Sunday, June 30, 2019

Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory?

Well, the first Democratic debates are now in the rear-view mirror, so I suppose I should write a few words about What It All Means.
First, on the Democratic horse race, which preoccupies many of us. It's clear Kamala Harris helped herself quite a bit in terms of visibility and has seen an uptick in the polls. In the Morning Consult (MC) post-debate poll, she is on 12 percent as a first choice for Democratic voters, tied for third place with Elizabeth Warren.
But the basic structure of the race has not decisively changed (though of course it may down the line). Biden is on 33 percent, far in the lead, albeit down 5 points from pre-debate levels, while Harris is up 5 points to the aforementioned 12 percent. Sanders and Warren basically held steady. It's also worth mentioning that Biden's very high favorability rating barely budged as a result of the debate.
Harris is already experiencing a bit of blowback, including from some black politicians, for her premeditated hit on an incredibly divisive issue that left politicians like Biden struggling for political survival. The idea that Biden's actions reveal him as some kind of racist is a hard sell. On the other hand, the idea that Biden isn't ready for the kind of brutal attacks that Republicans and Trump will launch at him, should he be the Democratic candidate, is a much easier sell. That in the end could be the most important result of Harris' successful rhetorical strike.
The more consequential result of the debates may not be its effect on the race for the nomination but rather its effect on Democrats' ability to beat Trump. Here the news is fairly grim I think. Trump is an unpopular President and quite beatable. But that requires you keep the election a referendum on him and not unpopular Democratic ideas.
I had a post awhile ago where I listed the "four don'ts" of the 2020 Democratic campaign. To refresh your memory, here they are:
1. Reparations for the descendants of slaves. Preferred: social programs that disproportionately benefit blacks because of their income, education or geographic attributes.
2. Abolish ICE. Preferred: Reforming ICE + a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants + an actual immigration policy that includes border security and policies about future immigration levels.
3. Medicare for All that eliminates private insurance. Preferred: Medicare for Anyone or Medicare for All (Who Want It). Currently embodied in the DeLauro-Schakowsky Medicare for America bill.
4. A Green New Deal that commits to 100 percent renewable energy within 10 years. Preferred: A Green New Deal that focuses on jobs, infrastructure, research and promoting clean energy in all forms.
In the Democratic debates, several candidates besides the expected Sanders screwed up on the second don't on how to handle Medicare for All, most notably Warren, who had previously been fairly cagey in how she handled the issue. But she aggressively put herself on the side of abolishing private health insurance, an unpopular position which could weaponize the health care issue for Trump and sink a Democratic candidate. Harris also declared her support for this approach but then, hilariously, claimed the next day she had misunderstood the question. Nice try.
On the third don't, abolishing ICE, technically no one called for it, but they did aggressively compete with one another on how leniently to deal with border issues. In their zeal to show how much they opposed Trump's cruelty on the issue, many candidates signed onto the idea that illegal border crossing should be decriminalized. Like abolishing ICE, this will sound to many voters like open borders, which is a terrible position for Democrats to be in. Americans want their borders to be controlled, with limits on the amount of immigration and asylum-seeking. If Democrats have a humane and workable way to deal with these issues, voters need to hear this, rather than proposals that sound like calls for a much looser border.
On the first don't, reparations, there wasn't much talk about it. Possibly Harris might have talked about the issue but she had other plans. However, by bringing up the busing controversies of the 1970's, it potentially injects another divisive racial issue into the campaign. There is nothing in public opinion that indicates re-litigating this controversy would be particularly helpful for the Democrats. Quite the opposite; the country has moved on from this approach to dealing with de facto school segregation, which was and is quite unpopular.
Now, I get that this is this is the nomination process and a candidate can conceivably tack back to the center in the general and recant or "clarify" their unpopular issue positions But that's easier said than done. It is wiser to give your enemy as little ammunition as possible. I fear many Democratic candidates, including some of the most plausible nominees, are ignoring this stricture.
On a daily basis, Morning Consult is surveying over 5,000 registered voters on the 2020 presidential election. Each week, we'll update this page with the latest survey data, offering an in-depth guide to how the race for the Democratic nomination is shaping up.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

