NDN Blog

A Good Night for Democrats - 2018 Post-Election Analysis

This analysis was originally posted on Wed, Nov 7th at 1150am and was last updated on Nov 20th, 8am.  You can find all of NDN's pre and post election analysis here

A Good Night For Democrats – The Democrats now appear to have won between 36 and 39 House seats, the biggest election year gain for House Democrats since 1974, 44 years ago. Democrats also won 7 governorships, close to 400 state legislative seats (5.4% of total), flipped 8 state legislative chambers and ended GOP super majorities in MI, NC and PA.  No question the losses in the US Senate hurt, but national Republicans have to come to terms with what was an extraordinary repudiation of their politics in the 2018 election. The NYT currently estimates that Democrats won the popular vote by 7% and exit polls show a victory of 8%. Both results would put 2018 at the upper end of recent midterms considered waves - 1994: R+7.1% 2006: D+8.0% 2010: R+7.2% 2014: R+5.7%.  It was a very good election for Democrats indeed; and count me in as one those who argued at the time, and believe today, that the President's decision to close with the inflammatory and absurd caravan - particularly after the two domestic terror incidents - rather than a more surburban oriented close was a huge mistake, one which cost him and his party dearly. 

While the Donald Trump and the Republicans still has a great deal of power, they will have far less of it next year. The allocation of political power in the US will more accurately reflect a nation where Democrats consistently win more votes than the Republicans  (6 of 7 last Presidential votes, all time US record).  The House will be Democratic, a majority of Americans will have Democratic governors, wildly gerrymandered GOP supermajorities will have finally been ended, and Democrats will control more state legislative chambers.  What remains remarkable, and perhaps dangerous, that the GOP will have between 51 and 53 seats in the Senate despite losing the popular vote in Senate races in 2016 54%-42% and 57%-42% in 2018. 

GOP Lost Ground in Critical 2020 Battlegrounds – Democrats had strong nights in both the Midwest/Rustbelt and in the Southwest, the regions of the country which will decide the 2020 Presidential election.  Democrats won the MI, MN (2), PA and WI Senate races and MI, MN and PA governors race by very huge margins.  The region's wunderkind Scott Walker was defeated.   Democrats will pick up at least 9 House seats in this region, and while they came up short in the Iowa Governor’s race they now control 3 of the 4 House seats there. Reviewing it all the total collapse of the GOP in MI and PA should be of particular concern to Trump and the GOP

The Southwest, on the other hand, has never been friendly territory for Trump and it got a lot worse this election. As background, the three states which saw the biggest movement towards the Democrats in 2016 were, in order, CA (7pts), TX (6.8pts) and AZ (5.5pts). Last night we saw Beto get within 2 1/2 points in Texas, help Dems win many down ballot races and hold 6 GOP reps to 51% or less (TX-10, 21, 22, 23, 24 and 31).  Rep. Sinema seems to be in process of winning the AZ Senate race and Dems now hold a 5-4 advantage in the AZ Congressional delegation. Democrats had very good/blowout nights in Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico, so much so that there are questions about whether these will remain in the Presidential battleground in 2020.  Dems are on track to pick up at least 14 House seats in these states including 6 or 7 in California alone, a state where the GOP didn’t even have a Senate candidate on the ballot and where voters with no party preference now outnumber Republicans in registration (and the home of the two most significant GOP Presidents in past 50 years).  We saw intensity too.  AZ, NV and TX saw more people vote early this year than voted in all of 2014, the only 3 states to see that level of increase.

All of this adds up to a night of dangerous erosion for the GOP in this region.  Recall that as recently as 2004 Bush won AZ, CO, NM and NV and Senator Kerry didn't even contest CO that year.  Trump has accelerated the movement of the heavily Mexican-American part of the US from lean R to deep blue and purple now.

Over the last two years there was always this sense that while the President’s thunderous championing of white nationalist, xenophobic and anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies was hurting him in the heavily Mexican-American parts of the US, it was the key to unlock the Rustbelt and Midwest.  Given the really bad night the GOP had in the northern part of the US that no longer appears to be true  Trump may have used the caravan to win in very red and rural places like Indiana, Missouri and Tennessee, but in the states he needs to win in 2020 Democrats will be far more powerful in just about every state.  Looking at both vote share, and the partisan representation in the state, let's see how the terrain looks for Mr. Trump in 2020: 

Much more Democratic - AZ, CO, MI, MN, NM, NV, PA, VA, WI.  Will be interesting to see if Trump even contests CO, NM, NV and VA in 2020.  AZ now clearly a purple state.

More Democratic - GA, IA, NH.  Georgia now likely to be in play in 2020. 

Not much change - FL, NC (Florida is still up in the air).

More Republican - OH. Will be questions about whether OH remains a battleground state.

My broader point is that Trump barely won the election in 2016, and as of today, the map looks even harder for him in 2020 than 2016. 

