Memo: The Democratic Party Is Strong, Rs Remain All MAGA - NDN's Post-Election Take

Supporting Media - NDN has released a video recording of Simon and Tom Bonier in a joint NDN/Future Majority event talking about the 2022 election. It is their most comprehensive comments about 2022 to date, and well worth a watch.  Future Majority's Mark Riddle and Courier Newroom's Tara McGowan helped make the conversation lively and informative. 

Additionally, Simon joined Sarah Longwell of the Bulwark for a meaty discussion for The Guardian on what's in store for American politics in the coming years; and Simon, David Rothkopf and Tara McGowan had a great conversation about the degradition of Twitter and the challenges of the broader information space in a new must listen Deep State Radio podcast. 

Memo: The Democratic Party Is Strong, Rs Remain All MAGA - NDN's Post-Election Take

Updated 12/19/22 - We’ve had some time to process this rather remarkable and encouraging election, and offer some  observations:

  • It was a stay the course election, Joe Biden has been a good President
  • Ds overperformance in the battlegrounds defied history, set the party up well for 2024, showed significant campaign muscle
  • Rs extremism problem will not be easy for them to shake
  • Dem bench deeply talented, the Party is very strong right now
  • Youth, Hispanic vote encouraging for Dems
  • NeverTrumpers deserve credit, and thanks
  • Dems need to focus on winning the economic argument, getting louder

It was a stay the course election – After years of COVID, supply chain disruptions, inflation and MAGA chaos, voters choose to stay the course, not rock the boat.  Incumbents everywhere, in both parties, won.  Extremist MAGA candidates lost across the US.  The US House narrowly went to the Rs, but Ds appear to have flipped 5 state legislative chambers. This was anything but a typical midterm, a point which has been at the core of our heralded election analysis over the past year. Despite Republican hopes (hopium even), the red wave never came

Democrats were able to defy history this election because Joe Biden has been a good President and the country is better off; the Republicans remain too extreme; and our superior candidate fundraising, campaigns, field operations and highly motivated grassroots got it done in the battlegrounds where it really mattered. 

It was a not a nationalized election - Unusually, the 2022 election was not nationalized, and there were really two elections – a bluer one inside the battleground and in a few heavy Dem states, and a redder one outside.  For example, even though Dems outperformed 2020 in states like AZ, CO, GA, MI, NH, PA there were a big Dem dropoff from 2020 in the four largest states – CA, FL, NY, TX.  The shift to Rs in the big 4 states makes all the national results and two exit polls more R than the reality on the ground, and folks should be wary of any analysis which does not account for huge D overperformance in many of the most important Presidential states. 

The strong Dem performance in the Presidential battlegrounds may be the election’s most important story – Despite low Biden approval and high inflation, Democrats outperformed Biden 2020 in AZ, CO, GA, MI, MN, NH, PA (and WI Gov) – simply a stunning achievement in a midterm election.  This new CNN piece by Ron Brownstein does a good job at explaining what these strong D performances in the battlegrounds may mean for the 2024 Presidential race, and it is not good news for the Rs.  Greg Sargent has an extended interview wiith Simon about this strong D performance and what it means for 2024 in The Washington Post, Ron Brownstein has another must read piece about all this in The Atlantic and David Lauter dives into the growing importance of Arizona and Georgia in this smart LA Times piece. 

The big lesson for us here is that when we run full fledged national campaigns we can control the information environment, and stay in control of our own destiny in the most important battlegrounds in the country.  The big money our campaigns are raising is allowing Democrats to gain significant tactical advantage in contested races, something I write about here and something that will be hard for Rs to match by 2024. Part of this story is the entire Dem ecosystem has learned that a strong early vote can actually increase overall Dem turnout by allowing our campaigns to reach many more lower propensity voters much earlier in the process.  Driving the early vote with bigger campaigns is creating what Simon calls a "virtuous cycle of participation" - a powerful new tool for a party with a higher percentage of new and irregular voters.   

