The Democrats/progressives 2018

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The Democrats/progressives after the 2016 Election Chapter

The Fix’s top 10 Senate races show Democrats with a (narrow) opening to win the Senate
(WaPost) Democrats won a special election in Alabama last year, giving them a narrow path to take back control of the Senate this November. A couple things have aligned in recent months that keep that possibility alive. But here’s the catch: Democrats will need a near-perfect midterm performance to take back the Senate.
They need to overthrow at least two Republicans in competitive states while protecting nearly all of the Senate Democrats running for reelection in states that President Trump won. Seven of those red-state Democrats make our list of the most vulnerable incumbents, and five of those Democrats are trying to hang on in a state Trump won by double digits.

30 June
As Trump Consolidates Power, Democrats Confront a Rebellion in Their Ranks
(NYT) The pitched battle looming over the Supreme Court, along with a jolt to the Democratic leadership at the ballot box last Tuesday, is threatening to shatter the already fragile architecture of the Democratic Party, as an activist rebellion on the left and a lurch to the right in Washington propels the party toward a moment of extraordinary conflict and forced reinvention.
Mr. Trump’s divisive and at times demagogic presidency has ignited much of the liberal upheaval, driving many left-of-center voters on to a kind of ideological war footing. That has translated into a surge in outsider candidates in the midterms who are pressuring Democratic leaders to support an ambitious liberal platform that includes single-payer health care, free college tuition and the abolition of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
But this insurgency, which is both encouraging and alarming Democratic officials, is not merely aimed at pushing the party farther left ideologically. There is a deeper divide over how far to go in confronting Mr. Trump and attempting to thwart his agenda. …
Senate Democrats settled on a careful strategy for the coming Supreme Court confirmation battle. They would drop their demands that Republicans not appoint a replacement for Mr. Kennedy until after the midterm elections, senators decided, and instead would highlight the threat to abortion rights and health care to try to mobilize opposition to Mr. Trump’s appointment.

27 June
Who Is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? A Democratic Giant Slayer
in a stunning upset Tuesday night that ignited the New York and national political worlds, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, a Bronx-born community organizer and member of the Democratic Socialists of America, defeated Representative Joseph Crowley, a 19-year incumbent and Queens political stalwart who had not faced a primary challenger in 14 years.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, who has called for Medicare for all, tuition-free public colleges and the abolition of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, made her underdog status the central pillar of her upstart campaign.

24 June

A fascinating analysis of the enigmatic political role the former president plays today. Sympathetic but not uncritical. A good read now and one to be revisited over the coming months.
Where Is Barack Obama?
The most popular American, whose legacy is the primary target of Donald Trump, has, for now, virtually disappeared from public life.
By Gabriel Debenedetti
(New York) How did the most ubiquitous man in America for eight years virtually disappear? Over the course of his presidency, Obama cast himself as the country’s secular minister as much as its commander-in-chief, someone who understood the moral core of the nation and felt compelled to insist that we live up to it. What explains his near absence from the political stage, where he might argue publicly against the reversals of his policy accomplishments, and also from American life more broadly? What is keeping him from speaking more frequently about the need to protect democratic norms and the rule of law, to be decent people? Where is the man who cried after Sandy Hook and sang in Charleston, who after each mass shooting tried to soothe an outraged nation, who spoke of American values in his travels across the globe? And, tactically, what is behind the relative silence of one of the most popular figures alive just as American politics appears to so many to be on the brink of breaking? (24 June)

22 June
The Midterms Are All About Trump
(New York) It’s a political science truism that midterm elections are typically referenda on the current president, and that the party controlling the White House typically loses ground in midterms that it won in more congenial presidential elections.
Because there’s never been a president quite like Donald J. Trump, with his extraordinary ability to dominate the media landscape morning, noon, and night, it stands to reason that he might dominate the thinking of voters looking toward the midterms in an especially powerful way. And that’s exactly what a major new survey from Pew shows.
… it’s the combination of intense positive and negative focus on the president that’s new, and that makes measurements of midterm “enthusiasm” harder to make than is usually the case:
George F. Will: Vote against the GOP this November
The congressional Republican caucuses must be substantially reduced. So substantially that their remnants, reduced to minorities, will be stripped of the Constitution’s Article I powers that they have been too invertebrate to use against the current wielder of Article II powers. They will then have leisure time to wonder why they worked so hard to achieve membership in a legislature whose unexercised muscles have atrophied because of people like them.
Mark Penn: Dems could win House, but Pelosi not guaranteed speakership
(The Hill) … he suggested the slim margin could give Democrats disgruntled with Pelosi’s leadership an opening to negotiate with Republicans to pick a different Speaker.
“If there is only five or six seats here that make the difference, you can see some real negotiations going on among the Democrats, or the Democrats and Republicans who have the balance of power,” he said, noting a Speaker is chosen by a majority vote of both parties and not just the ruling party.
GOP pollster: Democrats are poised to take back the House

