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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Vote Blue! No Matter Who.

VOTE BLUE.

No matter who.

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Vote Blue No Matter Who bumper sticker

Vote Blue!

No Matter Who!

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

Vote Blue! No Matter Who.

VOTE BLUE!

No Matter Who.

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

Vote Blue No Matter Who bumper sticker

Vote Blue

No matter who.

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

RIP GOP book by Stanley Greenberg

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

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

Pre-Order Now.

The Daily Strategist

June 3, 2020

Teixeira: On Wisconsin!

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

Wisconsin is perhaps the key state for Democrats in the 2020 election–and universally acknowledged to be a very tough challenge. It’s likely to be close under almost any circumstances. But it’s still hard not to be encouraged by the results of Tuesday’s election in the state, where the liberal candidate Jill Karofsky soundly defeated conservative incumbent Daniel Kelly for a seat on the State Supreme Court. Make no mistake: while nominally a nonpartisan election, in the context of Wisconsin politics, this was very much a red vs. blue affair.

I can’t really comment on the demographics of the vote, since no data are directly are available. However, the geographic patterns of the vote are very revealing. Charlie Sykes, a conservative, albeit a Never Trump one, who really knows his Wisconsin politics, summarizes these results on The Bulwark:

“[The Democratic] formula for winning Wisconsin looks roughly like this: Run up big margins in Milwaukee and Dane Counties, cut into GOP margins in the suburban WOW Counties (Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington), win western Wisconsin, and hold Republican margins down in the rural parts of the state.

Which is basically what happened here. As Reid Epstein noted in the New York Times, “Wisconsin’s map on Monday night looked like a dream general election result for former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the presumptive Democratic nominee—stronger than typical for Democrats in the suburbs and a respectable showing among the state’s blue-collar white voters in rural counties.”

Ominously for Republicans, Kelly’s margin shrank in all of the crucial suburban counties (see tweet below):

The liberal candidate made gains throughout the eastern part of the state, including the suburbs, while also making big gains in the western part of the state. While cautioning against drawing too many conclusions for November, polling guru Charles Franklin also notes that the challenger Karofsky won Brown, Outagamie, and Winnebago counties—swing counties that had been trending Republican.”

All in all, a great night for Team Blue. Rinse and repeat in November.


Teixeira: Sanders Endorsement of Biden and Dems Progressive Future

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

Happy Sanders Endorsement Day!

Hats off to Bernie for doing the right thing and endorsing Biden now, rather than dragging it out as many feared he would. This is helpful. And to those on the left who are disgruntled that he lost and perhaps upset that he has now endorsed Biden, I would say, take heart. The fact of the matter is the country’s moving to the left, as is the Democratic party, and Biden will run as a pretty faithful representative of that change. As well-summarized by David Atkins in a post of the Washington Monthly blog:

“Defeatism would be the wrong lesson for leftists interested in passing social democratic policies in America and Britain. The reality is that leftist policy has never been more ascendant in the Democratic Party since at least the 1960s if not the 1930s. The Biden 2020 campaign platform is well to the left of the Clinton 2016 platform, which was itself well to the left of the Obama 2008 platform. Every major candidate in the 2020 field ran either on some version of Medicare for All, or at least a public option and Medicare expansion as a pathway toward it. Every major candidate proposed much bolder action on climate change than the Obama administration, and major policies to address student debt and college tuition. And on social policy from LGBT rights to criminal justice, the difference between the Democratic Party of today and that of 10 years ago could not be more stark. Most of those advances are due to the hard work of leftists whose tireless advocacy has successfully won the force of moral argument and persuaded mainstream Democratic base voters and independents.”

So, despite Sanders’ defeat, I would argue that his supporters of the left have quite a lot to play for in this election, even beyond the sacred task of defeating Trump. Forward to November!


Teixeira: The Most Important Trend in American Politics – The Disappearing Trump Bump

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

Presidential approval isn’t everything. But probably more than any single metric you could look at, it shapes electoral outcomes. Therefore, when Trump’s approval rating went up modestly as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, people noticed–though it was modest and seemed to have relatively little effect on trial heat measures. But now, even that bump seems to be disappearing fast See the charts below, national from 538 and two swing states, Wisconsin and Florida, from Civiqs data.


