Clinton 274
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Ties 6
Trump 258
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Click for Senate
Dem 51
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GOP 49
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  • Strongly Dem (171)
  • Likely Dem (54)
  • Barely Dem (49)
  • Exactly tied (6)
  • Barely GOP (83)
  • Likely GOP (14)
  • Strongly GOP (161)
270 Electoral votes needed to win This date in 2012 2008
Dem pickups vs. 2012: NC
GOP pickups vs. 2012: CO FL IA NM OH

50 Days and Counting

The horse race is now hitting the home stretch; there are exactly 50 days left until the election, and Politico has produced an assessment of where things stand. What sticks out like a sore thumb is the imbalance in investment between the two candidates. As GOP operative David Kochel observes, "There has never been such a wide disparity in resource allocation as we're seeing in 2016."

One obvious area in which this distinction shows up is television commercials. Thus far, Hillary Clinton and her super PACs have dropped $244 million on TV advertising, compared to $33 million for Trump. That has translated into Clinton airing seven commercials for every one that Trump airs, covering nine battleground states to The Donald's four. It is far and away the biggest margin in recent memory; Obama 2012 faced a five-to-four margin while for McCain 2008 it was two-to-one.

Similarly, Clinton has vastly more ground game than Trump. In the swingiest states, Clinton usually outdoes Trump by a margin of two-to-one or more. For example, she has 250 staffers and 50 offices in Ohio; Trump has 110 and 30. She has over 250 staffers and 30 offices in North Carolina; he has 170 and 10. She has 100 staffers and 25 offices in New Hampshire; he has 50 staffers and a mere handful of offices. In less-swingy states, Trump often has little or no infrastructure.

Needless to say, these differences are a byproduct of the money the two campaigns have raised. Through the end of July, the last time FEC paperwork was due, Clinton and her allies had raised a combined $435 million while Trump and his allies had tallied $160 million. Trump's team is trying to catch up (see below), but it often takes a lot of money to raise money, such that he and his PACs would need to pile up something like $400 million to make up the $275 million gap.

Of course, the most important question is, "Will this matter?" The general perception is that ground game is worth 1-3 points on Election Day, while the value of television ads is more fungible. However, this election is not like others, both in terms of the candidates running, and in terms of the current state of the media. As Kochel notes, "The fact that the numbers have moved gradually in Trump's favor in spite of the onslaught of spending by Hillary causes a lot of head-scratching. But the voters are getting their information in a thousand different ways outside of the campaigns' control." (Z)

Most Americans Never See How Nasty the Campaign Is

If you live in, say, New York, California, Texas, or Tennessee, you probably have no idea how nasty the campaign has become. That's because the candidates are running their most brutal television ads only in the swing states. So far, Clinton is targeting about a dozen states while Trump is aiming at about half that number. The ads pull no punches. Here are two of them as examples.

A Clinton ad

A Trump ad

Clinton's ad features Republicans saying that Trump is dangerous and unfit to be president. In Trump's ad, a narrator solemnly intones that in Hillary Clinton's America the middle class gets crushed but in Donald Trump's America there are good jobs and high wages. And the ads are only going to get worse from here on. (V)

Bush 41 to Vote for Clinton

While the Bush family have been Republicans almost as long as there has been a Republican Party, they do have Democratic friends. And thanks to one of those friends, namely Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (daughter of RFK), the cat has been let out of the bag: George H. W. Bush is apparently planning to vote for Hillary Clinton.

This is not a terribly surprising development. Yes, the Bushes are Republicans, but George H. W. hails from the New England liberal-leaning wing of the party, the wing once led by (and named after) Nelson Rockefeller. Further, while Bush is loyal to the GOP, he is even more loyal to his son Jeb, who was treated shabbily by Donald Trump in the primaries. At the moment, Bush has no public comment on his voting plans. However, if it looks like it could be close, it is not impossible that he might change that stance. A formal endorsement, or a recorded campaign ad, would surely carry a fair bit of weight. (Z)

Trump Smashes GOP Small-Donor-Fundraising Record

Donald Trump didn't bother trying to get small donations during the primaries, but he is now making up for it with a vengeance. So far he has raised $100 million from donors who have given less than $200 each. No previous Republican has ever done as well with small donors. In 2012, Mitt Romney raised $64 million in donations under $200. Trump raised the money from 2.1 million donors, almost as many as Hillary Clinton's 2.3 million donors.