The Era of Big Government Being Over Is Over

Certainly, the way the Democratic presidential candidates are positioning themselves would suggest this. But this front-page article in the Wall Street Journal perhaps even more so. Under the title "Europe’s Struggling Political Parties Promise a Return to the Pre-Thatcherite Era", the article begins:
"To win voters lost to an anti-globalization backlash, Europe’s mainstream parties are going back to the 1970s.
In Germany, the U.K, Denmark, France and Spain, these parties are aiming to reverse decades of pro-market policy and promising greater state control of business and the economy, more welfare benefits, bigger pensions and higher taxes for corporations and the wealthy. Some have discussed nationalizations and expropriations.
It could add up to the biggest shift in economic policy on the continent in decades.
In Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, the government has increased social spending in a bid to stop the exodus of voters to antiestablishment, populist and special-interest parties. Reacting to pressure on both ends of the political spectrum, it passed the largest-ever budget last year.
“The zeitgeist of globalization and liberalization is over,” said Ralf Stegner, vice chairman of the 130-year-old Social Democratic Party, the junior partner in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government coalition. “The state needs to become much more involved in key areas such as work, pensions and health care.”
The policies mark the end of an era in Europe that started four decades ago, with the ascent of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her U.S. ally, President Ronald Reagan."
Good stuff. In all due modesty, I must also say that I did kind of predict this. From the concluding chapter of The Optimistic Leftist:
"[T]he political dynamic unleashed by right populism will actually contribute to its own demise. Right populism is distinguished by not only its nativist cultural attitudes but also by its economic populism and rejection of austerity economics. The National Front in France, for example, has become steadily more militant in its defense of social programs and resistance to spending cuts as it has become more popular. Other European right populist parties have followed a similar course. And in the US, Donald Trump’s successful capture of the Republican Presidential nomination was importantly driven by his rejection of standard Republican talking points on cutting government spending—especially on programs like Medicare and Social Security—and on tax breaks for the rich.
The competition this is creating for voters on the right will force more mainstream conservatives to back off their commitment to austerity economics and rediscover the virtues of some government programs and spending. And even on the left, the rise of right populism will undercut the political rationale for the “responsible” soft austerity that has inveigled so many European social democrats and which still has a presence within the American Democratic Party. When so many voters on the right are rejecting the need to cut government, it makes no political sense to stick with austerity as an economic program on the grounds that opposing it isolates the left. On the contrary, it is supporting austerity and failing to deliver growth that isolates the left. The left will eventually take this lesson to heart."
I guess I was just a bit before my time.
About this website
To fend off populist insurgents, once-dominant parties are overthrowing decades of free-market economies for bigger spending, generous welfare and greater state control of business. It amounts to the biggest shift in economic policy on the continent in decades.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

How Demographic Change Is Transforming the Republican and Democratic Parties

Our new State of Change report is out, covering demographic evolution of the parities at both the national and state level from 1980-2036! Among our findings:
"The parties were more compositionally different in 2016 than at any point in the prior 36 years. This election was the first presidential election white noncollege voters did not make up a plurality of both parties’ coalitions, with white college voters exceeding the share of white noncollege voters in the Democratic coalition.
Nonwhites will continue to grow as a share of both parties’ coalitions, especially Hispanics. We find that, by 2032, Hispanic voters will surpass black voters as the largest overall nonwhite voting group. And, by 2036, black voters will make up a larger share of the Democratic coalition than white noncollege voters.
On the other hand, we find that white voters will continue to decline through 2036 as a share of both the Republican and Democratic party coalitions, though this decline with be considerably quicker in fast-growing states such as Arizona and Texas that are already less white. White noncollege voters, in particular, are projected to decline rapidly as a share of both parties’ coalitions across all states through 2036, although the sharpest declines will, again, be in fast-growing states.
Generational changes will also be substantial. By 2036, Millennial and Generation Z voters—the two youngest generations—will be heavily represented in both the Democratic Party and Republican Party coalitions, while the influence of Baby Boomer and the Silent Generation voters—the two oldest generations—will radically decline. White Millennial and Generation Z voters, in particular, will develop a large presence in the Republican coalition and, combined with nonwhites, will give the GOP a new look in all states—even slow-growing ones such as Wisconsin and Ohio.
Finally, our data indicate that, while shifting turnout and support rates can be pivotal for winning elections, these changes are likely to have a relatively small impact on the overall makeup of the electorate and party coalitions in the future. Thus, most of the effect of demographic change on future party coalitions is already baked in and will reshape party coalitions—in a sense, whether these parties like it or not."
Be the first kid on your block to read the whole report! You can also watch the event where we presented our report, as well as two papers taking off on our data from Republican and Democratic perspectives, at the link below (event starts around the 28th minute).
About this website
As the demographics of the United States have changed since 1980, so have the coalitions that make up both the Republican and Democratic parties.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Trump's Achilles' Heel