Political Strategy Notes

At The Cook Political Report, Amy Walter ruminates on Democratic prospects for picking up a U.S. Senate seat in North Carolina, and says that the “suburbs are the most competitive region in the state. Clinton narrowly carried these urban suburbs in the 2016 election 49 to 48 percent. These types of suburbs also turned decidedly more Democratic in the 2018 election…The next question is whether an improvement in these suburbs would be enough for Democrats to win the state in 2020. Trump won the state by 3.6 percent. In 2016, the cities and those inner suburbs comprised 54 percent of the total vote. The rural areas plus the exurbs represented 46 percent of the vote. So, on paper, sure, win the cities and inner suburban areas, and you win the election. But it’s not that simple. Trump dominated the exurban and rural vote carrying rural areas by 24 points and the exurbs by 30 points. Clinton, meanwhile, had a solid showing in the cities — she won them by 35 points — but just barely eked out a win in the inner suburbs…Moreover, while the inner suburbs are turning bluer, it is highly unlikely that Democrats like Joe Biden or Senate nominee Cal Cunningham will pull out the double-digit margins there like they do in the cities. Instead, the key for Democrats will be to do better in those exurbs. According to [Catawba College professor Michael] Bitzer’s analysis, the dense suburban vote and the exurban vote each make up about a quarter of total votes cast. In other words, it’s not enough for Democrats to gain a couple of points in the inner suburbs if they are still losing the exurbs by 30 points.”

At a time when Republicans are panicking out about gowing support for voting by mail and the Republican majority of the U.S. Supreme Court has issued a ruling designed to escalate voter suppression, Virginia’s Democratic Governor Ralph Northam has “signed a series of new measures into law aimed at expanding access to voting in the commonwealth,” Paul LeBlanc reports at CNN Politics. “The new legislation will establish Election Day as a holiday, remove the requirement that voters show a photo ID prior to casting a ballot and, expand early voting to be allowed 45 days before an election without a stated reason.”

From “GOP Justices Decree Capital Punishment for Voting” by Harold Meyerson at The American Prospect: “The only reason that the Republican National Committee doesn’t have John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Sam Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh on the payroll is that they know they have them for free…Yesterday, as in Bush v. Gore and Shelby County v. Holder (which struck down much of the Voting Rights Act), the Republican majority on the United States Supreme Court did its damnedest to throw an election to their very own Republicans. The Gang of Five overturned the ruling of a federal District Court that extended the period of absentee voting in Wisconsin for one week, to April 13…The Court’s ruling came roughly at the same time that their mini-me’s—four Republican justices on the Wisconsin Supreme Court—overturned Governor Tony Evers’s postponement of today’s Wisconsin primary until June. Alone among the 11 states that had primaries scheduled this month, Wisconsin—that is, the Republican majorities in the state legislature—decreed that this one would proceed despite the coronavirus shelter-in-place rule. Of course, today’s on-again-off-again-on-again-again election will be a travesty, with many, probably most, polling places closed due to a lack of poll workers. In Milwaukee, which, not coincidentally, is home to the largest concentration of the state’s Democrats, the usual 180 polling places have been consolidated to a mere five.”

In his article, “SCOTUS Just Set the Stage for Republicans to Steal the Election: In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court blocked Wisconsin from extending the absentee voting deadline, disenfranchising thousands and creating a terrible precedent” at The Nation, Elie Mystal puts it this way: “Three weeks ago, I wrote that the real threat to the 2020 election is not that Donald Trump will use the coronavirus to try to cancel it but that Republicans will try to steal it, state by state, county by county. In an election in which a record number of people may attempt to vote by absentee ballot, Republican state officials can choose simply to mail ballots to people in counties that traditionally vote for Republicans—and not mail enough ballots to the far more populous counties that traditionally vote for Democrats. In so doing, they can slant the general election toward Donald Trump and other Republicans running for election without Trump having to go through all the bother of declaring himself “dictator for life,” which might spook Mitt Romney…Last night, the Supreme Court gave Republicans the go-ahead to proceed with that scheme. You don’t need an army to cross the Rubicon when you have henchmen on the Supreme Court willing to do all the dirty work.”

Mystal continues: “Where normal people see a vast human tragedy, Republicans see an electoral opportunity. The entire Democratic theory of overthrowing Trump has been to inspire massive voter turnout. Turnout led from the urban centers and their close suburbs. The “blue wave.”But it is in these densely packed communities that Covid-19 is hitting the hardest. And there is already evidence that the African American community, the base of the Democratic party, is being disproportionately killed by the virus…Republicans can use all of this to their advantage. If people have to choose between risking their lives by going to vote, or staying home, most people will stay home—and who can really blame them? If Republicans can make it hard for people to vote absentee, particularly in high-population centers where there is going to be the most demand for absentee voting, Republicans can win…Wisconsin shows them how. Wisconsin shows that the Republican Supreme Court will not stop Republican local officials from disenfranchising people who stay home because of the coronavirus…The Wisconsin ordeal is to the November election as Italy’s outbreak was to our own. It’s where we can see what is coming for all of us, and what will happen to our country, if we don’t act soon enough.”