But the other lesson of 2022 is that when we don’t invest and build our superior campaigns, we can see the power of the right wing noise machine in creating a more favorable environment for Rs.  It’s why as we look ahead we must both run our campaigns but be far more intentional about being loud and contesting the Rs ability to drive and dictate daily political discourse.

Dems pick up 4-5 state legislative chambers - Democrats seized four previously GOP-held chambers: Michigan’s House and Senate, Minnesota’s Senate, and Pennsylvania’s House. In addition, the GOP seems to have lost control of Alaska’s Senate; a group made up of centrist Republicans and Democratic senators announced on Friday that they would form a coalition to run the chamber. We may not know until 2023 if a similar coalition emerges in the Alaska House, or if the GOP can coalesce to win control of that chamber (see here for more).

MAGA and abortion remain huge problems for the GOP - Republicans have underperformed now in three consecutive elections, and the central reason for their underperformance – the extremism of MAGA generally and now on abortion too – is not something that will be easy for them to shake in the coming cycle(s).  Fear of MAGA has arguably been the driving force in the last 3 elections, and it is likely to remain so until the GOP makes a hard break from it in the years to come. That their 2024 frontrunner has called for the termination of the Constitution and his immediate installation as President is a sign of the GOP's troubles ahead.

"Kayne. Elon. Trump." is a losing proposition, and a global embarrassment for the GOP.  Understand idea is that GOP may finally move away from MAGA, but consider that DeSantis seems to have decided to move RIGHT (more extreme) and look at the week ahead for the GOP:

  • Jan 6th Committee Report, criminal referals
  • Trump's taxes may get released
  • Epic new House Santos scandal
  • No GOP House leader, two weeks out
  • Proud Boys sedition trial begins
  • Elon's ongoing meltdown

The Democrats generational wheel has begun to turn, the Party’s emerging bench is very, very strong - With the ascension of a new Hakeem Jeffries leadership team in the House, Democrats have begun a deeply consequential generational handoff from an older set of leaders to a younger and very capable ones.  The contrast between Speaker Pelosi and her leadership team's elegant passing of the baton and the mess the current House Rs are in needs to be noted here. 

Just a quick look at who the next set of leaders for the Dems is now and will be.  It's an impressive emerging team:

Biden Administration – Harris, Raimondo, Buttigieg, Becerra, Granholm…

Govs - Newsom, Whitmer, Shapiro, Wes Moore, Polis, Healey, Hobbs, Cooper…

More – Padilla, Cortez Masto, Kelly, Warnock, Ossoff, Harrison, Fetterman, the new House leadership crew, the House Members who’ve survived tough battles in 2020 and 2022…..

The Democratic Party feels very strong right now.  We’ve had 3 impressive elections in a row.  Our candidates are now consistently outraising Republicans, sometimes by 3-4-5 to 1.  Our superior field operations help drive a decisive early vote.  We continue to get big, impressive margins from the emerging electorate of younger people and Hispanic voters.  Our top 20-40 leaders are as strong as any point in my time in politics.  We passed an agenda which will be making things better for Americans, helping us win the future, for decades. 

Hispanic vote narrative needs a rewrite, Dems crushing it in the Southwest - As we’ve been writing for months the national narrative about the Hispanic vote needs a big rewrite.  In the last two elections Dems have had two of their best showings in the Southwestern battleground – AZ, CO, NM, NV – in the past 80 years.  We performed well in the Rio Grande Valley.  Rs have made gains in Florida with Cubans in particularly, but in the rest of the country strong Dem margins with this fast growing part of our electorate continue to help us win critical elections.  

This new Natasha Korecki NBC News article, Republicans struggle in the Southwest as Latino voters stick with Democrats, cites our analysis:

..."The Southwest was once deep-red territory. But Republicans are struggling to regain their grip. It's in part because they've alienated Latinos by taking more hardline stances, including on immigration, according to Simon Rosenberg, a longtime Democratic strategist who was part of the party’s early team that helped develop modern strategies for reaching Latino voters. Rosenberg said the Southwest today is a far cry from what it once was under former President George W. Bush. 

