NDN Blog

Putting Their Parties Back Together

2016 Overview - With big wins in New York last week fueling them now, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are on track to win their Party’s nomination this July. The central story in US politics these next few months will be how each of them puts their parties back together after what has been a contentious primary season. The challenges for Trump and Clinton are different, and perhaps can best be summed up by the national polling aggregate graphs from the Huffington Post below.

Today, Hillary Clinton has an insurmountable lead in delegates and has essentially won her nomination, but Democratic voters remain remarkably split between her and Bernie Sanders. For Clinton, putting her party back together will revolve heavily on the perception of how Sanders and his followers are treated, both at a national level and in every state. Given the success of the Sanders campaign against overwhelming odds, and his very high standing in the polls, many Sanders backers will be expecting to play a meaningful role in the emerging post Obama Democratic Party. Accommodating the Senator, his many delegates and his followers, will be a fundamentally difference process than the successful Obama Clinton rapprochement in 2008. The defeated Senator then was a professional politician with future ambitions, and the Clinton world knew how to fall in line and get on board. We simply cannot expect the same from Sanders and Sandernistas across the country.  Many are new to politics, and come at the process with a degree of contempt for the system.  For Clinton 2008 was a "loss."  For Sanders 2016 will be seen by him and his supporters as a "win." Additionally, that there is such a wide held perception that the DNC and “the Party” improperly intervened on Clinton’s behalf in the primary renders the Party, its Chair and the Convention itself a far less effective tool for reconciliation than is usual.

The team around Clinton is a sophisticated bunch, and I am confident they will be able to make all this work. But the constant references to one finds on social media to “we got on board in 2008, your turn,” while perhaps comforting to Clinton supporters, is not now, and will not be a compelling argument to the very different sensibility of the Sanders world. 

Trump, on the other hand, is in a less advantageous delegate position today than Clinton but does not face the kind of popular alternative Sanders has come to represent. It is possible that if a more attractive and less extreme alternative to Trump had emerged in the primaries than Cruz, Trump could have been beaten. But it didn’t happen, and as one can see from the graph above, recent polling has Trump gaining and his two opponents losing ground. In some ways he enters this next phase in a more dominant position than Clinton, as he has doesn’t have a real opponent any more. Yet, his party is far more deeply fractured than the Democratic Party, and putting it back together would be an extraordinary challenge for any nominee, let alone one without political experience. What will make Trump’s job a bit easier is that he is not really at odds with his party on the big issues, arguing for big tax cuts, an interventionist foreign policy, a hard line immigration agenda, climate denial and rolling back Obamacare. He is perhaps louder, more boorish and less experienced than more establishment Republicans, but the ideological distance between him and Paul Ryan may be closer than the one between Clinton and Sanders today and thus easier to bridge than many realize.

The Pick of Vice President - The choice of Vice President will be an important step in this process of putting the party back together for both Clinton and Trump. I still think Senator Tim Kaine has the edge on the Democratic side – swing state, Spanish speaker, Catholic, former Party Chair, good guy, principled thoughtful national leader. He will help reinforce the “steady hand on the rudder” narrative that will contrast well with Trump this fall. But given my analysis above, will also be interesting to see if a nod to the next generation would be appropriate this time, with folks like Cory Booker and Julian Castro getting an extended look. Regardless of who Clinton picks, it would be wise for her to make a group of emerging, compelling Democrats – Cory Booker, Julian Castro, Tulsi Gabbard, Joe Kennedy, Kamala Harris, Gavin Newsom for example – co-chairs of the Democratic Convention this summer. Something significant will have to be done to excite and engage younger Sanders supporters. Celebrating our inspiring next generation of leaders, the ones who will inherit the party after the age of Clinton, Reid and Pelosi, would be one savvy step in this effort.

For Trump, there is one pick that seems to make so much sense that I have to believe it will happen soon – Ohio’s John Kasich. He brings delegates to help wrap up the nomination. He brings unparalleled government experience to complement Trump’s inexperience. He hails from the swingiest of general election states, and the site of the GOP convention. He will be an effective bridge to the “GOP establishment.” Given the events of recent days the cost of this deal clearly has gone up for Trump, but assume these talks are already well underway. There is just no one else who brings more to the ticket now than Kasich, and getting him to come on board will be of the most important tests of whether the Trump makeover has any chance of succeeding.

Further Reading - Two good reads from the last few days on this next phase of the process - The New York Times's Adam Nagourney "Can Clinton Feel the Bern?" and Politico's Gabriel Debenedetti's "Sanders Caught in a Political Trap." 

More on the 2016 Election - Be sure to review our deep dive on the 2016 map and the opportunities it offers Democrats; our tally of the Presidential primary debates audiences which finds the GOP far outperforming the Dems; the Democratic bench is stronger than it appears; Clinton should become a champion of political and electoral reform; thoughts on the "children of Reagan;" my in-depth interview with conservative author Matt Lewis on what the GOP can learn from a generation of reform and success on the center-left; my long form magazine piece on the descent of the GOP into a reactionary mess, anticipating the rise of Trump; Rob Shapiro on Trump's economic plan and the crackup of the GOP. 

"Monday Musings" is a new column which looks at the national political landscape and is published most Mondays here on the NDN site. You can find previous columns here. It also appears each week on the London-based progressive site, Left Foot Forward

Full disclosure: I am supporting Hillary Clinton for President, and have given the maximum contribution to her campaign. I am not, however, a consultant to, or paid by, any campaign or party committee.

Consequential Days Ahead

2016 Overview – As we discussed last week, the central question in the Presidential race now is whether Clinton and Trump can use the late April states to reestablish control over their nominating contests. Both are polling well in New York (April 19th), and on April 26’s “Super Tuesday” of Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. If the polls hold, both Trump and Clinton will enter the final month of primaries in very dominant positions, raising questions about whether their opposition can or should continue. So there is a lot riding on the outcomes of these late April states.