20 June
Bloomberg to Spend Big to Help Democrats in the Midterms
Mr. Bloomberg — a political independent who has championed left-of-center policies on gun control, immigration and the environment — has approved a plan to pour at least $80 million into the 2018 election.

6 June
(New York) This week, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced that he was stepping down, prompting widespread speculation that he would run for president in 2020. In “Democrats Must Reject Howard Schultz and His Radical Centrist Ideology,” Eric Levitz warns against embracing Schultz’s vision of the world. Schultz believes that liberals are drifting too far left, and that the national debt is the biggest problem facing America today. The coffee baron may present this worldview as pragmatic approach to politics, but it is actually “more detached from empirical and political reality than are those of the left-wing Democrats he decries,” who want the richest country in the world to focus on things like universal health care and a sane climate policy. Still, while Schultz’s ideas have little purchase among liberals, it would be unwise to dismiss them altogether, given the like-mindness of some of his fellow billionaires, who hold outsize electoral influence. Democrats strengthen hand in seeking control of House, even if odds of a blue wave are diminishing
(WaPost) Halfway through the primary season, election results across the country have strengthened the Democrats’ hand in their quest for control of the House, even as shifts in the national mood raise the possibility that an anticipated electoral wave could flatten into a ripple.
After votes in 21 states, including California and seven others that held primaries Tuesday, Democrats have avoided potential pitfalls and secured general-election candidates in many Republican-held districts who have compelling biographical stories and political profiles that party leaders hope will have broad appeal in a nation that tends to vote for change in off-year contests.
Democrats poised to claim ballot slots in nearly all House districts in California
In a state heavily antagonistic toward President Trump, Democrats spent millions targeting roughly a half-dozen Republican-held congressional seats that could give them a chunk of the 23 seats they need to flip to gain majority control of the House.
Opposition to Trump and his policies produced scores of candidates, which complicated Democratic efforts in a state with an un­or­tho­dox primary system in which the top two vote-getters advance regardless of party. But by Wednesday morning, it was clear that Democratic candidates would compete in nearly all of the 53 districts.

How California’s ‘Jungle Primary’ System Works
(NPR) The California primary is a free-for-all. Voters can pick any candidate, regardless of party, and the top two vote-getters will advance to the general election. NPR’s Ari Shapiro talks with University of Southern California associate professor Christian Grose about the state’s “jungle primary” system.

4 June
The results of California’s primary elections on Tuesday will echo across the nation, with Democrats hoping to flip several congressional seats there. National Democrats have poured millions of dollars into the state, hoping to avoid disaster. Here are the races to watch, and an explanation of California’s unusual “jungle primary” system.

28 May
Joe Scarborough: Democrats may be in for a surprise in 2018
Republican candidates justifying their support for a man who lies about payoffs to porn stars, lies about policies that rip infants from their mothers’ arms and lies about the existence of White House staffers speaking on his own behalf now have more than Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch to justify their devotion to the “carnage” president.
For starters, they can point to Trump’s conservative judicial nominees beyond Gorsuch as cause for celebration. But their talking points can also include massive tax cuts, a bigger military budget, regulatory reform and the gutting of the Environmental Protection Agency. Other wedge-issue winners include the planned withdrawal from the Paris climate accords, scrapping of the Iran nuclear deal, undermining Obamacare, moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, attacking federal employee unions and promoting extreme immigration policies. Add to that the mocking of political correctness and identity politics, and you have a platform sure to inspire the activists who drive today’s Republican Party.
While many of these policies will drive up the federal debt and diminish U.S. power across the globe, and will likely be reversed by a stroke of his successor’s pen, Trump’s list of “accomplishments” are scratching an ideological itch that establishment Republicans could never reach. This is, of course, because many of his moves will prove to be disastrous in short order

Richard Cohen: For Democrats, 2020 should be about one thing
(WaPost Opinion) …the Democratic field lacks a giant-killer and, worse, seems to lack anyone imbued with a red-hot desire to flatten Donald Trump. He is the issue — not needed programs such as banking regulation or the desire for diversity or the requirement to invest in education and reeducation. Ask Trump. It is always about Donald Trump.

