Clinton 323
image description
Trump 215
image description
Click for Senate
Dem 50
image description
GOP 50
image description
  • Strongly Dem (152)
  • Likely Dem (79)
  • Barely Dem (92)
  • Exactly tied (0)
  • Barely GOP (50)
  • Likely GOP (78)
  • Strongly GOP (87)
270 Electoral votes needed to win This date in 2012 2008
New polls: IL NM
Dem pickups vs. 2012: NC
GOP pickups vs. 2012: IA OH

Surrogates Defend Trump's Not Paying any Taxes

Yesterday, the New York Times published an article based on a fragment of Donald Trump's 1995 tax return and said he might have avoided paying any federal income tax for up to 18 years on account of a $916 million loss he took in 1995. The accountant who filled out the form verified that it was not a forgery. Clearly, using the byzantine real estate tax laws to avoid paying any tax for two decades makes Trump the poster child for showing that the system is rigged for the wealthy, so it could be a real problem for his campaign. Not to worry, though, four of his biggest defenders came to his rescue yesterday.

Rudy Giuliani, who would be pleased to accept an appointment as Donald Trump's Secretary of Homeland Security, pointed out that Trump is a genius for understanding the tax code and using it to his advantage so brilliantly. That may not be true, though. Trump's former accountant, Jack Mitnick, worked for a small firm specializing in the taxes of wealthy real estate investors and developers. It was Mitnick, not Trump, who mastered the tax law and used it to avoid taxes. Mitnick even told the Times reporters that Trump had little interest in understanding the tricks that Mitnick used to save him so much money. He just signed where he was supposed to sign and that was it. So Trump is no tax genius. He just hired a smart accountant.

Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), a potential attorney general in a Trump administration, took a different approach. He said that Trump's big write-off shows that he is the person best suited to reform America's byzantine tax code. Then he added: "He's promised in his tax plan to change many of these special interest loopholes and get rid of them so you don't have this kind of situation." Again, this makes sense only if you believe that Trump, not Mitnick, is the brains of the outfit, and if you believe Trump would push to change laws that are of immense benefit to himself.

Ann Coulter had a different take on Trump's taxes. She said: "No one cares, except the media. There was enough on that during the debate; can we please move on to the issues?" During the course of the next week, she may discover that quite a few people care.

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (ret.) did a comparison between the candidates, saying: "He knows more about taxes than Hillary Clinton ever will." Then he added that tax reform "is exactly the issue the New York Times won't report on."

The initial reaction of the public, at least in Ohio, is that losing $916 million in a year may be more damaging than not paying taxes. The tax maneuver was legal and some people thought as long as it is legal, he can do it. But losing so much money suggests that Trump is not nearly as great a businessman as he claims to be. In the long run, that undermines his case more than taking advantage of existing laws.

Hillary Clinton's campaign pounced immediately saying that only a lousy businessman could lose nearly a billion dollars in one year. The Clintons earned $10,745,378 in 2015 and paid federal taxes of $3,624,455 on that income, an effective rate of 34%. She also paid an additional 9% New York State tax. The campaign also released a tax calculator that allows the user to enter his or her income and see how much tax would be owed if that person were Donald Trump. The app spins for a few seconds and then always returns the result of $0.00. (V)

What Has Happened to Rudy Giuliani?

As noted above, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani is very interested in a Cabinet position in the hypothetical Donald Trump administration. And, like Chris Christie, he's embraced an attack dog role with relish. Every week, though, he seems to push things a little further, culminating in some very troublesome moments this weekend, moments that left many viewers wondering what has happened to the man that led New York back from the 9/11 attacks in such a dignified fashion.

On Sunday, Giuliani started out with an interview on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos." Shortly after his declaration (see above) that Trump is a "genius" for figuring out how to not pay taxes (or, at least, finding an accountant who figured it out), "America's Mayor" declared:

Don't you think a man who has this kind of economic genius is a lot better for the United States than a woman, and the only thing she's ever produced is a lot of work for the FBI checking out her emails?

Giuliani certainly seems to have admitted that he thinks men are more qualified than women to serve in political office. While he (and his boss) may very well feel that way, the female voters that The Donald needs may see things a bit differently.