Oddly enough, it may wind up being the economy. Think of it this way: despite an economy that has been, at least in terms of conventional macro-indicators, quite strong, Trump has never been very popular. Indeed, his job approval rating has consistently run far behind where it should be given the state of the economy. Ron Brownstein notes:
"[P]olling throughout Trump’s presidency has consistently shown that economic improvement hasn’t lifted him as much as earlier presidents. Across many of the key groups in the electorate, from young people to white college graduates, Trump’s job-approval rating consistently runs at least 25 points below the share of voters who hold positive views about either the national economy or their personal financial situation.
The result is that Trump attracts much less support than his predecessors did—in terms of approval rating and potential support for reelection—among voters who say they are satisfied with the economy."
Brownstein adduces a lot more data along these lines but that's the gist of it: Trump is radically underperforming "his" economic indicators. Because of this, he is quite vulnerable,even now, for re-election despite an economy that continues to chug along.
But what if it stops chugging? Then perhaps the key positive that has been propping up Trump will disappear. As Ben White notes in Politico:
"Signs of a slowdown are mounting with weaker job growth, reduced manufacturing activity and a nervous Federal Reserve hinting at slashing interest rates — suggesting that Trump could suffer from terrible economic timing.
All recent presidents other than Bill Clinton experienced slowdowns in their first terms, but most sought reelection as the economy was improving. No president since Calvin Coolidge in 1924 has held on to the White House during an election year marred by recession.
Trump may avoid running for reelection in an official recession, especially if he gets his much desired rate cuts from the Fed. But there is a good chance he’ll be seeking a second term with the economy slowing and unemployment rising, especially if he continues to engage in bruising trade battles.
Voters tend to lock in their assessment of a president’s performance on the economy a few months before Election Day, meaning Trump’s strongest argument for four more years may not wind up being all that strong."
In such a case an already-vulnerable incumbent President will wind up being even more vulnerable. It's would be a nightmare scenario for Trump, with his greatest strength turning into a serious, and perhaps fatal, weakness.
About this website
A slowdown heading into reelection could damage one of the president’s best issues.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

What Do Black Voters Want?

One thing's for sure, it's better to look at the actual data rather than the expressed views of leaders, self-appointed and otherwise, because the two can diverge very sharply.
In this regard, the recent poll of black voters conducted for the Black Economic Alliance by Hart Research is illuminating. As well summarized by David Leonhardt (full data provided in link below):
"In the poll, people were given a list of 14 economic policies and asked how much they thought each would help the black community. The list was full of progressive ideas: paid leave and better workplace benefits; a higher minimum wage; a federal jobs guarantee; stronger laws against discrimination; reparations for descendants of slaves; and more.
On a straight up-or-down basis, a majority of black Americans favored every one of the 14 policies. But there was a fairly wide gap in how much they thought each would help. At the top of the list were a higher minimum wage, stronger discrimination laws and better workplace benefits and training. About 70 percent of respondents said each of those would help “a great deal.”
At the bottom of the list: Slavery reparations. Second to last: a federal jobs guarantee. Only about half of respondents said each would help a great deal.
What’s going on here? To me, it’s a reminder that black Americans, as a group, don’t have the same political opinions as the most liberal parts of the Democratic coalition. On many issues, black Americans are more moderate — or perhaps more pragmatic."
Of course, that's not the impression you'd get from listening to Ta-Nehisi Coates, who recently testified before Congress on the issue of reparations. But then, Coates is probably pretty far away from the views of the median black voter. Closer perhaps is Coleman Hughes, a brilliant young (he's still an undergraduate at Columbia) black intellectual, who also testified at that Congressional hearing.
"In 2008 the House of Representatives formally apologized for slavery and Jim Crow. In 2009, the Senate did the same. Black people don’t need another apology. We need safer neighborhoods and better schools. We need a less punitive criminal justice system. We need affordable healthcare. And none of these things can be achieved through reparations for slavery...
If we were to pay reparations today, we would only divide the country further – making it harder to build the political coalitions required to solve the problems facing black people today. We would insult many black Americans by putting a price on the suffering of their ancestors, and turn the relationship between black Americans and white Americans from a coalition into a transaction, from a union between citizens into a lawsuit between plaintiffs and defendants."
This point--about the divergence between the median black voter and the views of certain liberal elites, both black and white--is also relevant to understanding the kerfuffles around Joe Biden's various missteps around racially-inflected issues and how much they are likely to hurt him with black voters. Perry Bacon, Jr. addressed this question recently in a 538 column and gets it exactly right think. While acknowledging that it's certainly possible Biden's statements will hurt him seriously, he thinks it's quite possible that:
"[these statements] could alternatively not really damage him much at all — even among black voters. Poll after poll has found that Biden has very, very high approval ratings among black voters. For example, a survey conducted last month on behalf of the Black Economic Alliance found that 76 percent of black Democrats are either enthusiastic or comfortable with Biden’s candidacy, compared to just 16 percent who are uncomfortable or have some reservations. This was the best favorable/unfavorable of any of the candidates that respondents were asked about. And according to data from Morning Consult, which is conducting weekly polls of the 2020 race with large sample sizes — giving us more resolution on results for subgroups — older black voters really, really like Biden: He is getting more than 55 percent of the Democratic primary vote among blacks age 45 and over, compared to 34 percent among blacks under age 45.
So I’m skeptical that this controversy will substantially erode that support, particularly among older black voters who have such positive feelings about Biden. In the early stages of this race, he has already weathered another issue that involves race: his treatment of Anita Hill during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas in 1991, when Biden was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee."
He concludes:
"It’s hard to predict what will happen to Biden’s standing in the wake of this week’s news. But I think it’s increasingly clear that the way we think about racial controversies (with the implication that minorities are particularly triggered by them) and the black vote (assuming it is fairly monolithic) are off. Biden’s positive mentions of his work with segregationist senators may have annoyed nonblack Democrats as much or more than black ones. And the biggest question is not whether it pulls all black people from Biden — the younger ones are already kind of ambivalent about him — but whether it breaks his bond with older black people."
People like, well, Whoopi Goldberg, who said on the program, The View:
"After introducing Hot Topic with clips of Biden, Booker, and Harris, Goldberg launched into a passionate monologue defending Biden from his critics. “You have to work with people you don’t like,” she said of segregationists like Thurmond, Richard Russell Jr., and Sam Ervin. “Beat Biden in the debates. If you can beat him, beat him. Don’t try to make him out a racist.” Goldberg went on to say that Biden can’t possibly be “a racist” because “he sat for eight years with a black guy” in the White House. “What, did he have a noose in the background?” she asked, earning her a massive round of applause from the audience."
So we shall see how all this works out. But above all, I recommend close attention to actual data about the views of black voters and--I'm looking at you white liberals--rather than making assumptions that the views of these voters match your own views.
About this website
Black voters’ complex views on slavery payments.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

