Needed 1991
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Sanders 935
Warren 81
Bloomberg 50
Buttigieg 26
Klobuchar 7
Gabbard 2
Remaining 1605
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White House Sidelines Surgeon General

Biden Sweeps Wyoming Caucus

Joe Biden easily won the Wyoming caucus with 72% of the vote to Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) 28%. Biden gets 10 delegates to Sanders' four. Sanders has dropped out and endorsed Biden, but is still trying to win as many delegates as he can.

In 2016, Sanders beat Hillary Clinton in Wyoming by a margin of 56% to 44%, so this year's performance is much worse. However, since Sanders has already conceded, it is not quite a fair comparison. Still, Wyoming continues to show that Sanders is the favorite of about a third of the Democrats in most states.

One disappointment for some Democrats is that Wyoming's shiny new ranked-choice voting system didn't get much of a workout with only two candidates left. On the other hand, turnout was pretty good at 15,428, which is about 38% of the ballots that were mailed out. Due to the fears of COVID-19, the caucus was entirely by mail this year. (V)

Voters Dump Trump Bump

When the COVID-19 pandemic first struck, many people rallied 'round the flag, and Donald Trump's approval rating shot up, actually passing 50% in some polls. The effect always wears off, but rarely so fast as this time. A new Gallup poll puts it back where it was pre-pandemic, at 43%, with his disapproval at 54%. This appears to be one of the fastest retreats in the history of polling. That is not surprising, since his rise was also one of the smallest (6 points). If you prefer a big-picture view, fivethirtyeight's poll of polls currently has Trump's approval at 44.1%. By way of comparison, on Feb. 20, he was at 44.0%.

There could be a secondary bounce as states start to reopen for business and the stock market goes up. On the other hand, if reopening businesses also increases the number of Americans who die of COVID-19, currently just over 40,000, it could drop again. Usually secondary effects are smaller than primary ones and the primary one this time was very small. So we are back to the stable scenario in which, according to 40-45% of the voters, Trump can do no wrong, and according to 50-55% of the voters, he can do no right. (V)

Trump's New Election Strategy: Run on Dividing the Country

Donald Trump keeps flailing around, looking for a good campaign strategy. At first it was the booming economy, until it stopped booming and 22 million people lost their jobs in a month. Then it was blaming Joe Biden for the coronavirus because he is somehow tied to China. That didn't fly so well, so now Trump has something else to hang his hat on.

That something is siding with the small number of people actively protesting the shelter-at-home rules imposed by Democratic governors in California, Michigan, Minnesota, and New York. The protesters want to reopen the economy and don't care whose grandma dies as a consequence of the COVID-19 flare-up that is sure to follow such action. Trump is now egging on the protesters, a group that largely overlaps with his base of blue-collar men. These people have lost their jobs to the lockdowns and want them back and don't want to hear about the consequences. By encouraging them, Trump is implicitly saying that the consequences will be minimal, even though no public health expert agrees with that. He is also explicitly saying "ignore what my administration says about COVID-19," since reopening the economy immediately is definitely not part of the official plan. (V)

Coronavirus Is Starting to Hit Red States

Up until now, COVID-19 has mostly hit blue states. It's not that it is playing favorites, but the blue states have far more international traffic than the red states (excepting Texas) and also higher population densities. These are the perfect conditions for the virus to spread. Red state governors have been smiling politely, knowing it wasn't their problem. Until it was.

In the past week, there have been huge spikes in coronavirus cases in red states, including South Dakota (+205%), Iowa (+82%), Nebraska (+74%), Arkansas (+60%), and Oklahoma (+53%). All of these states have Republican governors and none of them have stay-at-home orders.

