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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

2020 Begins

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the early stages of the 2016 campaign, when many candidates were unknowns.  We are now in the early stages of the 2020 race.

From Axios:

Natasha Korecki at Politico:
Anticipating a sprawling Democratic presidential field and a shortage of experienced, high-quality campaign professionals, a left-leaning group is launching a $4.5 million effort to train 1,000 staffers to be ready in time for 2020 combat.
The group, called Arena, will begin holding training academies across the country in 2019, with a goal of deploying at least 450 of those trainees onto Democratic presidential primary campaigns or in state legislative races.
Amie Parnes at The Hill:
Prospective 2020 Democratic candidates aren’t asking donors to write checks just yet, instead participating in “friend-raisers.”

A friend-raiser is a small, informal gathering donors host for would-be candidates.

It’s part of an effort to cultivate relationships between potential candidates and donors without money changing hands.

Attendees don’t typically write checks at a friend-raiser, as they would for traditional fundraisers.
But they trade ideas, business cards and promises to stay in touch, if and when a presidential campaign is launched.

“I think that as we start looking at people who are or may be raising their hand in 2020, it’s a chance for many people to get educated about the various candidates, and it’s good for the candidate to expand their network,” said Jon Vein, the prominent Democratic donor who plans to host some gatherings for would-be candidates and prospective donors.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.), Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper are among the Democratic politicians who have met with donors at the gatherings, according to multiple sources.
 Amanda Terkel and Kevin Robillard at HuffPo:
The nation’s biggest liberal donors are gathering in Washington for a postelection briefing where they’ll focus on turning out more voters of color, flipping red states to blue, and combating GOP attacks on voting rights, according to a schedule obtained by HuffPost.

Democracy Alliance, a group of more than 100 liberal donors who pledge to give at least $200,000 a year to a list of recommended progressive organizations, is holding a postelection briefing Thursday and Friday. Members of the alliance include bold-faced liberal names like Tom Steyer, George Soros and Susan Sandler. Reporters are not allowed into the event.

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Revenge of College America

In Defying the Odds, we discuss congressional elections as well as the presidential race

David Nather at Axios:

Here's a big part of the reason House Republicans lost the suburbs in the midterms: They were thrown out in 16 districts where at least 40% of the women have college degrees.
Why it matters: It means the gender gap and the education gap are combining into a huge demographic problem for Republicans. Per lobbyist Bruce Mehlman, who highlighted the shift in his slide deck on the midterms: "The new geography of Trump Era partisanship is turning suburban congressional districts into GOP killing fields, more than offsetting gerrymander gains by mobilizing intense opposition among college educated women, the beating heart of the suburbs."

The D-Trip Analyzes California

MEMO: How the West Was Won: Historic Gains in California, After Unprecedented DCCC Investment

TO: Interested Parties
FROM: Drew Godinich, DCCC Regional Press Secretary
RE: How the West Was Won: Historic Gains in California, After Unprecedented DCCC Investment

