Monday, October 14, 2019

Is Ohio Still a Swing State?

In honor of the Democrats convening for their debate tomorrow in Ohio, it's a good time to think about whether Ohio is still a swing state and, if so, how the Democrats could win there in 2020.
To set the table, here's some just-released polling data from Public Policy Polling.
"Trump trails a generic Democrat 48-47 for reelection in the state. Particularly troubling for him is a 51-37 deficit with independent voters. Suburban areas have tended to be a swing vote in Ohio elections but- matching the national trends- they now lean yoward voting Democratic by a 53-40 margin over Trump next year. Trump doesn’t get more than 47% against any named Democratic opponent – he trails Joe Biden 48-46, and he’s tied with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren at 47% each. Trump only has leads against two of the lesser-known Democratic candidates: he leads both Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg 47-43 with 10% of voters undecided in those particular matchups.
Ohio’s return to swing state status is a function of Trump’s unpopularity in the state. Only 47% of voters have a favorable opinion of him, to 51% with a negative one. The ratio is even worse for Trump when it comes to voters who have strong feelings about him- just 38% say they have a ‘very favorable’ opinion of him, to 45% who have a ‘very unfavorable’ opinion of him."
So perhaps Ohio will be kind of swingy this election. But it'll still be quite a challenge for the Democratic nominee to actually win the state. Here's my take.
In 2016, Trump carried Ohio by a solid 8 points. In the two previous elections, Obama had carried the state.
In 2018, Democrats did not fare as well as in several other Rustbelt states. They lost the House popular vote by 5 points and failed to flip any House seats in the state. However, they did gain a net of 5 state legislative seats and succeeded in re-electing Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown by 7 points. But they fell short in their bid to retake the governor’s mansion, where they felt they had a strong candidate in Democrat Richard Cordray.
The Democratic presidential candidate in 2020 clearly has a lot of work to do in Ohio to return the state to its Obama era patterns, while Trump can simply try to replicate, or at least come close, to the voting patterns that brought him a relatively easy victory in the state in 2016. Trump does currently, according to Civiqs polling, have a net positive approval rating in the states, though just barely (+2).
Nonwhites made up 16 percent of Ohio voters in 2016. Most of these (12 percent) were Blacks and they strongly supported Clinton by 88-9 percent. The rest were Hispanic (2 percent) and Asian/other race (2 percent) supporting Clinton 61-33 percent and 46-44 percent, respectively. Unlike Pennsylvania, Ohio white college graduates (29 percent of voters) narrowly supported Trump, 47-46 percent. But his decisive advantage was among white non-college voters, who overwhelming backed Trump by 32 points (63-31 percent).
However, we expect white non-college eligible voters in 2020 to decline by 2 points relative to 2016, while white college graduates should increase by a point. All nonwhite groups in the state should increase by small amounts relative to 2016: Blacks by .2 points and both Hispanics and Asians/other race by .3 points. As in Pennsylvania, these changes are favorable for the Democrats. But, given the hill the Democrats need to climb in Ohio, these underlying changes do not go far—just a percentage point—in tipping the state to the Democratic candidate, if all turnout and partisan voting preferences by group remained the same as in 2016.
Therefore, if Trump can maintain his support among white non-college voters in the state, or close to it, he should be in good shape to carry the state again. Even a shift of 10 margin points against him among white college graduates would still project to a 4-point Trump advantage in 2020.
For the Democratic candidate, even increasing Black turnout and support back to their strong levels in 2012 (they both declined significantly in 2016) would still leave them with a 4-point deficit in the state. The most efficacious change would be to cut Trump’s advantage with white non-college voters, concentrating on white non-college women, where Democrats’ deficit in 2016 was 30 points less than among men. Shaving 10 margin points off of Trump’s advantage among white non-college voters would, by itself, bring the Democratic candidate within 2 points in the state, and replicating Obama’s 2012 performance among this demographic in the state would allow them to actually carry the state, all else from 2016 remaining the same.
In all likelihood, a combination of these changes, at different levels, would be necessary for the Democrats to prevail. Trump, in a sense, just needs to hold serve.
Columbus, OH – A new poll from Public Policy Polling and Innovation Ohio shows that Ohio is set to return to its traditional status as a battleground state in 2020.   A memo on the results and the cross tabs can be found on Innovation Ohio’s website.   Link to Ohio Poll Memo Link to Ohio poll ...

