Democrats

With Stimulus Done, Congress Must Now Focus on Defeating COVID

America will not be able to stand its economy and society back up until the COVID virus is contained.  With exploding infection rates now across the country, it is clear that the President and his team have failed in their fight to tame the virus.  With the hard work of providing for the US economy behind it, Congress must now focus on crafting a successful national approach that will allow us to fight the virus in the coming days but also in the many months that remain in this difficult struggle.

There is broad agreement about what needs to be done, right now:  

1) Surge equipment/beds/workers to the frontlines

2) Implement a national 21 day stay at home order

3) Crash a universal rapid testing/isolation regime like in South Korea

To put pressure on the Administration to finally craft a comprehensive response to the virus, Speaker Pelosi should form a political alliance with the governors in the most afflicted states.  By working together, they can create both a more effective national strategy to defeat COVID, but also begin to show a sense of common purpose which we will need to develop if we are to prevail against this dangerous threat.

There have been many Trumpian missteps over the past ten weeks which have allowed the virus to get out of control, but the greatest of all may be his pitting state against state and community against community; to prevail against a pandemic all of us must do our part and work together.  There is no us and them – only us.  The Speaker can exhibit the kind of leadership required to prevail against COVID by forging a new “war time” alliance of the House and top governors, and force the Administration to finally use the awesome power of the United States government to do what should have been done months ago.  We know what needs to be done – let’s get it done in the days ahead.

With new data, the costs of the President's failed COVID19 response becoming clearer

As more economic and public health data becomes available, the more the nation is becoming aware of the extraordinary costs of the President’s ongoing failure to craft a successful national response to the COVID19 virus.

While Congress is the midst of addressing our daunting short term economic challenges, far more must be done in the coming days to stop the spread of the virus. 

Nine weeks into this crisis and the nation still has no plan to stop COVID.  Our elected leaders from across the country should come together around a plan as ambitious as the economic plan close to passing today.  While there are many good ideas on the table, NDN believes there are four key things we must do right now to prevent COVID from doing unimaginable harm to the nation in the days ahead:  

1) Surge supplies/beds/staff to the medical front lines

2) Implement a national 3 week stay at home program

3) Crash/stand up a national testing/isolation regime like South Korea’s

4) Fund a “Manhattan Project” for a vaccine/therapeutics/testing/equipment both for COVID and to prepare for future pandemics

Our nation’s leaders shouldn’t accept the President’s ongoing failure to respond to the COVID threat; all of us should demand he step up here and do what the American people and all of the experts expect him to do – tame COVID, and then stand our society and economy back up later this spring and summer.

Can the governors of the big, afflicted states band togethter to create a pressure campaign against our flailing President? Work with Senate and House leaders, leaders of other nations? If the President won't lead America now, others must. 

A New Role for Elected Officials — Community Truth Teller, COVID Navigator

This essay first appeared on Medium on Wed, 3/25. 

How a nation manages its information landscape in a pandemic is of vital importance. As we are learning, the ill-informed acts of a few can have a dramatic impact on the rest of us. We are now, and will be for perhaps the next eighteen months to two years, truly all in this together in ways which are not always so in a big, diverse nation like our own.

Thus, I think it is important for Democrats and responsible Republicans at all levels of government to dramatically step up their engagement with their constituents in the coming months. With travel and traditional legislating being significantly cut back, our elected leaders have more time to be using modern communications tools to become very present in the lives of their communities, at a time when accurate information can be the difference between life and death. Using tools like Zoom that allow large face to face conversations will not just be effective at communicating vital information, but will also keep the human connection that so many of us are struggling to maintain.

It’s my hope that in the coming days, our elected leaders across the country take responsibility for their community’s information environment, and dramatically raise their levels of engagement. We’ve seen examples of this from Governors like Andrew Cuomo, JB Pritzker, Jay Insee, Gavin Newsom, and Gina Raimondo. Joe Biden has built a TV studio in his house, and is now running his campaign from here. A new Politico story out this morning by Sarah Ferris details the efforts of recently elected House Members to lead important conversations back home. She reports:

“[Rep. Dean] Philips, a Minnesota Democrat, said the forced isolation was “strangely accommodating” for his job at this moment, which consists of a lot of phone calls but zero hours of fundraising or lengthy flights to Washington.“ There’s a silver lining in this,” he said. “It’s fair to say I’m communicating with more constituents, more broadly and more deeply, right now, than I’ve been able to in a year and a half in Congress.

