Clinton 352
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Ties 6
Trump 180
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Click for Senate
Dem 49
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GOP 51
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  • Strongly Dem (231)
  • Likely Dem (71)
  • Barely Dem (50)
  • Exactly tied (6)
  • Barely GOP (31)
  • Likely GOP (65)
  • Strongly GOP (84)
270 Electoral votes needed to win This date in 2012 2008
New polls: FL TX VA
Dem pickups vs. 2012: AZ NC
GOP pickups vs. 2012: (None)

Major Shakeup for Trump's Campaign Staff

Early Wednesday morning came news that Donald Trump's campaign was overhauling its upper ranks. Steve Bannon, chairman of Breitbart News and a former investment banker, has been named chief executive. Kellyanne Conway, who was already a pollster and adviser for Trump, has been promoted to campaign manager.

This is, first of all, bad news for Paul Manafort, who until Wednesday held the titles of campaign chairman and chief strategist. While he will keep the latter title, he is an afterthought now. By all accounts, his relationship with Trump has soured badly, primarily because of their differing ideas about what a campaign should look like and how a presidential candidate should behave. This week's revelations about Manafort's Ukrainian and Russian dealings surely didn't help either. At this point, it's only a matter of time until he's moving into an office at CNN next to Corey Lewandowski.

This is also a very bad look for the campaign. For a presidential candidate to cashier his campaign manager again, and less than three months before the election, is unheard of. Also, what kind of operation makes and/or announces these kinds of decisions at 3:30 a.m. EDT? Presumably, the kind of operation that is trying to sneak one under the radar, conveniently waiting until minutes after the final editions of the west coast newspapers have been put to bed.

Finally, it is hard to see how this could possibly be a meaningful step in the right direction. The campaign has not done well when authority was shared between multiple people; there's no reason to believe that will change. Further, Trump can name as many chief executives and chairmen and managers and strategists as he wants, but if he's not going to listen to them—indeed, if he's going to get angry when they dare to challenge him—then it won't matter one bit. (Z)

Who Will Moderate the Debates?

There are three big questions about the presidential debates hanging in the air. First, will Donald Trump show up? Second, will Gary Johnson be invited? Third, who will moderate them? Most political observers think that Trump's advisers—whoever they may be in September—will force him to show up because it may be his only chance to hit the reset button. It is possible that Johnson will be included in the debates, but only if he averages 15% in the final predebate polls of each of ABC/Washington Post, CBS/New York Times, CNN, Fox News, and NBC/Wall Street Journal. He probably won't make it.

The third one is already coming into focus. The names most commonly suggested are NBC's Lester Holt, CBS's John Dickerson, Fox News' Chris Wallace, CNN's Jake Tapper, and ABC's Jonathan Karl. However, it is inconceivable that all of the moderators will be men. The Commission on Presidential Debates would get too much flak if they did that. Fox News' Megyn Kelly is out because Trump would scream "unfair" and the moderator would suddenly become the news story. ABC's Martha Raddatz or CNN's Dana Bash might be possibilities, though. So too might PBS' Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill; the latter has twice moderated Veep debates.

The Commission itself lists three characteristics it wants in the moderators. First is a familiarity with the issues. Second is experience in broadcast television. Third is an understanding that the debates should be about the candidates and their views. Actually, the second one is mildly controversial. In an age when television is losing ground to the Internet as the place where the political action is, some people have suggested that leading personalities from the Internet should be the moderators of at least one debate. One suggestion that has been thrown out is to pair Markos Moulitsas, founder of Daily Kos, with Erick Erickson, founder of RedState. That would lead to a much more lively debate than one moderated by a generic television journalist, but for that reason it won't happen. (V)

Roger Ailes May Help Trump Prepare for the Debates

The New York Times reported yesterday that the Trump campaign has signed up former Fox News chairman Roger Ailes to help prepare Donald Trump for the debates. The campaign has said the story is not true, but you can never tell with them. It does sound plausible. Before he founded Fox News, Ailes was a respected political strategist with a pit bull style. He advised Richard Nixon and was a sought-after debate coach by Republican candidates.