The tax deadline has been postponed till July 15th, but the soaring government expenses associated with the coronavirus crisis intensifies the debate about tax reform. At The Boston Review, Emanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman provide a guide to needed reforms in their article, “Taxing the Superrich: For the sake of justice and democracy, we need a progressive wealth tax.” As the authors write, “Taxing the superrich involves three essential and complementary ingredients: a progressive income tax, a corporate tax, and a progressive wealth tax. The corporate tax ensures that all profits are taxed, whether distributed or not: it acts as a de facto minimum tax on the affluent. The progressive income tax ensures high earners pay more. And a progressive wealth tax gets the ultrarich to contribute to the public coffers even when they, including Buffett, manage to realize little taxable income. ..The middle class already pays taxes on its wealth, in the form of property taxes. The wealthy don’t, since most of their wealth consists of financial assets, which are exempt from the property tax.”

Re Amy McGrath’s campaign to unseat Mitch McConnell in the Kentucky Senate race,  Jane Mayer observes in The New Yorker that “as covid-19 decimates the economy and kills Americans across the nation, McConnell’s alliance with Trump is looking riskier. Indeed, some critics argue that McConnell bears a singular responsibility for the country’s predicament. They say that he knew from the start that Trump was unequipped to lead in a crisis, but, because the President was beloved by the Republican base, McConnell protected him. He even went so far as to prohibit witnesses at the impeachment trial, thus guaranteeing that the President would remain in office. David Hawpe, the former editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal, said of McConnell, “There are a lot of people disappointed in him. He could have mobilized the Senate. But the Republican Party changed underneath him, and he wanted to remain in power…Stuart Stevens, a longtime Republican political consultant, agrees that McConnell’s party deserves a considerable share of the blame for America’s covid-19 disaster. In a forthcoming book, “It Was All a Lie,” Stevens writes that, in accommodating Trump and his base, McConnell and other Republicans went along as Party leaders dismantled the country’s safety net and ignored experts of all kinds, including scientists. “Mitch is kidding himself if he thinks he’ll be remembered for anything other than Trump,” he said. “He will be remembered as the Trump facilitator.”

“Responding to the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic poses serious challenges for governors across the country, including the nine set to face voters in November’s 11 gubernatorial elections,” Rebecca Klar writes in her article, “Coronavirus response could be key factor in tight governor’s races” at The Hill. “How state leaders handle their COVID-19 responses could have a particular impact in competitive races, such as those in North Carolina or Montana, where Gov. Steve Bullock (D) is running for the Senate and both parties are fighting hard to replace him…The pandemic and how state governments are handling it has significantly raised the profile of multiple governors, particularly New York’s Andrew Cuomo, who has seen his highest favorability ratings in seven years and had to repeatedly deny that he is considering a presidential run…But Cuomo and many others in the coronavirus spotlight, such as Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) or Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D), aren’t facing voters in November. Others managing hot spots, such as Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), have seen boosts in public polling over their COVID-19 responses, though that may not weigh heavily on the result of their races…Governors across the country have generally received high marks for their handling of the crisis, compared to the response out of Washington, D.C…A poll conducted late last month by the National Opinion Research Center for the Associated Press found 57 percent of Americans said they approved of their state’s response to the crisis, while just 38 percent said they approve of the federal government’s.”

If the Biden campaign needed another challenge, Alex Thompson has it at Politico: “The 2020 presidential campaign’s transition to a mostly digital experience, with the nation on lockdown, has spotlighted a long-term progressive deficit on YouTube that some concerned Democrats compare to the right’s command of talk radio. The country’s leading video platform is also one of its largest search engines (after Google) and a key battlefield in campaigns’ fight to reach new voters and earn free media attention…While Democratic campaigns and groups spend heavily on advertising on YouTube, they lag in organic content, with dozens of conservative and right-wing figures like Ben Shapiro, Mark Dice and Paul Joseph Watson and more official-sounding channels like Prager University cultivating enormous followings not yet matched by equivalents on the left…“‘LeftTube’ has two problems: One is volume and the other is content, neither of which it seems close to solving on its own,” said Stefan Smith, the former online engagement director for Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign. If the party doesn’t ensure that organic YouTube content is getting attention “in addition to paid digital [advertising], then we are in trouble.”…Tommy Vietor, a former Obama White House aide and co-host of the popular Pod Save America podcast, agreed that “Democrats need to step up their game when it comes to YouTube.” For young people, Vietor continued, “YouTube is primarily a search engine. And more often than not when you search for political news or topics, you end up getting force-fed right-wing garbage instead of objective news and information…While Facebook has earned more scrutiny for its impact on U.S. politics, American adults report using YouTube more than any other online platform, with 73 percent saying they use it, according to Pew Research Center’s 2018 and 2019 surveys on social media use. It is even more popular with 18 to 29 year olds, with over 90 percent of that cohort saying they use the site — even higher rates than Instagram and Snapchat.”


