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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Debate over country song is a right-wing trap for Democrats.

The debate over the song “Try That in a Small Town” is an excellent example of a particularly devious right-wing extremist trap – one that the GOP will use against Democrats again and again in 2024. Dems need to understand what the trap is designed to accomplish, how it works and how to defend against it.

Read the Memo.

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

by Andrew Levison

Read the Memo

Progressives need to apologize to Oliver Anthony

He understands working people better than they do, he can talk to them better than they can.

Read the Memo.

Why Don’t Working People Recognize and Appreciate Democratic Programs and Policies

The mythology of “Franklin Roosevelt’s Hundred Days” and the Modern Debate Over “Deliverism.”

Read the Memo.

Innovative Study Offers New Insight into White Working Class Voters.

Innovative Study Provides Startling New Insight About Working Class Voters
By Andrew Levison

Read the memo.

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

Read on…

The Daily Strategist

December 2, 2023

Mining Tips From Best ’06 Ads for ’08

Yes, we’re all sick of lame political ads. But now is not the time for good Dems to hibernate, because there’s still a lot of interesting analysis to be digested if we want to learn how to win even bigger in ’08. So take a gander at the Campaign for America’s future web page “Truth in Advertising: 2006 Campaign Ads Reveal Progressive Populism.” There you be able to watch ads deemed most effective for the successful campaigns of Ron Klein, Sherrod Brown; Claire McCaskill; Bob Casey; Amy Klobuchar; Bill Ritter; the Appollo Alliance; The DNC and the DCCC. Bit of a slow load, so go pour a drink, kick back and see how the winners do it.
Then read the PDF analysis by Robert L. Borosage, Eric Lotke and Robert Gerson discussing the framing psychology, spending decisions, issues spin and image-shaping in the aforementioned ad campaigns.

What Does ’06 Turnout Mean for Dems?

The Center for the Study of the American Electorate has posted its preliminary report on the 2006 turnout, and the numbers may hold some clues for Dems looking to ’08. Overall the report concludes that “a modestly increased percentage of Americans turned out” at polls across the nation — 40.4 percent of eligible citizens, compared to 39.7 percent in the ’02 mid terms. This was the highest percentage since 1982 (42.1%).
Turnout increased in 21 states, but decreased in 26 states and the District of Columbia(CA, OR and WA absentee ballots are still being counted). The five highest turnout rates were recorded in MN, SD, MT, UT and ME, the lowest five in MS, LA, DC, NC, and AZ.
The highest Democratic turnout percentage increases over ’02 were recorded in NE (+10.7%); WI (+14.8%); VA (+13.2%); SD (+9.9%); WY (+9.8%); OH (+9.6%); VT (+8.6%) and NH (+8.6%). The highest Democratic turnout declines were in LA (-8.8); IL (-5.1%); AL (-5.0%); MS (-3.8%); GA (-3.5%); NC (-2.7%); and MA (-2.6%).
The most obvious conclusion is that the GOP GOTV operation praised in the MSM didn’t make a dent in the congressional elections. Even if the GOP did have a superior GOTV operation, it couldn’t overcome the rising tide of discontent or the limitations of Republican candidates. Good GOTV can make a difference in a close election, but not enough when a strong trend is surging.
The Democratic turnout decline in southern states lends some credence to the argument that Democratic resources would be more profitably invested in other regions. However, it could also be argued that these figures indicate not enough effort has been invested in developing southern candidates and campaigns.
Lastly, note that two of the top five turnout states, MN and ME allow voter registration on election day. Having picked up six governorships and nine state legislative chambers, Democrats may now be in a position to enact same day registration bills in more states. Note also that only three states have no voting restrictions on convicted felons or even prisoners, and two of them, ME and VT are top five turnout states.

Was Election a Triumph for Dem Conservatives?

