Clinton 306
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Ties 34
Trump 198
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Dem 49
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GOP 51
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  • Strongly Dem (210)
  • Likely Dem (50)
  • Barely Dem (46)
  • Exactly tied (34)
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  • Likely GOP (65)
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270 Electoral votes needed to win Map algorithm explained
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Dem pickups vs. 2012: AZ
GOP pickups vs. 2012: IA VA
TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Trump Goes on the Offensive
      •  Is Trump-Pence Working Out?
      •  Wikileaks Won't Go After Trump's Tax Returns
      •  What's Behind Convention Bounces?
      •  Green Party Officially Nominates Jill Stein
      •  Third Parties Are Racing against the Clock
      •  Another Republican Bails on Trump
      •  Clinton Is Buying Olympics Ads
      •  The Political Process Is Worse Than Rigged
      •  Mosquitoes Bite Rubio

Trump Goes on the Offensive

Yesterday, we noted that Donald Trump behaved in a very un-Trump-like fashion on Friday, but that a leopard can't change its spots. And this particular leopard tends to go on the attack when he is cornered. So, given The Donald's sagging poll numbers, it should not surprise us that Saturday marked a return to vicious attacks on Hillary Clinton.

To start, Trump unveiled a brand-new nasty moniker for his opponent: Hillary Rotten Clinton. Presumably, "Crooked Hillary" was getting old. He also characterized her as a "dangerous liar" whose only achievement in her life was avoiding an FBI indictment for her email server. Trump took a veiled swipe at Clinton's appearance, telling the crowd at his rally: "Now you tell me she looks presidential, folks. I look presidential." And he also asserted that the Democratic nominee is mentally incapacitated: "She is a totally unhinged person. She's unbalanced ... Honestly, I don't think she's all there."

By engaging in ad hominem personal attacks, Trump is crossing a line that generally is not crossed in presidential politics. It is certainly the case that Clinton, President Obama, et al. have regularly set their sights on Trump, but none have questioned his mental capacity, his physical appearance, his hair, his masculinity, etc. (note that "temperament" and "experience" are important dimensions of a presidential candidate's resume, and are not usually regarded as "personal" issues). The unhappy news is that once a precedent is set, it is hard to go back. Which means that, most likely, American politics, in case they weren't already nasty enough, are going to get even nastier in 2020 and 2024. (Z)

Is Trump-Pence Working Out?

The pairing of Donald Trump and Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN) created something of an odd couple, as the two are very different in terms of career path, personality, appearance, and stands on major issues. For example, Trump is wealthy, Pence is not. Trump has no experience in public service, Pence has 15 years under his belt. Trump is ok with abortion and LGBTQ equality, Pence most certainly is not. Since their partnership began, they have often seemed to be on different pages, with #1 saying one thing and #2 saying another. This leads to an obvious question, posed by Politico's Matthew Nussbaum: "Is the Trump-Pence pairing working out?"

The candidates both say that it is working out, of course. But is this really correct? Maybe yes. The dynamic that has developed, essentially, is that the two have reversed the customary roles—Pence is serving as the bridge-builder and "grown-up," Trump is serving as the attack dog. Normally the candidate takes the former role, and the Veep takes the latter, but perhaps in this case they are just doing what each is best suited for. On the other hand, maybe no. In the end, the #1 name on the ticket gets most of the attention, and if Trump does not appear to be a "serious" statesman, Pence probably can't compensate for that. Further, discrepant messaging can be confusing and even annoying for voters. In the end, as with so many of the "rules" Trump has rewritten, the proof will be in the pudding. If he wins, expect future candidates to build their ticket in this way. And if he gets crushed, then this will be among the items added to the "don't do this" list. (Z)

Wikileaks Won't Go After Trump's Tax Returns

Julian Assange, the public face of Wikileaks, called into Bill Maher's HBO show on Friday. During their heated conversation, Maher wondered if—having targeted Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party—Wikileaks would also be working to uncover and release Donald Trump's tax returns. Assange confirmed that they were "working on it." On Saturday, however, he walked back the threat/promise, declaring that it was "a joke from a comedy show" and that Wikileaks' mission is "encouraging whistleblowers."

Assange's explanation is nonsense. Wikileaks is essentially anarchist, and their "mission," such as it is, is to undermine secrecy and to be disruptive. Much of the material they have released—the DNC emails included—had little to do with whistle blowing. Releasing Trump's tax returns would be right in line with their past work, and would generate lots of publicity, which Assange loves. Undoubtedly, the real answer is that they have already tried to get the tax returns and have failed. Which would mean, in turn, that the DNC's security is not nearly as good as the security employed by Donald Trump's accountants (WeiserMazars). And thus we have the incongruity that the party that has embraced "big data" places less emphasis on keeping that data safe than the 24th-largest accounting firm in the U.S. (Z)

What's Behind Convention Bounces?