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Why Trump?: It's Important to Get the Answer Right

Reading Tom Edsall's latest column--which I shall comment on later--I was intrigued by his reference to some work by Anusar Farooqui, who blogs at his own Policy Tensor site, on the origins of Trumpism. So I visited the site and started reading through Farooqui's posts. I was quite impressed.
I want to recommend here his piece on '"Why Did Trump Win". For my money, it's the clearest statement of the current state of the debate on this question, what's wrong with the current state of the debate and how much the debate is driven by looking at individual level survey data rather than more informative geographic data. The latter is a point I've tried to make a number of times but I don't think I've been as clear as Farooqui has managed to be.
He starts out:
"Donald Trump’s wholly unexpected triumph in 2016 is the main explanandum of a vast political science literature that has emerged in the three years since. Economic explanations predominated at the beginning. Since then, a different diagnosis has come to the fore that traces support for Trump to White racial prejudice. This diagnosis has achieved a nearly hegemonic position among political scientists and Democratic elites more generally. Diana C. Mutz’s paper “Status threat, not economic hardship, explains the 2016 presidential vote” spelled out the diagnosis.
Mutz: 'How is it that the same American public that elected an African American to two terms as US President subsequently elected a president known to have publicly made what many consider to be racist and sexist statements?
A possible explanation is dominant group status threat. … For the first time since Europeans arrived in this country, white Americans are being told that they will soon be a minority race. The declining white share of the national population is unlikely to change white Americans’ status as the most economically well-off racial group, but symbolically, it threatens some whites’ sense of dominance over social and political priorities. Furthermore, when confronted with evidence of racial progress, whites feel threatened and experience lower levels of self-worth relative to a control group. They also perceive greater antiwhite bias as a means of regaining those lost feelings of self-worth.'"
Farooqui queries this finding as follows:
"The salience of racial prejudice can hardly be doubted with this President in office. But are we not mistaking symptoms for causes? Is heightened anxiety over racial status the ultimate driver of the Trump phenomena? More pointedly: Is Trump’s base simply Hillary’s infamous “deplorables”? Or do we perceive it to be so because of the hold of Boasian antiracism on our minds? It is at least worth exploring the idea that support for Trump may be driven by real grievances.
What is common to this political science literature is that their empirical strategy relies on survey data. These are pretty large samples so the problem is not sample size. Rather the problem is that such surveys de-situate people. Each individual appears as an independent subject, grappling with socioeconomic and political trends. That’s fine as far as it goes. But what it leaves out is the spatial correlations due to the fact that people are members of situated communities.
We cannot afford to ignore geography because of two facts. First, the electoral college vote is of great consequence to party competition at the national level. Recall that the Trump coalition only prevailed because sparsely-populated regions in the interior are over-represented in the electoral college. Indeed, since the densely-populated regions on the coasts are Democratic strongholds, the electoral college system systematically discriminates against them. The result is that Democrats have a near lock on the popular vote, while the Republicans have a systematic advantage in electoral college votes. We should not be looking at nationally-representative, that is, population-weighted samples. Rather, we should be weighting by electoral college votes; at least in as much as we care about electoral outcomes and their drivers.
Second, the United States has increasingly become regionally polarized since the 1960s. It is possible, nay, likely, that people are angry, fearful, and resentful, not because their personal circumstances have changed for the worse, but because they see their communities falling apart and see no one in Washington paying any attention to it. As my democratic socialist friend, Ted Fertik mentioned:"Is your community suffering?—was really the question Trump was speaking to."
So we must build geography right into the analysis. Once we start looking at electoral college-weighted, county-level correlates of the Trump swing—Trump’s vote share less Romney’s vote share—a very different pattern emerges. The three strongest predictors of the Trump swing are college graduation rate, population growth rate, and growth in deaths due to drug overdoses in 2003-2017."
He goes on to explain and document his empirical analysis. It's a bit technical but clearly presented, so I urge you to slog through it.
He concludes--and I generally concur with his assessment:
"These results should disabuse us of the notion that Trump’s election had little to do with people getting left behind—I drop the quotation marks on purpose. Trump is in the White House because large parts of the country are in serious trouble. People can see the decline of their communities with their own eyes. What is pissing them off is that coastal elites keep ignoring their trauma and focus their attention on creating a more inclusive country.
