NDN Blog

Biden's mandate, the GA run-offs, the youth vote and more

This essay was originally published on Monday, November 9th.

Biden’s mandate– When all is said and done, President-Elect Biden will likely have won this historic race by 5 points, and hit at least 306 Electoral College votes, the same amount Donald Trump has been claiming is landslide territory these past 4 years.  It was a hard fought and bruising campaign, and we lift our hats this morning to the entire Biden-Harris campaign, particularly its manager, Jen O’Malley Dillon. 

It is great to see the Biden-Harris transition getting off to such a sure-footed start this morning. It is a sign of just how experienced this team is going to be.  In a statement this morning, Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris laid out their four initial priorities:  “Joe Biden and I are ready to get COVID-19 under control. We’re ready to rebuild our economy. We’re ready to meet the challenges of the climate crisis. We’re ready to act to address systemic racism. And we’re ready to fight for you.”  A new day indeed. 

In a new Letras Libres magazine article (in English and Spanish), Simon offers his thoughts on what we might see from the new Administration.  Biden’s convincing win gives him a clear mandate to move on his ambitious agenda, as does the remarkable fact that in all but one national election over the past 28 years Democrats have won more votes than the Republicans. This success is a reminder that the Democratic Party has been perhaps the most successful center-left political party in the developed world in recent decades – something that will become even more important as Joe Biden and Kamala Harris go back out and try to rebuild our frayed alliances and improve our degraded standing in the world. 

And finally, NDN wants to acknowledge what a miracle this election was.  The challenges election administrators and volunteers faced across the country were extraordinary.  And yet it has all come off without major incident, in every state, early vote/day of vote/vote by mail, and with record numbers voting.  That we were able to pull off this election despite the challenges was in of itself an affirmation of the gritty, spirited, all in this together America we know is still there, and one we hope will emerge again in the coming months.  

The GA run-offs– Our advice to anyone looking at these Georgia races is to practice a bit of humility.  We really have no idea what is going to happen.  Whether Rs will show up without Trump on the ballot (they didn’t in 2017-2018-2019); what the Trump loss will do to GOP turnout; can Democrats replicate election day turnout in run-offs, something they have struggled to do; what it means for the Democratic political leadership in GA now that they’ve turned the state purple; what Biden and Harris campaigning will do, etc.  

These two races are about as high stakes as it gets, and our expectation that like 2020 itself they will both go down to the wire.  

The youth vote comes through for Democrats– We’ve been writing quite a bit of late about the youth vote and early data suggests that young people (18-29) voted at some of the highest levels we’ve seen in recent decades, and according to the early Exit Polls went for Biden 62-35 (+27), up from 55-36 (+19) for Clinton four years ago.  18-24 year olds went 67-29 (+38), up from 56-34% (+22) four years ago. 

For more on the youth vote in the 2020 election check out the remarkably in-depth early analysis from CIRCLE at Tisch College, Tufts University.  

We will be offering a more in-depth look at this historic election in the coming weeks – stay tuned. 

Analysis: Biden Leads, Early Vote Surge, Young People Voting, GOP Erosion in SW

NDN Pre/Post Election Briefings – We’ve added 3 new election briefings – today at 2pm ET, and post-election briefings the next 2 Wednesdays.  You can register here for any one of them. 

If you can’t make today’s briefing, you can watch our Wednesday briefing here.  It’s about 25 minutes long and full of lively charts, graphs and good news for Democrats. 

2020 Top Lines– 538’s averages a few days out: 

                  Trump Job Approval    - 44.4% Approve, 52.4% Disapprove (8 pts)

                  POTUS Head to Head   - 52% Biden 43.2% Trump (8.8 pts)

                  Congressional Generic – 49.8% Democrat 41.7% Republican (7.1 pts)

In the most recent COVID Navigator tracking poll, Trump’s job approval on COVID was 41%, health care 41%, protests/unrest 39%, the economy only 47%. In a new Navigator deep dive on the protests/unrest, 53% say the President made things worse, only 14% (!!!) say he made things better; only 38% of the US oppose the protests; and only 38% blame the Democrats while 50% blame the President for the unrest. 

To make the race competitive the President has to get to at least 48.5% of the vote. A few days out he’s in the low 40s, even high 30s on almost every measure; has never been above 46% in the polling averages in either Presidential election; and has only been at 48% plus job approval for two days. In the next few days he has to get to a place of approval and support he’s never reached not for one day in the past 5 years; Biden’s hold on MI, MN, PA, WI appears unshakeable; Trump is not leading in a single battleground state outside of margin of error, and is nowhere near 50 in any of them; he and the GOP are being badly outspent; heavy early vote will allow Dems to expand their GOTV targets to lower propensity voters and grow their vote; all COVID measures are rising, rapidly; and the vast early vote just makes it harder for any election treachery by the President and his Attorney General.  In others words, things look good for Biden – and we agree with the campaign’s end game push to expand the electoral map.  It is what makes sense, now, today.  

The Senate looks poised to flip.  AZ, CO and ME appear to be firmly in the Democratic camp; IA and NC are leaning Democrat; and Dems are competitive in and could win any of AK, GA (2), KS, MT, SC. If things break right Dems could get up to 53-54 in the Senate – will be lots of drama here on Election Night.  

The Cook Report’s Dave Wasserman projects the House Democrats gain 5 to 15 seats this year, adding to their considerable majority.  

The Magic of This’s Year’s Explosion of Early Voting– The enormity of the early vote this year makes it feel like something has forever changed in our politics. We will be offering more thoughts on what it all means in the coming days, but in the meantime review our analysis which explains why this early vote makes it harder for the President or others to manipulate the election results; and this thoughtful piece by the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, which includes this passage: 

“We’ve never had an election like this,” Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg told me. “It’s changing the way we do voter contact. When more people vote early, it allows campaigns to target more low-propensity voters that might not otherwise have been targeted."

“This will almost certainly mean that turnout in this election will be at the upper end of what’s possible,” Rosenberg continued.