TOP POINT: The DCCC recognized early that California offered historic opportunity in our campaign to take back the House in 2018. The DCCC made unprecedentedly large and early investments, recruited aggressively, and managed complex primaries as part of a California-based winning strategy. As a result, the DCCC is on track to achieve historic wins in the Golden State – flipping every seat in Orange County and the most in California since 1962 – that outsiders did not see coming. The below memo details those efforts.
In April 2017, when the DCCC announced plans to open its first ever fully-staffed West Coast headquarters in Orange County, skeptics said that we were embarking on a fool’s errand to take down the vaunted “Orange Curtain”. But we knew we needed our team to be closest to the voters and the campaigns. In the two years since we opened our doors in Irvine, the DCCC invested millions in flipping vulnerable GOP seats in the West, directing our efforts to change California, from California.
As we await final election results, it is clear that the DCCC has exceeded outside expectations in Orange County and across California. For the twelfth election in a row, no California Democratic incumbent lost their race. And in the offensive column, with several victories already assured, and several more still too close to call, Democrats have a chance to pick up as many as seven seats in California, the most since 1962, including every seat in Orange County. We have also already secured the largest California Democratic Caucus in history, which will be critical for achieving policy wins for many years to come.
Our success in California was no accident. Instead of heeding our detractors and skeptics, the DCCC stuck to our game plan in California: recruiting a historic class of strong, diverse candidates in every district in our battlefield; investing early in field organizing and voter registration; ensuring candidates built a robust fundraising infrastructure – online and offline; and defining the Republican agenda early. At key moments – in particular, the June primary – the DCCC adopted a bold, kinetic, and in some cases completely unprecedented approach that avoided shutouts in all targeted districts.
Republicans abandoned CA-49, a marquee contest of the 2016 cycle, after the DCCC’s multi-pronged intervention in the primary secured the nomination of an unsalvageable Republican candidate in Diane Harkey. In CA-48, in a move that was considered controversial at the time, we joined with Indivisible OC 48 and backed the strongest candidate in a crowded primary field, who on November 6 scored a historic, comprehensive victory in the most Republican district in Orange County.
This is how we won the battle for California in 2018.
In 2016, Secretary Hillary Clinton, carried all four Republican-held congressional seats in Orange County – while low-profile Democratic candidates in three of those seats were defeated by huge margins. In 2018, Democrats recruited a historic class of candidates in every competitive seat in California – and now have the opportunity to pick up all of these seats. Democrats in the general election were overwhelmingly first-time candidates who were independent, well-funded, and fit their districts.
Katie Hill, whose deep ties to the 25th district and an established record of service in her community, resonated deeply with voters and were able to withstand the millions of dollars in outside spending. Katie Porter, who brings an expertise in consumer protection that is unparalleled nationwide. Gil Cisneros, who is prepared to take his service to the country and great fortune and pass it on to children in Orange County. Harley Rouda, who is an independent candidate that understands Orange County in his bones. These are just a few examples of the independent candidates and strong profiles of candidates who Democrats nominated to run in these competitive districts.
Just two weeks after Donald Trump was inaugurated, the DCCC had boots on the ground in districts across California, investing in local organizers earlier in the cycle than ever before. With a new generation of grassroots groups emerging in the aftermath of the 2016 election, many led by first time activists, these organizers helped equip these groups with the tools and tactics to organize and register voters. Rather than instituting a top-down approach from Washington, the DCCC decided to “arm the rebels” on the ground and forged lasting partnerships with the growing constellation of progressive groups. This early decision would yield incredible results.
In California, congressional campaigns in targeted districts registered nearly 20,000 new voters and knocked and dialed voters nearly 6 million times.Early vote totals already show record Latino engagement for a midterm election this cycle. In California, Latino share of the vote in targeted congressional seats has closely mirrored their 2016 presidential vote share, a clear departure from prior midterm cycles. In targeted congressional districts, Latinos have participated at even higher rates than the statewide increase. This was not an accident – the DCCC spent $30 million to turn out our base in this election:
  • In 2017, the DCCC launched an unprecedented, long-term $30 million investment to turn out diverse voters, women, and millennials.
  • The DCCC has been on the ground organizing in competitive congressional districts, especially in districts with notable Hispanic and African American populations, for more than a year.
  • The DCCC has built a pipeline of diverse, local field directors and organizers from the district that look like the district and understand their communities. In California, the DCCC has invested in 11 organizers dedicated to turning out Latino voters.
  • The DCCC’s first ever Training Department held workshops in Anaheim, San Diego, and Los Angeles in addition to extensive online trainings.
  • The DCCC has conducted extensive focus groups with voters of color and millennials in targeted districts across the country, since 2017.
  • The DCCC has been on air with district-specific Spanish-language television ads across the county, and has invested in robust and highly personalized digital ads, mail, African American & Hispanic radio, African American newspapers, text message and traditional field programs.
  • In week one, the DCCC launched its first ever Spanish-language GOTV television ad campaign to get out the Hispanic vote.
  • Between the DCCC’s efforts on the ground and through paid media, these base voters heard from Democrats more than 100 times in the final 60 days.
