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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

The Rural Voter

The new book White Rural Rage employs a deeply misleading sensationalism to gain media attention. You should read The Rural Voter by Nicholas Jacobs and Daniel Shea instead.

Read the memo.

There is a sector of working class voters who can be persuaded to vote for Democrats in 2024 – but only if candidates understand how to win their support.

Read the memo.

The recently published book, Rust Belt Union Blues, by Lainey Newman and Theda Skocpol represents a profoundly important contribution to the debate over Democratic strategy.

Read the Memo.

Democrats should stop calling themselves a “coalition.”

They don’t think like a coalition, they don’t act like a coalition and they sure as hell don’t try to assemble a majority like a coalition.

Read the memo.

The American Establishment’s Betrayal of Democracy

The American Establishment’s Betrayal of Democracy The Fundamental but Generally Unacknowledged Cause of the Current Threat to America’s Democratic Institutions.

Read the Memo.

Democrats ignore the central fact about modern immigration – and it’s led them to political disaster.

Democrats ignore the central fact about modern immigration – and it’s led them to political disaster.

Read the memo.


The Daily Strategist

May 27, 2024

GOP Losing Evangelical Voters

WaPo‘s Alan Cooperman story in today’s edition “GOP’s Hold on Evangelicals Weakening: Party’s Showing in Midterm Elections May Be Hurt as Polls Indicate Support Dropping in Base” should give Rove and Co. something new to worry about. According to Cooperman:

A nationwide poll of 1,500 registered voters released yesterday by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that 57 percent of white evangelicals are inclined to vote for Republican congressional candidates in the midterm elections, a 21-point drop in support among this critical part of the GOP base.
…In 2004, white evangelical or born-again Christians made up a quarter of the electorate, and 78 percent of them voted Republican, according to exit polls.
…Even before the Foley scandal, the portion of white evangelicals with a “favorable” impression of the Republican Party had fallen sharply this year, from 63 percent to 54 percent…the percentage of evangelicals who think that Republicans govern “in a more honest and ethical way” than Democrats has plunged to 42 percent, from 55 percent at the start of the year.

The Pew Research Poll, which is not yet posted on their website, was conducted 9/21-10/4. The poll found that the GOP still has a hefty lead among those who attend church more than once a week, while Dems improved their standing with a larger sub-group:

The main shift is among weekly churchgoers, about a quarter of all voters. Two years ago, they favored the GOP by a double-digit margin. But in the new Pew survey, 44 percent leaned toward Republicans and 43 percent toward Democrats, a statistical dead heat.

Cooperman speculates that part of the shift may be attributable to a growing interest among evangelicals in humanitarian concerns, as reflected in the popularity of Rev. Rick Warren’s “The Purpose-Driven Life,” which urges Christians to embrace issues not often addressed by the most prominent evangelical preachers, including poverty, the environment and torture. He cites another poll by the Center for American Values indicating Republicans have lost 14 percent of their support among frequent churchgoers, but Dems have only added 4 percent.

DCORPS: Seniors Leaning Democratic

Democracy Corps has an important new report “Winning Seniors in the Final Month” which should be of interest to all Democratic campaigns. The report indicates that Dems now enjoy a lead of 4 percent among seniors in congressional races in a survey conducted 10/1-3, according to authors Stan Greenberg, James Carville and Ana Iparraguirre.
But the authors caution that the Dems’ lead has slipped in recent months, and among white seniors, the race is even. The authors recommend Democratic campaigns focus more on key senior issues, such as long-term care, drug prices, retirement security and opposing privatization of social security.
According to the report, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of seniors are expected to cast ballots in the upcomming election. “Seniors are the Democrats’ most important target” say the authors. They recommend “running an outsider campaign” with “a populist edge.” They urge strongly criticising Republicans who voted themselves pay raises, but denied bonuses and health care for returning veterans. The report points out that an estimated 29 percent of seniors are veterans.
The report goes into a lot more detail, and should be required reading for all Democratic candidates and campaign workers.

Dems Advance as GOP Slouches Toward Reality

Granted, the prospect of three consecutive Republican House Speakers resigning in disgrace is a less than impressive legacy for coming generations of GOP leaders — and a clue for swing voters in upcomming congressional elections. But the disgrace has already happened, and a growing chorus of conservatives is calling on Speaker Hastert to resign in connection with his ineffectual ‘leadership’ in the Foley mess.
First there was the Washington Times, not exactly the intellectual vanguard organ of the conservative movement. Now, however, the higher-browed conservative opinion leaders have begun to weigh in. Bloomberg.com quotes Tom Winter, editor-in-chief of the conservative weekly magazine Human Events:

We think the Republicans need new leaders, and I don’t think Hastert will be there much longer…I think he has to do this for the team, he has to step down.