Joe Biden’s Debt to African-American Voters

As Joe Biden officially won the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination (or at least lost his remaining rival), I looked back at his victory and found a common thread, which I wrote up at New York:

Looming in the foreground, of course, is COVID-19 and its drastic effect on the remaining primaries and the overall political climate. But recalling that Biden really won the nomination in an amazing sprint in late February and early March, after a dismal beginning to the cycle for the former veep’s campaign, it’s pretty clear in retrospect that he owes everything to African-American voters. Let us count the ways:

1. Elevating Him Over Cory and Kamala

There were two highly credible African-American candidates in the 2020 Democratic presidential field, Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris. Both of them hoped to replicate Barack Obama’s 2008 path to victory with a strong early showing in lily-white Iowa followed by a breakthrough in majority-black (among Democratic primary voters) South Carolina. But Joe Biden’s strength among black voters in and beyond the Palmetto State — far more durable than Hillary Clinton’s in 2008 — remained an immovable object.

Booker never caught fire much of anywhere, and despite spending a lot of time in South Carolina, never showed any signs of cutting into Biden’s black support there. Harris had one moment of hope after politely brutalizing Biden’s record on school desegregation in a June 2019 debate, and even saw a spike in black support in South Carolina. But it wasn’t impressive or enduring: A late-July Monmouth poll in that crucial state showed her being crushed by Biden among South Carolina’s African-Americans by a 51/12 margin.

2. His Saving Grace in Nevada

After finishing fourth in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire, Biden’s campaign was on death’s door. But then he finished second in the Nevada caucuses on February 22, and in conjunction with a terrible debate performance by Michael Bloomberg, the former veep was back in the discussion heading toward the last early-state primary in South Carolina a week later and then Super Tuesday on March 3.

Had Biden slipped behind Pete Buttigieg in Nevada, where the former mayor put on a strong and well-financed effort, he might have been written off for good. And according to entrance polls, Biden trailed Mayor Pete by four points among white voters (two-thirds of the total) in the state, and didn’t beat him that badly among Latinos. But among the 11 percent of Nevada caucusgoers who are African-American, Biden trounced Buttigieg 38/2 and nailed down the runner-up position behind Sanders.

3. His Big Win in South Carolina

The whole narrative of the 2020 nominating contest flipped on February 29 when Biden won a big victory in South Carolina, winning nearly half the vote against what was then still a large field, and beating second-place Bernie Sanders by nearly 30 points. Sixty-one percent of the state’s African-American voters, well over half the primary electorate, went for Biden, who not only eclipsed Sanders’s support among young voters of all races but limited Tom Steyer — who made a last-gasp bid for black voters via heavy advertising and a big retail campaign presence — to 13 percent of the African-American vote.

The fact that Biden finally won a state was crucial to his shadow battle with Bloomberg, who for a time was close to supplanting Biden entirely as the candidate of Democratic centrists — and was becoming a threat to win black voters as well. As I noted at the time, Biden had some crucial momentum after South Carolina’s black voters saved him again:

“Between centrists looking for a champion against Bernie and regular Democrats wanting a viable alternative to either career non-Democrat, the former veep has a strong potential coalition and — if he can strongly outperform Bloomberg on Super Tuesday — a good shot at his own two-candidate race against Bernie.”

4. Croaking Pete ‘n’ Amy

It’s generally recognized that the last-minute conjoined endorsements of Biden by Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar on the eve of Super Tuesday had a lot to do with his performance not only in beating Bloomberg but in winding up with more delegates than consensus-favorite Sanders. What is less well-understood is that black voters made the departure of these two centrist candidates from the field inevitable.

Buttigieg famously worked hard to overcome an antipathy toward his candidacy among African-Americans. Klobuchar had her own problems in this demographic, which she never even began to resolve. When black voters became a factor in the primaries, the inability of either candidate to show any traction with them became an obvious sign they weren’t going anywhere as the primary electorate grew more diverse. In Nevada, Pete ‘n’ Amy each got 2 percent of the African-American vote. In South Carolina, Buttigieg won 3 percent of the black vote and Klobuchar won one percent. It was time for them to go, and they did so at the perfect time for Biden.

5. Vaulting Him Into the Lead on Super Tuesday

On March 3, Biden began putting together the coalition of minority and white-suburban supporters that made him the nominee via wins in ten of the 14 states holding contests that day. Again, though, African-Americans were his base: According to exit polls he won 58 percent of black voters across this vast landscape. The example set by South Carolina’s electorate, and amplified by high-profile endorsements from black opinion-leaders like Jim Clyburn, appeared to boost Biden into the coveted position of leading a multiracial coalition that looked like the Democratic Party as a whole.