And just in case Giuliani had not poked that particular hornets' nest enough, he hustled over to "Meet the Press" to talk to Chuck Todd. After he railed against Clinton's handling of her husband's affairs with various women, Todd wondered if Giuliani was being a bit hypocritical, since he had dealt with "his own infidelity charge." Giuliani said that "everybody does," and that his personal life is nobody's business, anyhow. So, we have some victim-blaming here, which, once again, is not going to play well with female voters. We also have a pretty obvious double standard—the Clintons' marital issues/personal lives are fair game, but Giuliani's marital issues/personal life are not. On top of that, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), George W. Bush, Secretary of State John Kerry, Al Gore, Bob Dole, and George H.W. Bush, among others, are going to be very interested to learn that "everybody" in politics has issues with infidelity. (Z)

Could Donald Trump Do Worse in Second Debate?

In the 50 or so years that America has held presidential debates, it has generally been the case that a candidate who had a very bad first debate bounced back in the second—Richard Nixon in 1960, Ronald Reagan in 1984, John Kerry in 2004, and Barack Obama in 2012 are notable examples. Obviously, the Trump campaign—at least, those who aren't busy insisting that The Donald won—is hoping that this pattern holds in 2016. The odds are good, however, that it will not.

We have already pointed out that the town hall format of the second debate favors Hillary Clinton over Trump. Now, in a piece suggesting that the second debate could be an "outright massacre" for Trump, the Washington Post's Paul Waldman gives three reasons that could be the case (beyond the fact that Trump does not appear to be making changes in his approach or his prep):

1. Since the questions will be asked by ordinary citizens, they will be less predictable than those that might be asked by a moderator like Lester Holt. This favors someone with breadth of knowledge, which Clinton has and Trump does not.

2. Trump does best surrounded by enthusiastic supporters, who eat up his anti-Clinton, anti-Obama, anti-Muslim, and anti-Mexican red meat. He desperately wants to go on the attack, but if he does, the crowd reaction—caught on camera—could be a killer with viewers at home.

3. Similarly, the town hall format allows viewers to see how the candidates respond to ordinary people. Clinton has a lot of experience with this kind of one-on-one interaction, and she is very good at it (as was her husband). Trump has very little experience, and by all evidences is not very good at it.

Meanwhile, let's add two items to the list that Waldman did not include:

4. Just as Trump feeds off a positive crowd, he grows belligerent in front of an unfriendly crowd. If he loses the audience, it could push his buttons just as much as anything Hillary might say.

5. Trump's excuse for past debate stumbles has been to point the finger at the moderators and to suggest that they were unfair or biased. That won't work when voters are asking the questions.

If this were a Disney movie, Trump might overcome the odds, silence the doubters, and give a brilliant performance that is remembered for generations to come. Unfortunately for him, Walt Disney has been dead since 1966. (Z)

Attacking Bill Clinton May Not Work with Women and Millennials

Donald Trump's recent attacks on Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky may bring cheers from Trump's base of white blue-collar men, but may be counterproductive with women and young voters. Many women may see his bringing the subject up as an implicit attack on Hillary for not being a satisfactory wife, a subject about which Trump knows nothing. Women are also likely to resent the idea that when a man has an affair, it is the wife's fault. Trump and Rudy Giuliani also have to be careful going down that road, since both of them had very public affairs of their own. Many young voters were small children when the Lewinsky affair hit the news, and the name "Monica Lewinsky" means as little to them as "Lucy Mercer" or "Nan Britton." Focus groups have shown that this is not a winning issue for Trump, but he just goes with his gut on this issue (and many others). (V)

Could Poll Watchers Give Pennsylvania to Trump?

Donald Trump has been calling for volunteers to monitor the polls on Election Day "in certain areas" (English translation: "Go to precincts with young voters or minorities and try to scare them into not voting"). How would this work in practice? In 2004, students at the University of Pittsburgh had to wait in line for hours to vote. Why? Lawyers for the Republican Party challenged the voting credentials of every voter. The students were told they needed to present an affidavit from a friend verifying their identify and place of residence. Not only were they able to block many students from voting, but the verification process took so long that enormous lines built up, and discouraged voters went home without voting.

Many states have laws allowing citizens to observe the voting process, but Pennsylvania's is exceptionally broad, according to Politico. Most of the other swing states require anyone challenging a voter to state in writing why the voter is being challenged, and in some cases provide evidence of the claim, but not in Pennsylvania. Republicans in the Pennsylvania state legislature not only don't want to scrap the law, they want to enhance the power of the poll watchers to make challenges easier. For example, under current law, poll watchers may only operate in their own county. Some Republicans want to drop that and allow anyone to go to any precinct in the state, sit down, and begin challenging every voter that the poll watcher suspects of fraud. Such a change is unlikely to become law, since Gov. Tom Wolf (D-PA) would veto it, but the current law offers plenty of opportunity for mischief.