Maggie Gallagher can’t resist getting in a few licks against the Democrats en passant, but she gets to the point in her National Review Column “Hastert Must Resign,” as does NRO National Economics Editor Larry Kudlow in “Step Aside, Speaker Hastert: This goes way beyond Foley.” The NRO’s editorial can’t quite embrace the inevitable just yet, citing House Republican leaders’ “evasion of responsibility” but calling instead for the heads of Rep. John Shimkus and unnamed aides of the Speaker. Nor can the ostrich-heads at two other leading conservative rags, The Weekly Standard and Commentary, who don’t even mention the Foley mess on their web pages as of Thursday morning. Presumably, they will all be dragged, kicking and screaming into the chilly October reality in the days ahead.
To be fair, it’s not just Hastert. NRCC Chair Thomas M. Reynolds has made a horrible mess of things, and may lose his own election, if he isn’t forced to resign from his leadership post. Kos has a report on the latest poll in his district here.
Meanwhile, Democratic campaigns looking for guidance in dealing with the GOP leadership meltdown should check out McJoan’s post at Daily Kos featuring quotes from eight Democratic “netroots” candidates for congress, addressing GOP leaders’ accountability for this and other Republican failures.
All of this may give the Dems a bump on November 7, but it would be a mistake to count on it. Dem leaders should continue to insist on full accountability, but make sure to take every opportunity to articulate a clear vision and agenda that can move America forward.

Will GOP Meltdown Give Dems a Senate Majority?

What seemed unlikely a couple of weeks ago is now a very strong possibility — a Democratic takeover of the U.S. Senate. As a result of the Foley cover-up, it is not hard to imagine droves of disgusted evangelicals staying home on November 7, and a healthy chunk of those who don’t stay at home now deciding to vote Democratic. Indeed, the GOP leadership’s internal rot is so redolent that many non-evangelical conservatives may do likewise.
You can read about it just about anywhere. But MyDD’s Chris Bowers does a particularly good job of rolling out the GOP debacle in his recent posts “Democratic breeze Blowing in the Senate” and “Total Republican Collapse Imminent.”
Dems can expect a desperate GOP counter-attack to deflect media attention any time now. Should be a wild ride.

The Republican GOTV Machine: Fact or Myth?

by Alan Abramowitz, Alben W. Barkley Professor of Political Science, Emory University
With only five weeks left until the 2006 midterm election, political analysts remain divided about the Democrats’ chances of regaining control of the House and Senate. While some indicators such as the generic ballot continue to show a strong Democratic advantage and the overwhelming majority of competitive races involve GOP seats, President Bush’s approval ratings have climbed a bit in recent weeks, giving Republican strategists and candidates renewed hope. In addition, many analysts believe that Republicans have an ace in the hole going into the final days of the campaign—their party’s well-oiled get-out-the-vote (GOTV) machine. Despite polls showing Democratic voters more energized than Republican voters, these analysts believe that the Republicans’ vaunted “72-hour program” will give the GOP a critical edge on Election Day.
But is the Republican GOTV machine really as good as it’s made out to be? Claims about the effectiveness of the GOP’s 72-hour program are based largely on the results of the 2004 presidential election, and especially on what happened in the large battleground states. And no state is cited more frequently to illustrate the effectiveness of the Republican 72-hour program than Ohio.
Does the evidence from Ohio actually support these claims about the effectiveness of the Republican 72-hour program? It is true that the number of Republican votes in Ohio increased dramatically between the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, going from 2.35 million in 2000 to 2.86 million in 2005. That’s an increase of more than 500,000 votes, or 21.7 percent. Sounds impressive. But wait a minute—the number of Democratic votes in Ohio rose from 2.19 million in 2000 to 2.74 million in 2004. That’s an increase of more than 550,000 votes, or 25.4%. So which party’s GOTV program was more effective?
Okay, but everyone knows that the real key to a GOTV campaign is getting out your base. So how effective were Republicans and Democrats at getting out their base voters in Ohio? Well, one way to gauge this is to focus on each party’s strongest counties. In Ohio there were 14 counties that George Bush carried by a margin of at least 10,000 votes in 2000 and 6 counties that Al Gore carried by a margin of at least 10,000 votes. Between 2000 and 2004, the number of Republican votes in the 14 strongly Republican counties increased by 163,000, or 23.4%. That’s pretty impressive. But the number of Democratic votes in these 14 GOP counties increased by 113,000, or 26.4%! So while the Republican plurality in these counties increased by about 50,000 votes, the percentage increase in Democratic turnout was actually greater than the percentage increase in Republican turnout.
And what happened in the six strongly Democratic counties? The number of Democratic votes increased by 193,000, or 24.9%, while the number of Republican votes increased by 97,000, or 21.7%. So not only did the size of the Democratic plurality increase by almost 100,000 votes in these six counties, but the percentage increase in Democratic turnout was greater than the percentage increase in Republican turnout.
One of the most difficult things to accomplish in a GOTV campaign is to mobilize your own party’s supporters without also mobilizing the opposing party’s supporters. Not only did Democrats do a better job of turning out their own voters in Ohio, but they also did a better job of not turning out opposition voters. Based on the actual turnout data, it appears that the GOP’s vaunted 72-hour program was actually less effective than the Democratic Party’s GOTV effort in Ohio. On November 7th, that Republican ace-in-the-hole may turn out to be a joker.