6. Sealing the Deal in March

Before the coronavirus put a halt to the 2020 primaries (except for the botched, Republican-engineered April 7 event in Wisconsin), black voters again were crucial to Biden’s drive to presumptive-nominee status. In the March 10 Michigan primary that Sanders supporters thought he might win, Biden won comfortably, in no small part because he won two-thirds of the black vote. On March 17, where three states (Arizona, Florida, and Illinois) held virtually all-voting-by-mail contests, Biden won a sweep, with even higher margins among African-Americans, joined increasingly by white working-class and suburban college-educated voters.

All in all, it’s very clear that Joe Biden would have never survived the tough early going in 2020 without his base of African-American support, particularly if his rivals had managed to take away a significant share of that same support.

To the extent that black support for Biden is attributable to the power of his electability credentials among an element of the electorate determined to get rid of Donald Trump, it’s a good start for him in building an enthusiastic general election coalition. But it also suggests a political debt that may go deeper than Biden’s constant proclamations of loyalty to his great benefactor Barack Obama.

In choosing the woman who will serve as his vice-presidential nominee, the pressure on Joe Biden to thank African-Americans with a running mate from their ranks — a reciprocal gesture to the one Obama made in choosing him in 2008 — could be considerable. If, of course, there’s anyone else who tangibly could help improve the odds of beating Trump, black voters will likely again go with the winning formula.


Teixeira: The Two Sides of Bernie Sanders

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

Now that Sanders has dropped out–a commendably responsible move in my view–the post mortems have begun in earnest. We now have two successive failed campaigns for fhe nomination to look back on and it seems highly unlikely he will run again.

So what did he accomplish?

The consensus of the left–and I think it’s fair–is that he helped move the entire political conversation in America to the left and create space for much bigger policy ideas than had been the case before 2016. In other words, the famous Overton Window has been moved to the left and that’s a good thing. Of course, the country didn’t move left just because of him but he did play an important role in channeling existing outrage at inequality and the multiple deficiencies of contemporary American capitalism into a concrete and progressive political form.

But there is another side to Sanders and I think his left supporters would be wise to think about it long and hard. Simply put, he didn’t really know how to win. Putting together a majoritarian coalition in American politics is hard, both within the Democratic party and the general electorate. Sanders simply did not have a good idea of how to do this, relying instead on untenable assumptions about the appeal of his uncompromising brand of politics. In particular, as Perry Bacon Jr. argues:

“Sanders and his aides..made new mistakes in 2020. There were some clear indications that some of Sanders’s success in 2016 — among white voters without college degrees, in particular — had more to do with anti-Clinton sentiment than strong support for Sanders. But the senator’s advisers seemed to think that Sanders had a unique appeal to white working-class voters that would simply continue in 2020. So the Sanders campaign decided to invest heavily in the March 10 primary in Michigan, a state packed with white voters without a college degree. Biden not only won Michigan easily, but he won overall among white voters without a college degree (and pretty comfortably).

Sanders stayed in the race for about a month after Michigan, but that loss was really the end of his campaign. It undermined one of Sanders’s central arguments — that his brand of politics appealed to white voters without a degree in a way that the more centrist vision of Biden and Clinton did not, making the Vermont senator a stronger candidate than Biden in the general election.

Sanders and his team also expected that he would boost turnout among younger voters. This did not pan out.”

Moving the Overton Window is a great thing. But it is only a necessary, not sufficient, condition for progressive advance. You still gotta win and for that you need a broad coalition. One hopes that his supporters internalize that lesson.


Biden’s Advantage Over HRC Among Dyspeptic Voters

With so much of Election 2020 up in the air, it’s a good time to dig a bit deeper in public opinion research, so I tried to do that at New York:

[I]n a national Quinnipiac poll released on April 8, Trump had a relatively strong (for him) job approval rating of 45 percent and a personal favorability rating of 41 percent. Joe Biden’s favorability rating wasn’t much better, at 43 percent. But he led the president in a head-to-head matchup by a solid eight points, 49/41.

As Philip Bump explains, what seems to be going on here is that among the 11 percent of voters in this poll who have an unfavorable opinion of both major-party candidates, Biden has a 32-point lead. That’s very similar to the pro-Biden margin among voters Bump called “cynics” in a column on an earlier Q-Pac survey late last year (at that point, 55 percent of don’t-like-either-candidate voters were inclined to hold their noses and vote for Biden, with 22 percent going to Trump, 9 percent for a third party, and 10 percent staying at home).

