Thursday, November 21, 2019

A Trump Surge in Wisconsin?

Well, maybe. The latest WI survey from the widely-respected Marquette Law School poll has Trump ahead of Biden by 3 in a trial heat matchup. It is just one poll, but it does serve as a fair reminder that Trump will likely be very competitive in this area of the country.
More broadly, here is my take on the poll and related issues around WI and 2020.
I think it's fair to say that WI will be tough for the Dems, relative to MI and PA. The polling data, including this latest Marquette poll, are consistent with that. That said, I wouldn't get too bent out of shape about the new poll; in August, the Marquette poll had Biden ahead by 9; it's somewhat hard to believe things have changed that much in WI since then. The RCP rolling average still has Biden ahead by 3 in the matchup--worse for sure than MI and PA but still ahead. I'd need to see a few more surveys before I conclude Trump really is running ahead in the state. Of course, if we do see confirmation from several more polls, feel free to turn up the worry knob!
Contextual information for thinking about WI and 2020:
In 2016, Trump carried Wisconsin by 0.8 percentage points and just 23,000 votes. Prior to 2016, Democratic presidential candidates carried Wisconsin for seven straight elections from 1988 to 2012. But two of those victories were razor-thin, won by less than half a percentage point.
Democrats fared better in 2018. They carried the House popular vote by slightly less than 9 points. However, Republicans held all of their House seats and, on net, kept the same number of state legislative seats. But Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin easily won reelection by 11 points, and Tony Evers narrowly defeated incumbent Scott Walker by a point to recover the governor’s mansion for the Democrats and, in the process, break the Republican trifecta hold on state government.
The Democratic candidate will hope to continue the trends that manifested themselves in 2018, while Trump will try to build on his winning coalition from 2016. Trump has a -5 negative net approval rating in the state, which is slightly better than his approval rating in Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Nonwhites made up just 10 percent of Wisconsin voters in 2016, distributed roughly as 4-3-3 between Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians/other races and favoring Clinton by 85, 37, and 17 points, respectively. Clinton also had a strong advantage among white college graduates of 15 points (54 percent to 39 percent), which is better than her performance among this demographic group in either Michigan or Pennsylvania.
But there were also more white noncollege voters, 58 percent, in Wisconsin than in either Michigan or Pennsylvania. These voters favored Trump by 19 points.
In 2020, Blacks’ share of eligible voters should remain about the same, while Hispanics should go up by 0.7 points and Asians/other races by 0.4 points. White college-educated voters should also go up a full point, while white noncollege voters should drop by 2.3 points. These changes, favorable for the Democrats, would be enough to just barely move the state into the Democratic column if turnout and partisan voting preferences by group remained the same as in 2016.
To carry the state again, Trump likely needs to increase his support among white noncollege voters from his 19-point advantage in 2016 and/or increase this group’s relative turnout. Alternatively, he could try to increase his support among the considerably less-friendly white college demographic. But the voting patterns from 2016 will likely not suffice for a Trump victory in 2020.
As noted previously, demographic changes in the underlying eligible electorate would be enough for the Democratic candidate to barely carry the state in 2020, if voting patterns from 2016 remain the same. A safer strategy would be to change some key voting patterns from 2016 in Democrats’ favor. One obvious goal would be to increase Black turnout—which declined a massive 19 points in 2016—back to its 2012 levels. Doing so would add about a point and half to the Democratic margin in 2020.
Widening the Democrats’ already-healthy margin among white college graduates by 10 points would be more effective, adding 3 points to potential Democratic 2020 performance. But moving the Democrats’ white noncollege deficit back to 2012 levels would add 7 points to Democrats’ projected 2020 margin. White noncollege women are the clear target group here, since Clinton’s deficit among these voters (-16 points) was much less than her deficit among their male counterparts (-43 points).

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Long Live the Multiracial Working Class!

There continues to be a reasonable case that Biden has a comparative advantage in speaking to these voters. This article is anecdotal but it's not far off the polling data.
And really, shouldn't that be what Democrats are fundamentally about--speaking to and for the multiracial working class? Oh sure Democrats are about lots of other stuff too but this seems like an exceptionally important part of the package.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not sold on Biden. I see lots of problems with him as a candidate. But I do like that aspect of his persona.
"They are white and nonwhite alike, prefer Facebook over Twitter, if they are on social media at all, and can be hard to find at Democratic campaign events dominated by activists from the professional class. But these blue-collar voters could go a long way toward determining who captures the Democratic presidential nomination — and Joseph R. Biden Jr. is racing to press his advantage with that constituency....
But his greatest compensating advantage right now is notably durable support from a multiracial coalition of working-class voters who feel a kinship with the former vice president and believe he is the Democrats’ strongest general election prospect.
At fund-raisers and on campaign stops, Mr. Biden is warning his party against overlooking voters who were once a core Democratic constituency but had found some elements of President Trump’s message compelling in 2016. His campaign believes the Democratic Party risks narrowing its Electoral College path in 2020, and hurting its standing on Capitol Hill, if candidates do not appeal directly to these more moderate voters in battleground states in the Midwest and Sun Belt."
About this website
Joseph R. Biden Jr. has durable support from a multiracial coalition of working-class voters who view him as one of their own.

