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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Seniors Against Trump

Who Are the Key Voters Turning Against Trump?

They’re senior voters, and they could be Joe Biden’s secret weapon.

By Ruy Teixeira in The New York Times
Read the Article.

Stan Greenberg in The American Prospect

The Tea Party’s Last Stand

The legions that swept over the Republican Party in 2010 aren’t ascendant today—and they’ve scared a lot of other Republicans away.


Read the Article.

Democrats – Get Ready for the Inevitable Republican Counterattack

It’s coming, and we should be prepared.
By Andrew Levison

Read the Strategy Memo.

Seniors Against Trump

Key Voters Turning Against Trump?

They’re senior voters, and they could be Joe Biden’s secret weapon.

By Ruy Teixeira in The New York Times
Read the Article.

Stan Greenberg in The American Prospect

Tea Party’s Last Stand

The legions that swept over the Republican Party in 2010 aren’t ascendant today—and they’ve scared a lot of other Republicans away.


Read the Article.

The Daily Strategist

October 24, 2020

Political Strategy Notes

AP’s Thomas Beaumont comments on the “Democratic plan in rural, swing state counties: Lose by less,” and writes: “Democrats are hoping to find just enough voters…to shave Trump’s margins in rural areas while they rack up larger numbers in cities and suburbs. They have put in money in the millions and staff in the dozens to try to make it happen…Their unorthodox strategy: win by losing by less…“The general theory of the case goes like this: We’re trying not to lose as bad,” veteran Democratic strategist James Carville said of the rural and small-town counties Trump swung to his side in 2016. “Because when you don’t lose as bad at one thing, you can win everything.”…Carville has helped raise millions of dollars for Democratic super PAC American Bridge 21st Century’s $30 million advertising effort aimed at picking off voters in rural and working-class counties across Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin…Trump carried all three states by about 77,000 votes out of 13.5 million cast. But in doing so, he peeled off 37 counties carried in 2012 by Barack Obama. Trump likely must again win all three of the states, which the Democratic nominee had carried in six consecutive elections before 2016, if he is to get a second term.

From “Here’s How Biden’s Republican Endorsement Strategy May Be Working” by Jack Brewster at Forbes: “Some progressives have criticized Democrats’ strategy of highlighting Republican endorsements as fruitless because Biden’s standing among Republicans has not improved—and may actually be worse than past Democratic nominees… But the tactic may be helping Biden secure the support of independent voters, a key voting bloc that makes up 38% of the American public overall—more than Democrats or Republicans—and a group that swung to Trump by 6 points in 2016.,,Multiple polls have shown Biden ahead of Trump among independents, who tend to describe themselves as more moderate (43%) than liberal or conservative, according to a 2019 Pew Research Center survey, by a widermargin than Hillary Clinton during the same time period in 2016…A Morning Consult poll—conducted from July 31 to August 2 in a survey of 1,991 registered voters—found that far fewer independent voters dislike Biden (31%) as compared to Clinton (51%.)”

In his article at The Nation, “The Democrats Just Showed Us a Weakness in Their 2020 Strategy: Trump and his cronies are going to exploit this fumble if the Democrats don’t work fast to address it,” Robert Borosage writes, “Exposing Trump’s con of his working-class voters wouldn’t have been hard. His tax cuts larded the pockets of the rich and corporations, while workers never saw the raises that were promised. His trade policies left manufacturing in a recession even before the pandemic, while his tax bill actually rewarded corporations that moved jobs abroad. He and the Republican Senate are blocking continued support for the 28 million people still on unemployment. He continues to try to repeal Obamacare without offering an alternative. Yet deaths of despair, the opioid epidemic, the continued shuttering of factories got little attention at the Democratic convention…Democrats did not offer a clear argument about why this economy does not work for most Americans—a reality that long precedes Trump—and what Biden proposes to do about it…This strategic choice reflects the campaign’s strategy: The presidential campaign apparently won’t reach out to the white working class, particularly men. Democrats will focus on turning out the vote of the people of color and the young and making inroads in the suburbs, particularly among women. This slights the very voters—the Obama-Trump voters in the key states of the Midwest—who cost Hillary Clinton the election in 2016.”

Borosage concludes that Trump will “sell a mythical pre-pandemic economy and promise a miraculous post-pandemic recovery. The strategic decision of Democrats to ignore his con of working people gives Trump an open field to be the populist in the race…Even if Biden goes on to win, the Democratic default has worrisome implications. Without a mandate, Biden will have more trouble building a majority for systemic change. His calls for unity and bipartisan cooperation will empower the deep pockets, the entrenched interests, and the conservative wing of the party…In the long run, betrayed by Trump and neglected by Democrats, the white working class will be left without a party. The appeal to people of color on the basis of identity rather than economic interest is likely to have a limited shelf life. Democrats may well find that the failure to ground their coalition and their agenda in the broad working class will make it impossible to build a broad majority for the fundamental changes we need.”

As the GOP convention comes to a close, New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall discusses the psychological underpinnings of “The frank racism of the contemporary Republican agenda”  which is “on display at the R.N.C. ” Edsall agrees that the Republican Party is dedicated to the twin policies of deregulation and tax cuts for the wealthy. But the principle that packs “a bigger punch” is “the preservation of the status quo by stemming the erosion of the privileged status of white Christian America.” Edsall probes the depths of racial fears and quotes several scholars on the topic, including Yale polical Scientist Milan W. Svolik,  who writes in his 2017 paper “When Polarization Trumps Civic Virtue: Partisan Conflict and the Subversion of Democracy by Incumbents,”: “In the classics of democratization research,” Svolik writes, “the public’s disapproval is assumed to serve as a check on incumbents’ temptations to subvert democracy.” Edsall explains, “In polarized societies, however, “this check fails” because the strength of partisan loyalty, for many voters “makes it costly for them to punish an incumbent by voting for a challenger. Incumbents exploit this lack of credible punishment by manipulating the democratic process in their favor. A mass of centrist voters provides precisely the kind of credible deterrent against manipulation that polarized societies lack.” Edsall believes “polarization weakens the ability of moderate, centrist voters to serve as a check on extreme political behavior.”