On the Democratic side, the margin in New York will matter.  Polls have Clinton with double digit leads.  Recent states have found Bernie overperforming public polls, however, and in other large states like Michigan and Wisconsin without other contests Sanders has been able to close very strong.  My guess is that the final outcome will be closer to mid single digits than 15 points. But whatever it is, the final margin tomorrow night will be important for setting the stage for the five states voting next week.  

How Do Dems Make Peace? If Clinton does as well as is expected over the next week, calls for Sanders to drop out will get very loud. Clinton needs Sanders and his spirited following for her general election campaign. How will the peace be made? What can Sanders show his supporters they got for their remarkable run? Greg Sargent of the Washington Post wrote a few pieces on this matter last week, suggesting that at least one partof the deal could be the Democrats’ adopting significant changes in their own party nominating process at the July convention. Among the things Sargent says that could be considered are eliminating caucuses, establishing an independent process to schedule debates, opening up primaries to independent voters, limiting the number of states that can vote on any given day and more.  His pieces are well worth a read, and offer some smart thinking about the road ahead. 

Is Trump getting a makeover? Perhaps the most interesting development in the Presidential race is the apparent rebooting of the Trump campaign. Shaken perhaps by unexpected losses, inadequate political preparation, legal challenges for his campaign manager and historically high disapproval ratings, it appears that Mr. Trump is in the process of professionalizing his campaign. This is a deeply pragmatic step, both by him and his party. He is still the likely nominee, and Republicans need to do everything they can to salvage his candidacy as a blowout this year will do particular damage to Rs across the country. With long time establishment figure Paul Manafort joining the Trump campaign, it will now become acceptable for others to follow, justifying it as “good for the party.” This sensibility will eventually extend to Trump’s choice for Vice President. If offered, the pressure on folks like Kasich, Walker and Rubio (all named by Trump for his shortlist) to join the Trump ticket, “for the good of the party,” will be immense. And my assumption is that one of them will indeed hop on board.

Whether all of this will be enough to make the general election competitive given the damage Trump has already done to his brand of course is the big question. But remember, for the GOP, there is a huge and consequential difference between Trump losing with 48% of the vote, and losing with 45 or 44%. One early sign of this makeover will be in how Trump handles his victories over the next week. Will there be a change in tone? Style? Language? Worth watching.

More on the 2016 Election - Be sure to review our deep dive on the 2016 map and the opportunities it offers Democrats; our tally of the Presidential primary debates audiences which finds the GOP far outperforming the Dems; the Democratic bench is stronger than it appears; Clinton should become a champion of political and electoral reform; thoughts on the "children of Reagan;" my in-depth interview with conservative author Matt Lewis on what the GOP can learn from a generation of reform and success on the center-left; my long form magazine piece on the descent of the GOP into a reactionary mess, anticipating the rise of Trump; Rob Shapiro on Trump's economic plan and the crackup of the GOP. 

"Monday Musings" is a new column which looks at the national political landscape and is published most Mondays here on the NDN site. You can find previous columns here. It also appears each week on the London-based progressive site, Left Foot Forward

Full disclosure: I am supporting Hillary Clinton for President, and have given the maximum contribution to her campaign. I am not, however, a consultant to, or paid by, any campaign or party committee.

Can the Frontrunners Reassert Control?

2016 Overview – The later part of April provides both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton the opportunity to reassert degrees of control over their nomination battles. Both frontrunners are polling well in the upcoming contests – delegate rich New York on April 19th, and then April’s “Super Tuesday” of Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island on April 26th. . This is a welcome stretch of favorable terrain after what has been a tough few weeks for both candidates. 

In a recent column, I discussed how Trump’s refusal to embrace a modern and complete campaign – fundraising/bid budgets, paid advertising, grassroots organizing, delegate operations, etc – was a potentially fatal mistake. At some point, many have believed, the improvised, impulsive, free media driven Trump start up of 2015 was going to have to mature into a real organization in 2016 if he were to take advantage of the opportunity he had given himself. Over the past few weeks Trump has begun to pay a real price for his stubborn decision to run his effort on the cheap. He gave a series of terribly ill-advised interviews which reinforced how unprepared his was for the Presidency of the most powerful nation in the world. In Colorado this past weekend, he lost every delegate at the statewide convention to Ted Cruz, soon after losing almost all of the delegates in North Dakota and just two months after getting out-organized by Cruz in Iowa. This morning Trump even admitted his own children had missed the registration deadline to vote for him in New York next week. These kind of “can he play this game” mistakes are further driving the GOP establishment/party professional class away from him, a dynamic that is becoming so powerful that it could not only deny him enough delegates at his Convention, but create a sufficient public rationale for finding an alternative to him in Cleveland even if he recovers his standing and ends the primary with a string of victories.

Secretary Clinton faces a different set of challenges. Whereas Trump’s problems are largely of his own making, the Clinton campaign is facing a far more spirited challenge from Bernie Sanders than almost anyone could have predicted. The Sanders campaign has dramatically outraised the extraordinary Clinton fundraising machine this quarter, won 8 of the last 9 contests, and appears to have pulled even in national polls with the Secretary. Whether all of this is enough to catch Clinton in the upcoming run of states where she has, according to early polling, meaningful leads, we will find out soon. The Clinton camp can find solace in that many of the remaining states have “closed” primaries, meaning only Democrats can vote. This will blunt the Sanders advantage with independents. Unlike Trump, she is likely to cross the delegate threshold needed to win the nomination in June. Additionally, the Sanders campaign has made a series of significant public missteps in the last few weeks, reminding us, perhaps a bit like Trump, of his own inexperience of playing the game at this level.

The Sanders camp, on the other hand, will find solace in that in many recent contests he has over-performed against the public polls, some by dramatic margins. No colleges are on break this month, unlike March, which is another thumb on the scale for Sanders. And of course he has the momentum from his remarkable wins of late, most notably his 14 point win in Wisconsin last Tuesday. All of this makes the Sanders Clinton debate on CNN this Thursday night the most important debate so far for the Democrats.