This could matter a lot in a close race, as it pretty clearly did in 2016. According to exit polls, 18 percent of voters didn’t care for Trump or for Hillary Clinton, but Trump won that group by a 17 percent (47/30) margin, with 23 percent voting for a third-party candidate.

Why would the dynamic change in Biden’s favor this year? Disgruntled voters tend disproportionately to blame their unhappiness on the party already controlling the White House — reelections are called a “referendum on the president” for a reason — and the out-party candidate is also sometimes given the benefit of the doubt from voters wanting a change. There’s another long-standing dynamic that could hurt Biden, though: unhappiness among supporters of intraparty opponents a nominee has defeated. That’s why he is hastening to patch up things with Bernie Sanders and will count on his rival to help him unify Democrats.


Political Strategy Notes

The ‘suspension’ of the campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders has prompted wide-ranging political post-mortems, including Thomas B. Edsall’s New York Times opinion piece, which observes that “a decisive majority — 60 percent — of the Democratic electorate is made up of men and women loyal to the centrist party establishment, such as it is, and to organizations, from unions to party committees, that are aligned with it. And there is little or no evidence that the greater part of the American people have the desire, or the stomach, for political revolution…Earlier this month, Shom Mazumder, a political scientist at Harvard, published a study, “Why The Progressive Left Fits So Uncomfortably Within The Democratic Party,” that analyzed data from a 2019 survey of 2,900 likely Democratic primary voters. “I saw two clear poles emerge within the Democratic Party,” he writes: The “establishment” and the “progressive left.” A third group also emerged, and while it’s not as clearly defined as the other two, it has some overlap with the establishment and tends to be more fond of Wall Street, so I’m calling that “neoliberals.”...

“Establishment” voters, in this scheme, means center-left voters who make up just over 60 percent of the total. They stood out as favorably inclined to Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee — in other words, to the Democratic establishment.” Edsall continues, ““Progressive left” Democrats, at just under 20 percent, were most favorable to labor unions, Black Lives Matter, the #MeToo movement, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Democratic Socialists of America. These Democrats viewed business interests — as exemplified by Wall Street — negatively, and they weren’t happy about Joe Manchin, the centrist senator from West Virginia, either…The third group, “neoliberal” Democrats, at 20 percent, is as large as the progressive wing. These voters like what the progressives don’t like — Wall Street, Manchin — and dislike pretty much everything progressives favor, including Ocasio-Cortez and the Democratic Socialists of America.”

Further, Edsall writes that “Mazumder uses the label “establishment Democrats” idiosyncratically. His data shows that at 44 percent, minorities make up a much larger share of these voters than their share of either progressives, at 28 percent, or neoliberals at 32 percent. His establishment voters are roughly 60-40 female, while the other two categories are majority male…In contrast, Mazumder’s progressives stand out as the whitest group — 72 percent Anglo — of the three categories, the least diverse constituency of an increasingly multicultural and multiracial party.” Edsall cites a study concluding that many of these voters are internet “hobbyists,” who like to argue in support of progressive policies, but don’t really get engaged in political mobilization of Democratic voters.

At Reuters Anna Szymanski writes that Sen Sanders “changed what it means to be moderate. Biden’s policies are still a far cry from Sanders’ $13 trillion healthcare plan or $16 trillion so-called Green New Deal. But the presumptive nominee supports a $15 minimum wage, spending $1.7 trillion to fight climate change and another $800 billion on healthcare over 10 years. These proposals would have looked progressive not that long ago….Covid-19 is making Sanders’ spending plans seem less outlandish. The U.S. government has already passed stimulus bills representing more than $2 trillion, around 10% of GDP, including a significant boost to unemployment coverage and direct payments to individuals…The health crisis is also highlighting the potential virtues of a more comprehensive and connected approach to healthcare. The U.S. system’s fragmented fragility has been laid bare, as has the danger of viewing health as an individual matter. Universal coverage of some kind now seems far more likely – even if it’s not the senator’s so-called Medicare-for-all plan.” Perhaps the ‘hobbyists’ had some influence on policy.

At The Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein spotlights “The Two States Where Trump’s COVID-19 Response Could Backfire in 2020: Voters in Michigan and Florida may be more likely than others to blame or credit him for how the outbreak unfolds,” and writes: “Trump faces mirror-image threats. Michigan voters could interpret Trump’s animosity toward Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer as punishing the state. By contrast, in Florida, Trump’s liability could be his close relationship with Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, which is seen by many as one reason DeSantis was slow to impose a statewide stay-at-home order…In each place, voters may be even more likely than those in other states to blame or credit the president for how the outbreak unfolds there. And in both cases, Trump’s posture toward the states is now inextricably interwoven with the larger story of their struggle to contain the disease.”