“In an email,” Edsall adds, “Svolik raised the next logical question:” “If supporters of both parties oppose/tolerate authoritarianism at similar levels, how come it is the Republican Party that is primarily associated with authoritarian tendencies today?” In reply to his own question,” Svolik writes, “The quick answer is Trump.” But “The deeper answer is that the opportunities to subvert the democratic process for partisan gain have become asymmetrical. Because of the biases inherent in political geography and demographic partisan patterns, the two most easily implementable means of gaining an unfair electoral advantage — gerrymandering and voter identification laws — only offer opportunities for unfair play to Republicans.”

Chris Cillizza shares “Hillary Clinton’s dire Election Day warning to Joe Biden” at CNN’s ‘The Point’: “Joe Biden should not concede under any circumstances because I think this is going to drag out, and eventually I do believe he will win if we don’t give an inch and if we are as focused and relentless as the other side is,” Clinton told longtime Democratic strategist Jennifer Palmieri in an excerpt of Showtime’s “The Circus” released Tuesday. Added Clinton: “We’ve got to have a massive legal operation, I know the Biden campaign is working on that. We have to have poll workers, and I urge people, who are able, to be a poll worker. We have to have our own teams of people to counter the force of intimidation that the Republicans and Trump are going to put outside polling places. This is a big organizational challenge, but at least we know more about what they’re going to do.” Cillizza adds, “She is, on the facts, exactly right in the advice she is giving to Biden. With lots and lots of mailed-in ballots needed to be counted in the days leading up to Election Day — and on November 3 itself — it would be political malpractice for Biden to concede to Trump (or vice versa) if the election were clearly very close.”

“So, it is the job of Democrats up and down the ballot to integrate patriotism into their campaign messaging,” Henry Schultz writes in his op-ed at The Claremont Independent. “The only Democratic candidate I’ve seen try to do this is Pete Buttigieg. He categorized his presidential campaign policy priorities into three values historically claimed by Republicans: freedom, security, and democracy. An example is that he defined security not just in the context of traditional military defense, but also in our ability to combat climate change for future generations. An integral part of reclaiming patriotism is taking back the language that has enabled Republicans to be viewed as the patriotic party. Buttigieg’s strategy can serve as a blueprint for Democrats on how to align these broad values and liberal public policy…Practically, this strategy can take the form of the Biden campaign running ads about Trump’s abandonment of American troops in swing states with large military bases, like North Carolina. According to that same Economist article, the US military was 75% white in 1990, and now around 45% of service members are from mostly Democratic-voting minorities. The US military is seen as a symbol of patriotism to many, and now the Democrats have an opportunity to position themselves as strong on national security. Politically, this pivot is a low-hanging fruit to pick and it also will support the longer-term plan of redefining the patriotism narrative…If the Democratic Party can detach itself from the tight grasp of Republican influence, it will be able to articulate a bold vision for the next generation that associates patriotism with the policies for which we have fought.”

Elena Mejia and Geoffrey Skelley write at FiveThirtyEight that “Arizona, Georgia and Texas all moved at least 4 points to the left in 2016, and it’s possible they’ll move even farther in 2020. After all, the 2018 midterm elections showed these states could elect Democrats statewide, or at least, come very close. Democrats won a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona for the first time since 1988, while Republicans only narrowly won Texas’s Senate race and Georgia’s gubernatorial contest…What explains the leftward shift in these traditionally Republican states? For one thing, these states are more racially and ethnically diverse than most of the other states we’ve looked at — Arizona and Texas have large Hispanic populations, for instance, while Georgia has a sizable Black electorate — and people of color tend to vote more Democratic. But these fairly urban states have also seen their major metropolitan areas such as Atlanta, Dallas, Houston and Phoenix become increasingly Democratic because of the surge in college-educated voters. At present, the FiveThirtyEight forecast anticipates these states will lean similar to how they did 2016, although further shifts to the left are plausible…For Democrats, the hope would be that those three states trend in ways similar to Colorado and Virginia, two formerly red states whose diverse and highly educated electorates have moved them to the left over the past two decades.”

DCorps: Biden’s New Consolidated Lead in The Battleground

The following article is cross-posted from a DCorps e-blast:

Democracy Corps’ phone, mostly cell poll with 1,500 respondents in sixteen battleground states shows Joe Biden and the Democrats moving into the kind of lead it needs to deny Donald Trump the ability to disrupt Election Day. The poll was conducted after the selection of Senator Harris and the launch of the convention, but prior to the final night acceptance speech.

It shows Biden gaining 3-points in his margin over Trump, reaching 10 points (53 percent). The race showed Democrats stable with a 6-point lead in the generic congressional and up a point to an 8 point margin in the big five Senate contests. That suggests Democrats could win full control in November. That the others moved hardly at all, suggests the Biden gain is sustainable.

Biden’s gains are produced by his campaign finally concluding the primary, not the convention itself.The percentage of Sanders voters supporting Biden jumped from 73 to 89 percent; the percent of Sanders voters hit 10 on the enthusiasm scale jumped from 80 to 90 percent. Biden moved from a +4 point to a +18 point lead with white millennials.