But what does this have to do with racism? More pointedly: Why does the breakdown of elite-mass relations, now manifest in the Trump insurgency, exhibit the symptoms that it does? Why do people in Trump country, whose trauma is real enough, blame immigrants and minorities? Part of the answer is that people in Trump country regard [political correctness] as the hegemonic ideology of coastal elites—as indeed it is.... Resentment of coastal elites, although driven by all-too-real decline of situated communities, is thus expressed as a wholesale rejection of the hated elites’ self-congratulatory worldview.
What I have argued here is that Democrats, including elite political scientists, have misdiagnosed the catastrophe of 2016...
In effect, Trump is a message from Flyover Country for elites. Are American elites listening? Democrats in particular need to pay attention. It is Democrats who repaired elite-mass relations through the 20th century and thereby re-stabilized the system. They must do it again. In order to do so, they must abandon the idea that racism is the key to 2016. It is not. Widespread despair is the key to 2016."
I continue to believe that a lot rides politically on getting a correct diagnosis of the rise of Trumpism. I recommend Farooqui's work as a very useful contribution to getting such a diagnosis.
Democrats have the wrong diagnosis of 2016.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

The Three Most Beautiful Words in the English Language: Tax the Rich

I know you agree. And finally this beautiful idea is getting the policy and public attention it deserves. In your Sunday Times, though it's already online, is a lengthy op-ed by economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman based on their forthcoming book (pre-order today!) The Triumph of Injustice: How the Rich Dodge Taxes and How to Make Them Pay.
They start out with this observation:
"America’s soaring inequality has a new engine: its regressive tax system. Over the past half century, even as their wealth rose to previously unseen heights, the richest Americans watched their tax rates collapse. For the working classes over the same period, as wages stagnated, work conditions deteriorated and debts ballooned, tax rates increased.
Stop to think this over for a minute: For the first time in the past hundred years, the working class — the 50 percent of Americans with the lowest incomes — today pays higher tax rates than billionaires."
And their key point is this:
"The good news is that we can fix tax injustice, right now. There is nothing inherent in modern technology or globalization that destroys our ability to institute a highly progressive tax system. The choice is ours. We can countenance a sprawling industry that helps the affluent dodge taxation, or we can choose to regulate it. We can let multinationals pick the country where they declare their profits, or we can pick for them. We can tolerate financial opacity and the countless possibilities for tax evasion that come with it, or we can choose to measure, record and tax wealth.
If we believe most commentators, tax avoidance is a law of nature. Because politics is messy and democracy imperfect, this argument goes, the tax code is always full of “loopholes” that the rich will exploit. Tax justice has never prevailed, and it will never prevail.
For example, in response to Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax proposal — which we helped develop — pundits have argued that the tax would raise much less revenue than expected. In a similar vein, world leaders have become convinced that taxing multinational companies is now close to impossible, because of international tax competition. During his presidency, Barack Obama argued in favor of reducing the federal corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 28 percent, with a lower rate of 25 percent for manufacturers. In 2017, under President Trump, the United States cut its corporate tax rate to 21 percent. In France, President Emmanuel Macron is in motion to reduce the corporate tax in 2022 to 25 percent from 33 percent. Britain is ahead of the curve: It started slashing its rate under Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2008 and is aiming for 17 percent by 2020. On that issue, the Browns, Macrons and Trumps of the world agree: The winners of global markets are mobile; we can’t tax them too much.
But they are mistaken. Tax avoidance, international tax competition and the race to the bottom that rage today are not laws of nature. They are policy choices, decisions we’ve collectively made — perhaps not consciously or explicitly, certainly not choices that were debated transparently and democratically — but choices nonetheless. And other, better choices are possible."
This point, that low taxation of the rich is a policy choice and not "required" by the nature of modern capitalism or globalization, is developed at length in the article. It is a crucial point.
So too is an associated point made by David Leonhardt. Not only is it not true that, even if you instituted higher taxation on the rich, they would simply avoid the taxes, it is also not true that such taxes would wind up reducing economic growth. As Leonhardt notes:
"[T]he second half of the 20th century was mostly a victory for the low-tax side. Companies found ways to take more deductions and dodge taxes. Politicians cut every tax that fell heavily on the wealthy: high-end income taxes, investment taxes, the estate tax and the corporate tax. The justification for doing so was usually that the economy as a whole would benefit.
