Tuesday, July 16, 2019

2020 Will Be All About Turning Out The Right Voters


Democratic Split by Nancy Ohanian

I find myself in discussions with Blue America candidates frequently about campaign strategy-- what to do-- spend their time dialing for dollars-- as the DCCC and EMILY's List demand-- or working to encourage turnout among voters by going out into the public and talking about policy. The DCCC and EMILY's List each demands weekly call sheets and then threatens candidates with excommunication if they spend too much time interacting with voters and not enough time on the phone begging wealthy strangers for money.

Outside of a wave cycle, money usually wins the race. But not always. A politically talented candidate-- rare among DCCC recruits, which specifically emphasizes fund-raising rather than anything else at all, let alone policy knowledge. Look at primaries where progressive grassroots reformers took on establishment candidates.

I've had plenty of discussion with Mike Siegel about this in the last three years. "Call time as a progressive can feel weird," he told me today, "given that I am often calling millionaires to give me money so I can get in Congress and probably take more of their money when we implement universal healthcare and tax reform. I mean, we are at a point in U.S. history with massive wealth disparities, when three billionaires control more wealth than half the country, and I'm taking the side of the people, not capital. So it can feel futile to even ask for support, and truthfully, with some exceptions, these folks don't love me anyway. On the other hand, the grassroots activists, the salt-of-the-earth rural Democrats, the university students, the rank-and-file workers, they get what I'm trying to do. They understand why we need Medicare for All, why we need criminal justice reform and immigration reform, why we need a massive national jobs program to confront the climate crisis and put Americans to work rebuilding the country. And they respond, with far more generosity than 99% of the people I interact with during call time. My biggest fundraising success was not a result of call-time, or outreach to donors, or any prescribed campaign activity. Rather, it happened when I got involved as an activist, fought for voting rights at Prairie View A&M University, sent my staffer to deliver a demand letter to Waller County officials, and saw him get arrested. After we elevated our fight on an issue that affects real people-- earning an appearance on Rachel Maddow to boot-- we earned $50,000 in donations in three days. So far this cycle, my opponents in the primary are taking dollars from small groups of hedge fund executives and corporate defense lawyers, while over 1250 individuals have donated to me, in much smaller increments, but in increments that are much more substantial compared to their means. I wear this as a badge of honor, one that I hope to continue to earn. By talking to the people, and going straight to the people, we can build a movement that can't be bought, and won't be defeated."

Progressive Democrat Dana Balter ran for the Syracuse-center New York seat last cycle and nearly beat Trump enabler John Katko. She's making another try this time and just told me that "Running for office last time made one thing crystal clear to me-- our campaign finance system is fundamentally broken. The metric of how much money you've raised is way too important-- and it's clear that nothing short of a total overhaul of our campaign finance laws is going to fix it. It's ridiculous that the biggest time commitment of a congressional candidate is fundraising-- I didn't run for office to raise money. I ran for office to fight for my neighbors. I've always been proud to run my own campaign the way that is true to myself-- that means prioritizing community events in ALL neighborhoods and knocking doors for myself and for local candidates who need the help. Folks in DC may think that takes too much time away from fundraising-- but voters are sick and tired of the same politicians getting elected to office, going to DC, and immediately forgetting about where they came from."

  Goal Thermometer"In 2018 and in this cycle, this campaign has been about Nebraska voters and Nebraska values," Kara Eastman told us today. "My team and I knocked on over 200,000 doors in the district. This is all about listening to the voters so I can represent them in Congress. The things I hear at the doors include health care access, student loan debt relief, an unfair economy, and the climate crisis. It's unfortunate that some staff at some national groups choose to forget about this aspect of politics-- actually representing people-- and instead focus on setting fundraising goals that implicitly require reliance on corporate PACs and the donor class. The 2020 election will be determined by this important process: getting voters to the polls and getting them to vote for the progressive voice who will bring their values to DC." If you agree, please consider helping Kara and our other grassroots candidates by chipping in what you can at the Blue America 2020 congressional thermometer on the right.

Mark Gamba is the mayor of Milwaukie, Oregon and is all about policy. The DCCC is ignoring his campaign-- other than to threaten anyone who helps him against reactionary Blue Dog Kurt Schrader. "My experienced campaign staff," he told me, "has me doing call time about 10-12 hours a week, and they want it to be more-- and yes it's very frustrating. I would be a huge proponent for publicly funded, campaign contribution limited elections... We are doing house parties already, we may actually begin knocking doors by the end of the month."