Democrats more consolidated, anti-Trump and now at parity on enthusiasm.  Biden is getting 95 percent of Democrats, while Trump 89 percent of Republicans; the percent of Democrats strongly disapproving of Trump has jumped to 87 percent and the percent of Republicans strongly approving is unchanged at 69 percent. That is a huge (18 point) gap in negative motivation; and Democrats and Republicans are equal on percent 10 following election extremely closely.

Biden has huge margins now across the Rising American Electorate, especially women. This is a very happy chapter for Biden’s performance with Hispanics (margin up from +19 to +32 points), white unmarried women (ahead by 19 points), white college women (margin up from +21 to +28 points), and white millennial women (up from +12 to +38 point lead).  Biden has a huge margin with blacks, but among black men, Trump has double digit support.

Trump has lost his working class hold – both men and women.  Few noticed how much Trump lost working class voters in the mid-terms (margin down 13 points with women and 14 with men). But Trump has lost further ground in this cycle – 6 with the women and 4 with the men. That means Biden is only losing white working class women by 8 points in the battleground. It also means Trump’s red-meat, base strategy is not moving the men where he won by 48 points in 2016.

Biden has slipped with white baby boomers and dropped sharply with the white silent generation. This is a significant drop, though obviously, more than offset by his gains with millennials —and there are a lot more of the latter. Nonetheless, it could be a reaction of older voters to the ticket and the convention; it could be Trump getting an audience on crime where Biden has only a modest advantage.

Biden does not have a strong emotional bond with voters. Biden still has a net-negative overall image, with only 28 percent “very warm” feelings for him. More voters are intensively negative.  He does not get an intense response with millennials; in fact, he does much better with older voters. He has a net -17 image with white working class women – double his vote margin.

The progressive issue moment.Voters want bolder on health care; tax wealth more than high incomes; and opposed to border wall.

The Republican Party is imploding. It is shedding voters and now 18 percent say, they used to identify as Republican. Biden is winning two-thirds of these voters who are very favorable about ACA.  Biden is getting 17 percent of GOP moderates and 8 percent of Catholic conservative Republicans.

Teixeira: The Ineluctable Centrality of the White Noncollege Vote

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

I’ve been a bit puzzled lately with the apparent lack of interest by Democrats in the white noncollege vote. There didn’t seem to be much of an attempt at the convention to highlight such voters who might be coming over to the Democrats’ side (see the Washington Post article, “Democrats embrace ‘who we are’ — women, people of color and young voters,” which summarizes the optics of the convention).

This would be easier to understand if there weren’t such voters. But there are! Indeed, my analysis of high quality August polls where appropriate crosstabs are available indicates that Biden is running 10 margin points better than Clinton among white noncollege voters compared to 6 points better among white college voters. The difference in favor of white noncollege voters is even larger in my analysis of the ongoing Nationscape survey. Add in the fact that white noncollege voters are about 40 percent larger as a group than white college voters (more in heavily white noncollege states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin) and it’s clear that the single largest contributor to Biden’s wider margin over Trump relative to Clinton is his superior performance among white noncollege voters.

Yet these voters rated hardly a mention. Perhaps it is assumed that such voters are so mad at Trump because of COVID, the economy and his broken promises that they are securely locked down and the only remaining task is to assure robust turnout among Democratic-leaning constituencies. I wouldn’t assume that especially since you know exactly which voters Trump’s going to go after. If he’s successful Biden’s wide lead could narrow very quickly.

That would be bad. When your opponent’s on the floor, the best strategy is to keep him there rather than let him get up and wield his greatest weapon against you once again.

Teixeira: The Democratic Convention and the Dog That Didn’t Bark

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

The Democratic convention generally went off very well and Joe Biden did a terrific job with his big speech.

But was something missing? It did seem like there wasn’t much of an economic message. Presumably this was intentional and one can understand the logic behind it–keep the election a referendum on Trump, get voters very comfortable with Joe Biden the person, be inclusive in every kind of way from Democratic base groups to defecting Republicans. I get it.

But still….was an opportunity lost to put forward a crisp, clear message of economic growth and renewal that would galvanize working class voters, both white and nonwhite, and make them less potentially susceptible to Trump’s economic messages? I do wonder about this. It could matter for the campaign and also to governing should Biden get elected.

John Judis remarks:

“The Democrats in the past have alternated between being the party emphasizing economic growth (Kennedy’s “get the country moving again”) or redistribution (Mondale’s “making the rich pay their fair share”). Biden’s party, as viewed at the convention, was a party of redistribution. There were scattered appeals to growth (Bloomberg’s speech). There was mention of the “Green New Deal” and “Infrastructure” but no attempt to visualize or in other ways dramatize the promise of economic growth in these abstractions. “Build back better” is a tongue twister, but lacks content. America remains a world leader in high technology, but you wouldn’t have known it from the convention — except for the magic of the virtual presentations….

The Democrats of 2000, 2004, and 2016 failed to make [the] case [that they were the party of the great American middle] . The Democrats of 2020 have a candidate in Biden who embodies this appeal, but much of their rhetoric and the program itself, more clearly reflected the identity politics of 2016 that emphasizes difference and ignores, whether intentionally or not, predominately white, flyover America. The point is not to appeal, as Trump undoubtedly will, only to this America, but to present an image of a unitary American small-d democrat. It may be hard to do,, but the party’s ability to sustain majorities depends on it.”

Ron Brownstein elaborates:

“[Biden’s] speech, as well as the convention itself, had a conspicuous blind spot: The event did not deliver a concise critique of Trump’s economic record or offer a tight explanation of Biden’s plans to improve the economic circumstances of middle-class families. Though Biden ran through an extended list of policy goals on issues including job creation and climate change during his address, he offered vanishingly little detail about how he would achieve them—though, in fact, he’s delivered a series of detailed speeches laying out his agenda….

