Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Possible Futures of the Post-Trump Republican Party

If Trump loses this election, as seems increasingly likely, what is next for the Grand Old Party? If you're to read one article about this question, I do believe the best currently available is Nicholas Lemann's in the latest issue of the New Yorker. The first part of the article is a very nice summary of the steps that took the Republican party from its Chamber of Commerce pro-business roots to the fusion of business interests, nativism and militarism promoted by William F. Buckley, Jr. to the triumph of the fusionist approach with Ronald Reagan to its dissolution with the astonishing takeover of the party by Donald Trump.
Given the current state of the party, Lemann outlines three possible futures for a post-Republican party that will vie for dominance: Remnant, Restoration and Reversal.
Remnant: Trumpism without Trump; making his formula work with a different leader
Restoration: Conventional, norm-respecting Republicans take back control, updating the fusionist formula with a bit more populism and bit more social liberalism
Reversal: The Republicans become the tribune of the working middle class against a Democratic party in thrall to big economic interests and educated elites more interested in extreme social liberalism and pet causes than the lives of ordinary Americans.
Of the three, I guess I'd bet on Remnant for now. The party just seems too dominated by Trump's approach, particularly at the grassroots, to quickly pivot to the status quo ante--Restoration--because of an election loss, even a big one. The rot is too deep, as, for example, the Never Trumpers at the Bulwark argue convincingly. And the Reversal scenario, while an interesting idea, with some serious intellectuals behind it, seems fanciful given the still-huge influence of big and very conservative economic interests, in the party, whose libertarian economic philosophy seems quite at adds with helping the working class.
It will be very interesting to see how all this shakes out.

Monday, October 26, 2020

What, If Anything, Can We Infer from Early Voting?

To tell the truth, not much. Michael McDonald of the US Elections Project believes there is real signal there about ultimate turnout in the election, which he believes will be quite high. Fair enough.
I am less enthusiastic about various analyses that infer a particularly good Democratic election from the heavy Democratic lean of a lot of the early vote. It may indeed by a particularly good Democratic election--in fact, I think that's quite likely--but the early vote patterns aren't really a clear indicator of this. Read Sean Trende's piece on RealClearPolitics for the basic reasons why you should be skeptical.
"It’s that most wonderful time of year. After endless speculation, analysis, and hedging, we are tantalizingly close to having actual new election data to work with. Given this, it is a natural temptation for analysts to gravitate toward the one piece of hard data that we have in our possession: early voting numbers. Take, for example, this piece from Politico, claiming that the Democrats’ massive lead in early voting is a “warning flare.”
I have given my response on this matter before: Don’t try to divine election results from early voting returns. I made this point in 2016, when people were making the exact same arguments about Democrats’ chances off of similar data."
Early Vote Analysis for Sunday, Oct. 25

What Will Turnout Be in the 2020 Election?

Echelon Insights has an estimate--to be precise, 157,408,480! That's quite a high level, working out to be about 65.8 percent of the Voting Eligible Population (VEP), which is a higher turnout rate than 2008 and an increase of about 18.6 million voters over 2016.
Is this a plausible estimate? I've looked at their methodology and it's quite respectable. What we're looking for here is not them hitting turnout on the nose--the precise estimate is offered a bit tongue in cheek I think--but being in the right neighborhood. In that sense, I think it is a plausible estimate.
So, potentially a good result for democracy. But what about for Joe Biden? This is harder to suss out. One might assume that higher turnout is generally good for the Democrats though of course that really depends on the distribution of voters who do show in larger numbers.
The Echelon Insights turnout model does provide some broad bush answers on distribution. It indicates that nonwhites should be 2 points higher as a share of voters, presumably good news for Biden. But, in Patrick Ruffini's article on Medium, he points out some good news for Trump: an estimated 42.9 percent of voters should be white noncollege, Trump's best demographic group. He notes that this figure is higher than the figure many pollsters are assuming and is also higher than estimates generated by the States of Change project. (Ruffini carefully explains the reasons for this divergence in his article.)
But, based on figures provided to me by Ruffini, there is also bad news for Trump about his good news. Compared with their analogous 2016 figures, their 43 percent estimate for white noncollege in 2020 would represent a 3 point drop in vote share from the previous election. So that's not so good for Team Red.
So, stay tuned. A lot of moving parts here!

Sunday, October 25, 2020

The White Noncollege Shift to Biden by Age

I have frequently noted here the large scale and political significance of the white noncollege shift toward Biden relative to Trump's performance in 2016. It's an interesting question what parts of the white noncollege voting pool are responsible for this shift. One way to look at it is by age--is it younger or older white noncollege voters who are driving this shift?