Young Voters Are Turning Out– In what could be an ominous development for the GOP, the share of young voters voting in this year’s early vote is 20-25% higher than it was 4 years ago.  Given how much bigger the early vote has been many believed the younger voters, who prefer Biden by 20-40 points, would lag a bit in their share of the early vote.  But that hasn’t happened, and as many polls predicted, young voters appear to be highly motivated and turning out in big numbers. 

See this recent NDN analysis on the youth vote; this live tracker of how young people are performing in the early vote put together by NDN and our friends at Clean and Prosperous America; and these stories in PoliticoUS News and the Washington Post.  The Post story contains this passage:  

“It’s the physical and economic dislocation of covid. It was the protests after George Floyd. It’s climate change and the fires we’ve seen. It’s the aftermath of all the good work that was done after Parkland by the gun-safety movement,” said Simon Rosenberg, president of the liberal think tank NDN, who has been tracking youth turnout.

“All of these things, together with a visceral distrust of the president, has created a perfect storm for what could be historic levels of youth turnout this year.”

The GOP’s Erosion in Heavily Mexican American Parts of the US Accelerates –In 2004 George W. Bush won AZ, CO, NM, NV and TX.  In 2020, CO, NM, NV are no longer competitive; AZ is leaning Dem; and Texas is a true toss up.  In addition Democrats have made significant gains in these states down ballot, and even pulled 7 additional House seats from CA in 2018.  The gains Democrats have made in this region of the country is arguably the most meaningful geographic change we’ve seen in US politics in recent years, and one not yet adequately understood.   Here’s our take on this big change from a few months back. 

A new US News analysis does a good job at exploring how much Trump’s xenophobia and protectionism has hurt him in this region.  The piece quotes Simon: “While immigration may not be a top issue in the current debate, it has played a major role in the election – Trump's extremism on the issue has helped push the heavily Mexican American parts of the country even further away from the president and his party, making his Electoral College map far harder, and the Senate far more likely to flip.”

Election Treachery- We like many have become dismayed at the systemic effort by Trump and his right wing allies (including Justice Kavanaugh and other judges) to make it harder for people to vote, and even changing the rules in key states days before the election.  That a major American political party is even thinking about trying to retroactively invalidate ballots legally cast at the time has to be one of the greatest betrayals of our democracy in all of American history; in a democracy, it just simply cannot be possible for a party, through raw power, to toss out legally cast votes that they don’t like – that, friends, is not a democracy any of our Founding Fathers would recognize.  

All of us need to be far louder what is happening here, while we all work to ensure that everyone’s vote is counted, regardless of the whimsy of a failed and ridiculous President. We’ve aggressively advocated (here, herehere) for a crisper narrative around all the President’s cheating – feel like we could use that today.  

Young Voter Turnout in Early Vote Way Up from 2016

This analysis was put together by NDN’s Simon Rosenberg and Bill McClain of the advocacy group Clean and Prosperous America. We will be providing updates of this data thru Election Day – do check back on both of our sites to get the latest on this important 2020 development. 

Young Voters Voting in Large Numbers, Youth Share of Early Vote up 31% Since 2016

In the past few months two respected analysts of youth civic engagement and voting, Tisch College/CIRCLE, and Harvard’s Institute of Politics predicted that, based on their polling of young voters, youth turnout could be very high this election, potentially matching the historic youth turnout in the 2008 elections, according to Clean & Prosperous America.

Early voting data available through the TargetEarly site is finding higher youth early voting rates than in either 2016 or 2018.  In their age breakouts, 18-29s, 30-39s, 40-49s are all voting at higher rates than in either of the last two elections, while voters over 50 are seeing their relative voting rates decline.  A breakout of some of this data is below. A new CIRCLE study has similar findings.

“If there was any question about whether young people were going to turn out in 2020, the early data suggests we have an answer – young people are highly motivated and are voting in very large numbers this year.  While things could change, all the data suggests we are on track to see very high youth turnout in this election, perhaps even record breaking,” said Simon Rosenberg, national political strategist and advisor to Clean & Prosperous America (CaPA).

“Given that Biden is winning about two thirds of young voters right now, a very large youth turnout will help Democrats win elections all across the country.  Indeed, it is increasingly possible that Biden could match Obama’s historic 2008 youth turnout rates and strong Democratic performance. It’s a major development in the 2020 election,” said Bill McClain, Research and Marketing Director, Clean & Prosperous America.

Selected 18-29-year-old performance at this point from TargetEarly: 

 

2016

2020

Share of early vote so far

National

7.0%

9.2%

(31% Increase)

Michigan

3.6%

7.9%

(120%)

Texas

6.6%

10.2%

(55%)

Minnesota

7.9%

10.8%

(37%)

Florida

5.2%

7.0%

(35%)

Wisconsin

3.9%

5.1%

(31%)

Georgia

7.5%

9.1%

(21%)

Arizona

7.3%

8.7%

(19%)

North Carolina

8.9%

10.3%

(16%)

Ohio

6.6%

7.6%

(15%)

Nevada

7.7%

8.7%

(13%)

Iowa

8.6%

8.4%

(-2%)

Pennsylvania

15.6%

9.5%

(-39%)

NOTE:  Data Current at 9:30am ET on 10/23/2020.  New Hampshire is not listed because no 2016 data exists for comparison to 2020.  And while PA has seen its share of the youth vote decline this year, the raw vote has increased from 19,000 at this point in 2016 to 112,000 today.  It is a reminder of how remarkable it is we are seeing the youth vote share grow in all these states given how many more people are voting this time.  Nationally, and in many states, the youth vote is a larger slice of a much larger pie.

Analysis: There's A Whole Lotta Voting Going On!

Every week NDN publishes its Poll Roundup, a deep dive into recent polling and political trends. You can sign up to receive it each week and feel free to review previous editions too. NDN is also now holding in depth discussions about the 2020 Election every Wednesday at 2pm ET – join us and feel free to invite others too. This piece was updated on Friday morning, October 16th and was cited in Greg Sargent's smart new piece looking at all these people voting!