Even if the story is true, though, it is far from clear that Ailes is a good choice. He is brilliant at devising ways to throw red meat to the Republican base, but Trump's problem is how to get women, young voters, Democrats, independents, and minorities to support him. That is not something that Ailes is especially good at. It is possible, of course, that Trump is doubling down on his angry blue-collar male base and his plan is to get them so riled up that every single one of them votes and brings three friends along. (V)

Clinton Is Already Prepping for the Debates

For a policy wonk, preparing for a debate with an opponent who has little knowledge and no interest in policy should be a piece of cake, but it is not. Hillary Clinton is already studying briefing books, and her staff is building a full-scale set exactly like the real debate stage. What she can't prepare for is the unpredictability of Donald Trump and the likelihood that he won't try to out-wonk her but, instead will try to throw her for a loop. Suppose he opens with: "I'd like to thank the American people, especially Monica Lewinsky, Paula Jones, and Gennifer Flowers." How should she respond? Suppose Trump casually says that, unlike his opponent, who murdered Vince Foster, he has never murdered anyone. What does she say?

Another issue is finding someone to play Trump in the practice debates. Buying an orange wig at a party-supplies store will be the easy part. From then on it gets much harder. It can't be someone who knows a lot about policy and gives detailed answers to policy questions because Trump won't do that. It has to be some who can mimic Trump's style, mannerisms, and attitude. And especially it has to be someone who delights in hitting below the belt. Most of her friends and colleagues don't want to take this role. Possible stand-ins include billionaire Mark Cuban, Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY), James Carville, and Sen. Al Franken (D-MN), among others. Preparation for the first debate is one of the most grueling parts of a campaign.

It is not known how seriously Trump is taking his debate prep, or even if he will do any at all. He knows he can never come over as knowing more about any specific policy than she does, so he might not try. His prep might consist of memorizing zingers Roger Ailes thinks up. The downside of that is he could end up in trouble with the moderators. If a moderator asks a specific policy question and he doesn't answer it at all, the moderator could follow up and make it clear to everyone that Trump doesn't even understand the question. For example, suppose he is asked: "Mr Trump, since you want to cut taxes and government revenues by $10 trillion in the next 10 years, all departments, including the DoD will come under budget pressure. If you were forced to cut part of the nuclear triad, what would you cut?" If he evades the question, what happens if the moderator asks point blank: "Do you know what the nuclear triad is and if so, which part do you consider the least important?" A few real stumbles could make it clear that he is not ready for prime time, whereas Clinton, faults and all, is ready for the job. (V)

Clinton Is Not Counting on Winning Blue-Collar White Men

Hillary Clinton thinks she can win the election, even if she can't improve her standing with blue-collar white men, the heart of Donald Trump's constituency. Her argument is that she is doing so well with almost every other demographic group that it will not matter. An NBC/WSJ poll last week showed that she has 99% of black and 69% of all nonwhite voters. She also is leading among millennials 46% to 34%, and among voters with college degrees 47% to 40%.

Nevertheless, she is not giving up on blue-collar workers. Her secret weapon is Vice President Joe Biden, who is very popular with this group. Biden has begun campaigning for her, initially in Pennsylvania, but he is expected to hit the trail for her in other states as well. (V)

Trump Deposition Video Could Be Made Public

As is consistent with his status as a high-profile businessman, and his combative and sometimes underhanded approach, Donald Trump is involved in a lot of lawsuits. Which means he's given a lot of depositions. The juiciest of those is probably the one he gave in the Trump University lawsuit—however, it is currently being kept under lock and key by order of Judge Gonzalo Curiel. The one that seems likely to see the light of day sooner rather than later comes from a dispute between Trump and celebrity chefs Geoffrey Zakarian and Jose Andres. They were scheduled to open restaurants at a Trump property in Washington, D.C., but then backed out after The Donald's slew of anti-immigrant campaign rhetoric.

It's hard to know exactly what Trump might have said until the recording is made public, but whatever it is was troublesome enough that the Republican nominee tried (and failed) to have it sealed. Reportedly, Judge Curiel was a subject of discussion, as was Latino advocacy group La Raza. Surely, Trump's business practices must have come up during the session, and perhaps his net worth did too. He's also got a history of lying under oath, saying things that can be clearly proven false, so maybe there's some of that. In any case, if the video is indeed released, the interval between the release and some of the footage finding its way into a Hillary Clinton commercial has to be something like three days. (Z)

Why Have the Media Taken Off the Gloves When Reporting about Trump?