They May Love Trump at His Rally, But the Rest of Florida--Not So Much

With Trump kicking off his re-election campaign with a boffo rally in Orlando, FL, it's a good time to check in on how the Prez is doing in the Sunshine State. Felicitously, Quinnipiac has just released a new Florida poll that allows us to assess this.
According to the poll, Trump is doing rather poorly. In a matchup with possible Democratic nominee Joe Biden, he is behind by 9 points, 50-41. Lest this bedeemed too much of an outlier, Trump was behind by a similar margin in Florida in the leaked Trump campaign polls (which he claims don't exist; maybe he'll claim Quinnipiac doesn't exist either).
The internals of the poll are of considerable interest. Comparing the Quinnnipiac results with the States of Change results from 2016, Biden runs somewhat ahead of Clinton among Hispanics, but what really drives Biden's current showing against Trump is superior performance among Florida whites. Here are the comparisons:
All whites: Clinton, -22; Biden, -10
College whites: Clinton, -7; Biden, -1
Noncollege whites: Clinton, -30; Biden, -19
Given that whites will probably be close to two-thirds of Florida voters in 2020 and that noncollege whites will probably be about two-thirds of white voters, these are impressive results of potentially great significance.
Will these results hold? Who knows, but it seems like a sure bet that Trump will be holding many more rallies in Florida.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Let's Face It, Nancy Pelosi Is Pretty Smart