Polls have been telling us that interest in voting this year was at historic levels.  In a Tweet a few days ago election analyst Nate Silver noted that a new Gallup survey found one measure of voter enthusiasm among the highest it has ever recorded, slightly above late 2008 measures.  A recent Harvard/IOP study found vote intent among young voters to be significantly higher than 2016, and on par with the big youth turnout year of 2008. We know that 2018 was a very high turnout election, and all indications have been that this one will be too. 

And what we are seeing in the early days of the 2020 voting window is that turnout is very high indeed.   A new Washington Post story reports:

“With less than three weeks to go before Nov. 3, roughly 15 million Americans have already voted in the fall election, reflecting an extraordinary level of participation despite barriers erected by the coronavirus pandemic — and setting a trajectory that could result in the majority of voters casting ballots before Election Day for the first time in U.S. history.

In Georgia this week, voters waited as long as 11 hours to cast their ballots on the first day of early voting. In North Carolina, nearly 1 in 5 of roughly 500,000 who have returned mail ballots so far did not vote in the last presidential election. In Michigan, more than 1 million people — roughly one-fourth of total turnout in 2016 — have already voted.

The picture is so stark that election officials around the country are reporting record early turnout, much of it in person, meaning that more results could be available on election night than previously thought.

So far, much of the early voting appears to be driven by heightened enthusiasm among Democrats. Of the roughly 3.5 million voters who have cast ballots in six states that provide partisan breakdowns, registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by roughly 2 to 1, according to a Washington Post analysis of data in Florida, Iowa, Maine, Kentucky, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.”

So people are voting in big numbers, and about two thirds of those who’ve voted are Democrats. A new YouGov poll finds that 80% of Democrats (80%!) are planning on voting before Election Day.  Remarkable news indeed.  

To follow early voting tallies as they come in, we recommend following Professor Michael McDonald and his US Elections Project site, and Tom Bonior of TargetSmart and a site he and his team have put together.  

If you haven’t made your vote plan yet, be sure to do so by using the I Will Vote site, and be sure to vote early, perhaps on the very first day, however you choose to vote.  

Many states now allow you to track the status of your ballot if you have mailed it in or dropped it off.  I checked the status of my vote this morning here in DC, and found that it has been accepted - was really cool to see.  It is important to check the status of your absentee ballots for if anything has gone wrong you still have time to fix it and make sure your vote is counted.  

What This Big Early Vote Means for Election Night

This very heavy early Democratic vote is going to make it harder for the President to disrupt, contest or steal the election in at least four ways: 

1. Every day which goes on it becomes clearer our voting systems are working as intended, and that people are being able to have their say.  The process looks and feels legitimate, and it will just be harder to claim it has been corrupted somehow.   

2. Any planned Election Day disruption by the President or his “poll watchers” will have a far more limited impact as few Democrats will be voting on Election Day.  

3. In theory, fewer absentee ballots will be arriving after Election Day in those states which allow post-election counting to take place.  Trumpian efforts to disallow these late arriving and/or counted ballots will also have a far more limited impact if somehow successful.  

4. A majority of the important battleground states count their absentee and early votes before Election Day, and many release those tallies as soon as the polls close.  This means that on Election night big states like Florida and North Carolina will be starting the night off with potentially significant Biden leads.  While Trump is likely to make it close as the night goes on, he may never actually lead in states which Biden eventually wins and which count ahead. This will make any premature claim of victory by Trump on Election night much more challenging. 

This Washington Post article does a good job at breaking down how critical states count their absentee ballots.  Only 2 of the Presidential battleground states start counting their ballots on Election Day (though Michigan only starts counting the day before): 

Ballots proceeded upon receipt – AZ, CO, GA, MN, NC, NV (really good)

One week or more before Election Day – FL, KY, ME, OH, TX (good)

Less than a week before Election Day – IA, MT, MI, NH, SC (okay)

Processing starts on Election Day – AL, MS, PA, WI (ugh) 

We will have a good sense of where the Senate stands on Election Night as AK, AZ, CO, GA, KS, KY, ME, NC, TX should be complete or almost complete that night.  AL, IA, MS, MT, SC will likely come very late that night or a day or two after Election Day as their counting process starts later than these other states.  A New York Times look at all this does a very thorough job looking at how the counting will work in key Senate races.   

Based on what states can count ballots received after Election Day, when they begin counting their absentees and how close things may be it’s pretty clear we won’t know the outcome of AL, IA, PA, MI, OH, WI until after Election Day.  Though if Biden is winning in PA, MI and WI by the margins he currently holds it is unlikely that Trump will end the night with a decisive lead in any of these states – again making it far harder for him to prematurely declare himself the winner. 

One wonders whether the President's incessant attacks on the integrity of our voting system isn't a major cause of the high Democratic turnout we are seeing.  The issue of voting, and how people vote, has been a top issue for months now.  Folks have been talking about it, discussing their own vote plans with others.  It's been top of mind - and when early voting began, they were ready! 

Anyway, this early and enthusiastic vote is just great to see, and raises the likelihood we will know the winner on Election night.  

The President creates a huge COVID outbreak, does nothing to stop its spread

When we look back at the Trump era one of its great mysteries will be the President’s refusal to fight COVID.  Objectively he’s done more to combat an imagined terror threat than he has the very real and deadly threat of COVID.  It’s not easy to understand.  At some point in December or January, the President had to have received a briefing about what we do when a pandemic strikes.  It’s pretty simple, as we don’t have a lot of tools.  We have social distancing, masking, testing/tracing/isolation, travel bans, shut downs, therapeutics, vaccines.  The key as he was told was to move quickly, catch it early, prevent a wide spread that becomes hard to reverse.  Clear Presidential communication with the public about their role in preventing the spread is critical too. 