Sanders, Cruz closing in national polls - A close read of recent national polling shows a changing race in both parties. On the Democratic side, six new polls found two Sanders’ leads, two slight Clinton leads and two with bigger Clinton leads. Four of the six found the race essentially tied. Using the Huffington Post poll aggregator, the Clinton lead is now 2.5 points, 47.8 to 45.3, down from 11-12 points from just a month ago. On the Republican side, Trump now leads Cruz by just 9 points, 41 to 32, down from 18 points, 42 to 24, just a month ago. Looking at the charts below, you can see that in each the slope of the lines indicates that public opinion in the race is moving rapidly right now away from the frontrunners. Will it be enough? Can Trump and Clinton use these coming states to recover their momentum? We will see. 

More on the 2016 Election - Be sure to review our deep dive on the 2016 map and the opportunities it offers Democrats; our tally of the Presidential primary debates audiences which finds the GOP far outperforming the Dems; the Democratic bench is stronger than it appears; Clinton should become a champion of political and electoral reform; thoughts on the "children of Reagan;" my in-depth interview with conservative author Matt Lewis on what the GOP can learn from a generation of reform and success on the center-left; my long form magazine piece on the descent of the GOP into a reactionary mess, anticipating the rise of Trump; Rob Shapiro on Trump's economic plan and the crackup of the GOP.  

Source: http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/pollster

"Monday Musings" is a new column which looks at the national political landscape and is published most Mondays here on the NDN site. You can find previous columns here. It also appears each week on the London-based progressive site, Left Foot Forward

Full disclosure: I am supporting Hillary Clinton for President, and have given the maximum contribution to her campaign. I am not, however, a consultant to, or paid by, any campaign or party committee.

Sanders, Cruz Soldier On; A Year of Opportunity for Democrats?

If current polling holds tomorrow night and Cruz and Sanders prevail in Wisconsin, it will give them a vital boost heading into a very important stretch where the terrain looks less favorable for them – New York on April 19th and then the Northeastern “Super Tuesday” of Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island on April 26th. Polls from the past few days show Trump with large leads in these late April delegate rich contests, while Clinton retains about a 10 point lead in New York. So while each frontrunner may take another hit this week, April could be the month where both Trump and Clinton finally put their race away.

Having said that, these last few weeks have been challenging ones for both frontrunners. Sanders racked up big wins in recent states, and had another impressive record breaking fundraising month in March. Video of Clinton in an angry exchange with a voter got her off message this week, and the campaign has yet to really find its footing again. Recent Trumpian interviews with the Washington Post and New York Times have been disastrous for him, reinforcing not just his radicalism and misogyny but his extraordinary ignorance of global and domestic affairs. Polling showing him slipping behind Cruz in Wisconsin raises questions about whether we are beginning to see evidence of a broader Trump weakening (Tues am - NBC/Survey Monkey finds evidence of some Trump slippage this week). I remain unconvinced that Cruz or Kasich at this point are strong enough or capable enough to take full advantage of a potential Trump stumble, and am keeping my money on the one with the hair to prevail outright on the 1st ballot in Cleveland.

As of press time, the Sanders and Clinton campaigns had not resolved their differences to settle on a date and place for a promised 9th debate. This is an unfortunate occurrence, as people voting in April, May and June deserve their own fresh debates. I put the blame for this debilitating squabble squarely on the DNC (Democratic Party), whose original, inadequate schedule had the last English language debate taking place on February 11th, when only 2 of the 50 states would have voted. Remarkably, when confronted with the inadequacy of the schedule, the DNC repeatedly ruled out adding any additional debate beyond this early February one, suggesting that DNC expected/wanted the primary to end in March not June. The reason these debates are negotiated upfront, long before the voting begins, is to avoid exactly what is happening now – in the heat of battle both the Sanders and Clinton campaigns are having to spend time negotiating with one another (no easy thing), and fighting this out in the media rather than talking about the issues that will drive the fall election. That we are even talking about this at this point is a sign of the extraordinary mismanagement of the debate schedule by the DNC this cycle (Tues am - the two sides agreed to next Thursday, April 14th for a Brooklyn debate). 

A Year of Opportunity for Democrats? Several reports this week signaled that the election could be shaping up to be a year of opportunity for Democrats. A new report from Gallup found Party ID starting to break open for Democrats, moving from 42/42 in October to 46/40 today. (see the graph below). Gallup’s daily track of the President’s approval rating, a key shaper of broader public opinion, has been consistently finding Obama in the low 50s, even hitting 53% this past week. Both the 46% Party ID and 53% Presidential approval are highs for the President’s second term, and suggest a very favorable environment for the Democrats this fall. 

A new poll by Stan Greenberg’s Democracy Corps found similar movement toward Democrats, away from the Republicans and early indications that key elements of the Democrat coalition have begun to become far more engaged in the election. House specific questions yielded similar results, suggesting that the movement towards Democrats we are seeing could extend below the Presidential level. As my own recent analysis of this year's electoral map showed, Presidential success for the Democrats in 2016 is likely to have a disproportionate impact on the battle for the Senate and House, potentially even putting the House in play.

Despite the rancor of this tough political year, it could very well be that these numbers reflect the public giving credit to the President and the Democrats for a job well done.  Millions more are working today, and wages have begun to tick up; annual deficits are a third of what they were, and interest rates remain low; the President's health care reform has insured 20m people in just its first few years and health care costs have slowed; the global energy paradigm is changing in ways good for the planet and the United States; and while the world remains a challenging and difficult place, far fewer Americans are dying today than during the previous President's terms, diplomacy has been introduced into the Middle East, the President has advanced a far reaching plan for Asia anchored in his hard fought TPP, etc.   Much has gone right these past 7 years, and the country is stronger for it.  There can be little doubt that this record of achievement will be used effectively by many Democrats this fall to help draw a stark contrast with a generation of ineffectiveness and ideological extremism on the other side. 

So, yes, this data is early, and much can happen. But every election takes on a specific set of characteristics as the cycle unfolds. And at this point, there is a growing body of evidence that this could be a year of enormous opportunity for Democrats to not just win the Presidency but to make up valuable ground lost in the very tough 2010 and 2014 midterms.

