Home » Election Mantra: It’s The Republican Party, Stupid

Election Mantra: It’s The Republican Party, Stupid

I like this strategy:

Joe Biden’s presidential campaign has a plan for the next few months: Make sure every voter, no matter their party, knows what is happening in the Republican presidential primary.

… the strategy … reflects a steadfast Democratic belief: The conversations happening on the Republican side – coupled with some of the policy proposals being discussed on everything from abortion to guns to health care – are widely unpopular with most voters….

The campaign already put this strategy into play around the first Republican debate last month in Milwaukee. Top Democratic surrogates were on the ground holding events and after the 90-minute contest, the Biden campaign released an ad focused on abortion and the kind of policy each candidate supported on stage.

The voiceover in the ad says that as long as Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are in office, they “will never allow a national abortion ban to become law.”

Traditionally, Democrats have failed to convey to moderate and moderately liberal voters just how extreme Republicans are. They’ve expressed fear that if they’re forthrightly liberal on abortion or guns, they’ll alienate blue-collar whites. Fortunately, that’s started to change in recent years. On abortion at least, Democrats have begun to recognize that they need to be proud of their policies and openly contemptuous of the policies supported by Republicans. Throughout most of his career, Biden hasn’t been a reproductive rights champion, but he’s come around. That’s good.

Nate Cohn of The New York Times has been looking at polling and the results of the 2022 midterms, and he has some thoughts about how voters are responding to Republican extremism in different kinds of states. He believes that moderate voters in solidly blue states might be thinking about GOP extremism less than moderate voters in purple states:

… [In 2022,] Democrats held their ground in the battleground states, allowing them to retain the Senate and nearly hold the House.

… Republicans showed their greatest strengths in noncompetitive states like California and New York as well as across much of the South, including newly noncompetitive Florida. Democratic weakness in these states was just enough to cost them control of the House of Representatives….

In Times polling for 2024, Biden has held his 2020 advantage in swing states, while losing ground in big blue states:

In the sample of 774 respondents in the battleground states, Mr. Biden leads Mr. Trump, 47-43, compared with a 46-44 lead among all registered voters nationwide. On the other hand, Mr. Biden leads by 17 points, 50-33, in a sample of 781 respondents in California and New York — the two blue states that primarily cost Democrats the House last November — down from a 27-point margin for Mr. Biden in 2020.

Why would Democrats be losing ground in blue states but not in purple states? Cohn thinks it might be because moderate voters in blue states aren’t afraid of the extreme things Republicans want to do:

Moderate voters in a blue state — say around Portland, Ore. — have no need to fear whether their state’s conservatives will enact new restrictions on transgender rights or abortion rights, but they might wonder whether the left has gone too far pursuing equity in public schools. They might increasingly harbor doubts about progressive attitudes on drugs, the homeless and crime, as visible drug use among the homeless in Portland becomes national news.

But moderate voters in a purple state — say those who live around Grand Rapids, Mich. — might have a different set of concerns.

Such as?

… the conduct of their state’s Republican Party, which not only tried to ban abortion last fall but also embraced the stop-the-steal movement. The “threat to democracy” is not an abstraction for Biden voters here: It was their votes that Mr. Trump and his allies tried to toss out.

If you’re in Wisconsin or Michigan, GOP extremism is an active threat. You know that the Democrats are the only thing standing between you and Ron DeSantis-style policies. But in New York and California, the extremist Republican threat seems remote, so moderate voters feel less inclined to rally around the Democratic Party.

That strikes me as a plausible theory — and if it’s correct, I think it could matter in the fight for the Electoral College in 2024. There are seemingly blue states that could tip Republican if voters don’t fear what the Republicans might do — Virginia, New Hampshire, Maine, maybe Minnesota. Voters in those states might think they’re safe from right-wing extremism because the GOP crazies don’t have sufficient local power, so they need to be reminded of the nationwide threat.

The Biden campaign should talk about GOP extremism as much as possible — on abortion, on guns, on healthcare, on entitlements, and especially on the makeup of the Supreme Court and other federal courts. Moderates can see how extreme (and corrupt) the Supreme Court is. They need to be reminded that four more years of Trump means four more years the right can use to construct the extreme Supreme Court of its dreams. Moderates need to be reminded that a Trump-appointed lower-court extremist, Matthew Kacsmaryk, declared the abortion pill illegal by fiat, and that other extremist judges can do just as much mischief or more.

Our politics would be saner if swing voters truly understood how extreme the GOP is — and was, even before Trump. Anything that gets that message out is good politics.

Published with permission of No More Mr. Nice Blog


September 2023