• Assessing Trump's New "I'm Not a Racist" Strategy
• Trump Emphasizes the Supreme Court in His Campaign Speeches
• Appeals Court Rules for the Republicans in Voting Case
• California May Scrap In-Person Voting
• Both Candidates' Health a Mystery
• Get Ready for a Decade of Divided Government
• Priebus Predicts Trump Will Catch Clinton in Two Weeks
• Could Trump Start a TV Network If He Loses?
• Trump's Latest FEC Filing Has Some Interesting Items
• Jill Stein: The Trump of the Progressive Movement?
• Today's Presidential Polls
• Today's Senate Polls
Reporters are starting to go through the latest batch of Clinton emails which were released Monday. What they are discovering (surprise!) is that some of the donors to the Clinton Foundation wanted something from the then-Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. If all they wanted was a meeting with someone, they generally got it. If they wanted more, they often didn't get it. For example, L.A. sports executive Casey Wasserman wanted to get a visa for a British soccer star with a criminal record. Wasserman gave somewhere between $5 million and $10 million to the Clinton Foundation. On top of that, Wasserman's own foundation paid Bill Clinton $3 million in consulting fees. But the visa was never granted.
Many people might be shocked that people who donate money often get access to politicians and sometimes much more. The Supreme Court doesn't think buying access is such a big deal, and earlier this year overturned the conviction of former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell, who granted access and arranged meetings for donors with state officials. It remains to be seen, as this story develops, whether Clinton did any more than meet with donors. If that's all she did, she's probably safe. If it went beyond that and she took official actions that she wouldn't have taken otherwise, it will dog her for the rest of her days. (V)
For the past four or five days, Donald Trump has been pitching himself to minority voters. He toured New Orleans (a majority black city), and is set to do the same in inner-city Detroit (with Ben Carson acting as guide). He's visiting black-owned businesses and Latino churches. In speeches, he's argued that the Democrats have not served minority voters—particularly black voters—very well. He's even begun to change his tune on undocumented immigrants, suggesting that he would only deport "the bad ones." How we can tell who "the bad ones" are has not been made clear.
What is Trump's game here? Well, as we suggested previously, he (or at least his new management team) is aware that he's going to need some minority votes to have any hope of victory. A Republican can claim the White House with 9% of the black vote and 35% of the Latino vote (see George W. Bush, 2000), but the 0%-1% of blacks and 10%-15% of Latinos that Trump is currently attracting will not get it done. What we missed when we last wrote about this (as a reader helpfully noted), is that Trump is also going after undecided white voters with this change of direction. Racism, of course, is socially unacceptable in most corners of American society. And there are many voters who do not hear (or conveniently overlook) dog-whistle racism, but who will not overlook overt racism. By giving off an "I'm not actually a racist" virtue signal, Trump is trying to persuade moderates, undecided Republicans, and Gary Johnson-leaning Republicans that it's ok to vote for him.
Will it work? In truth, it's hard to see how. One poll reveals that 65% of Americans feel that the label "racist" applies to Trump at least slightly, while 35% percent say it applies very well. Another shows that 56% feel he is biased against minorities. There are few things harder to shake in American society than the scarlet R. This is particularly true when people have reason to be suspicious of your motivations and you've only got 76 days (and counting) to get the job done. This is not to say that the new strategy is incorrect, merely that a Hail Mary pass is still a Hail Mary pass. (Z)
One of the few points where Donald Trump and the Republican Leadership are in complete agreement is how to handle the vacancy on the Supreme Court created by the death of Antonin Scalia in February. Both Trump and the leadership want a justice with the same political philosophy as Scalia. For many Republicans, judicial appointments are their top concern. If Trump is with them on the kinds of justices and judges they want, that may be enough for them to support him despite many other misgivings, because they greatly fear what Hillary Clinton would do to the court system with her appointments.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) continues to block a vote on confirming Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. So far, senators supporting McConnell don't seem to have been damaged much by this issue. If Clinton wins on Nov. 8, McConnell may well do an about face, call a special lame-duck session of the Senate, and ram the appointment through to prevent Clinton from nominating someone much further to the left and much younger. Garland is 63, and would be the oldest new justice since Lewis Powell in 1971. (V)
Anyone who thinks judges dispassionately examine the facts and the law relevant to the cases in front of them and then make their rulings probably went to law school, because that is what they teach there. Everyone else thinks the courts are just partisan mini-legislatures. The latter group got some more proof yesterday, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit ruled that the Ohio legislature was within its rights to eliminate "Golden Week," a week in which new or moving voters could reregister and vote. About 80,000 people voted in Golden Week in 2012. The court found that they could register and then vote some other time. This decision was made on a 2 to 1 vote, with Judge David McKeague and Judge Richard Griffin voting to reverse a lower court decision to reinstate Golden Week. Both McKeague and Griffin were appointed by George W. Bush. The third member of the panel, Judge Jane Branstetter Stranch, an Obama appointee, dissented.