The leaders of every level of government, from the US Senate to city councils, should establish a process to help their colleagues transition to and succeed in this new model of communications and leadership. State parties can do this too, as can organizations like the Democratic Governors Organization and the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. We should have a sense of urgency about this project, seeing it as just as important as surging equipment to frontline hospitals or standing up our national testing regime.

This national project is particularly important given the torrent of misinformation, lies, and magical thinking coming from the President’s Twitter feed and press briefing each day. There is no question that the President’s failure to have an honest conversation with the American people over these past few months has left us all more unprepared than we should have been; and allowed people to unknowingly take actions which endangered themselves and others. The President’s failure to be honest with all of us, to prepare us for what was to come, and to encourage us take prudent steps to protect ourselves, our families, and our communities has been among the biggest failures of his response to COVID — and it is one we must learn from.

I also think that we Democrats have historically undervalued the importance of “official communications” in our understanding of how we talk to constituents and voters. Some of this has to do with consultants not making money off of videos produced in legislative offices or tele-town halls, thus creating a financial incentive for prioritizing campaign communications. I’m not saying ads don’t matter; but we can do both, and we should have a realistic understanding of the positives and negatives of each approach.

In the coming months, our leaders need to be patriots, not partisans, and really lean into this new COVID-era leadership and communications model. It is what people need now, it will save lives, and it will help us learn how to live in a new way. We should not underestimate the collective power of thousands of elected officials at all levels of government leaning in and talking to their communities honestly and forthrightly to provide the kind of information corrective to Trump that the nation needs if we are to defeat the virus in the days ahead. Beating this thing will be the work of all of us, not just our leaders in DC — this one truly requires everyone to do their part.

The President’s plan to combat COVID19 has failed. Congress must step in — now

The US had two choices on how to combat COVID-19 - a national shut down or an universal testing/isolation regime like in South Korea. Nine weeks into the crisis, the US has done neither, and so now we have some of the fastest growing infection rates that any country has experienced since the pandemic began.

Time is running out to prevent the virus from becoming something which fundamentally alters the American way of life. The President has made it clear that he cannot lead us through the crisis, and thus is it time for Congress to take responsibility for developing and implementing a true national plan. We only have a few days to get this done.

In recent days, expert opinion has converged about what we must do:

1) Surge supplies/beds/staff to the medical front lines

2) Implement a national 3 week stay at home program

3) Crash/stand up a national testing/isolation regime like in South Korea

4) Fund a “Manhattan Project” for a vaccine/therapeutics/testing/equipment both for COVID and to prepare for future pandemics

The economy and our society cannot stand back up until the virus is tamed. Washington’s focus on stimulus and worker support, while important, should have come after a national plan to combat the virus was in place. We have no choice now except to work on both in the days ahead.

It is critical that Congress also find time to pass the Klobuchar/Wyden bill that would help institute a national vote by mail program for the 2020 election. While so much else is up in the air, Americans should have the certainty of knowing that our democracy marches on, undaunted.

Finally, we need to focus far more attention on our young people. Both to help them better protect themselves from getting the virus and to help them and their families cope with what could be difficult months at home, away from school.

The President’s plan has failed, and Congress must step in now to develop a clear national strategy to tame the virus. There is no higher priority in the days ahead.

COVID Daily - Where Are the Tests? Surge Health Supplies, Natl Stay at Home - Wed Edition

This is a live document which was last updated Wed April 1st at 755am. 

Top Lines

Wed morning's numbers from the COVID Tracking Project:

187,077 cases up from 162,399

3,832 deaths up from 2,981

1,118,873 tests up from 1,013,932

States over 75,000 cases - NY

Over 10,000 cases - NJ

Over 5,000 cases (7) - CA, FL, IL, LA, MA, MI, WA

Over 2,500 cases (7) - CO, CT, GA, IN, OH, PA, TX

Over 1,000 cases (12) - AL, AZ, MD, MO, NC, NV, MS, SC, TN, VA, UT, WI

As this FT analysis and chart shows the US is currently experiencing what is probably the most serious outbreak of any country since the pandemic began.  The FT's data suggests the world has to start worrying about Turkey - it's current infection suggests the virus is really out of control there.  Should be noted that of all the states with large outbreaks WA may have done the most so far to "flatten the curve" - we should be learning from their experience.  We also find this global tracker useful.

