Political Strategy

Democrats Hit a Fork in the Road to 2020

Ron Brownstein: “Almost halfway through Donald Trump’s tempestuous first term, Democrats are divided between two visions of how they can dislodge the Republican dominance of Washington and most state governments. One camp believes the party’s best chance will come from targeting mostly white, Republican-leaning voters who are recoiling from Trump on personal, more so than policy, grounds. The other camp believes the biggest opportunity is to turn out more voters from the groups most intensely hostile to Trump, in terms of both his style and agenda: Millennials, non-whites, and white women who are college-educated or unmarried. One camp bets mostly on persuading swing voters, the other on mobilizing base voters.”

“In practice, Democrats inevitably will need to do some of both… But in the selection of their 2020 presidential nominee, Democrats will face a genuine crossroads. Few, if any, potential candidates would be equally effective at both energizing the party base and reassuring swing voters.”

How Stormy Daniels Is Beating Trump at His Own Game

Matt Viser: “Stormy Daniels is proving that she is the master of the prolonged reveal.”

“Over the last two and a half months the adult film actress and her lawyer have rolled out a textbook negative media campaign against the master of media manipulation, with a series of tantalizing details and disclosures that has provoked a storm of salacious and damaging news coverage.”

“And the worst for President Trump, who is in the rare position of struggling to win a tabloid-style media war, is yet to come. Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, is scheduled to appear in a 60 Minutes segment on Sunday in which she is expected to tell plenty more about her alleged affair with Trump in 2006.”

How Yard Signs Helped Defeat Roy Moore

Wade Perry, the manager of Doug Jones’ (D) longshot U.S. Senate campaign in Alabama, told McClatchy that “before Jones even won his own primary, and hatched a plan with campaign chairman Giles Perkins. Their realization: the campaign needed to show Republican voters — some of whom hadn’t voted for a Democrat in decades — that it would be OK to support one this time around.”

“And what better way, they thought, than letting the average Alabamian see rows of Jones signs in their neighbors’ yards?”

“Perry himself can scarcely believe he’s talking about them seriously… But the man who managed the most stunning upset in recent Democratic political history has a larger — and much more important — point he wants to make; his party must be willing to try something different with their politics and campaigns, especially as it prepares to compete this November in a litany of Republican-rich areas.”

Republicans Are Using the Russian Playbook

Jonathan Chait: “Odds are, you don’t remember any of the particular revelations contained in the stolen emails from John Podesta and the Democratic National Committee. But when WikiLeaks published them two years ago, they created a furor. The snippets of conversation, wrenched out of context, seemed to supply hidden evidence of what Hillary Clinton’s critics on both the left and the right already suspected. Here was Clinton scheming, using crass political logic and language, deriding Bernie Sanders, and acknowledging her weaknesses.”

“The email hacks did not actually reveal anything nearly so incriminating. What the episode showed was that, if hostile actors are allowed to peek into a vast trove of their target’s private thoughts, they can usually find something that sounds shady. This is exactly the method Republicans are now using to discredit the FBI.”

A Worldwide ‘Fake News’ Crisis

“Even the strongest of Trump backers should think long and hard about a world without facts and common truths,” Axios reports.

“You might love his middle finger to the media. But even the strongest of Trump backers should think long and hard about a world without facts and common truths. His techniques — especially claiming bad or unwanted news is ‘fake news’ — are getting copied worldwide, just as evil actors like Russia are getting better at spreading misinformation.”

“Despots use fake news as a weapon: Leaders or state media in at least 15 countries have used the term ‘fake news’ to try to quell dissent or defuse questions about human rights violations.”

“In the U.S.: Within seconds of any major attack or shooting, fake news (real fake news: news that is actually false) starts circulating about the suspect and victims, forcing tech platforms to apologize for surfacing news from faulty sources — think Vegas shooting, Times Square subway bombing, etc.”

Will Nixon’s Defense Work for Trump?

Julian Zelizer: “With Nixon, the three-pronged strategy did not work. In the end, the revelations became so damning that the court of public opinion turned against him and Congress prepared to move forward with impeachment. President Trump might actually be able to pull off what Nixon failed to accomplish. He has a number of advantages that Nixon lacked—from a Congress controlled by fiercely partisan Republicans whose political calculations have led them to stand by their president regardless of almost anything that he does, to a conservative media that perpetually broadcasts his points of view.”

“Those who believe that a damaging investigation will inevitably produce negative political results for President Trump should not be deluded. The questions on the table will be: What can Robert Mueller and his team do to counteract Trump’s counteroffensive? Can they withstand the kind of attacks that they will continue to face, which will only become worse as the president becomes more frightened, and will the final report that his team produces be so damaging that it has the capacity to break through the partisan firewall that has insulated this president? Will the Republican Congress ever take a more proactive stance, or might there be a Democratic Congress after 2018 to pick up the slack? Can Mueller carve a legal path, accepted by the courts, that opens the president to criminal prosecution?”

Democrats Ready to Embrace a Class War the GOP Started

McClatchy: “The GOP’s controversial dual effort to revamp the health care system and tax code has convinced Democrats they should bluntly assail Republicans as the defenders of out-of-touch plutocrats, a message party operatives have already begun to poll-test, include in attacks ads, and use against vulnerable incumbents even before Saturday’s passage of the Senate GOP bill.”

“And rather than wince at the inevitable retorts that the party is trying to instigate a class war, leading party strategists say they welcome the attack — confident the GOP’s legislative priorities make them a more likely culprit in the public’s mind.”

Said one party operative: “If we’re eating the rich, they bit first.”

Divided GOP Unites By Attacking Hillary Clinton

“Republicans say doubling down on investigating Hillary Clinton is a smart strategy in the coming months as the cloud from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation looms over the White House,” The Hill reports.

“Even though Clinton does not hold public office anymore, they say she remains the one person who can rally the Republican base and unify a splintered party constantly bickering with itself. And the Republicans making this pitch aren’t just the Breitbart News crowd.”

Said GOP strategist Susan Del Percio: “It may not be the best policy strategy, it certainly is a good political strategy. When it comes to the president, he must always have an enemy to punch at. It’s actually a pretty safe strategy.”

How Social Media Quickly Generated Mass Protests

New York Times: “In a matter of hours on Saturday, thousands rushed to the nation’s airports, beckoned by tweets. The flash protests in response to Mr. Trump’s immigration ban, which continued to grow in many cities on Sunday, were as organized as they were instantaneous. Dispatched online, the protesters knew where to go, and they knew what to do once they arrived: to command the story by making a scene.”

“Mr. Trump feeds off media attention. Throughout the campaign, the bigger a spectacle he created, the larger he loomed in the public consciousness. What has been remarkable during the last two weekends is how thoroughly Mr. Trump’s own media personage was blotted out by scenes of protesters.”

Trump Shows How to Smother a Scandal

Brendan Nyhan: “The bar for scandal in the Trump administration keeps being raised. Every week brings potentially damaging developments that in other contexts could have generated weekslong controversies. With so many competing stories, however, they are frequently ignored or forgotten.”

“As a result, even negative coverage can sometimes benefit President-elect Donald J. Trump by displacing potentially more damaging stories from the news agenda.”

“Scandals need time and space to develop. When the news cycle is congested, potential scandals are deprived of attention, causing the media to move on to other stories and the political opposition to anticipate that any criticisms will probably have little effect.”