The justification turned out to be wrong. The wealthy, and only the wealthy, have done fantastically well over the last several decades. G.D.P. growth has been disappointing, and middle-class income growth even worse.
The American economy just doesn’t function very well when tax rates on the rich are low and inequality is sky high. It was true in the lead-up to the Great Depression, and it’s been true recently. Which means that raising high-end taxes isn’t about punishing the rich (who, by the way, will still be rich). It’s about creating an economy that works better for the vast majority of Americans.
In their book, Saez and Zucman sketch out a modern progressive tax code. The overall tax rate on the richest 1 percent would roughly double, to about 60 percent. The tax increases would bring in about $750 billion a year, or 4 percent of G.D.P., enough to pay for universal pre-K, an infrastructure program, medical research, clean energy and more. Those are the kinds of policies that do lift economic growth."
Amen This issue is one important reason why, even though I have my doubts about Warren as a candidate against Trump, I ove the fact that she is pushing higher taxation on the rich and that Saez' and Zucman's work is reflected ttin her plans. There is considerable policy risk to the Democrats in managing to beat Trump and then failing to move in this clearly necessary direction. The time is past for putting up with the current unjust, regressive, anti-growth tax system.
About this website
It is absurd that the working class is now paying higher tax rates than the richest people in America.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Trump Is Targeting Minnesota. Could He Succeed?

Not impossible but not very likely either. He had his usual demagogic rally in Minnesota Thursday and his campaign is apparently planning on spending tens of millions of dollars there in 2020 after having virtually nothing last time.
But make no mistake: this is a very heavy lift for him. Here's my take:
Hillary Clinton won Minnesota in 2016 by a narrow margin, just under 2 points. As has been widely noted, Democrats have now won the state in 11 straight presidential elections. The last time the Democrats lost in a presidential election in Minnesota was in 1972, when Richard Nixon wiped out George McGovern.
Democrats also had a strong election in 2018. They carried the House popular vote by 10 points (though they failed, on net, to flip any House seats). They also flipped 18 state legislative seats and captured control of the lower chamber. Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar won re-election in a landslide and, in an unusual second, special Senate election, Democratic Tina Smith won the seat easily by 11 points. In addition, Tim Walz held the governor’s office for the Democrats, also by 10 points.
The Democratic candidate in 2020 will seek to keep the Democratic streak going, while Minnesota, given the closeness of the 2016 result, will be on the short list of states that Trump targets to try to expand his coalition. This may be difficult; he is quite unpopular in the state, with a current negative net approval rating of -13 in Civiqs polling. This is quite bad.
Nonwhites were just 11 percent of Minnesota voters in 2016. Asians/other race were the largest nonwhite group at 4.5 percent and they supported Clinton 50-36 percent. Blacks were 4.3 percent of voters and went heavily for Clinton by 90-6 percent. Hispanics were just 2 percent of voters and supported Clinton 61-30 percent. In addition, white college graduates, an unusually large 36 percent of voters, backed Clinton by 22 points. The bright spot for Trump was white non-college voters, 54 percent of the voting electorate, who favored him by 21 points.
Blacks, Hispanics and Asians/other race should all increase as a share of eligible voters in 2020 by .4, .5 and .7 points, respectively. White college eligible voters should also go up .4 points. The declining group will be white non-college, who should decline by just over 2 points. All these changes are net favorable for the Democrats.
The logical strategic choice for Trump would be to enhance his 21-point margin among white non-college voters from 2016. A 10-point margin shift in Trump’s direction among this demographic group would result, all else remaining the same, in a 3-point GOP victory. A more difficult target would be to reduce his deficit among white college voters by 10 points; that would result in a narrow 1-point victory for him.
The Democratic candidate could expand Clinton’s margin by a point simply by holding Democratic margins at their 2016 levels, due to underlying demographic changes in the eligible electorate. They will certainly try to expand their already gaudy lead among white college graduates. But the most effective move would be to get their white non-college margin back to where it was in 2012; that would result in a nearly 10-point Democratic victory, all else remaining the same.