I know a lot of people are annoyed that Pelosi is not leading the charge to impeach Trump....but really any sober consideration of the evidence would lead one to conclude she is doing the right thing. Instead. she had concentrated on uniting her caucus to pass progressive bills that, for sure, will not become law but do force GOP members to cast potentially costly votes against the bills.
Perry Bacon, Jr. has the goods on 538:
"Pelosi has outlined an agenda of nine signature bills. Democrats have approved six of them. And Pelosi’s agenda, unlike impeachment, is popular with the public; it unites congressional Democrats and to some extent divides congressional Republicans. And these bills, as opposed to impeaching Trump, align well with what appears to be Pelosi’s broader strategy: to force GOP incumbents to vote against popular legislation in advance of the 2020 elections, protect Democrats in closely divided districts from tough votes, and keep the Democrats talking about and doing things that the public likes.
Five of the bills passed without a single ‘no’ vote from a Democrat. A bill to expand background checks to nearly all gun sales drew two “no” votes among Democrats — both from members who represent districts won by Trump in 2016. That’s more than 1,200 total “yes” votes for the Pelosi agenda among Democratic House members, compared with two “no” votes....
The key planks in the bills all have the support of the majority of the public — and some of them (like expanding background checks for gun sales) are extremely popular, according to polls....
[A]s Pelosi faces an increasingly vocal faction of her party pushing for impeachment, the speaker has a pretty strong anti-impeachment argument: Why should Democrats push a fairly unpopular position with no chance of success when they can instead push forward equally fruitless but at least popular positions?
Her view might carry the day. Lots of House Democrats might ultimately support impeaching Trump if it were to come up for a vote. But only about a quarter of them are pushing for it now. The rest are tacitly approving of Pelosi’s strategy — and it’s not surprising that a bunch of politicians approve of a strategy that looks so good politically."
In short, Nancy Pelosi is doing her job and doing it well. We'll just have to get rid of Trump the old-fashioned way--by voting him out of office. And by steering her party away from divisive issue of impeachment, Pelosi is increasing the chances of accomplishing that goal.
About this website
One of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s arguments against a Democratic push for the impeachment of President Trump is essentially … “What’s the point?” With Repub…

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Is Trump an Underdog for Re-Election?

I guess I'm not entirely sure about that but you can certainly make a case for that proposition. Now that the early spate of Trump-will-win-because-of-the-economy-and incumbency stories have died down, we're now seeing a number of assessments that look across all the evidence and see him as being in pretty bad shape.
Of course, most Democrats are reluctant even to breathe the sentiment, given how Trump seemed to beat the odds in 2016. But that doesn't mean it isn't true. As Josh Kraushaar of National Journal--not at all a Democratic;leaning guy--puts it:
"Democrats still have so much post-traumatic stress from the last presidential campaign that they’re unable to recognize the obvious: President Trump is a serious underdog for reelection.
It’s remarkable to see the contortions that otherwise-savvy politicians, operatives, and analysts take in order to avoid this reality. President Obama’s former press secretary, Ben LaBolt, fretted in The Atlantic that Trump’s campaign is out-strategizing its Democratic opposition. Obama auto czar Steve Rattner warned in The New York Times that leading economic models predict a Trump landslide....
The reality? Trump is in the weakest political shape of any sitting president since George H.W. Bush. Despite a historically strong economy, his job approval ratings are still badly underwater. He’s never hit 50 percent job approval in any reputable national poll throughout his presidency. At least 40 percent of voters are fired up to vote against him, no matter what happens in the next year. He’s already lost ground with the working-class voters who defected from the Democrats to support him in 2016, with his favorability rating dropping 19 points among that critical Obama-Trump constituency in the last two years.
The latest wave of polling is even more alarming for Trump. His campaign’s own internal polling reportedly shows him trailing in many of the must-win battleground states. A new Quinnipiac survey shows Trump trailing all six Democrats tested against him; what's more, he couldn’t win more than 42 percent of the vote against anyone....In the latest Morning Consult tracking survey, Trump hits 50 percent disapproval ratings in North Carolina, Arizona, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Iowa—all states he carried in 2016."
Stuart Rothenberg--another not particularly pro-Democratic analyst--considers some of the same data and renders a somewhat more reserved, but consistent, judgement.
"No matter how many economists, political scientists or investment bankers are involved, predictive models based solely on economic data miss the point because they look at only one aspect of a presidency and only one facet of a presidential election. My column from Sept. 18 last year, “Why it’s NOT the Economy, Stupid,” sought to explain why the economy would not be decisive in the midterms and why it might well be less important than usual next year.
Models predicting a Trump wave strike me as more about clicks and being contrarian than about taking a dispassionate look at the 2020 election...
Given Trump’s inability to broaden his appeal and the likelihood that Democrats will be more united and energized than they were in 2016, the Democratic ticket deserves to be given a narrow but clear advantage.
“Tilting Democratic” still seems a reasonable rating to me at this early stage of the race."
And Harry Enten of CNN assesses the situation this way:
"The 2020 election is a long way off. We don't know what Trump will do over the next 17 months. We don't know who the Democrats will nominate.
But Trump likely needs something to change if he wants to win reelection."
Of course, "underdog" doesn't mean "for sure going to lose". The other side of the equation is a strong Democratic campaign that doesn't make too many unforced errors. Gulp.
Democrats can lower expectations all they want, but polls show the president facing a decisive defeat.