What Could Happen on November 4, 2020

Lincoln Park Strategies' look into the future attempts to predict how voters might act that day

a Lincoln Park Strategies Feature

presented by Reality Check on WURD, airs Monday - Thursday, 4-7pm ET, streamed live at WURDradio.com, in Philly on 96.1 FM / 900 AM | #RealityCheck @ellisonreport

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a Lincoln Park Strategies original | Stefan Hankin | @LPstrategies

With the 2020 election quickly approaching and more than 20 Democratic candidates looking to take on President Donald Trump next November, voters across the country are already being asked by pollsters and strategists to provide their election opinions. To keep things a little different, we thought it would be interesting to jump forward to November 4, 2020 to get a glimpse of potential outcomes and results once the votes across the country have all been tallied.

As we have pointed out in the past, our two-party system unfortunately oversimplifies meaningful complexities existing within our Republic.  In our current political dynamic, perspectives and views of the American people are essentially reduced to Republican or Democratic. This system lacks true diversity of ideals and values, and leaves most Americans disappointed with the divisions it creates.  According to our research, it would take 11 political parties to truly demonstrate the myriad of political ideologies that are held by the American people.

Over the course of America’s development, political parties have come and gone, however, it is still quite rare to see an election where three or more parties are able to co-exist and have a chance at success.

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As we found in our past research, there are a few centers of ideology that emerge across the political spectrum. About a quarter of Americans are firmly on the liberal end of the ideological spectrum and about 1 in 5 are solidly on the conservative end. This leaves a little over half of would be voters living somewhere in between the two ends of the political spectrum. The last two elections have both increased and magnified the divide growing over the past decade, and unfortunately, there’s little evidence pointing to this dynamic changing over the next few years.

This dynamic has shifted the makeup of the base voters for each party. In general, the Democratic Party’s base largely consists of racial minorities joined by white, college educated urban and suburban voters. On the other side of the aisle, the Republican Party, while trying to retain its traditional pro-business, small government cohorts, has, in general, become the home of white, non-college working class voters.

Given the fact that we have always reduced the American public into two distinct brackets, it is no wonder that dissatisfaction with both parties is consistently at a high level and makes our two existing coalitions feel precarious, even in the best of times. With this in mind, we started thinking about what the outcome of the 2020 election could mean for the two parties moving forward. With well over a year before any votes are cast in the general election, this of course is not a prediction, but instead is a look into plausible outcomes. We broke this piece down into two parts, where week 1 is our probe into the Republican Party, and Week 2 focuses on the Democratic Party.

The Future of the Republican Party

The Republican party is hardly one party at all – but rather a coalition of different voting blocs whose most important policy solutions are championed by various members of the party. One of the bigger voting blocks consists of President Trump’s most ardent supporters. Those voters who believe that our country needs to “Make America Great Again”. The narrative around this cohort is that these voters have experienced a decrease in financial viability, and rather successfully, the Republican Party has capitalized on these economic anxieties. Whether by pushing the narrative that fewer government regulations and tax cuts will help reopen mines and factories, or that undocumented immigrants are to blame for their issues – many white, rural working-class voters have been able to find a home in Trump’s Republican party.

Along with this base group, the current GOP coalition brings together a group that seems to care less about fiscal policy but sees Republican leaders as preservers of their religiously based social and moral values. Additionally, there are those who have a particular amendment in the Constitution that is their main motivation for voting. Voters in this cohort generally feel the Republican party shares their constitutionalists interpretations of our founding documents and find solace in the party’s passionate defense of the second amendment, hardline immigration policies, definition of marriage, and its anti-abortion stances.

The final group are the more “traditional” GOP voters who describe themselves as pro-business while being generally indifferent on social issues. These voters have become increasingly uncomfortable with further shift to the right on social issues, as well as the President’s approach to economic issues, making more and more members finding the party less palatable.

This is a bit of an oversimplification of the different cohorts in the party, and there is a good amount of overlap in many of the groups described above, however, if we accept these characterizations, then presumably, the GOP has enjoyed their success by joining just enough voters from of each of these cohorts to ensure a majority of support-- or in the case of the President, enough voters in key states to win the Electoral College. This coalition, so to speak, can work in some parts of the country but, as we saw in the 2018 election results, remains prone to fractures which can complicate election outcomes for the Republican Party (see Orange County, California).