Foley Scandal/Cover-up and House Races

It’s too early to gauge the political ramifications of the still-unfolding Foley scandal/cover-up and it’s clear more revelations are forthcoming. Thus far, the blogs are a step ahead of the newspapers-of-record in sharing the inside skinny on the political fallout. A good place to start is “Fight the Foley Five” at Daily Kos, which reports on five GOP-held seats that may be endangered by the scandal and their Democratic opponents. Also check out The Left Coaster Steve Soto’s “Will The Foley Cover-Up Take Down The GOP House Leadership?” In his MyDD post, “Time For Hastert To Resign,” Chris Bowers says “there is simply no way that we lose FL-16 now.” The New Republic‘s Michael Crowley reports in “The Plank” that NRCC Chairman Tom Reynolds may be especially vulnerable:

Although the New York Republican chairs the National Republican Campaign Committee, a post usually held by a safe incumbent (thus allowing him to focus on other races) Reynolds has always faced an inconveniently dicey re-election fight. Indeed, as reader CS notes, a September 28 SurveyUSA poll showed Reynolds with a mere 45-43 lead over his Democratic opponent, Jack Davis…In all likelihood, then, Reynolds is effectively down by a few points. And now newspapers in his own district are running headlines like “Reynolds accused of inaction on Foley.”

And Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo covers the political fallout from more than a dozen different angles here.

Assessing Dean’s Long-Term Strategy

Matt Bai has a lengthy portrait of DNC Chair Howard Dean in the Sunday New York Times Magazine. Bai sheds favorable light on Dean’s leadership as a champion of long-term (50 state) strategy and greater participation of Democratic “outsiders,” who have been overshadowed by “insider” consutlants. But Bai also gives fair vent to Dean’s critics, who believe his strategy will hurt Democratic chances on November 7.
And speaking of long-term strategy, WaPo’s Zachary A. Goldfarb has a short, but encouraging update on an important topic that doesn’t get enough attention from political journalists (or the DNC web pages) — the battle for control of the state legislatures, where congressional districts are defined and future candidates for congress are prepared for leadership. Goldfarb’s article, “Democrats Hope to Swing State Legislatures Their Way,” says Dems have a solid shot at winning majorities of state legislatures in Colorado, Indiana, Iowa (both houses), Maine, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon and Tennessee.

There They Go Again: The Gallup Likely Voter Screen and the 2006 Midterm Elections