The effects could be substantial. Pork-processing plants in South Dakota and chicken-processing plants in Iowa have reported many cases and have closed as a result. If more food-processing plants close, it could begin to drive food prices up, along with rural unemployment rates. Even more important, it would make the Republican governors look bad for not taking action for weeks. And finally, it would give further impetus to the "shut things down, and keep them shut down for a prudent amount of time" perspective, which is already a majority view in the United States, and is also the one the Democrats are standing on. One issue that will come up fast if red-state governors try to stop the virus will be the exact nature of their orders. Will they be "stay-at-home" orders or will they be "stay-at-home-or-in-church" orders? The latter will be much more popular in rural red states, but also will greatly increase the chances of the virus spreading. (V & Z)

Some Sanders Supporters Are Undecided

Many (young) supporters of Bernie Sanders are distraught and disappointed, and many of them don't know what they are going to do or whom they are going to vote for. While a poll last month said that 80% would ultimately grudgingly and with the greatest reluctance vote for Joe Biden, a story in the New York Times, based on interviews with two dozen of them, shows that they are extremely upset that their dream of radical change has been smashed merely because most Democratic voters don't like Sanders or his ideas. It's tough being young and thinking that you know how things ought to be and then discovering that most Democrats don't agree with you.

Their comments are sort of like a focus group. Mary Shippee (31) of Wisconsin said: "For the third election in a row, to have a candidate you're not excited about makes me a little more interested in voting third party." Te'wuan Thorne (24), currently in New York, said: "If I happen to be at my polling place (in Pennsylvania), I would vote for Biden, but I'm not very enthusiastic about him whatsoever." Nathaniel Kesselring (45) of Arizona said: "Progressives should not compromise on issues like Medicare for all and free public college tuition." Stephen Phillips (33) of Florida said of Joe Biden: "This guy is going to be running against Donald Trump, who off-the-cuff can destroy anybody with words." Victoria Waring (21) campaigned for Jill Stein in 2016, but won't campaign for Biden, saying: "How could I in good faith tell someone to vote for someone who I don't agree with on any issue?" Jacob Davids (21) of Wisconsin blamed Biden for his own ignorance: "I don't know his policies, and if you haven't put enough effort into P.R. and media to make viewers like me know where you stand, I'm not going to vote for you." Robert Grullon (29) of Florida said that Biden struck him as just another politician in a blue suit.

Nevertheless, it is still early in the general election campaign and November is 7 months away. It may take time to get over their grief. Many are still at denial, anger, bargaining, or depression. Acceptance may take a while. But if they see Donald Trump mismanaging the public health crisis that is upon us or calling for grandma to be sacrificed so the Dow Jones index can go up, they may finally get to acceptance by November. They will also be advised, over and over, that the winner in November is almost certain to pick Ruth Bader Ginsburg's replacement (and if he serves two terms, Clarence Thomas' too). That argument will not only persuade some of them, it will give them an "out" to resolve the cognitive dissonance that comes from voting for Biden, since they can tell themselves that they are not really voting for some establishment politico, they are voting for a justice who will influence jurisprudence for the next 40 years. Ginsburg may find it slightly annoying that the campaign is being waged as though she already had one foot in the grave, but she could have resigned in 2014 when Barack Obama was president and the Democrats had a majority in the Senate and she chose not to. (V)

A Nationwide Mail-in Election Is Not Likely to Happen

Many people are saying the November elections should be mail-in for the whole country. Then people wouldn't have to stand in line and take their lives in their hands as the coronavirus will not have disappeared by then. Even if a vaccine were discovered tomorrow, by the time it is tested and 330 million doses are manufactured, distributed, and administered, November will be history.

There are two reasons an all mail-in election won't happen. First, the Republicans don't want it because they think that high turnout helps the Democrats. Generally, that is true, though this year could be different. If people have to vote in person, it will be the old people (read: the Republican base) who will be hesitant to vote in person.

But there is a worse problem, described by Tierney Sneed at Talking Points Memo. We haven't verified her story, but it seems plausible. Here is a brief summary of the problem: Last week the National Association of Presort Mailers (NAPM) held a videoconference among its members. This is the group that represents companies that send out mail. Lots of mail. Lots and lots of mail. They were worried.