A glance at the Catailst stats for 2018 suggests that a Trump surge among white noncollege voters does not appear particularly likely in 2020. In 2018, white noncollege support surged toward the Democrats and away from the GOP. In the governor's race (Klobuchar's Senate race was a complete blowout) Democrat Tim Walz' support among white noncollege voters was was 9 points better than Clinton's in 2016 and among white noncollege women his support was exactly the same as Obama's in his easy 2012 victory--he carried them by 6 points.
So, again, a Trump victory in Minnesota certainly could happen. But it appears very, very unlikely.
About this website
The president lost the state by less than 45,000 votes in 2016, despite barely campaigning there. He holds a rally in Minneapolis Thursday night.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Could the Democrats Take North Carolina in 2020?

Their chances may be better than you think. From the latest Public Policy Polling North Carolina (note: not an outlier compared to other recent NC polls):
"46% of voters approve of the job Trump is doing to 51% who disapprove of him, in a state that he took by 4 points in 2016. 48% of voters support impeaching Trump, with an equal 48% opposed. At this point disapproval for Trump and support for impeaching Trump have become almost the same thing- only 7% of voters who disapprove of Trump are opposed to impeaching him.
We tested the 5 leading Democratic candidates in head to heads with Trump and he trails 3 of them, while it’s very close against the other two. Joe Biden has a 5 point advantage at 51-46, Elizabeth Warren has a 3 point advantage at 49-46, and Bernie Sanders is up 50-47. Trump and Kamala Harris tie at 47, and Trump has a slight advantage over Pete Buttigieg at 47-46. It’s notable that regardless of the Democrat he’s tested against, Trump always polls at 46-47% in North Carolina."
Of course, it won't be easy. Here's my take on the challenges involved.
Hillary Clinton lost North Carolina by just under 4 points in 2016. This follows Obama’s narrow 2-point loss in 2012 and even narrower victory by one-third of a percentage point in 2008. All these performances were dramatically better for the Democrats compared to losing the state by 12 points in 2004 and 13 points in 2000.
Democrats made some progress in the state in 2018. They did relatively well in the House popular vote, losing it by under 2 points--though they did not succeed in flipping any GOP-held House seats. But they flipped a net of 16 state legislative seats and broke Republican supermajorities in both chambers. This is of considerable significance since North Carolina’s governor is currently a Democrat.
These trends give the Democrats hope they can take the state in 2020. The Trump campaign, on the other hand, is well prepared to defend North Carolina’s 15 electoral voters—essential for their coalition—even though Trump’s current net job approval rating in the state is in danger territory.
North Carolina’s large nonwhite population accounted for 28 percent of voters in 2016. As in Georgia, Blacks in North Carolina dominate the nonwhite vote: 22 percent of all voters, compared to 3 percent for Hispanics and just under 4 percent for Asians/other race. Blacks supported Clinton by 76 points, Hispanics by 15 points and Asians/other race by 2 points. White college graduates in North Carolina, 28 percent of voters, supported Clinto, but it was close, giving her a 4-point advantage, 49-45 percent. White non-college voters, 43 percent of the voting electorate, on the other hand, gave him a whopping advantage of 51 points, 74-23 percent.
We expect white non-college eligible voters in 2020 to decline over 2 points relative to 2016, while white college graduates should go up very slightly. Hispanics should increase a point, Black eligible voters by half a point and Asians/other race also by half a point. If 2016 voting patterns remain the same these underlying demographic changes in the eligible electorate would be enough to reduce the Democratic candidate’s projected 2020 deficit in the state by almost 2 points.
As with Georgia, given the relative closeness of Trump’s victory in 2016 plus the projected impact of demographic change, Trump probably needs to go beyond holding his 2016 levels of group support. Increasing his margin among white college voters by 10 points would yield a 5 point victory in 2020, all else equal, while increasing his already-huge lead among white non-college voters by the same amount would project to a 6 point margin.
For the Democratic candidate, the Black vote, as in Georgia, will have great importance. If Black turnout in 2020 matches 2012 levels (there was a large decline in 2016) that would actually project to a Democratic victory of just under a percentage point, all else equal. Matching Black support to 2012 levels would further boost the Democrats’ margin. A 10-point pro-Democratic margin shift among North Carolina’s liberalizing white college graduate population—going from +4 to +14—would project to a narrow victory of the same magnitude as the increased Black turnout scenario. Decreasing Trump’s very large white non-college margin by 10 points would project to a larger victory.
