• Evangelicals Are Scared, but Still Support Trump
• More Skeletons Found in Trump's Closet
• Clinton Is Now Focusing on Turning Out Her Base
• Ivanka Trump Stars in Trump Ad Aimed at Women
• Trump Has an Automated Army of Tweeters Working for Him
• Clinton Enjoying Post-Debate Polling Bump
• Weld: Clinton Most Qualified to be President
• San Diego Union-Tribune Breaks 148-Year Streak and Endorses the Democrat
• Trump May Not Accept Election Results After All
• There Actually Were Issues with Trump's Microphone During the Debate
• Saturday Night Live Returns
• Today's Presidential Polls
• Today's Senate Polls
Donald Trump keeps thinking of new ways to get the media to pay attention to him. The latest one is to send out a tweet storm starting at 3 a.m. Friday morning. Instead of trying to change the subject from calling beauty queen Alicia Machado "Miss Piggy" and "Miss Housekeeping," he is actively working to keep the story alive. Lord knows why, since offending women and offending Latinas is an unusual strategy for a candidate who is trailing badly with both groups. His most provocative tweet sent in the middle of the night was:
Did Crooked Hilary help disgusting (check out sex tape and past) Alicia M become a U.S. citizen so she could use her in the debate?
Machado never did porn nor did she make a sex tape. Furthermore, it is somewhat unconventional for a Republican candidate who badly needs to hold onto evangelical voters to instruct them to go watch a sex tape.
Machadogate is beginning to look like Khangate. Trump says something that most of the country finds offensive, and when the brickbats begin flying in his direction, he doubles down and triples down by repeating the offending remarks over and over instead of just letting it die off. Meanwhile, Clinton is making hay out of the whole thing calling him "unhinged," and Machado is making the rounds of the talk shows dissing Trump.
Trump also brought up Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky yesterday. Again, an odd thing to do because Hillary's favorability shot up after the affair became public in the 1990s. In particular, women saw that she behaved well, even though she was a victim. He also said that he had a very good marital history. He didn't elaborate on what that meant, but his 4-year affair with Marla Maples while he was married to Ivana Trump was all over the New York tabloids. Maples had a child, Tiffany, two months before she and Trump were married. (V)
For many older evangelicals, the world has turned upside down. In a few short years, the country has gone from what they consider normal to one in which men marry men and women marry women, and bakers, florists, and photographers who don't want to participate are branded as criminals. Now, transgender people are coming out, and none of the four candidates running for president is alarmed. Hillary Clinton and Jill Stein embrace the change as a good thing, Gary Johnson thinks the government has no business legislating morality, and the twice-divorced Donald Trump, a casino mogul and serial liar who had a child out of wedlock, is not exactly their model of a God-fearing Christian. Nevertheless, most evangelicals are coalescing around Trump for fear of what kinds of Supreme Court justices Hillary Clinton might nominate.
Or, that's one theory, at least. Matthew Avery Sutton, an academic who has written extensively about the evangelical movement, has another. He argues that many evangelicals hear Trump's strongman-like talk, and his plans to divide the world—Christian vs. Muslim, Mexican vs. American—and they see fulfillment of Biblical prophecies regarding the end of days. These individuals view Trump as the ideal leader (and perhaps the trigger) for the coming armageddon. It's a provocative thesis, but one that Sutton lays out fairly persuasively. If he's right, then the evangelicals would not be pleased to hear exactly how much they have in common with ISIS. (V & Z)
There is no harsher spotlight to be found than the one that shines upon people running for president. Donald Trump, of course, is finding that out the hard way. Since he's become the Republican nominee, and in particular since the media have stopped handling him with kid gloves, there seems to be a new revelation every day. Sometimes more than one, as was the case on Friday.
Earlier this month, Trump blasted President Obama's policy on Cuba, saying that if he is elected president, he would reverse the decision to re-establish diplomatic relations and to end the Cuban embargo. As it turns out, however, Trump doesn't quite practice what he preaches. It was reported on Friday that Trump's company spent $68,000 in Cuba in 1998, in violation of the embargo. And this was not a question of being ignorant of the policy; the Trump Organization used a U.S. consulting firm to try to launder the money and to cover its tracks. Needless to say, this will not play well with the Cuban community in Florida, who are important to Trump's chances of taking the Sunshine State. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who knows something of this dynamic, said as much on Friday: "I hope the Trump campaign is going to come forward and answer some questions about this, because if what the article says is true—and I'm not saying that it is, we don't know with 100% certainty—I'd be deeply concerned about it."