Let's back up. When someone requests an absentee ballot, there are four things involved:

  1. The printed ballot itself, usually with some security features so people can't run them off on a home printer
  2. A blank, white inner envelope (or sleeve), with no markings, into which the voter first inserts the ballot
  3. A slightly larger outer envelope with an identifying number and a box for the voter to sign
  4. A transport envelope that contains items 1-3 when they are sent to the voter

When the transport envelope arrives, the voter extracts the ballot, fills it out, and puts it in the white envelope. Then he or she inserts that into the outer envelope, signs it, and mails it in (or brings it to a collection point).

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) has said he is considering mailing every voter in New York State an absentee ballot for the general election, but hasn't decided yet. In 2016, 7.7 million people voted in the presidential election in New York. Turnout was 57%, meaning there are 13.5 million registered voters in the state. To send every registered voter an absentee ballot, the state would need 13.5 million ballots, 13.5 million white envelopes, 13.5 million outer envelopes, and 13.5 million transport envelopes, for a total of 54 million pieces of paper. If Cuomo gives the go-ahead, the state will issue a tender asking companies to bid on a contract requiring the vendor to produce or acquire the 54 million items, insert the ballot and two envelopes inside the transport envelope, and paste on each one a sticker on which a voter's name and address is printed from a database supplied by the state. The filled transport envelopes will then have to be delivered to the Postal Service, presorted on zip code. This is what the NAPM members do. And they are worried that they don't have any spare capacity.

Needless to say, this cannot be done by hand. Special machines are needed. Any member making a bid will have to have the necessary machines in its plant. Lots of them. Remember, it will take the U.S. government 20 weeks just to mail out stimulus checks to those people whose bank data are not on file with the IRS. Most likely, few, if any vendors will have enough machines in house to send out all the ballots, certainly not for all 160 million registered voters nationwide. They will have to order more, but delivery time on them is a few months, and no vendor is going to order more machines until it has signed contracts with the one or more states in hand.

The consequence of all this is that decisions about mail-in elections for November need to be made now. If a large state decides in August to go all-mail-in and puts out a tender, it is possible that no company will bid because no company has the capacity to do the printing and stuffing, and won't buy new machines unless it has guaranteed orders in hand. And if it gets the order in September, it will be too late to buy new machines, wait for them to arrive, and then do all the printing and stuffing in time to mail them out for arrival October 25 or so, to allow the voter to fill it in and get it mailed on time.

If New York puts out a tender for 13.5 million ballots and the response from all the vendors combined is, say, 7 million, it could accept all the bids and send ballots out to all people whose last name begins with A-L. Folks whose last name begins with M-Z would have to vote in person. Imagine the lawsuits. Imagine what will happen when a district judge tells the state it can't discriminate based on name. Imagine what will happen when the governor tells the judge that there is insufficient printing and stuffing capacity available and that he has to compete with 49 other states and D.C. for what there is.

And we're not even going to think about a different form of ballot rationing: In New York, Democrats get priority; in Texas, Republicans get priority. We're not going there. But we can't promise you what clever politicians might or might not think of. After all, a few states have laws requiring the Republican candidate for every office to be listed first.

And while we are at it, some changes in procedures may be needed. Having every one of the 3,100 counties try to figure out how to scale up and compete with the others is madness. The states will have to take over if vast numbers of ballots are needed, and they will have to coordinate to avoid a bidding war.

If there are not enough ballots, Plan B could be having all polling places open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. from Oct. 1 until the election, to spread the load. People who didn't get a ballot and whose birthday is on the first of any month would be encouraged (not required) to vote on Oct. 1. People born on the second day of a month, would be encouraged to vote on Oct. 2, etc. If the voters could be distributed evenly over a large number of days and hours, lines could be short enough that nobody has to worry about getting sick. One problem with this scheme, though, is that many people would be voting before the debates. Another potential problem is finding enough poll workers, although if unemployment is still high, that might not be a problem.

