Clinton 289
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Ties 4
Trump 245
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Click for Senate
Dem 51
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GOP 49
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  • Strongly Dem (164)
  • Likely Dem (58)
  • Barely Dem (67)
  • Exactly tied (4)
  • Barely GOP (81)
  • Likely GOP (58)
  • Strongly GOP (106)
270 Electoral votes needed to win This date in 2012 2008
New polls: CA FL ME NC NV NY
Dem pickups vs. 2012: (None)
GOP pickups vs. 2012: CO IA NV OH

$258,000 of Trump Foundation's Money Went to Settle Personal Legal Issues

A scoop from the Washington Post has revealed that Donald Trump used $258,000 of his foundation's money to settle lawsuits related to his for-profit businesses. Taking money from a charitable foundation for personal use is called "self-dealing," and is a federal crime. And in Trump's case, it wasn't even his own money. He got other people to donate to his foundation, then used the money for political or personal purposes. His foundation's donation of $25,000 to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, followed by her decision to drop the fraud case against Trump University, is already well known but now there is more.

In one case, Trump was fined $120,000 by the town of Palm Beach, FL for violating a city ordinance. The town agreed to waive the fine if he would donate $100,000 to a veterans charity. The Trump Foundation made the donation, which would have been self-dealing even if the money in the Foundation were Trump's, which it wasn't.

In a second case, Trump offered a prize of $1 million to anyone who hit a hole-in-one in a charity tournament at Trump's golf course in Westchester County, NY. A man named Martin Greenberg did it, but Trump refused to pay because the shot didn't go 150 yards. Greenberg sued Trump. Trump settled the suit by having his foundation pay a charity of Greenberg's choosing $158,000. This is the very definition of self-dealing. The Post uncovered numerous other examples by examining the Trump Foundation's tax records, which are public. Over 12,000 comments have been posted to this article. (V)

Ethics Lawyers, Scientists Speak Out Against Trump

Recently, we noted that the intelligence community, Republican and Democrat, has lined up against Trump. It turns out that they are not the only ones. Richard Painter was chief ethics lawyer for George W. Bush (2005-07), and Norman Eisen was chief ethics lawyer for Barack Obama (2009-11). They have penned an editorial asserting that a President Trump would be inherently ethically compromised. They break their analysis up into specific areas of concern, briefly summarized here:

  • Opacity: Government should be transparent; Trump hates transparency
  • Lack of Divestment: Trump will not, and cannot, separate himself from his business interests
  • Domestic Conflicts: Trump's domestic policy could easily be crafted to favor his financial interests
  • Foreign Conflicts: Same for his foreign policy
  • Legal Exposure: Each time the Trump Organization took payment from a foreign entity, it might break the law
  • Veracity: Trump has issues with the truth

Painter and Eisen do not deny that Hillary Clinton would have some ethical challenges to overcome, but they feel those pale in comparison to Trump's. Their conclusion:

To be sure, counsel for a President Hillary Clinton would have to address actual or apparent conflicts posed by the Clinton Foundation, but those have been disclosed and publicly vetted. They are nowhere near as obscure, profound and dangerous as Trump's. The ethics lawyer who would have President Trump as his or her client would face a far more daunting task than either of us—or any of our colleagues in recent years—has ever confronted.

Also on Wednesday, 375 of the world's leading scientists—headlined by Stephen Hawking—published an open letter warning of the dangers of a Trump presidency. They are particularly concerned about his views on global warming, and his stated intention to abandon the Paris Accord. They write:

[I]t is of great concern that the Republican nominee for President has advocated U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Accord. A "Parexit" would send a clear signal to the rest of the world: "The United States does not care about the global problem of human-caused climate change. You are on your own." Such a decision would make it far more difficult to develop effective global strategies for mitigating and adapting to climate change. The consequences of opting out of the global community would be severe and long-lasting—for our planet's climate and for the international credibility of the United States.

So, that's foreign policy experts, ethics experts, and scientific experts that have all jumped ship. He still has the white supremacists, though. (Z)

Terrorist Acts Don't Help Trump

There has been a presumption that one of the potential "October Surprises" that could carry Donald Trump to victory is a terrorist attack on American soil. Well, we just had one (more than one, actually), and they don't appear to be moving the needle in the Donald's favor. And actually, as Slate's William Saletan points out, that's entirely consistent with other terrorist incidents this year.

Looking at polling numbers taken after the Paris, San Bernardino, and Orlando incidents, it is clear that Trump himself did not enjoy a bump in his numbers. In fact, a plurality of voters believed that his responses made things worse. Further, the attacks did not markedly change public opinion on related issues. For example, the number of Americans who said the country was "losing the fight against ISIS" was at 66% before Paris, 62% after Paris, and 57% after San Bernardino. Similarly, the attacks did not lead to increased support for sending more troops to Syria, for heightened surveillance, for banning Muslim immigrants, or for more gun control.