While some GOP voters clearly have had enough with the party and voted for Democratic candidates in 2018 (or at a minimum staying home on Election Day) for now, Republicans are still enjoying success in many parts of the country by utilizing mindful strategies that continue to appeal to their base voters.  For example, when analyzing data on immigration policy and border wall legislation, we see a high level of approval ratings by Republican base voters, but those considered socially moderate appear to be a bit uneasy at best. According to our analysis, this group of detractors, or those uncomfortable with the policies, makes up about a quarter of GOP voters (24%). This is seemingly low to some, however, if a quarter of the coalition is unhappy and decided to vote in opposition to the GOP, the path to reelection becomes very tricky for the President and GOP Senators in many states.

Trump’s recent trade war with China (and threats to Mexico, Iran, and recently France) may be leading to a decisive fracture of Trump’s remaining supporters. The effects of the trade dispute have been felt most by those who work in the steel and agriculture industries. The industries that rely on the exportation of products across the globe and those that rely on cheaper material imports to keep prices down for consumers. Our data indicates that a majority of voters don’t believe the trade war is good for the US. Indeed, 75% of American voters believe the US is being hurt by the trade war, making this among the most significant rebukes of Trump by Republicans since the President’s time in office (at least when answering surveys).

With all that being said, there is a lot going on within the party and with no credible opposition to the President in the primary, it will be up to the President to bring a successful coalition together. With this in mind, we feel there are four scenarios that could unfold for the Republicans in 2020:

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Scenario #1: Trump wins in spite of losing support from moderate Republicans

In scenario one, if Trump targets only his core base, it would present challenges for his reelection. First, key swing states (Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) were already narrowly won in 2016.  Losing these states in the 2020 election would make a win virtually impossible for the President. First, the math points to the fact that in order to win the President will need to appeal not just to the rural and working-class voters he is expected to win, but also to voters in the more affluent suburbs of Philadelphia, Detroit, and Milwaukee. Second, without moderates, Trump may not be able to count on enough support from key Southern states. In 2018 states such as North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Arizona, and Texas saw competitive races where historical Republican advantages are considered to be the norm. If Trump loses Florida (let alone Texas) an Electoral College win seems very unlikely. Without Trump appealing to a broader constituency, a Democrat could easily tap into the increasingly progressive and ethnically diverse voter base in these states which could spell trouble for the president’s re-election.

Trump failed to win a state with less than a 40% approval rating.

Trump failed to win a state with less than a 40% approval rating.

In 2016, among the 20 states which Trump lost, his approval rating was at or below 40%. Today, with Trump’s national approval rating hovering in the low 40’s, without appealing to a broader (more moderate) base, his reelection would be an uphill battle. Though Trump’s approval ratings in the key midwestern states of Michigan (43%), Wisconsin (42%), and Pennsylvania (45%) are somewhat low, they are above the 40% threshold that was the key in 2016, he does not have a lot of room to spare. It should also be noted that being above 40% approval did not guarantee success, however the fact remains that the math without a decent share of moderate Republicans supporting his re-election will make it tough on the President.

As improbable as it seems, we are not going to completely rule out this scenario. If he does win with basically just his base, the far right would be even more emboldened, and the GOP would officially become the party of Trump. Additionally, if this scenario happens it also appears unlikely that the GOP would lose control of the Senate. The few remaining moderate Republicans would be completely sidelined and success in many areas of the country would become nearly impossible for the Republican Party. This all feels like a low probability outcome, but not impossible.

Scenario #2: Trump retains enough support from moderate Republicans and Independents to win

In scenario two, moderate Republicans and Independents will have chosen to overlook their disagreements with Trump and vote for his reelection. This would basically be a replay of the 2016 election and Trump would hold the three key mid-western states (or at least Pennsylvania and one other) and have four more years on Pennsylvania Avenue.

In this scenario the current trajectory of the party would continue to exist. Moderate elected officials in DC will have very little power to effect change, even though voters that share their views will have provided Trump with his victory. A Trump re-election would be Trump-ism’s litmus test and would essentially put the final nail in the coffin of the Republican Party as the Party of Lincoln and establish it as the Party of Trump. In his first three years as president, Trump has already made two Supreme Court appointments and deregulated industry and environmental protections. Trump’s election to a second term would represent a turning point in national politics. Not only could a second term allow for more lifetime judicial appointments handpicked by the President –but his executive orders and reshaping of government will have impacts that reach far into the future exceeding well beyond his presidency.

