The strategist who didn't believe in the red wave

Last updated on January 13, 2023

In off-the-record conversations and private emails, AFL-CIO political director Michael Podhorzer argued that the pundits focusing exclusively on the fundamentals of the race — Biden’s approval rating and the dismal economic indicators — were missing the bigger picture. Yes, presidents usually lose an average of some two dozen House seats in similar circumstances, but that wasn’t the whole story.

While many analysts argued that inflation would be more important than the diffuse issue of democracy, Podhorzer said that was myopic. He was much more right than wrong.

Podhorzer has now left the AFL-CIO after 25 years and is able to speak freely. On this episode of Playbook Deep Dive, host Ryan Lizza sits down with him in his kitchen for his first wide-ranging interview. They talk about what everyone got wrong about 2022, his critiques of the media’s coverage of the right, his ongoing battles with the so-called popularists in the Democratic Party, and why Podhorzer already thinks the presidential election of 2024 is headed for a dangerous endgame.