“This was once hostile terrain for us,” Rosenberg said. “Over the last 20 years, the Republican position has significantly deteriorated in the Southwest. And that’s indisputable.”'

Dems need to lean in hard to the youth vote - The youth vote continues to perform for Democrats, and needs to become far more central to our politics in the years to come.  We will be having more to say on this soon, but in the meantime see this NYT op-ed by Harvard’s John Della Volpe and these two podcasts I did with John in recent days to learn more - Deep State Radio and iGen Politics with Victor Shi and Jill Wine-Banks.  This new Navigator poll of younger voters is very much worth reviewing. 

NeverTrumpers played an important role - The Rs who fought MAGA these past two years - Liz Cheney, Bill Kristol, Sarah Longwell, Michael Steele, Matthew Dowd, etc - deserve a lot of credit for their courage and effectiveness.  They helped created a national and battleground permission structure for Rs uncomfortable with MAGA to go elsewhere.  In many important states - AZ, MI, NV, PA, TX, WA - we saw very prominent local Rs publicly work against local MAGAs.  This anti-MAGA, pro-democracy movement of former/not so sure Republicans mattered in 2022 and could play an important role again in 2024. 

Democrats need a party wide project to win the economic argument in 2024 - The Democratic Party is simply not going to do what it wants to do as a national Party if we are losing the economy by 10-15 points to Republicans.  As we argue in our With Democrats Things Get Better presentation, and in a related thread, our trailing the Rs on economic issues remains perplexing when the story since 1989 has been strong growth/lower deficits/progress under Ds, recessions/spiraling deficits/decline under Rs.  Using the implementation of the big 3 bill Biden bills as a backdrop - infrastructure, CHIPs, climate - we need to together make a commitment to pull ahead of the Rs on the economy by the summer of 2024. 

Nuggets from the Exits - we've been a little slow to dive into exit polling as the two big exits this cycle - the traditional media Exit Polls and the newer AP VoteCast - have very different numbers.  Having reviewed both, we feel like the traditional Exit Polls for now are better. and they offer a few interesting insights from an electorate they had at +3 Republican:

- Dems won independents 49-47

- 52% of the country said they were better off or the same as 2 years ago.  Dems won those voters 74%-24%.  Only 31% chose inflation as their most important issue, and only 20% said inflation had caused them extreme hardship.  It remains our belief that the media and Rs had been overstating the role and hardship of inflation for months, something this data confirms. 

- Dems won under 45 year old voters 55%-42%, and lost over 45 year old voters 44%-54%.

- Abortion was the second most important issue to voters, coming in at 27%, just behind inflation at 31%.  Only 10% of voters believe abortion should be illegal in all cases.  In all election where commentators got a lot wrong, the attempts to minimize the impact abortion was having on voters were always among the most ridiculous things we heard. 

- Dems won Latinas 63%-33%, and Latino men only 53-45%.  As we've argued its clear Dems have work to do to re-establish our economic/opportunity/better life message with Latino men. 

- 53% believe immigration helps America.  39% believe it hurts us. 

- Kevin McCarthy's approval rating is 27%-53%, among the worst we've seen in a major politician in this era. 

- Voters who made up their mind in the last month voted Democratic 51%-46%.  Those who made up their minds before voted 47%-52% for the Rs.  Keep in mind this is when the national media declared the red wave had returned. 

As our understanding of the promising 2022 election continues to evolve, we will be updating this core analysis - Simon Rosenberg, Washington, DC (updated, expanded 12/12/22)

Podcasts/Public Discussions/Presentations - In the first few days after Election Day Simon has taken part in a series of great conversations with some of the smartest commentators in politics today: David Rothkopf's Deep State Radio, Meidas Touch, former RNC Chair Michael Steele, TPM’s Josh Marshall, Matt Lewis and Joe Trippi. Simon joined Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC to discuss why we got it right and so many got it wrong. 