Given what we have seen in his first three years in office, Trump's reelection would represent not just a transformation of the Republican Party but would make those same transformations incredibly hard to reverse. If this scenario plays out, it is not unreasonable to think that the “establishment” wing of the party will be completely sidelined and unlikely to yield any real power. Many members of the moderate wing of the party are likely to have lost in the primaries against candidates that are more in line with Trump, and those left are likely to be too scared of a primary loss to challenge the President.

Clearly this scenario cannot be ruled out given the President’s victory in 2016. At this point in time, the percent chance of Trump winning the popular vote feels incredibly low, but if he can pull together enough support in a few key states, it is not unreasonable to think a replay of the last election could take place. If this happens it is hard to picture how the GOP is anything but the party of Trump.

Scenario #3: Trump loses, Republicans across the spectrum quickly back establishment candidates

Within this scenario, while the Republicans would lose the White House, it would provide an opportunity for the Establishment wing to reclaim the party. It might be challenging to reunite the party back under traditional conservative ideals, but if Trump’s supporters show they are ready to move on, his leadership of the party would end quickly. Given the fact that he is in power, it is hard to picture exactly how this scenario would play out especially given the fact that  survey after survey shows a loyal set of supporters for the President and it doesn’t seem plausible that they would quickly abandon their current leader. Additionally, many media figures on the right are all in on trying to jettison members of the caucus that are viewed as not conservative enough.

For those hoping that this is the outcome for the GOP, one of the challenges ahead is the fact that the Republican Party has for all intents and purposes purged itself of nearly all of its moderate candidates  and instead has increased its concentration of its hardcore base. Former Republican senator Jeff Flake even described his party as “race to the bottom to see who can be meaner, madder and crazier. It is not enough to be conservative anymore. You have to be vicious.”

Without Trump at the top of the ticket, if he followed President George W Bush’s lead and left the office and remained out of the public eye, it is possible that there could be a return of more moderate and measured Republican candidates. There are moderate Republican leaders  like Governors Charlie Baker in Massachusetts and Larry Hogan in Maryland who seem to be setting themselves up to be the flag bearer of the “new” GOP after a Trump defeat, and while these two governors are incredibly popular in Blue States, it would take the base to come around and support the new leadership to make this scenario possible.

Ultimately the question becomes, would the hatred of the hard-core conservative base for whoever ends up in the White House be greater than their desire for a continuation of Trump’s policies and approach? If opposing the new President is enough then this scenario could certainly be the outcome after 2020.

Scenario #4: Trump loses yet keeps supporters

Of the two scenarios where Trump loses in 2020, this scenario seems most probable to us. In this version of the future, the President loses at least two of the three Great Lakes states (PA, MI, and WI) and as a result, fails to win reelection. After the election, the moderate or “Establishment” wing attempts to regain control of the party and Trump’s support base revolts.

If this scenario were to happen, it would spell trouble for the establishment. With Donald Trump’s incredible influence over rural America and the rust belt, his iconic methodical connection to the plights of this voting bloc is enough to spur fractures that could lead to the development of a new party focusing only on the far-right end of the spectrum.

The math on the national level, and in many states, would become nearly impossible, but this would keep Trump with a group of followers, keep him in the news, and create a longer lasting legacy for Trump but would spell the end of the GOP as we know it. Ultimately it would mean that Trump would be putting himself above what is good for the party, which does not seem like a stretch given the behavior we have seen from him over the past four years.

Those trying to take control of the party, such as Baker and Hogan, would have to offset a rebuke of the President and potential angering of a substantial voting bloc by trying to win back suburban, white, educated voters lost throughout the Trump presidency. This would be a tricky balancing act to say the least. However, it is possible the Democrats could nominate someone so hated by both factions that they come back together quickly, but this would basically need the blessing of the current President to happen effectively and a power share between Trump and a moderate wing seems unworkable.

Conclusions

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In pursuit of maintaining the status quo, Republican voters have demonstrated a proven ability to continue to support their party, despite strong policy disagreements and character complaints about the President. In the general election, Republican voters will again have to choose to deny or give a stamp of approval to having Trump at the heart of their party.

In three of our four plausible scenarios, the GOP will either fully become the party of Trump, or the party is unlikely to hold together in a meaningful way. In one of the four scenarios the “establishment” wing of the party could take back control. This outcome is fully dependent on Trump’s base supporters and likely will have a lot to do with who the Democratic nominee ends up being and ends up winning.