The President was informed that he had a tried and true set of tools he could use when we knew the virus was really here – and the story, incredibly, is that over all these months he has chosen to use none of them.  He has just let the virus ravage the country, while also working really hard to prevent other government leaders from setting up effective regimes in their own cities and states.  It is perhaps the worst governing disaster in American history.  We’ve experienced mass death and one of the worst economic collapses in our history.  Kids are missing school, workers aren’t working, businesses are shutting down for good, social isolation is doing perhaps irreparable harm to millions. Countless lies have been told, scientists undermined, medical quackery celebrated.  It has been, as Joe Biden has said, a dark period in our history.  

In August the President returned to campaigning.  He started holding rallies without social distancing and masks.  He has repeatedly broke state and local COVID protocols banning mass gatherings, and requiring local quarantine, masking and social distancing.  People returned to full time work at the White House without masks.  Reporting suggests that the testing regime around the President began to let up.  The President wanted a return to normal, and around him, at least, normal did return.  

So it was inevitable that once the President really started traveling and doing more intimate gatherings he and his team would get the virus.  And at some point, perhaps on Friday the 25thor Saturday the 26thof September the President got COVID, and so did lots of people around him.  RNC Chair McDaniel was with him on the 25thand now has COVID.  At least 10 people at the Sept 26thConey Barrett event have COVID, including people who returned home to states like CA, IN, NJ. At least 11 Ohio residents who worked on the Sept 29thdebate in Cleveland have COVID now.  At least 2 campaign staff involved in debate prep with the President have COVID.  Dozens of people who work in the White House alongside the President have COVID.  3 US Senators have COVID.  On Sept 30th, almost certainly infectious, the President spent the day in Minnesota – dozens of Republican elected officials and party leaders there are now isolating.  On Thursday, symptomatic and knowing by then he had been exposed, he went to his property in Bedminster, NJ and spent time with 225 people with no social distancing, no masking.  

Sometime that week – Monday? No later than Thursday morning – the White House learned COVID had spread to the inner sanctum around the President.  At that point, if the White House was concerned about stopping the potential spread of the virus their reckless behavior had caused, it needed to start a vigorous testing/tracing/isolation program.  The President and his team had come in contact with vast numbers of people that week, far more than another group in the US could have possibly come in contact with in such a short period of time.  The chance they could have spread the virus not just through the White House and DC, but other places like CA, IN, MN, NJ, OH and anywhere else people who had come for the Coney Barrett event, the debate, the Bedminster event had come in from was very high.  No precautions had been taken, common sense protocols were never followed.  It had been a week of Typhoid Donald with Air Force One and mass gatherings.  It was a dangerous moment. 

So what did Mark Meadows and Donald Trump do to stop the spread in all these places in those first critical 48 hours? Nothing.  They did nothing.  As of Monday morning officials in DC, MN, NJ and OH said the White House wasn’t working with them on contract tracing.  The White House said the President’s physician was overseeing a limited contact tracing effort, something Dr. Conley denied at the press conference yesterday. The President risked new infections by interacting with staff and Secret Service MASKLESS EVEN WITH COVID.   And every day we learn more people are infected but as there is no central system to track what’s happening so we don’t really know what’s happening.  Though if secondary and tertiary infections began mid last week, we could see a significant uptick in positives this week. 

Over the past 10 days the President not only didn’t protect the American people from COVID, he used his immense powers to actually spread the  virus widely – in a way no other American could - and has done nothing to help slow the spread he’s caused or treat those who have become ill.  Both the WaPo and the NYT Times have stories this morning about White House staff freaking out at the chaos and lack of concern for their safety. Prominent Trumpites who have been exposed – Pence, Meadows, Barr, Coney Barrett – are refusing to follow CDC guidelines and isolate.  The President exposed all sorts of people last night who worked on his video as he isn’t isolating and isn’t wearing a mask.  He has also revived his ridiculous narrative that fears of COVID are exaggerated, that all our precautions unnecessary.  

I don’t know what is going to happen to the President’s health but if in the next few days the virus spreads even more widely, as it may, due to their recklessness and inaction, I think the President will be finished.  He and his team are already responsible for the deaths of tens and thousands due to their inaction and negligence; if he closes the election reminding us of his unwillingness to do literally do ONE THING to protect us from COVID this could be a huge Biden blowout indeed.  

As the resident of a city which is now experiencing an outbreak due to super spreader events and crowded unsafe work conditions in a very busy and large office complex, I hope the DC govt gets together with MD and VA to forge a regional alliance to force the White House to turn on its contact tracing powers and help ensure the Coney Barrett outbreak doesn’t become something truly dangerous. And we end where we began – why in the world has the President continued to play down the threat of the virus, and why has he done nothing to fight it? It remains the most inexplicable – and deadly – chapter of this dark era.  

PS - In a David Nakamura Washington Post article from October 2nd, I addressed the White House's over-reliance on testing: :

“It’s not just Trump. It’s the entire senior team around the White House participating in this fiction that, ‘We can ignore it,’ ” said Simon Rosenberg, founder of the liberal think tank NDN. “They’re not in a bubble if they’re around other people and not wearing masks. The whole reliance [just] on testing was insane.”

Build Back Better/Reconstruir Mejor - Joe Biden's Historic Opportunity

In the fall of 2012 I wrote an essay warning about what I felt was becoming a serious, and worrisome, drift of the Republican Party into something which felt more reactionary than conservative for the influential Spanish language journal, Letras Libres

Today, they're publishing what in my mind is an "Afterward" to that piece, one where I lay out what Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and the Democrats can do to repair the damage the Republican Party's enthusiastic embrace of illiberalism and extremist politics has done to America, and more broadly, the West. 

You can read the essay in Spanish here on the Letras Libres site.  For English speakers, I offer an edited version of what I sent to the journal for translation below (and yes it was translated - I am not a Spanish speaker!). 

Reconstruir mejor: la oportunidad histórica de Joe Biden

Build Back Better – Joe Biden’s Historic Opportunity

If Joe Biden and Kamala Harris win the US election in November, they will inherit a country badly damaged by two concurrent failures – our response to COVID-19 and the breakdown and radicalization of one of its two major political parties. 

