Clinton 323
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Ties 24
Trump 191
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Dem 48
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Ties 1
GOP 51
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  • Strongly Dem (175)
  • Likely Dem (98)
  • Barely Dem (50)
  • Exactly tied (24)
  • Barely GOP (86)
  • Likely GOP (27)
  • Strongly GOP (78)
270 Electoral votes needed to win This date in 2012 2008
New polls: FL NC NV OH WI
Dem pickups vs. 2012: NC
GOP pickups vs. 2012: (None)

Comey's Announcement Shocks Former Prosecutors

After FBI Director James Comey said that more emails sent by Hillary Clinton had surfaced in a case unrelated to her email server, Politico interviewed former prosecutors about Comey's actions. They were shocked and found it in violation of the FBI's long-standing practice of not interfering with elections. Nick Akerman, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, had this to say:

He had no business writing to Congress about supposed new emails that neither he nor anyone in the FBI has ever reviewed. It is not the function of the FBI director to be making public pronouncements about an investigation, never mind about an investigation based on evidence that he acknowledges may not be significant.

Former Justice Dept. spokesman Matthew Miller said:

It's completely unfair to Secretary Clinton and it's really unfair to the voters. There's no reason he had to send this letter.

Former federal prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg put it this way:

Doing it in the last week or 10 days of a presidential election without more information, I don't think that he should because how does it inform a voter? It just invites speculation ... I would question the timing of it. It's not going to get done in a week.

Other former Justice Dept. officials and former prosecutors said that it is not the FBI Director's job to comment on ongoing investigations. Before Comey made the announcement, there was a vigorous discussion within the FBI involving about 10 staffers, officials, and lawyers. Attorney General Loretta Lynch advised Comey not to send the letter since the FBI should not be taking actions to affect elections. Comey felt that this was an extraordinary situation and the normal rules did not apply.

Benjamin Wittes, writing for the blog Lawfare, has attempted to get inside Comey's head and to try and figure out what the FBI Director was thinking. He observes that Comey previously told Congress that the investigation was "complete," but that the new discovery meant that it is no longer "complete." This being the case, Comey was on record as having told a falsehood, technically. On top of that, no matter when this new information came to light, someone was going to be very unhappy. As it is, Hillary Clinton and the Democrats are outraged. If Comey had waited until after the election, then Republicans would be calling for the Director's head, and grousing about the FBI being in the bag for Clinton. As Wittes puts it: "Comey and the FBI are in a terrible position here, one in which they would be accused of playing politics whatever they ended up doing."

Now, even if one adopts Wittes' fairly charitable view, that doesn't mean that Comey is free of blame. First, he dug his own hole by telling Congress that the investigation was complete when, as a matter of course, all FBI investigations are regarded as "ongoing" (since new information could always come to light). Further, in his letter to Congress (viewable at the link above), Comey tried to thread the needle a bit too finely. He tried to amend his previous testimony, but he did so with an incomplete set of information at hand, and in only the vaguest of terms. Ultimately, he should have been more forthright in his message to Congress (as he was in his message to the members of the FBI.

Of course, not everyone is taking the charitable view, and there are now widespread suggestions that Comey is just a partisan hack. At one point it was known that Comey was a registered Republican. He served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York during the administration of George W. Bush. And even if he wasn't actually toting water for the GOP, he's certainly done quite a bit of damage to the FBI with his handling of this matter. (V & Z)

E-Mails Look Like Much Ado About Nothing

It's bad enough for Hillary Clinton when possible new, undisclosed emails come to light. It's even worse when it involves disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner. Who knows what she might have said or asked for. Some of Weiner's signature "art shots," perhaps? In the absence of details, people will fill in the blanks, and come up with some very bad stuff, indeed. However, specifics have begun to leak out and, as Newsweek's Kurt Eichenwald reports, the truth appears to be rather benign.