Based on our thinking, the outcome for the Republican party, appears rocky at best, but before this potential demise leads to left-leaning celebration, it should be noted that, the path ahead is not exactly smooth for Democrats either (more on that in the next installment). Democrats will soon have to decide whether a more progressive candidate is going to be their standard bearer, or a more moderate candidate. For both parties, a more vocal, and powerful base, is making it increasingly difficult to appeal to a broad political base. There will likely come a breaking point when various factions within the parties will no longer go along with ideas that reflects the diversity in America and instead focus solely on policies that are more to the far left and far right view of the world.

It is true that voters in Red States have proved that they’re not against progressive economic policies – several states raised the minimum wage or expanded Medicaid through referendums – but this is a far cry from a wholesale shift in party allegiance. All of this raises a question: is this the end of the Republican Party or the beginning of a new one?

Warren & Harris Rise Amid Democratic Discontent

But who do younger, Black and Progressive voters really like enough vs. Trump?

Publisher’s Riff

presented by Reality Check on WURD, airs Monday - Thursday, 4-7pm ET, streamed live at WURDradio.com, in Philly on 96.1 FM / 900 AM | #RealityCheck @ellisonreport

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With the 2020 Democratic presidential primary field still crowded, there is much more visible discontent from the party’s progressive wing. That was showing considerably during the recent Netroots Nation conference in Philadelphia last week, with fissures between Democratic leaders (primarily House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)) and four very vocal and increasingly influential Democratic Congresswomen “of color” - including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rashia Tlaib (D-MI) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA). Worries abound among Democratic leadership as to what that will mean for the upcoming 2020 primary and how it will translate in the general election. Could there be another 2016 scenario in which blocks of jaded (and many younger) Progressive voters have no enthusiasm for the nominee and decide to stay put out of protest? Who is the nominee they really want? Meanwhile, Joe Biden continues to gradually drop in the polling averages, but he has yet to fall below 30 percent (on average, that is) and he’s still commanding over a quarter of the primary electorate - Kamala Harris is benefiting from that drop, as some voters try to decide if she’s the new establishment candidate. Bernie Sanders is just steady at 19 percent. There’s some talk about Elizabeth Warren on the rise as she generates more interest and small dollar donors, but she’s behind Kamala Harris and even more so in the early primary states according to Morning Consult. What is somewhat clear is Warren and Sanders fighting for the same fields of support. That continues to work towards Biden’s advantage, for now. Survival in the primary, for now, is all about maintaining a pace. On another note, there are a Independents are the most unhappy with the state of the economy, while a large number of them are neither happy or unhappy - indeed, they feel the most unhappy or skeptical about the economy’s condition compared to any other partisan grouping.

In the YouGov breakdown below, some notable data:

  • Despite the fallout from the first set of Democratic debates, Biden still maintains a comfortable lead with Black voters and Latino voters, too. Sanders is a distant second with Black voters; Harris a very distant third and she actually leads among White voters.

Some other data that don’t look good for Democrats …

  • Black voters are, considerably, the least satisfied with Democratic primary choices among various racial demographics

  • Black voters are more concerned with a candidate representing their policy positions than they are with winning the election; so, too, are young voters

  • A significant number of 18-29 year olds, Black and Latino voters are saying they aren’t voting or the more evasive “it depends.”

Overall Field

Morning Consult (July 9)

RealClearPolitics (July 14)

FiveThirtyEight (June 27 - July 2)

FiveThirtyEight Endorsements (as of July 12)

Key Demographics

YouGov (July 7 - July 9)

60% of Americans say they are very happy or happy with their current jobs

Trump Approvals

This week’s average: 43.45% (+0.3)

Previous week’s average: 43.15%

FiveThirtyEight

RealClearPolitics


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Are Upcoming ICE Raids Also Targeting Black Mayors?

Either coincidence or the president is sending warning shots to non-White local elected officials

Publisher’s Riff

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According to reports and Trump administration sources, Immigration and Customs Enforcement will coordinate a national wave of historic raids on undocumented migrant households in 10 different cities across the United States. Those raids will, ironically, take place on Sunday, widely considered the nation’s most religious day, another aspect to the operation that sends a chilling message.