Young Voters and Hispanics Continue to Show Their Potential For Democrats – Much will be written about the huge and consequential gender gap this year, but I want to drill down a bit on another huge yawning gap – those over and under 45 years old.  The exits found 18-29 year olds going 67%-32% for Democrats last night, under 45s 61%-36% and those over 45 just 49%-50%.  By comparison, 18-44s went 53%-39% for Clinton in 2016, and over 45s went 52-44% for Trump.  But remarkably the share of the electorate for those under 45 dropped from 44% in 2016 to just 35% in 2018.  Imagine the outcome last night if Democrats were able keep the under 45 participation rate in the 40s – would have been an even bigger blow out.  Given the margins we see here, national Democrats must literally become obsessed now with speaking to and maximizing the turnout of voters under 45.  It is simply one of the highest strategic priorities we have.  And to do so we will have to continue to embrace a post-television politics, as this age cohort essentially no longer watches conventional television.  I wrote about the disappearance of television earlier this year, and also why Beto’s campaign helped show us the future with his remarkable people-centered, social media heavy campaign. 

Latino voters went 69%-29% for Democrats in 2018, slightly up from 2016’s 66%-28%.  This 40 point net showing was among the best in recent elections, and reminds us that in the age of Trump investments in speaking to and turning out Latinos will pay enormous dividends. Or as Democrats in Florida may have just been reminded, failure to do so can cost you close elections. 

We just put together a new memo summing up this and other data.  The bottom line - Democrats had their best showing ever with Asian-Americans, 18-29s, 18-44s and their second best showing with Hispanics.  The Democratic Party's "new coalition" is clearly alive and well, and delivering powerfully six years since the last time Barack Obama was on the ballot. 

More - I published a related piece, "The midterms show Trump might not get re-elected in 2020," on Thursday, November 8th on the Al Jazeera website.  You can also find my thinking about the 2018 election in these stories in the AP, The Houston ChronicleUS News, The Washington Post and this new Washington Post frontpager which refers directly to this analysis. 

Simon's 2018 Election Predictions

For years now Simon has been a participant in The Hill's election prediction contest.  He submitted his answers to their questions Monday morning, which you can find below or here on The Hill's website.  A fun fact - Simon and Grover Norquist are the only two-time winners of The Hill's election prediction contest.  So this one really matters. 

Who will win control of the House?

Democrats.

How many House seats with GOP/Dems pick up?

Democrats will pick up 40 seats. 

Who will win control of the Senate?

GOP.

How many Senate seats will GOP/Dems pick up?

Democrats will pick up 1, and on election night will be at 50.  Control of the Senate will come down to the Mississippi 2 runoff which might be more competitive than people realize.  If Beto somehow pulls it out in Texas he could give the Democrats the Senate. 

Who will win the Senate race in Florida?

Nelson.

Who will win the Senate race in Missouri?

McCaskill.

Who will win governor's race in Florida?

Gillum. 

Who will win governor's race in Georgia?

Abrams.  

Who will win the Senate race in Indiana?

Donnelly. 

Who will win the Senate race in Arizona?

Sinema.

Analysis: (Please write 50-100 words on what the takeaway of the elections will be)

With the House flipping, Rs underperforming in 2020 battleground gubernatorial races and a new GOP weakness in the Rustbelt/Midwest emerging, election night 2018 will be a huge blow to an already deeply unpopular President.  Questions about the sustainability of Trumpism will dominate the post-election analysis, encouraging responsible GOP party leaders to challenge him more directly in the days ahead.    

The building of the post-Clinton/Obama Democratic Party will get an enormous boost as Democrats will elect an unusually talented set of new leaders across the country. Watch the House freshman class – will be among most capable and exciting of modern era.   

$38 Million for Beto, and Why It Matters

The big dollars we are seeing Dems raise this cycle isn’t just about anti-Trump sentiment, it is about Dems succeeding in a new, always on media and information landscape.   This election cycle will be the first where more Americans got their news from the Internet than television.  And whereas the broadcast era of politics was about raising money to put on tv in the last few weeks of a race, the new politics of the digital age requires candidates to be generating interest/making connections every day all year long. Beto was not a likely candidate to raise all this money.  He was unknown, from a small and distant Texas media market, and has never led in the polls.  But what he has created is perpetual, compelling values-driven digital media – viral videos, social media checkins; and he has used the rally format Trump used to build his lists and grow a powerful support network. It is a model all Democrats should study and learn from. 

While not at the same scale, the DCCC made a commitment early in 2017 to ensure its candidates used modern internet based fundraising techniques – think Dean, Obama – to give them a shot to tap into the energy out there.  And as this story in the Washington Monthly suggests, it worked.   The Democrat’s well funded candidates have been instrumental in giving the Democrats a real shot at winning the House; but by expanding the battlefield to twice as many races as the Democrats competed in in 2016, it has also lessened the extraordinary GOP fundraising advantage this cycle.  See this new tweet from Nate Silver for more data on just how extraordinarily successful this strategy has been. 