Ezra Klein kicks off the soon-to-be-heated discussion about the meaning of the election with a provocative article in the American Prospect, “Spinned Right.” Klein shoots the interpretation of the election results as a triumph of conservative politics full of holes. A sample:

…the conservative election meme is a myth. Hard-right ballot initiatives, from the abortion ban in South Dakota to the gay marriage ban in Arizona, went down to defeat. It’s the first time that’s happened to an anti-gay marriage ballot initiative. Meanwhile, the stem cell initiative in Missouri passed.
More tellingly, every Democrat elected supports raising the minimum wage. They all support stem cell research. Only nine describe themselves as pro-life. And the most conservative Democrats, mainly those running in the South, largely went down to defeat. In Tennessee, Harold Ford, whose campaign focused on his church-going ways and conservative values, lost. Jim Webb is up by a few thousand votes. Meanwhile, unabashed progressives like Sherrod Brown, Ben Cardin, Sheldon Whitehouse, and former socialist Bernie Sanders cruised to victory. As Tom Schaller has noted, the flip-rate in the South was a meager five percent. The real transformations came in the liberal Northeast, where a slew of not-quite-left-enough Republicans were felled by a phalanx of progressive candidates, and the Rust Belt, where economic populists took out a series of traditional conservatives.

New Donkey Ed Kilgore and other Dems take a different view. As Kilgore notes:

But the results do not provide a good argument for Democrats to write off Enemy Territory and focuse on their Blue State geographical base.
15 of the 28 Democratic House gains were in Red States, most of them in Red or Purple Districts.
3 of the 6 new Senators are from Red States.
3 of the 6 gubernatorial pickups for Democrats were in Red States.
About half of the state legislative gains were in Red States.
We are beginning to turn Purple States blue, and Red States purple. I can’t imagine why any Democrat would think of this as bad news, but there is clearly a point of view among Democratic intellectuals that messing around with voters in Red State areas, particularly in the South, represents an exposure to ideological contamination.

This interesting debate is just cranking up, and it will likely go on for a long time. One thing all Dems can all agree on; it’s a hell of a lot more fun to argue with each other after an historic victory.

Tester’s narrow Lead May Give Dems Senate Control

All eyes on Montana, where the Senate race may also be headed for a recount, as Democrat Jon Tester holds on to a 1,700 vote lead as of 10:25 a.m. EST. According to Mary Clare Jalonick’s AP report in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle:

Burns, a three-term incumbent, and Tester, an organic grain farmer from Big Sandy, were separated by only about 1,700 votes and .04 percent with 99 percent of precincts reporting. Tester had 194,914 votes and Burns had 193,179 votes. Libertarian Stan Jones had 10,166 votes.
…Vote tallies were still coming in Wednesday morning, more than 10 hours after polls were scheduled to close – a situation caused by equipment glitches, high turnout and a recount in Yellowstone County because of errors there.
A losing candidate can request a recount at his own expense if the margin is within 1/2 of a percent, which would be a margin off roughly 2,000 votes in the Montana U.S. Senate race.
…Tester told CNN that the campaign did not see any irregularities in the voting so far, noting there is record turnout…”We are making sure that every vote that gets cast gets counted,” Tester said.

Don’t bother checking the Montana Secretary of State’s website for updates, since it lags behind the Associated Press totals.

Webb has Edge in VA Nail-Biter

The probability of a Virginia recount may not be the happiest of prospects, but it looks very good for Jim Webb, according to Tyler Whitley’s report in the from the Richmond Times-Dispatch (updated at 9:18 a.m.):

As of 8:45 this morning, Jim Webb’s lead over Sen. George Allen had grown to more than 8,000 votes, out of more than 2.3 million cast. Only six of 2,411 precincts remained to be counted, according to the State Board of Elections.
All but one of those precincts, in Isle of Wight County, were for absentee ballots. The counties where absentee ballots had yet to be counted were Halifax, Loudoun and two in James City. Absentee ballots also were yet to be counted in Fairfax City.

