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Political Wire logo A Rattled Trump Scrambles for Victories
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Trump Pushes Out His Personal Assisant
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Note: Due to a hardware failure at the data center yesterday, we were down for an hour in the afternoon while the admins were frantically trying to deal with it. Sorry about that, but there was nothing we could do about it.

Biden Answered Questions from Black Reporters for an Hour and a Half

Black voters are generally strong supporters of Joe Biden and he sure wants to keep it that way. Yesterday, he had a private meeting with a dozen black reporters from major media outlets and he held forth answering all the questions for 90 minutes. It started off being off the record, but Biden quickly changed his mind and put it on the record, so the reporters could quote him directly in their stories.

One of the things he said was that as a reflection of the nation's diversity, he would pick a running mate who was either a woman or a minority or both. Stacey Abrams got up and shouted "Whoopee!" No, not really. She wasn't there. But it is an open secret that Biden has met with her and that she turned down a chance to run against Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) in 2020, probably in part because she realizes that if Biden gets the nomination, she is already on his short list of veep candidates. Biden also said that he wanted a running mate who is on the same page as he is on the issues. Abrams certainly meets that test. He also made the point that there is so much for a president to do these days that he would give the veep serious projects to work on (English translation: Get the veep up to speed in advance in case the veep were to get an unexpected and sudden promotion).

He also said that he likes debating on the national stage. His first debate performance was a disaster, but his second one was pretty good and everyone seems to have forgotten the first one already. However, the real test will come in September when he has to face Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT) at the same time (see below).

In almost every poll, Biden does better with black voters than the actual black candidates, Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA). When the reporters asked him "How come?" he didn't know. But he pointed out that there is much in his record for them to like and having been Barack Obama's sidekick for 8 years surely does not hurt. Meetings like this one are very important to Biden because Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are trying very hard to make inroads with black voters, for the most part by pointing to their policy proposals on economic policy, criminal justice reform, and other items of special interest to black voters. (V)

Two New Polls: Biden Is Back on Top

That Monmouth University poll showing Elizabeth Warren leading nationally was probably a fluke. Two new polls, one from Quinnipiac University and one from Suffolk University, put Biden back in the lead, where he has been all year. If nothing else, this should show you not to trust any one poll. Not only is there the danger of a statistically unlikely sample, but the pollster's model of the electorate could be off. Here are the results for all candidates who scored above 1% in at least one of the two polls.

Candidate Quinnipiac Suffolk
Joe Biden 32% 32%
Elizabeth Warren 19% 14%
Bernie Sanders 15% 12%
Kamala Harris 7% 6%
Pete Buttigieg 5% 6%
Andrew Yang 3% 3%
Beto O'Rourke 1% 2%
Cory Booker 1% 2%

There are some clear conclusions here. The top three are Biden, Warren, and Sanders, with Biden currently in the lead. These three could very well end up duking it out. For any of the others, it is going to be a tough slog. (V)

Only 10 Candidates Qualify for the Third Debate

By raising the bar for getting on stage in the September debate, the DNC hoped to winnow the field. To make the cut for debate 3, a candidate had to poll at 2% or more in four qualifying polls and have 130,000 donors. The new criteria seem to have done their job. Only 10 candidates made it, so there will be only one debate evening in September, with all the candidates on stage. Bye, Marianne! Go write another book or something. So long Senator Provolone, your presidential hopes have melted. All but one of the September debaters have been elected to public office at least once. The minor players were hoping that the Quinnipiac and Suffolk polls would be their life preservers, but it wasn't meant to be. All the candidates listed in the table above made it, as well as Julián Castro and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN), who had already qualified.

In short, silly season is over and now the race is between serious candidates, plus Yang, who is a single-issue candidate. He wants the government to give every American $1,000 a month for free and end all other "welfare-type" programs. The idea is not totally nutty. As automation takes over more and more jobs, how are millions of dislocated people going to live? His solution is to give everyone a universal basic income. If anyone wants more, they have to work. By making it plausible for able-bodied adults to opt out of the workforce, it may be possible to get the number of people seeking work and the number of jobs available in balance after self-driving cars and trucks and A.I.-enabled office work hit hard. The problem, beyond the fact that the idea is about 20 years ahead of its time, is that Yang can't quite convince people he can pay for it.