Another thing Trump has asked for—police watching the polls—is clearly illegal. Pennsylvania law prohibits police and sheriffs from coming within 100 feet of a polling place unless requested by election workers or by three voters to deal with a disturbance, or else to vote themselves.

The whole scheme is a lot like the one the RNC cooked up during the 1981 governor's race in New Jersey, when armed, off-duty police and deputy sheriffs were paid to hang around polling places in minority areas wearing armbands reading "National Ballot Security Task Force," a nonexistent organization. The clear intention was to intimidate voters. After the election, the RNC was forced to sign a consent degree not to pull that again. Trump is probably unaware of all this history (and the Politico article linked to above), or perhaps is aware and doesn't care.

Either way, talk like this destabilizes the democracy, which is exceptionally fragile, and requires losers to concede rather than take to the streets. A recent AP/NORC poll showed that half of the Republicans think there is a great deal of voter fraud, even though in reality it barely exists. If Trump loses and tells these people he was cheated, things could get rough. (V)

Arizona Republic Gets Death Threats for Endorsing Clinton

Last week, the Arizona Republic joined the list of right-leaning newspapers who have endorsed Hillary Clinton after a long string of endorsing Republicans (in their case, a 126-year streak). Quite a few customers canceled their subscriptions, a perfectly reasonable response if they feel that strongly about the endorsement. A few others responded much less reasonably, sending death threats to the paper's editorial board.

As noted above, a democracy inherently rests on a very critical and very delicate proposition: That the loser(s) accept the outcome, no matter how much they don't like it, no matter how unfair they think it might be. We are getting plenty of indications, from the candidate himself and from his supporters, that accepting defeat may not be in the cards this year if Trump loses. This has been building for years, but where kooky conspiracy theories were once relegated to the fringes, Trump has helped make them mainstream and acceptable to express openly. When Thomas Jefferson assumed the presidency, he called it the "Revolution of 1800," in large part because John Adams and the Federalist Party turned over the reins of power without complaint. There is very good reason to be concerned that, if Donald Trump loses, 2016 will be remembered not for the ascension of the first female president, but as the first time that the opposition simply refused to abide by the result. (Z)

Is Ohio Still a Bellwether?

No Republican has ever been elected president while losing Ohio. No Democrat since John F. Kennedy has been elected president without Ohio. So Ohio is a key state, right? Maybe not any more. The parties have changed a lot recently, and Ohio hasn't. Back during Franklin Delano Roosevelt's administration, blue-collar workers, which Ohio has a lot of, were all Democrats. Now, many of them are Republicans. The modern Democratic Party's base consists of young people, single women, and minorities. It is relatively affluent and well educated. That is not a good description of Ohio. As a consequence, Ohio probably tilts Republican this year, but Clinton can afford to lose its 18 electoral votes, especially if she wins North Carolina's 15 electoral votes. The Tar Heel state increasingly has demographics that match the Democratic Party, whereas the Buckeye state doesn't. (V)

Clinton Pulls in $154 Million in September

Hillary Clinton's campaign had its best fundraising month so far in September, pulling in $84 million for Clinton and roughly $70 million for the Democratic National Committee and state parties. That's a total of more than $154 million, or about two months' business losses for Donald Trump circa 1995. Clinton's previous best was her $143 million haul in August.

The Trump campaign has not announced its totals yet, other than bragging about the $18 million raised in the 24 hours after the first presidential debate. That's an impressive total, but as we suspected at the time, that figure is not quite what it's cracked up to be. About $5 million came from online donations, while $13 million came from phone solicitations. Phone solicitations allow for a lot more manipulation of the overall total, for two reasons. The first is that the people being called are generally known donors, and can be hit up for money at whatever time best suits the narrative the campaign is trying to construct. Second, they tend to give much more per person, often well beyond the limit that the campaign itself can accept. For example, if Trump were to call his friend Peter Thiel the day after the debate and to get a $200,000 check from him, that would count towards the $18 million total, but only $2,700 of that (or less) would actually be available to the Trump campaign. The experts' best guess, given the available information, is that considerably less than half of the $18 million will actually go into the Trump 2016 coffers. (Z)

