Clinton 274
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Ties 6
Trump 258
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Click for Senate
Dem 50
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GOP 50
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  • Strongly Dem (152)
  • Likely Dem (73)
  • Barely Dem (49)
  • Exactly tied (6)
  • Barely GOP (67)
  • Likely GOP (34)
  • Strongly GOP (157)
270 Electoral votes needed to win This date in 2012 2008
New polls: MN OK
Dem pickups vs. 2012: NC
GOP pickups vs. 2012: CO FL IA NM OH

RNC May Penalize Republicans Who Don't Support Trump

On "Face the Nation" yesterday, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said that if Donald Trump's primary challengers don't sign up to support Trump now, there could be trouble for them in 2018 or 2020. All the major Republican candidates signed a loyalty pledge to support the Republican candidate, and now Priebus is calling his chips in.

It's not clear what exactly Priebus (or his successor) might do in 2020. In principle, the RNC could adopt a binding rule saying, for example, that any candidate who breached his contract with the RNC to support the party's nominee is banned from debates for the next 20 years. The GOP can't ban anyone from running for president, since that is a constitutional right, but the Republican Party is a private organization, and it can have any rules it wants to for participation in its own debates. A banned candidate could sue the Party, but would almost certainly lose in court, since private organizations can pretty much make whatever rules they want for their activities as long as they don't break any laws. And in the case of a rule saying that there is punishment for breach of contract with the Party, there is virtually no chance a court would rule that a party can't punish people who breach contracts with it.

Not all of Trump's primary opponents liked Priebus' announcement. In particular, John Kasich hit back hard after Priebus' statement and said he wouldn't be bullied. And he didn't offer any support for Trump. (V)

Republicans Embrace Trump's Approach to the Truth

Reince Priebus made a lot of headlines on Sunday. Not only for his threats aimed at Republicans (see above), but also for his attacks on Hillary Clinton. During his appearance on "Face the Nation," he declared that the Democratic nominee was absolutely responsible for birtherism:

People get convicted every single day with circumstantial evidence that is enough to tip the scale. And by the preponderance of evidence before us, Hillary Clinton or her campaign were definitely involved in this issue. We can't keep saying it's not true. That's ridiculous.

Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) also dabbled in some historical revisionism on Sunday, insisting that Donald Trump hasn't talked about Barack Obama's birthplace "for years." There's a pretty big difference between spin (which all politicians engage in) and telling outright lies. Needless to say, neither of these assertions is true. As we explained on Saturday, Hillary Clinton's "responsibility" for birtherism has been debunked by factcheckers. And until Thursday—which is not "years" ago—Trump remained on board the birther train.

Priebus' and Christie's willingness to look into the camera and deliver blatant falsehoods brings to mind Chapter 7 of George Orwell's 1984: "Everything faded into mist. The past was erased, the erasure was forgotten, the lie became truth." We've already seen that Donald Trump can go "pants on fire," over and over, without recrimination. But he is clearly a master of what scientists call self-deception; the lies work because Trump actually believes them. Can other politicians, who may not have this "talent," get away with the Pinocchio approach? We are likely going to find out in 2020. (Z)

Clinton Struggles in Florida

Despite outspending Donald Trump by a large margin in Florida, and despite having 57 office in the Sunshine State to his approximately zero, and despite Trump being deeply unpopular with Latinos in a state with a lot of them, Hillary Clinton is currently running behind Trump in Florida, the mother of all swing states. Recent polls show her not doing as well with Latinos, millennials, and white voters as Barack Obama did in 2012. Trump is fighting hard for Florida. He campaigned in Miami on Friday and will campaign in Fort Myers today.

For Trump, Florida is a must-win state. If Clinton wins Florida, it is almost impossible for Trump to win the election. Clinton can afford to lose Florida and still win if she hangs onto Virginia, North Carolina, and Michigan.