More on the 2016 Election - Be sure to review our deep dive on the 2016 map and the opportunities it offers Democrats; our tally of the Presidential primary debates audiences which finds the GOP far outperforming the Dems; the Democratic bench is stronger than it appears; Clinton should become a champion of political and electoral reform; thoughts on the "children of Reagan;" my in-depth interview with conservative author Matt Lewis on what the GOP can learn from a generation of reform and success on the center-left; my long form magazine piece on the descent of the GOP into a reactionary mess, anticipating the rise of Trump; Rob Shapiro on Trump's economic plan and the crackup of the GOP.  

"Monday Musings" is a new column which looks at the national political landscape and is published most Mondays here on the NDN site. You can find previous columns here. It also appears each week on the London-based progressive site, Left Foot Forward

Full disclosure: I am supporting Hillary Clinton for President, and have given the maximum contribution to her campaign. I am not, however, a consultant to, or paid by, any campaign or party committee.

A Very Good Week for Bernie Sanders; Our Creaky Democracy

The unpredictable 2016 race gave us some new twists and turns last week as Bernie Sanders won 6 of 7 contests by shockingly wide margins – 82/18, 79/20, 78/21, 73/27, 70/30, 69/31 (incl Democrats Abroad). As many of these states were small and did not award many delegates, the essential trajectory of the race hasn’t changed – Clinton still holds a commanding lead. To date she has won 56% of the delegates allocated through voting, and retains a strong lead over Sanders in most national polls. But these convincing wins give Sanders and his team a powerful rationale to soldier on through what will be a busy April: 

April 5 – Wisconsin

April 9 - Wyoming

April 19 – New York

April 26 – Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island

The nature of the April schedule is going to be very consequential to both the Sanders and Clinton campaigns. Sanders has done far better on days when fewer people were voting, using the power of his campaign/message to make significant gains (think MI on 3/8 or these last round of states) against the natural name ID advantage Clinton has wielded effectively, particularly on the two Super Tuesdays, March 1st and 15th. The first three April states are one on one contests, which have historically played to Sander’s advantage. New York, however, is a closed primary (no independents), and the Clinton brand remains awfully strong in the Big Apple. But it is the final batch of states on April 26th which may indeed be Bernie’s last stand. He has not performed well on these big Tuesdays, and if Clinton can come close to replicating her previous Super Tuesday performances it could end the race once and for all.

Alternatively, if Bernie can surprise in Wisconsin and New York, April 26th could be a day of enormous opportunity for the spirited Sanders effort.

Given Bernie’s need for name ID in these large contests in late April, it should be no surprise now that the two campaigns have now begun to squabble about the previously agreed upon April debate. Debates matter in American politics, and one should not underestimate the power of debates to help insurgents gain recognition and support. A far superior GOP debate schedule has yielded 186m viewers, and helped power a telegenic insurgent, Trump, into a commanding lead. On the Democratic side, a late and poorly designed debate approach has yielded just 66m viewers, denying the Democrats’ plucky insurgent national air time that could have made a difference for him, particularly in those Super Tuesday states where he just did not have the time or money to compete in so many states simultaneously. So watch this week for news on this new round of debate over debates, and be sure to see our report on the debate audiences so far. 

As for Trump, it is belief he is going to win the Republican nomination. I will spend more time on Trump next week, but at this point I just don’t see how Trump isn’t the GOP nominee.

Our Creaky Democracy – We’ve seen it all these last few months – no paper ballots in Iowa, preventing a recount in an historically close election; 5 hour waits for voting, and far too many people leaving lines because they couldn’t wait any more; voters denied the ability to vote due to new draconian “Voter ID” laws being implemented for the first time; and the absurdity of “caucuses,” which guarantee a very low turnout even in a Presidential campaign. We are long overdue for a big national conversation about how to update our democracy for a new century – look for more from us on this in the coming days. The US must be an exemplar for the very best election practices, and we have a lot of work to do to get there in the years ahead.

More on the 2016 Election - Be sure to review our deep dive on the 2016 map and the opportunities it offers Democrats; our tally of the Presidential primary debates audiences which finds the GOP far outperforming the Dems; the Democratic bench is stronger than it appears; Clinton should become a champion of political and electoral reform; thoughts on the "children of Reagan;" my in-depth interview with conservative author Matt Lewis on what the GOP can learn from a generation of reform and success on the center-left; my long form magazine piece on the descent of the GOP into a reactionary mess, anticipating the rise of Trump; Rob Shapiro on Trump's economic plan and the crackup of the GOP.  

"Monday Musings" is a new column which looks at the national political landscape and is published most Mondays here on the NDN site. You can find previous columns here. It also appears each week on the London-based progressive site, Left Foot Forward

Full disclosure: I am supporting Hillary Clinton for President, and have given the maximum contribution to her campaign. I am not, however, a consultant to, or paid by, any campaign or party committee.

Trump and Clinton Look Unstoppable Now; Some Thoughts About the 2016 Map

2016 Overview - Yes, there are scenarios where Clinton and Trump could come up short this summer. But they are increasingly unlikely, even remote. A Trump Clinton match up looks assured now, and what a titanic battle it will be.

Over the next week Democrats will vote in six states, Republicans four. The frontrunners are likely to lose some states in this patch. The nature of the states gives Sanders a bit more of a “comeback” opportunity, so there could be some drama this week. But it is also an opportunity for Trump and Clinton to re-assert their control over their nominating processes.

I spent some time recently looking ahead to a fall Clinton Trump matchup. A lot is unknown at this point but we do know a few important things: Clinton is consistently over 50 percent in the early match ups; Obama’s approval rating is now up in the high 40s, low 50s, a critical development in the race; the Electoral College Map still favors the Democrats; and on the big issue – can Trump flip enough white men to put the Rustbelt in play? - there just isn’t a lot of evidence yet that he can (and more here). For more on the fall, I recommend these good, early pieces from Dan Balz, Ron Brownstein and Greg Sargent.