Democrats Are Running a Smart, Populist Campaign
By David Leonhardt
(NYT Opinion) Stacey Abrams and Conor Lamb are supposed to represent opposite poles of the Trump-era Democratic Party. She is the new progressive heroine … He is the new centrist hero. … [But} They come across as ideological soul mates, both upbeat populists who focus on health care, education, upward mobility and the dignity of work.
They come across as ideological soul mates, both upbeat populists who focus on health care, education, upward mobility and the dignity of work.
Americans really are divided on abortion, guns, race and other cultural issues, but they’re remarkably progressive on economics. When Democrats talk about health care, education and jobs, they can focus the white working class on the working-class part of its identity rather than the white part. And Democrats can fire up their base at the same time. …
Trump’s approval numbers, while weak, have risen slightly, and the midterm campaign has a long way to go.
So far, though, the Democrats are defying the clichés about their division and disarray. They’re giving themselves a good chance to win.

12 May
In wide-open 2020 presidential field, Democrats are road-testing messages — and trying to redefine their party
(WaPost) Before the start of a 2020 Democratic presidential campaign, at least 25 candidates — mayors, governors, entrepreneurs, members of the House and Senate — have hit the road to workshop their vision, experiment with catchphrases and test policy ideas that could keep President Trump from winning a second term.
Is the 2018 Democratic Wave Receding?
(New York Magazine) The bottom line is that we all need to buckle up for the long haul and exhibit some patience in figuring out what this election cycle will produce. A Democratic “wave” that flips or nearly flips the House and minimizes Senate losses is still the best bet. Overreaction to one poll or one primary is still going to happen, of course, but it makes about as much sense as just flipping a coin.

10 May
So far this primary season, Dems are united in taking on Republican seats—not each other
By Elaine Kamarck, Alexander R. Podkul, and Nicholas W. Zeppos
(Brookings) As the 2018 primary season moved into high gear this week with contests in Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia, both wings of the Democratic Party have reason to celebrate. The progressive wing of the Democratic Party, most recently associated with the presidential candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders, is providing a boost of activism and energy to the Democrats. In a year where we are seeing a large increase in the total number of Democratic candidates we are also seeing a very large increase in the percentage of self-identified progressive Democrats running in primaries.
Compared to 2016 and 2014, the number of progressive candidates—many of them endorsed by political action groups that have sprung up in the wake of the 2016 presidential election—has increased sharply in all of the states that have had primaries so far, with the exception of West Virginia.

25 April
Why Last Night’s G.O.P. Victory Should Terrify Trump
Another massive special-election swing portends a 2018 bloodbath for Republicans.
(Vanity Fair) On Tuesday, party operatives received the latest evidence of what strategists predict will be a ‘blue wave’ in November: a massive 16-point swing in Arizona’s 8th Congressional district, where Republican Debbie Lesko eked out a narrow 5-point victory over her Democratic challenger in a district that went for Trump by 21 points in 2016.
… inside Washington, the writing is on the wall. Four Senate Republicans and 25 House Republicans—including House Speaker Paul Ryan—have already said they will not run for re-election this fall, making the lower chamber all but certain to change hands in November. According to the renowned Cook Political Report, 50 Republican seats are considered competitive, compared to just five for Democrats.
Some Republican operatives fear the Senate, too, could be in play. “Everyone just universally assumed it would be status quo or Republicans would win a seat or two,” a Republican lobbyist with ties to the Senate told Axios. “And now it feels like Republicans are at a risk of losing one, which would be a 50-50 Senate or two, which would be a Democratic Senate.”

19 April
This Poll On Hillary Is Brutal
(Daily Wire) According to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, Clinton’s favorability rating is even more grim than it was when she lost in 2016
As the Journal notes, her extremely negative favorability rating makes her a far more toxic figure for political candidates in competitive areas than Trump. For that reason, Republicans have already begun looking for ways to tie embattled Democrats to Clinton …
The feeling is that Hillary 2016 has never ended. While America has moved on, including her own party, Clinton appears to have convinced herself that if she just explains “What Happened” one more time, she’ll finally win the election we all knew was hers by right. And one thing Americans hate more than a loser is a loser who won’t accept that she lost.