But the bottom line here is: If the decision to mail everyone an absentee ballot is made early enough, and the tenders go out fast enough, it might be possible to print and stuff enough ballots. But by summer it will be too late. (V)

Michael Cohen Is Writing a Tell-All Book

Michael Cohen, Donald Trump's former fixer and a current prison inmate (though he's been temporarily released due to COVID-19), is writing a tell-all book about his experience working with Trump. At this point, Cohen probably has little to lose by annoying Trump, who will deny everything in the book anyway. But unlike the authors of most of the other books about Trump, Cohen worked with Trump for over 10 years and really knows where the skeletons are buried. It could be an explosive book.

It is doubtful that anything he has to say will sway true-blue Trump voters, but it could put Trump on the defensive for a week, and it could have some impact on independent voters. The area in which Cohen could really hurt Trump is his finances. He probably knows a fair amount about his "deals" and how well they really worked out. If some were fiascos, it could hurt Trump's image. Also, there could have been other Playboy bunnies besides Karen McDougal who needed to be silenced. But we won't know what's in the book until it comes out. The administration is holding up John Bolton's book because he was NSA and knows all kinds of state secrets. Cohen, however, never held a government job, so he doesn't need preclearance. If the book does damage, Trump will be kicking himself for not hiring Cohen as a special assistant to the president and telling him he didn't have to actually show up for work ever. Then as a former government employee, Trump could require that he clear his book with AG William Barr before publishing it. Now it is too late. (V)

Can Political Parties Fall Victim to COVID-19?

The spread of COVID-19 may have ended Donald Trump's dream of coasting to reelection on a soaring economy. It may also have trapped Joe Biden in his basement. But to minor parties, it could be near fatal. To qualify for the ballot, parties generally have to either (1) have gotten a certain percentage of the vote in the previous election or (2) gather a certain number of signatures. Few minor parties have qualified via (1), so they are trying to gather signatures now, but that is tough in states that are locked down and where people don't want to spend time talking to strangers on the street.

In 2016, the Libertarian Party was on the ballot in all 50 states. This year, it has qualified in only 35 states. The Green Party didn't do so well in 2016, getting on the ballot in only 44 states. This year it is sure of a place in only 22 states. Neither of these parties has qualified so far in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Iowa, or Minnesota. The Green Party hasn't made it in Arizona, Georgia, or Nevada. The Libertarian Party hasn't secured a ballot spot in Maine.

This is an existential crisis for these parties. Without ballot access, pollsters won't ask about them, and when they don't show up in polls, pundits won't discuss them. This will reduce the chances that they hit 5%, when they qualify for federal campaign matching funds.

What both small parties dearly want is for the remaining states to waive the signature requirements. Second choice would be to allow electronic signatures to be submitted. Third choice is just to extend the deadlines to give them more time. They shouldn't expect a lot of mercy from the governors though, as both Democrats and Republicans have fought in the past to keep them off the ballot. Fourth choice is to get the courts to put them on the ballots. Good luck with that one.

Another problem is that some states require the names of the candidates fairly early in the cycle. New Hampshire, for example, wants to know by June 12. An extension or long court battles won't produce names by then.

All in all, neither small party is likely to do as well in 2020 as in 2016. Both ran the same candidate in 2016 as in 2012, so the candidates, Gary Johnson (LP) and Jill Stein (GP), were fairly well known by 2016. None of the Libertarians currently in the mix has any national following at all. If Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI) were to jump in, he would be the best-known candidate since he is a member of Congress, but he hasn't made up his mind yet. The leading Green candidate is Howie Hawkins, a 67-year old who worked for UPS unloading trucks at night until his 2017 retirement. Not likely the kind of guy the disappointed Sanders supporters are going to flee to and yell "he's my man."