I looked at this using the UCLA + Democracy Fund Nationscape survey data (which includes about 1800 likely white noncollege voters per week) since September 1 and comparing the white noncollege Trump-Biden vote by age to the Trump-Clinton white noncollege by age split from 2016, as estimated by the States of Change project.
What I found is quite eye-opening. At least by this comparison, the shifts we are seeing are by no means uniform across the white noncollege population.. Older white noncollege voters, especially seniors, are heavily driving the shift, while the shifts among younger white noncollege voters are much more modest. Here are the shifts by four age categories:
white noncollege 18-29: +6 toward Biden
white noncollege 30-44: +3 toward Biden
white noncollege 45-64: +19 toward Biden
white noncollege 65+: +32 toward Biden

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Where Have All the White Noncollege Voters Gone--Long Time Passing

Can Trump ride the declining white noncollege demographic to one more victory? We'll soon find out. But it's a heavy lift and it's getting heavier by the year for the GOP. Ford Fessenden and Lazaro Gamio provide the details in a New York Times analysis, which bears some resemblance to work I myself have done in the past.
“For his entire term, Trump has made very few attempts to reach out and broaden his coalition,” said Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. “He has been trying to expand the Trump base that casts ballots, and they could substitute for the diminishing group of blue-collar whites.”
In some key states including Pennsylvania and Florida, new Republican voter registrations have outnumbered new Democratic ones.
“The combination of the president’s personality and style combined with the demographic challenges leaves very little margin for error,” said Ken Spain, a Republican strategist. “Increasing registration while juicing turnout is his only play at this stage. It would mean defying the polls again.”
But Mr. Trump has appeared to generate a countervailing enthusiasm among both educated white voters and minority voters. The turnout of both groups spiked in 2018 as well.
The result was the 2018 blue wave in which the Democrats took over the House of Representatives.
“You had a heroic performance in these declining groups in 2016,” said Ruy Teixeira, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, referring to the Trump base.
In 2018, other groups closed that enthusiasm gap. If that happens again, Mr. Trump’s advantage diminishes. “Without replicating the relative turnout advantage he had in 2016, what has he got?” Mr. Teixeira said. “He has a sinking demographic ship, and he may go down with it.”...
If Mr. Trump is to be successful turning out new voters, there are plenty in swing states, which remain bastions of the non-college-educated white vote. But most of these states have also been undergoing the same changes in the electorate as the country as a whole.
And compared with Mr. Trump’s tiny 2016 margins in some of these states, the demographic changes since then are a tsunami, especially in critical states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan.....
The changes in demographics are driven largely by aging: The non-college-educated white cohort is older and steadily declining as its members die. The Biden coalition is younger and aging into the electorate.....
Beyond 2020, these trends foreshadow further strengthening of both minority and college-educated white cohorts at the expense of white voters without college degrees.
“Over time these underlying shifts are really quite potent,” Mr. Teixeira said, “and would suggest that just getting rid of Trump may not be enough for the Republicans to right the ship.”

Friday, October 23, 2020

Blue Metros, Red States: The Shifting Urban-Rural Divide in America's Swing States