While Trump's pace is amazing for a Republican, it still pales beside the $484 million Barack Obama raised from small donors in 2012. It is also less than the $156 million Hillary Clinton has raised from small donors this year, through the end of July.

Trump is not running his digital fundraising operation from Trump Tower. He has outsourced the entire digital operation to a firm in San Antonio TX, Giles-Parscale, which has never been involved in a presidential campaign before. On the day that Trump visited Mexico, the campaign raised $5 million by running 107,000 different ad combinations on Facebook. The arrangement that Trump set up with Giles-Parscale and the RNC in May is that 20% of the money raised online goes to the RNC. Almost none of his donors know this. If they did, quite a few would not have donated.

Many of the digital ads offer a chance to have dinner with Trump, coffee with Ivanka Trump, lunch with Eric Trump, or something else donors might want. Some of the ads say that anyone donating $184 gets a signed copy of Trump's book The Art of the Deal. As a result of his digital operation, Trump now has a huge email list of people who donated to his campaign. The big question about it, however, is whether Trump's donors will be willing to donate to other Republicans in the future. (V)

Trump Calls U.S. Leaders "Stupid"

Yesterday, Donald Trump slammed the nation's leaders for the attacks that occurred in New York and New Jersey over the weekend, calling them "stupid." He said the attacks occurred because our leaders are weak and because they let in tens of thousands of immigrants. He went on to attack President Obama for his plan to admit 110,000 Syrian refugees over the next year. He also attacked Hillary Clinton for her plan to raise this number by 550%. Only she has no such plan.

Trump, however, has a plan. He is in favor of racial profiling. In other words, law enforcement officials should target people who have a Middle Eastern appearance. Yesterday, Trump lamented that the man accused of planting a bomb in New York on Saturday, Ahmad Khan Rahami, is getting treated in a great hospital and will be entitled to a great lawyer for his trial. Trump has previously suggested that people accused of terrorism, even U.S. citizens like Rahami, be tried by military tribunals rather than civilian courts. (V)

Journalists May Be Shifting Gears on Trump

For a very long time, the model used by journalists has been "We report. You decide." (Yes, it's a Fox News slogan now, but the philosophy predates Fox by decades). What this means is that reporters describe both sides of an issue or controversy, generally giving quotes from advocates on either side. Then, it is left to the reader to judge who is in the right.

The great weakness with this approach is that it essentially treats all sides as equally legitimate, and equally worthy of attention. That may be apropos with something like, say, tax policy, but it's not apropos for all subjects and all opinions. Donald Trump has taken particular advantage of this weakness in the system, using it to give credence to anything and everything he might say, regardless of how outrageous or counterfactual. Thus, we are left with stories like, "Donald Trump says he opposed Iraq War, Hillary Clinton says he didn't," or "Trump wants to build wall with Mexico, experts say it can't be done," or "Trump believes Obama was born in Kenya, Obama spokesman says he was not."

Now, as The Atlantic's Peter Beinart observes, the journalists seem to be warming to the idea that the old model may not work with Trump. He points, in particular, to the New York Times' coverage of Trump's "Obama was born in America" announcement. Their narrative of what happened on that day was buried on page 10. Meanwhile, their 1A story was essentially an editorial, documenting and dissecting the anatomy of what they called "a lie," "a deception," and "a falsehood." This is a far cry from "We report. You decide."

Though Beinart does not mention the Washington Post, they seem to have reached the same conclusion as the Times. Yesterday, we wrote about the growing willingness of GOP operatives to follow Trump's lead and to proclaim overt, easily disproven falsehoods. Our item almost made use of the concept of the "Big Lie," a propaganda technique in which one tells a lie so outrageous that people believe it because they think that it is impossible someone "could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously." Ultimately, we chose not to go there, because it's concept straight from the pen of Adolf Hitler. So, we shifted to George Orwell and 1984 instead. The Post, on the other hand, went there, using the concept as a means of assessing Trump's birther claims. Now, it's true that the piece is an editorial, and not a news story. Nonetheless, the implicit comparison between Trump and Hitler is something that newspapers would generally stay far away from, even in the editorials section.