The presence or absence of minor candidates affects the big parties' campaigns in swing states. With the LP on the ballot, the Republicans have to worry about defending their right flank and can't move too far towards the center, lest they lose conservative voters to the LP. Similarly, with the GP on the ballot, the Democrats have to worry about moving too far to the center, lest they lose progressive voters to it. Both major parties would really prefer a man-to-man race with Donald Trump against Joe Biden, with no pesky distractions, but each party wouldn't mind so much if the other one had to deal with a fringe party, as long as it didn't have to. (V)

This Is What Good Old-fashioned Traditional Corruption Looks Like

Is extorting a foreign leader to help with your election campaign a form of corruption? The House seemed to think so, though 52% of the Senate didn't. But not all corruption is so exotic. There is plenty of garden-variety nepotism also going on. Consider this: Donald Trump's reelection campaign is paying his adult sons' significant others $180,000 per year for unspecified activities. Yes, Lara Trump (Eric Trump's wife) and Kimberly Guilfoyle (girlfriend of Donald Trump Jr.) each get a monthly check for $15,000.

To get around nepotism and election laws, the payments are coming from companies owned by Brad Parscale, Trump's reelection campaign manager. Parscale confirmed this, saying: "I can pay them however I want to pay them." Generally, candidates' families campaign for them for free. But in Trump World, everything costs money, even getting your own family to support you.

Lara Trump is listed as a "senior adviser" and made media appearances for Trump in 2016. Guilfoyle, a former Fox News host, has regularly attended Trump campaign events. It is not known if she would have been willing to attend them if she weren't paid to do so. Or if she'd be in a relationship with Trump Jr. if she weren't paid to do so (like father, like son?). One thing that is noteworthy about Guilfoyle is that her political allegiances are, shall we say, fluid. She was formerly married to now-governor of California Gavin Newsom from 2001 to 2006. Newsom was then, and is now, a liberal Democrat. (V)

What Is Essential?

Most states now have ordered all nonessential businesses to close. But what is essential? Hospitals, food stores, and pharmacies are essential everywhere, but what else is essential? Also, as states begin slowly loosening up, they may have different priorities about who goes first. The stakes are huge. If industry X is opened but industry Y is not, companies and workers in X will be saved and those in Y will not be. The lobbying and court fights have already started. But if too many industries are started up, the coronavirus will spread more rapidly and more people will die.

Among the many differences among the states are these:

  • In Florida, professional wrestling can continue, but without a live audience.

  • In Michigan, stores that sell marijuana, alcohol, and lottery tickets don't have to shut down.

  • In New Jersey (and other states), gun shops are essential, presumably in order to allow people to buy weapons to defend their stashes of toilet paper from desperate neighbors.

  • In Ohio, stores selling home office supplies have been deemed essential since many people are working at home and need printer paper and the like.

  • In South Carolina, sex shops, vape shops, and laser hair removal businesses can remain open.

In about 2/3 of the states, golf courses are open. Whether that is because golf has become the national pastime or because the governors are trying to curry favor with the President is not known. However, it is true that it's easier for golfers to stay 6 feet apart than it is for, say, basketball players (unless they are being guarded by the Houston Rockets' James Harden). (V)

Democrats Outraised Republicans in Key Senate Races

It increasingly looks like control of the Senate will be as tight a race as the presidential election. Right now, the Democratic Senate caucus has 47 members and the Republican one has 53 members. However, one of the Democrats, Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL), won a special election only because a slight majority of Alabama voters preferred a Democrat to a child molester. He's basically a dead man walking at this point. All the other Senate Democrats up this year are pretty much safe, with Michigan the only place where there's even nominal doubt.