Even if Biden emerges from the convention with a boost in the polls, his choice to focus less on economic appeals and more on sweeping themes and social issues, particularly racial justice, raises some of the same questions that surfaced after the Democrats’ last national meeting. Though Hillary Clinton’s 2016 convention drew strong reviews, it too emphasized the party’s embrace of diversity, the breadth of her coalition, and Trump’s deficiencies of character without delivering a clearly delineated economic agenda for working families. Those choices faced pointed second-guessing after Election Day, when Trump’s huge margins among non-college-educated white voters allowed him to dislodge the Rust Belt battlegrounds of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin from the Democrats’ “blue wall” and claim his narrow victory….

One senior Biden adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to talk frankly, told me that the issues highlighted during that sequence reflect the priorities of the party’s modern base, as the campaign sees it: young people (guns and climate), suburban women (guns and women’s rights), and people of color (racial justice and immigration).

Yet unless Biden can win across a wide range of Sun Belt states, he’s unlikely to reach 270 Electoral College votes without improving at least somewhat among working-class white voters in the key Rust Belt states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. And analysts have long observed that many older Latino and African American voters in particular are more motivated to turn out to the polls by concrete plans to improve their life than by broad promises of confronting discrimination.”

It’s worth pointing out here that my analysis of Nationscape and other data indicates that the largest contribution to Biden’s improved margin relative to Clinton 2016, both overall and in key Rust Belt battleground states, has been due to relative improvement among white noncollege voters. The campaign should not lose sight of this and the general necessity to have a clear and compelling economic message in the rest of the campaign.

Political Strategy Notes

In his article, “The Missing Piece in Biden’s Convention Speech: The Democratic Party took a gamble by not delivering a more targeted economic message to working- and middle-class families,” Ronald Brownstein writes at The Atlantic: “The event did not deliver a concise critique of Trump’s economic record or offer a tight explanation of Biden’s plans to improve the economic circumstances of middle-class families. Though Biden ran through an extended list of policy goals on issues including job creation and climate change during his address, he offered vanishingly little detail about how he would achieve them—though, in fact, he’s delivered a series of detailed speeches laying out his agenda…Yet unless Biden can win across a wide range of Sun Belt states, he’s unlikely to reach 270 Electoral College votes without improving at least somewhat among working-class white voters in the key Rust Belt states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. And analysts have long observed that many older Latino and African American voters in particular are more motivated to turn out to the polls by concrete plans to improve their life than by broad promises of confronting discrimination….even most Democrats agree that he might still squeeze out an Electoral College majority by maximizing margins and turnout among his core group of older, rural, non-college-educated white voters in a few closely balanced states. If he does, Democrats may again rue the choice not to direct a more targeted economic appeal at the voters Trump is relying on most.”

At The Cook Political Report, Amy Walter addresses a critical quetion for the 2020 elections, “Can Biden Undercut Trump’s Continued Advantage on the Economy?” Walter writes that “Third Way has been doing extensive research and data modeling in the swing states of Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Using data from the analytics firm Catalist, Third Way did a deep dive on these four states to estimate how many people are likely to vote and for which party in suburban counties (and urban and rural ones, too) this year. What they found was that Democrats “are in position to win majorities in the Michigan and Pennsylvania suburbs, which would set them up to win both states. Democrats should get close or just reach a majority in the Florida, North Carolina, and Wisconsin suburbs, which would put them in a dead heat with Republicans in these states.And Democrats are on target to win a majority in Arizona’s suburbs, but preliminary estimates still show Republicans with a slim advantage statewide. But additional analysis is needed for Arizona.”…In other words, writes Ryan Pougiales, senior political analyst for Third Way, “The battleground suburbs are where 2020 will be won or lost.”

Walter notes further that a survey of likely voters in Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin indicates that “when it comes to handling the economy, these swing state suburbanites give Trump a decent 48 percent approval rating. ..These voters think the economy is in bad shape, and don’t expect it to get better anytime soon. Just 30 percent rate the economy as good today, and only 33 percent think it will be better in November. ..But it is that lack of optimism about the economy that worries Third Way. “Voters with the lowest expectations for a recovery,” they write, “may be most impressed by marginal economic progress.”…Under the current unemployment rate (11 percent), Biden had a 9-point advantage (37 percent to 28 percent)…But, if the unemployment rate were to drop to 8 percent, a number we’d normally consider unreasonably high, support for Biden and Trump is evenly divided (35 percent Trump to 34 percent Biden)…While these suburban voters “don’t see Biden in the same vein as say, an AOC,” said this strategist, “they worry about the party moving too far left on issues like taxes.”…To keep Trump from getting the upper hand on the economy, says the Third Way, “Democrats’ best counter is that the economy can’t get on the right track until we address COVID-19—and Trump has shown he can’t handle the virus.”

Anticipating the GOP convention message, E. J. Dionne, Jr. warns at The Washington Post, “…if there is one pesky polling number for Democrats, it is Trump’s slight advantage on the matter of which candidate will better handle the economy. Here is where his attempt to tie Biden and Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) to the “far left” will do double duty…The obvious Trump play is to social conservative and racial backlash voters. If the Democrats painted an optimistic picture of a country that could achieve racial justice and national unity, Trump will paint a dark caricature (my color choice is not accidental) of a country facing disorder and chaos under the Democrats….American Carnage Redux is one side of the case Trump wants to make. The other is classic Republican propaganda on economics, aimed at more affluent voters, again particularly suburbanites. Attacks on Biden’s nonexistent “leftism” will be tied to made-up claims that he will boost taxes to confiscatory levels and, in embracing reforms to capitalism, new public programs and bold steps on climate change, will weaken an already ailing economy.” However, Dionne concludes, “In 2016, Trump was unencumbered by the responsibilities of office. In 2020, he has a dismal record to defend — or evade. And the nastier his convention’s message becomes, the more he will reinforce the implicit promise of the Democratic convention: of a calm, less divided country that is normal again.”