Meanwhile, Trump spent time on Friday blasting Alicia Machado for starring in a pornographic video (see above). In fact, it turns out that she has not appeared in any such film. But you know who has? Donald Trump, who made a brief appearance (fully-clothed) in a soft-core Playboy video in 2000. The irony was not lost on the Clinton campaign. Speaking to reporters in Miami, Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill observed that, "There's been a lot of talk about sex tapes today, and in a strange turn of events, only one adult film has emerged today, and its star is Donald Trump." Talk about dirty politics. (Z)
As we move into the final phase of the campaign, Hillary Clinton is transitioning away from her strategy of luring disaffected Republicans to vote for her. The final phase is all about getting her base to the polls, especially the young voters who hate Donald Trump but are still not sold on her. Clinton is clearly targeting the same demographic groups that carried Barack Obama into the White House in 2008 and 2012. Nearly all the efforts will be in about half a dozen swing states.
In particular, Clinton has a massive database that covers nearly every voter in America. What the database gives her is the ability to pinpoint individual voters who favor her, but who are either (1) not registered or (2) registered but have a spotty voting record. These are the people she is going to go after now. Since early voting has already started in a number of states, Clinton is trying to bank votes so she can mark the early voters in the database as having already voted, thus freeing up resources to target people who haven't voted yet. All of this is very conventional, but it is something that Trump is not doing. In addition to the data-driven operation, Clinton is deploying surrogates in the swing states to rev up enthusiasm for her. These include Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), her husband (who is still quite popular), President Obama, and Michelle Obama. In other words, she is basically copying Obama's successful campaigns. (V)
Even though Donald Trump keeps making their job harder, his campaign managers understand that they have to get more women on board for Trump. So yesterday a new ad was released to further that goal. Its primary weapon is not having Trump say anything in the ad except: "I'm Donald Trump and I approve this message." The ad stars the impeccably dressed Ivanka Trump, looking beautiful, and depicts equally beautiful and well-behaved children, while she talks about how her father will help working women by changing labor laws, providing tax credits for child care, paid maternity leave, and dependent care savings accounts. It ends with an adorable shot of Trump kissing a little boy, probably one of Donald Jr.'s kids. If Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon could just get Trump to go to Scotland and play golf quietly for the next month and let them run the campaign in peace, he would do much better. (V)
When thousands of tweets all carry the same general message, the media often interpret this as the voice of the people. Actually, in many cases, it is the voice of software programmed to send out tweets to look like the voice of the people. There are numerous so-called botnets in operation, run by different groups and financed in shadowy ways by unknown people. The use of Twitterbots by pro-Trump forces is important because Donald Trump has basically abandoned conventional television advertising, and is hoping that social media can take over. (Full disclosure: Our Twitter feed, @votemaster, is fully automated and just posts the headlines every day.)
One hacker, now in prison in Colombia, gave an interview earlier this year in which he described how he used Twitterbots to manipulate elections all over South America. He said: "When I realized that people believe what the Internet says more than reality, I discovered that I had the power to make people believe almost anything."
Samuel Woolley, an expert on Twitterbots, has estimated that half of Clinton's Twitter traffic is artificial, whereas 80% of Trump's is fake. A common tactic of the bots is to spring into action when Trump says something controversial, trying to muddy the waters by giving conflicting and contradictory versions of it. The technique of putting out disinformation on Twitter was pioneered by Russia after a Russian-made missile shot down a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine in 2014. The message the bots put out was that Americans shot down the plane because they believed Vladimir Putin was on board. The campaign successfully muddled public opinion in Eastern Europe. (V)
It's been just less than a week since the presidential debate, which is time enough for post-debate polls to start trickling in. And, as the New York Times Nate Cohn points out, there is no question that Hillary Clinton is on the upswing, picking up about five points, on average.
Of course, the more important question is: Will it last? As Cohn observes, there is evidence that it will. Her polling is now more in line with fundamentals (Obama's approval rating, the state of the stock market, her polling throughout the campaign, etc.) than it was a week ago. In fact, what actually seems to have happened is that Donald Trump had a mini-surge for a couple of weeks, powered by his visit to Mexico, his policy speeches, and several other successes, while Clinton took a step backward due to the "deplorables" comment, Clinton Foundation issues, and the like. Now, the debate (and Machadogate) may well have erased the mini-surge, resetting things to where they were at the start of September. (Z)
Appearing on CNN on Friday, a former governor of Massachusetts opined that he was, "not sure anybody is more qualified than Hillary Clinton to be president of the United States." Under normal circumstances, this would not be big news, since one would guess that the speaker is a Democrat, perhaps Deval Patrick or Michael Dukakis. But it wasn't, it was a one-time Republican turned Libertarian, who just so happens to be running for vice president right now on the Libertarian ticket.