Great Policies, But Tell Me Again How You're Going To Be Elected

More interesting data from Gallup about what Democratic voters are looking for in a candidate. They replicate a common recent finding (below) that Democrats are more interested in a candidate who has the best chance of beating Trump than they are in a candidate who agrees with them on "almost all of the issues you care about". .Pretty good question wording and pretty lopsided result.
To those who are inclined to dismiss this an entirely standard result not indicating any particular pragmatism on the part of today's Democrats, the article offers hard data that, in fact, this time really is a bit different. In comparison to previous cycles, Democratic voters really are exceptionally concerned with beating the other side. Which makes a lot of sense considering who we gotta beat.

Monday, November 18, 2019

The Wisdom of Crowds (of Democrats)

Far be it from me to interrupt the ongoing weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth among many Democrats about the current conflicts within the party. But it's worth pointing out: some of these debates are actually winding up in the right place!
Perry Bacon Jr. at 538 has been following these internecine debates closely and has attempted a typology of the different kinds of Democrats fighting it out. In his most recent piece, he takes stock of which wings of the party seem to be faring the best on the various issues under discussion. On two key ones, health care and wealth/corporate power, it seems to me that the winners in his scrupulously fair assessment also correspond to the positions the Democrats would do well to advocate in the general election against the Evil One. So that's a good thing!
Health care:
"On M4A, I would argue that the more moderate wings have the upper hand for now. You can see that in the Buttigieg and Harris campaigns, in which both felt the need to shift their rhetoric away from M4A. Polling suggests Democratic voters have fairly positive views of M4A, but Democrats also really like more incremental approaches (like building on Obamacare or “Medicare for all who want it”). And full-fledged M4A is fairly controversial with the broader electorate.
If Sanders or Warren makes it to the general election, he or she will face a lot of pressure from the broader Democratic Party to soften his or her health care stands. In fact, Warren is already doing so, putting out a plan last week that essentially would put off a full push to put all Americans under Medicare for All until her third year in office."
Wealth/corporate power
"If the more progressive wings of the Democratic Party have lost ground on health care, I think they might be winning the intra-party debate over how Democrats should approach the wealthy and corporations....
We don’t have a lot of polling on say, whether voters want their candidates to attend big-dollar fundraisers. But a number of polls, like the Marist one above, suggest the wealth tax is fairly popular. And the broader concept that the wealthy have too much power is even more popular — basically unifying Democrats and even getting some Republican support. And politically it’s hard to really defend the wealthy. No candidate wants to say, “If I am president, I guarantee my big donors will have special access to me.”
So in terms of taking on wealthy individuals and big companies, the center-left is generally moving toward the left’s positions (at least publicly)."
Maybe Democrats aren't so dumb after all!
About this website
Back in March, before the 2020 Democratic primary contest really ramped up, I wrote an article about the divides in the Democratic Party at the level of activis…

Sunday, November 17, 2019

How to Win Presidential Elections

I suppose most people have already seen or heard about these remarks of the last successful Democratic Presidential nominee. But I wanted to enshrine them here on my FB page because they are so very, very right. I find it hard to believe that these dead-on takes on the real world of American politics have elicited violent dissent in some quarters but apparently they have. To which I say: he's just a winner telling you how to win. You got a problem with that?
"This is still a country that is less revolutionary than it is interested in improvement.. The average American doesn’t think we have to completely tear down the system and remake it...
We also have to be rooted in reality and the fact that voters, including the Democratic voters and certainly persuadable independents or even moderate Republicans are not driven by the same views that are reflected on certain, you know, left-leaning Twitter feeds. Or the activist wing of our party...
I think it is very important to all the candidates who are running, at every level, to pay some attention to where voters actually are, and how they think about their lives. And I don’t think we should be deluded into thinking that the resistance to certain approaches to things is simply because voters haven’t heard a bold enough proposal, and as soon as they hear a bold enough proposal that’s going to activate them. Because you know what? It turns out people are cautious, because they don’t have a margin for error."
--Barack Obama, President of these United States in happier times

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Electoral College Strategy in 2020