What happens next? The plaintiffs could go to the U.S. Supreme Court, but they know very well that it will end in a 4-4 tie there, breaking strictly along party lines, so more likely they will ask for an en banc ruling, in which all the judges on the 6th Circuit would participate. If this happens, Republican-appointed judges would be in the majority, 10-5, so the outcome will probably be the same. (V)
Voting is in the news not only in Ohio, but also in California. On Tuesday, the state assembly passed SB 450, which, if it becomes law, would radically change voting procedures in California. It would gradually phase out in-person voting at traditional polling places. Instead, each voter would be mailed a ballot. Rather than just mailing the ballots back, as is done in Washington, Oregon, and Colorado, voters would drop them off at secure ballot boxes or vote centers, which would be open for 10 days prior to each election. These vote centers would be staffed by paid professionals with substantial training, unlike the elderly, barely trained volunteers who often staff traditional polling places. People could also register to vote there. Even if the bill passes next week and is signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) immediately, it would not go into effect until 2018 in some counties, until 2020 in other counties, and until 2024 in the remaining counties. The bill also gives counties the right to opt out of the system and stick with traditional voting if they prefer that. Some people think that having different procedures in different counties will lead to endless confusion, with many people not knowing how to vote. But the opt-out was needed to get some legislators on board with the bill. (V)
Donald Trump and his allies have made much of Hillary Clinton's health in recent weeks, offering armchair diagnoses of all sorts of incapacitating maladies. Needless to say, there's no evidence for any of this speculation, and to the extent that we have any meaningful evidence at all—for example, Clinton's ability to maintain a demanding campaign schedule—it suggests that her health is just fine.
Meanwhile, since turnabout is fair play, questions are now being asked about Donald Trump's health. While Clinton, if elected, would be the second-oldest person to assume the presidency, Trump would be the oldest. That certainly sets off a few alarm bells, while those who are grasping at straws also note Trump's sometimes-erratic behavior, and his regular indulgence in fast food. Still, as with Clinton, the most direct evidence—his ability to keep up with his campaign schedule—suggests he's ok, too.
To a large extent, the doubts about both candidates' health are not only a product of their ages, but also their secretive natures. As the New York Times' Patrick Healy points out, they have released very little information about their respective physical conditions, a choice that goes against recent precedent (particularly for presidential candidates who are senior citizens). Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), for example, allowed reporters to examine copious documentation about what kind of shape he was in, while Mitt Romney, Secretary of State John Kerry, Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, Ronald Reagan, and both Bushes either granted interviews on the subject, released their medical records, or did both (Barack Obama was a notable exception; presumably his medical records have "Muslim; Born in Kenya" stamped on them). Hillary Clinton, by contrast, has produced only a single two-page document, while Trump issued forth with a mere four paragraphs, written in so laughable a fashion—The Donald's lab results were described as "astonishingly excellent," for example—that we are left to wonder whether or not they actually came from the pen of his personal physician (it does not help that the letter was originally attributed to that physician's father, who is long-deceased).
In the end, though, this should be a non-issue. Unless one of the candidates has something serious befall them on the campaign trail, voters will never really know what the truth is. In part, that's because even their doctors don't know—a great many serious health problems are not very predictable until they happen. And even if the doctors do know, there's a long history of lying about candidates' health. Grover Cleveland had cancer surgery, and his physicians said he was on vacation. Warren Harding's "food poisoning" turned out to be severe heart problems that culminated in a fatal heart attack. FDR was in ghastly shape by 1944, but his doctor announced that, "The President's health is perfectly OK. There are absolutely no organic difficulties at all." Roosevelt died two months after his fourth inauguration.