David Wasserman shares some revealing batteleground states statistics, also at The Cook Political Report, including “African American voters account for roughly 12 percent of eligible voters nationally, and they account for a substantial share of the vote in six of the seven states Trump carried by 5 points or less in 2016: Florida (15 percent), Georgia (32 percent), Michigan (13 percent), North Carolina (22 percent), Pennsylvania (10 percent) and Wisconsin (6 percent)…An NBC News/Cook Political Report analysis of census and election data from these states shows that the decline in African American turnout and Democratic support from 2012 to 2016 was probably enough to tip at least Michigan and Wisconsin — and possibly Florida and Pennsylvania — to Trump…Amping up African American enthusiasm could pay particular dividends for Biden in Wisconsin, where the Clinton campaign spent scant resources and turnout in Milwaukee plummeted. But even in states like Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, where Black turnout was more robust, there were 397,000, 488,000 and 370,000 eligible Black voters, respectively, who failed to turn out last time.”

Wasserman argues further that Biden’s choice of Kamala Harris on the Democratic ticket looks like  winner: “An early August GWU/Battleground Poll found that Harris had a similar net favorability among 18-to-29-year-old voters (38 percent favorable to 34 percent unfavorable) to Biden (51 percent to 46 percent), and a higher net favorability among 35-to-44-year-old voters (44 percent to 33 percent) than Biden (49 percent to 47 percent)…The GWU/Battleground poll found Harris’ favorability in the Midwest at 46 percent to 31 percent, higher than her national favorability and much higher than Vice President Mike Pence’s favorability in the Midwest (35 percent to 53 percent)…At least initially, at a time when voters desire racial unity and give Trump awful marks on his handling of race relations, it’s hard to see Harris as anything other than a plus for Biden. After all, Biden already has a good track record running on a national ticket with an African American attorney in a first term as senator from a blue state.”

At FiveThirtyEight, Nathaniel Rakich and Meredith Conroy explore the effectiveness of progressive groups, as measured by the success of their endorsees, and write: “Thanks to an increasingly powerful progressive campaign apparatus, there’s no question that the left is now an established player in the Democratic Party. But is it strong enough to rival the political muscle of the party establishment?…To find out, FiveThirtyEight has once again tracked hundreds of endorsements in every Senate, House and governor primary completed so far this year (through Aug. 18). We looked at the win-loss records of the endorsees of eight key Democratic influencers: progressive groups Indivisible, Justice Democrats, Our Revolution and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee; progressive figures Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders; and two arms of the national Democratic Party, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.2 The result is the most complete picture yet of which wing of the party is doing better at the ballot box…And while the progressive upsets may have grabbed all the headlines, the numbers say the party establishment is still king of the hill. Of the 217 Democratic incumbents who ran in the primaries we analyzed, 214 won or advanced to the general election…in the 17 primaries where progressives (candidates endorsed by at least one of these six entities) went up against an incumbent, the progressive-backed candidate lost 14 times. (Newman, Bowman and Bush were the only exceptions.)”…”All told, the progressive group with the best win rate so far in primaries without an incumbent is Indivisible; they’ve endorsed 10 candidates in those races, and nine of them have advanced. Our Revolution has the worst win rate of the progressive endorsers we looked at, but they’ve also backed more candidates than the other groups; of the 14 candidates they endorsed, five have advanced to the general. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Courage for Change PAC has a win rate of 50 percent (4 for 8).”

Pam Fessler and Elena Moore report that “More Than 550,000 Primary Absentee Ballots Rejected In 2020, Far Outpacing 2016″ at NPR: “An extraordinarily high number of ballots — more than 550,000 — have been rejected in this year’s presidential primaries, according to a new analysis by NPR…That’s far more than the 318,728 ballots rejected in the 2016 general election and has raised alarms about what might happen in November when tens of millions of more voters are expected to cast their ballots by mail, many for the first time…..Election experts said first-time absentee voters are much more likely to make the kinds of mistakes that lead to rejected ballots. Studies also show that voters of color and young voters are more likely than others to have their ballots not count…Most absentee or mail-in ballots are rejected because required signatures are missing or don’t match the one on record, or because the ballot arrives too late

“Even with limited data,” Moore and Fessler write,  “the implications are considerable. NPR found that tens of thousands of ballots have been rejected in key battleground states, where the outcome in November — for the presidency, Congress and other elected positions — could be determined by a relatively small number of votes…For example, President Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 by almost 23,000 votes. More than 23,000 absentee ballots were rejected in the state’s presidential primary in April. More than 37,000 primary ballots were also rejected in June in Pennsylvania, a state Trump won by just over 44,000 votes…The numbers are also significant because of large partisan differences in how Americans plan to vote this fall. Democrats have expressed more interest than Republicans in voting by mail — 47% to 28% in the Democracy Fund/UCLA survey. Forty-eight percent of those who intend to vote for Joe Biden say they will use mail-in ballots, compared with 23% of Trump supporters…Pennsylvania, one of the states where the extent of rejected mail-in ballots might well determine the outcome of the election, is planning an ad campaign soon, urging people who have applied for absentee ballots to return them immediately, so they don’t risk having them not count because they arrived too late.”