Some strategists believe that the number of undecided voters is smaller than in past years, so getting your own voters to turn out is the critical factor. Also a factor is that Florida has nearly a dozen major media markets and it is very expensive to advertise in all of them. Clinton (or her campaign's accountant, at least) knows that very well, and so is attacking the election from a different direction: the ground war. The Democrats are trying very hard to register new voters to increase their 250,000-voter lead in registrations, but of course, the Republicans are working hard to decrease it. (V)

Democrats Concerned About Clinton's Latino Strategy

Prominent Democrats, both party officials and officeholders, think that Donald Trump's anti-Mexican rhetoric gives Hillary Clinton a unique opportunity to not only dominate the Latino vote, but to bring them into the Democratic fold for a generation. And yet, polls (like those of Florida; see above) reveal that she's not doing as well with the group as Barack Obama did, and that key elements of her pitch are not hitting home. Consequently, there is much griping about the Clinton campaign's outreach efforts.

Of course, it's much easier to complain about a problem than to solve it. The only specific critique of Clinton is that she has not yet started airing Spanish-language ads in Latino-heavy areas. The campaign responds that they have been focusing on millennial Latinos, who don't watch as much TV, and that their Spanish-language ads will start airing this week. The other major problem, which is beyond Clinton's control, is that the DSCC and DCCC don't have anyone tasked with Latino outreach. Presumably, that shortcoming will be rectified soon, particularly given the Democrats' pressing need to elect Catherine Cortez-Masto in Nevada. (Z)

Will Black Voters Turn Out for Clinton?

Black voters are the most reliable Democrats, but Hillary Clinton needs them to turn out in the same numbers as they did in 2012. This may not be so easy to pull off. However, her not-so-secret weapon is President Obama, who yesterday told the black community that it would be a personal insult if they didn't all turn out to vote for Hillary Clinton in order to preserve his legacy. Another weapon in her arsenal is Michelle Obama, who is extremely popular with black voters. Interestingly enough, while turnout among all eligible voters tends to be around 60%, in 2012 it was 74% among black women. Clinton needs to maintain this kind of turnout. (V)

North Korea Nuke Test Has Foreign Policy Experts Speaking Out About Trump

The United States' foreign policy community is almost universally opposed to Donald Trump, regardless of party affiliation. North Korea's progress in developing a nuclear stockpile, highlighted by their largest-so-far test detonation this week, now has them speaking out even more forcefully than in past months. For example, George W. Bush administration official Eliot Cohen declared:

He is not only an ignoramus, but he's a dangerous ignoramus who doesn't know the first thing about foreign policy and doesn't care and has some very dangerous instincts. Part of what is so dangerous about him is not just his ignorance and contempt for our alliances, but his failure to understand how important these have been to our security since 1945. And he has already done a lot of damage. Our allies are deeply shaken by this election.

The Trump campaign's response to such criticisms has not been to refute them, per se, but to argue that Hillary Clinton is also unqualified and dangerous. The Donald's remarks on the North Korean nuclear test:

Just today it was announced that North Korea performed its fifth nuclear test, its fourth since Hillary Clinton became secretary of state. It's just one more massive failure from a failed secretary of state. She's failed at everything. Her policies have also put Iran onto a path of nuclear weapons. And I have to say, made them, overnight, an absolute power. They were dying three years ago.

Intelligence experts reject the notion that any one person can be blamed for North Korea's actions, noting that their first nuclear test took place while George W. Bush was in office, and that neither he nor Barack Obama has been able to do much to check North Korean progress. They suggest that the primary question, at this point, is whose finger should be on the trigger in the event that things take a dramatic turn for the worse. (Z)

Trump Campaign "Last Stand" for White Supremacists?

Experts from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and other organizations that keep tabs on white supremacists say that the community is treating this as the most important election of their lifetimes. "Many white supremacists see this as their last stand for controlling the country," observes the SPLC's Heidi Beirich, while Vanderbilt University lecturer Sophie Bjork-James says that, "Instead of being racist, they try to be respectable, but they are also using conspiracy theories to control the media through their social media handles for white nationalist ideas."

It's easy to see why they feel that way; whether by design or by accident, white supremacist ideas have found their way into the Trump campaign with alarming frequency. There was, for example, the Star of David tweet. Then, there was the Deplorables poster with Pepe the Frog. And just this week, Donald Trump, Jr., was forced to apologize for an ill-advised "joke" in which he said that the media would be "warming up the gas chamber" if the GOP behaved like Hillary Clinton. In addition, there are the various acts of harassment or violence inflicted upon people of color by Trump supporters (see this convenient map for details). Finally, there is the delicate waltz that Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN) and others have been performing, wherein they disavow white supremacist support, but refuse to disavow specific white supremacists (like David Duke). Again, whatever Trump and his campaign may actually believe, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that white supremacy is as mainstream in the 2016 Republican Party as it has been in any political party since the Civil Rights Movement. (Z)

Martha Stewart Will Vote for Clinton

Donald Trump is a reality TV star but he is not the only one. Martha Stewart is another one, and yesterday she came out for Hillary Clinton, saying:

This is the most important election of the last hundred years. We have to be very certain that we elect a person who has experience, knowledge, a base of education in the world of world politics, as well as domestic politics, and so obviously I'm voting for Hillary Clinton.