The cities reportedly being targeted include:

  • Atlanta

  • Baltimore

  • Chicago

  • Denver

  • Houston

  • Los Angeles

  • Miami

  • New Orleans

  • New York

  • San Francisco

The racial dimensions of this raid go beyond the migrants being targeted by ICE agents. One thing that also stands out about all 10 cities is that 70 percent of them are currently run by Black mayors, or 7 out of 10. Those include:

  • Atlanta - Keisha Lance Bottoms

  • Baltimore - Bernard Young

  • Chicago - Lori Lightfoot

  • Denver - Michael Hancock

  • Houston - Sylvester Turner

  • New Orleans - LaToya Cantrell

  • San Francisco - London Breed

Two more cities are currently run by non-White or Latinx Mayors, including:

  • Los Angeles - Eric Garcetti

  • Miami - Francis Suarez

New York is the only ICE targeted city that is currently being run by a White mayor, Bill de Blasio. That mayor, incidentally, is married to a Black woman and is father to Black/bi-racial children. Hence, 90 percent of the ICE-targeted cities on this list are run by non-White mayors.

It should also be noted that 70 percent of these cities - including Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New Orleans and New York - have the highest Black population concentrations of major or large U.S. cities. There has been conversation lately that Democrats may be underestimating how much Republican anti-immigrant messaging is dangerously resonating with some Black populations. Politically, this puts Democratic mayors and the Democratic Party in a particularly thorny spot: Many in those communities will be watching how aggressively these mayors will defy federal law enforcement during these raids, and some may accuse those same mayors of employing preferential treatment for one vulnerable group over another. It’s an uncomfortable subject, but is a point of tension that Democrats, ahead of 2020, must figure out and tackle head on soon. While the political motivation behind these ICE raids is obviously a strategy to encourage Trump’s core supporter base, the less obvious strategy is to also further disrupt and exacerbate tensions within the Democrats’ core base, as well.

Black Voters Can Choose the Next President - With the Electoral College

Folks in both parties want to abolish the Electoral College. Don't be fooled by that.

Guest Contributor

presented by Reality Check on WURD, airs Monday - Thursday, 4-7pm ET, streamed live at WURDradio.com, in Philly on 96.1 FM / 900 AM | #RealityCheck @ellisonreport

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by Dr. G.S. Potter | WURD #RealityCheck Contributor | @doc_strategy

Racism is stupid.

The way that Presidents are elected in the United States is stupid  - because it’s racist. And the stupidity of the Southern white slave-owners that designed our Presidential elections may have created an opportunity for the Black community to control the Electoral College, and thus the White House, in 2020 …. and for the foreseeable future.

Presidents weren’t always elected the way they are now in the United States. In fact, until 1804, the President and Vice President ran on separate tickets. The candidate with the most votes became President and the candidate with the second most votes became Vice President. In the case of a tie, the House of Representatives chose the winner. That system became problematic and a new one was put into place (to learn more about that process, click HERE).

In other words, the game was about to change. And two of the most dramatic changes revolved around slavery.

The new rules for how the President and Vice President would be elected were written out in the 12th Amendment and they are the rules that, for the most part, control elections today. When the Amendment was passed in 1804, the electorate was entirely White. By that same year, all of the states in the north had abolished slavery. The nation was split between Slave States and Non-Slave States. The population was 5.3 million, and of those 900,000 were enslaved Black people and 100k were listed as free “other.”

At the time, there were only 17 states for a total of 176 Electoral College votes. The South was outnumbered 2 to 1.

Southern slave-owners knew they would never win a Presidential election again if the popular vote dictated who occupied the White House, so they came up with a two-step plan that would allow them to win the White House even if they lost the election.

The first step was to divide the nation in half and create a two-party system. One party represented slave-owners and the other party represented abolitionists. They accomplished this division by legislating that both the President and the Vice President should be placed on the same ticket. This pitted slave-owners and non-slave-owners directly against each other in competition for the White House.

The second step was implemented by the South to overcome the fact that they were outnumbered 2 to 1 electorally. If the South was going to maintain federal power, it needed to create a system by which the minority could occupy the Presidency and Vice-Presidency even if they lost the popular vote.

This system was called the Electoral College.

While enslaved Black people were not allowed to vote, they were counted as three-fifths of a person according to the Census (to read more about how that happened, click HERE). The Census would determine how many representatives each state would receive in the House of Representatives as well as how many electors they would have in the electoral college. In this way, the South was able to use Black people as a way to increase their numerical leverage in Congress and the Electoral College without giving them the power to alter the outcome of elections — i.e. the vote.