In 2018, Joe Crowley, the ultimate establishment candidate, raised $3.2 million, while AOC spent just half that (including the money she spent for the subsequent general election against Republican Anthony Pappas). Exactly a decade early crooked establishment Democratic incumbent Al Wynn spent $1,522,814 trying to save his seat from primary challenger Donna Edwards-- who spent $1,443,942. Despite massive help from Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi, he was polling so badly that he resigned to join a lobbying firm, ceding the seat to Edwards by default.

Progressives usually argue that turning out voters fed up with the two corrupt establishment parties is the key to beating Republicans. And, indeed, wrote Nate Con yesterday, "Democrats typically gain from a broader electorate in presidential races, but that pattern is not assured in the Trump era." That's from a NY Times piece, Huge Turnout Is Expected in 2020. So Which Party Would Benefit?, by Nate Cohn, asserting that "The 2020 presidential election is poised to have the highest turnout in a century, with the potential to reshape the composition of the electorate in a decisive way. But perhaps surprisingly, it is not obvious which party would benefit. There are opportunities and risks for both parties, based on an Upshot analysis of voter registration files, the validated turnout of 50,000 respondents to the New York Times/Siena College pre-election surveys in 2018, census data, and public polls of unregistered voters.
It is commonly assumed that Democrats benefit from higher turnout because young and nonwhite and low-income voters are overrepresented among nonvoters. And for decades, polls have shown that Democrats do better among all adults than among all registered voters, and better among all registered voters than among all actual voters.

But this longstanding pattern has become more complicated in the Trump years. The president is strong among less educated white voters, who are also overrepresented among nonvoters. And Democrats already banked many of the rewards of higher turnout in the midterm elections, when the party out of power typically enjoys a turnout advantage and did so yet again, according to 2018 Times/Siena data.

Nationwide, the longstanding Republican edge in the gap between registered and actual voters all but vanished in 2018, even though young and nonwhite voters continued to vote at lower rates than older and white voters.

At the same time, the president’s white working-class supporters from 2016 were relatively likely to stay home. Voters like these are likeliest to return to the electorate in 2020, and it could set back Democrats in crucial battleground states. Democrats have an opportunity to gain by tapping into another group: the voters on the sidelines of American politics, who haven’t voted in recent elections or aren’t registered to vote at all. This group, by definition, does not usually factor into electoral analysis, but a high enough turnout would draw many of them to vote. Analysts have speculated about a 70 percent turnout among eligible voters next year, based on the very large 2018 turnout-- the highest in a midterm since 1914-- and on polls showing unusually strong interest in the 2020 election. These adults on the periphery of American politics are probably more favorable to Democrats than registered voters are, but the story here is complicated as well. They are not quite as favorable to Democrats as often assumed, in part because polls of adults include noncitizens, who are ineligible to vote. A large increase in voter registration would do much more to hurt the president in the national vote than in the Northern battleground states, where registration is generally high and where people who aren’t registered are disproportionately whites without a college degree.

The voters who stayed home in 2018 were not much more or less likely to approve of the president than those who actually turned out, based on data from nearly 100 Times/Siena surveys, linked to records indicating who did or did not vote.

Over all, the president had a 47 percent approval rating among Times/Siena respondents who voted, excluding those who did not offer an opinion about the president. But he had a higher approval rating (48 percent) among all registered voters in the nearly 60 battleground districts and a handful of Senate contests surveyed ahead of the midterms.

The Republicans lost their typical midterm turnout advantage, even though they didn’t give up some of their traditional demographic advantages. Young and nonwhite turnout was markedly higher than it had been in 2014, but still lower than that of older and white voters. Registered Republicans were likelier to turn out than registered Democrats, according to data from L2, a nonpartisan political data firm.

These traditional Republican demographic advantages were canceled out, and in some cases reversed, by two new Democratic advantages. The low turnout among whites without a college degree bolstered Democrats in much of the country, allowing college-educated whites to make up a larger share of the electorate.

As a result, the voters who turned out in 2016 but stayed home in 2018 were more likely to approve of the president: He had around a 50 percent approval rating among those nonvoters in Times/Siena data.

The increase in turnout among the young in 2018 came overwhelmingly from anti-Trump voters, giving the Democrats a wide advantage among voters under age 45. The advantage was largest among those 18 to 24: The president’s approval rating was 28 percent for voters in that group, and 45 percent among those who stayed home.

It’s important to emphasize that the Times/Siena data is not representative of the country. The 2018 battleground districts were disproportionately white, well educated and Republican-leaning. Urban areas were almost entirely unrepresented, and black voters were underrepresented as well.