This is a great new book just out from Brookings. I strongly recommend it. Here's their description:
"Democratic-leaning urban areas in states that otherwise lean Republican is an increasingly important phenomenon in American politics, one that will help shape elections and policy for decades to come. Blue Metros, Red States explores this phenomenon by analyzing demographic trends, voting patterns, economic data, and social characteristics of twenty-seven major metropolitan areas in thirteen swing states that will ultimately decide who is elected president and the party that controls each chamber of Congress.
The book’s key finding is a sharp split between different types of suburbs in swing states. Close-in suburbs that support denser mixed use projects and transit such as light rail mostly vote for Democrats. More distant suburbs that feature mainly large-lot, single-family detached houses and lack mass transit often vote for Republicans. The book locates the red/blue dividing line and assesses the electoral state of play in every swing state. This red/blue political line is rapidly shifting, however, as suburbs urbanize and grow more demographically diverse. Blue Metros, Red States is especially timely as the 2020 elections draw near."
In fact, I liked it so much I wrote the foreword to the book! Here it is but I do recommend you buy the book. It's invaluable.
"The 2020 election is shaping up to be hugely consequential, with a wide range of states in play between the two parties. I will be keeping a copy of Blue Metros, Red States: The Shifting Urban-Rural Divide in America’s Swing States close at hand as I follow all the action and try to make sense of it—both in terms of gaming out the election itself and thinking about what the results might tell us about America’s political future.
This is because David F. Damore, Robert E. Lang and Karen A. Donelson, the principal authors of the volume, with additional contributions from William E. Brown, Jr., John J. Hudak and Molly E. Reynolds, provide a depth and quality of information about the 13 swing states they cover that you literally cannot find anywhere else.
Let me enumerate some of the unique qualities of this volume. First, the theme of the volume—that swing states’ overall political trends cannot be understood without considering the interplay between large (million plus) blue and blue-trending metros and the less dense, redder parts of these states—is spot on. You can’t understand Arizona without understanding the Tucson and, particularly, the Phoenix metros; Colorado without Denver; North Carolina without Charlotte and Raleigh, Georgia without Atlanta and so on. The push and pull between these metros and the outlying parts of their states is the big political story in election after election.
But the analysis of individual states in this volume further embeds the story of the million plus metros into a regional analysis of every state (with regions clearly delineated on maps). Each region has a distinct political identity and those identities help unpack political trends in a given state. Speaking as someone who has conducted some regional analyses of swing states, I find the authors’ regional designations uniformly plausible and helpful.
The coverage of individual states also benefits from a uniform set of tables for every state. One table compares the demographics of the state as a whole with the demographics of the million plus metros within the state. This allows you to see not only how nonwhites might be concentrated in the large metros but also how much diversity within diversity—a key theme of the volume—there is among the nonwhite population, which turns out to have significant political implications. Another table shows the results of statewide elections 2012-2018, again comparing the state as a whole to the million plus metros, and another presents the party affiliation of the state’s governor and the partisan composition of the state’s legislative bodies and Senate and House representation. These at-a-glance tables are enormously helpful and by themselves are worth the price of admission as reference material.
Governance structures are not neglected either. Both the relative fragmentation and local autonomy of decision-making within million plus metros is examined, as well as the extent to which large metros are typically disadvantaged in state politics and policy-making. The latter dynamic explains a great deal of currently salient political conflict within these states.
Finally, the writeup for each state includes a deep dive into the state’s culture and demographic evolution via interviews with an expert or experts on that state. This provides another lens on a state’s recent political trends, situating them in a rich historical contest.
The chapter authors also synthesize all the information about a given state and provide what they term the “state of play” for the state and suggest some possible outcomes going forward. I find these assessments judicious and insightful, based both on the data the authors provide and previous analyses I have conducted of these states’ politics. It will be interesting to see the outcomes of the coming election and how they may have been foreshadowed by the analyses in this book. I will not be surprised if many of them are quite prescient.
As this sketch makes clear, the coverage of each state in this volume constitutes a mini-handbook about the state and its politics. I cannot think of a better, more accessible way to anchor one’s understanding of the political situation within a swing state of interest than to consult the appropriate chapter in this book. It’s that good."
Image may contain: text that says 'BLUE METROS RED The Shifting STATES Urban Rural Divide 0 America's Swing States DAVID F. DAMORE ROBERTE LANG KAREN L CANIELSEN'

The GOP's Coming Generational Crackup

A few days ago, I flagged the new States of Change Report on America's Electoral Future: The Coming Generational Transformation. Ron Brownstein has done an extensive article taking off from the report's findings to examine their political implications in more detail than we could in the report. I recommend it to you (though the article's title "The GOP's Demographic Doom" is definitely stronger than I'm comfortable with).
"In 2020, for the first time, Millennials and Gen Z (which comprise young adults born in 1981 or later) will equal Baby Boomers and prior generations (older adults born in 1964 or earlier) as a share of all Americans eligible to vote, according to a new study from the nonpartisan States of Change project. Because older voters typically turn out at higher rates than younger ones, the study forecasts that those earlier generations will still cast more ballots next month, by a margin of 43 percent to 32 percent. But in 2024, the two younger generations are expected to equal the older ones as a share of actual voters on Election Day. And by 2028, Millennials and Gen Z will dwarf the older generations as a share of both eligible and actual voters. That will be true not only nationally, but in all the crucial battleground states, according to previously unreleased projections provided to me by States of Change.
Given that the younger generations align much more closely with Democratic ideological views on almost all policy questions, this shift underscores the stakes in the generational roulette Trump has played by defining the GOP so narrowly around the priorities and preferences of his core groups: older, nonurban, non-college-educated, and evangelical white people. If Democrats can not only express the values of younger Americans, but also advance their material interests, they will have a substantial advantage in building electoral majorities through the decade ahead, says Ruy Teixeira, a veteran Democratic election analyst and co-founder of the States of Change project, which is a joint research collaboration between three liberal-leaning groups and the centrist Bipartisan Policy Center.
“The key issue is: What do they do in terms of political economy? What do they do in terms of enabling Millennials and Gen Z to make their way in life [on] the overall bread-and-butter stuff of housing, health care, economic mobility?” he told me. “You can lock these people in. This is literally the future of American politics.”...
States of Change anticipates that Millennials will actually plateau at about one-fourth of both eligible and actual voters between now and 2036. The biggest change to the electorate will be the explosive growth of Gen Z, which will increase from a projected 8 percent of actual voters this year to 29 percent in 2036. That year, the two generations combined will comprise a clear 55 percent majority of all voters. As soon as 2028, States of Change expects them to outvote the Boomers and even older generations by a double-digit margin.
Strikingly, this transition will be as powerful in the older, mostly white states of the Rust Belt as it will be in the younger, more diverse, and rapidly growing Sun Belt states. According to the previously unpublished States of Change projections, by 2028, the giant younger generations will comprise at least 40 percent of actual voters not only in Colorado, Georgia, Texas, and Arizona, but also in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Ohio, and Iowa.
That’s a worrisome trend for Republicans. In another study by Pew, analysts concluded that “similar to Millennials, Gen Zers are progressive and pro-government, most see the country’s growing racial and ethnic diversity as a good thing, and they’re less likely than older generations to see the United States as superior to other nations.” All of that clangs against the agenda Trump has stamped on the GOP, of open resistance to racial and cultural change.
But while this generational transition presents obvious opportunities for Democrats, it also creates complications. Because Democrats are winning most young people, the disruption will rumble through their party first: States of Change projects that Millennials and Gen Z will provide nearly half of all Democratic votes by as soon as 2028....
Trump’s belligerent politics has created an opportunity for Democrats to cement a lasting generational advantage not seen perhaps since Franklin Roosevelt built his sturdy New Deal coalition during the Depression. But the American Values Survey also contains a clear warning: Fully three-fifths of adults younger than 30 and half of those ages 30 to 49 describe their financial situation as precarious. As Teixeira noted to me, identifying with the cultural values of younger Americans will only take Democrats so far if they can’t also advance their economic interests."
If Democrats win the White House in November and can put Millennials and Gen Z on a better financial trajectory, “they will have an incredible opportunity” to solidify a durable majority electoral coalition, Teixeira said. “But if you [mess] it up, you open so many doors for the Republicans to come back and loosen your hold on these generations.”
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Shortest Distance Between Point A and Point B Is the Rustbelt