I will have more to say in the coming days about the struggle Democrats have had in transitioning to an "always on" post-television media era, an era of Trump, social media and a 24/7/365 debate about our future. But one area I've grown concerned about is whose job is it exactly in the center-left ecosystem to take on Trump directly, both in the final days of the election and next year? Imagine if $50m had been directed against him in recent months.....do we really believe he would be at 42% approval given what is known? And would have it made a difference in the coming elections? Of course it would have.  No candidate in modern American history has developed a more powerful set of negatives to be used against them as Donald Trump has.  Time now for voters to be reminded of them.  It's the basic blocking and tackling of politics, something I address in this new thread.  The new WSJ/NBC poll out on Sunday has a lot of good news for Democrats except this - Trump is now at 47/49 approval, his best showing in many many months in this poll. 

This issue of the Democratic Party's understanding (or lack of) of the modern media landscape was at the core of debate over the debates in 2015-2016.  At the end of the day a badly designed debate schedule allowed the GOP candidates to be seen by 100 million peple than the Democratic candidates.  In the fall of 2015 I wrote: "Regardless of the virtue of the original DNC debate strategy, the RNC has produced a far better approach that will guarantee their candidates hundreds of millions of more impressions.  This gap is so large that it could sway the outcome of a very close race, and the DNC should take steps to close this gap in the weeks ahead."  Something it never really did. 

The Washington Post's Michael Scherer quotes this portion of my analysis in a new story about the RNC and its 2019 strategy. 

Some Thoughts About The Caravan

This essay was originally published on the website Medium.

Looking back, everyone involved in this Caravan story has to wonder how it led to the President declaring a national security emergency. It is about 7,000 poor, unarmed, mostly Honduran Central Americans desperately attempting to escape worsening economic and political conditions. It includes about 2,000 kids. As of today, October 23rd, the caravan is about 1,000 miles away from the closest part of the US, and at current rates will make it to the US border in early to mid-December. That is if somehow they can keep themselves fed, clothed, housed, and safe during this grueling trek north. No one is funding this journey, and recent news reports suggest many are tired and close to giving up. But what keeps them going of course is that in their minds they can’t go home, and have nowhere else to go.

A terrific Daily Beast story today details how this all started. Desperate conditions at home, and mistaken news reports that there was funding to send a caravan north. It would allow people to avoid paying $7,000 for a coyote, and there would be physical safety in numbers. Perhaps we will learn that some more nefarious plot was behind this unusual event but as someone who has studied these matters for a long time, this is all very believable. So today what has been described as a dangerous mob in right-wing media here in the US may very soon become a tragic humanitarian disaster as they run out of food and shelter far away from home.

What has been most extraordinary about this unfolding tragedy is the reaction of the President of the United States. Egged on by hysterical right-wing media, the President himself became hysterical and declared this far-away march of some of the hemisphere’s poorest people a national security emergency for the United States of America. To make it all the more threatening, the President claimed, without evidence, that terrorists and violent gang members had joined the caravan and were intending to use it to sneak into the United States (today he admitted he made up the Middle Easterner thing). The President threatened to cut off aid to the countries of the region if this Caravan kept going. The aid he was referring to largely goes to prevent further erosion of regional security so the President was essentially threatening to force the region into even greater chaos and weakening our own security along the way. Remarkably the Secretary of State and the Vice President echoed these claims in the last 24 hours. And there we had it — the most powerful nation in the world, the winners of World Wars and Cold Wars, was now officially terrified and mobilizing its military, financial, diplomatic, and homeland security resources to repel an “invasion” of a few thousand ragged, unarmed Central Americans far away from the US homeland and weeks away from arriving at the border itself. It has felt far more Monty Python than John Wayne.

Flows of authorized immigrants into US fraction of what it was — system has capacity to manage surges

For context, it has to be noted that the flow of unauthorized immigrants into the United States is a fraction of what it was 10–15 years ago, and even this year’s flow has been within recent norms. The President had already declared a national emergency earlier this year and added National Guard troops and military judges to the border region to help provide additional capacity to manage what was in fact a small and not historically significant increase in border arrivals. So the boy had cried wolf once, and when the flow didn’t decrease, the Administration moved on to its infamous “zero tolerance,” kids in cages strategy; a strategy voided by federal courts a few months ago. Not a whole lot of winning for the President on his immigration strategy these last two years.

2018 inline with previous years — not a crisis

So while this whole Caravan thing both feels and is absurd, it is now part of the political discourse in these closing days of the 2018 elections and Democrats need to make clear where they stand. As an old Clinton War Room guy I firmly believe that any attack must be challenged or it sticks. Democrats are being attacked daily by the President for something they have not done, and need to challenge both the President’s inaccurate story about immigration and its impact on America, and the President’s misguided policies to address an “immigration crisis” which never existed. So, in short, I think Democratic leaders should do three things:

Address Worsening Conditions in Central America — Democrats should make clear they know that the worsening economic and security situation in Central America is a problem which needs to be addressed by the next Congress. Unauthorized flows like the Caravan are wrong, and we need to find a way to keep people at home and to honor the legal immigration system in place today. Whatever plan we come up with will have be developed with our Southern neighbors and both parties and chambers in Congress. It will take work over many months to do something lasting and effective. Fox fueled fiats from an ill-informed President are making finding lasting solutions far harder, not easier.