We are officially now once again worried about US testing. After making very rapid progress a week or so ago, the number of daily tests has leveled off at around 100,000 a day.  For weeks now, on a per capita basis, Germany has been close to 300,000 a day, and South Korea at 130,000-140,000 a day.  So we are not only still trailing their daily testing numbers but lag very far behind in the total # of tests conducted over the past few monthsWe've conducted a little more than a million tests in this vast country over the past 10 weeks - a number Germany is hitting every 3-4 days, South Korea in a week. And this is with NY and WA producing many of their own tests. 

This Newsweek article reminds us that Mike Pence promised 5m tests by March 13th, and others in the Administration said there would be tens of millions of tests available in March.  If so, where are all tests? What's happened? There were a few days where it looked like we were finally overcoming the initial testing fiasco, but once again the WH did not answer these basic questions at its daily presser on Tuesday. It's time the House to hold a virtual hearing and ask Dr. Brix under oath to explain what is or isn't going on.

It should be noted that we are using private data, as the government's efforts to track what is happening with the COVID19 pandemic - from test results to masks - has been truly awful. The truth is that our testing regime starting so late and still in its early days we really have no idea whats going on with the virus here in the US. 

America Needs A Plan to Defeat COVID19, Not More Magical Thinking

Almost ten weeks into the COVID-19 crisis, it is hard to put into words has little the US government has done to tackle the public health side of this crisis.  The President’s main initiative, his travel bans, clearly didn’t work; the testing regime still isn’t fully up and running; the President's unwillingness to provide equipment to hospitals remains reckless, inexplicable and sadistic; social distancing and school/business closures have all been done at the state and local level despite the disease being everywhere (that the President allowed Florida's Spring Break partying to continue last week was a sign of the lack of seriousness of his efforts). 

Recently the President said that he doesn't believe that fighting COVID19 is a federal responsibility despite his "wartime" language. He ignored repeated warnings from his own intelligence community that COVID could be the big one.  His refusal to craft a single national strategy to mitigate the spread of the virus will end up costing us many many lives and untold damage to our economy and society more broadly; that the President is relentlessly lying and misninforming all of us about what is happening makes it all that much more worse.  We agree with with the assessment of Jeremy Konyndyk in this new thorough Guardian look at what wrong here in the US: "We are witnessing in the United States one of the greatest failures of basic governance and basic leadership in modern times.” 

The exploding infection rate here in the US proves the President's approach hasn't worked.  In recent weeks expert opinion has settled around a plan similar to the one we've been advocating:

1. urge medical equipment/beds/staff to the front lines

2. Stand up a testing/isolation regime like South Korea's

3. Implement a mandatory national 21 day stay at home program (not just recommendations)

(NDN's #4 is a Manhattan Project for a vaccine/testing/etc). 

The economy cannot stand back up until the virus is tamed, and time for the President's magical thinking to end.  As we wrote earlier this week, now that Congress has taken dramatic steps to aid the US economy, it must step in now and make sure America finally has a plan to defeat the virus.  Our hope is that Speaker Pelosi form some kind of alliance with the nation's governors to not just get this plan in place but oversee its implementation in the coming months.  Getting America stood back up depends on it.  Such an alliance will also make it far harder for the President to keep pitting state against state, region against region. 

And don't take it from us - in a Today show interview on Monday Dr. Brix acknowledged the national social distancing effort has been inadequate, the national testing regime is still not yet stood up and if everything goes right the death toll in the US will be 100-200k. Senator Chris Murphy echoed this dispair at the lack of an effective national response in a new interview with Greg Sargent. 

For more on what we need to do right now see these excellent essays:

Laurie Garrett "Sorry, America, the Full Lockdown Is Coming." Foreign Policy

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel "Fourteen Days. That’s the Most Time We Have to Defeat Coronavirus." NYTimes

Drs. Carroll and Jha "Don’t Halt Social Distancing. Instead, Do It Right." The Atlantic

Professors Romer and Garber "Will Our Economy Die From Coronavirus?" NYTimes

Ed Yong "How the Pandemic Will End."  The Atlantic

NDN's been asking  our readers and members to call Congress every day until the President puts a plan in place and is clearly producing real results.  As we say above, the plan should include 3 core elements:

Surge Equipment/Beds/Staff To the Frontlines – The President and Congress have to take responsibility for a national plan to handle the extraordinary health care crisis that the nation will face in just a few days’ time.  We need wartime-level production of protective gear, ventilators, ICU beds, and isolation/quarantine wards.  We will need a way to employ more health care workers too – perhaps with temporary unemployment rising there can be a way to take qualified people and crash train them as hospital/health care staff. 