Biden’s Acceptance Speech a ‘Home Run in the Bottom of the Ninth”

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s acceptance speech is being greeted with rave reviews. You would expect no less from fellow Democrats. But Biden is getting soaring praise for his address  even from Republicans. For example Fox News commentator Dana Perino, a former press secretary for George W. Bush, called it “a home run in the bottom of the ninth,” which “had pace, rhythm, energy, emotion and delivery. I think if he looks back, he’s got to say that was probably the best speech of his life. He really just took the moment, and I love that.”

It went like this:

Here is the full transcript of Biden’s acceptance address:

Good evening.

Ella Baker, a giant of the civil rights movement, left us with this wisdom: Give people light and they will find a way.

Give people light. Those are words for our time.

The current president has cloaked America in darkness for much too long. Too much anger. Too much fear. Too much division.

Here and now, I give you my word: If you entrust me with the presidency, I will draw on the best of us not the worst. I will be an ally of the light not of the darkness.

It’s time for us, for we the people, to come together. For make no mistake. United we can, and will, overcome this season of darkness in America. We will choose hope over fear, facts over fiction, fairness over privilege.

I am a proud Democrat and I will be proud to carry the banner of our party into the general election. So, it is with great honor and humility that I accept this nomination for president of the United States of America.

But while I will be a Democratic candidate, I will be an American president. I will work as hard for those who didn’t support me as I will for those who did.

That’s the job of a president. To represent all of us, not just our base or our party. This is not a partisan moment. This must be an American moment.

It’s a moment that calls for hope and light and love. Hope for our futures, light to see our way forward, and love for one another.

America isn’t just a collection of clashing interests of red states or blue states.

We’re so much bigger than that. We’re so much better than that.

Nearly a century ago, Franklin Roosevelt pledged a New Deal in a time of massive unemployment, uncertainty, and fear. Stricken by disease, stricken by a virus, F.D.R. insisted that he would recover and prevail and he believed America could as well. And he did. And so can we.

This campaign isn’t just about winning votes. It’s about winning the heart, and yes, the soul of America. Winning it for the generous among us, not the selfish. Winning it for the workers who keep this country going, not just the privileged few at the top. Winning it for those communities who have known the injustice of the “knee on the neck.” For all the young people who have known only an America of rising inequity and shrinking opportunity. They deserve to experience America’s promise in full.

Will Republicans Counter DNC’s Diversity with Racism?

Trying to watch the Democratic National Convention through the baleful eyes of the opposition, I got the feeling it would tempt them into sin, so I wrote about it at New York:

We don’t know much about the messaging and lineup of next week’s Republican National Convention — aside, of course, from the president’s provocative decision to deliver his acceptance speech from the White House grounds and his equally provocative choice to offer a speaking slot to Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the St. Louis couple who brandished assault weapons at peaceful protesters who were passing the McCloskey’s mega-mansion on their way to the mayor’s house. But we know that Trump’s reelection campaign has been focused on energizing his base and emphasizing those racially abrasive themes that seek to augment his base with suburban swing voters. Here’s how one Trump adviser explained it to Politico:

“’Part of our message will focus on how the suburbs are becoming unsafe because inner cities are unsafe, and Biden and Kamala are going to make it even worse. People who have been impacted by the lawlessness will speak,’ said the outside Trump adviser.”

He might have added that Trump has been crudely promoting the idea that the equal-housing policies Biden is likely to favor will damage suburban property values by letting those people move into previously white areas. In any event, it’s unlikely the Trump campaign will suddenly “pivot to the center” and moderate his pitch this late in the game.

Indeed — as Ron Brownstein points out — for all the president’s troubles, he retains relatively strong support among the non-college-educated white voters who were attracted to his hateful and divisive 2016 message:

These are not as strong as the numbers he posted in 2016, but boosting them with raw, race-based MAGA appeals may be the most direct path to another narrow Trump win. And it’s entirely possible that the images being flashed around the country by the Democratic convention will add to the Republican temptation to go feral:

“Last night’s proceedings were effectively a tribute to America’s growing diversity. The energetic, quick-cut keynote speech included multiple speakers who were Latino, Black, Asian American, Native American, and LGBTQ, not to mention several women. The brilliantly reimagined convention roll call reinforced the point, with brief testimonials—some somber, others endearingly goofy—from another diverse roster of speakers in every state and territory, a change that drew rave reviews on Twitter and TV news. Some Democratic activists complained that organizers had allocated too much of the event’s limited time to Republicans and too little to nonwhite progressive leaders such as Stacey Abrams and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But average viewers probably absorbed a very different image: On a day when Trump delivered an incendiary speech in Yuma, Arizona, touting his border wall and even reprising the language from his 2015 campaign announcement about immigrants as ‘murderers’ and ‘rapists,’ Democrats offered the 21st-century version of a Norman Rockwell painting.”

You have to figure Team Trump has some focus groups registering fear and loathing of this image of an America where 20th-century ideas of “greatness” have not been restored and are threatened anew.

Sure, the RNC will have its own overlapping agendas. You can, for example, expect as many non-white Republican speakers as organizers can find (including Black state legislator Vernon Jones of Georgia, who will serve as a counter to all the cross-party speakers Democrats recruited). But no one will be left with the impression that Trump’s GOP is anything other than the party of a threatened white Christian hegemony that is unhappy about Black Lives Matter, police accountability, and immigrant rights and is nearly twice as exercised about “violent crime” as it is about COVID-19 (according to a recent Pew survey). You can expect four days of subliminal and not-so-subliminal messaging to their worst instincts.