6 April
Early days
Schapiro: The Macker readies for a second act
(Richmond Times-Dispatch) Three months after leaving the Virginia governorship, [Terry] McAuliffe is considering a second act: the presidency.
He’s among nearly two dozen mentioned for the Democratic nomination in 2020 and, perhaps, a shot at President Donald Trump — if impeachment, Bob Mueller or Stormy Daniels don’t take him out first. The Washington Post rates McAuliffe No. 8 in a field that seemingly has more nobodies than somebodies.
… a McAuliffe candidacy will be about his stewardship of Virginia’s finances after the ravages of sequestration, his stout advocacy of abortion rights, gun control and the restoration of felons’ voting and civil rights, and his forceful response to deadly, racially tinged violence in Charlottesville.And there’s what McAuliffe considers his strongest selling point: the victory last year of his handpicked choice for governor, Ralph Northam, and the Democrats’ stunning, near-takeover of the House of Delegates, where they had been outnumbered 2 to 1.

3 April
A Wave of Young Women Running Campaigns (and Changing Politics)
(NYT) Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 presidential election prompted a surge of Democratic women not only to run for office, but also to manage campaigns With a seat at the head of the table, staff members are responsible for strategy, message, staff and creating networks for future campaigns.They have the potential to reshape a profession long dominated by men. This year, 40 percent of the campaign managers for Democratic congressional candidates are women, and the numbers are up for Republican candidates too.

2 April
Obama eases into post-presidential life
(The Hill) Obama’s absence from politics may change in the coming months, as the midterm elections draw closer.
Obama will hold a fundraiser for his old pal Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) in May. But those close to him say not to expect him to officially wade into campaign waters until the end of the summer.
Obama has purposely stayed out of politics for the most part, carefully selecting his moments to weigh in on headlines and policy.
He is careful, those around him say, not to be a foil for Trump — who often seems to feel a need to come after him.
Investor Fears of a Democratic Win in November Could Help Democrats Win in November
(New York Magazine) Stock market performance is one of many variables that could at the margins have an impact on the midterm elections this November. … in the 16 quarters that make up any four-year period, it’s the two preceding midterm elections — in which the party controlling the White House almost always loses some ground — where losses are concentrated. Clearly investors have come to anticipate political problems for the party controlling the White House. But when that White House is occupied by a president who has all but treated the stock market’s performance as a referendum on his leadership, you might expect significant erosion in the markets to have a greater-than-normal impact on the president’s party.

27 March
MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE ‘RESISTANCE,’ THERE’S THE CENSUS
(LATimes) California’s attorney general and its chief elections officer both came out swinging on Tuesday at the late decision by federal officials to add a single question to the 2020 census: Are you an American citizen?
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross gave the go-ahead to the question on Monday night, even though former Census Bureau directors warned it could limit participation.
In California, state Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra quickly filed a lawsuit to block the action. At issue are federal dollars divvied up by population data and the once-a-decade apportionment of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives based on population. Smaller numbers from California could hit the state hard on both fronts.

24 March
Protesters take to the streets – but can they take Congress?
At the Women’s March last year the day after Trump’s inauguration, and at several demonstrations after that, protesters were swarming and angry but had no idea what to do next. The election eight months from now seems to have given the movement an organizing principle.
by Isaac Dovere and Elana Schor
(Politico) There’s energy on the streets, Joe Biden told a few dozen House Democrats in a private session this week, and it should be enough to produce a blue wave in November – but only if they figure out how to harness it. ‘If we don’t win the House, Trump is there for eight years,’ the former vice president and prospective 2020 candidate warned. Members of the ‘Blue Collar Caucus’ looked stunned. ‘I’m serious,’ Biden added. ‘So, no pressure.’
The outcome in November hinges on whether the anti-Trump fervor on the left amounts as much action as words. … March for Our Lives volunteers circulated with voter registration clipboards and flyers for anyone who signed up with instructions to text “FIGHT” to a number to get more information and get in their database. The Democratic National Committee dispatched organizers all over the country with “commit to vote” cards. The Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence passed out circular stickers reading “227 Days Until Midterm Elections.” Individual candidates worked local events.
“The rally’s constant chant was, ‘Vote Them Out!’ The biggest boo was during a brief video clip of President Donald Trump. The march was explicitly nonpartisan, but no prominent Republicans were visible, and many prominent Republicans were bashed. There were almost as many signs as people: ‘Change the Ref,’ ‘This Congress Does Not Speak For Me,’ ‘Prayers Aren’t Bulletproof,’ ‘Grab Them By the Midterms,’ and ‘Beware: We are coming for your seats!,’ among others.”
The student organizers called for marchers to use the next two weeks of the congressional recess to press senators and representatives at home. There will be more school walkouts, and they’ll be registering and preregistering students across them. They’re already laying plans to spread out to town halls through the summer.
“We will register, we will educate, and then when it comes down to it, we will vote,” said student leader Ryan Deitsch
Lawmakers spotted at ‘March for Our Lives’ rallies across US
(The Hill) Democratic lawmakers turned out in force on Saturday as hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered in cities across the country to call for an end to gun violence.
At “March for Our Lives” rallies across the U.S., congressional Democrats joined in calls demanding swift action on gun control more than a month after a deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla., lent momentum to the debate over firearms.