Hard to see how Allen can goose a victory out of an 8K deficit from those counties. Whitley’s article also includes some inside skinny on exit polls and a good rundown of the race.

Where to Look for Early Clues Tonight

Since most of the competitive races are in the eastern standard time zone, it should be possible to see which way the elections are tilting early in the evening– assuming a strong trend materializes. WaPo‘s Chris Cillizza has a useful resource for those who prefer to get their returns from television in his article, “The Fix’s Election Night Viewers Guide.” While at the Wapo website, also check out Jeffrey H. Birnbaum’s “Early Night for Poll Watchers?” for some good tips. For clarity on how to evaluate exit polls, visit Mark Blumenthal’s “Exit Polls: What You Should Know 2006” at Pollster.com Those who prefer a more pro-active approach should try “Newslink: TV Stations by State,” a good gateway to local TV stations across the nation, many of which offer local webcasts in real time. The best gateway to local newspaper websites can be opened at www.newspapers.com. And chill up some bubbly — with a little luck, a better America begins tonight

State of the Race: Final Update

by Ruy Teixeira
(cross-posted at www.washingtonmonthly.com/showdown06)
The blizzard of polls released over the weekend and today suggest some tightening of the race, but do not appear to fundamentally alter the assessment I offered five days ago in my last update. Tuesday should still be a very good day for the Democrats.
Start with Bush’s approval rating. Taking the latest polls into account, Charles Franklin’s trend-based estimate now stands at 38 percent. Pretty bad for the incumbent party.
Turning to the generic congressional ballot, confusion abounds, so let me try to separate signal from noise as best I can.
There have been seven polls released in the last couple of days. Here are the results for likely voters (LVs):
CNN (Fri-Sun): +20D
Newsweek (Thu-Fri): +16D
Time (Wed-Fri): +15D
Fox (Sat-Sun): +13D
USA Today/Gallup (Thu-Sun): +7D
ABC News/Washington Post (Wed-Sat): +6D
Pew (Wed-Sat): +4D
Quite a spread! And here are the same polls, this time for registered voters (RVs):
CNN (Fri-Sun): +15D
Newsweek (Thu-Fri): +16D
Time (Wed-Fri): +15D
Fox (Sat-Sun): no RV data
USA Today/Gallup (Thu-Sun): +11D
ABC News/Washington Post (Wed-Sat): +10D
Pew (Wed-Sat): +8D
Somewhat closer together, but still a fair amount of variation.
Here are some observations on these data that may help make sense of them.
1. Charles Franklin’s trend-based estimate (which actually doesn’t include the most recent two polls, CNN (+20D) and Fox (+13D)) still estimates the Democratic advantage at 11 points.
2. The average LV Democratic advantage in these 7 polls is around 12 points. The average RV Democratic advantage is around 13 points. Still very good in either case.
3. Note that, reflecting the widely varying methodologies these pollsters use, the relation between RVs and LVs in these polls varies widely. Some (CNN) have the Democratic advantage among LVs actually larger than among RVs; some have it exactly the same (Time, Newsweek); and some have it smaller (Pew, Post, Gallup–interestingly by exactly the same 4 point margin).
4. Of course, it is entirely possible that some of these pollsters’ LV methodologies are better than others. And there are certainly reasons to be skeptical that Democrats will actually manage a double digit lead in the popular Congressional ballot on election day. So let’s say that, for example, Gallup has it about right–and they do have a good track record in the last several offyear elections.
Well, as Gallup points out, a seven point lead ain’t chopped liver. Here’s some of what they have to say:

Gallup has modeled the number of seats a party will control based on that party’s share of the national two-party vote for the House of Representatives using historical voting data in midterm elections from 1946 to 2002. The model takes into account structural factors such as the party of the president and the majority party in Congress entering the elections. The results suggest that a party needs at least a two percentage-point advantage in the national House vote to win a majority of the 435 seats. Based on this historical analysis, the Democrats’ seven-point margin suggests they will win a large enough share of the national vote to have a majority of the seats in the next Congress.
More specifically, taking the final survey’s margin of error into account, the model predicts that the Democrats could gain anywhere from 11 seats on the low end to 58 seats on the high end — with 35 seats being the most likely number. Given that Democrats need to gain just 15 seats to wrest control from Republicans, a Democratic takeover appears likely.