Brownstein adds, “Michigan is where Trump’s behavior presents the clearer danger to him come November. The president has repeatedly disparaged Whitmer and suggested that the White House should not return her calls, even as the state is buckling under the nation’s third-largest coronavirus caseload and faces medical-equipment and staffing shortages…In Florida, conditions have not yet reached such a crisis point, though its caseload is growing steadily. But because DeSantis waited so long to act, he and Trump could be punished if the outbreak ultimately imposes a heavy cost on the state…Whitmer, a former state senator, was at the vanguard of governors who moved quickly to shut down social and economic activity. She closed educational facilities on March 16 and imposed a statewide stay-at-home order a week later. DeSantis, a former congressman who soared from relative obscurity to win the gubernatorial nomination after Trump’s endorsement, closed educational facilities a day after Whitmer. But he conspicuously left open the state’s crowded beaches through spring break, and he didn’t impose a statewide stay-at-home order until April 1, after every other major state.”

It’s only one poll, and it’s nation-wide instead of focusing on ‘battleground states.’ But look at these numbers, as reported by Grace Sparks at CNN Politics: “Former Vice President Joe Biden holds a wide lead over President Donald Trump in the national race for the White House, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS….Biden leads Trump 53% to 42% among registered voters, roughly steady from CNN’s poll in early March…Biden holds an edge over Trump as more trusted to handle several key issues, including the response to the coronavirus outbreak (52% to 43%), health care (57% to 39%) and helping the middle class (57% to 38%)…Biden is supported by 91% of Democrats, while Trump holds 96% of Republicans. Independent voters break for Biden, 52% behind the former vice president, 40% for Trump…Biden performs well among voters of color, 72% of whom support him, while white voters break toward Trump (52% for Trump, 44% for Biden).”

And Kos explains why “Trump looks terrible in national polling, but it’s these 7 states that will decide the election at Daily Kos: “Yesterday and today, six general election polls came out, every single one showing Joe Biden defeating impeached Donald Trump by between four and 11 points. Trump, currently paralyzed into ineffective inaction by the nation’s mass-death event, only reaches 44% in one of those polls, otherwise hovering between 37% and 42%. If we had a national election, Joe Biden would be in a great position to win this November, but he wouldn’t even be running because Hillary Clinton would be president. Instead, we have to deal with the bullcrap Electoral College. It’s the states that matter..Seven states will decide this election. And if I sound like a broken record, it’s because I want everyone to have these as well-memorized as I do: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin…The district-based electoral votes in Maine and Nebraska will also matter a huge deal. But it’s hard to say “seven states and two districts.” This system is stupid and confusing enough as it is.”

Kos shares a map which shows the outrageous inequities built into the Electoral College and notes, “Can you believe it? 116 counties have a greater population than the entire state of Wyoming, without getting three electoral college votes…So yes, this system sucks, but it’s the system we have to deal with. So how do Trump approvals look in the states that will decide the presidential election? Arizona (44-54), Florida (46-51), Georgia (47-50), Michigan (44-53), North Carolina (44-54), Pennsylvania (46-51), and Wisconsin (46-51)…Interestingly, Trump has net-negative approval ratings in one more 2016 red state: Iowa (47-50), but we haven’t seen evidence it’s competitive at the presidential level. Keep an eye on it. And if we’re playing in Nebraska (and we should!), it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to contest the rest of the state. It’s cheap.”


Levy: Democratic Messaging During the Pandemic

From Pema Levy’s article, “The 2020 Election Is Now About the Coronavirus. Here’s How Progressive Groups Plan to Win It: Democrats are taking early steps to spread word about Trump’s bungled response.” at Mother Jones:

“On March 12, a group dedicated to preserving and expanding the Affordable Care Act, called Protect Our Care, released the first political television ad that mentioned the coronavirus. It targeted Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT) for his opposition to Obamacare. Montanans already worried about health care were now also worried about coronavirus, the ad’s narrator intoned.

But Protect Our Care quickly realized that as a group focused on health care, they had a larger role to play, and broadened its messaging to include the country’s biggest contest by setting up what it calls its “Coronavirus War Room,” a messaging hub meant to hold Trump accountable for the ways he has made the crisis worse. Last week, it began blasting off memos targeting Trump to the press while also acting as a messaging clearinghouse for other groups. Protect Our Care also started hosting calls three times a week with progressive groups to get everyone on the same talking points…

“Our focus at Protect Our Care and the Coronavirus War Room is largely on the accountability piece and with that it’s almost exclusively focused on Trump,” says Woodhouse, a longtime Democratic operative. “You can’t wait until October to tell the American people about how roundly he screwed this up.”

