cultures. As Executive Director of the Asian American Advocacy Fund Aisha Yaqoob Mahmood noted, “many people outside of the community underestimate the time and effort required to mobilize Asian American voters: “We are not a monolith. We have so many different language and cultural competency needs that often don’t get addressed in these political conversations.”


Political Strategy Notes

In his New York Times opinion article, “Trump Was a Gift That Might Not Keep Giving,” Thomas B. Edsall writes, “The 2022 midterm election revealed dangerous cracks in the Democratic coalition, despite the fact that the party held the Senate and kept House losses to a minimum….Turnout fell in a number of key Democratic cities. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the city’s “vote count dropped 33 percent from 2020, more than any other county and the statewide average of 22 percent. It’s not just a 2020 comparison: This year saw a stark divergence between Philly turnout and the rest of the state compared to every federal election since at least 2000.”…The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners reported that turnout of registered voters in 2022 was 46.1 percent, down from 60.67 percent in the previous 2018 midterm….According to the Board of Elections in Ohio’s Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, turnout fell from 54.5 percent in 2018 to 46.1 percent in 2022….The Gotham Gazette reported that from 2018 to 2022, turnout fell from 41 to 33 percent in New York City.”

Edsall continues, “Paul Begala, a Democratic strategist, made a similar case by email. “Swing voters in swing states and districts didn’t marry the Democrats; they just dumped the Republicans,” he wrote. “In the post-Dobbs environment, extremism is not a theoretical concern anymore. The two most valuable players of this cycle for the Democrats are Sam Alito and Donald Trump. Democrats should send them each a fruit basket.”….“I cannot think of a worse way for the House G.O.P. to introduce themselves as a governing party than braying about investigations into Hunter Biden and Anthony Fauci,” Begala argued. “Their candidates won by promising action on inflation, crime and borders.”….To counter the House Republican agenda, Begala wrote,Biden needs to say, “They’re obsessed with my family’s past; I’m obsessed with your family’s future.” At every hearing in which the Republicans are tormenting Hunter Biden or Dr. Fauci, I would have Democratic members ask, “How will this hearing lower the price of gas at the pump? How will it reduce crime? How will it secure the border?”

Edsall adds, “Should Democrats repeat a tactic used successfully this year to lift the chances that Republicans nominate their weakest general election candidate?…Both Begala and Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster, stood firmly opposed. “We should leave this to Republicans to nominate their own Trump,” Lake said by email….Begala gave three reasons for his opposition. First, “it undermines President Biden’s powerful message that Trump leads a mega-MAGA fanatical fringe that is a clear and present danger to our democracy.” Second, “Trump is still a massive, major force in American politics — especially in the Republican Party. I don’t want Trump anywhere near the White House.” Third, “while I respect the political success of governors like DeSantis, Youngkin, Hogan and Christie, if the Democrats can’t beat them, we don’t deserve the White House.” Begala’s first point resonates — Dems can’t hang the fanatic label solely on Republicans if Dems are enabling it. In addition, unorthodox tactics work well with the element of surprise, which you can’t count on repeatedly. And, as the post below indicates, Dems don’t have a lot of extra cash laying around to squander in Republican primaries.