It is a well-known dynamic of American politics—noted several times on this site—that each party's candidate gets a polling "bounce" after their convention concludes. The pattern held this year, with Donald Trump getting a 3-5 point bump after the RNC, and Hillary Clinton getting a 4-7 point bump after the DNC. The usual explanation for this is that the conventions each win over some fence sitters, converting "undecided" into "committed" voters.

Now, research conducted by Columbia University political scientist Andrew Gelman and Microsoft economist David Rothschild is calling this explanation into question. While the two scholars concede that the conventions do persuade some fence sitters, their data suggests that most of the "bounce" phenomenon is caused by voters' increased willingness to respond to polls. In other words, Donald Trump didn't "win" a bunch of fence-sitters with his convention, what he did was convince people who likely would have voted for him anyhow to actually answer their phones when the pollsters called. The same holds true for Hillary Clinton. Note that this increased willingness to respond to polls only loosely correlates with an increased likelihood of actually voting. Therefore, much of the bump is actually a mirage. Just another reason to pay little heed to post-convention bounces, and instead to wait for things to stabilize 2-3 weeks after the conventions have closed. (Z)

Green Party Officially Nominates Jill Stein

At its national convention in Houston, the Green Party formally nominated physician Jill Stein as its presidential candidate. Stein was the nominee in 2012 as well, when she got 0.36% of the vote.

While Stein is popular with many on the left as a serious, fact-based candidate, a few of her positions repel some of her potential supporters. The most-often cited one is her position on vaccinations. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard and then got her M.D. from Harvard Medical School. She knows perfectly well that vaccines are safe and that the one and only paper claiming otherwise was later retracted by the journal that published it, and its author had his medical license revoked for fraud. She says she is for vaccinations, but she expresses this in an ambiguous way that panders to the anti-vax crowd, many of whom are on the far left. When asked about vaccinations, Stein says that they are safe but then immediately begins attacking the pharmaceutical industry as more interested in profit than in public health. The implication is that these profit-hungry monstrosities might cut corners in making and testing the vaccines. So while the vaccines themselves are safe, the big nasty companies that make them might be putting out risky products that could endanger children's health. Pro-science people on the left are upset by her dog-whistle politics here. They want her to say: "All vaccines on the market are perfectly safe and all children should be fully vaccinated. Period." and she won't. (V)

Third Parties Are Racing against the Clock

The Commission on Presidential Debates years ago decreed that any minor party that was polling consistently above 15% would be included in the national debates. The two most prominent minor parties, the Libertarian Party and the Green Party, would dearly love to have their candidates on stage with Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump this fall. The publicity would be enormously valuable. But to qualify they have to get to 15% and get there within about a month. Currently, Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson is averaging about 9%, so he has a shot at it, especially if Donald Trump keeps saying things that drive Republicans away from their own party. Green Party candidate Jill Stein is polling about 4% and is more likely to go down than to go up as the Bernie-or-bust supporters begin to contemplate the Supreme Court nominations Donald Trump would make and the economic policies his billionaire-heavy economic team would advocate. Pollsters don't believe that either one will make the cut, but it is always possible that Trump does something so outrageous this month that enough Republicans desert the Party for Johnson that he barely makes the 15% hurdle. (V)

Another Republican Bails on Trump

Last week, Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY) became the first Republican member of Congress to say that he will not vote for Donald Trump. Hanna plans to vote for Hillary Clinton. Then, Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) said he won't vote for Trump either, but he also won't vote for Clinton. He hasn't decided if he will vote for a third party, write someone in, or stay home. Now a third member of Congress, Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA), has also given up on Trump. Rigell, who is not running for reelection, will vote for Gary Johnson. If Trump continues to say things that Republicans find outrageous, this trickle could become a torrent. (V)

Clinton Is Buying Olympics Ads

Hillary Clinton has reserved at least $5.5 million with NBC (which is broadcasting the Olympics) for ads during the Olympics. She hopes to reach one demographic that she is having a lot of trouble with: men. She also hopes to reach young people, both men and women with this ad buy. In 2012, the Olympics drew an average of 31 million viewers in prime time. Donald Trump is not buying ads during the Olympics, even though he raised $36 million for his campaign alone in July.

One oddity here is that the Olympics ads will be seen nationwide. So de facto, Clinton is advertising in states like Texas, South Carolina, California, and New York, where she would otherwise never even consider advertising. This may the only time residents of the deep blue and deep red states get to see her messages. (V)

The Political Process Is Worse Than Rigged

Both Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Donald Trump have said the process is rigged. Sanders meant something specific by this, namely that the DNC was trying to help Hillary Clinton, which it was. It is completely unclear what Trump means, and saying this is probably just a preliminary excuse to explain a possible loss in November. Five Thirty Eight has addressed the question of "rigging" and concluded that there is no master puppeteer pulling the strings to elect one candidate or the other, but the system is worse than rigged, and the problems were created by the voters themselves. Here are the five worst issues:

Geographic sorting. Voters tend to move to places where like-minded voters live. This wasn't always the case. In 1960, 52% of the voters lived in competitive states. By 2012, only 17% of the voters lived in competitive states. For the House, it is even worse. In 1998, there were 154 competitive districts; now there are only 37. Part of the problem is gerrymandering, but part is simply that like-minded people tend to cluster together.