Put Comprehensive Immigration Reform back on the table — Democrats should reaffirm their commitment to the bi-partisan and thoughtful McCain/Kennedy, Gang of 8 framework and offer to enter into talks with the President and the Republicans about a bi-partisan reform package. They should be open to reducing the # of green cards issued for a time if we can legalize millions of undocumented immigrants already living and working here.

Offer Ideas for Smart, Effective and Humane Reform Of Our Immigration Enforcement System — At a rhetorical and policy level, Democrats have to be more forceful in talking about how to make border and immigration enforcement better, more effective, and more humane. In our book President Obama did a far better job at managing our border and domestic enforcement system than many have given him credit for. DHS and ICE can certainly be improved, but talks of abolishing it are silly and should be rejected by responsible leaders in the days ahead. Creating a path for legalization — and I hope citizenship — for the 11m already here require a big rethink of our entire enforcement system.

So even if the Caravan disperses in the coming days, and this “urgent threat” is removed from the political debate, the underlying issues raised by the Caravan remain. The immigration status quo is unacceptable, and has been for a long time. Democrats have been trying to improve and modernize our approach to immigration, and address many of the problems that have surfaced here, for 13 years. We passed smart bi-partisan bills through the Senate twice, only to have them blocked each time by a reactionary Republican House leadership. If the Democrats control the House next year we will have the opportunity to do something truly meaningful on immigration; something which can grow our economy, cut a spiraling deficit, and humanely resolve one of the most contentious political issues in the nation today. The President sure does seem to want to do something — let’s challenge him to use his vaunted deal making skills and do right by the American people and our close neighbors to the South. It is time now.

Election Day 2018 - Reflections and Predictions

This analysis was originally posted on Friday, October 12th.  It will be updated as things warrant over the final few weeks of the election.  Latest update - Election Day, 7am.  And be sure to check out Simon's 2018 election predictions, as submitted Monday am to The Hill.  He predicts Dems pick up 40 House seats, get to 50 in the Senate, rout the Rs in the Rustbelt/Midwest and an already deeply unpopular President will sustain a significant political blow.  

Early Vote Sets Records - Professor Michael McDonald looks at the huge early vote and mail ballot returns and thinks turnout this election year could be as high as 44-45%, way up from the 36% we saw in 2014.  Remarkably 30 states plus DC have already hit their 2014 early vote numbers and McDonald thinks all 50 states will outperform their 2014 ev totals. Let's hope these trends continue through election day - there would be much to celebrate on election night if this is the case.  Remarkably 3 states have already passed their entire 2014 totals (early + election day) - AZ, NV and TX. 

The Hill's Reid Wilson reports that voting seems to be up for all age cohorts, "but turnout has increased the most among younger voters, minorities and people who rarely or never vote. Among voters aged 18-29, turnout is up in 39 of 41 states for which data is available, said John Della Volpe, who directs polling for Harvard University's Institute of Politics. For voters aged 30-39, turnout is up in all 41 states where data is available. As a consequence, the 2018 electorate appears likely to be significantly younger and more diverse than the electorate that voted four years ago — both good signs for Democratic candidates."

And to be clear this increased turnout is as much as about well-funded Democratic campaigns touching far more voters more effectively than in recent years as it is about the fear of Trump.  One of the big stories of 2018 is the Democrats' finally bringing of Presidential level tactical sophistication to Congressional and downballot races - and it marks a huge permanent shift in American politics.  I dive a bit deeper into this issue in a related piece, "38 Million for Beto and Why It Matters." 

Did Trump Blow His Election Close? – In the weeks after the Kavanaugh fiasco, public sentiment stablized with Dems leading the genenic ballot by 8 to 9 points, and Trump's approval in a vastly improved place, coming in between -9 or -10 (had been -14 Labor Day weekend).  Nate Silver offered a very good analysis explaining why Trump's improved standing didn't translate into gains for GOP candidates, adding "Democrats have a generic ballot lead of 8.5 or 9 points. Not sure if people realize how large that is. A bit larger than the 1994 and 2010 waves, when the GOP won the popular vote by ~7 points each time. Similar to 2006, when Dems won by 8.” This election day afternoon Nate has it at 8.7. 

The NYT/Siena/Nate Cohn's House polling project continued to find good news for Democrats all the way through election day. Hard to find many GOPers in competitive races these last few weeks over 45/46, and we know from history that members of the incumbent party in the low to mid 40s a week out seldom win.  Even the Senate has settled down in a relatively postiive place for Dems. Using 538 Democratic candidates lead in AZ, FL and MO and NV remains a toss up (see here for how polls often understate Dem performance in NV, and the early vote is coming in very high for Democrats).  Democrats prevail in these 4 races it will be 50D/49R on election night, with control of the Senate coming down to a December special election in Mississippi. 

What should be worrying for the GOP is that the horrific spate of right wing domestic terror we've seen in recent days may be eroding, deservedly, their already weakened position. Last Tuesday's Gallup's weekly track had Trump going from -6 to -14 (44/50 to 40/54).  538's adjusted polling tool has Trump slipping from -8.9 to to between -10.8 to -11.4 in the past two weeks. The polls in the field after the Florida bomber was caught has Trump's approval at net negative 10, 11, 12, 13, 13, 14, 14, 15, 15, 16.  While this may be more noise than signal even a Trumpian fade of 2-3 points could make a big difference in the many close races across the country.  It is something to watch. 