So those are the parameters of battle. Let the jousting begin!
PPP’s newest North Carolina poll finds that Donald Trump continues to be unpopular and that voters in the state are evenly divided on the question of impeaching him. 46% of voters approve of the job Trump is doing to 51% who disapprove of him, in a state that he took by 4 points in 2016. …

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Warren Surge

That it's happening is undeniable; see the chart below from the RCP rolling average of Democratic primary polls. How it's happening and what it portends for the future are more debatable questions.
Warren is running a very good, smart, disciplined campaign and it is paying off, allowing her to fully capitalize on the natural appeal of her populist campaign themes. Her rival on the left, Bernie Sanders, is fading and will now be dogged by serious questions about his health. Joe Biden, while still a formidable foe, is running a lackluster campaign that has done little to dispel doubts about his age and establishment orientation.
So no wonder her trendline is sharply up and she is now virtually tied with Biden. Where is her burgeoning support coming from? The best quantitative breakdown is from Geoffrey Skelley on 538. Warren has always been a favorite of very liberal, mostly white, mostly college-educated voters but now, argues Skelley, the data show that.....
1. Warren is appealing to more moderate voters too
2. Warren is finally starting to make inroads with voters without a college degree
3. Warren is also winning over voters who aren’t white
4. Warren is also maybe winning over some former Harris backers
It's looking more like a real coalition! Note particularly these two excerpts from Skelley's article:
"For the past couple of months, Warren has been the leading candidate for college-educated voters, particularly white ones,1 but there are now signs she’s garnering support from voters who aren’t college educated, too. This is important for Warren because a plurality of Democratic voters are white voters without a college degree, and they currently form a key constituency for Biden and Sanders. And in Quinnipiac’s latest survey, Warren had 26 percent support among non-college whites, which put her in a near-tie with Biden at 27 percent and ahead of Sanders’s 19 percent. By comparison, in Quinnipiac’s late-August survey, Warren had 20 percent to Biden’s 30 percent among non-college whites and was roughly tied with Sanders, who had 19 percent support among that group.....
Arguably the biggest threat to Warren’s chances at the nomination has been just how white her support is. She has consistently had low support among nonwhite voters, especially African Americans, who make up anywhere from 20 to 25 percent of the Democratic electorate. But polls now suggest Warren may be, at last, gaining traction. Quinnipiac’s past two national polls showed Warren’s support among black voters nearly doubled from 10 to 19 percent, and the most recent YouGov/Economist survey found her at 15 percent among African Americans compared to 9 percent in its final August poll. And Monmouth’s late September survey found her at 20 percent among nonwhites more broadly, up from 14 percent in August."
With these trends, should we start assuming that Warren will be the eventual nominee? Frankly, I think it's quite a bit too early to make that assumption (though perhaps one could say that she now has a better chance than any other individual candidate of succeeding, a much weaker statement). And Jonathan Bernstein usefully reminds us that it might even be premature to assume that the race has boiled down to Warren-Biden contest. Certainly, the record of previous nomination contests should give us pause.
"Take Iowa. Yes, Warren now has a slim polling lead over Biden, with everyone else far behind. But a quick check of the historical record suggests things could still change radically. Four years ago, Donald Trump and Ben Carson were locked in a tie in Iowa. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio were in third and fourth. Four months later, Cruz rose from 9% to 27% to take first place in the caucuses; Rubio went from 8% to 23%, with Trump narrowly edging him out for second place. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton’s numbers didn’t change much from October to February – but Bernie Sanders gained about 16 percentage points and almost beat her.
What about 2012? Early October polling had Mitt Romney on top, followed by three candidate – Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry – who never went anywhere. Rick Santorum was in seventh place in the polls at 4%. He eventually surged to narrowly beat Romney in Iowa with almost 25% of the vote.
In 2008, Barack Obama’s first-place finish was about 10 percentage points higher than his early October polling numbers. But Iowa caucused a month earlier that year, so if we go back to early September, Obama was in third place, about 16 percentage points below his eventual caucus total. On the other side, Mike Huckabee was in fourth at about 10% in September and early October polls; he wound up winning the caucuses easily with 34% of the vote.