Trump and Stewart had a falling out in 2006 over low ratings from her show, of which he was an executive producer. Revenge, anyone? (V)

Could Weld Drop Out to Stop Trump?

Journalist Carl Bernstein, of Watergate fame, dropped a mini-bombshell on Sunday when he suggested that Libertarian vice-presidential candidate Bill Weld might drop out of the race if he believes that it would be necessary to getting Hillary Clinton elected. Bernstein said that Weld "despises Trump" and that he "could be hero—instead of a Nader."

Weld denied the report, though of course he would do so regardless of what his plans actually are. It is very unlikely that Bernstein made this up out of whole cloth, and if nothing else, he's certainly right that this is Weld's very best opportunity to influence the outcome of the election. (Z)

Worst President Ever?

A lot of Americans are disheartened by the choice they have been given this year, and are looking for silver linings wherever they can find them. That includes Robert Strauss, who observes that no matter how bad the 45th president might prove to be, he or she can't possibly be worse than #15 James Buchanan, who occupies the very bottom of the presidential barrel for most historians.

Buchanan actually came to the White House with an impressive resume: senator, representative, Secretary of State, Minister to the United Kingdom and Russia. Not all of his contemporaries were sold—Andrew Jackson reportedly said that he only sent Buchanan to Russia because there was nowhere further from Washington, since the United States does not have an ambassador to the North Pole. But even if Old Hickory wasn't a fan, Buchanan's support was broad enough that he easily won his party's presidential nomination in 1856, a development aided by the fact that he was out of the country for most of the 1850s and thus able to avoid becoming enmeshed in the various sectional controversies that were unfolding. Since antebellum America was effectively a one-party country, Buchanan won a comfortable victory over the newly-formed Republican Party and its candidate, John C. Frémont.

Aided by his extensive connections within the federal government, Buchanan began screwing up the country even before he was inaugurated. He persuaded his friends in Congress to pass the Tariff Bill of 1857, which precipitated one of the worst recessions in American history. He also mucked around in the judicial branch, twisting arms and trading favors in order to get a clear-cut pro-South ruling in the infamous Dred Scott case. That's right—what's called "judicial activism" today is not exactly a recent innovation.

Once Buchanan took office, things went downhill. He proved unable and unwilling to do anything about the Panic of 1857 that he helped instigate, believing that those who suffered were mostly speculators who deserved their fates. His attempt to "resolve" the slavery controversy failed, as Northerners recognized the machinations behind the Dred Scott decision and refused to honor the Court's ruling. Making things much worse was the President's mishandling of matters in Kansas, which desired statehood. The 95% of the settlers who opposed slavery submitted an anti-slavery state constitution, while the 5% who favored slavery joined with Missourians who had illegally crossed the border to vote and submitted a pro-slavery state constitution. Buchanan, ever eager to keep the South happy, threw his weight behind the obviously fraudulent pro-slavery document. The result was the "little Civil War," which saw Kansans—including one John Brown—slaughtering one another in hopes of advancing their cause. Kansas would not achieve statehood until after Buchanan left office.

The President's foreign policy was no better than his economic and domestic policies. He supported mercenary expeditions of questionable legality; their goal was to conquer various Central American republics for possible annexation as slave states. He got the U.S. Army involved in a disastrous conflict with Mormons in Utah. And despite his diplomatic background, he nearly allowed a dispute over a wayward pig to escalate into a war with Canada. One with real guns and not hockey pucks, eh. But while Buchanan was happy to send the tiny, 12,000-man U.S. Army on such wild goose chases, he ordered them to take no action as Southern states seized possession of army property and materiel in 1859 and 1860, as they prepared for a war they suspected was imminent.