In a 2012 Letras Libres essay (English/Spanish) I warned that the Republican Party rather than re-inventing itself to meet the challenges of globalization and the post-Cold War era was fighting these changes, increasingly drifting into an anti-modern, reactionary force in American life. The results of the GOP’s ideological journey from Reagan to Trump have been disastrous for the United States.  At a geopolitical level America’s standing and influence in the world has never been lower.  Republican Presidents have ushered in three consecutive recessions and left the nation more indebted than any time since WWII.  COVID confused our current President, and his refusal to tackle the pandemic head on has done lasting harm to the American economy and the health of its people. A malevolent white supremacy has been revived, creating searing divisions in a very diverse society, making millions of immigrants feel unwelcome in their new home.  But the most consequential failure of the Republican Party in this era has been its allowance of Trump’s descent into a Putin-inspired illiberalism, at home and abroad.  For that endangers more than America – it endangers the centuries old, American-led effort to spread democracy across the world.

A President Biden would have an extraordinary opportunity to do what he calls “build back better” here in America, and around the world.  It would be wise for Biden to view this moment as the beginning of a new era, a generational long project to reset America and the world after a collective trauma.  Perhaps the most analogous moment in our history would be the years after World War II in which new institutions were established around a new vision for humankind.

What does “build back better” mean, in practical terms?  Here in the US it means defeating COVID, rebuilding our economy, tackling climate change and embracing a low carbon future, improving our health care system and preparing for future pandemics, modernizing our immigration system, reforming our criminal justice system and adopting smart gun safety laws, and renewing our own democracy.  In each of these efforts, adopting strategies to address accumulated racial and economic inequities will be of paramount importance – for in a now very demographically diverse America, the challenge of making “e pluribus unum” (from many one) after Trump may be Joe Biden’s greatest domestic challenge of all.

This agenda of course is very big, and will take many years, even perhaps many Administrations, to achieve.  It is perhaps best understood as a blueprint for a new generation of domestic politics here in the US, one yet without a name.  Implementing it all will become the life work of the three emerging American generations – Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z – who are now a majority of the US population, and it will require the new thinking, ingenuity and commitment they will undoubtedly bring.   

Globally, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and the Democrats should focus on three big tasks – defeating COVID and helping lead the rebuilding which follows; winning the fight against climate change; and renewing the global liberal order and fashioning a clear, steely counter to the rising illiberalism we see across the world today.

To be successful at the last two of these great global projects America will need to focus very intensely one the first one - conquering COVID and leading the rebuilding which follows.  This daunting global challenge will give the Biden Administration an un-paralleled opportunity to show the world who America is now, through deeds and determined leadership.  Despite the work which must be done at home, we cannot continue Trump’s isolationist turn, and should mount a truly significant effort to help fashion the post COVID world.  President Biden should consider appointing a team of very prominent Americans to lead this effort – Pete Buttigieg, Susan Rice, Cory Booker, Michelle and Barack Obama, Bill Gates, Laurie Garrett for example – and ensure that America be very present at every gathering, every discussion, and follow through with money and American ingenuity to ensure we come out the other side better than before.  Vice President Kamala Harris can also play a very important role in this critical work, as her life story, from a child of immigrants to the White House itself, is a reminder to the world that this can be a time once again of extraordinary possibility. 

The new President should also take great care in his appointment of Ambassadors, making the most important – UN, NATO, EU, China, Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Canada - have the weight of a domestic Cabinet position, and also draw from prominent Americans ready to sell our great country to the world again.  We are only get one shot at this moment after Trump, and we need to make it very clear that America is going to try really hard to once again play the role that has done so much good, for so many, for so long.

When WWII was coming to an end FDR forged a comprehensive plan to “build back better.”  It was based on the inspiring and universal principles found in the Four Freedoms – freedom from want and fear, freedom of speech and religion.  So simple, so powerful.  From these words came the post WWII global order, the building of institutions like the UN and the WTO, the ending of colonialism and the institutionalization of the fight against authoritarianism through the building of NATO and the prosecution of the Cold War.  We did big things, and did them over a long period of time. 

Of all the big things we have to do in the coming years there is one more – to honor and build on the work of FDR American leaders should forcefully denounce white supremacy in all of its forms.  We have to make clear that American, Western, liberal, Four Freedom values are universal values, values of all people everywhere, regardless of race, religion or country of origin.  They belong to all of us.  White supremacy is not just a malicious legacy belief system from our racist and colonial past, it’s also profoundly anti-modern; for who could, after seeing the advances and potential of the people all over the world over these past fifty years ever believe that any race or religion or culture was somehow not capable of extraordinary things, and the people of all nations not deserving of the opportunities and freedoms we cherish.  Trump’s white supremacy must be returned, aggressively, to the dustbin of history, where it belongs. 

If victorious this fall Joe Biden and the Democrats will have an historic opportunity to “build back better” here in the US, and abroad.  Let us hope they find the right mix of vigor and pragmatism that will allow them to meet the moment.  What happens to the party of Trump, if defeated, is far less clear.  Ideally, a reform movement would seize control, and help fashion a modern center-right party which repudiates Trump’s illiberalism.  But that is not a likely scenario in my opinion; meaning that America and the world may have Trumpism to reckon with for many years to come. 

Trump Is On An Electoral Crime Spree

This essay was originally published by GEN on September 9, 2020.

Trump Is On An Electoral Crime Spree

Cash-strapped and facing lagging polling numbers, President Trump is cheating — knowingly breaking the norms, rules, and laws of our political system — to remain in power. It’s not as if we shouldn’t have seen this coming: When the Senate failed to remove Trump for threatening to withhold federal aid from Ukraine unless it investigated Joe Biden and its — not Russia’s — role in the 2016 election, he would read it as a green light to cheat even more aggressively in the election this year. Sure enough, here we are.