The comment from Bill Weld came during an interview with MSNBC's Chuck Todd. He quickly tried to cover his tracks, launching into a stream of praise for running mate Gary Johnson. However, the damage was done; in a week where Johnson could not name a single world leader, we now learn that even his closest ally doesn't think he's particularly qualified to occupy the Oval Office.
These kinds of blunders aren't likely to move the needle much, polling-wise—the great majority of Johnson-Weld voters are voting against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, not for Johnson and Weld. However, the gaffes do forestall any meaningful chance that Johnson will reach the 15% threshold needed to appear on the debate stage. They may also create a real headache for the 2020 Republican candidates. One can easily imagine reporters or debate moderators asking a candidate: "Who did you vote for in 2016?" Marco Rubio or Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) or Jeb Bush may be left with no good answers. Or did you vote for Jill Stein, the atheist tree-hugger? Or maybe Hillary Clinton, the hated toady of the Democratic establishment? Donald Trump, loathed by a huge segment of the Republican establishment (and hypothetically, by then, an Election Day loser, or an Oval Office disaster)? Gary Johnson, who didn't know what Aleppo is, who didn't know any world leaders, and whose own running mate didn't think him qualified? Maybe they can claim they cast a write-in vote for Ronald Reagan. (Z)
The conservative San Diego Union-Tribune has never endorsed a Democrat in its entire 148-year existence—until yesterday. In an editorial, it came out for Hillary Clinton. The paper is worried about Trump's cozying up to Russia, reneging on treaties with allies, causing a financial crises by repudiating the federal debt, starting a disastrous trade war, and compiling a list of enemies to punish, starting with Jeff Bezos and his Washington Post as well as the New York Times. The paper also mentioned Clinton's flaws, but concluded with: "But we endorse Clinton. She's the safe choice for the U.S. and for the world, for Democrats and Republicans alike." (V)
For his final question during Monday's presidential debate, Lester Holt asked each candidate if they would accept the results of the election, whatever it may be. Donald Trump dodged the question, so Holt repeated himself and got this answer:
Look, here's the story: "I want to make America great again. I'm going to be able to do it. I don't believe Hillary will. The answer is, if she wins, I will absolutely support her."
Backstage, after the debate, Trump reiterated his position, saying "absolutely I would" accept the outcome.
Needless to say, anyone who thought that this settled the matter has been in a coma for the last nine months. It's been less than four days, and Trump has already executed an about face. At a rally on Friday, he warned that "Crooked Hillary" might steal the election, and that voter fraud is, "a big, big problem in this country." It's not, of course, but the crowd did not seem to be aware of that. Later in the day, during an interview with the New York Times, Trump reiterated his newly-rediscovered uncertainty about the results: "We're going to have to see. We're going to see what happens. We're going to have to see."
As we and others have noted, it would not be difficult for the presidential loser to precipitate a constitutional crisis if the result is close, and if that individual was not willing to subordinate their needs to those of the country. Which means that on November 8, it may be necessary to dust off the election administrator's prayer: "Dear Lord, let it be a landslide." (Z)
The Commission on Presidential Debates said Friday: "There were issues regarding Donald Trump's audio that affected the sound level in the debate hall." Trump complained about the mic during the debate, and apparently something really was wrong with it. However, this only affected the people in the room; the audio quality for the 84 million people who watched the debate on TV was just fine. Trump has already said the moderator was tougher on him than on Hillary Clinton, and that the debate was rigged. This new piece of information will just pour more fuel on the fire. Nevertheless, it is very unlikely that many people who thought Clinton "won" will now switch and say Trump won on account of a possibly defective mic. On Wednesday, Trump's deputy campaign manager, David Bossie, said the problem was simply that the gain was too high, and it picked up Trump's breathing. (V)
Like most network television shows, Saturday Night Live goes on hiatus during the summer. And this summer, they took an extra-long hiatus, so that their 42nd season would align better with the election. As of tonight, they are back with a debate-inspired sketch starring "Hillary Clinton" (Kate McKinnon) and "Donald Trump" (Alec Baldwin).