Recent moves by the GOP House campaign committee provide further evidence the GOP position is eroding, as they have started to campaign and advertise for candidates who were thought to be safe.  Adding to the GOP challenge, Democrats have more money than ever before to make their closing arguments, and the failure of the GOP tax cut and the GOP's many years of assault on the health care of working people has given Democrats an awful lot of material to work with in these closing days.

One of the great questions of this election will be - did Trump blow it by focusing in the last few weeks on the fictional threat of the caravan rather than the economy? New reporting makes it clear the call was his (Jeff Zeleny's is perhaps the best take, more here from the WSJ).  The President admitted in an interview last night hat he needs "to soften his tone." Gaslighting? Or tactic admission his martial border close to a series of domestic terror attacks pushed away far more voters than it excited? To have your closing ad pulled down the day before the election for being too racist, even by Fox, should have been giving the President reason to wonder whether he blew it down the stretch; as would the lack of clear improvement for the GOP anyhwere in the country in the final two weeks, and very high turnout and improved Democratic numbers in heavily Hispanic parts of the country like AZ, CA, FL, NV and TX. 

Trump/GOP Weakness in the Rustbelt, Midwest, 2020 States – Throughout these late ups and downs one thing has stayed constant - a remarkable GOP weakness in the parts of the country which responded well to Trump and are critical for his re-election in 2020.  Let's drill down a bit:

GOP struggling in battleground governors races – At this point GOP gubernatorial candidates do not have a lead outside of the margin of error or even a clear lead in FL, GA, PA, OH, MN, MI, WI, IA and NV.  While a few GOPers will make it through this structural weakness in these key states has to be a big concern for Trump and the RNC heading into 2020. 

GOP Rustbelt wipeout -  Rs head into election day trailing in every competitive statewide race in IA, WI, IN, MN, MI, OH and PA.  Dems lead by 10 or more (!) in the PA Gov and Sen, OH Senate, MI Gov and Sen, MN Gov and Sen (2) and WI Sen.  that the GOP could have not been competitive in this many races in these critical battleground states, icludes 4 Trump won, remains just mindboggling. 

Part of what is driving this newfound GOP weakness is this region the very significant unpopularity of Trump’s tariffs, which remain among the most unpopular of all Trump’s policy initiatives. NDN's Chris Taylor has a smart new piece diving a bit deeper into this important dynamic, and another new analysis which found by almost every measure the economy is worse today than it was when Trump took office.  Critical the 2020 Dems study these economic trends carefully as the Presidential gears up. 

Domestic Terrorism and the 2018 Election - As the nation attempts to recover from a series of domestic terror incidents, time now to discuss and confront our most significant domestic security threat - rising right wing political violence.  I speak to this need in this Washington Post article and this new Twitter thread.  But more than anything Donald Trump should be a President these last few weeks, stood down from his absurd wag-the-dog caravan charade, and focused the nation's attention on combatting rising right wing political violence here at home and protecting Tuesday's elections from interference of any kind.  I know, it didn't happen. Rather, as we discuss above, to close the election with explicit calls for violence, to "fight back" against his political opponents - calls which I worry aren't really about winning the election but about something far more sinister. 

A New and Exciting Democratic Party Is Emerging - Many new Democratic stars have emerged since Trump was elected - Kamala Harris, Andrew Gillum, Beto O'Rourke, Mikie Sherill, Stacy Abrams....the list goes on and on.  To me what we are seeing emerge is a whole set of leaders who will guide and direct the next Democratic Party, a post Clinton/Obama, a post Trump party.  This is my 14th election day as a Democratic operative and strategist, and I will say I have never seen such a talented and capable crop of candidates running and winning across the country.  The future of the Party feels like it is in very good hands.   

For those of us in DC I think this incoming House freshman class has the opportunity to be an historic class.  The DCCC recruited an extraordinarily accomplished and compelling group this cycle, and it is the deepest and most talented class I've seen since I came to Washington (the 1996 class was pretty great). I discuss the potential of this class in a smart new piece by Ron Brownstein and counsel everyone to be very slow at assigning ideological labels other than pragmatist to many of these new arrivals. 

Having said all that, I think there are three groups arriving in January with the power to shape and influence the direction of the caucus for years to come:

Women - Women brought energy and passion to our politics this cycle, huge number of votes and an historic number of women ran and won/will win their elections.  We will have better numbers in the next few days but expect this new dynamic to be central to everything that happens in the Democratic Party in the House and more broadly across the Party in the coming years.

Patriots/National Security Democrats - Next will be a very large group of veterans and former national security officials. Joining current Members like Seth Moulton, Stephanie Murphy, Conor Lamb and Ruben Gallego, this group could become a deeply consequential one, forging American foreign and security policy for decades to come.  To me this group feels like a the type  of Democrat we haven't seen in a long time - a pre Vietnam War Democrat, a WW II and Cold War Democrats, pragmatic patriots, similar to the class full of veterans which came in 1946 after the war to serve their country again but in another way. 

