Home 2019 Elections Video: On “The Last Word,” CNU Professor Rachel Bitecofer Argues That “It’s...

Video: On “The Last Word,” CNU Professor Rachel Bitecofer Argues That “It’s All About the Base.”

Bitecofer's analysis is persuasive, but does differ significantly from Catalist, which found that it's a combo of Dem turnout and Trump defectors


See below for video of CNU Professor Rachel Bitecofer on “The Last Word” last night, discussing why she believes that Democrats start with 278 electoral votes in 2020. According to Bitecofer:

“The election of Donald Trump is a needed kerosene on…a lazy and complacent Democratic electorate…In 2017 in Virginia, 2018 all across the nation…we saw these big turnout surges. And of course the media likes to talk about 2018 as moderate Republicans rejecting the party of Trump and joining hands with Democrats in these swing districts, but that is not what the data shows…the House gains in 2018 are powered by two things – turnout surges among Democrats and left-leaning independents, NOT moderate Republicans jumping ship…I’m arguing that this ain’t our granddaddy’s electorate anymore…The time when you could persuade large swaths of the electorate over has passed. We are in a deeply hyperpartisan era now. I’m not saying that moderates aren’t important or that there aren’t moderates, there certainly are and they can be appealed to – although Democrats don’t do it well – but really it’s all about the base.”

I’d say that Professor Bitecofer definitely makes a persuasive case, but I’d like to understand better why her analysis – that it’s “all about the base” – is so different than what Democratic voter-targeting firm Catalist found, which is that “the party’s big gains in the 2018 congressional election were fueled not only by unusually high turnout among voters sympathetic to the party, but also by larger-than-expected defections from the GOP among voters who had backed Trump two years earlier.” (H/t to Morris Meyer for pointing me to the Catalist study)

Unless I’m missing something, those seem like very different conclusions drawn from the data. And which view one takes has major implications for where/how Democrats use their resources both in 2020 and also this year in Virginia. For instance, should the emphasis here in Virginia be on revving up the Democratic “base” by reminding them about how horrible Trump is, how crucial state legislatures are, and how flipping the Virginia General Assembly “blue” will send a huge message of repudiation to Trump? Or should Virginia Democratic 2019 candidates be focused on persuading “independents” to switch to voting Democratic? If one agrees with Bitecofer’s analysis, the answer seems obvious: “it’s all about the base.” If one, in contrast, agrees with Catalist, then it’s NOT all about the base. So which is it?  Bitecofer, Catalist, or somewhere in between?


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