There is little doubt that the media are far less friendly to Donald Trump now than during the primaries. What happened? An interesting piece by Ezra Klein gives four reasons:

The neutrality argument: A long, long time ago, the media didn't report things that weren't true, and if they had to quote someone saying something that the reporter knew was a lie, that would be noted in the story. Now, the model is just report what the principals say. If one candidate says the sky is blue and the other says the sky is green, the headline will read: "Candidates differ on color of sky." This time that works against Trump. If a reporter asks Democratic leaders off the record what they really think of Trump, they are likely to say "He's a dangerous maniac." Or the reporter asks Republican leaders off the record what they really think of him, they are likely to also say: "He's a dangerous maniac," even if they support him in public. So now the reporter can write: "He's a dangerous maniac" without offending either party or losing access to that party's leaders in the future.

Trump offends the media by constant lying: All politicians lie a little bit and exaggerate from time to time. Trump just tells out-and-out lies constantly. When he said that President Obama founded ISIS, every reporter in the country knew that was nonsense. When Trump said the NFL sent him a letter saying it didn't want a presidential debate during an NFL game and then the NFL publicly said there was no such letter, reporters knew he was just making up this stuff on the fly. This only has to happen a few dozen times before reporters feel free to point out all the time that he is lying. The political process allows politicians to be wrong, but telling out-and-out lies all the time violates the rules and reporters don't like it.

The national media are sophisticated cosmopolitans and Trump is not: The top people at the top publications all have degrees from good universities, have traveled around the world a bit, and have talked to many people with many views. Trump is appealing to what Sarah Palin called "the real America." To good, cosmopolitan reporters, what she and Trump really mean is "ignorant, biased, country hicks." Sophisticated journalists are inherently repelled by this, so Trump's racism, xenophobia, and sexism rub most of them the wrong way.

The media are afraid of Trump: They are afraid he will change the libel laws to silence them. They are afraid he will use his regulatory authority to damage their businesses. They are afraid he will blacklist any publication that criticizes him. They are afraid he will incite violence when he doesn't get his way. Individual reporters are worried that Trump would order the IRS to audit their tax returns, and order the NSA to turn over all their emails to him personally so he could get even with them. Not even the most liberal publication thought Mitt Romney or John McCain would use the power of the government to punish media outlets or reporters that criticized them. With Trump, it is a near certainty, and they don't want him to get that power.

It is an interesting group of theses that probably have a lot of truth in them. Trump thinks that he can unilaterally change all the rules, and a lot of media outlets want to show him that he can't. (V)

Cheney Wins Republican Primary in Wyoming

Liz Cheney, that is, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney. She ran for the U.S. Senate once before, but was hurt by the fact that she was a late entry into the race, that she had only recently moved to Wyoming (leading to charges of being a "carpetbagger"), and that she was up against incumbent Mike Enzi (R). This time, she ran a much more serious campaign, out-fundraising all of her seven competitors combined. With the seat left open by the retirement of Cynthia Lummis (R), Cheney cruised to victory, collecting roughly 40% of the vote to 23% for the second place finisher, State Sen. Leland Christensen (R). As Republicans outnumber Democrats 3-to-1 in the Cowboy State, Cheney is an overwhelming favorite to claim the seat her father held for five terms, from 1979 to 1989.

Politically, Liz is her father's daughter, with many of the same hard-line views he has. These views go over well in very conservative Wyoming. Since she is only 50, she could serve in the House for the next 30 years if she wants to, but, like her father, she is ambitious and knows very well that the Republican Party is in dire need of strong, intelligent, articulate, conservative women. She is surely going to go further in the Republican hierarchy. (V & Z)

How the Tea Party Movement Was Murdered

We've heard relatively little from the tea party this election cycle, outside of some griping about Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Essentially, they are no longer a going concern, with "tea party" mostly serving these days as convenient shorthand for "very right wing, possibly outsider and/or populist" when describing a candidate for office. Lawyer, campaign finance expert, and former tea party insider Paul H. Jossey has written a very interesting postmortem of the movement, and says that while there may have been many secondary factors in its demise—IRS targeting, bad candidates, hostile media—the tea party, "[D]idn't die a natural death. It was murdered—and it was an inside job."