Political Strategy Notes

The New Yorker editor David Remnick shares his assessment of the Democratic Convention’s first three nights: “The set-piece speeches of this Convention have largely been effective. Sanders, who came in second in 2020, as he did in 2016, was at once generous to Biden but true to his insistence on foundational change. (There were disappointments: Al Gore on climate change would have been more relevant and welcome than Bill Clinton’s discourse on Oval Office comportment.) Many of the produced-for-TV-and-social-media video segments have also hit the mark, including Tuesday’s roll call with its visions of palm trees, mountain ranges, and fried calamari; the heart-tugging nomination of Biden by a Times security guard; the heroic story of Ady Barkan, a thirty-six-year-old lawyer who suffers from A.L.S. and became nationally recognized for his campaigning for Medicare for All. Those pieces and others largely felt genuine and stood in contrast to the distinctly sour and vindictive opponent they sought to upend.”

Among the “Hits and Misses from Day 3 of the Democratic Convention” according to Chris Cillizza at CNN Politics: “Barack Obama: Yes, the former president is an incredibly talented orator. But we’ve long known that. What mattered most about Obama’s speech on Wednesday was that he did what lots of Democrats have been begging him to do for the last three-ish years: He delivered a stunning takedown of the man who followed him into the White House. Obama said that Trump simply does not take the job “seriously.” He said that Trump uses the government’s vast powers in a purely “transactional way.” And most powerfully, he said this: “Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t, and the consequences of that failure are severe.” Consider what Obama is saying there: As someone who did the job — for eight years — he not only believes Trump cannot rise to the demands of the presidency, but also that there are very real effects of Trump’s deficiency. “This isn’t just the sharpest criticism Obama has made of Trump,” tweeted Politico’s Tim Alberta. “This is the sharpest criticism a former president has *ever made* of a sitting president.”

Former President Obama’s speech:

At Vox, Dylan Matthews comments on one of the “winners” of night three of the convention, Sen. Elizabeth Warren who expalined why child care is more than just a checklist item to be mentioned in this political year: “Warren focused on a place of deep continuity with Biden: child care, where Biden has proposed a massive system of subsidies that bears a strong resemblance to Warren’s plan. Both would cap child care expenses at 7 percent of income for most Americans…Simply pulling out child care, as important as the issue is, would have risked making the speech seem overly niche. But Warren connected it to the broader coronavirus pandemic and the problem of many schools being unable to safely open for the 2020-’21 school year — she delivered the speech from an early childhood education center. Child care “is just one plan,” she concludes. “It gives you an idea of how we get the country working for everyone.”

Regarding one of the largest constituencies that has been only lightly-showcased at the Democratic convention, Ronald Brownstein writes at The Atlantic: “Surveys released since August 11 by Monmouth University, CNN, NBC/The Wall Street Journal, and ABC/The Washington Post all found Trump attracting from 57 to 60 percent of white voters without a college education. The latest NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist survey put his number slightly lower at 55 percent, while the most recent Pew Research Center poll put him higher, at 64 percent. Trump’s margin over Biden on these measures ranges from just more than 20 percentage points to about 30 points…That’s not as formidable as Trump’s advantage in 2016, when various data sources measuring voting behavior generally put his lead among non-college-educated white voters even higher. And polls in the Rust Belt battleground states, such as the latest Marquette University Law School survey, show Biden performing better among those voters there than he has nationally. Trump’s small overall decline, especially in key battlegrounds, might be enough to deny him a second term by flipping back the three “blue wall” states he won narrowly last time: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.”

Brownstein adds: “But Trump’s ability to hold on to about three-fifths of non-college-educated white voters nonetheless testifies to the power of the cultural and racial attitudes that bond them to him. Even non-college-educated white women—though clearly less supportive now than in 2016—still give Trump a clear majority of their votes in all of the recent national surveys for which those data were available. (Biden leads among those women in Wisconsin, the Marquette poll found.) In the South, Trump continues to amass towering margins among white voters without a college degree: He’s at 70 percent or more among them in recent polls in North Carolina and Georgia, and nearly that high in Texas. Polls likewise show that Trump is maintaining support from about three-fourths (NBC/WSJ) to four-fifths (Pew) of white evangelical Christians. With rural voters, the Pew, NBC/WSJ, and ABC/Post polls all put him at from 55 to 60 percent support…Blue-collar white voters still significantly exceed their national share of the vote in the big Rust Belt battlegrounds that Democrats must win until they demonstrate that they can reliably flip more diverse Sun Belt states.”

Looking toward the future role of white working-class voters in American elections, John Judis writes at Talking Points Memo that “Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic and the recession has cost him support among white working class voters, If Biden and Harris win in 2020, and especially if they win big, it will partly be because of the defection of these voters…If Biden and Harris win by assembling a coalition that includes these voters, then the question will be whether they can hold them, or whether they will revert back to the Republicans. That will depend on how boldly Biden and Harris proceed. Obama allowed the Republicans to peel away working class voters by his timid approach to the Great Recession, failing, among other things, to go after the bankers who were responsible for it and acceding to conservative pressure to cut spending. if Biden and Harris don’t proceed boldly, I would expect that American politics will revert to the status quo ante — what political scientist Walter Dean Burnham called an “unstable equilibrium” between the parties — where the Republicans and Democrats will exchange political power. Both parties will have to hold together different economic classes. Both will be hampered in general elections by social-minded factions on their extremes.”

Judis notes further, “I would expect the center of gravity of American politics will move somewhat to the left in Democratic and Republican politics. Two deep recessions in a decade will leave their mark in a greater willingness to use the government to cushion citizens from the loss of jobs and health insurance. Competition from China and the loss of industrial jobs will make both parties more willing to support an industrial and trade policy designed to boost American-based industries. Aside from social issues, the difference between the parties will likely be over whether to encourage traditional and non-traditional forms of worker organization and whether to adopt tax policies that dramatically redistribute income and wealth.”