It's hard to be sure if we're really seeing a sea change in Trump coverage and, if so, what might have caused it. The obvious answer to the latter part of the question is the disastrous Matt Lauer commander-in-chief forum, after which the "Today Show" host was excoriated for handling Trump with kid gloves. That certainly gave some cover to journalists who want to go a little rougher (or a lot rougher) on The Donald. In any case, the next (and perhaps last) real test of where the journalists now stand is the debates. As Beinart writes:

The next step is the debates. Since Trump has largely stopped giving interviews to anyone except campaign sycophants and celebrity lightweights, the debates may serve as his last encounter with actual journalists. Those journalists—Lester Holt, Martha Raddatz, Anderson Cooper and Chris Wallace—must be prepared to confront Trump in ways they've never confronted a candidate before. The more audaciously he lies, the more audaciously they must tell the truth. The risks of doing so are tremendous. The rewards are being able to say that when Donald Trump threatened American liberal democracy like no candidate in modern history, you met his challenge square on.

We're going to learn the answer in about a week (more below). (Z)

Topics for the First Debate Announced

NBC's Lester Holt has announced the topics for the first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, which will take place at Hofstra University on Sept. 26. They are:

  • America's direction
  • Achieving prosperity
  • Securing America

There will be six segments in the 90-minute debate, two on each topic. Holt didn't announce the order of the topics. They seem broad enough that almost any question about policy should fit in there somewhere. (V)

Trump's Tax Plan May Cost $1.5 Trillion More than He Says

The nonpartisan Tax Foundation has taken a new look at Donald Trump's tax plan and concluded that it may cost the government $1.5 trillion more than Trump says it will. The sticking point relates to so-called "pass-throughs." Some small (and a few large) businesses are set up so they are the personal property of one or more of the owners. These people are taxed at personal tax rates, with corporate taxes avoided, saving the owners money overall. The question that the Tax Foundation has now raised is whether these business will be taxed at the 15% rate Trump is proposing that businesses pay. If these pass-throughs are taxed at 15%, Trump's plan will cost the taxpayers $1.5 trillion more over 10 years than he said it would cost. This would require either more spending cuts or more debt or both. Trump has not been willing to answer the question of whether the 15% rate would apply to pass-throughs. (V)

Trump, Jr. Compares Refugees to Skittles

Donald Trump, Jr. made headlines yet again on Monday. And yet again, it was not in a good way. He tweeted out a Trump-Pence branded image featuring a bowl of Skittles. It included the text:

If I had a bowl of Skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful? That's our Syrian refugee problem.

Of course, the blowback was immediate, and fierce. Quite a few people tweeted images of actual Syrian refugees (or refugees of other sorts, such as Jews during World War II) accompanied by the text "These aren't skittles." A Clinton campaign spokesman blasted the tweet as "disgusting."

This marks the third time in a week that Trump, Jr. has (apparently) stepped in it. The first was his unusually frank admissions about his father's taxes. The second was his "gas chamber" joke. And now there's this. The perception in the media is that he's gotten a bit too big for his britches, and that the campaign needs to reel him in before he becomes a real liability. This is possible, but some of his "missteps" seem awfully calculated. For example, he did not "accidentally" spend an hour today designing a carefully laid-out, campaign-branded image. He likely doesn't even know how to create an image like that, as it has the fingerprints of a professional graphic designer all over it. The more probable explanation for the so-called missteps is that he's being used to say things that the campaign wants to get out there, without their being directly tied to Trump, Sr. (Z)

Politics Makes It Unlikely that Garland Will Be Confirmed

Raw politics makes it unlikely that President Obama's nominee to fill the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, Merrick Garland, will ever be confirmed. If Donald Trump wins the election, the current Republican-controlled Senate will just hold its breath and hope Trump names someone more conservative. If Clinton wins, chances are Garland will not be confirmed in a lame-duck session of the Senate after the election. The reasons are all political.