And that was a really stupid move by today’s standards.

The system for electing a President in the United States was designed by slave-owners that did not account for free and enfranchised Black electorate. They also did not account for an American electorate that included millions of Latino voters. It also did not account for the migration patterns of Black communities once slavery did end. Huge mistakes. And by splitting the nation into a two-party system, White supremacists split the White vote in half making it far easier for non-Whites and their allies to outnumber them.

So stupid.

If we fast-forward through the two great migrations that spread Black communities North and West and locked them into urban voting blocks, the immigration of tens of millions of Latinos that would eventually become voting citizens, and the Civil Rights Movement that would push forward the Voting Rights Act — we see a much different America than the one that existed in 1804.

In 1804, 100 percent of the electorate was White. During the Civil Rights movement, 90 percent of the electorate was White. And in 2020, it is projected that only 67 percent of voters will identify as White, nearly 13 percent will be Black and more than 13 percent will be Latino.

Further, according to the former scholar Jacob Lawrence

Between 1910 and 1970, more than 5 million blacks left the South for major cities in the North and West, including Pittsburgh, New York, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, and Los Angeles. Their departures were fueled in part by the availability of low skilled jobs in the burgeoning manufacturing industry after both World Wars. Other contributing factors included the drying up of southern agriculture jobs due to farm mechanization as well as the increasingly repressive social environment. In 1910 the nation’s largest black populations were in Georgia, Mississippi, and Alabama; in 1970 the largest black populations were in New York, Illinois, and California.

So now …

With large Black communities in states in the North, South, and West and a split white electorate, Black voters are now positioned to be the minority that can use the Electoral College to push past the majority and take over the White House.

At least that’s what the numbers tell us.

In the 2020 Presidential election, there will be 538 Electoral College votes up for grabs. These votes are tallied from the 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Ten of these states plus D.C. have Black electorates that outnumber the Republican voting bloc …

  • Illinois (20)

  • Georgia (16)

  • North Carolina (15)

  • Virginia (13)

  • Maryland (10)

  • Alabama (9)

  • South Carolina (9)

  • Louisiana (8)

  • Mississippi (6)

  • Delaware (3)

  • Washington DC (3)

These states carry 112 Electoral College votes. Of these states, though, the Black voting bloc has only mobilized to claim 49 of those votes ...

  • Illinois (20)

  • Virginia (13)

  • Maryland (10)

  • Delaware (3)

  • Washington DC (3)

If the Black voting bloc mobilized to claim 112 of the 538 votes to win the Presidential election, that would be a lot of leverage in an of itself. But that’s not all.

In addition to states where Black voters themselves dominate White nationalists, Black voting blocks can also take claim of Electoral College votes in states where their populations outnumber the gap between Republicans and Democrats in 2016. For example, Donald Trump only won Pennsylvania’s 20 Electoral College votes by approximately 68,000 votes. Black folks made up 11% of the potential electorate in that elections with 1.1 million eligible voters in the state. Turnout hovered around 63 percent though, leaving an upwards of 400,000 voters that could completely up-end Trump’s hopes to retake Pennsylvania in 2020.

In addition to Pennsylvania (20), there are six other states that similarly have Black voting blocs large enough to overtake the Republicans in 2020 should they sufficiently mobilize …

  • Ohio (18)

  • Michigan (16)

  • Tennessee (11)

  • Missouri (10)

  • Wisconsin (10)

  • Arkansas (6)

These 7 states are worth 91 Electoral College votes. So far, the Black electorate has not mobilized to claim any of them.

These 91 Electoral College Votes combined with the 112 votes listed above gives the Black Electorate a total of …

203 of the 538 Electoral College votes needed to win the 2020 election

…  should they mobilize to claim them. And we’re still not done.

There are 4 states where Black and Latino electorates combine to outnumber the Republican Party. They are ….