Charlie Cook writes at The Cook Political Report: “The Biden campaign’s singular mission is getting 270 electoral votes, and that means winning Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Nothing else matters…But the Democratic Party is also trying to rebuild for the future, so reach states like Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, and Texas are awfully enticing. But Georgia, Ohio, and Texas are big, expensive states. Texas alone has 20 Nielsen media markets, and Des Moines, Iowa, with its almost-statewide reach, isn’t cheap either…But the cold-blooded, reality-based decision about resources that the Biden campaign has to make applies to the Senate as well. Democrats have a surprising number of paths to a majority and beyond, but do they focus on what will get them to 51 or 52 seats, focusing on Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Maine, Montana, and North Carolina? Or do they go big, dropping resources into Georgia’s two Senate races, Kansas’s open-seat race, and long-shot opportunities in Texas, or even Alaska, Louisiana, and Mississippi? Notably left off of that list are challenges to Sens. Mitch McConnell in Kentucky and Lindsey Graham in South Carolina, since Democrats’ massive fundraising base will cover those two efforts, sparing the party tough decisions there…As tough as they are, they aren’t the triage decisions that their GOP counterparts are about to begin in their allocation choices.”

Roll Call Vote Celebrates Democratic – and American – Diversity

Day two of the Democratic convention generated lots of read-worthy articles. But please check out Stephen Collinson’s “A risky roll call turns into a surprise moment of national unity” at CNN Politics, which caught the vibrant spirit of the party that looks like America:

Out of many, One.

Locked down, isolated and fearful as a pandemic fractured national bonds and the power of community, America got a sudden, startling look at itself on Tuesday night as the Democratic National Convention’s virtual roll call vote whipped coast to coast and around the globe.
For a few sunny minutes, the despondency of the summer of Covid lifted during a celebratory glimpse into the country’s vibrant geographic diversity, cultural breadth and enduring common purpose. A risky television production experiment that could have gone badly wrong instead turned into a pageant of national unity, and injected unusual bounce into nominee Joe Biden’s basement campaign.
CNN’s Paul LeBlanc goes on to share his “notable moments from the DNC’s virtual roll call.” It was a good look that showed America which party has the positive, energetic spirit to lead the nation to a better future. It wasn’t just the racial and cultural diversity that was so impressive. The roll call vote creatively leveraged the power of place. As Collinson reports,
The virtual tour played out in short recorded videos, and live shots became a tantalizing glimpse of a vast and fertile land that is out there waiting once the current nightmare — in which more than 170,000 people have died, millions lost their jobs and tens of millions have been cut off from friends, coworkers and loved ones — finally abates…The vote poignantly started on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, where the recently deceased John Lewis had marched into history. And where else would “Amtrak” Joe Biden’s presidential nominating roll call wrap up but a platform of the Joseph R. Biden Jr. Railroad Station in Wilmington, Delaware?..[it] served up stunning backdrops from rocky crags in Colorado to the Bering Sea in Alaska and Arizona cacti. It swept from American Samoa, with a verdant mountain vista, to a farmyard in Maine and on to Michigan’s delegation in the Motor City, standing like salesmen in a local TV ad in front of three gleaming new vehicles.

In her NBC News article, “Virtual roll call at Democratic convention delights with digital tour of U.S. Democrats took their roll call on the road this year, turning a mostly sleepy procedural moment into a heartwarming virtual tour,” Jane C. Timm writes,

Plain winds briefly overpowered the audio of a young woman in Montana while cows grazed behind her unaware of the national audience. Representatives from the New Mexico and South Dakota delegations spoke Indigenous languages and English, while Puerto Rico’s representative made his remarks in Spanish, with English captions…Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania stood outside Biden’s childhood home in Scranton, announcing the state’s tally.

In Louisiana, a little boy holding a sign showing Biden’s famous aviator sunglasses won the internet’s heart…Some states elevated rising stars — South Carolina’s votes were announced by the state’s Democratic Senate candidate, Jaime Harrison — while others recalled tragic moments in the country’s history. In Florida, Parkland parent Fred Guttenberg spoke about how his daughter was murdered in a school shooting in 2018, highlighting Biden’s record on gun control.

Also check out “Here Are The Beautiful, Powerful, And Funny Moments From The State Roll Call Nominating Joe Biden For President” at Buzzfeed News, which features a few choice clips from the segment.

CNN did screw-up the segment by interrupting the flow with several commercials. They won’t make that mistake again. But when it resumed, it was still powerful and effective. Republicans may try something similar, but a copy-cat video won’t have the same magic, partly because their product is an increasingly tough sell.

If you want to watch the complete roll call, click here and scroll down a bit to the video segment.

Teixeira: Can Joe Biden Hold the Democrats Together?

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

I have heard from a number of folks who can’t get through the WSJ paywall to read my pearls of wisdom. A tragedy! As a humanitarian gesture, I reproduce below the full text of the article–minus the snazzy graphics alas.

Since the New Deal, Democrats have struggled to hold together the eclectic elements of their coalition. Under President Franklin Roosevelt, who forged the party as we know it, the bedrock of Democratic support was the white working class, the “solid South” and Black Americans. But that alliance proved unstable. It came apart in the 1960s as the party struggled to incorporate the voters and demands of a range of new social movements—on civil rights, Vietnam, women’s liberation and the environment. Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 gave Democrats hope that they were forming a new coalition, perhaps one even more durable than its New Deal predecessor. President Obama brought together the rising, 21st-century constituencies of nonwhite voters—Black, Hispanic, Asian—as well as younger voters, educated urban whites and even a solid portion of the white working class.