Brown Signs Law to Radically Change Voting in California

Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA) just signed a bill that will change how Californians vote, starting in 2018. In that year, 14 counties will be allowed to choose a new system. All the other counties, except Los Angeles, will be able to choose the new system in 2020. Los Angeles can opt in to it in 2024. Under the new system, every registered voter will receive a ballot by mail. The ballots can be returned to secure locations. Voters will also be able to go to vote centers to register or drop off their ballot. A new part of the scheme is that precincts will be abolished, and voters will be able to drop off a ballot at any location within their county. In addition, the vote centers will have paid staff to help voters and answer questions. Standing in line to vote will become obsolete in the counties that opt in to the new system. California isn't the first state to change its voting procedure. Washington, Oregon, and Colorado all have vote-by-mail systems. (V)

Vice Presidential Candidates Face Off Tomorrow

In what may be the least-awaited debate ever, Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) are going to have a pleasant chat on TV tomorrow night. With a bit of luck, it might beat the Al Gore vs. Jack Kemp match-up of 1996, which drew about 30% as many viewers as watched last week's Clinton vs. Trump debate. Neither Pence nor Kaine is widely known outside his own state. Both are white men in their late 50s, and neither one ever says anything controversial. Both back their respective presidential candidates. Nevertheless, both have something at stake in the debate. If their ticket loses, both are potential 2020 presidential candidates.

The unfortunate thing here is that no fireworks are expected. The debate is likely to be entirely about public policy. Both candidates have served as governors and as members of Congress, and both know the ins and outs of most domestic issues. The key question that vice presidents have to answer is "Could you step into the oval office and do the job on day one if you had to?" Both are going to give the same answer: "I governed a state. I know what it means to govern. I also served in Congress, so I know how legislation is produced. So, yes, I am ready."

The debate does have something unusual though. It will be moderated by CBS' Elaine Quijano, a native-born American of Filipino descent. She is the first Asian American to moderate a debate and at 42, the youngest since Judy Woodruff in 1988. Woodruff was then 41. (V)

Stone: "Wednesday, Hillary Clinton is done"

Roger Stone—Republican strategist, former Trump adviser, and self-described "hit man" for the GOP—lobbed a fairly large bomb on Twitter Sunday, announcing that Hillary Clinton's campaign would be destroyed on Wednesday by new information to be provided courtesy of Wikileaks.

Now Stone has been accused of being a lying trickster before, so this may be much ado about nothing. Assuming he's telling the truth, however, it certainly raises some questions about exactly how he is privy to this information, and exactly what his relationship is with accused rapist Julian Assange and with Assange's (potentially Russian) sources. Meanwhile, it's rather difficult to imagine exactly what this hypothetical leak could be, since the Benghazi, e-mail server, and Clinton Foundation horses have already been beaten to death, and since the conclusions that voters have reached on those matters—whether "guilty" or "innocent"—are unlikely to be swayed by new information. Perhaps she took a billion-dollar write-off on her taxes one year. Whatever it is, we'll find out—maybe—on Wednesday. (Z)

Today's Presidential Polls

The only noteworthy thing today is how well Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, is doing in his home state. His high name recognition notwithstanding, this seems like a surprising result in state that is 48% Latino. (V)

State Clinton Trump Johnson Start End Pollster
Illinois 49% 35% 4% Sep 21 Sep 24 Victory Research
New Mexico 35% 31% 24% Sep 27 Sep 29 Research and Polling

Email a link to a friend or share:

---The Votemaster and Zenger
Oct02 NYT Bombshell: Trump May Not Have Paid Taxes for Decades
Oct02 Trump's Staff Can't Save the Candidate from Himself
Oct02 College-Educated White Women Are This Year's Swing Voters
Oct02 Asian Americans Could Be a Problem for the Republicans
Oct02 Trump Chases Sanders' Supporters
Oct02 SNL Hits Trump Hard
Oct02 Marginalized Haters Are Now Emerging from the Shadows
Oct02 Untrustworthy Voting Machines Are Still Widely Used
Oct01 Trump Can't Sleep, Starts Tweeting Attacks on Alicia Machado
Oct01 Evangelicals Are Scared, but Still Support Trump
Oct01 More Skeletons Found in Trump's Closet
Oct01 Clinton Is Now Focusing on Turning Out Her Base
Oct01 Ivanka Trump Stars in Trump Ad Aimed at Women
Oct01 Trump Has an Automated Army of Tweeters Working for Him
Oct01 Clinton Enjoying Post-Debate Polling Bump
Oct01 Weld: Clinton Most Qualified to be President
Oct01 San Diego Union-Tribune Breaks 148-Year Streak and Endorses the Democrat
Oct01 Trump May Not Accept Election Results After All
Oct01 There Actually Were Issues with Trump's Microphone During the Debate
Oct01 Saturday Night Live Returns
Sep30 Trump Wanted Fat Women Fired
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