  • New York (29)

  • New Jersey (14)

  • Texas (38)

  • Florida (29)

New York and New Jersey are being held down by blue voters, but Texas and Florida are still controlled by white nationalists. They are both in danger of flipping in 2020, though, if the Black voting bloc mobilizes in those states as well. If Texas and Florida are added to the tally, that brings the power of the Black voting bloc to …

270 Electoral College votes out of the 538 needed to win the White House

In other words, the Black voting bloc could completely dominate the race for the White House in 2020. The slave-owners that designed this rigged system of electing a President may have handed the keys of the White House over to descendants of the Black men and women they were trying to deny freedom. All Black Americans need to do now is grab them from their stupid, racist hands.


listen to B|E Note Publisher Charles Ellison on the CGTN Podcast

How Americans View the Rise in Drug Prices

Politically, it could be a winning issue - depending on how candidates unpack the polling numbers

a Trendency Research Feature

presented by Reality Check on WURD, airs Monday - Thursday, 4-7pm ET, streamed live at WURDradio.com, in Philly on 96.1 FM / 900 AM | #RealityCheck @ellisonreport

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a Trendency Research original | Stefan Hankin | @LPstrategies

Thanks to advancements in the pharmaceutical industry, the ability to slow the progression of, or even possibly cure, many chronic diseases is becoming more and more common. While alleviating pain and suffering for those who have been diagnosed with chronic diseases should be celebrated, the focus of news stories tends to focus on concerns around the associated costs and lack of affordability of many prescription medications. There is little denying that these press cycles have, more often than not, been self-inflicted wounds for the industry. And while a few bad actors are doing an especially good job of keeping communications teams busy, the pharmaceutical industry has been on the defensive on a regular basis.

For example, the New York Times’ The Daily recently ran a podcast entitled ‘This Drug Could End HIV. Why Hasn’t It?’. The segment introduced listeners to Truvada, a drug created and patented by Gilead Sciences. The show tells the story of Truvada (better known as PrEP) which, if taken daily by an HIV negative person, is up to 92% effective at preventing the acquisition of HIV. A remarkable medical innovation, PrEP serves as an additional preventative tool that could potentially help bring an end to the HIV/AIDS crisis. PrEP has been around since 2012, but due to its high price tag, people that would benefit greatly from the drug haven’t been able to access the medication.

Another company that received a lot of attention recently was Mylan, the producer of the EpiPen. The news around Mylan was certainly not positive after they increased the cost of the EpiPen from $100 to over $600 for a two-pack. And we all probably remember Martin Shrkeli (aka “Pharma Bro”) who increased the cost of his life-saving HIV drugs by a magnitude of 50 after buying the firm, Turing. Not surprisingly, all of this has gotten the attention of Congress who have held multiple hearings on the subject, and most, if not all, of the 2020 Presidential candidates have talked about the need to lower pricing.

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Given the stories coming out on this topic, it is also not shocking that public opinion has become quite negative towards pharmaceutical pricing. On the plus side for the industry, a solid majority of Americans feel that prescription drugs have made lives better (59 percent according to the KFF Tracking Poll). At the same time, almost 8 in 10 Americans (79 percent) believe that the prices of these drugs are unreasonable.

While these views on pricing are clearly creating the urgency for politicians to say something on the topic, the data got us thinking: What do Americans view as a fair price?

“What’s Driving the Price of Prescription Drugs?”

Our hunch was that this binary view on pricing, being too high, would be masking more nuance in the views that Americans hold. Instead of just asking if people think prices are too high, we wanted to go a little deeper and instead determine what Americans feel is driving the price of prescription drugs.

To do this, we asked our respondents to allocate their estimated costs across five different categories:

  • Research & Development

  • Manufacturing

  • Marketing/Advertising

  • Profit

  • Excess Profit

The rationale for breaking out the profit into two types is the idea that Americans typically believe that companies should be making a profit, but the question we really wanted to understand was how much.

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As the charts above show, Americans view the price of pharmaceuticals being driven by all of the factors we asked about, with profits clearly being viewed as the biggest driver. Interestingly enough, panelists’ view on how much of the cost goes into the non-profit categories are reasonably close to data that is available. For example, on R&D, the National Science Board Foundation reported that about 17% of revenues are going to R&D (our panelists estimated 23%). And while determining exact costs on these categories are tough, estimates from Dr. David Belk pegged the percent going to marketing at 27% of revenues from 2011-2018. Our panelists estimate 18% goes to Marketing/Advertising which is lower than Dr. Belk’s estimate, but it seems that Americans have a pretty good sense, overall, of where costs for prescription drugs are channeled.

This is somewhat surprising since very few Americans probably notice exactly how much a drug’s total price is since, for most people who have insurance, the co-pay is what they are more familiar with.