The 2016 Electoral Map – New House rankings from the Cook Report now suggest that there is at least a mathematical possibility the Democrats could retake the House (they would need to win 30 of 31 targeted races). A bit surprised by this, I spent some time with the 2016 map and Cook’s rankings of all the Federal races. Using the Cook rankings (with one change - I moved AZ Senate into Tossup/Lean GOP), I came up with the following cheat sheet and thoughts about a possible expansion of what has been a very small Presidential map for Democrats:

Presidential 10-15

Dem Hold (10) - CO, FL, IA, NH, MI, NV, OH, PA, VA, WI

Dem PickUp (3) – AZ, GA, NC

Dem Watch (2) – MN, NM

Senate 8-11 (Dems need to pick up 7 seats net for a majority)

Hold (2) – CO, NV

PickUp 1st Tier (8) – AZ, FL, IL, NC, NH, OH, PA, WI

PickUp 2nd Tier (2) – GA, IA

House 37 - (31 Dem PickUps and 6 Holds, 30 net needed for majority)

AZ (2), CO (1), CA (4), FL (5), IL (1), IA (2), ME (1), MI (2), MN (2), NE (1), NH (1), NJ (1), NV (2), NY (6), PA (1), TX (1), UT (1), VA (2), WI (1)

Key Takeaways - In 2016 there is remarkable overlap between the Presidential and Senate target states. 9 of the 10 top tier Presidential states also have priority Senate races (and Dems are trying to make the 10th, Iowa, competitive at the Senate level), whereas only 3 of the Presidential states in 2012 and 2008 also had competitive Senate races. This overlap offers the national Democratic Party coordination opportunities that could produce enough economies of scale to free up resources to expand the national map. Why is this important? It has my belief that in the Obama era the national Party has not taken enough responsibility for winning elections beyond the very small number (10) of states in each of the last two Presidential cycles. Expanding the map as we discuss below will not only help the Democrats win the Senate, but now that the House is mathematically in play, maximize gains in the House (and of course help at the state and local level too).

The counter of course is that it is too risky to spread limited resources too thin. Hunker down, the argument goes, weather the Trumpian storm, win the Presidency, remake the Supreme Court, etc. But this is an unusual electoral map offering unique opportunities this year; Trump as GOP nominee ensures substantial resources allowing Democrats to consider going on offense; and if successful, could allow Democrats to not just win but have a chance of getting some of their agenda through Congress next year. Let’s look at two highly leveraged expansion paths:

Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina– Each of these longer shot Presidential targets also have targeted Senate races, and given where the polling is today in the Senate, it would be wise for the Democrats to put more races in play. There are questions whether any Southern state is open to the Democrats with Trump on the top of the ticket, but more will be known about this soon. Arizona looks particularly attractive this time as early polling has both the Presidential and Senate races as toss ups; there are also two Congressional seats in play; and Hispanics could be motivated by a ballot that may have both Arpaio and Trump. It should be noted that in 2008 team Obama ran a serious well funded campaign targeting Hispanics in nearby states with similar Hispanic populations - CO, NM and NV - turnout increased between 30 and 63%. Given where the polling is now, the first ever well funded and sophisticated Hispanic effort lead by the nominee could turn Arizona into a purple, lean blue state, as we’ve seen in other states with large Hispanic populations where the national party has invested.

Adding these three states would leave only the Illinois Senate race outside the national Democratic Party map and solely up to the DSCC to manage - though Illinois natives Obama and Clinton might have something to say about that.

California and New York - The map also suggests that the national Democratic Party and nominee should consider mounting some kind of coordinated effort in both New York and California. 19 of the 37 targeted House seats fall within the expanded 13 state map. 10 more fall in New York and California. Mounting targeted campaign in NY and CA to drive up turnout – something no national Democratic party has done in decades – could help put 10 more House seats in play. This means 29 of the 37 target House seats would fall under the national coordinated campaign’s reach, leaving only 8 of the 37 House races and solely up to the DCCC. This kind of coordination and leverage would be unprecedented in recent national politics, and could make the difference not only in the Democrats winning the White House, but in flipping the Senate and getting the House very very close.

So the national party strategy could look like:

National Party Coordinated Strategy

Pres/Senate (10) – CO, FL, IA, NH, MI, NV, OH, PA, VA, WI.

Expansion 1/Pres P/U and Senate P/U (3) – AZ, GA, NC. 

Expansion 2/Maximize House Impact – 17 targets in core 10 Presidential states, 19 in expanded map. 10 more in CA, NY.

Expansion 3/Presidential Watch (2) – MN, NM (states closer than expected in 2012).

Will the nominee and national Party expand the national map, taking advantage of unprecedented economies of scale and highly leveraged opportunities specific to this cycle? I hope so.

Oldie But Goodie - “In this election cycle the Republican’s angry war against modernity has escalated and appears to have become institutionalized. It is almost as if the more the world moves away from the simplicity of the Reagan moment the more angry and defiant – and of course wrong – the Republican offering is becoming” - Simon Rosenberg, “Forward, Or Backward?” September, 2012

More on the 2016 Election - Our tally of the Presidential primary debates audiences which finds the GOP far outperforming the Dems; the Democratic bench is stronger than it appears; Clinton should become a champion of political and electoral reform; thoughts on the "children of Reagan;" my in-depth interview with conservative author Matt Lewis on what the GOP can learn from a generation of reform and success on the center-left; my long form magazine piece on the descent of the GOP into a reactionary mess, anticipating the rise of Trump; Rob Shapiro on Trump's economic plan and the crackup of the GOP.  

"Monday Musings" is a new column which looks at the national political landscape and is published most Mondays here on the NDN site. You can find previous columns here. It also appears each week on the London-based progressive site, Left Foot Forward

Full disclosure: I am supporting Hillary Clinton for President, and have given the maximum contribution to her campaign. I am not, however, a consultant to, or paid by, any campaign or party committee.

Tuesday May Be The Last Day to Stop Clinton, Trump

Consequential Voting Tomorrow – Both parties face meaningful elections tomorrow, the second “Super” Tuesday of the 2016 race for President. 5 big states vote – Florida, Illinois, Missouri, North Carolina and Ohio. The polls are close in enough states that we really don’t know what is going to happen. And after polls missed so badly last Tuesday in Michigan, it would be wise to question whether inexpensive polls of large states can accurately capture a volatile and unpredictable election every time.