The President’s refusal to take responsibility for this part of our national response remains hard to understand and explain.  Congress must step in here and force both a funded national strategy and compliance with it in the coming days.  If the President really wants to show his support for a robust US healthcare system, the President should withdraw his support for a lawsuit which could cripple the ACA in the midst of this pandemic and encourage every state to expand Medicaid so more of our citizens get the care they need.  The President should also review hiis cruel new decision to prevent states from opening the ACA enrollment period to help ensure Americans who want to find health insurance right now can find it. 

Congressshould open up an immediate investigation into news reports that Trump has sent life saving equipment to favored states and held it from ones he didn't like. The Governors of MA, MI and MT have all complained that supply orders they made were cancelled, or they were outbid by the federal government - why is this still happening? See these compelling clips of MD Gov Larry Hogan and NY Gov Andrew Cuomo discussing the dire supply chain issues facing the country.  Reports that US companies were still selling this critical equipment to overseas buyers this week are disturbing. 

Looks like the Senate GOP's war profiteering scandal just got a whole lot worse.

On the "way overdue but good news" front it appears the Army Corp of Engineers is beginning to be deployed to help build more medical facilities in US hot spots.

More, Better, Faster Tests – While things have gotten much better on the testing front, we still have a very long way to go before our tests are ubiquitous and rapid – everywhere and done in minutes/hours, not days.  If we are ever to return to normal, efforts to aggressively screen and isolate those with infection (in public buildings, ports of entry, schools, and sports arenas) will have to become routine – like texting a friend.  This Guardian story looks at how mass testing helped slow the virus's spread in one Italian town, and this new article in Science magazine explains how mass testing was key to South Korea's flattening of the curve without major lock downs.  This new Atlantic article by Alexis Madrigal and Robinson Meyer is an excellent deep dive on the importance of testing, and our massive failure to get it right so far. 

Developing ways of proving that you’ve had the virus and are now immune will also be really important, and would require, obviously, that every single American be tested at some point.  We found this thread by Yale Professor Nicholas Christakis to be helpful in understanding the issues around immunity and the need for rapid, ubiqitous "serology" tests which are of a different kind than the "PCR" tests which are being deployed right now.  The Washington Post just published this smart look at the importance of sreology tests for standing the country back up. 

So, yes, we are talking about billions, not tens of thousands, of tests. The government should be making this kind of ubiquitous rapid testing regime part of the mandate of a new “Manhattan Project” which works to not just defeat COVID but give America far better tools to fight future pandemics.  For more on the need for crashing a broad regime for advance a vaccine, therapeutics, hospital equipment and diagnostics see this thread from Dr. Scott Gottlieb and this Boston Globe op-ed from Senator Markey and Peter Slavin.   

We've started receiving good news on the testing front - the FDA just announced the approval of a rapid point of care PCR COVID19 test by the California company, Cepheid.  This test will be particularly important in hospitals and other triage facilities, and in keeping our front line health care professionals from getting sick themselves.  On Friday Abbott announced FDA approval for a 5-13 minute desktop PRC test - a huge advance if it is can realized in the coming weeks. 

Implement National Stay at Home/Develop A National Strategy For Students and Kids – As part of eventually developing a true national "stay at home" social/physical distancing strategy the US govt will have to help communities and families come to terms with what it means that kids may be home until the fall semester (no schools, summer activities).  This is a large and important area which needs far more attention and creativity, but two initial thoughts:

1) Their Health – the early messages about young people being less vulnerable to COVID-19 and thus somehow less responsible has to be corrected aggressively in the days ahead.  We know from data that young people in other countries have become infected at very high rates, and seem to be critical to the rapid transmission of COVID.  But it is also for themselves – early data here in the US show that young people are turning up in ICU units at much higher rates than in China, and COVID can permanently damage the lungs of anyone infected. 

Gov Cuomo weighed in last Saturday on the need to change our collective mindset about young people, Tweeting "Younger people listen up: 55% of NYS #Coronavirus cases are ages 18-49. Young people aren’t invincible. You can get this and you can give it to someone older you love. You shouldn’t endanger your own health & you certainly shouldn't endanger other people's health. #StayAtHome." More leadership like this please.