22 March
The 7,383-Seat Strategy
Taking inspiration from Virginia, Democrats are finally running to win in the states. But will the party make room for a different kind of candidate?
(The Nation) Since Trump’s victory, however, Democrats have flipped 39 statehouse seats, counting the 15 Virginia pickups plus four in New Jersey. Amazingly, 20 of these victories have come in special elections, mainly in districts carried by Trump, some by very large margins, in places as varied as Wisconsin, Missouri, Kentucky, and Florida. Democrats have taken five GOP statehouse seats in purple New Hampshire, four in red Oklahoma, and a big one in Washington State last November 7, when activist Manka Dhingra grabbed an open seat formerly held by a Republican, flipping the State Senate to blue.
Nationwide, there are 7,383 state legislative seats, and 6,066 of them, in 87 out of 99 chambers, will be on the ballot this November. Democrats aren’t quite running a 7,383-seat (or a 6,066-seat) strategy—at least not yet. But after years of frustration and neglect, it’s no longer impossible to imagine the day when the party contests every single statehouse seat in every state in the Union. Party insiders, activists, resistance groups, and candidates—from Maine to Minnesota, from Arizona to Georgia, and all the GOP-dominated states in between—are gearing up for an unprecedented number of races in 2018.

16 March
Cabinet shakeups give Democrats a chance to block Trump picks
The White House faces an uphill battle getting nominees Pompeo and Haspel confirmed ahead of the midterm elections.

14-15 March
(The Atlantic) In Like a Lamb: The Pennsylvania Democrat Conor Lamb’s narrow victory in this week’s special election for a House seat in a district Trump won in 2016 could mean that Democrats have a chance to gain ground with the president’s base. According to Trump, the key to that victory was that Lamb “sounds like a Republican.” For example, he joined the GOP in opposing the House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi—who might lose her role if other Democrats follow Lamb’s lead.
Conor Lamb Wins Pennsylvania House Seat, Giving Democrats a Map for Trump Country
(NYT) Conor Lamb, a Democrat and former Marine, scored a razor-thin but extraordinary upset in a special House election in southwestern Pennsylvania after a few thousand absentee ballots cemented a Democratic victory in the heart of President Trump’s Rust Belt base.
The Republican candidate, Rick Saccone, may still contest the outcome. But Mr. Lamb’s 627-vote lead Wednesday afternoon appeared insurmountable, given that the four counties in Pennsylvania’s 18th district have about 500 provisional, military and other absentee ballots left to count, election officials said.
That slim margin — out of almost 230,000 ballots cast in a district that Mr. Trump carried by nearly 20 percentage points in 2016 — nonetheless upended the political landscape ahead of November’s midterm elections. It also emboldened Democrats to run maverick campaigns even in deep-red areas where Republicans remain bedeviled by Mr. Trump’s unpopularity.
‘It’s difficult to spin this one’: Republicans blame campaign as Democrat retains slight edge in Pennsylvania
(WaPost) Republicans scrambled Wednesday to explain what happened in Pennsylvania, as a Democrat stood on the verge of a monumental win in a U.S. House special election that became a test of President Trump’s political clout.
Although the race was still too close to call late Wednesday afternoon, Democrats were declaring victory as their candidate, Conor Lamb, clung to a narrow lead over Republican Rick Saccone in a district Trump won by almost 20 points.
Five takeaways from the Pa. special election
(The Hill) More evidence of a blue wave
More Republicans are starting to sound the alarm about the future of their House majority.
Trump’s unpopularity is pushing seats that had once been considered safe into riskier territory. Democrats need to win 24 seats to take back the House.
Tax cuts and Pelosi attacks won’t work everywhere
Tuesday’s results have emboldened Democrats who believe that Lamb’s strong performance is proof that the GOP can’t lean too heavily on the tax plan as the centerpiece of its midterm strategy.
GOP trouble in Trump country
While Trump wasn’t on the ballot, the race was a test of whether other Republicans could draw on the votes who helped hand Trump his surprise 2016 win. And growing unpopularity has spurred an enthusiasm gap that buoyed Democrats in recent elections.
A boost for Biden 2020
Biden has been an effective surrogate for connecting with rural and working class voters. Now Lamb’s victory demonstrates that Biden can help win back those voters — right as Democrats consider which 2020 primary hopeful will deliver them the White House.
Dems can break with litmus test and win
House Democrats’ campaign arm said there are 60 other Democratic House candidates whose military or national security credentials echo Lamb’s background.