Having said that, the likely outcome tomorrow is Trump and Clinton win enough delegates to keep the march to their nominations on track. The big questions tomorrow: can Sanders replicate his big Michigan win, and prevail in the Midwestern states of IL, MO and OH to offset Clinton’s likely wins in FL and NC? And can anyone defeat Trump outside of Ohio? A lot of the spin tomorrow night will depend on many states Clinton and Trump win, and whether it appears they are weathering their challenges, or being weakened by them.

As we gather tomorrow night to watch the results come in, keep two stats from Sanders’ Michigan win in mind: he won the white vote 57/42, and received 30% of the African-American vote. If he can keep those margins in the coming states, he will do well tomorrow night. If not, will be a good night for Secretary Clinton. 

Successful Insurgents - Regardless of what happens tomorrow night, we have to take a moment to reflect on the success of the three insurgent newcomers to the national political stage – Cruz, Sanders and Trump. Running for President is no easy thing, and for the three of them – with very limited national political experience – to get this far against experienced and talented opponents has been remarkable to see. To me it speaks to the power of the “system is broken” narrative each of them are carrying in their own way this election, a narrative so powerful that it is propelling these candidates far beyond where anyone believed they would go. I’ve discussed the need for Hillary Clinton to adopt a more direct narrative around this sentiment in previous columns, and have several quotes addressing the issue in Ryan Lizza’s thoughtful new piece in the New Yorker.

The loss of faith in "establishment politics" here in the US is very similar to what we are seeing in Europe today. Is it a crisis of the "West" itself: an end to 20th century politics here and in Europe?; something passing, something grave? Commentators here and in Europe should be spending more time exploring the similarities of what we are experiencing today, as indeed the challenges appear to be similar in scope and scale. A new piece by the very able Alex Seitz-Wald of MSNBC reminds us that none of the remaining 4 leading candidates for US President support the Trans-Pacific Parternship, an ominous sign for the global order indeed.  

No One Should Be Surprised By The Rise of Trump – Over the past few months, I’ve written a lot about the rise of Trump, even predicting this summer he would win the GOP nomination. I share two recent excerpts from my weekly column which help explain why no one should be surprised by the power of the Trump candidacy with Republicans:

GOP in full freak out over Trump (3/7/16) – While the GOP’s attacks on Trump escalated this past week, most notably in Mitt Romney’s high profile speech, I find these protestations a bit hard to take. Where exactly does Trump differ from the current GOP “establishment?” He is for large unfunded tax cuts which would drive up deficits and harm the economy; repealing Obama’s health care plan; a militaristic foreign policy; and for getting the 11m undocumented immigrants to leave. Even on trade, hard to argue that he is all that different right now from the Washington Republicans refusing to vote on the President’s hard fought TPP deal. The differences between the Romney and Trump approaches are far more about style and biography, and far less about their governing agenda. Donald Trump is very much a creation of modern Republican politics, and one can understand how worrisome that is to so many on the right.

But let’s be clear about one thing – if you don’t think exploitation of racial fear hasn’t been at the center of Republican politics for 50 years now, you just haven’t being paying attention. So Trump’s new found dominance in the GOP, particularly when his two remaining opponents, are, dare we say it – Hispanic! – should be no great surprise to anyone.

Strength of Reactionary Forces in GOP Not News (2/24/16) – Hard to know the exact date when reactionary forces began to truly assert themselves in the modern GOP. You could argue these sentiments were there from the beginning, congealing around Nixon’s Southern Strategy and its response to the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. We could look to Bush’s “Willie Horton” ads in the 1988 Presidential campaign, which put a black man who had raped and murdered at the center of the national debate. You could point to 2005 and the emergence of the Minutemen, and the GOP House’s passing of the Sensenbrenner Bill, which called for the arrest and forced deportation of all 11m undocumented immigrants in the US. Perhaps it was in Barack Obama’s ascent to the Presidency in 2009 and the rise of the Tea Party. Or in 2015 with the forced abdication (self-deportation?) of Speaker Boehner just months after he gave the GOP their biggest House majority in 80 years. As I wrote in my long form magazine article in Letras Libres in late 2012, whatever date you cite you could see this descent of the modern GOP into a reactionary, angry mess coming for years now. What it lacked was a charismatic leader to pull it altogether from an inchoate jumble of grievances into a coherent, compelling argument and movement. Well, in 2015 that leader emerged. Donald Trump.

More on the 2016 Election - Our tally of the Presidential primary debates audiences which finds the GOP far outperforming the Dems; why it is time to take Trump seriously; the Democratic bench is stronger than it appears; Clinton should become a champion of political and electoral reform; thoughts on the "children of Reagan;" my in-depth interview with conservative author Matt Lewis on what the GOP can learn from a generation of reform and success on the center-left; my long form magazine piece on the descent of the GOP into a reactionary mess, anticipating the rise of Trump; Rob Shapiro on Trump's economic plan and the crackup of the GOP.  

"Monday Musings" is a new column which looks at the national political landscape and is published most Mondays here on the NDN site. You can find previous columns here. It also appears each week on the U.K. progressive site, Left Foot Forward

Full disclosure: I am supporting Hillary Clinton for President, and have given the maximum contribution to her campaign. I am not, however, a consultant to, or paid by, any campaign or party committee. 

Honored To Be Teaching at Tufts This Fall

Friends, some exciting news - I will be teaching a call this fall at my alma mater, Tufts University. Sponsored by Tisch College (where I am on the Advisory Board), and the political science department, the class will be called "Changing America, Changing Politics." The description in the course catalog will read:

"Examination of large-scale and ongoing changes in American politics, with particular focus on demographic, economic, geopolitical, media and technological dynamics. These trends are creating a new political era in America. Emphasis will also be placed on discussing how outsiders advocating a “new politics” - Obama, Sanders and Trump - have been disrupting recent presidential elections. Experienced political strategist, Simon Rosenberg, A85, will teach the seminar and most class sessions will include contemporary experts and practitioners brought in from Washington and around the country."