The argument is that if Clinton wins, the Republican Party will be in complete disarray, with Trump supporters and the establishment at each other's throats for the future of the party. From an ideological viewpoint, confirming Garland makes sense, since if Clinton gets to replace Scalia, she is likely to pick someone both more liberal and much younger than Garland, who is 63. But partisanship could get in the way. Any Republican senator who voted for Garland (if for no other reason than to stop Clinton from filling the seat) will be primaried in the future for voting for Obama's choice. The safest course for Republican senators afraid of a primary challenge is to vote against Garland, then when Clinton picks someone else, to vote against that person as well, and maybe even join a filibuster against Clinton's nominee. Such a strategy is most likely going to result in Clinton's getting her way, as the Republicans won't be able to hold the seat open for 4 years. So in the event of a Clinton victory, politics suggest the Republicans will end up with a younger and more liberal justice than they would have gotten by just accepting Garland. (V)

Senate Races Updated

We've updated our capsule summaries of all the Senate races to reflect the latest developments. The big stories of the last couple of weeks:

  • Alaska looks like it's going to become a free-for-all. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is running for reelection, trying to keep a seat that she last won as a write-in candidate after being primaried by tea partier Joe Miller. She could end up facing four viable opponents: Ray Metcalfe (the Democratic nominee), Margaret Stock (an independent with a very impressive resume), Miller (who's back, as the recently-chosen nominee of the Libertarian Party), and possibly former Democratic senator Mark Begich (who may run—wait for it—as a write-in candidate). 30% of the vote could very well win this thing.

  • John McCain is walking some very fine lines, particularly as regards (a) Donald Trump and (b) the minimum wage.

  • Democratic challenger Patrick Murphy in Florida, incumbent Republican Mark Kirk in Illinois, Democratic challenger Ted Strickland in Ohio, and incumbent Republican Ron Johnson in Wisconsin are doing badly enough that their parties either have already cut off the money (the two Republicans), or are close to doing so (the two Democrats).

  • Indiana is heating up, with Evan Bayh (D) trying hard to win back his senate seat, and Rep. Todd Young trying to claim it for himself. The mud is flying, and Young, who is fighting an uphill battle, is now campaigning with George W. Bush.

  • Louisiana is having a very Louisiana-style election. Among the entrants on Republican side are Reps. John Fleming and Charles Boustany. Now, a book has come out alleging that Boustany engaged the services of prostitutes who later, and very mysteriously, turned up dead. Apparently, someone has been watching The Godfather, Part II. Boustany denies the claim and says Fleming is behind it, while Fleming says he has no idea how such a rumor might have gotten started, and he sure hopes it's not true.

  • Jason Kander (D), who is challenging Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), was not pleased to be attacked for not knowing anything about guns. So, he filmed a commercial in which he discusses his views on the Second Amendment while assembling an AR-15 assault rifle. Blindfolded.

  • Sen. Pat Toomey's (R-PA) flip-flopping on guns has angered partisans on both sides of the issue, with the result that Katie McGinty (D) is the favorite to win in the Keystone State.

  • Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) is feeling some heat after revelations that he directed $200,000 in PAC funds toward family members. He did not break the letter of the law, but its spirit certainly took a beating.

  • Outside money is pouring into Nevada, Missouri, and North Carolina (to the benefit of both candidates, in all three cases) and New Hampshire (but only on behalf of Democratic challenger Maggie Hassan).

Overall, the Democrats look to be in very good position to retake the Senate in 2016. Then, odds are they will lose it in 2018. (Z)

Why Clinton Lost

Democrats tend to be worrywarts, and despite Hillary Clinton's structural advantage in the Electoral College (none of the 242 "blue wall" EVs are currently in danger), the first obituary explaining why Clinton lost is already out there. It is a buffet. You can have as much as you like from any of the nine dishes:

  • The media treated her every small misstep as breaking news and Trump was never called on his lies
  • The Russians hacked her phone (and probably her email server)
  • The millennials didn't get what they wanted, so they went off to sulk and not vote
  • Bernie Sanders should not have attacked her personally and should have withdrawn much earlier
  • Bill Clinton is past his sell-by date and couldn't close the deal
  • There are still lots of sexists out there, and the glass ceiling is made of gorilla glass
  • Obama people, like David Axelrod, did her in with their tweets
  • FBI director Comey indicted and convicted her in the court of public opinion
  • Debbie Wasserman Schultz's heavy thumb on the scale angered many Democrats