Jossey begins by explaining that there were two types of tea partiers: the grassroots activists, and the professional political operatives who saw there was money to be made off of conservative voters' anger. The scam worked like this: A group of pros would establish a PAC, toss together a website, and rent an email list. Then they would go to town, asking for small or large donations to combat whatever the outrage du jour was: Obamacare, RINO politicians, gay marriage, terrorism, Hillary Clinton—it didn't matter, as long as it got the grassroots conservatives' blood boiling. Then the pros would pay themselves fat salaries for their "consulting" work, would achieve very little, and would go back and ask for another round of donations. Rinse and repeat.

Ultimately, Jossey concludes, too many people got in on the gravy, while at the same time the grassroots was getting very little for its money. So the golden goose was eventually cooked. The remnants have largely been absorbed by the Trump movement, but he is not a tea partier, nor are his rallies tea party rallies. Meanwhile, the 2016 candidate who most clearly adopted the model that Jossey describes (if not the tea party name), was Ben Carson. For most or all of his run, he appeared to be raising money for the sake of raising money (and selling books), as opposed to actually winning an election. Ultimately, some 80% of the money he raised was plowed back into more fundraising and more consulting, and not into campaign ads or other such expenses. So, there's every reason to believe that the tea party will continue to "inspire" political operatives even after the movement has joined the Know Nothings and the Bull Mooses in the dustbin of history. (Z)

Stein's Shaky Science

Green Party candidate Jill Stein is, somewhat by definition, a fringe candidate. And many of her supporters are something of a fringe element. To connect with them, Stein has taken several stances that would seem to be at odds with her training as a physician. She has tried to walk both sides of the street on vaccines, for example, affirming their efficacy, but also embracing conspiracy-based thinking about "Big Pharma." She's suggested, despite all evidence to the contrary, that wireless Internet signals cause brain cancer and other maladies. She has also made a wide variety of of unsupported or impractical assertions about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), such as suggesting that all GMO crop production should be suspended until more scientific study has been done on their impact. Since an enormous portion of America's food production is already GMO, this would be catastrophic.

Undoubtedly, Stein is doing what she thinks is necessary to improve upon the 0.36% of the vote she got in 2012. However, she is almost certainly misplaying her hand. To start, her views appear hypocritical, since she has attacked other candidates for being anti-science. They also make it seem like she hasn't read her own platform, which, among other things, calls for increased availability of wireless Internet access. Most important, however, is that there are a lot of believers in the scientific method in her potential pool of voters. Embracing fringe ideas is going to be a deal-breaker for many of these individuals, and will all but guarantee that she will remain mired in 0.36% territory. (Z)

McLaughlin Dies at 89

In 1982, John McLaughlin debuted as host of his eponymous program, "The McLaughlin Group." He served as moderator, while left-leaning and right-leaning pundits—Eleanor Clift, Fred Barnes, Pat Buchanan, Jack Germond, Clarence Page, Tom Rogan, Robert Novak, and Morton Kondracke among them—debated the issues of the day. He never missed a show in 34 years until last week, when he was "under the weather." He passed away on Tuesday.

The program has nowhere near the reach today that it enjoyed at its height in the 1980s and early 1990s, when it aired in a prime slot on the PBS or CBS schedule (depending on the market), and was widely-enough known that it inspired a send-up on Saturday Night Live. So, McLaughlin's passing won't have the impact of Roger Ailes' termination, or Bill O'Reilly's retirement (whenever that may happen). Primarily, the story is a reminder that there was a time, long ago, when people on the right and the left could respectfully discuss the issues with one another. That time, of course, is long past. (Z)

Today's Presidential Polls

Gulp. Clinton +9 in Florida, the mother of all swing states? This is only one poll, but if Clinton wins Florida, even by fewer than the 537-vote margin George Bush won in 2000, there is no way Donald Trump is going to be president. Fixing the problem won't be easy, either, because Florida is an extremely expensive state to advertise in, with almost a dozen media markets. It also doesn't have as many angry blue-collar workers as, say, Ohio. It also looks like Virginia is beginning to be a real problem for Trump. Without both of those states, he is in deep doodoo.(V)