It may seem a triviality to include a late-night comedy show amongst more serious news items, but we must recall several things. The first is that SNL has had a palpable impact on previous presidential elections, perhaps most obviously 1976 (with their mockery of Gerald Ford's clumsiness) and 2008. Tina Fey's dead-on Sarah Palin impression still has most people believing that it was Palin who said, "I can see Russia from my house." The second is that studies reveal that young people are more likely to get their news from comedy/entertainment shows (SNL, the Daily Show, etc.) than they are from actual news programming. The third is that we live in the era of YouTube and Hulu, and a sketch that really hits home can linger for weeks and weeks, aided by Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms. So, at 11:30 this evening, the Clinton camp and the Trump camp had better brace themselves, keep their fingers crossed, and hope for the best. (Z)
The post-debate polls are starting to roll in now. We have seven polls today, and Clinton is ahead in all of them, including the key swing state of Florida. Without Florida, Trump has no chance to win. Florida has many Latinos and Machadogate may be having an effect with the Cubans in Miami and the Puerto Ricans in Orlando. (V)
Although the presidential polls weren't so good for the Republicans, the Senate polls are. They are leading in two critical Senate races. If they can win these, they have a good chance of holding control of the Senate. (V)
* Denotes incumbent
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep30 Trump Just Can't Cut His Losses
Sep30 Online Polls: Shady Behavior All Around
Sep30 Clinton's Newest Ad Focuses on Trump Flip-Flops
Sep30 New York Attorney General Widens Probe of Trump Foundation
Sep30 Appeals Court Strikes Down Law Prohibiting Photos of Ballots
Sep30 More Newspapers Dump Trump
Sep30 Christie May Be Put in Charge of Prepping Trump for Second Debate
Sep30 Trump Is Not Going to Like These Google Search Results
Sep30 Many Republican Leaders Are Hoping Trump Outsources the Presidency to Pence
Sep30 Stein Mocks Johnson's Ignorance and Shows Her Own
Sep29 Trump Fell into a Trap in the Debate
Sep29 Trump's Advisers Have a Plan for the Second Debate
Sep29 Trump Has a Cranky Wednesday
Sep29 The Online Polls Are Rigged
Sep29 President Trump Will Have a Busy First Day in Office
Sep29 Cybersecurity Expert Testifies that the Election Could Be Hacked
Sep29 Hacking of State Election Databases Worse than Originally Thought
Sep29 What if Trump Disputes the Election?
Sep29 Gary Johnson Has Another Aleppo Moment
Sep28 What Did We Learn from the First Debate?
Sep28 Democratic Debate Postmortem
Sep28 Presidential Debate Postmortem
Sep28 Insiders Say that Clinton Won the Debate
Sep28 Trump Didn't Bring Up the Bill and Monica Show--for a Good Reason
Sep28 Trump Goes on the Attack, Makes it Worse
Sep28 Arizona Republic Endorses Clinton
Sep28 Early Voting is Now Underway in the United States
Sep27 Clinton Doesn't Score a Knockout, But Wins Convincingly on Points
Sep27 Trump's Website Crashes During Debate
Sep27 Trump Can't Find a Mosque to Visit
Sep27 Beck Apologizes for Supporting Ted Cruz
Sep26 Trump Keeps Debate Prep Secret
Sep26 The Candidates and Moderator Will Be on Stage, but the Audience Also Matters
Sep26 Lester Holt Has the Toughest Job of All
Sep26 Priebus Predicts Trump Will Be Consistent and Measured
Sep26 Will the Debate Matter?
Sep26 Could This Be the Only Debate?
Sep26 Mook: Republicans Are Coming Home to Trump
Sep26 Maybe Democrats Shouldn't Be Nervous
Sep26 Politico Fact Checked Both Candidates for a Week
Sep26 Trump Campaign Hopes To Buy $140 Million in Ads
Sep26 HB-2 Has Already Cost North Carolina Almost $400 Million
Sep26 Bush May Make Another Run in 2020
Sep25 Nevada Is Proving Difficult for the Democrats
Sep25 Trump Accepts Cruz's Endorsement
Sep25 Cruz Begins 45-day Walk Along a Fine Line
Sep25 No Fortune 100 CEO Is Backing Trump
Sep25 New York Times Endorses Clinton
Sep25 Clinton Is Actively Chasing the Biggest Minority Group