Control of the Senate will thus be determined by seven races in which an incumbent Republican senator is facing a credible challenge. In six of the seven races, the Democrat outraised the Republican in Q1 2020. Here are the numbers, in millions of dollars raised:

State Democrat Q1 Republican Q1
Arizona Mark Kelly $10.9 Martha McSally $6.3
Colorado John Hickenlooper $4.1 Cory Gardner $2.5
Iowa Theresa Greenfield $2.3 Joni Ernst $2.7
Kentucky Amy McGrath $12.8 Mitch McConnell $7.8
Maine Sara Gideon $7.1 Susan Collins $2.4
Montana Steve Bullock $3.3 Steve Daines $1.3
North Carolina Cal Cunningham $4.4 Thom Tillis $1.3

In total, the seven Democratic challengers listed raised $44.9 million and the seven Republican incumbents raised $24.3 million. It is rare for challengers to raise nearly twice as much as incumbents, especially since several of the Democrats aren't even the official nominees yet (although they are clearly leading in their respective primaries). However, one footnote here is that the Democrats are still going to have to spend money to win the nomination, leaving less for the general election. Still, the Democratic fundraising is a sign of the greater enthusiasm on the Democratic side, at least for the moment. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr19 Sunday Mailbag
Apr18 Saturday Q&A
Apr17 Trump Unveils Re-Opening Plan...
Apr17 ...and Governors Do Their Own Thing(s)
Apr17 Intelligence Community to Probe Chinese Origins of COVID-19
Apr17 Small Business Funding Runs Out
Apr17 Never Trump Republicans Rally
Apr17 What to Make of Tara Reade?
Apr17 Warren Is Angling for VP Slot
Apr16 Amash May Run
Apr16 Warren Endorses Biden
Apr16 Trump Faces Blowback on WHO Funding Cut
Apr16 Trump Threatens to Adjourn Congress
Apr16 Retail Sales Drop in March by the Greatest Amount Ever
Apr16 Democrats Are Motivated Like Never Before
Apr16 Poll: Biden Should Pick Experienced Running Mate
Apr16 Some States Are More Ready for Mail-in Voting than Others
Apr16 Delaying the Census Could Cause Big Problems
Apr16 Some Surprising Industries Have Been Hit Hard by COVID-19
Apr15 Trump's COVID-19 Strategy, Part I: Make Himself the Hero
Apr15 Trump's COVID-19 Strategy, Part II: Find a Scapegoat
Apr15 A Tale of Two Recovery Plans, Part I: The States vs. the White House
Apr15 A Tale of Two Recovery Plans, Part II: Red vs. Blue
Apr15 Obama Endorses Biden
Apr15 Elizabeth Warren: Batter Up!
Apr15 The Times That Try Men's (and Women's) Souls, Part VII: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln (1865)
Apr14 A Power Struggle He Cannot Win, Part I: Trump vs. the Governors
Apr14 A Power Struggle He Cannot Win, Part II: Trump vs. Fauci
Apr14 Biden Wins Wisconsin
Apr14 Sanders Endorses Biden
Apr14 USS Theodore Roosevelt Sailor Dies of COVID-19
Apr14 Trump Wants to Delay Census
Apr14 Biden, Democrats Get to Play Some Catch-Up Due to COVID-19
Apr13 Biden Beats Sanders in Alaska Primary
Apr13 Trump's Newest Election Strategy: Biden Is Weak on China
Apr13 What Did Trump Know and When Did He Know It?
Apr13 Trump Lashes Out at Fauci
Apr13 Trump's Friend and Donor, Stanley Chera, Has Died of COVID-19
Apr13 Republicans Reject Democrats' Ideas for the Next Relief Bill
Apr13 Virginia Makes Voting Easier
Apr13 Florida Republicans Are Mixed on Mail-in Voting
Apr13 Whose Fault Was the Mess in Wisconsin?
Apr13 People Are Now Willing to Talk to Pollsters
Apr13 The Pandemic May Reshape Retail
Apr12 Sunday Mailbag
Apr11 Saturday Q&A
Apr10 Pence Tries to Strong-arm CNN into Carrying Full Daily Briefings
Apr10 A Spoiled System
Apr10 Unemployment Claims Once Again Exceed 6 Million
Apr10 COVID-19 Relief Bill v4.0 Hits Some Snags