The scale of Trump’s cheating is breathtaking: for his reelection, including on Biden at official, taxpayer-funded events; appropriating itself for partisan activity; launching a clearly illegal right before the election; ; ; itself; for Russia to once again intervene in U.S. politics on his behalf; brazenly and using other disinformation tactics; employing to hide suspicious activity; coordinating with the absurd ; and too many of Bill Barr’s activities to fit into one column. There is also the Senator Ron Johnson–led probe into a debunked conspiracy theory about Joe Biden and Ukraine — a project that reeks of partisanship and which U.S. intelligence has warned will only .

As someone who has been working in national politics and campaigns since the 1980s, I can tell you that this level of rule-breaking is unprecedented. In a very Trumpian way, what we are seeing looks more like an electoral crime spree than a traditional campaign.

In a prescient from 2018, former prosecutor Glenn Kirschner argued that the Department of Justice needed to rethink its policy of not prosecuting a sitting president; there needed to be exceptions, he argued, for election law violations — or “cheating,” as I call it. Otherwise, our system is actually designed to encourage cheating, and cheating at a massive scale. After all, if you cheat a little bit and lose the election, you could get prosecuted. But if you cheat really big and win, you can’t be prosecuted, per DOJ standards. Such is the scenario we’re now seeing: Trump has every incentive in the world to cheat at such a level that it will transform his losing campaign into a competitive one and therefore could help absolve him from prosecution.

Trump knows all this — it’s how he won in 2016. Even with the help of Russia’s attacks on the DNC and the Clinton campaign, Trump was trailing Clinton by six points 10 days out. But the infamous and DOJ norm-breaking Comey letter, which dropped on October 28, helped narrow Clinton’s lead to , and Jill Stein’s improbable campaign shaved off enough votes in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin to give Trump a win. If any of these three things hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t have Trump in the White House today. The combined efforts it took to turn this unpopular, scandal-ridden candidate into a 70,000-vote winner was extraordinary.

As we learned in 2016, all of this cheating can turn a big lead into a small one, and a small one can become an ill-gotten win for Donald Trump.

Right now, Biden leads Trump by seven to nine points. Following the path Trump set in 2016, all of his cheating is designed to chip away at Biden’s lead, to keep it close. Kayne might cut down Biden’s lead by a point or two, as would late or lost ballots. People not voting due to confusion or concerns — another point or two. Illegal use of the White House, daily partisan attacks from government buildings, the illegal $250 million campaign lying about the dark realities of Covid-19 — all combined, maybe two to three points. A Comey-like late hit by Barr or Senator Johnson — a point or two or three. Russia — who knows, maybe the whole election.

These efforts aren’t just about saving Trump; they’re also about saving the party. At the very least, even if all this cheating doesn’t save Trump, it could still prevent Democrats from flipping the Senate and blunt what would likely be a very favorable conditions for the left. That’s why you’ve seen party loyalists like USPS Chair Mike Duncan and Postmaster General Bill DeJoy going so far as to sabotage the Postal Service — they have to hold down Biden’s margin to prevent a game-changing bloodbath for the GOP.

As we learned in 2016, all of this cheating can turn a big lead into a small one, and a small one can become an ill-gotten win for Donald Trump. The more Biden’s campaign looks adroit and well-funded, and the more Trump’s own campaign continues to stumble and struggle, the better the odds the president relies on ways of staying in power that don’t involve winning a free and fair election. Keeping it close also allows Trump to launch a postelection challenge to the results and attempt to block ballots that arrive after Election Day from being counted. These efforts shouldn’t be dismissed, for in 2000, a 5–4 Supreme Court intervened to block the counting of ballots after Election Day. If it happened once, it can happen again.

We all failed to understand what was happening in 2016. There simply is no excuse this time. Trump’s extensive cheating must begin to get covered as a central aspect of his campaign — the way we treat paid media, candidate visits, Get Out the Vote, and so on. on Monday night, the last week. And the American people need to understand that the man they elected to uphold the law is breaking it daily in his dirty bid to hold onto power. The president’s rampant cheating should be a far bigger story than it is.

 

 

 

 

 

Analysis: It Has Been A Very Bad Week of Polling for Trump and the GOP

Analysis: A Very Bad Week of Polling for Trump and the GOP

Every week NDN publishes its Poll Roundup, a deep dive into recent polling and political trends. You can sign up to receive it each week and feel free to review previous editions too. NDN is also now holding in depth discussions about the 2020 Election every Wednesday at 2pm ET – join us and feel free to invite others too. 

We’ve seen many new polls over the past week and there was a remarkable s amount of bad news in them for Trump and McConnell.  The bottom line right now is that the various strategies the GOP have employed to change the trajectory of an election they are losing haven’t worked, and there is evidence that their already weakened position may be eroding further.  

Some key takeaways from recent polling: 

Biden’s lead remains sturdy, no signs of upward movement for Trump/GOP Senate– Despite two big potentially race altering events – the appointment of a new Supreme Court Justice and domestic unrest – Biden retains a very durable and significant lead and the Senate would likely flip to the Democrats.  GOP running out of time, and have no clear mechanism or set of issues, to turn things around. 

Trump saw meaningful erosion in the battleground states – New polls showed Biden tied or even leading in IA and OH, two states which were not part of the Biden target list and where they had not been advertising (the shift in these two states is the biggest news of the week).  Two new polls out in the last 24 hours have Biden up 9 in PA. A Fox poll had Biden up 11 in Nevada, a state where there had not been much polling.  New polls showed Biden leading in ME-2 and NE-2, districts Trump won in 2016.  An Atlanta Journal Constitution poll had GA tied at 47-47, and a new high quality poll in Alaska had Trump only ahead by a new single point, 47-46 (all polls mentioned in this memo can be found on FiveThirtyEight).  

Given how late it is, given Biden’s financial advantage and his sizeable lead, that Trump is seeing erosion in the battleground in places where Biden wasn’t advertising is an ominous development for the President’s campaign.  The polling in MI, MN, PA, WI this past week suggests that none of them may be competitive – which is the whole ball game.  If Biden wins those 4 states he wins the election. 