…[Executive Director Brad] Woodhouse sums up the core messages pushed from the war room: “He screwed it up from the beginning, he hasn’t learned from his mistakes, he’s downplayed the crisis, he doesn’t listen to experts, and that continues to make the crisis worse.” You can see the strategy deployed in the emails his team blasts out, often three a day, which attack Trump on a range of issues, including the administration’s failure to prepare by ramping up testing and the manufacture of medical equipment and protective gear; its elimination of key offices and positions charged with pandemic preparedness; and by elevating Trump’s comments, like downplaying the need for ventilators, that contradict medical experts.”

Levy explains, “To fight pro-Trump narratives, Democratic message warriors are looking for fresh data on how his words and actions are hitting home amid the crisis.” She adds, “Navigator Research, which is operated by two progressive polling firms, Global Strategy Group and GBAO Research and Strategy in consultation with the Hub Project, has put out monthly polls to help guide progressive messaging on a variety of issues. Two weeks ago, the project decided to scrap the monthly poll and set up a daily tracker to understand people’s attitudes toward the coronavirus and Trump’s handling of the crisis.”

She quotes Ian Sams, a Democratic strategist who consults with the Hub Project and Navigator Research: “We can’t handle this appropriately in real time as a progressive movement, as Democratic leaders, if we don’t understand how the public is processing it—because it is uncharted territory…We’ve never had 3 million people file for unemployment in a week.” Recent numbers show the situation is even more unprecedented: 10 million jobless benefit claims in two weeks.”

The Hub project “has captured data uncovering areas where Trump remains out of step with American opinion. When Trump floated the idea of prioritizing the economy over public health, the tracking poll released last Friday showed that people were more worried about their health and the health of those they know than the economy. Over the course of its first week, the poll showed Americans’ view of Trump’s overall handling of the crisis was trending downward. Small majorities last week believed  Trump’s response has been “unprepared” and “chaotic.” Further,

Multiple Democratic super PACs have begun to run advertisements on Facebook and on television to hammer this message, though campaign finance law prohibits them from coordinating with progressive groups that are subject to fundraising restrictions. Pacronym, a Democratic super PAC affiliated with the digital firm Acronym, announced on March 17 that it would spend $2.5 million through April on Facebook ads to educate voters about “how the Trump administration’s chaos and incompetence have weakened the nation’s ability to respond to the coronavirus crisis.” The effort is focused on battleground states.

Priorities USA Action, another Democratic super PAC, began running television ads last Tuesday in the swing states of Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. The ad splices clips of Trump downplaying the crisis with a growing chart showing the rising number of infections in the United States. The Trump campaign issued a cease and desist letter to TV stations asking them to remove the ad; the group responded by putting it on the air in Arizona as well. A version with updated numbers went up this week. On Wednesday, the group spent another $1 million on a television ad that contrasts Trump’s response with remarks Biden has made about how he would handle the crisis. It also began running a Facebook ad juxtaposing Trump and Biden.

“This is the most important issue in the country today,” says Katie Drapcho, Priorities USA Action’s director of research and polling. “I think it’s a defining moment for Trump’s presidency and the country. And our view is that it’s absolutely crucial that voters hear the facts about Trump’s inaction and misleading statements.”

In addition, “Unite the Country PAC, a super PAC started in 2019 to support Biden’s campaign, spent $1 million to broadcast an ad accusing Trump of failing in this time of crisis, and added another TV spot on the same…Protect Our Care, the group behind the Coronavirus War Room, launched new ads across Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania…”

Regarding the difficulty of Democratic messaging during the pandemic, Levy concludes that “It’s one thing to figure out how to attack Donald Trump, it’s another to do so without rallies or door knocking. It’s a problem for the Democratic nominee, but also for organizers behind voter registration and get-out-the-vote programs…Just as social gatherings have transitioned to FaceTime and Zoom, it seems certain that new forms of political organizing will be digitized.”


Teixeira: Some Good News from the Largest Swing State

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

Florida: Ain’t No Sunshine When It’s Gone

That could be Donald Trump, paraphrasing the late, great Bill Withers, if the new University of North Florida poll is foreshadowing his fate in the Sunshine State. The UNF poll finds Biden ahead of Trump by 6 points, 46-40, including strong leads in the swing Central Florida regions of Tampa and Orlando. Trump’s lead among white voters in the state is a mere 10 points, catastrophically low compared to his 22 point margin in 2016.

It’s worth nothing that the poll also shows Trump’s approval rating on handling the coronavirus pandemic underwater at 45 percent approval/53 percent disapproval (including 43 percent strong disapproval). Perhaps Trump is not as immune from political harm from his dreadful handling of the crisis as many Democrats suppose.

It is fair to say that Trump’s chances of re-election in November without Florida are quite poor. Of course, he will pull out all the stops to prevail in the state again, but these data suggest he has a real challenge on his hands.