The winnowees are not happy campers. A few got the message and dropped out voluntarily, but some of the refuseniks started griping that it is unfair to expect someone who wants to be president to get 2% of Democrats as supporters. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), who was always the longest of longshots, sent a list of 11 questions to DNC Chairman Tom Perez demanding to know why DNC members were not consulted before the rules were imposed. Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT) said that the arbitrary rules eliminated the only Democrat who has won a statewide election in a red state. On the other hand, some Democratic officials are weary of having to humor nearly two dozen wannabee presidents who have close to no support in either the early states or in the national polls. A DNC spokeswoman, Xochitl Hinojosa, said: "There have been 21 qualifying polls. That is 21 opportunities to reach 2 percent in four polls. That is not hard." In the end, the only long-term solution is to stop telling kindergarteners: "Anyone can be president" and start telling them: "Anyone can run for president, but only 0.000003% or so of Americans can actually be president." Or maybe the message has to wait until around fifth grade, or whenever percentages are taught.

The fourth debate is in October and has the same requirements as the third one. In principle, some of the candidates who didn't quite make the third debate could yet qualify, in which case the October debate would again be spread over two nights. But for candidates who won't be on the stage in September, it will be much harder to convince voters to donate to them or even tell a pollster they will vote for the candidate. The candidate closest to qualifying is billionaire Tom Steyer. He has already hit the 130,000 donor mark and has hit 2% in three polls. If he hits 2% in some September poll, he will qualify and we will probably be back to two nights. That means the top candidates could well be split over two nights again. If Steyer pulls that off, quite a few Democrats are going to be hopping mad at him, but right now all he cares about is buying his way onto the stage in October. (V)

Another Candidate Bites the Dust

They're dropping like flies. The latest candidate to go retrieve her hat and chuck it out of the ring is Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). On paper, she is a pretty good candidate. A senator from a big state who is liberal, but not too liberal. Her pitch was fighting for women's rights.In a party where more than half of the voters are women, that could have worked.

But that could also have been her Achilles heel. She almost single-handedly forced former Minnesota senator Al Franken out of the Senate. He didn't do anything that was Jeffrey Epstein-level (or even Donald Trump-level or Bill Clinton-level) bad, but some ill-advised photos taken for humorous effect and half a dozen claims of rear-end patting and other unwanted touching during photo-ops came to light at exactly the wrong time (i.e., in the midst of all the Hollywood sexual misconduct allegations and the Roy Moore Senate campaign). Under those circumstances, Gillibrand's standard was zero tolerance, and she became the first senator to call for his resignation, while also lobbying other senators to join the cause. The pressure on Franken grew to be so great, and the Democrats were so fearful that the appearance of hypocrisy on this issue would cost them the Alabama Senate race, that he was compelled to resign before an investigation could be conducted.

Gillibrand may well have been motivated by a real sense of concern. On the other hand, she's shown mercenary tendencies in the past, and she also neglected to fire a low-level staffer in her office when he was accused of sexual misconduct until Politico shone some light on the situaiton. So, maybe she was just trying to score some political points by going after Franken. Wherever the truth lies, Franken was a strong progressive and a possible presidential candidate. A lot of Democrats would have loved to see Trump debate against a professional comedian who was especially good at shooting off one-liners. Many of them hold her responsible for the Party losing a good senator and possible strong progressive candidate from the Midwest. In the end, this sentiment, and her other negatives meant she never polled much above 1-2%. Not making the third debate was the final nail in her coffin. (V)

Johnny Isakson Will Resign at the End of This Year

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) is in poor health and has announced that he will resign from the Senate at the end of this year. Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) will appoint a temporary successor. In Nov. 2020, there will be a special election to fill out the rest of Isakson's term, which ends in January 2023. Isakson has serious Parkinson's disease, took a bad fall in July, and had a growth removed from his kidney this week. All in all, it is too much for him to do his job in the Senate, even though that job consists of doing nothing because the entire Senate does nothing.

Since Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) is up for reelection in 2020, we will have two Senate elections next year, a situation we had in Minnesota and Mississippi in 2018. The state has voted Republican for years, but Stacey Abrams' near-win in the 2018 gubernatorial race has given Democrats hope that things are changing. For the Democrats, finding two top-flight candidates to run for the Senate could be challenging, especially as Abrams does not appear to be interested in running for either seat. Possible candidates are Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA), who flipped a red seat in 2018; Jimmy Carter's grandson, Jason Carter, who ran for governor in 2014; and Michelle Nunn, daughter of legendary former senator Sam Nunn, among others.

Another potential candidate for one of the two Georgia Senate seats is Jon Ossoff, who lost a House race to Karen Handel in a 2017 special election but attracted a massive amount of support from out of state. He is mulling a run.

Gov. Kemp has not indicated whom he will appoint to Isakson's seat, but Georgia has plenty of ambitious Republican politicians, and Kemp has plenty of time to make a choice. (V)

Trump Thinks of a New Way to Support Our Troops

Donald Trump doesn't like anything foreign and has found a new way to show it. He has just issued a rule stating that children of members of the armed forces stationed abroad to defend the country are no longer automatically American citizens. The rule also applies to the babies of civilian government employees working in embassies, consulates, and other official government offices outside the U.S. The rule goes into effect on Oct. 29. The parents of any children born abroad can apply for citizenship, but there are conditions the parents have to meet for it to be granted and not all service members and government employees qualify. It is a new and exciting way to thank the service members for risking their lives to defend the country.