The Senate– there just isn’t any good news for the GOP here.  New polls suggest Alaska and South Carolina really may be competitive. Iowa’s trending towards Biden is a bad development for an already struggling Senator Ernst. The nomination of Judge Coney Barrows looks like really bad news for Maine’s Susan Collins, a state Biden has a double digit lead in now.  And fundraising for the Democrats in the days after Coney Barrow’s nomination has exploded. If there was any movement this week in the Senate it was towards the Democrats, and as we’ve argued before, we think if the election were held today the Senate would flip.  

GOP very clearly in the minority now –57% of the country is not with the President now.  Most Senate Republican incumbents have 55-59% of their voters not with them.  On issue after issue – COVID, health care, the protests, who caused the recession, should the Senate wait to move ahead on SCOTUS to the next President – 55-61% of the country is not with the GOP position. It is hard to look at all of the polling we see now and not conclude that at least 55% of the US is just not available any longer to Trump and the GOP – and it could actually be higher.  Their only hope is Trump’s decent showing on the economy – something we’ve argued Biden can and should be able to take away in the days ahead.  

As we wrote last week, we think the GOP’s choice of ending the election with the appointment of Coney Barrows, a very vivid reminder of their treachery and radicalism, was a very bad electoral decision. At a time when the country has decided to give the Republicans less power there is little chance for them being rewarded by seizing more of it in such an illicit manner.  

Trump has developed a serious young voter problem– NDN released a new comprehensive analysis of young voters last week.  Recent polling shows a huge swing against Trump here, and among the highest levels of vote intent ever recorded.  In 2016 Clinton won 18-29 year olds 55-36, +19.  In a series of good polls that margin this year is 33-38 points, a shift, depending on final turnout, of 5-6m votes and 2-3% points in national polling.  It’s a huge 2020 development.  

Analysis: Trump Has A Serious Young Voter Problem (Updated)

Analysis: Trump Has A Serious Young Voter Problem

Every Thursday or Friday NDN publishes its Poll Roundup, a deep dive into recent polling and political trends. You can sign up to receive it each week and feel free to review previous editions too. NDN is also now holding in depth discussions about the 2020 Election every Wednesday at 2pm ET – join us and feel free to invite others too.

In 2007 Pete Leyden and I wrote a long form magazine piece called the “50 Year Strategy” which made the case that two new, large and growing demographic groups – Millennials and Hispanics – had the potential to give Democrats a significant political advantage for many years to come.    We wrote that piece because in the 2006 midterms, these two groups, starting to get to a significant size in the electorate, swung dramatically towards the Democrats.  Hispanics went from 53-44 (9 pts) Dem in 2004 to 69-30 (39 pts) in 2006, and 18-29 year olds went from 54-45 (9 pts) to 60/38 (22 pts).  

2006 was the election where the modern Democratic coalition began to take shape.  Barack Obama leaned into this emergent coalition and rode it to two Presidential victories.  Democrats have outperformed the GOP in 5 of the 7 elections starting with that 2006 election, and in the two that went bad, 2010 and 2014, Democratic performance with these groups was way off (see here for an historical look at this data). 

Like 2006, the 2018 midterms saw Democrats performing at extraordinary levels with these groups. The Hispanic vote went 69-29 (40 pts) for the Dems, rivaling Obama’s 41 point margin in 2012.  But it is with young people where we saw an even bigger movement towards the Democrats, Democrats had their best performance in the modern era with both 18-29 (35 pts) and 18-44 year olds (+25): 

Turnout rose dramatically in 2018 too, as the chart graph below captures. . 

Recent polls show Biden performing at 2018 levels with 18-29 year olds: 

NYT/Siena            Biden 60 Trump 26 (34 pts)  June 2020

CIRCLE/Tisch       Biden 58 Trump 24 (34 pts)  June 2020

Quinnipiac             Biden 63 Trump 27 (36 pts)  (18-34 year olds) Sept 2020

Harvard IOP          Biden 60 Trump 27 (33 pts)  Late Sept 2020

Morning Consult    Biden 65 Trump 27 (38 pts)  Late Sept 2020

In 2016, Trump lost 18-29s by 19 points, 55-36.  So he is 9-12 points below his 2016 numbers here – a truly significant under-performance in a group that is likely to be about 20% of the electorate this year.  A new poll by Clean and Prosperous America, while cutting the data bit differently, also shows big problems for Trump wth the youngest part of the electorate. 

Recent polls from NextGen, CIRCLE and Harvard IOP suggest the higher levels of youth turnout we saw in 2018 are likely to carry over to 2020.  The newly released IOP poll found 18-29 year old vote intent levels equal to or greater than 2008, a year which saw one of the highest youth turnouts in the modern era.   So this age group has swung dramatically towards the Democrats, and could vote in record numbers this year. 

Recent state polls by NYT/Siena give snapshots into how significant this emerging youth problem is for Trump: 

Georgia (45% Biden, 45% Trump) - Trump is tied or leads in all age groups over 30.  Biden leads among 18-29s by 63-34 (29 pts).   3% are undecided or with a third party candidate. 

North Carolina (45% Biden, 44% Trump) – Trump leads in all age groups over 30.  Biden leads among 18-29s by 62-20 (42 pts).   18% are undecided or with a third party candidate. 

Texas (43% Biden, 46% Trump) – Trump leads among 45 plus, Biden has a 45-43 lead with 30-44, and a 60-15 (45 pts) lead with 18-29.  25% are undecided or with a third party candidate.  

Arizona (49% Biden, 40% Trump) – Trump only leads here with 45-64 year olds (remarkably).   Only 18-29s it’s 53-25 Biden (28 pts), and 22% are undecided or with a third party candidate.  

Note the Trump number here – 15, 20, 25, 34.  Rough stuff for him and the Rs. 

New Fox News polls out Thursday have similar spreads:

Nevada (52% Biden, 41% Trump) - Biden leads with voters over 45 49-45; he leads with 18-34s by 63-27 (36 pts) and 10% are undecided or with a third party candidate. 

