Clinton 358
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Trump 180
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Dem 50
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  • Strongly Dem (231)
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270 Electoral votes needed to win This date in 2012 2008
New polls: (None)
Dem pickups vs. 2012: AZ NC
GOP pickups vs. 2012: (None)

Republicans Prepare to Cut Trump Loose

Politico is reporting that Republican strategists are already working on plans that one described as a "break glass in case of emergency" strategy. They are already running polls to see how it will be received. The basic plan is to run ads saying: "We know Hillary Clinton is going to be elected president but surely you don't want to give her a blank check, so vote for Republicans in Congress to prevent her from carrying out her wild left-wing plans." That she has wild left-wing plans will no doubt come as a big surprise to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), but you learn something new every day.

Karl Rove's American Crossroads has already tested the idea of running such ads. Four sources have predicted it is not a matter of "if" but of "when" that kind of ads will begin airing. The NRCC has asked individual congressional candidates to start polling on how such ads would play in their districts. The strategy could go into effect as early as next month.

Embarking on this strategy is not a done deal, however. There are powerful voices within the Republican Party that think abandoning the candidate will do more damage than good. Republican strategist Chip Saltsman put it this way: "Cannibalization is not a good political strategy." So before the plan is implemented, its opponents within the Republican Party will have to be either convinced or silenced.

Risk-free, this plan definitely is not. For one thing, once Trump's supporters figure out that the party has abandoned him, they are going to be furious with Republican leadership. That is not a formula for getting them to salute and follow orders from on high. A second problem is that Clinton is surely going to counter this with: "The Republicans are promising four more years of complete gridlock where nothing gets done. If you want Washington to function again, vote a straight Democratic ticket. If you don't like what I do, you can fire me in four years." (V)

Clinton Foundation Is Becoming a Real Problem

When Bill and Hillary Clinton set up their foundation, it seemed like a good idea. Collect money, use it to help people in need, and give Bill something to do all day that didn't involve interns. But now it has become an albatross around Hillary's neck. The core problem is that many donors, especially big corporations and foreign donors, have clear ideas about what the U.S. government should and should not do in matters of great concern to them. If Hillary Clinton becomes president, she is going to have to make decisions that affect them. If she does what they want, even if the decision is in the best interest of the United States, she is going to come in for a lot of criticism. She said that if she wins, the foundation will no longer accept donations from corporations and foreign donors, but that is unlikely to silence her critics.

Clinton is not alone with this problem, however. Donald Trump has hundreds of millions of dollars of real estate debt (see below), some of it to foreign lenders. As president he would be in a position to affect interest rates (which would greatly influence his bottom line) by appointing a loyal friend to replace Janet Yellen as chair of the Fed when her term expires on Oct. 4, 2018. He could also make deals with foreign creditors, such as China, giving them political plums (You want Taiwan? Take it. It's yours.) in return for their forgiving all his debts. With either Clinton or Trump, the issues of their other activities are going to cause everyone headaches.

The problem here is that when the conflict-of-interest rules were devised, no one anticipated these kinds of situations. The idea behind the rules was that maybe the president had some stocks and bonds that could be put into a blind trust. The trustee would then sell all of them and make new investments without telling anyone what they were. In this way, the president couldn't make political decisions designed to help his own portfolio because he wouldn't know what he owned. With both Trump and Clinton, the old model just doesn't work. (V)

Trump's Companies Have Far More Debt Than Previously Thought

A thorough investigation by the New York Times has revealed that Donald Trump's companies have at least $650 million in debt. For example, an office building of which Trump is part owner located at 1290 Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan has a loan of $950 million. One of the lenders is the Bank of China. The Times also discovered that a substantial portion of his wealth is tied up in three passive partnerships that owe $2 billion to various lenders.

The structure of Trump's investments is extremely complex. For example, the office building mentioned above is owned by three companies, HWA 1290 III LLC, HWA 1290 IV LLC and HWA 1290 V LLC. These three companies are owned by other companies in which Trump has partial ownership. In some other investments he owns the land and the building; in other ones, he owns just the building or just the land. In some cases he owns only the commercial parts of the property.