Ron Brownstein brings his epic three part series on swing regions in the 2020 election to an end this week with his extensive piece on the Rustbelt. (I link below to his two earlier article on the Southeast and the Southwest, as well as this one.) Brownstein's basic take, backed up with a ton of granular demographic and voting data:
"Two weeks before Election Day, Joe Biden appears well-positioned to finish the job that Democrats above all hired him to do: Rebuild the party's blue wall in the Rust Belt.
Biden's principal asset in the 2020 Democratic primaries was the widespread sense among party voters that he was best qualified among the contenders to win back the defecting White voters, especially those without college degrees, who allowed Donald Trump to capture Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania in 2016 -- and with them the presidency.
Now, a wide array of public polls consistently shows Biden leading in all three states, defending Minnesota (which Trump has targeted) and running almost step for step with the President in Ohio and Iowa, two Rust Belt states Trump won more easily last time. With remarkable consistency across these states, polls show Biden benefiting from similar dynamics, as he attracts a solid majority of around 55% or more of college-educated White voters; a preponderant majority of around four-fifths of African Americans; and about two-fifths of Whites without college degrees, a number, that while modest, represents a clear improvement over Hillary Clinton's anemic showing with them in 2016.
If Biden holds all of the 20 states Clinton won in 2016 and regains Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, he will win -- whether or not he captures any of his targets across the Sun Belt, or for that matter, Ohio or Iowa."
I will somewhat immodestly note here the resemblance to my theory of the case on a Democratic victory in 2020, as outlined in many of my posts and articles in the last year or so.
Harry Enten adds additional confirmation, both of the current situation and my longstanding assessment of the road forward for Democrats.
"The live interview national polls taken since the first debate have Trump winning White voters without a college degree by about 17 points nationally. That may seem like a big lead, but Trump led among that group by 30 points in the final pre-election polls in 2016.
Trump's declining support among White voters without a college degree is bigger than his declining support overall and has been consistent throughout this cycle. Meanwhile, Biden's been at best matching and usually underperforming Clinton among Black and Hispanic voters, who are a far bigger factor in the Sun Belt than Great Lakes.
Additionally, Biden's been doing about 10 points better among White voters overall and nearly 20 points better among White women than Clinton did. All of these trends manifest more greatly in the Great Lakes than Sun Belt.
Importantly, you'll note that the comparison here controls for the Great Lake poll misses in 2016. We're focusing on the national polls, which were largely accurate in 2016. Also, we're doing an apples-to-apples comparison between pre-election polls then and now.
And if you still don't believe the polls, just look at the results in 2018 and the actions of the Biden campaign. House Democrats did significantly better in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin than in Arizona, Florida and North Carolina. They also won the governorship and Senate races in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in 2018.
There's a reason why Biden based his campaign in Philadelphia and has been outspending Trump by factors of greater than 2:1 in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
For Trump to win, he'll probably need to knock down the big blue wall again. If he can't, Biden's probably the next president.