Puzzling questions persist in the wake of the 2022 midterm elections, including, “Why are Democrats so weak in Florida, and why is it getting worse?” As Ryan Best , Humera Lodhi and Geoffrey Skelley  observe at FiveThirty Eight, “In Florida, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis won reelection by 19 points, while GOP Sen. Marco Rubio won by 16 points. Their performance in South Florida may have also helped Republican Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Carlos Gimenez achieve the largest overperformances of any candidates in the House races we examined (although Diaz-Balart has long been a dynamo when it comes to easily winning elections).” Max Greenwood notes further at The Hill, “The scale of the Democratic wipeout in Florida is hard to understate. Tuesday’s elections saw Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R) win landslide victories and Republicans clinch supermajorities in both chambers of the state legislature. For the first time since Reconstruction, no Democrat will hold statewide office in Florida….In 2008, when former President Obama carried Florida for the first time, there were about 700,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans. As of Sept. 30, 2022, there were roughly 300,000 more registered Republican voters than Democratic voters.” Florida State Democratic Party Chairman Mann Diaz “released a memo on Tuesday in which he called out national Democratic groups for spending so little in Florida this year — about $1.35 million in 2022 compared to nearly $59 million in 2018…DeSantis, a star among conservatives nationally and prospective Republican presidential candidate, drastically outraised Crist throughout the campaign, pulling in more than $200 million for his reelection bid. Crist, on the other hand, raised about $31 million.” In “How to Fix the Pathetic Florida Democratic Party,”  Hamilton Nolan writes at In These Times,, “Georgia has two Democratic senators. Do you think Georgia is naturally more liberal than Florida? It ain’t. The party needs to get its act together….Only 5.2% of Florida workers were union members in 2021. That has to change….Labor and the environment: that is the coalition that the Florida Democratic Party should represent…No wonder potential Democratic voters in the state aren’t energized. For what? Give them a genuine vision…It means representing the people working at the gas station and the grocery store and the cafe. They need help, and Republicans aren’t helping them! “


New Poll: Warnock Ahead With Young Voters, Lagging with Seniors

At The Hill, Chloe Formar reports that a “Huge age gap shows up in AARP poll of Warnock-Walker runoff.” As Formar writes,

A poll released on Tuesday by AARP, an interest group for those aged 50 and older, found a significant age gap in voters’ preferences in the Georgia Senate runoff election between incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) and former NFL player Herschel Walker (R).

Warnock leads Walker by 24 percentage points among voters aged 18-49, while Walker leads by 9 points among voters aged 50 or older, according to the poll from AARP Georgia. The two groups differ in their preferences by a total of 33 points.

Former notes that “Respondents aged 65 or older favor Walker over Warnock by 13 points, while that lead shrinks to 4 percentage points among those aged 50-64.” In addition, “Black voters aged 50 and up differ in preference from their age group overall, however, with Warnock holding an 83-point lead over Walker among such respondents.”

Further, “Overall, Warnock leads in the poll of all age groups by 4 percentage points, despite voters aged 50 and older constituting more than 60 percent of likely runoff voters….AARP found that 90 percent of voters 50 and older ranked themselves “extremely motivated” to vote in the runoff, which will take place Dec. 6.”

According g to Formar, “The poll was conducted between November 11 and November 17, with 1,183 likely Georgia voters participating, including 550 voters aged 50 and older.”

Although the Democrats will continue to control the U.S. Senate with at least 50 seats, Warnock’s election would insure that Senate Democrats have working committee majorities and empower Democrats to confirm appointments to the federal judiciary. Also, as Reuters reports via AlJazeera,

Because of the 50-50 Senate divide, committee memberships are currently doled out evenly. These committees oversee a range of federal programmes, from the military and agriculture to homeland security, transportation, healthcare and foreign affairs.

Tied votes in committees on legislation or presidential nominations block, at least temporarily, such measures from advancing to the full Senate. It takes time-consuming procedural manoeuvres to break the committee deadlock so the full chamber can pass bottled-up bills and nominations.

A Warnock win would give Democrats at least one more member on each committee than Republicans, making it harder for Republicans to stand in the way of Biden’s agenda.

That could also provide Democrats with a stronger counter-balance to House Republicans, allowing Senate committees to advance more liberal legislation and nominees that, in turn, could help energize their core voters in the 2024 elections.

The report adds, “If Warnock manages to defeat Walker, he will put the seat in Democratic hands for six years — a full Senate term…” In addition, “A victory by Warnock would mean that Schumer could lose the support of one member of his Democratic caucus and still win floor votes. But he may have less opportunity for flashy moves, as Republicans will hold a narrow majority in the House of Representatives.”