What the article doesn't mention, but we think is important, is that Hillary Clinton has been under ferocious attack from the right for decades. A lot of people (especially Fox News viewers) have bought into this and regard her as the devil incarnate. She made it worse by her circle-the-wagons mentality and her hostility to the media. If she has held a press conference every few weeks and answered all their questions completely and honestly, her public image would have been very different. (V)

Today's Presidential Polls

As we have noted previously, Ipsos utilizes Internet polling. That means they are stuck with whatever subset of voters happens to respond, regardless of how large or representative the sample might (or might not) be. To their credit, they acknowledge when their confidence level in their numbers is "low" or "moderate." Those labels were used liberally in the release that included today's numbers; we may have to revisit whether or not we include Ipsos in our database going forward. (Z)

State Clinton Trump Johnson Start End Pollster
Alabama 40% 53%   Aug 26 Sep 15 Ipsos
Arkansas 41% 51%   Aug 26 Sep 15 Ipsos
Arizona 39% 46%   Sep 02 Sep 15 Ipsos
California 63% 24%   Sep 09 Sep 15 Ipsos
Colorado 40% 43%   Sep 02 Sep 15 Ipsos
Connecticut 47% 37%   Aug 26 Sep 15 Ipsos
Delaware 43% 28%   Aug 26 Sep 15 Ipsos
Florida 41% 40% 9% Sep 10 Sep 14 Siena Coll.
Florida 46% 50%   Sep 09 Sep 15 Ipsos
Georgia 40% 48%   Sep 02 Sep 15 Ipsos
Georgia 42% 45% 8% Sep 15 Sep 18 Monmouth U.
Iowa 41% 49%   Aug 26 Sep 15 Ipsos
Idaho 32% 56%   Aug 26 Sep 15 Ipsos
Illinois 43% 30% 8% Sep 13 Sep 16 Loras College
Illinois 51% 36%   Sep 09 Sep 15 Ipsos
Indiana 33% 53%   Sep 02 Sep 15 Ipsos
Kansas 39% 49%   Aug 26 Sep 15 Ipsos
Kentucky 35% 54%   Aug 26 Sep 15 Ipsos
Louisiana 34% 54%   Aug 26 Sep 15 Ipsos
Massachusetts 53% 31%   Sep 02 Sep 15 Ipsos
Maryland 53% 29%   Sep 02 Sep 15 Ipsos
Maine 41% 40%   Aug 26 Sep 15 Ipsos
Michigan 44% 44%   Sep 02 Sep 15 Ipsos
Minnesota 44% 34%   Sep 02 Sep 15 Ipsos
Missouri 36% 53%   Sep 02 Sep 15 Ipsos
Mississippi 37% 51%   Aug 26 Sep 15 Ipsos
Montana 39% 52%   Aug 26 Sep 15 Ipsos
North Carolina 46% 44%   Sep 02 Sep 15 Ipsos
Nebraska 32% 51%   Aug 26 Sep 15 Ipsos
New Hampshire 48% 39%   Aug 26 Sep 15 Ipsos
New Jersey 49% 33%   Sep 02 Sep 15 Ipsos
New Mexico 38% 43%   Aug 26 Sep 15 Ipsos
Nevada 38% 41%   Aug 26 Sep 15 Ipsos
New York 53% 30%   Sep 09 Sep 15 Ipsos
Ohio 47% 44%   Sep 09 Sep 15 Ipsos
Oklahoma 32% 53%   Aug 26 Sep 15 Ipsos
Oregon 44% 41%   Aug 26 Sep 15 Ipsos
Pennsylvania 46% 44%   Sep 09 Sep 15 Ipsos
South Carolina 43% 51%   Aug 26 Sep 15 Ipsos
Tennessee 26% 50%   Sep 02 Sep 15 Ipsos
Texas 29% 51%   Sep 09 Sep 15 Ipsos
Utah 29% 48%   Aug 26 Sep 15 Ipsos
Virginia 47% 38%   Sep 09 Sep 15 Ipsos
Washington 47% 37%   Sep 02 Sep 15 Ipsos
Wisconsin 43% 40%   Sep 02 Sep 15 Ipsos
West Virginia 39% 49%   Aug 26 Sep 15 Ipsos