Democrats this cycle have raised historic sums through a wave of grassroots donations. Nowhere is that more true than California, where congressional candidates repeatedly shattered fundraising records and outraised their rivals many times over. Once again, this was no accident. The DCCC’s candidate fundraising team began working with candidates at the beginning of the cycle to ensure that campaigns had the fundraising infrastructure in place to compete – and win – in the exorbitantly expensive California television markets.
For the first time, this cycle the DCCC hired digital fundraising experts for each region – the western digital director worked directly with campaigns to advise on their online fundraising programs, putting in place systems that would allow them to take advantage of the unprecedented grassroots giving enthusiasm we saw this cycle. As the Washington Post explained, “the green wave was less an act of nature than the result of careful planning on the part of Democrats.“
As we always expected to be outspent by the other side, it was crucial that our candidates had the resources to define themselves with voters before outside Republican groups could. With an incredible $41 million raised by California candidates in targeted races this cycle, our candidates were on the air early – giving them an edge that proved critical in these tight races and allowing them to withstand the tens of millions of dollars in negative advertising aired by Republican groups.
Voters heard early and often from the DCCC, as we defined Republican incumbents for their votes to undermine Californians’ affordable healthcare and their plans to gut Social Security and Medicare. In May of 2017, the DCCC ran radio ads in Southern California hitting 5 Republican members for their votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act. All of these districts are now poised to flip Democrat. And in October of 2017, the DCCC aired the first television ads of the cycle in California – hitting Jeff Denham and David Valadao for their votes for the Republican healthcare plan.
Shortly after the passage of the GOP Tax Scam, Republicans crowed that this was silver bullet to hold the House. But Democrats turned Republicans’ corporate giveaway dream into their election nightmare, and featured it prominently in ads across the state. The RNC even credited the DCCC for winning the messaging war and turning the tax bill into an albatross for their candidates in a memo leaked earlier this year.
As Republicans admitted, our devastatingly effective and disciplined approach to defining the tax scam relied heavily on tying it to cuts to Social Security and Medicare. Given Californians’ heavy reliance on the State and Local Tax Deduction, the DCCC and Democratic candidates made sure voters knew that Republicans were actually going to raise their taxes and cost of living. In the cradle of the Reagan Tax Revolt, Democrats flipped the script on Republicans, and defined them for their votes to raise taxes through the tax bill.
To reach the voters we knew we needed to win these tight races, in the Central Valley, the DCCC aired ads in Spanish, supplementing the work by the campaigns to reach these crucial voters. And for the first time ever, the DCCCaired Spanish GOTV ads nationwide one week before Election Day, including on Spanish broadcast in Los Angeles and Sacramento.
The California primary represented what was arguably the most complex challenge for California Democrats this cycle, as retirements in CA-39 and CA-49 and the eleventh hour entry of Scott Baugh into the CA-48 race made the possibility of lockout in these races a real threat. The DCCC’s first-class data and analytics team did a thorough analysis of the landscape to give us an early pathway to success requiring substantial investment.
The DCCC responded to this threat immediately in January 2018, conducting a thorough data analysis to determine the strongest and weakest candidates – both Democrats and Republicans – and working to consolidate the Democratic primary fields. At the instigation of the DCCC, strong primary challengers Jay Chen and Phil Janowicz left the race in CA-39, helping clear the way for a Democratic win on primary night: polling had shown that their combined vote share would’ve assured that Democrats would be locked out of the general election in that race.
In CA-39 and CA-48, the DCCC named Gil Cisneros and Harley Rouda to the Red to Blue list, identifying them as the strongest candidates in their races. Despite a round of breathless second-guessing on Twitter, the aggressive strategy was employed in coordination with key progressive and grassroots allies who agreed that intervention was necessary.
In CA-49, the DCCC shaped the Republican primary field by eliminating Rocky Chavez as the Republican frontrunner, leaving Republicans with Diane Harkey – a weak and unsalvageable candidate, effectively ensuring that Democrats picked up this top-tier seat five months before November. It was also a clever investment, as the DCCC did not need to spend millions in the general election to pick-up the seat.
The kinetic approach undertaken by the DCCC falls in sharp contrast to that taken by the NRCC and CLF, who failed to back up their rhetoric with action and shut-out Democrats in key races. In CA-48, Scott Baugh’s candidacy represented a mortal threat to Democrats’ hopes of taking the seat – but Republicans’ decision to remain on the sidelines allowed Democrats to shape the field unchallenged. This will forever be one of the most costly and inexplicable Republican political miscalculations of the entire midterm election.
When we first opened our office in Orange County two years ago, our unprecedented bet in the Golden State was met with skepticism by some pundits. Republican Orange County Chair Fred Whitaker boldly declared: “Let the Democrats spend tens of millions of dollars here. Let them die on the hill in Orange County.” Even some in our own party weren’t convinced – one prominent California operative opined:
“The political landscape of California is littered with bodies of operatives from other places who thought they could come in here and achieve amazing results and they never do because they don’t understand the place”.
But if there is anything littering Orange County’s beaches today, it is the failed promises and electoral strategies of the Republicans: whether the gas tax repeal and ‘silver bullet’ of the GOP tax bill? Out with the tide – along with the Republican majority in Congress and their grasp on historically conservative regions of California.
The DCCC understood the challenges posed by this critical midterm in California, and by rising to those challenges, made history.