2) Their Sanity - What do we do with our kids for the next six months if schools and summer camps are cancelled? This is not just a sanity thing for these students and families - having kids at home will make it far harder to stand the economy back up when the virus ebbs. 

It is our recommendation that all schools and colleges involved in distance learning now develop a “pandemic module” to help young people better understand how to stay safe, reduce infection, and navigate the rigors of life at home, away from their friends and the lives they’ve built for themselves.  These kinds of courses may be the most valuable things that schools can do in the months ahead.

Do note that after weeks of embracing a strategy similar to what the President is apparently now fliting with, the UK has now gone into a full national "stay at home" approach for three weeks.  India has also announced a three week stay at home period.  It is time the US does the same.  A new Morning Consult poll shows supprt for a national stay at home period to be 77/19 - dramatic level of support for immediate, comprehensive action.

So, the President has backed off both the absurd Easter date and the "tiered system" he announced last week.  While good, he still needs to implement a 21 mandatory national stay at home order.  It's cowardice, not strong steady leadership - he's letting others do the hard work of managing this crisis each day.

 
 

Call Congress, Demand A National COVID-19 Response Plan Today

Over the past 10 days, we’ve been calling on the President and Mitch McConnell to match the leadership we’ve seen come from the House in fashioning a comprehensive response to the COVID-19 crisis.  

The President’s mismanagement of the crisis has been a breathtaking sight. Eight weeks since our first COVID case, and twelve since the President was first briefed about the dangers of COVID, our national testing plan is still not up and running and thus we still can’t identify, isolate, and treat those who’ve been infected by a virus whose carriers are frequently asymptomatic; we have no strategy to build hospital beds/quarantine spaces and ensure that our medical professionals have the equipment they need to care for the sick; critical positions in the federal government’s response hierarchy, like the DHS Secretary, remain unfilled; and leadership is desperately lacking in ensuring that our elections run smoothly this year and in figuring out what to do with all of our kids if schools and summer activities remain closed and unavailable.  While the President did finally weigh in on social distancing strategies and closures yesterday, it was days after steps had already been widely implemented across the country and of course inconsistent with the guidance given by the CDC earlier that day. 

We urge everyone reading this to call your Senators and Representative every morning until a plan is in place and it is achieving clear, daily reported results.  The Senate and House must do more than legislate now – they must create a select committee of some kind to interface with the Administration each day to help expedite decision making, and hold our errant President and his team accountable.  The President has already demonstrated that he is not up to the task of leading us through this crisis, and Congress must either adopt some new kind of partnership with him or work to remove him – just allowing his dangerous flailing to continue each day is unacceptable – more can be done. 

Yesterday, on a call with the nation’s governors, the President deviated from any reasonable understanding of the Federal Government’s role in a crisis like this and told the governors that when it came to emergency hospital beds, ventilators, masks, and protective equipment for health care workers, they are on their own.  A new report says that a US-based company is ready to ramp up ventilator production but hasn’t been asked by the Federal government.  The Senate has yet to take up a House bill designed to mitigate some of the economic damage which was endorsed by the President and passed last Friday – because Mitch McConnell decided to give the Senate a long weekend off, in the middle of this extraordinary crisis.  McConnell did find time, however, to put the word out to old GOP judges that it is time to retire – so he can ram through dozens more younger judges before, it appears, the Republicans lose power this fall.  Always party over country it seems for Moscow Mitch – even in our time of COVID.

We are writing to you each day because the scale of the governing failure we are witnessing just must be more aggressively challenged by all of us.  We must rise up and demand more from our elected leaders and our government.  To be clear – the nation does not have a COVID-19 response plan.  Despite the 8 weeks, the warnings, and the deaths, we still haven’t taken the elemental steps which should have been taken in January to contain and defeat the virus.  What is happening now could have been avoided or at least mitigated – which is why we must demand the government act with informed strategic intent and stop making mistakes which will cost this great nation so dearly. 

Make your calls.  Stay informed.  Keep fighting.  We can and must do better.

Godspeed, Simon

Biden Leads, COVID19 To Do List, WTF McConnell?