The reason this new type of Democrat will be with us for some time is just the sheer number of Americans who have served in the war on terror and other military conflicts over the past 17 years.  Many of these young soldiers and security officials have now reached the age and a stage in their life where running for office became an option for them.  This is why I think this a permanent trend at least for the next 10-15 years, and one of those trends which makes the emerging Democratic Party very different from the Party of Clinton and Obama.

NDN has been writing and speaking for some time now about the Democratic Party's very real opportunity to reclaim "patriotism" from the right.  Let us hope this will be the case in the years to come.

The Democratic Socialists - While there is no doubt this new sensibility has resonance in the center-left family, it remains to be seen how powerful it will be next year.  This movement has a compelling, emerging champion in future Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, but there just aren't that many candidates running this cycle with this label as their primary affiliation.  The first two groups we discussed - women and the national secrurity Dems - will likely be much larger in number in the Senate and House next year.  Regardless of numbers, expect this new post-Bernie tribe to be loud and influential. 

While some of these new Members will get absorbed into existing groups like the New Dems, Blue Dogs, Future Forum, Hispanic/Black/AAPI Caucuses, my sense is that this class is going to be so large and its sensibilities new enough that it will itself become a force perhaps equal to any of these existing factions.  Will be fascinating to watch.  And watch this new video which brings together, powerfully, two of these trends - women and national security experience.  Hard to watch this and not sense the emergence of a new post-Clinton, post-Obama Democratic Party. 

More - If interested feel free to review my 2014 post-election analysis, "A Wake-Up Call for Democrats," and the one from 2016, "A New Generation of Democrats Will Have to Rise." I am also proud to be a two time winner of The Hill's Election Prediction contest, and look forward to competing again this year. 

A Snapshot of Current Polling

Earlier today, Simon wrote an important thread that took a look at current polling in the midst of the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. The thread is here, and an expanded version is below.

A Snapshot of Current Polling

According to FiveThirtyEight over the last few weeks, Trump's favorables have improved a bit and now are at 41.5/52.8 but the generic has worsened for the Republicans and now stands at 49.6/40.9. Both of these results suggest a very good year for the Democrats. My take is that Republicans now have a very low ceiling across the country. Of the 45 top Gov/Senate/House battlegrounds with recent polls, Republicans are over 50% in only 4 or 5 (not including TX Sen or AZ Gov), and have no lead outside of the margin of error in any Gov or Sen battleground. Republicans are not leading in governor's races in FL, GA, OH, PA, MI, WI, IA and NV - all critical 2020 battlegrounds. They could end up winning some but the GOP can't be happy here.

Furthermore, the GOP wipeout in MI and PA deserves far more attention. 4 GOP candidates for MI and PA Gov and Senate are in the 30s. The 30s. Democrats are likely to win these races by 15-25 points in two of Trump's most important states. The very strong showing of Dems in AZ, CA and TX continues a trend we first saw in 2016 - Trumpism is not playing well in this region of the country. There are also very good numbers for Democrats in CO, NM, NV. Keep an eye on this.

Next, the House. According to the Cook Political Report, Democrats are on track to clearly win 205 seats, and need to win 13 of the remaining 57 Toss Up/Lean Rs seats to flip the House. In Nate Cohn's latest polling of 30 of these districts, Democrats have leads outside of the margin of error in 9 races, while Republicans have those leads in only 5. Republicans are at 45% or below in 9 additional races. So Democrats have 9 clear leads and are outperforming Republicans in another 9 races in a lean Democrat year, while Republicans only have 5 clear leads. Being generous, let's say the parties split those 57 districts. The result would be the Democrats ending up with about 230 seats.

But to be very clear - Democrats do not have this thing in the bag. It is leaning their way. But most competitive races for Gov/Sen/House are too close to call, so any late swing either way could be very meaningful. This is why the shakeout on this Kavanaugh fiasco matters so much.

Support for Open Trade Remains Robust in Recent Polling. Trump’s Tariffs Still Remarkably Unpopular.

This is the fifth article in a series produced by NDN challenging Trump’s tariffs.

Given the conventional wisdom about how Trump won the Presidency in 2016, one would expect to find broad support for his protectionist trade policies and his tariffs in particular. A review of recent polling, however, suggests the American people are far more supportive of open trade policies and less supportive of tariffs than many would have expected. In fact, by some measures, Trump’s tariffs are among the least popular policy initiatives of his Presidency.

Using the Polling Report site as reference, let’s look at some data. The August NBC/WSJ poll asked “In general, do you think that free trade between the United States and foreign countries has helped the United States, has hurt the United States, or has not made much of a difference either way?” 50% said helped, only 23% said hurt. A July version of that poll asked about Trump’s tariffs — 25% said they would help the economy, 49% said hurt. An April Pew poll found similar numbers with 56% saying free trade was a good thing for the US and only 30% saying it was bad. A June Monmouth poll found 52% believing free trade agreements between the US and other countries were good for the US, only 14% disagreed. A March edition of the NBC/WSJ poll asked the question a slightly different way: “What do you think foreign trade means for America? Do you see foreign trade more as an opportunity for economic growth through increased U.S. exports, or a threat to the economy from foreign imports?” 66% said opportunity for growth, only 20% said threat.