All Politics is Local, Except When It's National

In Defying the Odds, we discuss congressional elections as well as the presidential race

Ronald Brownstein at CNN:
So much for the old rule that all politics is local.
The results of last week's election demonstrated how powerfully national trends now shape election outcomes in every region. The election produced remarkably consistent divides along demographic and geographic lines in states as diverse as Arizona, Georgia and Texas on one side, and Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania on the other. Though some important regional differences remained, voters who shared the same characteristics or resided in similar places largely voted the same way no matter what state they lived in.
In virtually every state, Democrats last Tuesday displayed a clear advantage in densely populated, culturally and racially diverse white-collar metropolitan areas, while Republicans relied on elevated margins in the preponderantly white, religiously traditional, smaller places beyond them. In almost all cases, the outcome in each state was determined less by how much they varied from that persistent pattern than by how much of each group was present in the state's electorate to begin with.
The continued nationalization of American politics threatens greater polarization and social tension as the lines harden between these two distinct political coalitions. But paradoxically, it means that the party that can generate the most exceptions to these solidifying trends may be the one most likely to control Congress and the White House.

Whether measured by demography or geography, the 2018 election produced remarkably consistent patterns.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Geographical Polarization

In Defying the Odds, we discuss polarization in the 2016 election.

Of the seven California districts that went to Clinton and a Republican House candidate in 2016, Democrats have clearly won four.  Some have called CA45 for Katie Porter over incumbent Republican Mimi Walters.  It seems very likely that Democrat Gil Cisneros will defeat Young Kim for Ed Royce's CA39 seat.(She has led, but her margin has been shrinking fast.)  There is even an outside chance that Democrat TJ Cox could beat incumbent David Valadao in CA21

Nationwide, we could end up with only one or two Republicans in Clinton districts.

Over on the Senate side: If Rick Scott and Cindy "Noose Lady" Hyde-Smith both end up winning, there will be only 9 split delegations in the Senate.  That would be the fewest in at least 40 years.  (Unlike Pew, I count Vermont as single-party).

Starting in January, only one state legislature—Minnesota's—will be under split party control. In that state, Democrats took over the state house but fell one seat short of flipping the state senate last week. The last time just one state legislature was under split party control was 1914.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The Iron Law of Emulation and the 2018 Money Picture

In Defying the Odds, we discuss congressional elections as well as the presidential race.  Campaign finance is a big part of the story.

The Iron Law of Emulation is at work.  In 2010, Karl Rove pioneered the use of super PACs in congressional elections.  Just as important, he gathered representatives of outside groups at his home to coordinate their spending plans.  (Though outside groups cannot directly coordinate with parties or candidates, they are perfectly free to coordinate among themselves.)  Democrats have learned from the other side.

Simone Pathé at Roll Call:
In the dog days of summer, before many Americans were tuning into the midterm elections, the leading Democratic super PAC dedicated to winning the House convened a giant meeting with dozens of outside groups.
That laid the foundation for an unprecedented coordination effort among Democratic independent expenditure groups that spent over $200 million in more than 70 House races, overwhelming Republicans and helping deliver a Democratic majority.
At the August meeting, House Majority PAC staffers passed out binders with race information, public TV reservations and examples of direct mail already circulating in specific districts. And most importantly, they pointed out the gaps — the places they needed other independent expenditure groups to jump in.
“It’s almost like an auction,” said Charlie Kelly, executive director of HMP, with different groups laying claim to spending responsibilities for different weeks on radio, TV, digital and mail. Kelly likened HMP’s role to playing “air traffic control.”
It’s the reason why HMP was created: to coordinate the vast army of Democratic outside groups to ensure there’s no duplicative spending in any one place. Veteran Democratic operative Ali Lapp founded the super PAC in 2011 just after Democrats lost control of the House.
The Center for Public Integrity did a quick take on where money mattered -- and where the better-funded candidate still lost.