The current situation has its genesis in the fact that Clinton prefers to read emails on paper, rather than on screen. Her right-hand woman, Huma Abedin, was thus tasked with printing out certain key messages and having them sent to Clinton (by secure courier, if Clinton was not present in the State Department's offices). Printing from government-issued email accounts was (and is) very cumbersome and often doesn't work, so to get the job done, Abedin would sometimes transfer messages to a Yahoo account, or to her account on Clinton's email server (which Abedin did not know was privately hosted). Some of those messages were thus downloaded onto a laptop shared by Abedin and her husband (Weiner). These are the "new" e-mails the FBI is looking into.

So, there is no particular reason to believe that any new wrongdoing on the part of Hillary Clinton will be discovered. It's likely that the newly-discovered messages are, in fact, copies of messages that had already been turned over to the FBI. And if they were mishandled (which would only be true if the messages that ended up on the laptop were classified), then it would be Abedin who mishandled them in this case, and not Clinton. As we know well by now, it's not a crime unless Abedin intended to share classified information with someone who should not have it. Clearly, there was no such intent here. Consequently, when James Comey issues his report on this particular matter, it is nearly certain he will say, "Nope. Nothing there."

It is also possible that in Ohio nobody is paying any attention to the new email announcement because everyone is too focused on the World Series. For a lot of people, when baseball is competing with politics for attention, baseball wins. So in that key swing state, the political fall-out may be small.

There is another effect that could play a role here. While some independent voters might move away from Clinton on account of the FBI announcement, there is another group that might move toward her. Many diehard supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) dislike Clinton but they absolutely abhor Donald Trump. When Clinton is way ahead in the polls, they feel safe in voting for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson, or not voting at all. But when it looks like Trump could actually win, they get scared and are much more likely to hold their noses and vote for her. So the loss of independents could be compensated by higher turnout by the Democratic base. (Z)

Four Ways Forward for Clinton

Now that the FBI has announced that it has more of Clinton's email as a result of its investigating Anthony Weiner, all the headlines involve the three items: "Clinton," "FBI," and "investigation," which is not good for her even if there is absolutely nothing to the story. Obviously, it doesn't do her any good to have the FBI announce in January: "Investigation completed. False alarm." Nate Silver has proposed four possible strategies Clinton could follow:

  • Demand more details from Comey right now, before the election
  • Rile up the Democratic base by accusing Comey of trying to influence the election
  • Lay low, let it pass, and hope for the best
  • If available, drop a big oppo research bomb on Trump

If Clinton has something big enough to dominate the news for the final week, probably Monday or Tuesday is the time to drop it. (V)

Democrats Vigorously Attack Comey

The initial reaction of top Democrats seems to be combination of Silver's options 1 and 2. They are demanding that Comey immediately release all the new emails, most (or all) of which they believe are simply duplicates of emails already released. They are also accusing him of violating Justice Dept. policy of not commenting on, or releasing information about, ongoing investigations, and of doing so for partisan purposes.

Several top Democratic senators, including the ranking members of the Senate committees that oversee the Justice Dept., sent scathing letters yesterday to Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch, demanding more information and now.

Donald Trump, however, praised Comey, and said "It [the election] might not be as rigged as I thought." (V)

Trump Bragged about his Philanthropy but Gave Little

The Washington Post's David Fahrenthold has been dogging Donald Trump all year, and has written another piece about him. Trump has long boasted about how generous he is, and how much money he has given to charity. Fahrenthold has punctured Trump's balloon: He is great at taking credit for charity, but it rarely involves his own money. For example, in 1996 there was an event for a charity that helped children with AIDS. Trump walked up to the front and was photographed standing with the big donors. Then he left. He hadn't given a penny to the charity before the event and didn't afterward. The actual donors were furious.

Some other items Fahrenhold uncovered in his months-long investigation: Trump promised to give away the proceeds of Trump University; he promised to donate his salary from "The Apprentice"; he promised to make donations to the favorite charities of the contestants on "Celebrity Apprentice"; and he promised to donate $250,000 to a charity that helps Israeli veterans. He did none of these things. After calling over 400 charities with some connection to Trump, Fahrenthold discovered that since 2008, Trump has made exactly one gift to a charity, in 2009, and it was under $10,000.