5. Some of the variation in the LV samples is no doubt due to varying estimates of how many Democrats vs. how many Republicans are projected to be in the voting electorate. Pew, which gives the Democrats the smallest estimated lead, has Democrats and Republicans at parity among likely voters. Gallup gives the Democrats a 2 point edge in representation among LVs. And Fox, whose estimated Dem lead among LVs is very close to the average of all these polls, gives the Democrats a 4 point representation edge.
It will be interesting to see on election day who’s got that part of equation right.
6. Turning to independents, even in the Pew poll, independents are giving the Democrats a 10 point advantage. Gallup and Fox have independents voting Democratic by 15 and Newsweek has the margin at 25. This will be an important data point to track and indicates, even at the low end of this range, the Democrats will be well-served by high turnout of independents in this particular election. To remind folks once more of the historical context on the independent vote:

As far back as I can get data (1982), the Democrats have never had a lead among independents larger than 4 points in an actual election, a level they managed to achieve in both 1986 and 1990. Indeed, since 1990, they’ve lost independents in every congressional election: by 14 points in 1994; by 4 points in 1998; and by 2 points in 2002.

So this election could represent quite a turning point in this pattern.
As for the race by race data, not a great deal has changed since my last post five days ago. For example, the Bafumi-Erikson-Wlezien seat shift model, which forecasts the level of seat shifts through computer simulations of the 435 individual House contests, looks like it would produce about the same result today as it did two weeks ago (a 32 seat Dem gain), if I’m understanding the inputs into their model correctly. (This is very similar to Alan Abramowitz’ forecasting model–not based on computer simulations–which calls for a Democratic pickup of 29 seats).
Also, Democracy Corps has released their final survey of 50 competitive Republican House districts and they’re showing a slightly compressed, but still impressive, 5 point Democratic lead in the named Congressional ballot in these districts. Note also, that the DCorps survey shows the Democrats with a 16 lead among independents in these districts.
Majortity Watch has not done any new polls, so nothing to report there. Over at Pollster.com, where Mark Blumenthal and Charles Franklin collect all the available public polling on all the House races their current scorecard assigns 219 seats to the Democrats with 29 tossups. Assuming the Democrats and Republicans split the tossups, that would bring the Democratic total to 233 seats–a gain of 30 seats over where they now stand.
Over in nonpartisan pundit-land, Charlie Cook is holding steady in his prediction of a 20-35 seat Democratic pickup (let’s pick the midpoint and call it 28 seats). Stuart Rothenberg has the Democratic gain between 30 and 36 seats (let’s call it 33). And Larry Sabato has the Democratic gain pegged at 29 seats.
You know, I think I’m beginning to detect a pattern here. It will be interesting to see how it all turns out when the real world talks back.
Turning to the Senate, the latest Pollster.com 5-poll averages show the Democrats up by 6 in NJ and 4 points in MD, the two seats the Republicans have been given some chance of picking up. And they are leading by 1,3,13,6,12 and 2 points, respectively in MO, MT, OH, RI, PA and VA. Thus, figuring strictly on the basis of these data, one would see the Democrats picking up six seats, but with agonizing nail-biters in at least MO and possibly also in VA and MT.
Of course, several of these races are so close in the polls, one can hardly pronounce with a huge degree of confidence that the Democrats will, in fact, get their six seats. But it certainly seems like a reasonable possibility. Checking our nonpartisan pundits, it’s worth noting that both Rothenberg and Sabato see the Democrats getting the six seat pickup. Cook is more circumspect, calling for a 4-6 seat Democratic pickup.
Well, that’s it for the updating. On to the biggest poll of ’em all: election day!