State Clinton Trump Johnson Start End Pollster
Florida 48% 39% 6% Aug 12 Aug 15 Monmouth U.
Texas 38% 44% 6% Aug 12 Aug 14 PPP
Virginia 46% 39% 9% Aug 11 Aug 14 Washington Post

Today's Senate Polls

One bit of good news for the Republicans is the Senate race in Florida. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) seems to be holding his own against likely challenger Patrick Murphy. (V)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Florida Patrick Murphy 43% Marco Rubio* 48% Aug 12 Aug 15 Monmouth U.

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug16 Trump Reveals Anti-terrorism Plan
Aug16 Trump Speech Fails to Impress
Aug16 Rudy Giuliani Has a Bad Day
Aug16 Trump Has To Turn His Campaign Around, and Fast
Aug16 Wall Street Journal Gives Trump Until Labor Day To Fix Things
Aug16 Manafort May Have Been Paid $13 Million by Former Ukrainian President
Aug16 What Will it Take For Johnson, Stein to Join Debates?
Aug16 McMullin Gets on Utah Ballot
Aug16 Priebus May Be Back for More
Aug15 RNC Might Abandon Trump
Aug15 What Will Happen To Trumpism After the Election?
Aug15 The RedState Gathering Was Not a Happy Meeting
Aug15 Gary Johnson, Serious Candidate
Aug15 Trump to Deliver Major Address on Terrorism
Aug15 Trump Adds Eight Women To His Economic Team
Aug15 Trump Borrows Another Anti-Semitic Image
Aug15 Mike Pence Has to Dance, Dance, Dance
Aug14 Trump Is Soliciting Election Observers To Prevent Cheating
Aug14 Can Donald Trump Be Saved from Donald Trump?
Aug14 Pointing the Finger Here, There, and Everywhere
Aug14 Trump Spokeswoman Blames Obama for Afghanistan War
Aug14 Millennial Voters Are Profoundly Unhappy with Their Choices
Aug14 Some Top Democrats Want Clinton to Renominate Garland If She Wins
Aug14 Democrats Think that the Path to Winning the House Runs through Republican Suburbs
Aug14 Cheney Is Running for Congress
Aug13 Trump's ISIS Claim Was Sarcasm--Or Maybe Not
Aug13 Trump Threatens the RNC on Fundraising
Aug13 Trump Isn't Sure that Getting Out the Vote Is Important
Aug13 Trump: Clinton Can Only Win Pennsylvania by Cheating
Aug13 Clinton and Kaine Release More Tax Returns
Aug13 Trump Won't Reveal Bundlers' Names
Aug13 Republicans Question Trump's Travels
Aug13 The Internet is Eclipsing Television for Campaigning
Aug13 Half of GOP Insiders Think that Trump Has Already Lost
Aug13 GOP senators Are Walking on a Tightrope and Falling Off
Aug13 Hacker Releases House Democrats' Phone Numbers, E-mails
Aug12 Trump Doubles Down on Claim that Obama and Clinton Cofounded ISIS
Aug12 Clinton Rebuts Trump in Speech on Economics
Aug12 Has the Trump Campaign Reached the Breaking Point?
Aug12 Clinton and Kaine to Release More Tax Returns
Aug12 Wisconsin Plaintiffs File En Banc Petition in Voter-ID Case
Aug12 Wal-Mart Moms Are Split between Clinton and Trump
Aug12 Trump Lied Repeatedly Under Oath in a 2007 Deposition
Aug12 Pence Campaigning Hard--for President in 2020
Aug12 Reid Thinks Clinton Will Stick with Garland
Aug12 Defeat for Gerrymandering in North Carolina
Aug12 Wasserman Schultz Likely to Win Her Primary
Aug12 Trump Doubles Down on Claim that Obama and Clinton Cofounded ISIS
Aug12 Clinton Rebuts Trump in Speech on Economics
Aug12 Has the Trump Campaign Reached the Breaking Point?