Sometimes the conventional wisdom is right. Views on general electoral college strategy for the Democrats in 2020 may be one of those times, so I was not unhappy to be credited with said conventional wisdom in Ron Brownstein most recent CNN column.
"One year before Election Day, the general consensus among Democratic strategists is that the shortest and surest path to recapturing the White House is by flipping the Rust Belt states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, which Trump won by a combined 80,000 votes last time.
Ruy Teixeira, a longtime Democratic election analyst and co-author of a recent Center for American Progress study on the changing demography of the 2020 electorate, spoke for many when he recently told me that "it does seem like the right path" to stress those three states, while investing in Arizona as a backup if Democrats can't recapture Wisconsin...
Looking toward the general election, Arizona appears likely to become a top-tier Democratic target -- if only, as Teixeira puts it, as "insurance" against the risk that Wisconsin in particular proves too difficult to dislodge from Trump. And any Democrat is certain to seriously contest Florida, whose elections are routinely decided by achingly narrow margins, and possibly North Carolina (though likely to a lesser extent than previously, given Trump's strong showing there in 2016.)
But it's much less certain Democrats next year will seriously invest in the emerging opportunities in Georgia, much less Texas. Both still lean Republican, and Texas, in particular, would demand enormous resources....
Over time, Democratic priorities are likely to tilt more toward the Sun Belt. In an era when Trump has steered the Republican message and agenda so heavily toward the racial anxieties and cultural preferences of older blue-collar whites, Democrats will inexorably face a greater threat in states across the industrial Midwest with large numbers of those voters. That will increase the pressure on Democrats to generate gains in congressional and presidential elections in the rapidly growing, younger and more racially diverse states across the Sun Belt.
Teixeira expresses a widespread party consensus when he says Sun Belt states such as Arizona, Georgia and Texas "are going to be brutally fought over in the 2020s."
But in 2020, that future appears likely to remain sublimated to a Democratic strategy that still views the big Rust Belt prizes as the race's central battlefield. And unless something significantly changes before the party begins voting in February, the most diverse Democratic coalition ever will be marching onto that battlefield behind the banner of another white presidential nominee."
That would seem to be the situation today though of course one must always remain flexible. It's also important to be patient. The Sunbelt's place in Democratic electoral college strategy is likely to grow over time but not all states will arrive at once.
About this website
A diversity paradox looms over the Democrats' hopes of recapturing the White House in 2020.

The Democrats Are Moving Left. Will America Follow?

This is the prompt the Washington Post magazine put to thirty-two (count 'em, 32!) assorted "journalists, wonks, activists and politicians", including yours truly. (I guess I must be a "wonk"). The pieces are all online now and will be in the print edition of the magazine on Sunday.
They are all, by design, quite short. I reproduce here my contribution in full. I'll comment on some of the others of interest in the next few days.
"Is the country moving to the left? Absolutely. Are the Democrats moving to the left? Absolutely. Could the Democrats move too far to the left? Absolutely.
Consider the evidence. According to political scientist James Stimson’s public policy mood index — which measures sentiment across a wide range of policies — Americans’ support for government action is now at its highest level since the 1960s. Thus the idea that the country is moving to the left is not wishful thinking on the part of liberal pundits and politicians.
Meanwhile, it can scarcely be disputed that the Democrats are moving to the left. Simply look at the range of measures under discussion in the primary debates. Even the leading “moderate” candidate, Joe Biden, is pushing policies substantially to the left of what Hillary Clinton ran on in 2016, including a public health insurance plan open to all Americans.
But it also cannot be disputed that Democrats could run too far to the left for even a country that is moving leftward. Take some of the policies that have been under discussion in the Democratic debates and pushed by Democratic activists:
1. Reparations for the descendants of slaves. This is massively unpopular. It would be more consistent with a country moving leftward to advocate needed social programs that happen to disproportionately benefit black Americans because of their income, education or location.
2. Decriminalizing the border or abolishing ICE. Neither of these measures is remotely consistent with the views of the public. It would make more sense for Democrats to advocate for reforming the enforcement agency plus a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants plus a humane immigration policy that still includes border security.
3. Medicare-for-all that eliminates private insurance. The polling could not be clearer: What the public really wants is Medicare-for-anyone or Medicare-for-all-who-want-it. This is embodied in the DeLauro-Schakowsky Medicare for America bill, as well as in the positions of some of the more moderate Democratic candidates.
4. A Green New Deal that commits to 100 percent renewable energy within 10 years. The public is not on board with anything quite so ambitious, but there is significant support for a Green New Deal that would focus on jobs, infrastructure and research.
In my view, these are the “four don’ts” of the 2020 campaign. Avoiding these are the key to Democrats moving smoothly to the left along with the country as a whole."
About this website
We asked dozens of journalists, wonks, activists and politicians to write short pieces about the state of the Democratic Party — and what it means for 2020.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Thinking about Electability