After accounting for the differences between the battlegrounds and the country, the Republicans held a narrow turnout advantage on a national scale. The fundamental turnout shifts were similar, but the lower turnout among nonwhite voters hurt the Democrats more nationwide than it did in the relatively white battleground districts. Over all, the president’s approval rating was 45.3 percent among registered voters and 45.7 percent among likely voters, according to our estimates, based on national voter file data, the Times/Siena polling and a district-by-district estimate of the president’s approval rating based on national election surveys. The opportunity for Democrats, however small, is fairly clear here: It’s reasonable to assume higher turnout would draw from a pool of voters who are relatively likely to disapprove of the president. The opportunity for Republicans is somewhat more subtle, but clear as well. The voters who turned out in 2016, but stayed home in 2018, were relatively favorable to Mr. Trump, and they’re presumably more likely to join the electorate than those who turned out in neither election. In a high-turnout election, these Trump supporters could turn out at a higher rate than the more Democratic group of voters who didn’t vote in either election, potentially shifting the electorate toward the president. A high-turnout election would draw from another group of voters: those who aren’t yet registered.

These voters are hard to measure. They are underrepresented in public opinion surveys, and there’s reason to wonder whether those who do take surveys are representative of those who don’t. They are also less likely to hold opinions on current events, including on the president. (For ease of comparison, those without an opinion of the president have been excluded from measures of the president’s approval rating.)

With those caveats in mind, the president’s approval rating among nonregistered voters stood at just 37 percent in an Upshot compilation of 12 surveys, conducted between December 2017 and September 2018, by the Pew Research Center and the Kaiser Family Foundation. Mr. Trump’s approval rating was at 43 percent among registered voters in the same collection of surveys.

The data includes over 14,000 registered voters and nearly 3,200 voters who aren’t registered, allowing for a fairly detailed analysis and comparison of the groups.

The president’s weakness among nonregistered voters is consistent with a long record of polling showing Democrats fare better among all adults than among registered voters, including in today’s FiveThirtyEight averages.

The potential for Democrats is obvious. But in general, these figures-- and other polls comparing the adult and registered voter populations-- exaggerate the opportunity available to Democrats because they include noncitizens, who aren’t eligible to vote.

People who aren’t citizens represent 22 percent of the nonregistered adult population, according to the Current Population Survey, and they’re very different demographically from citizens who aren’t registered to vote.

Just 11 percent of noncitizens are white and non-Hispanic, compared with 59 percent of eligible but nonregistered voters. This means that the pool of potential but not-yet-registered voters is more white and non-Hispanic than it might appear.

And because the Pew/Kaiser data indicates that almost all President Trump’s weakness among nonvoters is attributed to demographics-- that is, nonwhite people tend to like him less-- the political difference between registered and nonregistered voters shrinks considerably without noncitizens.

Of course, not all eligible voters, or even all registered ones, will vote in 2020. It’s impossible to guess just who will; either side could draw a relatively favorable group of voters to the polls.

Even if every single citizen were to turn out, the effect on the presidential race would not be clear. The president’s approval rating would probably sink by around a point, compared with the 2018 electorate. But the effect on individual states could vary widely.

The major Democratic advantage among nonvoters, their ethnic diversity, would do little for Democrats in the Midwest, where the population is more white and where nonvoters are likelier to be working-class whites who appear to view the president relatively favorably. Democrats would gain more in the diverse but often less competitive states.

In the Times/Siena-based estimates, Democrats appeared to be at a turnout advantage in the Rust Belt in the midterms but at a disadvantage in the Sun Belt. The difference between the groups of states might seem small, but it is not. A hypothetical full-turnout election among registered voters would cut this difference in half, and a full-turnout election among all eligible voters might eliminate it entirely.

This is consistent with state-by-state surveys of adults, like a 2019 compilation of Gallup polling data that showed the president’s approval ratings in Florida, Texas, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania all crowded together between 41 percent and 43 percent, a few points higher than the 40 percent he held nationwide in the poll.

The danger for Democrats is that higher turnout would do little to help them in the Electoral College if it did not improve their position in the crucial Midwestern battlegrounds. Higher turnout could even help the president there, where an outsize number of white working-class voters who back the president stayed home in 2018, potentially creating a larger split between the national vote and the Electoral College in 2020 than in 2016.

There’s nothing about the composition of nonvoters that means a higher-turnout election would invariably make it easier for Democrats to win the presidency, or for Republicans to keep it.
I asked Alan Grayson, who has always been very meticulous about polling and about election campaigns, and he told me that he doesn't think the Siena polling results apply to Florida, "the most important swing state. President Obama won Florida by one point in 2012. When I polled Florida non-voters in that race, he won them by 18 points. When I polled adults who couldn’t vote (mostly convicted felons), he won by 20 points. Universal voter registration and wider participation certainly would favor the Democrats, in Florida... If you insist that every congressional candidate do nothing but raise money by begging for cash, then you end up with a Congress that is good for nothing but raising money by begging for cash-- and that applies to both parties. Also, if the Koch Brothers want to spend $25 million to smear you, it really doesn’t matter how much time you spend on the phone." Grayson, as you probably remember, was one of the pioneers in online, issue-oriented fundraising. There are few members of Congress who have ever duplicated what he achieved in that area.