So, when Buchanan finally left office in 1860, the economy was in shambles, the nation was on the verge of civil war, America's military strength was at its lowest point since the early 1800s, and the country's relationship with the nations of the world was badly frayed. The President was thrilled to wash his hands of the messes he had helped create; on the day that Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated, Buchanan told him that, "If you are as happy in entering the White House as I shall feel on returning to Wheatland [Buchanan's home], you are a happy man indeed." Ten-Cent Jimmy, as he was known by then, was hardly the only one to be delighted that his term in office was over.

It is highly unlikely that the person inaugurated in January will rise to the heights of president #16; that takes both brilliance and a major national crisis. But clearing the low, low bar set by #15 should be no problem at all. At least, one certainly hopes so. (Z)

Today's Presidential Polls

Nothing much to see here; Minnesota has gone Democratic for 12 elections in a row, Oklahoma is the only state where Barack Obama failed to win a single county. (Z)

State Clinton Trump Johnson Start End Pollster
Minnesota 44% 38% 6% Sep 12 Sep 14 Mason Dixon
Oklahoma 36% 51% 6% Sep 13 Sep 15 Sooner Poll

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep18 Trump Says Clinton Should Disarm Secret Service Detail
Sep18 Robert Gates Says Trump Is Beyond Repair
Sep18 Trump Has Received $885 Million in Tax Breaks
Sep18 Trump Threatens to Sue the New York Times
Sep18 New York Times Criticized for Coverage
Sep18 Silicon Valley Donors Are Flexing Their Political Muscles
Sep18 Veep Debate Stand-ins Named
Sep18 How the Cartels Will Defeat Trump's Wall
Sep18 Mark Cuban Offers Trump $10 Million for an Interview
Sep18 Ryan's Tax Plan May Slightly Favor the Rich
Sep17 Trump Concedes that Obama Was Born in the United States
Sep17 Response to Trump Birther Announcement is Swift
Sep17 Johnson and Stein Don't Make the Cut
Sep17 Bob Schieffer Gives Advice to Debate Moderators
Sep17 The Biggest Issue of the Campaign Is Entirely Missing
Sep17 Hillary Clinton Wasn't Always Like She Is Now
Sep17 Democrats Rallying Around Clinton
Sep17 Fraternal Order of Police Endorses Trump
Sep16 Can Clinton Win the Kids?
Sep16 How to Watch the Debates: Turn the Sound Off
Sep16 New Hampshire Union Leader Endorses Johnson
Sep16 Trump Explains His Economic Plans
Sep16 Trump, Jr. Has New Excuse for Why Dad Won't Release Taxes
Sep16 Trump Reverses Course on Birther Claims...Sort Of
Sep16 Ford Fires Back at Trump
Sep16 Trump Is Rising, but What Goes Up Can Also Come Down
Sep16 Virginia Supreme Court Sides with McAuliffe on Reenfranchising Felons
Sep16 Dr. Oz Show Edited Out Trump's Remarks about Kissing Ivanka
Sep16 Kochs Shift Gears
Sep15 President Trump Would Have Massive Conflicts of Interest
Sep15 President Trump Would Cost the U.S. $1 Trillion
Sep15 Both Candidates' Health Still Partially Shrouded in Mystery
Sep15 Melania Trump's Immigration History Still Shrouded in Mystery, Too
Sep15 New York Times Wants to Unseal Trump's Divorce File
Sep15 Springfield Ohio, A Town with No Hope
Sep15 Clinton to Return to the Campaign Trail Today
Sep15 RNC Was Hacked...or Not
Sep14 The Deplorable Duel
Sep14 About Clinton's Unforced Error
Sep14 Candidates and Aides Get Sick All the Time on the Campaign Trail
Sep14 Supreme Court Refuses to Reinstate Ohio's Golden Week
Sep14 Middle-Class Incomes Grew at a Record Pace in 2015
Sep14 Trump Unveils Childcare Plan
Sep14 Details of Trump's Dr. Oz Appearance Revealed
Sep14 Today in Dissembling: Kellyanne Conway
Sep14 Republicans Privately Panicking about a Possible Trump Win
Sep14 More DNC Documents Leaked
Sep14 Colin Powell Gets Hacked, Too
Sep14 Senate Democrats Already Worried about 2018
Sep14 Absentee Ballots Are the Weak Link Fight against Voter Fraud