On Friday 11/11, Simon conducted his first election briefing after the encouraging 2022 election.  You can watch it here.  This video is Simon's most comprehensive public discussion of the election so far.  Be sure to stay through the Q & A.  It was a spirited and illuminating back and forth.  On 12/1 Simon updated his post-election take in these remarks to the NewDeal Leaders Annual Conference in Washington, DC. 

This conversation with Ryan Lizza for Political Playbook which took place just before the election is perhaps Simon's most comprehensive and far-ranging political interview ever.  This pre-election conversation with the venerable Rick Wilson was also memorable.

We also share this wonderful Democracy Dialogue conversation with Eric Farnsworth of the The Council of the Americas on the 2022 elections and the Hispanic/Latino vote, and this related presentation Simon did this fall on the success of the Democratic Party's Hispanic strategy over the past 20 years.

Media Citations - You can find Simon cited in these post-election stories in CNN, CNN/Ron Brownstein, Financial Times, The Guardian, Haaretz, LA Times, New York Times, The New Republic, Univision, Washington Examiner, Vox, Washington Post and in Jonathan Alter's Old Goats Newsletter and Campaigns and Elections

Finally, some notable mentions of NDN’s success in calling the election this year:

"There was no red wave. Few laid out such a case more forcefully and consistently than Simon Rosenberg, a Democratic strategist, who had presented his arguments in this pre-election podcast, in interviews and on his Twitter feed. A flood of low-quality partisan surveys really did skew the polling averages to the right, as Rosenberg had asserted, while higher-quality nonpartisan polls proved to be much more accurate." - Blake Hounshell, NYT

"Rosenberg, a longtime Democratic strategist, was telling anyone who would listen that the seeming movement to Republicans in the final weeks of the race was misleading – fueled by a series of Republican-sponsored polls that moved polling averages in a more favorable direction for the GOP. He was right. Period." - Chris Cillizza, CNN, "Winners and Losers In the 2022 Election So Far"

"The only person I paid any attention to about polls is @SimonWDC who was always right." - Lawrence O'Donnell, The Last Word, MSNBC

"Let's all give some credit to @SimonWDC, who has faced relentless abuse for simply arguing all along that this election would be a competitive one, which proved prescient. Here's my interview with him way back in July, and he didn't waver off this case" - Greg Sargent, The Washington Post

"The guy who got the midterms right explains what the media got wrong" - Nicole Narea, Vox

"MAGA performance issues? No better example than the last three elections. @SimonWDC does a deep dive into the why and how the #2022Midterms turned out pretty much the way he said it would." - Former RNC Chairman Michael Steele, The Michael Steele Podcast

"Any thoughts on the polls?....Who won the Nate off? Is Simon Rosenberg our God now? I think so. Yes on Simon Rosenberg." Pod Save America, Episode 693, 59th Minute

"When all the experts were predicting a 'red wave,' one man called BS. He got the midterms right, and never backed down. On today's podcast, I ask @SimonWDC what he saw—& why he never backed down. (He also names names.) Don't miss this conversation!" - Matt Lewis, Matt Lewis Podcast

"While many analysts acknowledged that they were caught off guard by the midterm results, Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg said there was evidence back in the spring that his party would overperform." - Melanie Mason, LATimes

"Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg has been saying for months that the widely predicted Republican “red wave” in the midterm elections was greatly exaggerated and that Democrats would remain competitive in races across the country.

Rosenberg, whose hypothesis was roundly rejected by pundits on both sides of the aisle, was vindicated after the shockingly lackluster GOP showing at both the state and national levels this week.  Ben Samuels, Haaretz, 'Red Wave'? This Democratic Strategist Said All Along It Wasn't Coming

"If Democrats do better than expected, @SimonWDC is gonna look like a genius" - Jonathan Alter, 10/26/22