Alex Isenstadt at Politico:
Mitch McConnell stood before a roomful of Republican donors on Wednesday night to thank them for their help in the midterms. But the Senate leader also issued a dire warning: Democrats had just thumped them in the all-important online donor game, and the GOP badly needs to catch up.
The heart of the problem, McConnell said at the event at party headquarters on Capitol Hill, is ActBlue. The Democratic fundraising tool funneled over $700 million in small donations to House and Senate candidates over the course of the 2018 campaign. The GOP leader said Republicans were getting swamped in the hunt for online givers and that he has charged his political team with coming up with a solution to enable them to compete in 2020.
Republicans have long acknowledged the shortcoming and spoken out about the need to fix it, to no avail. But this year's gaping money disparity between the two parties has snapped the GOP to attention. 
 The thirst for an ActBlue-like platform has become a central point of discussion as Republicans plot out a road map to win back the House majority and select their new leadership. During a House Republican conference call on Thursday, Arkansas Rep. French Hill complained that the party didn’t raise enough small donations and should have its own version of ActBlue. Hill, who fended off a stiff challenge despite being outraised in the third quarter, said he would support only a candidate to lead the House GOP campaign arm who is committed to creating such a platform.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Summing Up Voter Atttitudes

In Defying the Odds, we discuss congressional elections as well as the presidential race.

Karlyn Bowman and Eleanor O'Neil sum up 2018 polls at AEI:
  • Top issue for the country: Health care was the top issue for voters, followed by immigration, the economy, and gun policy. Voters who supported Democratic House candidates in 2018 gave top priority to health care; those who supported Republicans gave it to immigration. In the AP VoteCast survey, which asked about a greater variety of issues, the top four issues were the same as those asked about in the exit poll, and they ranked in the same order.
  • Voters’ views: Nearly 7 in 10 voters said the health care system needs major changes in the exit poll. In the AP VoteCast survey, a quarter wanted to repeal the Affordable Care Act entirely, 27 percent wanted to repeal parts of it, 13 percent wanted to leave the law as it is, and 34 percent wanted to expand it. In the exit poll, 46 percent of voters said Trump’s immigration policies were too tough; 17 percent thought they were not tough enough. In the AP VoteCast survey, 69 percent wanted to offer illegal immigrants a chance to apply for legal status; 30 percent wanted to deport them. Forty-eight percent favored building a US-Mexico border wall; 52 percent were opposed. Fifty-nine percent in the exit poll said they supported stricter gun control measures; 37 percent did not. 
  • Increasing importance: In recent off-year elections, more voters have said the president was a factor in their vote for Congress than gave that response in past years. Twenty-six percent of voters this year said that one reason for their vote was to express support for Donald Trump, 38 percent said it was to express opposition to him, and a third said he was not a factor.
  • Kavanaugh: Forty-three percent of voters supported Kavanaugh’s confirmation, while 47 percent were opposed. The exit poll asked voters in seven states where there was a key Senate contest whether the incumbent senator’s vote for or against Kavanaugh’s confirmation was an important factor in their vote. Only in the Nevada race did a majority say Dean Heller’s vote to confirm him was an important factor.
  • The gender and marriage gaps: Men voted narrowly for Republican House candidates in 2018, while women voted solidly for Democratic ones. Married voters supported Democrats narrowly, a significant change from recent off-year elections in which they were more Republican. Not married voters were solidly Democratic.
  • Independents and moderates: Independent voters are key. In 2006, independent voters voted for Democratic House candidates, and in 2010 and 2014, they voted for Republicans. This year, 54 percent told exit pollsters they voted for Democratic House candidates, and 42 percent voted for Republican House candidates. Self-identified moderates have been more likely to vote for Democratic House candidates than Republican ones in all recent off-year elections.
  • Divided by education, urbanity: Fifty-nine percent of college graduates voted for Democratic House candidates in 2018, compared to 47 percent who did in 2014. In 2018, voters without a college degree were evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Sixty-five percent of voters in cities with populations over 50,000 voted for Democratic House candidates in 2018, compared to 56 percent in 2014. In 2018, 56 percent of voters in small cities and rural areas supported Democrats.