Summer polls from Pew and Quinnipiac found slightly better but still net negative spreads for Trump on tariffs and free trade (39/50, 40/49). The new ABC/Washington Post poll out this week found a similar 41/50 split on Trump’s tariffs. In the Quinnipiac poll, however, a whopping 73% said a trade war would be bad for the US economy. Only 17% said good. A June Suffolk poll found only 35% support for the NAFTA renegotiation, and a June CBS poll found support for tariffs on Canada to be only 27% (62% disapprove). In a June CNN poll, 63% said it was better for the US to maintain relations with our close allies rather than impose tariffs. Only 25% said tariffs were better.

In polls which broke out the numbers by party, an overwhelming majority of Democrats come out in favor of free trade and against tariffs. Two examples. In the spring Pew poll, 67% of Democrats said free trade was a good thing, just 19% said bad. 63% opposed the tariffs, just 22% supported. In the new ABC/Washington Post poll, which found support of Trump’s tariffs to be at 41% support/50% opposed, Democrats opposed them 75% to 18%.

Recent state polls have similar findings. A series of Marist/NBC polls found support of the tariffs to be 23/42 in IL, 29/41 in MO, 28/46 in PA and 33/40 in Texas (links here and here). A recent Suffolk University poll (pp 22–23) of Wisconsin found support for the tariffs on China to be 39/47, and on “EU, Canada and Mexico” 31/57. That the popularity of a major Trump policy initiative is under 33% in states like Missouri, Pennsylvania and Texas is pretty remarkable.

While trade is obviously a complicated and tough issue, the idea that there is broad support in the US for protectionist policies, and tariffs in particular, just can’t be supported given this data. Trump has failed to persuade the American people to get behind his trade wars, and in fact, the Pew data suggests more people today are supporting the basic notion that free trade is good than a year ago. Early in his Presidency, Trump’s trade policies have generated more of a backlash than a groundswell of support.

As we’ve written elsewhere, Democrats would be smart to study this data and do some polling and market research of their own. Putting it all together suggests that an extended campaign by Democrats calling on Trump to rescind his tariffs — like the one NDN has been calling for — would not only be smart policy and good for the US economy, but smart politics too.

Update, 9/6/18 — new poll from Chicago Council found even higher levels of support for trade and NAFTA. A summary of its key findings:

  • The highest percentages ever registered in this survey (since 2004) say that trade is good for the US economy (82%), good for consumers like you (85%), and good for creating jobs in the U.S. (67%).
  • Support for NAFTA is also at its highest level yet (63%), and a majority (61%) supports US participation in the revised Pacific trade agreement, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.
  • Democrats express the most favorable views of these two trade agreements, while majorities of Independents now also support them. Although Republicans as a group tend to oppose them, a majority of non-Trump Republicans — those with only a somewhat favorable or an unfavorable view of the president — support them, demonstrating splits within the party faithful.
  • Seven in ten are concerned that a trade war with China will hurt their local economy; while just over half are concerned about the impact of a trade war with Mexico. In both cases, trade wars are a greater concern for Democrats.

Trump's Immigration Strategy Is Failing

NBC News just published Simon’s latest essay, Trump's brand is his xenophobic immigration policy. That's why he'll go to any lengths to enact it. It argues that Trump's separation of kids at the border is the result of a political crisis for his administration, rather than any real immigration crisis on the ground. As Trump's immigration policies continue to fail in the face of legal roadblocks and public outrage, expect even more outrageous policies from the administration. Here's an excerpt from the piece:

"The “immigration crisis” the nation now faces is far more a political crisis than a governing one. The hard truth is that there a growing sense that the president’s immigration strategy has failed, and he, like a petulant child, is now lashing out, both threatening to, and taking, extreme measures. Congress has failed to give him his wall and even the Republicans in the Senate rejected the immigration changes he wanted to make. The courts severely scaled back his Muslim ban, blocked his efforts to deport Dreamers and defund “sanctuary cities” and are now forcing him to reunite the kids separated from their parents. Requirements for long-settled immigrants without documentation to have their day in court is preventing him from mass deporting millions, and there is little evidence that millions of undocumented immigrants are “self-deporting” due to the new, far-harsher immigration regime.

But it is what has happened on the border in the past year which poses the greatest political threat to Trump. At the core of his immigration strategy is an effort to create a deep climate of fear through aggressive immigration enforcement. That climate, he and his advisers thought, would encourage undocumented immigrants here in the country to voluntarily leave (“self-deport,” in the parlance) saving the government a great deal of money and effort, and deter new arrivals from coming. But then, starting in the summer of 2017, people started coming to the border in higher numbers again. By December, monthly apprehensions at the border were almost three times what they were in April. Even though all that was really happening was a reversion to the normal monthly flows, for Trump these increases meant he could no longer say this policies were deterring people from coming. The very human desire for a better life was trumping Trump’s policy of fear. And that was a crisis indeed for the president."