25 February
Feinstein loses California Democratic Party’s endorsement
(WaPost) More than 54 percent backed state Senate leader Kevin de León, who entered the race in October and has run to Feinstein’s left on health care, taxes and immigration. … making Feinstein the first incumbent senator in recent memory who will run in June’s primary without official backing.
The contest between Feinstein and de León has emerged as the only serious Democratic primary squabble, as Democrats in redder states such as Indiana and West Virginia are facing only token challenges. But even a bitter showdown in June may end up helping California Democrats. The party’s top-two primary system sends the two candidates who win the most votes in the summer to the general election in November — regardless of their party affiliation.

31 January
Jennifer Rubin: Kennedy’s speech — so how’d he do?
Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) had the utterly thankless task of delivering the response to the State of the Union. Speaking in front of a live audience that frequently applauded was smart. Did he look awfully young and have a distracting bead of sweat (or was it saliva) at the corner of his mouth? Yes, but by gosh he gave a fair to very good speech. (Moreover, millennials are overwhelmingly anti-Trump so a youthful image for the Democrats is probably a net plus.) …
He closed with: “Out of many, one. Ladies and gentlemen, have faith. Have faith. The state of our union is hopeful, resilient and enduring.” Again, this — E pluribus unum — was not the normal rhetoric that we heard from decades of Democratic identity politics. If this marks a turn to a more inclusive message, one of shared values and not separate traits, Democrats and the country will be the better for it.

29 January
All Signs Point to Big Democratic Wins in 2018
(Bloomberg) Even if only one chamber flips to the Democrats, Trump’s ability to impose his agenda would be thwarted, and his administration almost certainly would find itself pinned down by investigations and subpoenas from congressional committees.
An analysis by Bloomberg Government of historical data, election maps and public polling points to sweeping Democratic gains in the November election, when all 435 House seats and one-third of the Senate are on the ballot.
Since the end of World War II, the party in control of the White House has, on average, had a net loss of 26 House seats in midterm elections. Democrats can win control of the House with a net gain of 24 seats in November. They’d need to win two seats to gain a majority in the Senate.

14 January
Lewandowski: ‘We’ve got a real problem’ if Dems retake the House
(The Hill) “The real concern right now is the Democrats are exceptionally motivated to run a campaign against this president. And if that’s the case, they may have some good opportunities in front of them in the 2018 cycle,” Lewandowski said.
“If you look at the numbers, I think we’ve got 32 or 33 Republican members of Congress who have already announced they are not seeking reelection. The problem with that is the Democrats only have to take back 24 seats in the House in order to take over,” he added.