In each of the last five contested Iowa caucuses, in other words, at least one candidate gained at least 15 points in the polls over the last few months. That suggests that essentially every remaining contender in the 2020 race would have enough time for a late surge."
That said, my friend and sometime co-author John Judis, in a recent TPM blog post, is willing to put his chips down now on Senator Warren:
"At the risk of appearing foolhardy several months hence, I want to say that in the last week, it has become very likely that Elizabeth Warren will win the Democratic nomination. A two-tier race, with Warren, Joe Biden, and Bernie Sanders in the top tier, has become a race largely of Warren against herself."
As I say, I'm still not so sure but, if she does become the nominee, there will still be a lot of challenges left to actually beat Trump. Judis, in the same TPM article, enumerates them well:
"Warren’s problem, if anything, is that she is too close politically to Sanders and has heeded too much the siren call of the metropolitan and college-town liberals. She needs to think about winning an electoral college majority in November 2020, and that means backing off programs that raise the specter of higher taxes for the working class or that would allow Trump to paint the Democrats as cultural elitists. That means moving away from Medicare for All, decriminalizing illegal immigration, and reparations. There is nothing wrong, for instance, with advocating Medicare for All as an ultimate goal and Medicare for Anyone as the immediate means to shore up the Affordable Care Act.
I often hear the argument that if Democrats move to “the center,” they will suffer the fate of Hillary Clinton in 2016. But Clinton didn’t lose because she was insufficiently radical. She lost because she couldn’t overcome her email scandal and because she ran a campaign focused on culture, not economics — on the promise of a woman president (“I’m with HER”) and on her challenger’s character. That didn’t speak to the insecurities that many swing voters felt. Warren’s challenge will not be to out-radicalize Trump, but to assure voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan and other swing states that she understands their problems and will do something about them. If she can do that — and maintain the support of minorities and of middle-of-the-road suburban voters in states like Virginia and Colorado who rejected Trump and the Republicans in 2018 — she could be the next president."
I agree with this. Warren could indeed be our next President--and likely a very good one--but her chances of actually occupying the Oval Office, if she does get the nomination, are very much dependent on pivoting to a general election strategy that takes these imperatives into account--in other words, she will need a general election strategy as smart as her nomination strategy.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

What's the Climate Change Policy With the Most Potential?

No it's not yet more proclamations of doom unless we zero out worldwide fossil fuel usage by 2028 (which definitely ain't gonna happen). The answer instead is public clean energy R&D. That's the conclusion of a new report by the effective altruism group Let's Fund. As approvingly summarized by David Robets on Vox, here's their argument--which seems very sound to me if we look at the challenge in its proper global perspective:
"1) Emission reduction in emerging economies matters most.
By 2040, 75 percent of global emissions will come from emerging economies like China and India. It is understandable, and noble, that wealthy advanced economies want to reduce their territorial emissions, and they should continue doing so, but if emissions don’t fall in emerging economies, all is lost. Advanced economies could flatline their emissions tomorrow and all would still be lost.
2) Thus, “the best climate policies are those that stimulate clean energy innovation.”
How can advanced economies induce emerging economies to develop along the cleanest possible lines? Restraints on growth imposed by international institutions are doomed to failure. The only thing that might work is making clean energy cheap and then sharing it with those economies (technology “spillover”). Cheaper clean energy technology is a global public good, and advanced economies are both morally obliged and economically well-positioned to provide it.
3) Public R&D creates the most spillover.
“Many policies stimulate clean energy innovation and create global technology spillovers (e.g. carbon taxes, subsidies for renewable energy, phasing out fossil fuel subsidies),” says the report. “But the most effective policy is increasing government budgets for public clean energy research and development (R&D).”
4) Public R&D is woefully neglected but politically tractable.
Just $22 billion a year is spent globally on clean energy R&D. That is a pittance — a drop in the bucket of the $600 billion in annual military spending in the US alone.
And pretty much any advanced economy could substantially, and unilaterally, increase that number. That’s why the researchers call it tractable; it doesn’t require international coordination. Anyone can just go ahead and do it."
So let's stop the rending of garments about impossible things that can't and won't be done and focus instead on what might actually work.
About this website
Using public clean energy R&D to spur innovation is overlooked and underfunded.