This Fall Focus on Protecting US Elections

NBC News.com has just published Simon’s latest essay, Trump wants to be seen as strong on Putin post-Helsinki. Focusing on election reforms is a start. It looks at the sophisticated Russian attacks on our elections and makes recommendations for what Congress and the Administration can do right now to ensure what happened in 2016 doesn’t happen again in 2018. Here's an excerpt from the piece:

"In what has been a monstrous dereliction of duty by the president and his party, America does not have a clear plan for how to prevent a repeat of Russia’s 2016 active measures campaign this year. Two sensible, bipartisan bills to protect our elections from future interference, the Secure Elections Act and DETER Act, have never been brought up for a vote by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and no election protection legislation has been produced by House Republicans. There is no single person in charge of protecting our elections and domestic discourse. The cyber coordinator position in the White House has been eliminated. The Secretary of Homeland Security publicly broke from the rest of the U.S. intelligence community in May and said that she does not believe that Russia acted on behalf of a particular political candidate or party in 2016 and, last weekend, she also downplayed the Russian threat to our elections a day after the Director of National Intelligence issued a dramatic warning about Russia’s ongoing measures in the U.S.

All of this leaves America unacceptably exposed this fall. While there isn’t enough time for big changes, Congress should pass and the president should sign at least one of the many election protection bills which have been introduced this year. It will be an indicator to the public and to the world the U.S. is taking all of this seriously. Additionally, the president should appoint an elections protection coordinator to oversee our efforts to prevent Russia from striking again. This person should be in the White House and have enough authority to convene all relevant U.S. government stakeholders. Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., proposed such a move earlier this week, and it should be implemented immediately."

Can Trump Keep America Safe?

The Trump Presidency raises new questions, daily.  But one that should be increasingly on our minds is can this volatile and inexperienced President keep America safe? Consider the record.  Thousands died due to government inaction in Puerto Rico.  A challenging situation on the border has been grossly mismanaged, and has now become a full blown regional moral and political crisis.  The President continues to encourage right wing extremism in the US, even at a time when that movement has become far more violent. We are in public and acrimonious disputes with neighbors, Mexico and Canada, and our NATO allies.  The North Korea talks have broken down.   All of this is making the American people less safe, here at home and from threats abroad.

But it is the ongoing threat of Russia’s interference in our domestic affairs which should be of the greatest concern to the American people.  On Friday, the head intelligence official of the American government, Dan Coats, said of Russia’s cyber-interference: “The warning lights are blinking red again….Today, the digital infrastructure that serves this country is literally under attack.”  On Saturday, DHS Secretary Nielsen said U.S. intelligence officials are seeing “persistent Russian efforts using social media, sympathetic spokespeople and other fronts to sow discord and divisiveness amongst the American people.”  Given the gravity of what happened in 2016, shouldn’t it be clear to all of us that yes in fact the President was leading a vigorous effort to protect our nation from similar attacks or even worse?

And yet, despite these warnings, America can neither trust their President is looking out for us or has assembled a team responsible for keeping America safe.  The new National Security Advisor dismantled the cyber security coordinating unit in the White House.  There is no clear person in charge of these matters for the US government, and in a hearing just last week, a senior DHS official admitted that the mechanisms to allow DHS, the FBI and others to coordinate are still insufficient.  And remarkably, the President, on the eve of his meeting with the man responsible for these dangerous threats to America, blamed his predecessors and Robert Mueller for causing the worsening relations between the US and Russia, and not the malevolent dictator and the man who directed the 2016 attack against America, Vladimir Putin.

With Trump now we have two issues regarding our security.  First is competence.   For a man who spends so much time in an alternative world, can he be trusted to assess a threat properly and respond appropriately?  Both the inadequate response to the Puerto Rican crisis and the historic mismanagement of the border crisis suggest not.  But then there is the much more challenging question – does the President actually want to protect America from foreign threats?  Can we count on him to be there for us in a time of need? And on this one I think we have to admit we just aren’t sure.   His response to Russian aggression raises questions frankly about where his ultimate loyalties lie.  A true patriot would have mobilized both US institutions and those abroad to ensure Russia could never replicate the 2016 attack.  Bur rather than doing this, the President has not only denied the attacks ever took place, but he has weakened the international and domestic institutions (NATO, EU, FBI, DHS) needed to challenge Russia in the coming years.  He continued those denials today, in his disastrous joint press conference with President Putin.   Given the opportunity to challenge Putin to stop his interference efforts in the US, the President incomprehensibly took a pass.

So here we are.  It is a sad and dark time in America.   It sure appears that we cannot count on President Trump to keep us safe.  We all wish it were otherwise. 

This is a topic well worth debating in the upcoming elections this fall. 

PS - On Monday, July 16th, the same day our President bowed to Russia's Putin, the Treasury Department announced it was no longer requiring disclosures on contributions given to 501 c (4) organizations.  The practical impact of that is to enable foreign governments and nationals to now give unlimited sums to certain "dark" American political organizations without anyone knowing.  It is an unimaginable surrender of our sovereignity, and will allow unfettered and secret foreign involvement in US politcs - all aiding one side of course. 

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