Straight-ticket voting. There was a time when people would say: "I always vote for the best candidate, regardless of party." No one says that any more. Almost everyone votes for all Democrats or all Republicans. Ticket splitting is practically dead. That means that a district with 53% Democratic voters or 53% Republican voters is basically safe. The campaigns and the candidates barely matter. All that matters is that little (D) or (R) after the candidate's name.

Primaries are the new general elections. Since almost no districts are competitive, all that matters for a member of Congress is winning the primary. Once that is done, election is automatic. Primaries are low-turnout events in which a small number of ideological zealots play a huge role.

Congress doesn't function. The need for each representative to please an ideologically extreme primary electorate means that members are under great pressure never to talk to the other party and certainly not compromise, lest they be labeled DINOs or RINOs and face a primary challenge from the fringe next time. This is a recipe for complete deadlock.

People hate politicians. Because Congress does nothing, people are angry with Washington. Many politicians run on a platform of fixing Washington, by which they really mean fighting the other party even harder. The anger at politicians is especially strong among Republicans, since their leaders promised all kinds of things they knew they could never deliver, such as banning all abortions and repealing Obamacare. When they failed to deliver, the voters got angry with them, which is a key factor in the rise of Donald Trump.

Is there a way out? Not in the short term. Each party thinks the solution is to get complete control for itself—White House, Senate, House, and Supreme Court—and then it can "fix" the problems (that is, do things its way). But as long as the country is so closely divided, that is hard for either one of them to pull off. (V)

Mosquitoes Bite Rubio

The mosquito-borne Zika virus is spreading throughout Florida, with 422 cases already reported. Pregnant women who are infected can have a baby born with extreme microcephaly. These babies will never walk or talk. They will have no intellectual capacity, will have trouble breathing, and will be subject to seizures. Many will cry all the time. Naturally, some women who are infected with the virus may consider having an abortion, so Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has been asked if women infected with the virus should have the right to have an abortion. His answer was an unambiguous "no." So far, no one has had the termerity to ask him who will pay for the estimated $10 million for lifetime care to each Zika baby. Needless to say, as Zika continues to spread in Florida, the issue of abortions is going to get even more contentious. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug06 The Economy Is Barreling Along
Aug06 Trump Names His Economic Team
Aug06 Donald Trump: Full of Surprises
Aug06 Clinton Working to Counter Trump's Rust Belt Strategy
Aug06 Former CIA Head Endorses Clinton
Aug06 Hillary Gets Overconfident, Gets Burned
Aug06 Clinton Still Having Trouble with Millennials
Aug06 Republican Insiders to Trump: Drop Out
Aug06 Another Take on What Happens If Trump Drops Out
Aug06 Trump Closer to Clinton in New Poll
Aug05 Clinton Has a Large National Lead
Aug05 Larry Sabato's Crystal Ball: Clinton Landslide
Aug05 Ryan and Others Are Walking a Fine Line
Aug05 Trump May Start to Drag Senate Candidates Down
Aug05 Melania Trump May Have Been an Undocumented Worker
Aug05 Clinton Is Targeting Influential Republicans
Aug05 Clinton Has To Figure out How To Use Her Billionaires
Aug05 What if Trump Dumps Trump? (Part II)
Aug05 Why Mormons Don't Like Trump
Aug04 Republicans Are Holding the Senate
Aug04 Trump May Be Preparing To Challenge the Election Results
Aug04 Trump Says His Campaign is Unified
Aug04 What If Trump Dumps Trump?
Aug04 Trump Revises July Haul Upward
Aug04 How To Play Trump in Clinton's Debate Prep
Aug04 Team Clinton To Spend Almost $100 Million on Ads
Aug04 Meg Whitman Supports Clinton
Aug04 Texas Won't Ask for Voter ID Cards in November
Aug04 Tea Party Congressman Defeated in Primary in Kansas
Aug04 Lewandowski is Back on the Birther Train
Aug04 What if the Democrats Nominated Sean Penn?
Aug04 Republican Are Holding the Senate
Aug04 Trump May Be Preparing To Challenge the Election Results
Aug04 Trump Says His Campaign is Unified
Aug04 Trump Revises July Haul Upward
Aug04 What If Trump Dumps Trump?
Aug04 How To Play Trump in Clinton's Debate Prep
Aug04 Team Clinton To Spend Almost $100 Million on Ads
Aug04 Meg Whitman Supports Clinton
Aug04 Texas Won't Ask for Voter ID Cards in November
Aug04 Tea Party Congressman Defeated in Primary in Kansas
Aug04 Lewandowski is Back on the Birther Train
Aug04 What if the Democrats Nominated Sean Penn?
Aug03 More Decorated Veterans Excoriate Trump for Criticizing a Gold Star Family
Aug03 Trump Spokeswoman Blames Obama for Humayun Khan's Death
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