Actuarial tables suggest that both Trump and Clinton, having made it to 70 years of age (or almost 70, in Clinton's case) should live well into their eighties, and thus well beyond even a two-term presidency. In the absence of evidence more substantive than "Doctor" Rudy Giuliani's best guesses, or a picture of Donald Trump eating a Big Mac, it's probably best to assume that the actuaries have the right of it. (Z)
Nate Cohn replaced Nate Silver as the New York Times' in-house psephologist when the latter left for the greener pastures of ESPN. He's just produced a macro-view of this year's election, and he concludes that we're almost certainly headed for a divided government when the votes are counted on November 8.
Cohn starts with the assumption that Hillary Clinton is going to take the White House. If that happens, then the question is, "Will her victory be so overwhelming as to trigger a Democratic wave, allowing them to take not only the Senate, but also the House?" Cohn does not address the Senate, but he does suggest that the House is probably out of reach for the blue team, for a number of reasons. First, broadly-speaking, Clinton's polling numbers—while good—are not wave-level good. It takes double digits, and she's not there yet. On top of that, there just aren't enough competitive seats for the Democrats to make up their 60-seat deficit. Currently, only 36 GOP-held seats appear to be even moderately at risk, and the Democrats would have to take 33 of them—a very tall order. Finally, most theories of a Democratic sweep are rooted in the notion that modern voters rarely split their tickets. But—and this is an error that a lot of analysts seem to be making this year—people are not opposed to ticket splitting, per se, they are merely more loyal to their party and its slate of candidates. There's every reason to believe that with the very unpopular Trump (and, for that matter, with the very unpopular Clinton) loyalty won't be as strong, and ticket-splitting will be much more common in 2016 than it has been in the last few elections. Which means that Republicans in contested House districts probably have a much better chance of surviving, even if Trump loses in a landslide.
The analysis concludes with a brief note about 2018, observing that circumstances will be even less favorable for the Democrats than in 2016, so if they can't take the House this year, then their (slim) window of opportunity will close. Let's build on that point. With the usual caveat that in politics, a week is a lifetime, if Hillary Clinton wins this year, she has an excellent chance at re-election in 2020. She'll have the advantages of incumbency, the increasingly-daunting Democratic "blue wall" of electoral votes, and she'll be facing a Republican field that's likely to be even larger and messier than this year's. Meanwhile, the House districts have been heavily gerrymandered in many states, more often than not by a Republican legislature, to keep the number of competitive seats very small. Further, the party that holds the White House nearly always loses seats in midterm elections, which bodes poorly for the Democrats in 2018 and 2022, and means that they are likely to face an even bigger challenge in 2020 than they face this year. The logjam may break eventually, if Democrats take over a large number of state houses and governorships in 2020 and then de-gerrymander the maps (or, gerrymander them in the blue team's favor). That's a big if, however, and the process would not play out for many years, since it cannot begin until the 2020 census is complete. Adding it all up, the odds favor at least a decade of continuous Republican control of the House, and eight (or more) years of Democratic control of the White House. It is going to give new meaning to the word "gridlock." (Z)
Yesterday, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus predicted that Donald Trump could catch up to Hillary Clinton in the polls by Labor Day, which is less than 2 weeks away. Interestingly enough, yesterday a new Reuters/Ipsos poll came out showing Clinton with one of her biggest leads ever, a 12-pointer, 45% to 33%. When Gary Johnson and Jill Stein were included, her lead dropped to 8 points, with Clinton at 41%, Trump at 33%, Johnson at 7%, and Stein at 2%. Somehow there seems to be a disconnect between Priebus' optimism that Trump is about to catch Clinton and the reality of a new poll showing him even further behind than previous polls. (V)
Suppose Donald Trump loses in November. What will he do next? Buy a nice island in the South Pacific and hang out there on the beach with Melania? Nope, Barron Trump is 10 and needs to go to a great school. Go back to making real estate deals? Not much challenge there. What then? He loves the attention he is getting now and is well aware that 13.3 million people liked him enough to vote for him. If he doesn't already know it, his new buddy Roger Ailes can tell him that Fox News' most popular program, "The O'Reilly Factor," draws about 3.4 million viewers a day. Ailes can also tell him that Fox makes $1.5 billion dollars a year. Some simple arithmetic suggests that if Trump were to start his own TV network, he might be able to draw four times as many viewers as Fox News' biggest star and make $6 billion a year.