A consequence of this extremely large portfolio of properties and relationships with many banks, investors, and companies, (both in the United States and abroad) is that all of them could potentially put pressure on him in various ways, and as president he could do things that affect their businesses, for better or for worse. If he were to be elected president, the potential for conflicts of interest would be ever-present. (V)

Trump's New Target: Minorities

Actually, minority groups of various sorts have been Donald Trump's target since the beginning. Recall his announcement speech, for example. Now, however, he appears to be targeting them in a different way: As potential Trump voters. On Saturday, he met with several prominent Latinos who support his campaign in order to get their advice about outreach efforts. Reportedly, during that meeting, The Donald even suggested that he was open to creating a path for the legalization of undocumented immigrants already in the country. That would seem to be rather at odds with his previously-stated plan to build a giant wall along the border and deport 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country. At the same time, Trump has been actively courting the black vote for the last several days. His pitch: "To those hurting, I say: what do you have to lose by trying something new?"

So, is this insanity, or is there method to the madness? When a campaign takes on new leadership, as Trump's campaign did three days ago, and then changes course dramatically, we have to assume that the two events are related. It's certainly possible that Stephen Bannon and/or Kellyanne Conway realizes that for Trump to win, he needs some version of the Mitt Romney/John McCain coalition (plus additional angry white guys). Which means he needs some black and Latino votes. So, there may be some actual strategy here, with Bannon or Conway pulling the strings. On the other hand, Trump is just 24 hours removed from asserting that he could claim 95% of the black vote by 2020, so maybe he's just flying by the seat of his pants, as usual.

If Trump & Co. are planning to make a serious effort at attracting black and Latino voters, they do have two rather serious problems to deal with. The first is that those voters are not likely to forget what was said and done in the last few months, from comments about Mexican rapists and Judge Gonzalo Curiel, to black men being beaten up at and/or tossed out of Trump rallies. The second is that many of the angry white guys that Trump has in his corner are going to be none too thrilled about this change of direction. Trump might ask Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), for example, what happens when a Republican politician even whispers the phrase "path to citizenship." It could easily be that for every Latino or black voter Trump attracts to his banner, he loses two or three white guys. Consequently, the judgment here is: insanity. This ship has sailed. (Z)

Trump Thinks He's Got a Shot in Minnesota

Minnesota is one of the most reliably blue states in America. In fact, thanks to a quirk of fate—it's the home state of Walter Mondale, and so the only state he won in 1984—it's gone Democratic more times in a row than any other state: 10 and counting. It has given its electoral votes to a Republican only once in the past half-century (Nixon in 1972) and only three times since the 1920s (Nixon; Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956). These things being the case, Donald Trump has naturally decided that he has an excellent chance of winning the state. At an event there on Saturday, he said that he has "so many friends" in Minnesota, and that he would be back "a lot" during the campaign, trying to seal the deal.

If Trump is serious—and given that he was campaigning in Minnesota on Saturday, there's every reason to think he is—then it raises the question of whether or not he and his new campaign leadership understand how the Electoral College works. Put bluntly, Minnesota is an utter waste of his time. Beyond the fact that it's deep blue, and that he hasn't got much of a natural constituency there, it has only 10 electoral votes. He should be spending all of his time and money in swing states, and if he's going to go for a long shot, it should be a long shot that has the chance to pay off substantively. For example, New York is just as much of a lost cause as Minnesota, but at least it has 29 electoral votes. One would think that as a casino magnate Trump would understand that you don't bet a long shot unless the payoff makes sense. Or, to use more proper gamblers' parlance, why bet a huge dog when you're only getting 6-to-5? (Z)

Sanders To Return To the Campaign Trail

Bernie Sanders bought a new house on Lake Champlain and got some rest, so he will be ready to hit the campaign trail for Hillary Clinton starting after Labor Day. Sanders said he will visit New Hampshire, Maine, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Nevada, among others.