While it is likely that the COVID-19 crisis will create a new political dynamic in America, the current climate very much favors the Democrats and Joe Biden.  In recent polling, Biden’s lead over Trump has been consistently 8-11 points, landslide territory.  Using Real Clear Politics, Biden is ahead in most of the battleground states, with more than enough to get to 270.  Using FiveThirtyEight, Trump’s job approval is about where it was on Election Day 2018 when Democrats won by 8.6 pts and the Congressional Generic is +7 for the Democrats now.   The new NBC/WSJ poll has Party ID at 44D-36R – 8 pts.  Wherever you look, the structure of the race is 7-10 pts right now for the Democrats, a formidable lead at this point.

You can find this strong Democratic trend in the important Senate races too.  Gideon (ME), Kelly (AZ), and Cunningham (NC) have leads of 4-5-6 in polls taken in the past few weeks.  Ernst had a bad poll last week in Iowa, and the two former governors, Bullock (MT) and Hickenlooper (CO), are in very strong positions in their races (though with no recent polling).  While the GOP is likely to win in AL, the primary there has gotten really messy.  Basically everything has broken against Mitch McConnell since the Senate trial ended – at this point we think Dems are more likely than not to get to 50 in the Senate.

Joe Biden leads by a large margin in the Democratic Primary, and has big leads in all the states voting tomorrow.  NBC/WSJ had it 61/32 yesterday, so there is evidence that Biden’s lead is actually growing now.  If people vote tomorrow and he sweeps all four contests, he could grow even more and it would be our hope that Bernie gets out by week’s end.  With voting a bit in question after Tuesday, Democrats may have to do some creative things to officially end their primary and make Biden the nominee, particularly if there are no Conventions this year – watch for more on this from NDN in the coming days.

Be Loud About COVID-19 - As we wrote to you yesterday, we hope everyone reading this message calls their Senators and Representative today and demands Congress stay in until the nation has a real plan in place to battle COVID-19.  Looking at what’s been done in other nations, it is just shocking to realize how little the President has done since our first case was diagnosed a full 8 weeks ago.   In addition to the House bill which passed on Friday and still awaits McConnell's return from a four day weekend, consider all that still needs to be done:

☑ Ensure  that our national testing regime is in place and working (we’ve tested as many people in 8 weeks as South Korea does every day, and we each had our first case at the same time)

☑ Initiate Herculean efforts to build hospital beds and provide the proper equipment needed by our health care professionals

☑ Establish a clear national policy on social distancing, and don’t leave such heavy lifting to states and localities alone

☑ Pass the new Wyden Senate bill which would fund and enable a national vote by mail program for the general election ensuring that the election takes place as scheduled

☑ Launch a comprehensive, effective screening system for the millions of people who come into the country each day

☑ Appoint a COVID-19 spokesperson who American can rely on each day, and who tells the truth

☑ Create a national advisory board which studies how other nations are tackling COVID and can rush successful tactics to deployment here in the US

☑ Stand up a public temperature measurement corps which will identify carriers in public spaces and rush them to rapid testing and treatment (something being done in many other countries)

☑ Nominate and confirm people in every agency involved in the national response for every unfilled position immediately so that we are at full strength to fight in the days ahead (DHS Secretary for example!)

A new David Leonhardt analysis in the New York Times goes into detail about how the President squandered his opportunity to contain COVID-19 and has continually mismanaged the response.  There is no question that the President’s incompetence will cost Americans lives – perhaps tens of thousands – and will have done historic damage to our economy and our society more broadly.  The President had the tools to contain COVID but chose not to use them. 

Given all this, it is our hope that among the things Congress does in the days ahead is put the President’s removal back on the table.  Given the President’s unprecedented bungling of our nation’s response, he should be taken out of the chain of command now – there simply is no way he can be trusted to do what’s right in the days ahead given how much he has gotten wrong over many months now. 

Why Isn't Mitch McConnell In Washington? There Is So Much Work To Do

Mitch McConnell’s disastrous tenure as Senate majority leader went to an even darker and more dangerous place this week – in the midst of Congressional efforts to make up months of inaction by the President, Mitch McConnell left town and let the Senate adjourn.  The delay of the House package which passed Friday night will literally cost American lives and further erode the public’s confidence in their government at this critical time. 

We write to once again ask you to contact your Federal representatives and demand that they do not recess until we have a clear and comprehensive national response to the COVID-19 pandemic in place.  Call every morning, twice a day if necessary.  Beyond the House package waiting to get passed, we will still have so much to do – ensure our national testing regime is in place and working; initiate Herculean efforts to build hospital beds and provide the proper equipment needed by our health care professionals; establish a clear national policy on social distancing; launch a comprehensive and effective screening system for the millions of people who come into the country each day; create a national advisory board which will study how other nations are tackling COVID and rush successful tactics to deployment here in the US; stand up a public temperature measurement corps which will identify carriers in public spaces and rush them to treatment (something being done in many other countries); and nominate and confirm people in every agency involved in the national response for every unfilled position immediately so that we are at full strength to fight in the days ahead (DHS Secretary for example!). 