The GOP leadership is scared out of its pants that Trump is going to make that calculation and start a Trump-centric TV network run by either the currently unemployed Ailes or Trump's new campaign CEO, Stephen Bannon, or both in different roles. While Fox is generally on the side of the Republican establishment, Trump-o-vision or whatever it might be called would be a permanent thorn in the establishment's side, carping daily about how the GOP was giving away the store to Hillary Clinton. Network stars could include Rudy Giuliani, Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), Ann Coulter, Sarah Palin, and more. Ailes knows how to start and run a network, and Trump has the capital to finance it, so it is a serious threat. From Trump's point of view, it is a way to keep himself in the spotlight, punish the Republican leadership for not being nice to him, and make real money for a change. What's not to like? (V)
Donald Trump's campaign has filed its latest finance report with the FEC, and—as with anything involving The Donald and money—it has people talking. To start with, the campaign has quadrupled the amount of rent it is paying to its landlord—Trump Tower owner Donald J. Trump. That certainly makes it look, once again, like Trump 2016 may be a money-making proposition rather than a political campaign. Trump's people insist that the new rent is a function of the fact that they're using more space, and that The Donald donates more money to the campaign every month than he takes in from the rent. Why he cannot just donate the use of the space, and eliminate the middleman, was not explained.
Another line item of interest is a payment of $356.01 to the author of Melania Trump's RNC speech. No, not Michelle Obama—Trump Organization employee Meredith McIver. This pittance is undoubtedly not for McIver's services, per se, but instead to keep the campaign from running afoul of federal election law. If Meredith McIver, employee of the Trump Organization, wrote the speech, then that is an illegal corporate campaign contribution. If Meredith McIver, employee of Trump-Pence 2016, wrote the speech, then it's kosher. Making a post facto payment like this is still probably a violation of the law, but the FEC is unlikely to insinuate itself into the campaign over something as minor as this. And even if it does, Trump's lawyers will argue that the infraction is a small one, since the "market value" of the illegal contribution is only $356.01. The odds are pretty good that Ms. McIver also got a handsome bump in her salary this month, but that is the business of the Trump Organization, and is beyond the reach of the FEC. (Z)
Jill Stein is getting considerably more attention in 2016 than she got in 2012. In part, this is because she is seen as spokeswoman for the Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) faction of the Left. In part, it's a product of the media's semi-obsession with "balance"—if Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson gets covered, then Stein needs to be covered, too. This is despite the fact that Johnson, who is attracting two to three times the support that Stein is, has a vastly better chance of have any impact on the election.
In any event, Stein is relishing her moment in the sun (or, at least a sliver of the sun), and is sharing her views on anything and everything. Many of her pronouncements have been decidedly Trump-like (Trump-esque? Trump-tastic?). For example, they both have thrown some red meat to the anti-science factions of their respective movements, with Trump questioning global warming, and Stein suggesting she's suspicious of vaccinations and also making questionable assertions about GMOs. Like Trump, Stein has also been willing to villainize those who disagree with her, often without much basis for doing so. Trump, of course, has taken aim at the Khan family, disabled reporter Serge Kovaleski, Fox News host Megyn Kelly, and a host of others. Stein, to take one example, eviscerated 87-year-old darling of the Left Noam Chomsky, who committed the sin—in her eyes—of telling progressive voters in swing states that their only real choice was to vote Hillary Clinton, so as to keep Donald Trump out of the White House. Stein lambasted him as a "coward" and accused him of practicing "this politics of fear that tells you you have to vote against what you're afraid of rather than for what you truly believe." Because if Chomsky has had one issue in his career, it's been his unwillingness to express his beliefs.
Most importantly, like Trump, Stein is exceedingly inconsistent and/or unrealistic on many matters of policy. Declaring that she "is not the savior the Left is looking for," Slate's Jordan Weissmann dissects several of Stein's ideas. For example, her plan to cancel all student loan debt is not only unrealistic, it's also quite regressive (that is, the opposite of progressive). A large percentage of student loan debt is held by well-to-do people; canceling that would be akin to a tax break for the wealthy and the upper middle class. To take another example, she wants to cut the United States' military budget by half, and to close 700 military bases abroad. Again, a wholly unrealistic proposal, and if it were implemented it would send shockwaves through the economy, with much of the fallout landing upon the working class (who would suffer from the loss of jobs in the form of soldiering and military manufacturing).