He also said he will campaign for progressive Senate candidates, including Katie McGinty in Pennsylvania, Ted Strickland in Ohio, amd Gov. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) in New Hampshire. He may actually have far more impact that way. Telling his supporters to vote for someone he called a corporate stooge not that long ago is not going to go down well. On the other hand, he has never said anything bad about McGinty or Hassan, and saying we need more progressive women in the Senate is not going to alienate his supporters the way a pitch for Clinton would. (V)

Clinton Will Not Have To Testify Under Oath About Email Server

Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group, went to a federal judge and asked him to make Hillary Clinton answer questions about her email server under oath. The judge refused. Instead Judge Emmet Sullivan told the group to submit questions to him by Oct. 14. He will then order her to answer them in writing, possibly after the Nov. 8 election. That is not what Judical Watch wants, of course. It has been hounding the Clintons since the 1990s. (V)

McAuliffe Working to Restore Felons' Voting Rights

Virginia has been the site of an ongoing drama regarding the voting rights of convicted felons. The state has a law that automatically takes each convicted felon's right to vote away; it can restored only by the governor after the convict's sentence is complete. In April, Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) issued an executive order restoring the rights of 200,000 such individuals in one fell swoop. Several prominent Republican officeholders objected, filed suit, and Virginia's Supreme Court agreed that the law does not allow en masse restorations like this. So now, McAuliffe is doing the job one at a time, using an autopen (and, presumably, a bunch of interns). 13,000 individuals have already been processed, and the remainder of the 200,000 will be done by the end of the month.

What is McAuliffe's motivation here? There are two possibilities, and even Virginians are evenly divided as to which one it is. 45% believe that the Governor is acting because it's the right thing to do. 42% believe that he's trying to help the Democrats win elections, since convicted felons are disproportionately poor people, minorities, and poor minorities, and those groups tend to be Democrats. In truth, it's probably both of these things. And whatever the case may be, if 60% of those individuals take advantage of the opportunity to register, and 60% of those vote for the Democrats, that's plus-72,000 votes for the blue team. In a swing state like Virginia, every little bit counts.

The legality of signing a document by autopen has never been tested in court. An autopen is just a specialized kind of a computer plotter, which, although once common, is now largely obsolete. For this reason, most autopen users do not reveal they use one. When it is being used to sign mail to constitutents, no one cares, but Republicans could take McAuliffe to court to try to void his restoration letters. Of course, if McAuliffe is smart, he could spend half an hour every day actually signing randomly selected letters, so if a case is brought to court, the plaintiffs would first have to pick some collection of letters and prove they were all signed by an autopen. This would generate lots of testimony by statisticians, handwriting experts, and people capable of examining letters under a microscope to look for variations in the pressure applied by the writer. Such a trial could take months. (Z & V)

Ginsburg Retiring? Not So Fast

Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 83 and has had several serious health issues in the past several years, including more than one brush with cancer. Throughout this election cycle, it has been assumed that she would promptly retire if a Democrat was elected, in order to keep the seat in liberal hands for an additional 20-30 years. The Washington Post's Robert Barnes isn't convinced, however.

Barnes has two major arguments in support of his position. The first is that Ginsburg has already hired her clerks for the next term, which means she is "staffed" through 2018. This argument is not too compelling, however—unless she wants to actually announce she's retiring, she has to keep doing her job. Further, she can easily pass her clerks on to a replacement, who would undoubtedly be delighted to have that task off her plate as she tries to adjust to her new job (we are assuming that a President Clinton would not appoint a man to replace Ginsburg).

Barnes' second argument is more interesting, however. In the likely case that a liberal justice replaces the late Antonin Scalia, Ginsburg would be the senior justice on the now-majority liberal wing. In the event of 5-4 party line decisions, of which there would be many, she would have the privilege of writing the opinions herself, or of deciding whom to assign the task. In other words, she would have far more power to advance her judicial views than at any point in her career, almost rivaling the Chief Justice in terms of influence. It's entirely plausible she would relish that opportunity, as long as her health holds.