The only charity to which Trump has made major donations ($5.5 million) is the Trump Foundation. But the foundation has received $9.3 million from other people. And most of its work directly benefited Trump. For example, the largest gift it ever made, $264,631, was to renovate a fountain at a Trump-owned hotel. The smallest gift ever was $7, to the Boy Scouts, at a time when his 11-year-old son had just joined the organization, which at the time cost $7. He also used the foundation's money to settle legal disputes and make donations to politicians who were in a position to help or harm him. In short, he rarely fulfilled his promises, and the one charity he did donate to, his own foundation, didn't do much actual charity work. (V)

GOP Braces for a Multidimensional Civil War

Republican leaders are studying the collapse of the Whig Party in the mid-19th century to avoid a similar fate. It's that bad. Some party elders, like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Mitt Romney, are trying to assert some authority, but Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) summed up the problem by saying: "I just think people are looking for something more new than just retraining old dogs." He said that the 13 million Republicans who voted for Donald Trump are not going away if Trump loses on Nov. 8 and the party has to deal with that. The battle for control of the party will have many fronts: in the Senate, the House, the RNC, and the studios of Fox News (and maybe Trump TV). In 2018, there will be primary battles with Trumpeters vs. non-Trumpeters. For example, Arizona state senator Kelli Ward has already announced a 2018 primary challenge to Sen. Jeff "Flake the Snake" Flake (R-AZ), for his lack of support for Trump.

The battles will focus on what it means to be a Republican. Will it be the party of Ronald Reagan (lower taxes, higher defense spending), the party of George W. Bush (hawkish foreign policy), or the party of Donald Trump (no more immigrants, no trade deals)? One Republican said that the party resembles a multiparty European parliament, with multiple overlapping and conflicting factions and alliances.

Another big issue will come up if Hillary Clinton is elected president. To what extent, if any, should the Republicans work with her—for example on tax policy and immigration? Conservatives are likely to demand total obstruction, but moderate governors and senators, such as Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), Gov. John Kasich (R-OH), Gov. Charlie Baker (R-MA), and Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD), are likely to have very different ideas on cooperating with the Democrats. Republican pollster Dan Judy put it like this: "This is kind of like a forest fire. Either something healthier is eventually going to grow back from it, or it's just going to burn everything down to the ground. I'm just not sure which it's going to be yet." (V)

Obama Got Zero Votes in at Least 38 Precincts in 2012

There were 49 precincts in which Mitt Romney got zero votes in 2012, which has led some Republicans to say the vote must have been rigged. Now a new study shows that there were at least 38 precincts in Kansas and Texas where Obama received zero votes in 2012. Only precincts in which 20 or more votes were cast were included in the study, so there might have been more (very small) precincts in which Obama didn't get a single vote.

The clear conclusion is that the country is very polarized, geographically. There are areas where one party or the other so dominates that all the votes could go to the popular party without anything being rigged, and it works both ways. (V)

Voter Fraud Is Already Underway

It turns out that Donald Trump was right, in a manner of speaking, when he warned about the possibility of illegitimate votes being cast. In fact, it's already happened in Iowa, during the early voting period. There are two mitigating factors there that weaken The Donald's argument, however. First is that a grand total of three fraudulent votes have been cast, and, they are the only such votes in Iowa in the last 12 years. Second is that all three votes were for Trump.