Adding it all up, it certainly seems that if Trump does need an October Surprise, it's going to have to come in the debates, or maybe from Wall Street. (Z)

Times Editor Confirms Change in Approach

On Tuesday, we noted an apparent shift in gears in the New York Times' coverage of Donald Trump, from a more dispassionate approach to a more critical approach. On Wednesday, executive editor Dean Baquet confirmed that this is the case, telling Quartz that:

I think our investigative work—see the [Sept. 17] story on Trump's tax breaks—has always been hard hitting. But we have decided to be more direct in calling things out when a candidate actually lies. The birther issue represents, well, outright lying. And he lied over a long period. It is a real word and we will use it when warranted.

For the people who would not care if Donald Trump shot someone on Fifth Avenue, this will not matter. For the independents and the fence-sitters, on the other hand, more critical media coverage could certainly help them make up their minds as the contest reaches its conclusion. (Z)

Donald Trump, Jr. Gets More Blowback about Skittles Tweet

On Monday, Donald Trump, Jr. sent out a tweet comparing Syrian refugees to a bowl with poisoned candy in it. This lit the Internet up with comments that refugees are people, not candy. Now it has gotten worse. Yesterday, the manufacturer of Skittles took a potshot at Trump. Then the photographer who took the photo of the bowl of Skittles that Trump posted, David Kittos, revealed that (1) he himself is a refugee from Cyprus and (2) Trump used his photo without his permission, which is a violation of copyright law. Kittos thought about suing Trump for damages, but is not sure if he has the patience. (V)

Trump Disparages Black Communities

Campaigning in North Carolina on Thursday, Donald Trump had some harsh words about black communities. "We're going to rebuild our inner cities," he said, "because our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape that they've ever been in before. Ever. Ever. Ever."

First of all, this is exceedingly ahistorical. Back in the 1950s when America was "great," for example, most black communities were rigidly segregated, and were often targeted for acts of violence. And that's before we talk about the atrocities of the 19th century, like lynchings and slavery. As President Obama observed, Trump must have, "missed that whole civics lesson about slavery or Jim Crow."

Beyond that, we can now be confident that Trump's talk of helping black Americans is not about collecting a few black votes, but about reaching out to white voters who don't want to think of themselves as racist. Telling voters how badly they and their communities are doing is hardly an effective way to curry favor, as it's insulting. Further, Trump's remarks were delivered to a nearly all-white audience, who nodded very approvingly at what The Donald had to say. It's no surprise that among black voters, he is in fourth place, trailing not only Hillary Clinton, but also Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. (Z)

Local Issues Dominate North Carolina Races

North Carolina has become one of the most important swing states, probably third after Florida and Ohio. Furthermore, not only is there a hotly contested presidential race there, but equally hotly contested Senate and gubernatorial races as well. Despite all this, North Carolina politics this year are dominated by two local, rather than national issues. Immigration, walls, foundations, and the like are all small potatoes compared to bathrooms and voting laws.

The first issue is HB 2, the law signed earlier this year by Gov. Pat McCrory (R-NC) that states (among other things) that people must use the (public) bathroom that corresponds to the gender on their birth certificates. Liberals and young people strongly support the rights of transgender people and oppose the law. Conservatives and older people strongly support the law. The battle is for the soul of the state. Is North Carolina going to become a blue state, like Virginia has become and Maryland has long been, or is it going to stay a Southern red state, like South Carolina?

The second contentious issue is the law the state legislature passed and the governor signed that makes voting harder, especially for minorities. One of its provisions—eliminating same day registration and voting—is widely used by unregistered black voters. When the law was passed, the Democrats sued. They have won the early rounds in the courts, but the last word has yet to be said, and probably won't be said until the Supreme Court once again has an odd number of justices.

Many people in the state are going to cast their votes based on these issues, rather than who the presidential candidates are and what their policy positions are. Nevertheless, both Clinton and Trump are frequently in the state campaigning. (V)

Karl Rove: Electoral Map Favors Clinton

Karl Rove, George W. Bush's top political adviser and now chairman of the Crossroads super PAC, believes that the electoral map favors Hillary Clinton. Rove said that Trump has to start by winning all the Romney states, and three of them (North Carolina, Arizona, and Georgia) are very close. Then he must win Florida and Ohio. That still leaves him 17 EVs short. Rove thinks Trump will win Iowa and Nevada, but then he still needs 5 more, so even adding New Hampshire (4 EVs) is not quite enough. It will be a tough battle for The Donald. (V)

Trump Says that Holt Will Be Fair

Donald Trump said yesterday that Lester Holt will do a good job of moderating next week's debate, even though he is a Democrat. Actually, Holt has been a registered Republican since 2003. The combination of Trump's remark and Holt's party registration will make it harder for Trump to blame Holt after the debate if Holt serves up some questions Trump doesn't like. (V)

Senators Sniping at Each Other Over Judicial Nominees

The big story, as regards the appointing of judges, is Merrick Garland. But as we have pointed out, there are a lot of seats on the lower courts open, leaving Barack Obama's nominees twisting in the wind. 53 of them, in fact. And it's making the Democrats cranky. "These are supposed to be nonpolitical positions," said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), a member of Senate Judiciary Committee. "I've been here longer than anybody else, I've never seen anything so irresponsible." Senate Republicans argue that Obama has actually had more nominees confirmed than George W. Bush did (which is true, 327 to 325), but Democrats observe that Obama has had 60 more vacancies occur than Bush did.