On the other hand, if she is paying any attention to the Senate map, she knows that 2018 will be a great year for the Republicans and they will almost certainly recapture the Senate then. So if she just hangs on, there is a very real danger that if she dies after Jan. 2019, a President Clinton would not be able to get any replacement confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate until after the 2020 election. If Ginsburg decides to retire, her good friend Stephen Breyer would be the most senior justice appointed by a Democratic president. If Breyer, who is 78, decides to retire, Sonia Sotomayor would become the most senior of the justices appointed by Democrats. (Z & V).

Arpaio To Be Prosecuted

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, currently serving his sixth term in that office, is about the closest thing the United States has to a strongman. He enforces the law pretty much as he sees fit, with only a passing regard for the rules (although with a constant regard for the race of his targets). He was also one of Donald Trump's earliest supporters, and he remains one of the loudest. Now, after defying a judge's order to stop racially profiling suspects, he will be prosecuted for criminal contempt of court charges. Judge Murray Snow has also hinted that the government should consider perjury and obstruction of justice charges, as well.

Arizona is already one of the messiest and most complicated states in this electoral cycle, between the growing Latino vote, support for/anger with Trump, and Sen. John McCain's difficult re-election campaign. The Arpaio situation could add yet another layer of complexity. Depending on how fast this proceeds, and what sanctions are levied, it could draw angry, white Arizonans to the polls to express their "what's gone wrong with the world" irritation by voting for Trump. On the other hand, if he gets a slap on the wrist (as he has before), it could fire up the state's ethnic population. Not too many sheriffs in America could actually influence an election at the statewide level, but not too many sheriffs are the lightning rod that Arpaio is. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug20 Manafort Quits
Aug20 Nate Silver: Trump Is Doubling Down on a Losing Strategy
Aug20 Republican Insiders Also Think Bannon Is a Bad Choice
Aug20 Trump Is Now Running His First Ad
Aug20 Could the Election Be Hacked?
Aug20 Trump Supporters Already Suspicious of Election Outcome
Aug20 Trump Tours Flooded Louisiana While Obama Stays on Vacation
Aug20 Trump Thinks He Can Win the Black Vote
Aug20 Why is Trump Flailing in Michigan?
Aug20 Stephen Bannon Is Part of the Alt-Right World
Aug19 Trump Is Losing Support Among Men
Aug19 Five Takeaways from Trump's Choice of Bannon as Campaign CEO
Aug19 Trump Is Finally on the Air
Aug19 Trump Will Debate, Says Conway
Aug19 Why is Trump Ignoring the Olympics?
Aug19 Trump Spokeswoman Is at it Again
Aug19 And Bad Mistakes, I've Made A Few, Says Trump
Aug19 Kaine Went To Wyoming
Aug19 Clinton Foundation Will Decline Foreign Donations
Aug19 The Donald Has No Clothes
Aug18 Mercer Connection Explains Trump's Shake-Up
Aug18 GOP Scared Witless by Bannon
Aug18 Does Trump Want to Win?
Aug18 Trump's Casinos Owed $30 Million in Taxes, but Christie Forgave Most of It
Aug18 Would Cutting Trump Loose Help Republicans Downballot?
Aug18 Could the House Be in Play?
Aug18 Election Turnout in the U.S. Is Among the Worst in the World
Aug18 Green Party's Baraka Has Some...Unorthodox Opinions
Aug17 Major Shakeup for Trump's Campaign Staff
Aug17 Who Will Moderate the Debates?
Aug17 Roger Ailes May Help Trump Prepare for the Debates
Aug17 Clinton Is Already Prepping for the Debates
Aug17 Clinton Is Not Counting on Winning Blue-Collar White Men
Aug17 Trump Deposition Video Could Be Made Public
Aug17 Why Have the Media Taken Off the Gloves When Reporting about Trump?
Aug17 Cheney Wins Republican Primary in Wyoming
Aug17 How the Tea Party Movement Was Murdered
Aug17 Stein's Shaky Science
Aug17 McLaughlin Dies at 89
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?