Depending on the laws of the country in which the child is born, he or she could be stateless. Only a handful of countries recognize birthright citizenship, nearly all of them in the Western Hemisphere. Fiji, Tanzania, and Tuvalu are the only ones outside the Western Hemisphere who recognize it in all cases, although Azerbaijan, Chad, Guinea-Bissau, and Luxembourg recognize it in some special cases. That could mean a child born to two U.S. service members in most of the world has no nationality at birth and cannot obtain a passport to travel anywhere, including to the United States.

No reason was given for the change, and the announcement was made pretty late in the day, so there wasn't much time for reporters to try to get to the bottom of it. That leaves us to speculate. As we noted a week ago, Trump and Stephen Miller really want to go after birthright citizenship, but they need to find a way to challenge United States v. Wong Kim Ark. It certainly looks like the administration is hoping that someone will challenge the new rules, that Team Trump will triumph in court, and then they will have a precedent available that weakens Wong Kim Ark by establishing that birthright citizenship is not absolute. If we're right—and again, we're just guessing here—then it's kind of a Hail Mary pass. Although sometimes, a Hail Mary pass is all you've got. And whatever the underlying reason is, the optics here are absolutely awful. It looks like the Trump Administration, in its quest to deny citizenship to as many people as possible, has thrown service members under the bus. The President's base may dislike foreigners, but they love veterans. Trump could learn the hard way, as Sen. Joe McCarthy did, that going after members of the armed forces is a red line that you do not cross. (V & Z)

GOP Pulls Out all the Stops in NC-09

Voters in North Carolina's 9th congressional district will soon head to the polls to pick their new member of Congress. The seat has been vacant since January, due to the tainted election results from Nov. of 2018 being tossed out. Polls have Dan McCready (D) and Dan Bishop (R) running close, but there haven't been many of them. Meanwhile, 54% of the early votes have been cast by Democrats, compared to 41% by Republicans. By way of comparison, the Republicans had a 46% to 42% lead at this point in 2018, before the razor-thin (less than 1,000 votes) and ultimately fraudulent finish.

Given all of this, Republicans are scared witless. If they were to lose an R+8 district just as campaign season is gearing up, it would send Democratic voters into fits of glee, and would have Republican voters wondering what's gone wrong, and whether it's worth it to waste their money on the 2020 cycle. So, the GOP is pulling out all the stops. The highest-ranking Republican in the House, Kevin McCarthy (CA), will campaign for Bishop, as will Vice President Mike Pence. For some odd reason, the most powerful Republican in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) hasn't announced a visit to NC-09 yet. Maybe it is related to the fact that he is the least popular of all 100 senators. But probably it is just "scheduling conflicts." Donald Trump has also scheduled a rally for the night before the election (though we remain skeptical that such events move the needle much, since they only attract true believers, anyhow). The election is Sept. 10. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug28 Trump Barely Even Trying to Avoid Conflicts of Interest Anymore
Aug28 FEC Rendered Toothless
Aug28 The Farmers Aren't Happy
Aug28 Deutsche Bank Clearly Has Trump's Tax Returns
Aug28 Trump Derides Republican Challengers as "Three Stooges"
Aug28 Warren May Still Have a "Pocahontas" Problem
Aug28 Wednesday Q&A
Aug27 Trump Barely Even Trying to Tell Plausible Lies Anymore
Aug27 Rough Day for Biden
Aug27 Obama Announces Anti-Gerrymandering Initiative
Aug27 Democrats Target State Legislatures
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Aug27 Rep. Sean Duffy to Retire
Aug27 Sarah Huckabee Sanders Launches Website
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Aug26 Trump Bumbles at the G7 Meeting
Aug26 DNC Votes Down Single-Issue Debates
Aug26 Trump Wants to Cut Social Security and Medicare in His Second Term
Aug26 Trump Could Pocket Millions If Interest Rates Go Down
Aug26 Trump Tries to Block Deutsche Bank from Giving Congress His Financial records
Aug26 Joe Walsh Is Officially Running for the Republican Presidential Nomination
Aug26 Poll: Americans Are as Angry Now as in 2015
Aug26 Senate Democratic Candidates Shun Medicare for All
Aug26 Jobs Number Is Revised Way Down
Aug26 David Koch Is Dead
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Aug23 Friday Q&A
Aug22 Poll: Public Perception of the Economy Is Getting Bearish
Aug22 Promises Made, Promises Kept?
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Aug22 Might Trump Get a Primary Opponent after All?
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