With this in mind, the views on where profits on prescription drugs stand are reasonable assessments, based on the other responses we received. On average, Americans feel that 46 percent of the cost of prescription drugs is going to company profits. This is clearly a big number and given the fact that 79 percent view pricing as unreasonable in the KFF survey above, it is safe to say that Americans view this profit margin as an unreasonable level. In our data, we see that Americans feel that a majority of the profit is acceptable (56 percent of profits) while 44 percent of profits are viewed as excessive.

On the one hand, there is good news here for the pharmaceutical companies given the fact that a 26 percent mark-up on $1.2 trillion is nothing to sneeze at. However, companies should realize that when their customers feel that 20 cents on every dollar spent are more than what they should be paying, it is not great for perception and support. With that being said, it actually gets worse for the pharmaceutical companies when you dig into the numbers a little more.

Since our panelists are able to allocate the amounts to each category, we can see how they view each category as a driver of costs. For example, as shown in the chart below, only 12 percent of Americans feel that the majority of the cost of prescription drugs is coming from R&D. It also shows that 38 percent percent feel a significant amount is being driven by R&D, and 29 percent think that R&D makes up a minimal amount of the cost (to go along with 21 percent who feel it basically adds nothing to the cost). This split of those who feel R&D makes up a significant cost vs. those who think it is minimal at best is interesting, to say the least, and this divide also exists when we look at Marketing/Advertising.

There is more agreement on the cost factor of manufacturing the pharmaceuticals. Eight in ten Americans think the expense of manufacturing makes, at best, a minimal amount of the overall cost. Just 2 percent feel it makes up a majority, while 19 percent put it in the significant category.

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When it comes to profits, the numbers are fascinating. Americans feel that acceptable profits are making up a significant amount of the costs with 13 percent feeling it is a majority of the costs (and are okay with that fact). Overall, 46 percent of Americans feel that excess profits are driving a significant amount of the overall price of prescription drugs. Not great news for the companies, but the number of Americans who feel that a majority of the cost is being driven by excessive profits (11 percent) is well below the level of those who do not believe that excess profits have any cost implications (39 percent). A plurality of Americans fall into the category of excess profits being a significant driver of the overall cost.

Given our hyper-partisan world, it is not surprising that there are differing views on excess profit. Indeed, Democrats feel 23 percent of the costs are coming from excess profits, while Republican voters, on average, place the number at 16 percent. There are also differing views on how much goes into R&D with Republicans giving a much higher allocation on this factor (26 percent) than their Democratic counterparts (19 percent). Interestingly, and somewhat surprisingly, are the common views on marketing, profit, and manufacturing held by differing party affiliations.

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The diverging partisan views are a little clearer when we breakdown the numbers on excess profits. As the chart below shows, the views on manufacturing and marketing are very similar in the breakdown of costs. The big differences are in excess profits where, among Republicans, 48 percent feel that excess profits basically don’t exist. This number is just 30 percent among Democrats. Looking at it from the other direction, 51 percent of Democrats feel excess profits are a significant driver of costs, while just 36 percent of Republicans feel the same way.

Drug Prices.png

It is worth noting that the views on acceptable profits are not that far off with 63 percent of Democrats feeling that acceptable profits are a significant driver of costs. Across the aisle, 54 percent of Republicans share this view.

Unlike partisanship, there is just about no difference in views on excess profits when it comes to the generations of voters. There is an interesting difference, however, between acceptable profits when it comes to GenX and Millennials. GenX Americans are much more open to bigger profits (feeling 30 percent on average goes to this category) than their younger counterparts (21 percent). Millennials, on the other hand, feel that more of the cost goes to R&D (26 percent) when compared to all other generations, especially GenX (21 percent).

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Politically, it is clear that this can be a winning issue, and politicians certainly seem aware of this fact. However, as is often the case, if you are just looking at the topline numbers, you are taking a chance of overreaching and pushing for changes that Americans might not be comfortable with. For the pharmaceutical companies, there is a clear direction in these numbers and the differences between the younger generations are much more interesting than the more predictable political divides. These generational differences create an opportunity, as well as a challenge, for the industry - as well as for those who are looking to control costs. The chances of moving too far ahead of where public opinion and perception lie is always present. At the same time, doing nothing about pricing isn’t exactly a long-term winning strategy, either.

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