Ohio (50% Biden, 45% Trump) - Biden leads with voters over 45 49-47; he leads with 18-34s 58-35 (23 pts) and 7% are undecided or with a third party candidate. 

Pennsylvania (51% Biden, 44% Trump) - Biden leads with voters over 45 49-46; he leads with 18-34s 64-31 (33 pts) and 5% are undecided or with a third party candidate.

We did some rough calculations about what this means for 2020.  Assuming 18-29 year olds are once again 19% of the electorate (as they were in 2016), and turnout is 10% higher across the board (this may be conservative), if 18-29s end up +35 for Biden it means a 5-6m vote gain for Biden, or 2.5-3pts in the race.  And if Biden’s lead is about 7 pts, 50.5 to 43.5 now, this means that this shift just among 18-29 year olds accounts for at least half of the 5 point shift towards Biden we’ve seen since 2016 (Clinton +2 to Biden +7). 

In many of these polls the number of 18-29 year olds (in many cases 30-44 year olds too) who are currently undecided or supporting a third party candidate is much higher than the older electorates.  This suggests a few things.  First, it means that a plurality or even majority of the undecideds left in the race are in age cohorts which favor Democrats – bad news for Trump.  It also suggests that the Biden and other Democratic campaigns should be spending heavily now on winning over the younger voters who remain uncommitted and pushing turnout as high it can be.  Young voters, particularly 18-29s remain a very powerful area of opportunity for Democrats in the home stretch.  But like all voters Democrats should only expect them to vote for them if they are asked, and asked in culturally appropriate and compelling ways.  Both the CIRCLE poll and the new one from Clean and Prosperous America suggest that Democratic campaigns still have work to do to reach and connect with many millons of these young voters still very open to voting for them. 

As for Hispanics, our view now is that Biden is likely to come close to Democratic 2016 and 2018 margins of 38 and 40 pts.  The polling with Hispanics has been all over the place, and this is a voting group which is hard to poll due to the requirement of needing truly bi-lingual phone banks to get an accurate sample.  There are polls showing Biden below Clinton’s 2016 numbers, but there also polls showing Trump below his 2016 results.  The best recent national poll of Hispanics (NBC/Telemundo) had it 62-26 - so a 36 point lead for Biden with many undecideds. Trump is 2 points below his 28% 2016 result here, and it is likely that the undecideds break heavily towards Biden, which would get him up to the high 30s, low 40s as late undecideds usually break towards the challenger and the Biden campaign has an awful lot of material work with.  Again what we are seeing here is Trump below his 2016 number with a critical emerging part of the electorate.  

So while Biden may not be seeing a big swing with Hispanics as he is with younger voters, even keeping Clinton’s 38 pt margin means that he will gain votes as the Hispanic electorate grows meaningfully every two years; and it is possible that +40 with Hispanics really is the upper limit with this constituency, and that Democrats got to its upper limit here earlier than they did with younger voters.  

This analysis has been updated since it was originally published on September 24th. Some enw data became available and we included it in the current version.

Is McConnell leading the GOP off an electoral and political cliff?

Is McConnell leading the GOP off an electoral and political cliff?

In DC, Senator Mitch McConnell has a reputation as a savvy operator, but we may remember this year as the year the 78 year old Republican leader started showing his age and lost his grip on the complicated politics of the nation and its capital city. 

His brazen manipulation of the Impeachment process left many his swing state Senators, all of whom voted to acquit a clearly guilty man, trailing in their races.   He’s enabled the President’s great failure on COVID, and has not stepped up with a second fiscal package to ease the pain of American workers, giving his candidates little or nothing to say on the two biggest issues of the election.  And now Justice Ginsberg’s tragic passing.  He jumped out quickly, dishonoring her legacy, and committed the Senate GOP to an indefensible and ugly power grab right before the election, one that more likely than not will remind voters just how extreme the Republican Party has become.  And this last point really matters – if in poll after poll 57% of the country is not with your Presidential candidate, and you are losing the Senate, and likely to lose seats in the House, why would those same voters who are in the process of rejecting your party reward a nasty act to seize more power right as its being taken away? 

In our view, McConnell misread this moment, as he has misread the other big ones this year.  Democratic challengers have strong leads in AZ and CO, smaller but meaningful leads in IA, ME, NC, and are competitive in at least six more races, AK, GA (2), KS, MT and SC.  Perhaps the strategy is to try to give his struggling red state incumbents a bit of a boost.  But how this plays out in those other states – GA, IA, ME, NC – could determine the fate of his majority.  And what is hard for us to see here today is how these swing suburban voters who‘ve fled the GOP in recent years are going to embrace a move which ensures the ending of Roe vs Wade, the end of the ACA and all that it brought and means more high powered guns on our streets and more dead children? The country is rejecting the current radicalism of the GOP, not asking for more of it.  

And early polls confirm our analysis.  A poll by GOP pollster Scott Rasmussen found voters wanted to wait until after the election to move ahead with Ginsburg’s replacement 52-41; a new Reuters poll found it breaking 62-23 (40 points!) for waiting till the next President.  If these polls hold, and they are likely to, it means that moving now on a new SCOTUS appointment could actually hurt the GOP more than it helps – in a race where they already trail, where Democrats are raising records amount of money and will outspend the GOP, and where initial data suggests Democrats have become highly energized by what’s happening here ($100m raised in 48 hours) and are likely now to enter this final stretch with more intensity than the Rs.  

Two Republican Senators have already said wait till next year.  Two more and Trump and McConnell will not have the votes to move.  I don’t think we can count on the GOP sticking together in the coming days – the new precedent set by the GOP in 2016 regarding election year appointments left lots of video which is going to wear down and hurt Senators in their districts; moving now is unpopular; and there just at some point have to be limits to the GOP’s corruption, lying, cheating and increasingly illiberal behavior.  We don’t think picking a far judge right before an election while going back on a precedent is going to bring back any lost GOP votes.  It may give the GOP a consolation prize for what is likely to be a bad election, but this one feels like a truly desperate act, one which we predict will over the long term do the GOP and the country far more harm than good. 

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