It is hard to put into words how far behind we are right now.  The President squandered seven weeks, and still has done almost nothing to establish a comprehensive response to COVID-19.  Much of what has been done – the testing, the travel bans, the Google triage system, preparing the public for what is to come – has been an extraordinary failure.   Congress must stay in and be vigilant now for we simply cannot trust the President and his son-in-law to do the right thing, particularly as things get worse in the days ahead.   We applaud Gov. Andrew Cuomo for demanding that the federal government do more – more in this case are things which should have happened months ago. 

In an essay I wrote last week, I argued that because Mitch didn’t remove the President when he had the chance it was up to Mitch now to lead us out of this COVID crisis which has been made so much worse by the President’s inaction, lying, and Olympian incompetence.  Instead, Mitch chose to leave town at this critical moment.  We all need to demand that he, and all of our Representatives, stay in Washington in the coming weeks to ensure that the government does everything it can to battle and ultimately defeat COVID-19. 

Biden Takes Control

Even for an era of unrelenting political drama, the events of the past few weeks will earn a special place in the history books. Some combination of Bloomberg’s debate fiasco, Biden’s improved public performances and strong showing in Nevada, fear of Bernie and grave Bernie missteps, Clyburn and South Carolina rallying for Biden, and the incredible sight of Pete/Amy/Beto with the VP in Texas produced one of the more extraordinary electoral nights in our storied history.

It is important to note that the movement towards Biden began before South Carolina. Polls taken midweek last week in FL and NC showed significant movement, as did some late polls in South Carolina. Polls taken on Sunday and Monday showed continued movement, leading us to write on Monday morning that “Biden has a real shot at keeping it close on delegates tomorrow night and then opening up a permanent electoral/polling lead by later in the week — one that if maintained should be enough over time to outpace Bernie on delegates and win the nomination.”

That the movement or surge as some are calling it began before South Carolina and didn’t have one cause of course makes it more durable and sustainable in the weeks ahead. It wasn’t a blip, or an accident, but something deep and profound, as we saw last night. And to us what that means is that we don’t know if this is a two person race for the Democratic nomination any more. Morning Consult had the race at 36 Biden, 28 Bernie yesterday morning. If Biden opens up a 10–15 point national lead against Bernie this week we think the race is functionally over (far more likely now that Bloomberg has withdrawn) and Bernie will not be able to catch the VP in the coming March states. Bernie showed last night that rather than expanding his coalition it has contracted, and he is running far below his 2016 numbers, even losing states he won last time. As of this writing, he only definitely broke 30% in CO, UT, and VT. He is below 30 in Texas and may very well be under 30 in CA as well when all the votes are counted.

We assume that the race will continue through at least the end of March, and we believe the Biden campaign should welcome the fight. It is critical that the campaign takes the money it raises and starts to build out a more serious national operation, including beginning the process of creating more paid and organic state specific media and a rapid upgrade of the digital operation. Going head to head with Bernie these next few weeks and beating him will also create a clear end to the campaign, preventing the “rigged” narrative which was so debilitating in 2016 from returning.

When the dust begins to settle on the Democratic side, opinion makers are going to find Trump and the GOP looking at really bad general election numbers. Biden leads most national polls by 7–9 points; the Congressional generic is plus 7 Democrats; 538’s Trump job approval tacker among likely/registered voters is minus 8.9, slightly worse than Election Day 2018 when Trump/GOP lost the national House vote by 8.6 pts. This 7–9 point spread, a spread which opened up in the 2018 cycle, has been constant and steady for the past few years. An incumbent being down 7–9 points, in the low to mid 40s, is often a place impossible to come back from. It perhaps explains why Trump was willing to commit a series of felony level crimes to try to knock Biden from the race — he and his team know that beating Biden is going to be very very hard.

The battleground state picture is no better for Trump. Using Real Clear Politics, Trump trails Biden in AZ, FL, GA, MI, NC, PA, and WI and only leads in Texas, and there by just a few points. While we still have a long way to go in this race, if the general election were held today Biden would beat Trump, badly.