11-12 January
Jonathan Freedland: If Oprah took on Trump, he would be the ultimate winner
(The Guardian) My worry is that a Trump v Winfrey contest would confirm that the Trump era was no aberration, but a new normal. It would say that, from now on, the US presidency is a celebrity post, open only to those who have found spectacular fame, usually via television. Presidential elections inevitably include an element of the popularity contest, but if the next one is The Apprentice v Oprah, then a future beckons in which all such elections will be nothing but.
If Democrats nominate Oprah for the White House, they would, in effect, be declaring that Trump was right, that the presidency is indeed an extension of the entertainment industry: they’d just want to install a different entertainer.
Democrats need to make a better argument than that. Yes, they need to find a candidate who can rouse the passions and stir the faithful, as Obama did, Hillary couldn’t and perhaps Oprah might. But they also need to persuade American voters that political experience matters; that the highest decisions of state are of a different order to devising what makes good TV and brings in high ratings; that policymaking is a serious business, one that involves the weighing of evidence, the balance of competing interests and reasoned deliberation.
If Democrats choose Oprah, they would be nominating someone even better at television than Trump. But they would also be surrendering to his view that government is television. It’s not, and they need to say so. In making that argument, they will be making the case for democratic politics itself.
Oprah leads Trump in new poll — but can’t transcend partisan divide
(CNN) Simply put, most believe she could win and would happily fight on her behalf, but others worry about Winfrey’s inexperience in campaign politics. And for a party still trying to sort out a winning (and unifying) message, questions over where exactly she stands on the major issues of the day linger ominously over the conversation.
“Everyone loves Oprah,” RoseAnn DeMoro, the executive director of National Nurses United, told CNN earlier this week. “The problem is that we are on the precipice of an extremely dangerous time in history, and I believe that this calls for the most seasoned, knowledgeable, in-depth president. To get us to unwind what’s going to happen by 2020 is going to take enormous experience.
Dave Leonhardt in NYT: I agree that Oprah’s career is a whole lot more impressive than Trump’s prepolitics career. But I still hope she isn’t the Democratic nominee in 2020.
For one thing, there is little evidence that she would be more likely to win than another Democrat. “The dangers of an amateur celebrity candidate are myriad. High up on the list is the lack of vetting,” the political scientist Matt Glassman wrote in his newsletter this week. “By the time someone runs for president via the traditional career path, they’ve survived a number of rounds of opposition research. Not true for amateurs.”
For another, a President Winfrey would probably be less effective than someone with more training for the job. Julia Azari (in a July piece in Vox, which isn’t specific to Winfrey), Thomas Chatterton Williams in The Times and Paul Waldman in The Washington Post each explain why.
The presidency is the most important job in the country. There is good reason to want someone who has spent years preparing for it, rather than someone who is phenomenally talented in other realms, as Oprah Winfrey certainly is. But if you haven’t yet watched her whole speech at the Golden Globe Awards, you really should.

8 January
What the Oprah Boomlet Means for Democrats
Pleas for the entertainer to run for president point to a split over whether to treat Donald Trump as a dangerous anomaly or a particularly extreme Republican.
By David A. Graham
(The Atlantic) Sunday night, Oprah gave a moving speech while accepting a Golden Globe Award for lifetime achievement, speaking about women and especially women of color. The remarks won instant praise and pleas for a presidential run. “She would absolutely do it,” her partner Steadman Graham said. By Monday morning, Brian Stelter reported that Winfrey is “actively thinking” about running for president, and that confidants were encouraging her to run.
Just as predictable as the Oprah boomlet is the pushback to the Oprah boomlet, and while it’s far too early to draw any conclusions about whether this is a flight of whimsy or a true trial balloon, or about how Winfrey might fare as a candidate, or about what positions she may take, the frenzy is useful for assessing where the Democratic Party is and how it might be thinking about Donald Trump as 2018 starts.
… treating Trump as an anomaly allows congressional Republicans to dissociate themselves from the president. Besides, if it’s as simple as pointing out Trump’s flaws, why risk a Hail Mary candidate like Oprah? Picking a candidate like Winfrey would hasten the de-professionalization of government while at the same time moving the United States closer to a state where everything is an extension of partisan politics.
If Trump is just an extreme version of a Republican president, then the problem lies less with him personally but with his party. It would matter much less to Democrats whether their candidate can govern than whether their candidate can win. If the Democratic bench is as weak—or more to the point, green—as it seems, there might be a more compelling case for picking a charismatic candidate who happens to be a beloved entertainer. The paradox is that party leaders are the ones putting the most emphasis on Trump as different only in degree, and these party leaders are least likely to embrace a newcomer like Winfrey.
The most intelligent comment about the Oprah speech
Oprah’s Real Message
It wasn’t about her. It was about us.
By Dahlia Lithwick
(Slate) Oprah’s speech—in my hearing—wasn’t about why she needs to run for office. It was about why the rest of us need to do so, immediately.
The dominant theme I heard was about giving voice to invisible people. It was the arc of the entire speech. It’s also what the very best journalism is about, and it’s worth remembering that’s how Oprah began her career.

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