Today's Senate Polls

The judgment of the DSCC and RSCC will be coming soon, and will be righteous and swift. In other words, Murphy and Barksdale are likely to be on their own by the end of the month, while Ross and Burr can expect a nice infusion of cash. (Z)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Florida Patrick Murphy 42% Marco Rubio* 48% Sep 10 Sep 14 Siena Coll.
Georgia Jim Barksdale 34% Johnny Isakson* 50% Sep 15 Sep 18 Monmouth U.
North Carolina Deborah Ross 44% Richard Burr* 43% Sep 12 Sep 16 Elon U.

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep19 RNC May Penalize Republicans Who Don't Support Trump
Sep19 Republicans Embrace Trump's Approach to the Truth
Sep19 Clinton Struggles in Florida
Sep19 Democrats Concerned About Clinton's Latino Strategy
Sep19 Will Black Voters Turn Out for Clinton?
Sep19 North Korea Nuke Test Has Foreign Policy Experts Speaking Out About Trump
Sep19 Trump Campaign Last Stand for White Supremacists?
Sep19 Martha Stewart Will Vote for Clinton
Sep19 Could Weld Drop Out to Stop Trump?
Sep19 Worst President Ever?
Sep18 Trump Says Clinton Should Disarm Secret Service Detail
Sep18 Robert Gates Says Trump Is Beyond Repair
Sep18 Trump Has Received $885 Million in Tax Breaks
Sep18 Trump Threatens to Sue the New York Times
Sep18 New York Times Criticized for Coverage
Sep18 Silicon Valley Donors Are Flexing Their Political Muscles
Sep18 Veep Debate Stand-ins Named
Sep18 How the Cartels Will Defeat Trump's Wall
Sep18 Mark Cuban Offers Trump $10 Million for an Interview
Sep18 Ryan's Tax Plan May Slightly Favor the Rich
Sep17 Trump Concedes that Obama Was Born in the United States
Sep17 Response to Trump Birther Announcement is Swift
Sep17 Johnson and Stein Don't Make the Cut
Sep17 Bob Schieffer Gives Advice to Debate Moderators
Sep17 The Biggest Issue of the Campaign Is Entirely Missing
Sep17 Hillary Clinton Wasn't Always Like She Is Now
Sep17 Democrats Rallying Around Clinton
Sep17 Fraternal Order of Police Endorses Trump
Sep16 Can Clinton Win the Kids?
Sep16 How to Watch the Debates: Turn the Sound Off
Sep16 New Hampshire Union Leader Endorses Johnson
Sep16 Trump Explains His Economic Plans
Sep16 Trump, Jr. Has New Excuse for Why Dad Won't Release Taxes
Sep16 Trump Reverses Course on Birther Claims...Sort Of
Sep16 Ford Fires Back at Trump
Sep16 Trump Is Rising, but What Goes Up Can Also Come Down
Sep16 Virginia Supreme Court Sides with McAuliffe on Reenfranchising Felons
Sep16 Dr. Oz Show Edited Out Trump's Remarks about Kissing Ivanka
Sep16 Kochs Shift Gears
Sep15 President Trump Would Have Massive Conflicts of Interest
Sep15 President Trump Would Cost the U.S. $1 Trillion
Sep15 Both Candidates' Health Still Partially Shrouded in Mystery
Sep15 Melania Trump's Immigration History Still Shrouded in Mystery, Too
Sep15 New York Times Wants to Unseal Trump's Divorce File
Sep15 Springfield Ohio, A Town with No Hope
Sep15 Clinton to Return to the Campaign Trail Today
Sep15 RNC Was Hacked...or Not
Sep14 The Deplorable Duel
Sep14 About Clinton's Unforced Error
Sep14 Candidates and Aides Get Sick All the Time on the Campaign Trail