Terri Rote, who is the first of the trio to be arrested and charged, says that she voted twice because the polls are "rigged," and that she was convinced her first vote would be counted for Hillary Clinton. Rote has been an eager attendee at Trump rallies, and also regularly takes to Facebook to post inflammatory messages, with "those blacks" being a favorite target. In any event, the speed with which Rote's misdeeds were discovered illustrates something we and others have said many times: These days, it is very hard to cast fraudulent votes. (Z)

About Those Odds-of-Winning Projections

There are quite a few sites out there giving "odds" that Hillary Clinton will win the presidency, and they are all over the place. Nate Silver and FiveThirtyEight actually have three different calculations, which give Clinton a 79%, 81.1%, and 80.4% chance, respectively. The New York Times pegs it at 91%, while PredictWise says it's 87%, and the Princeton Election Consortium thinks it's 99%. This is an enormous spread—20 points!—and they obviously can't all be right. In fact, they can't even all be close. Slate's staff, for their part, has thrown up their hands and decided to average all the others, giving Clinton an 86% chance of winning.

What this really shows us is how meaningless and imprecise such "odds" really are. Even the most outlying of state/national polls don't have a 20-point spread. It's also not clear what exactly these odds are even predicting. Is PredictWise (to use them as an example) telling us that if the election was held today, Hillary Clinton would win 87 times out of 100? Or is it telling us that if we "ran" the election until the end 100 times, Hillary Clinton would win 87 of those trials? Those are actually very different things, but they are blended together as one in these projections.

When it comes to projecting the outcome on November 8, there is really only one question: How accurate are the polls? If they are correct (or even close), then Donald Trump's chances of winning are 0.0%. You cannot beat the odds as many times as he would need to win with numbers like his—it would be tantamount to flipping a coin and having it come up heads something like 60 times in a row. Now, it is certainly possible that the polls are in error, but those errors would largely be the result of factors that have no historical analogue, namely (1) the challenges of polling in a "cell phone world," and (2) some sort of "Trump" effect, wherein respondents are unwilling to admit their support for The Donald except in a secret ballot. No amount of historical data about Warren Harding or Adlai Stevenson or George McGovern or Jimmy Carter will allow these factors to be corrected for. And that is something you can be 100.0% certain about. (Z)

Trump 2020?

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich yesterday floated the idea that in the event of a narrow Trump loss in November, Trump might just keep campaigning for four more years and run again in 2020. Gingrich said that Trump enjoys holding big rallies and shooting from the hip. He doesn't need to work, so what better way to spend the next four years than bitterly attacking Hillary Clinton every day? Of course, some people in the Republican Party might have other ideas about who the candidate should be in 2020 in the event of a Clinton victory in November, but Gingrich didn't discuss that. (V)

Who Owns Trump's E-mail List?

GOP leadership has undoubtedly been counting the days until Donald Trump is, blessedly, out of their lives. But even if he doesn't return for another go-round in 2020 (at age 74), he might not be fading quietly into the night. The Trump campaign has, almost despite itself, collected an incredibly valuable trove of data: the e-mail addresses and contact information of his donors. Many of these individuals have not been previously engaged in the process, at least not to the point of giving up their hard-earned dollars. At the standard rate of $3 to $8 for each "live" contact, Trump's list would be worth between $36 million and $112 million.

The question, however, is: "Who owns the list?" To nobody's surprise, Trump says that he owns it, and the GOP leadership says that they own it. Each of them has a case, since Trump's team built the database, but from a foundation provided by the Republican Party. Neither Trump nor the Party has shown any compunction in the past about going to court to defend their turf, so Democrats should get their popcorn ready for what looks to be a messy divorce. (Z)

The Funniest Political Ad of the Year

The funniest political ad of the year isn't in Ohio or North Carolina or or Florida. It is in—Denmark. And it can really move people. Take a look. (V)

Today's Presidential Polls

The polls are mostly good for Hillary Clinton, but these were all taken before the FBI announcement, so any effect caused by it isn't reflected here. (V)

State Clinton Trump Johnson Start End Pollster
Florida 46% 45% 4% Oct 26 Oct 27 Emerson Coll.
North Carolina 48% 45% 4% Oct 26 Oct 27 Emerson Coll.
Nevada 44% 42% 3% Oct 26 Oct 27 Emerson Coll.
Ohio 45% 45% 6% Oct 26 Oct 27 Emerson Coll.
Wisconsin 48% 42% 9% Oct 27 Oct 28 Emerson Coll.