I will be crowdsourcing this class a bit, and asking for my friends and extended family for ideas on readings and speakers. Will be a weekly class, so I won't be in residence there. But more on all that soon. In the interim want to thank Dean Alan Solomont, Tisch's Peter Levine and Professor Jeff Berry for making it possible.

Go Jumbos!

Sanders and Cruz Live to Fight Another Day

Trump, Clinton still lead, but Cruz and Sanders not going away – Both Cruz and Sanders did well enough this weekend (Sanders won 3 states to 2 for Trump and Cruz, 1 for Clinton and Rubio) that their campaigns live to fight another day. Mathematically, however, Clinton is in better shape than Trump at this point; and there is some evidence now that the extraordinary attacks on Trump by Mitt Romney and others these past few weeks have begun to slow his momentum.

“Little Marco” Rubio appears to have missed his window of opportunity, and continues to underperform just about everywhere. John Kasich has picked up important endorsements and impressed on the debate stage. But it just feels too late for him, as the extraordinary investments made by more establishment Rs in Bush and Rubio has left him with very little time, and money. Finally, his “Midwestern nice," low-key demeanor seems ill-suited to in this particular election to allow him to emerge as a legitimate challenger to the more electric Trump and Cruz.

Each party has another debate this week, and there are big, delegate rich states voting between now and March 15th – FL, IL, MI and OH among others. So, we will know an awful lot more about this race on March 16th, and whether Sanders or Cruz can sustain a serious challenge in what amounts to the second half of the primary season that runs from mid-March through June early June. I for one hope the campaigns go on into the spring. If they end in March, almost 40% of the country will not be able to cast a meaningful primary vote this year. And as I’ve written elsewhere, it is becoming far too common for big chunks of the country to not be able to cast a meaningful vote in our national elections, a contributor no doubt to the distance many are feeling from Washington and our country’s politics.

Cruz and Sanders will remain in the race as long as their public rationale for winning the nomination remains convincing enough to keep the money coming in from their supporters. As a Democrat, I remain impressed and surprised by what a strong campaign Sanders has run, and that he has been able to hold his own on the national stage with Secretary Clinton. These long primary fights are important times for parties to regenerate, test messages, revisit old fights, and innovate on tactics and media. A remarkable new ad from the Sanders campaign is one of those bright spots in this long, hard slog, as he and his team are clearly stretching, reaching deep to try to keep up with the formidable Clinton camp. It is well worth watching.

GOP in full freak out over Trump – While the GOP’s attacks on Trump escalated this past week, most notably in Mitt Romney’s high profile speech, I find these protestations a bit hard to take. Where exactly does Trump differ from the current GOP “establishment?” He is for large unfunded tax cuts which would drive up deficits and harm the economy; repealing Obama’s health care plan; a militaristic foreign policy; and for getting the 11m undocumented immigrants to leave. Even on trade, hard to argue that he is all that different right now from the Washington Republicans refusing to vote on the President’s hard fought TPP deal. The differences between the Romney and Trump approaches are far more about style and biography, and far less about their governing agenda. Donald Trump is very much a creation of modern Republican politics, and one can understand how worrisome that is to so many on the right.

The establishment, however, should be equally worried about Trump’s lack of a traditional campaign as they are about his blustery manner and foul mouth. Building a national campaign in this day and age is like building a start-up company – you grow the company by doing, by trial and error, by learning from what works and what doesn’t. It takes time to get it right, to learn the terrain of this particularly year, to adapt the latest media and data techniques in a rapidly changing communications environment, to have your team gel into something bigger than themselves. And it takes time. You are seeing both the Clinton and Sanders campaigns improve and grow as they move into terrain and voting groups beyond the early small states, raise money, do their debates, produce their ads, etc. Trump has in essence yet to start building his campaign. He isn’t raising money in large amounts, isn’t spending a lot of money, isn’t producing a lot of paid media and appears to not have invested a lot on the ground in the states so far. It is hard to me to imagine given the national deficits he has now against Clinton and Sanders for him to win in the fall without a full-on modern campaign. Which means that he will have to start building it from almost the ground up starting in a few months, putting him at a significant organizational disadvantage to a far more experienced and capable Democratic presidential political operative class. He just won’t be able to muscle through the general the way he has the primaries. And this is a real problem indeed for the GOP and Trump who are likely to enter the general behind the Democrats and their incumbent President’s impressive 51% approval rating.

This theory will be tested over the next ten days. Cruz’s strong showing this weekend and some other polls showing signs of Trump slippage in key states could be early signs of Trump beginning to meaningful weaken. A normal, well-funded campaign would respond with a big positive ad buy to maintain their edge and prevent erosion. If the Trump campaign does not do this in the next few days very loud alarm bells should be going off in GOP land about Trump’s ability to fund and run a modern campaign.

A new poll of Michigan reinforces how little room for error the GOP has this fall. As I wrote last week, the likely 2016 map for the GOP offers a very narrow path to victory. They will have to flip a few states northern Rustbelt states like PA, MI, OH and WI to have a shot.  This new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll (very credible source) of Michigan found both Sanders and Clinton with significant leads:

Clinton 48% Cruz 41% Sanders 54% Cruz 36%

Clinton 52% Trump 36% Sanders 56% Trump 34%

As the demographics of these other Rustbelt states are not that different from Michigan’s, these are sobering numbers for the GOP indeed.  And for Sanders too - this poll has Clinton leading him in the Democratic primary 57-40.  

More on the 2016 Election - Our tally of the Presidential primary debates audiences which finds the GOP far outperforming the Dems; why it is time to take Trump seriously; the Democratic bench is stronger than it appears; Clinton should become a champion of political and electoral reform; thoughts on the "children of Reagan;" my in-depth interview with conservative author Matt Lewis on what the GOP can learn from a generation of reform and success on the center-left; my long form magazine piece on the descent of the GOP into a reactionary mess, anticipating the rise of Trump; Rob Shapiro on Trump's economic plan and the crackup of the GOP.  