November Polls: Dems’ Average Lead in Double Digits

Democrats are ahead by an average of over 11.5 percent in the seven major polls taken in November of LV party preferences in generic ballot congressional races. The breakdown, according to PollingReport.com: CNN +20; Newsweek +16; Time +15; Fox/Opinion Dynamics +13; USA Today/Gallup +7; ABC/Washington Post +6; and Pew Research Center +4.

Will Blue Wave Deliver Senate?

Will the Dems win the Senate? For an insightful analysis, check out Chris Bowers’ MyDD post “Nearly Final Senate Polling Averages.” Bowers provides capsule run-downs of 18 senate races and sees a 4 or 5 seat net pick-up for Dems, falling one or two seats short of the magic number to win a majority. But he says he will have a final post later in the day, which could possibly reflect some new poll information. Want more reason for hope? See the latest Time Magazine Poll. Although the polls have narrowed in several key senate races, the Dems still enjoy a double digit lead in the “enthusiasm gap:”

Republicans may be approaching voting day without one of the big advantages they enjoyed in November 2004 — their ability to motivate supporters to go out and vote. Among registered Democrats polled, 52% say they’re more enthusiastic about voting than usual, compared with just 39% of Republicans. Thirty-seven percent of Republican respondents are less enthusiastic than usual, while only 29% of Democrats feel that way.

The Time Poll also reports a very substantial defection of evangelicals favoring Dems and significant gains for Dems among both men and women. Also Larry Sabato predicts Dems will win a Senate majority with a net six seat gain, but hedges a little calling it “our least confident prediction.”

Sunday Wrap-Ups: Blue Tide Still Rising

The Sunday before election day is a good time to see how the top political beat reporters for major newspapers see the election shaping up, and after all of the cautionary notes have been sounded, the consensus among the big three is to expect good news for Democrats.
Ron Brownstein gets the nod for best Sunday pre-election wrap-up in the major rags with a pair of L.A. Times articles “Voters in center may get their say” and “Democrats straining for knockout punch.” In the first piece Brownstein explores the theme that Democrats are pulling ahead because they more aggressively fought for swing voters in the political center, while the GOP has been preoccupied with shoring up its base. Perhaps the nut quote comes from former NRCC Chairman Thomas Davis III (R-VA):

…[the message] is going to be that swing voters still count, and sometimes the more you cater to your base, the more you turn off swing voters

Some Democratic poll analysts think this could be an understatement. “I think their whole model is going to lay shattered in pieces,” says Democratic strategist Stan Greenberg.
Brownstein cites some impressive poll data showing Dems with a double-digit lead among independents:

a compilation of more than 41,000 automated survey interviews conducted last week in competitive congressional districts from coast to coast, the nonpartisan Majority Watch project found that independents preferred Democratic candidates over Republicans by 52% to 39%.

In his second article, Brownstein zeros in on the see-saw Missouri senate race, which may decide whether Democrats win a majority in the U.S. Senate and which he believes has evolved into the marquee contest for Tuesday:

The 15-round struggle between Talent and McCaskill has been the heavyweight title fight of 2006. Each has proved skilled, resourceful and resilient, able to land a punch and take one. The winner will have earned his or her ticket to Washington and the opportunity to tilt the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.

Dan Balz and David Broder provide a by-the-numbers tour of races across the nation in their WaPo wrap-up “Democrats, on the Offensive, Could Gain Both Houses,” and note an even larger lead for Dems among independents (18 percent) in the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll. The New York Times leads with “G.O.P. Glum as It Struggles to Hold Congress” by Adam Nagourney and Robin Toner, focusing on the voter turnout battle and races getting late cash infusions from the parties. Three days out, things are looking extremely good.