Nate Cohn continues to milk the Times' battleground surveys for more insights. Of course, it's just one set of surveys and I do hope that other polling operations start running similar analyses as a check on Cohn's findings. But Cohn's findings are still interesting and worth discussing, with that proviso.
Today's Cohn article concerned "Five Polling Results That May Change the Way You Think about Electability". My take on each of the five.
1. Joe Biden has no special strength with white voters without a college degree.
Well, it depends on how you look at it. It's true that Sanders tends to run pretty close to Biden among this demographic in swing Midwestern states, with Warren lagging a bit behind both of them. But Cohn's point seemed to be that Biden was running no better than Clinton did in 2016 among these voters. However, Biden's Times survey-based average of a 17 point deficit in the three states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin is actually significantly better than the States of Change estimate for Clinton's deficit in those three states (23 points) in the actual election. So perhaps not quite fair to dismiss Biden's potential appeal to these voters.
2. Elizabeth Warren’s problem isn’t the white working class.
It's more true to say she has several problems--not just among the white working class but but in some educated areas as well and among nonwhites generally.
3. There is not much difference between a strategy based on turnout and persuasion.
The idea there's a big tradeoff between turnout and persuasion and you really need to choose between the two has never seemed right to me. Cohn agrees, it is quite possible to do both.
4. The president can keep pace in a higher-turnout election.
I've written about this. I think Cohn is on solid ground here; the data--and just his own data--support this proposition.
5. The Sun Belt opportunity is real, but it is hard to see it as a safe choice.
I agree; the Sun Belt opportunity is indeed real but in this universe at least it cannot be substituted for the Rust Belt path. That would be quite risky. But the Sun Belt path is certainly an essential supplement to Democrats' efforts in the north.
For more on electability, see Perry Bacon, Jr.'s useful discussion of the term and how it's being used on 538.
About this website
Our battleground surveys had some outcomes that upended the conventional wisdom.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Could the 2020 Election Be a Blowout?

I personally find that hard to believe. Yet if one believes in the wonder-working powers of Presidential disapproval--which is eminently reasonable--one can make a case. Gregory Kroger looks at the latest Morning Consult state by state approval ratings and notes just how much difficulty Trump is in (as far as I can tell the Morning Consult approval ratings are pretty similar to other sources of state by state approval ratings).
"[W]hat if the 2020 election outcome does not depend on the same swing states as 2016? Yesterday Morning Consult released its state-by-state poll of Trump's job approval/disapproval. The write-up emphasizes the limited effect of the House's impeachment inquiry so far, but the actual data tell a more interesting story. Based on much larger samples per state, Trump has a negative net approval rating (approval - disapproval) in 34 of 51 states (plus DC). This includes "red" states like Alaska, Georgia, Montana, and Utah.
Together, these 34 states (and DC!) total 391 Electoral College votes. If the 2020 election followed this pattern, it would be the largest Electoral College landslide since 1988.
Of course, there are huge caveats.
* It is a year until the election. During the Trump presidency that equates to about 1,000 news cycles. A lot can change.
* Current job approval ratings are he same as voter preferences at the end of a primary election season, convention, and general election. But, then again, neither are head-to-head matchups in November 2019. Some disapproving voters will probably drift back to their party affiliations (looking at you, Utah) but it is plausible that most of the voters who disapprove of Trump will end up supporting the Democratic candidate."
Trump disapproval; there is nothing more important. That is why I have repeatedly said that the top three things the Democratic nominee must do in the 2020 general election are:
1. Convert Trump disapproval into Democratic votes.
2. Convert Trump disapproval into Democratic votes.
3. Convert Trump disapproval into Democratic votes
That's assuming Trump disapproval ratings remain high. Obama in the year prior to his re-election reduced his disapproval ratings dramatically. I suppose it's possible Trump will pull off the same trick. But I'm not seeing any signs of it.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

More on the Virginia Story

Good Washington Post article discussing the shifts in Virginia, with some quotes from yours truly.
"A GOP candidate hasn’t won statewide office in Virginia since 2009. On Tuesday, Democrats gained majorities in both houses of the General Assembly for the first time in a generation; the House of Delegates swung from a 66-34 Republican edge in 2017 to a 55-45 Democratic advantage for next year’s session.
In presidential elections, Virginia has moved so swiftly to the left in recent contests that it barely paused to be a swing state.
“This is the nightmare scenario for a lot of people in the Republican Party,” said Ruy Teixeira, a demographer at the liberal Center for American Progress. “Virginia is an example of a possible future for some of the states that are now part of the Republican coalition.”
Virginia now stands as a fearful avatar for Republicans of what the nation’s unrelenting demographic and cultural changes mean for the party, as the moderate-to-liberal urban and suburban areas grow and more conservative rural areas lose ground. Similar shifts are starting to hit such states as North Carolina, Arizona, Georgia and Texas, as minority populations increase and white college-educated voters continue to turn away from the Republican brand."
About this website
Virginia’s growth has pulled it to the left, a metamorphosis that is extending to other states that have been part of the Republican coalition.