by Alan Abramowitz, Alben W. Barkley Professor of Political Science, Emory University
It’s déjà vu all over again. The 2006 midterm elections are only seven weeks away and the Gallup Poll likely voter screen is back to its old tricks. Last week Gallup released its first poll of the 2006 campaign using its likely voter screen and the results showed that Democrats and Republicans were tied on the generic ballot question. That’s the question that asks respondents whether they would vote for the Democratic or Republican candidate for the House of Representatives in their district if they election were being held today. The question doesn’t provide respondents with the names of the candidates—hence the term “generic ballot.” Nevertheless the generic ballot question has proven to be a fairly good predictor of the results of congressional elections once the sample is pared down to those likely to vote. But that’s not easy to do, especially more than seven weeks before Election Day.
At first glance, it might appear surprising that the new Gallup Poll found a tie on the generic ballot. After all, one week earlier another Gallup Poll produced a 12 point Democratic advantage on this question, similar to that found in most other national polls in recent weeks. But, as Charles Franklin and Mark Blumenthal recently explained, the shift from a 12 point Democratic lead to a tie wasn’t really as dramatic as it seemed. It was almost entirely a result of the introduction of the likely voter screen. Among all registered voters, the new Gallup Poll found a 9 point Democratic lead on the generic ballot.
Almost all polling organizations use some sort of likely voter screen to measure voting intentions shortly before an election. This is especially critical in a midterm election in which, historically, only about 40 percent of eligible voters go to the polls. However, the Gallup likely voter screen is more complicated than most—it involves a series of seven questions including one that measures current political interest. As a result, while it appears to work quite well in the last day or two before an election, it can produce highly volatile results when applied several weeks before an election. During the 2000 election campaign, for example, Gallup’s presidential preference results sometimes gyrated wildly over the course of only a few days—on October 4th, Gallup showed an 11 point lead for Al Gore. Three days later, on October 7th, they showed an 8 point lead for George Bush. However, much of this apparent volatility was caused by the likely voter screen rather than actual shifts in candidate preference among voters.
Some of the volatility in Gallup’s results in 2000 may have been caused by their use of a tracking poll with a 3-day rolling sample. Tracking polls tend to be more volatile than standard polls because they allow less time for callbacks. During the 2004 campaign, however, Gallup’s likely voter screen sometimes produced large swings in candidate support over relatively short time periods. For example, between October 10th and October 16th, Gallup reported a shift from a 2 point Kerry lead to an 8 point Bush lead. In contrast, the CBS/New York Times Poll found a 1 point Bush lead on October 11th and a 1 point Bush lead on October 17th and a Time Magazine Poll found a 1 point Bush lead on October 7th and a tie on October 15th.
Why does Gallup’s likely voter screen produce greater volatility in candidate support than likely voter screens used by other polls? The answer is not clear but a reasonable guess would be that it has to do with the use of a question asking about a respondent’s current level of political interest. Political interest may vary considerably depending on what types of news stories are making the headlines. When the President delivers a major address to the nation for example, supporters of his party are likely to be more interested in news about the speech than supporters of the opposing party. In the final days before an election, interest in the campaign and knowledge about where one’s polling place is located are probably good predictors of voter turnout. Seven weeks before an election, however, these questions may not predict turnout very well.
The 9 point gap between registered and likely voters in Gallup’s recent generic ballot results appears overly large by historical standards. Don’t be surprised to see the gap close by the end of the campaign. In the meantime, however, don’t be surprised to see big fluctuations in the results of Gallup’s generic ballot question among likely voters.

For the Long Haul: Invest In Democratic Youth

It’s hard to get focused on long-range political goals so close to elections. But there is a good article noted in the ‘hump day’ wrap-up below that political strategists should grab and save. Search far and wide — you won’t find a better analysis of the need for a greater investment in Democratic youth leadership development than Iara Peng’s Alternet article “How Progressives Can Win in the Long Run.” Peng’s challenge:

For nearly 30 years, ultraconservatives have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in young people and built an infrastructure that initiates young people into the radical right movement through campus activism, leadership training and career development. Their investments have paid off. The radical right wing now controls the executive and legislative branches of government, and it’s only one seat away from complete dominance of the Supreme Court.
If progressives want to achieve the same sort of political success that the radical right has enjoyed for the past two decades, we’re going to have to do more than focus on the next round of elections and pay lip service to engaging young people. We must make a serious, long-term investment in our next generation of progressive leaders.

Yes, Dems have their own youth leadership training programs. But can they match this?

For decades, right-wing organizations including the Leadership Institute, Federalist Society, Cato Institute and Heritage Foundation have spearheaded a massive effort to bring young people into their movement. Last year alone, the Right invested $48 million in 11 youth-focused organizations aimed at increasing the number of ideologically friendly campus papers, fostering networks of students on campuses, shifting the way that students self-identify in terms of political ideology, providing skills and strategies training, and promoting right-wing values.
Students are cultivated by the right-wing campaign against college courses that conflict with their agenda. For example, they have accused more than 100 professors of making “anti-American” statements. They attend courses with titles like “How to Stop Liberals in Their Tracks.” They have internships, fellowships and jobs waiting for them when they graduate. They learn how to run campaigns and how to run for office.
…Right-wing groups spend more than ten times as much on long-term political leadership development than we do, and financial trends over the past four years show that progressive leadership development organizations are actually, on average, experiencing a decline in revenue.

And the pay-off has been impressive. As a result,

A powerful network of young ultraconservatives fills state capitols, the halls of Congress, the executive branch and the courts. It is supported by community leaders, skilled organizers, academics and media personalities that help dominate the debate. The leaders in whom the right has invested in are familiar names. In 1970, a man named Karl Rove was head of the National College Republicans. In 1981, Grover Norquist took the reins. And in 1983, it was Ralph Reed.

Peng offers some credible corrective measures, and there are some good comments responding to her challenge. Clip her article, read it and consider making a contribution for the long haul.