Today's Senate Polls

Good news for the Republicans in North Carolina and Nevada, although Emerson seems to have a Republican house effect, so these should be taken with a grain of salt. (V)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Florida Patrick Murphy 47% Marco Rubio* 49% Oct 26 Oct 27 Emerson Coll.
North Carolina Deborah Ross 44% Richard Burr* 48% Oct 26 Oct 27 Emerson Coll.
Nevada Catherine Cortez-Masto 44% Joe Heck 48% Oct 26 Oct 27 Emerson Coll.
Ohio Ted Strickland 35% Rob Portman* 49% Oct 26 Oct 27 Emerson Coll.
Wisconsin Russ Feingold 49% Ron Johnson* 44% Oct 27 Oct 28 Emerson Coll.

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Oct29 Clinton's E-mails Rear Their Ugly Head Again
Oct29 Economy Does Well in Third Quarter
Oct29 Philadelphia Suburbs Are Going Strongly to Clinton
Oct29 Trump Donates $10 Million to His Campaign
Oct29 States Are Not Prepared for a Cyber attack on Election Day
Oct29 Former Miss Finland says Donald Trump Sexually Assaulted Her
Oct29 Kaine Threatens Nuclear Option if Supreme Court Nominee is Blocked
Oct29 Kirk Blunders Badly in Debate with Duckworth
Oct29 Rubio Won't Say If Trump Is a Good Role Model
Oct29 Biden: Thanks, But No Thanks
Oct28 Cruz Suggests Leaving Supreme Court Vacancy Open Indefinitely
Oct28 It's Not Just the Supreme Court, Though
Oct28 A Surprise Secretary of State Candidate
Oct28 Trump Has Three Major Voter Suppression Programs in Place
Oct28 Clinton Raises $100 Million in October; Trump Much Less
Oct28 The South Is Not as Red as It Used to Be
Oct28 Is the Koch Brothers' Network in Decline?
Oct28 Today in Self-Delusion
Oct28 Donald Trump's Star is Fading
Oct28 Did Hillary Clinton Just Luck Out in Getting a Weak Opponent?
Oct28 New Ad Not Negative
Oct27 Early Voting Favors Clinton in Key States
Oct27 More National Polls Favor Clinton
Oct27 Republicans Abandon Trump, Try to Save Senate
Oct27 Paul Ryan May Be in Big Trouble
Oct27 Trump Takes Time Off to Publicize His New Hotel
Oct27 Trump Says He Will Be Donating to His Campaign
Oct27 Trump Attacks Obamacare
Oct27 Trump May Be Causing Irreparable Damage with Women
Oct27 Women Officeholders Poised to Make Big Gains on Election Day
Oct27 WikiLeaks Dump Shows Clintons May Have Profited from Foundation
Oct27 Early Voting Favors Clinton in Key States
Oct27 More National Polls Favor Clinton
Oct27 Republicans Abandon Trump, Try to Save Senate
Oct27 Paul Ryan May Be in Big Trouble
Oct27 Trump Takes Time Off to Publicize His New Hotel
Oct27 Trump Says He Will Be Donating to His Campaign
Oct27 Trump Attacks Obamacare
Oct27 Trump May Be Causing Irreparable Damage with Women
Oct27 Women Officeholders Poised to Make Big Gains on Election Day
Oct27 WikiLeaks Dump Shows Clintons May Profited from Foundation
Oct26 Florida Is Slipping Away from Trump
Oct26 Powell's with Her
Oct26 Trump Received $17 Million from Insurance Company after Minor Damage to Mar-a-Lago
Oct26 Trump Hasn't Put the $100 Million He Promised into His Campaign
Oct26 Trump Launches Nightly Facebook Newscast
Oct26 Trump Stops Fundraising for the RNC
Oct26 Conway: I Can't Take Away a Grown Man's Twitter Account
Oct26 Trump Wants to Fight Biden
Oct26 Donald Trump Once Hosted Scandalous Parties