"Monday Musings" is a new column which looks at the national political landscape and is published most Mondays here on the NDN site.  You can find previous columns here.   It also appears each week on the U.K. progressive site, Left Foot Forward

Full disclosure: I am supporting Hillary Clinton for President, and have given the maximum contribution to her campaign.  I am not, however, a consultant to, or paid by, any campaign or party committee. 

Heading into Super Tuesday, Trump and Clinton Remain in the Driver’s Seat

This week’s Monday Musings memo finds Trump and Clinton still in the driver’s seat, with each appearing to have a very commanding lead in their Party’s fight for the nomination.  Both are doing well in the Super Tuesday states, and while neither may win every state it is hard to see how their current path to victory gets dramatically altered tomorrow.   Let's drill down a bit: 

Democrats – The most important polling we’ve seen these last few days is in Massachusetts, where two different polls in this Sanders must-win state show Clinton ahead.  If Clinton denies Sanders in CO, MA, MN and OK tomorrow very hard to see a path for victory for him, despite what is shaping up to be a record setting fundraising month for his spirited campaign.  Clinton continues to improve and grow on the stump, becoming ever more comfortable in the language and terrain of this challenging campaign in an unsettled time. 

An issue we’ve been raising for months – the enthusiasm gap – has gotten a bit more attention this week.  See this piece from Zach Carter in the Huffington Post, and this from Rachel Maddow.  Our latest debate audience tally has the GOP now at 158m for their ten debates, and the Dems at 55m for six.  The difference remains vast, and worrisome.    

Republicans – I move on this morning to the general election for a bit of a reality check on the Trump insurgency.   Using the 2012 Obama map as a guide, it shows how challenging it will be for Mr. Trump to win.  Assuming NY, NJ/New England and all the southwestern heavily Hispanic states remain out of reach for him (and that is without Arizona, which could be in play for Dems this time), he has to take 63 electoral college votes from either the 83 in IA, MI, OH, PA, VA, WI or the 112 if Florida is in play.  Of these states if Dems hold PA and FL, they only need to win one other of the five remaining states to win.  In some of these states there are 2016 specific winds blowing the Democrats’ way: in Michigan, the Flint water scandal has weakened the Governor and his party; in Wisconsin, the incumbent Senator Ron Johnson is being routed by his opponent Russ Feingold, and Scott Walker is no longer the same strong governor after his washout Presidential bid; in Pennsylvania, the Democrats were able to reclaim the governorship in 2014 and will have their convention there; and in Virginia, one knows that the current governor, Terry McAuliffe, one of Hillary Clinton’s closest allies, will move heaven, earth and maybe more to get Hillary elected (and there may be a Virginian on the ticket).  The path for Mr. Trump is challenging indeed.

It should also come as no surprise that when the choice for Republicans narrowed these three – a nationalistic Anglo and two Hispanics with recent immigrant roots – we discovered that the Hispanic candidates had a very low ceiling and the Anglo started grabbing most of the remaining outstanding votes.   Was just too much of a leap for a party that could produce Trump to end up going for Cruz, or Rubio, who has, so closely identified with his Hispanic immigrant roots. 

Another worry for the Republicans this fall is the unusual campaign Trump has run.  As he hasn’t raised money, put folks on the ground and bought television ads, he and his team will not have had the experience of working through all this in the primaries as most campaigns do.  It means that he if begins to put on the trappings of a traditional campaign, which one will assume he will need to do against the Democrats this fall, he will be doing it all for the first time, reducing his chances of doing it well.   Perhaps he can muscle through the general as he has the primary, but the Democratic Presidential machine has won more votes than the GOP 5 of the last 6 elections, is very modern and sophisticated, and has a built in electorate college advantage.  Trump's refusal to learn and build a traditional campaign apparatus means he will have fewer tools at his disposal in what will be a tough election this fall.  

Rubio and the "children of Reagan - In a 2014 post-election memo, I discussed the significance of the rise of the "children of Reagan" to national prominence in the GOP.  Marco Rubio has started using this phrase in his campaign, and even cut an ad with it last week.  Learn more about the idea behind the phrase here.  

A note on the coming “GOP crackup”- Last week I wrote about why the rise Trump should be no great surprise.  But I want to add one more observation to what is certainly one of the bigger stories in the campaign this year. 

Looking back over the past generation of American politics, perhaps the starkest difference between the two parties is that Democrats have produced two successful Presidents, and the GOP have given us what were in essence two failed Bush presidencies (we cover this in a different memo here).   There simply is far more reason for Republican voters to be angry at their establishment, for it has been almost 30 years since GOP voters have had a leader who they could be truly proud of; and in that time, the analysis goes, the failures of the GOP allowed the Democrats to bring far too much lasting change to the nation.   It is literally astonishing that in the past year the House Republicans deposed a Speaker who had given them their largest majority in almost 80 years, and that the three remaining Republicans in the Presidential have all run explicitly against a failed GOP establishment.  The “crack up” is much bigger than Trump, and where it goes and what it means very hard to tell right now.

Frankly, the nominees of both parties this time are going to have a harder time putting it all back together again than is typical in US politics. 

More on the2016 Map - The emerging 2016 map makes the Dems choice of Philadelphia for their convention look more prescient now, while strengthening the case for Senators Cory Booker and Tim Kaine for Vice President.  On the GOP side, the map suggests a northern Rustbelt or Florida VP strategy for Mr. Trump, putting Governors Christie, Kasich and Walker at the top of the list, with Senator Rubio perhaps a bit of a long shot.   Will be talking about this more in the months ahead. 

"Monday Musings" is a new column which looks at the national political landscape and is published most Mondays here on the NDN site.  You can find previous columns here.   It also appears each week on the U.K. progressive site,Left Foot Forward

Full disclosure: I am supporting Hillary Clinton for President, and have given the maximum contribution to her campaign.  I am not, however, a consultant to, or paid by, any campaign or party committee.  

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