June 5, 2023

As Rosenberg wrote last month at his Hopium Chronicles Substack, and as he discussed in last week’s Daily Kos’ The Brief podcast with me and Markos Moulitsas, getting Democrats to 55% “may be the only way we’re going to get the Republicans to abandon MAGA and become a more traditional center-right party.”

Second, Democrats have room to grow, as Rosenberg outlines in his memo. Case in point: Wisconsin.

A big part of that growth opportunity stems from Republicans continually appealing to a decreasing share of the electorate with unpopular candidates pushing supremely unpopular policies. I have taken to calling it the Republicans’ “50-minus” strategy (let’s not set limits on how low they can go).

In Michigan, for instance, the Republican Party’s new chair, Kristina Karamo, is a hardcore MAGA election denier who lost her bid for secretary of state last year to Democratic incumbent Jocelyn Benson by a resounding 14 points, 42% to 56%—another “get-to-55” win in a battleground state. Nothing like picking an emphatic loser to lead the party into the next election cycle.

Or how about Pennsylvania, where MAGA extremist, Jan. 6 attendee, and no-exceptions forced birther state Sen. Doug Mastriano is currently leading the Republican field in a hypothetical U.S. Senate race. In a March PPP survey, Mastriano bested the more moderate hedge fund mogul, David McCormick, 39% – 21%, with 11% going to a third candidate, Kathy Barnette. Mastriano delivered nothing short of a face plant last cycle in his gubernatorial race against Democrat Josh Shapiro, losing 42% – 56% (there’s that number again!).

In both of those critically important battleground states, Republican Party leaders are serving up exactly what their base voters still crave despite the absolute drubbing they took in the 2022 midterms. What’s more, they are doubling down on their uniquely unpopular agenda.

Republicans with a national platform aren’t helping matters either. The GOP’s leading presidential candidate just made history by getting criminally indicted. The party’s other leading 2024 hopeful, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, just signed a draconian 6-week abortion ban and is actively trying to settle a score with one of his state’s biggest and most adored companies: Disney. By going to blows with Mickey Mouse, DeSantis has become a national punchline.

House Republicans are also off on a jag, incessantly investigating the Biden administration and trying to paint Jan. 6 as a regular stroll in the park that just happened to conclude with a picnic at the gallows and chants of “Hang Mike Pence!” Their obsessions are wildly out of touch with the American people, and now GOP Speaker Kevin McCarthy is threatening to blow up the global economy rather than simply raising the national debt ceiling to avoid defaulting.

Getting to 55% isn’t just some pie-in-the-sky aspiration. Looking at Democratic wins in key battleground states last year, Democrats won by comfortable margins in roughly half of them, either approaching or exceeding 55%—in a midterm election that should have heavily favored Republicans, given Democratic control of the White House:

  • CO governor: 59%, CO Senate: 55%

  • PA governor: 57%, PA Senate: 51%

  • MI governor: 55%  

  • NH Senate: 54%

  • NM governor: 52%

  • GA Senate: 51.4%

  • AZ Senate: 51.5%, AZ Gov: 50.3%

  • WI governor: 51.2%

  • NV Senate: 48.8%

Getting to 55% is ambitious but achievable. As Rosenberg notes, “We got there in some of the most important battleground states in an off year election when we were told a red wave was going to wash over the land.”

Rosenberg identifies four groups Democrats should focus on to make gains: under 45-year-old voters; Latinos; Never-MAGA Republicans; and voters whose political views have or can be changed due to Republican extremism on abortion (both women and men). But of course, nothing is off the table.

“If we start with Biden at 51% and gain a single point nationally with each of these groups in the next two years,” he writes, “we hit 55% (note the average Presidential vote over the past 4 elections is 50.9% D – 46.5% R).” The difference may seem slight, but increasing the margin from 2-4 points to 10 points would give Democrats a gold-standard insurance policy. It’s the difference between winning and losing because the FBI director releases a letter about someone’s emails the week before an election.

That type of growth would crush MAGA next cycle (its fourth shellacking in a row) and position Democrats to flip the House and even keep the Senate. Dreamy.

In his memo, which everyone should read, Rosenberg contemplates several strategies for increasing Democratic margins in these growth groups. But his meatiest analysis rests on under-45 voters: millennials (26 – 41 years old) and Gen Z (10 – 26 years old).

According to one analysis of Pew and Census data cited by Rosenberg, those two groups made up 30% of the electorate in 2020, with Joe Biden winning the overall national vote by four points, 51% – 47%.

But get this, if millennials and Gen Zers voted at their same percentage of the overall population (40%), Joe Biden’s four-point victory would’ve been a dominant eight-point 54-46 victory—very close to that 55% goal.

Now, it’s fair to question whether juicing turnout among under-45 voters by an extra 10 points is even achievable.

“But what if we dropped like $100m starting this spring and made it a national party, pro-democracy coalition-wide priority to drive youth registration and turnout through the roof in 2024?” Rosenberg posits. “Do we think we can move the needle, do something significant, even historic?”

Again, this is aspirational thinking, which is far more preferable than Democrats’ usual defensive crouch. It gives Democrats—all of us—something to aim for.

It’s time to start mulling big goals and a road map to achieving them. 2022 broke historical norms and shattered the conventional thinking on which nearly all political mainstream analysts made their woefully inaccurate projections.

This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to break with past norms and start shaping new paradigms for the next political era to come. It would be political malpractice for Democrats not to capitalize on the opportunity Republicans are handing us on a silver platter.

Markos and Kerry are joined by a friend of the podcast, Democratic political strategist Simon Rosenberg. Rosenberg was one of the few outsiders who, like Daily Kos, kept telling the world that nothing supported the idea of a red wave. Simon and the crew break down his strategy for Democratic candidates to achieve a 55% popular vote in all elections—a number that a few years ago would have seemed unattainable, but now feels within reach.

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