The logjam is not likely to be cleared before Obama leaves office, particularly since Congress will be on break for most of his remaining days. However, if the Democrats gain control of the Senate, it could persuade them to adopt the proposal put forward by Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), which calls for all judges to be voted on within 180 days of their names being sent to the Senate. Whether that happens or not, the next president is likely to have an opportunity to put their stamp on the judiciary very quickly. (Z)

We Are Removing the Ipsos Polls from the Database

Ipsos has been conducting Internet polls of many states. Since some of these states have been rarely polled, our first reaction was to include the polls in our database. However, our second reaction is that maybe this wasn't such a great idea. Internet polling is in its infancy and is very hard to pull off, because even if one could take a true random sample of all Internet users (which is totally impossible), then the pollster still has to deal with the fact that the demographics of the Internet are not a good match for the demographics of the electorate. Fixing the problem requires elaborate statistical techniques and a very good model of the electorate.

We ran an analysis yesterday as follows: We first removed all the Ipsos polls and then ran the software to calculate the map. Then we removed all the non-Ipsos polls and did it again. Ideally, they should be quite similar, indicating that Ipsos is getting more-or-less the same results as the other pollsters. That's not what we found. In nine of the 44 states Ipsos has polled, the Ipsos and non-Ipsos results differ by 10 or more points. That is way outside the margin of error (usually about 4%). In 21 states, the difference between Ipsos and non-Ipsos was 5 points or more. Based on this analysis, we have decided to retroactively remove all the Ipsos polls from the database and not use its Internet polls going forward.

Interestingly enough, Ipsos is not biased. Averaged across all states, Ipsos favors the Democrats by a very small margin: Only 0.70%. That is fine. Except that it gets this small margin by having large errors cancel out. For example, Ipsos has Arkansas 18 points less Republican than the others, but has Texas 15 points more Republican than the others. Given all the problems with telephone polling, Ipsos is to be credited for trying to improve matters, but it hasn't quite figured out how to do it yet. For the time being at least, we will continue to include Internet polls from SurveyMonkey and YouGov when they are sponsored by major media outlets which (we hope) carefully watch what their pollsters are doing. (V)

Today's Presidential Polls

Interesting result in Maine. If Hillary Clinton loses there, it will be a first for a Democrat since the 1980s. Given that every other poll of the Pine Tree State has her up by a comfortable margin, however, this one's probably just an outlier. (Z)

State Clinton Trump Johnson Start End Pollster
California 50% 33% 5% Sep 07 Sep 13 YouGov
Florida 46% 41% 6% Sep 16 Sep 19 Monmouth U.
Maine 37% 37% 11% Sep 15 Sep 17 MPRC
North Carolina 43% 44% 6% Sep 12 Sep 16 Elon U.
Nevada 39% 42% 11% Sep 16 Sep 18 Rasmussen
New York 51% 30% 8% Sep 11 Sep 15 Siena Coll.

Today's Senate Polls

Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-FL) needed some good news, and he got it. However, he would probably prefer that the favorable poll come from an outlet based in Florida, as opposed to one in New Jersey. (Z)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Florida Patrick Murphy 45% Marco Rubio* 47% Sep 16 Sep 19 Monmouth U.
Illinois Tammy Duckworth 41% Mark Kirk* 36% Sep 13 Sep 16 Loras College
New York Chuck Schumer* 69% Wendy Long 23% Sep 11 Sep 15 Siena Coll.

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep20 50 Days and Counting
Sep20 Most Americans Never See How Nasty the Campaign Is
Sep20 Bush 41 to Vote for Clinton
Sep20 Trump Smashes GOP Small-Donor-Fundraising Record
Sep20 Trump Calls U.S. Leaders Stupid
Sep20 Journalists May Be Shifting Gears on Trump
Sep20 Topics for the First Debate Announced
Sep20 Trump's Tax Plan May Cost $1.5 Trillion More than He Says
Sep20 Trump, Jr. Compares Refugees to Skittles
Sep20 Politics Makes It Unlikely that Garland Will Be Confirmed
Sep20 Senate Races Updated
Sep20 Why Clinton Lost
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