A Democratic fundraising consultant, Nick Daggers, wrote an opinion piece this week about why the old call-time method is still the way to go for most candidates (who are, unlike Alan Grayson, Ilhan, Bernie, Elizabeth Warren or AOC, uninspiring by the very nature of how they become candidates).
The way campaigns raise money, especially on the left, is leaving a lot of candidates questioning the wisdom of traditional call time, also known as dialing for dollars.

Some progressives believe that call time is a dark art, a time for candidates to schmooze long-distance with lobbyists and interests that rarely align with the core beliefs of most Democrats.

If you liked a tweet Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) recently sent boasting of not having dialed a single time "this year," that's likely your view.

The problem is that, in 2019, not everyone has a devoted base of supporters on platforms like Twitter who can chip in $5, $10, and $27 every time they’re attacked by right-wing media-- or even leaders of their own party.

In fact, most likely this cycle 99 percent of Democrats running for Congress are going to have to spend a ridiculous amount of time dialing for dollars over the next 16 months as they work to hold the House majority. This is the unfortunate reality of our current campaign finance system.

Democratic fundraising consultants and finance directors don’t make candidates do call time because we are sadistic slave-drivers, although some candidates might think that’s the case. We do it because it’s the most efficient and logical way to connect with donors coast to coast.

...Donors are inundated with dozens of emails a day proclaiming all hope is lost, or telling you to kiss everything goodbye. Without a big name or viral video attached to an email, most of these messages will be lost in the shuffle simple due to overwhelming volume.

Often, the only way a candidate will stand out to a donor is to call personally to introduce themselves, share their story and ask directly for support. Donors should get that personal outreach from candidates. Reaching out directly is the only way to truly resonate with many donors short of that viral moment every candidate covets.

Let us make a prediction: like it or not, dialing for dollars will remain the most important fundraising tool candidates for Congress can utilize in what will undoubtedly be the most expensive campaign cycle in history.
His prediction is likely to be proven correct-- at least for the kinds of carefully-selected garbage candidates the DCCC and EMILY's List recruit and the kinds of candidates who use DCCC-- and consulting firms'-- e-mail narratives "proclaiming all hope is lost, or telling you to kiss everything goodbye."

Labels: , , , , , , ,


At 2:12 PM, Blogger VG said...

re: Gamba "My experienced campaign staff," he told me, "has me doing call time about 10-12 hours a week, and they want it to be more-- and yes it's very frustrating."

I have to ask: Why is he using this "experienced" campaign staff, and where do they come from? Apparently not via the DCCC, b/c you say they are ignoring him. If he doen't like doing what his "experienced" campaign staff is telling him to do, but does it anyway, that is not exactly a great reflection on his authenticity.

At 2:27 PM, Anonymous ap215 said...

Dana Balter - "Running for office last time made one thing crystal clear to me-- our campaign finance system is fundamentally broken."

Yes it is Dana.

At 4:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, the "right" voters will always win.

They'll mostly vote for Nazis and due to gerrymandering and the pathetic worthless feckless corrupt pussies on the democrap side suppressing the sentient left... the "right" will win.

And if a democrap wins, the "right" still wins. Because plug in any democrap anywhere in the senate or house and empower scummer or Pelosi (or their looooong list of vetted heirs) and the "right" still wins.

The left loses whether the Nazis win or the democraps win.

and you cannot show a single year since 1980 (maybe 1968) when democraps won and it fucking mattered. Clinton gave us 2008. obamanation gave us jack shit.

Pelosi gave cheney free rein to commit atrocities, violate laws and the constitution. ditto reid. Pelosi also has given trump free rein to commit atrocities and violate laws and the constitution.

nobody did more for cheney and trump than Pelosi.

All have given the money and the Nazis an awful lot. Haven't they?

At 4:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the split is really the entire jackass split from a single shoe off of one rear hoof. Enough to annoy, but not enough to fundamentally change the jackass.

At 4:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

". . . I am often calling millionaires to give me money so I can get in Congress and probably take more of their money when we implement universal healthcare and tax reform."

WHY??? Did Bernie not demonstrate how raising money can work without pitching to millionaires who will expect concessions when the time comes? How the hell does this Party expect to get big money out of politics if they don't learn how to get elected without it?

If this is the best the Party can do, then they can expect to hand the House back to the GOP next year. They don't know how to keep it.


Post a Comment

<< Home