The Senate picture is also bad for the GOP. Assuming Dems lose Alabama, they need four pick ups to wrest control from Mitch McConnell if they win the Presidency. Most analysts believe Colorado is gone for the GOP though there are no recent polls. In Arizona, Democrat Mark Kelly had led Senator McSally in every poll taken this cycle, and one had her at 39% (!) last week. A new poll in Maine has Democrat Sara Gideon ahead of Senator Susan Collins 43–42. A poll last week had Senator Tillis’s job approval at 38% (!) and Trump’s at 45/52 (-7 pts); a new NBC Marist poll has Tillis trailing Democrat Cal Cunningham 48–43. In these recent polls the incumbent Senate GOPers are all in the low 40s, even high 30s — again a place few incumbents ever come back from.

As for the Biden campaign now, some thoughts:

Develop A Clear Under 45 Year Old Strategy — The most important way the VP can expand his coalition in the days ahead is by developing and executing a clear strategy to reach and persuade younger Americans. This age cohort went Democratic by 28 pts in 2018, and are essential to the Party’s prospects in 2020. Engaging them will also be critical to Biden developing a truly modern digital campaign, one which can not only raise the money he needs but also begin to create the on-line army of amplifiers he needs to counter the daily barrage of disinformation surely to come from Trumpworld.

Re-Imagine The War Room — The DNC has a very competent rapid response team in place, but our networked world allows us to re-imagine it; rather than being a few dozen staff fighting it out each day, we should view the War Room as 3–4 million people in the day to day information war, wired into the HQ, taking their stuff and amplifying it through their networks, on and off line. As someone who helped design and run the original War Room in 1992, I can say it is time to update this concept for a new day.

Re-Design How A Presidential Campaign Is Run — To create the maximum amount of intensity and excitement this fall, the Biden campaign should learn from its historic Pete/Amy/Beto day and think of the campaign as 15–20 top Democrats (not just the candidate and VP) all working together to win the election. This allows the campaign to reach more voters every day and more states/media markets, and creates more agile and targeted rapid response and offensive messaging opportunities. I also think it will send a power signal that the Democratic Party is united, mature, and ready to lead and govern on Day 1. The contrast of this with Trump’s band of misfits, extremists, and criminals will be very very stark and powerful.

So while there were many contributors to the great Biden comeback last night, the most important in our mind was the improved performance of the candidate himself. There have been times in this primary where Biden had seemed lost — this is not uncommon in the long grueling primary fights we have here in America. But what is important is that when candidates get lost, to win, they have to get found; and Biden did get found. He righted his own ship, he raised his game, he became far more forceful and aggressive, more compelling, more Presidential. He made the sale. He has been really good these past few weeks, showing above everything else that he will be ready to hit the ground running in January if he wins.

And unlike our current President, who won only with aid from without — Russia, Comey letter, Jill Stein — and bending the rules, Joe Biden and his campaign are doing it on their own, against extraordinary odds and unprecedented opposition (Trump/Ukraine and Bloomberg), in their own way. Campaigns which have overcome adversity as Biden’s has are often the most powerful and successful as we predict this one will be.

On To New Hampshire, Impeachment Ends, The App Fiasco

The race for the Democratic nomination enters an important new phase this week.  Impeachment ends today, and it means that the attention of many Democrats will turn to the Presidential race.  What they will find is a wide open race, with six candidates, including Mike Bloomberg, slugging it out over what is an incredibly intense five week stretch.  In part due to the election night app fiasco, Iowa didn’t do what it often does and winnow the field.  So we have an exciting few weeks ahead with a wide open race, and two candidates – Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar – still very much alive and in contention for the nomination.  The New Hampshire debate this Friday is really going to matter – do make sure you watch.

Like many, we are disappointed in the Senate GOP’s embrace of Trump’s ongoing cover up of his crimes, and worry about where this leaves our Republic.  In a recent piece we wrote how important it was for Democrats to embrace the success of their time in the White House as the foundational argument needed to defeat Trumpism and illiberalism in the coming days.

This morning Simon offered an extensive reflection on the app fiasco, and how all of us – not just the DNC and Iowa Party – have to learn from the mistakes made.  We are in the midst of a wrenching transition to a new era of politics marked by cyber intrusions and disinformation, an era we describe as operating by Moscow Rules, and the need for a fundamental re-invention of our parties and other democratic institutions to prosper in this new era is now more urgent than ever. 

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