Early Returns

Democrats Would Be Crazy to Skip Alabama

Jonathan Bernstein's morning links.

Roy Moore: not a foregone conclusion.

Photographer: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Democrats nationwide, the New York Times reports, are uncertain whether to make a serious effort to compete in the Senate special election in Alabama, where Democrat Doug Jones is facing off against Republican Roy Moore.

This is nuts.

Moore is universally acknowledged as a weak Republican nominee; Jones is what passes for a strong Democratic nominee in Alabama. It's a good environment overall for Democrats, who have run ahead of their normal strength in most special elections all year. That still leaves Jones with little chance to win; Alabama is simply a very good Republican state. 

But there's virtually zero downside in trying. Both parties can raise far more money than they can use efficiently these days. Yes, if Jones gets blown out after Democrats devote serious resources to the race, Democrats will suffer a day or two of negative media stories ... which will promptly be forgotten by almost everyone, and which will have no consequences whatsoever. That's no reason not to try. 

Some Democrats are apparently worried that a major national party effort could backfire, given that the national Democratic Party is very unpopular in the state. That, however, is a reason to run a smart campaign, not a reason to run no campaign at all. 

And Democrats shouldn't overlook the benefits of at least making it a competitive race. It would send a signal to potential candidates and even rank-and-file activists in every district, especially those in the South, that the party intends to fight where and when it can. That can produce future gains in more evenly matched constituencies. Consider too the opposite message: If Democrats aren't going to at least try to win unless the odds are in their favor, why should any talented politician in Georgia or Texas consider affiliating with the party? Of course, the same logic applies to Republicans in very Democratic states. They, too, should contest as many races as possible, although that's easier said than done when the national tides are against them. 

And you never know. Scott Brown, after all, won a Senate seat in strongly Democratic Massachusetts. 

1. Greg Koger makes the case for the Senate filibuster as a limit on political parties. 

2. Very interesting research at the Monkey Cage from Robert N. Lupton, William M. Myers and Judd Thornton, who find that Republicans are actually more split on policy than are Democrats, even though Republican rhetoric is more ideologically consistent. I have serious qualms about using national convention delegates as a proxy for "activists," but this is good stuff. 

3. Dan Drezner: "The best hope for war not breaking out in Northeast Asia is that Kim Jong Un decides that he does not need to take the president of the United States seriously." Indeed, Drezner's case against Trump is getting increasingly more strident over time. Properly so, I'd say. 

4. Annie Lowrey on state government vs. federal government efficiency

5. And Kate Davidson at the Wall Street Journal reviews the evidence on taxes and economic growth; most economists find little to support Republican claims that taxes are all-important.

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    Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

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