Of course, there's at least one big difference between Trump and Stein. Trump chose a running mate who, while pretty far out of the mainstream on some issues, could plausibly serve as president. Stein, by contrast, chose an utterly inexperienced running mate whose ideas sometimes go beyond "out of the mainstream" and into the realm of "kooky."
Putting it all together, the conclusion here is: Stein should not be getting the media attention that she is getting. She is not mounting a serious presidential campaign, as indicated by her Veep choice and her weak understanding of policy. She has virtually no chance of impacting the election (much less winning any electoral votes), and she is not a particularly thoughtful or representative spokesperson for the progressive movement. She's Donald Trump, except without the 13 million votes. (Z)
Don't believe everything you read. Especially not polls showing Hillary Clinton leading by 14 points in Florida or 16 points in Virginia. We have no reason to believe that Saint Leo University or Roanoke College are making stuff up, but they may lack the experience and modeling techniques that Quinnipiac University and Marist College have acquired over the years. We don't want to fall into the trap of discarding polls because the results seem nutty, so we will include these, just don't take them too seriously. In contrast, Monmouth has been at this business longer and it is possible that Missouri really is tightening a little. (V)
|Florida||52%||38%||8%||Aug 14||Aug 18||Saint Leo U.|
|Missouri||43%||44%||8%||Aug 19||Aug 22||Monmouth U.|
|Utah||24%||39%||12%||Aug 19||Aug 21||PPP|
|Virginia||48%||32%||8%||Aug 07||Aug 17||Roanoke Coll.|
Nothing weird here. Saint Leo's poll here seems to be much closer to what everyone else is predicting. In fact all the Senate polls are in line with previous ones. (V)
|State||Democrat||D %||Republican||R %||Start||End||Pollster|
|California||Kamala Harris||41%||Loretta Sanchez (D)||15%||Aug 17||Aug 19||Smith Johnson Research|
|Florida||Patrick Murphy||38%||Marco Rubio*||46%||Aug 14||Aug 18||Saint Leo U.|
|Missouri||Jason Kander||43%||Roy Blunt*||48%||Aug 19||Aug 22||Monmouth U.|
|Utah||Misty Snow||21%||Mike Lee*||51%||Aug 19||Aug 21||PPP|
* Denotes incumbent
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug23 Trump's Immigration Speech Postponed
Aug23 Will the Presidential Winner Have Coattails?
Aug23 Top RNC Strategist Will Help Trump
Aug23 Both Candidates Prefer Secret Fundraisers
Aug23 Clinton Goes to California
Aug23 Blue Wall Is Getting Taller
Aug23 Trump May Not Concede If He Loses
Aug23 Trump Goes Where He Won't Be Outfoxed
Aug23 Twelve-year-old Boy Running Trump's Campaign in Key Colorado County
Aug23 Melania Trump Threatens to Sue Ten News Outlets
Aug22 The Next President Will Make Nearly 100 Backlogged Judicial Appointments
Aug22 Trump about to Flip-Flop on Immigration
Aug22 Trump Could Cost the GOP a Generation of Voters
Aug22 Clinton Has Raised Half a Billion Dollars
Aug22 Trump's July Net Haul Was Not as Large as Initially Reported
Aug22 New Republican Theme: Clinton Is Too Sick To Be President
Aug22 WIRED Endorses Clinton
Aug22 Trump Has Stopped Tweeting about the Polls
Aug22 Super PAC to Spend $10 Million to Save the House for GOP
Aug21 Republicans Prepare to Cut Trump Loose
Aug21 Clinton Foundation Is Becoming a Real Problem
Aug21 Trump's Companies Have Far More Debt Than Previously Thought
Aug21 Trump's New Target: Minorities
Aug21 Trump Thinks He's Got a Shot in Minnesota
Aug21 Sanders To Return To the Campaign Trail
Aug21 Clinton Will Not Have To Testify Under Oath About Email Server
Aug21 McAuliffe Working to Restore Felons' Voting Rights
Aug21 Ginsburg Retiring? Not So Fast
Aug21 Arpaio To Be Prosecuted
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