Biden pollster on recipe for ‘not getting your ass kicked’ mid-term

Substack article by Ruy Teixeira on why Democratic struggles in Nevada can be found here.

If you want to understand the recent defeats Democrats have faced in Virginia, check out this research note of Anzalone’s colleague, Brian Stryker.

Transcribed excerpts from that conversation are below, edited for length and readability..

Ryan Lizza: Let’s start by saying how bad things are for Democrats this year and what can they do about it?

John Anzalone: I think what we’re missing right now is that voters are really into, “What have you done for me lately?” They always are. And they don’t think Democrats can pull themselves together and get things done.

So if we’re able to do something – a measly BBB or whatever – on health insurance costs, prescription drug costs, elder care, child care, that’s a big problem because it will give Democrats a competitive edge on what they are doing to work families. And that will cut the inflation story, the Ukraine story, the Afghanistan story, the border story, et cetera. Right now we don’t see that and we don’t have that.

No one is going to sit there as a Democratic consultant and try to make you think this is anything but a really sour environment for Democrats. So we better look at the strategic ways in which we can be competitive, right? Just compete so you don’t get your ass kicked.

Most Americans are pissed off that they pay their fair share of taxes as members of the middle class. They work hard. They want to see the benefits of the economy. They get raises.

Yes, inflation is eating away at it, but I’ll tell you what pisses them off: … They see these big corporations paying no taxes. And Biden’s proposal to make those earning over $400,000 pay a little more tax and for big corporations to pay a little more tax so they pay their fair share to invest in health care, l education and childcare is really important.

Lizza: Do you want to deal at the national level with populism?

Anzalone: I would like so dial.

Lizza: Just from a messaging perspective?

Anzalone: Yes. We are afraid of our own shadow on taxes and that… doesn’t make sense. …Look, people don’t resent people who make a lot of money and get rich. People have a problem and are upset because they don’t pay taxes. Why as a party we don’t elevate that in our messages and our messages of contrast is beyond me.

this is not one Biden problem, by the way: Joe Biden has been doing this for three years. It’s a congressional democrat problem – [people] who hesitate because they think they are going to get hit by taxes. Guess what the fuck? You’re going to be hit with taxes anyway…so control the narrative. …

Lizza: Very well. So we’re sitting here in Nevada. You’re working on the governor’s re-election campaign. Ruy Teixeira, whom you probably know, is a Democratic data analyst. He co-wrote this book at the time, The Emerging Democratic Majority. He wrote something about Nevada that I found very interesting recently: He said it’s where the Democrats’ white working class problem and the Hispanic problem collide to create a very, very difficult. You’ve probably fathomed the hell out of this state, working here. I’m curious to know what you think of this theory. So just give us your breakdown of what Nevada is telling us right now about Democrats nationwide.

Anzalone: I think it’s always easy to say, “Oh, a state is unique. Nevada is unique because it is based on an economy: it is tourism, it is casinos. Covid beat the crap out of it. And it’s chock full of white, no-[college-educated] voters, as well as Latinos. …And so why is it different, for example, my experience in Michigan is that there’s a lot of no-

Lizza: You are working on [the campaign of Michigan Gov. Gretchen] Whitmer. Give us the kind of Michigan vs. Nevada.

Anzalone: In Michigan, you have a lot of unqualified voters, white and black. Macomb County is a perfect example. But guess what? You also have a pretty decent union base, don’t you? And even if you don’t belong to a union, you are in a union Culture, so you’re not that anti-union, are you? And you have a bunch of white seniors who were unionized. So older people act differently in Michigan because a lot of them were unionized. We can compete with the seniors there better than we can compete with the whites, without a college degree [voters].

Lizza: Does that mean they have more of a connection to the Democratic Party or easier networks to exploit?

Anzalone: No doubt about it. I grew up in this culture where the unions were not bad, and the organizational aspect too. You have unions here that are really important, that’s clear. Plus, a few more people transitioning in and out – it’s just a difficult culture. I mean, just the service industry here in the casinos, et cetera, is just a different culture than it is in a place like Michigan. So you’re going to see this universe rebound. I would say the Latin part is no different than what we see nationally.

Lizza: Explain that to us. I think there was a lot of denial about this in 2018 and 2020 when some of the data started showing a weakening, Hispanic support for Democrats…

Anzalone: We were raising red flags.

Lizza: You were?

Anzalone: Oh yeah. And the Biden campaign took it very seriously. I think they probably spent more money on Latin paid media in the beginning. Our message has always been: treat Latinos as persuasive voters. Communicate with them early on. The Biden campaign made very specific Latino media, very specific African-American media, as well as everyone, I think as early as July.

So we were treating all voters as persuasive voters, or just understanding that you can’t come six weeks before an election with African Americans and Latinos on GOTV and expect that’s enough. You have to give them the argument for Biden’s vision. We have to do this again in 2022. What is the Democratic vision and agenda? How do we help you more than Republicans?

Lizza: Are we seeing racial groups that used to vote heavily for Democrats and are beginning to polarize along educational lines in the same way that white voters have been? And what are working class Latinos, African Americans?

Anzalone: In our data, it doesn’t matter where we are. It really has more to do with men and women. There’s a huge divide where Latinos vote or say they’re going to vote, whether you’re a Latino or a Latino.

Lizza: So the Democratic problem was specifically about Latino men?

Anzalone: Yes. You are right. And all of our bleeds are younger African Americans. We saw that in 2020 as well. So whether you look at white voters or Latino voters or black voters, quite frankly, you see a gender difference. And then you will see, of course, a difference with college studies. I mean, we do better with college-educated men than we do with non-college-educated men in any of those groups. But the gender divide among Latinos is quite significant.

Lizza: When you do focus groups and really go under the hood of this issue, what do you learn?

Anzalone: I think the myth that always needs to be busted among Latinos and African Americans is that I think a lot of times there’s this narrative in DC among Democrats that you only talk to Latinos in the immigration. For example, immigration is the 12th problem that concerns them. It’s always about the economy or inflation or health care or schools. Undoubtedly, things like housing and crime also tend to be higher among African Americans and Latinos.

So there are specific issues that you want to address. But again, you in turn need to understand what each voter is going through in their personal life. Their attention tends to be on things that white voters also prioritize.


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