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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Let them Eat Meat
      •  Trump Presses Onward and Upward
      •  Don't Believe Anyone's Numbers
      •  Hillary Clinton Endorses Biden
      •  Reade Story Isn't Going Away
      •  An Old Path to Victory for Biden?
      •  Democrats Tell McConnell to Shove It
      •  Amash Announces Exploratory Committee
      •  Today's Presidential Polls

Let them Eat Meat

On Monday, a number of the nation's largest packers and processors of meat warned that the supply chain was "in danger of breaking," and that meat shortages could be on the horizon. In response, on Tuesday, Donald Trump signed an executive order declaring meat processing facilities to be critical infrastructure that are required to remain open and are therefore indemnified from lawsuits.

Needless to say, people need food, and so it's possible another president might have made the same exact decision. On the other hand, Trump utilized the same authority—the Defense Production Act—that he was reluctant to use several weeks ago when it came to national shortages of medical supplies. People also need those, especially if they are sick. Why did one circumstance trigger a quick and full-throated response, and the other a slow and partial response? Several explanations leap to mind:

  • Money Talks: In the case of medical supplies, corporate ownership did not particularly want to be pressed into service. In the case of meat production, corporate ownership desperately wanted the presidential seal of approval. The Republican Party in general, and Trump in particular, tend to be very closely attuned to the needs of the managerial class.

  • People at risk: The majority of workers in meat processing facilities are either people of color, or immigrants, or both. The same is true of the majority of meat industry workers who have fallen ill, and who have died. The President is more willing to disregard the sanctity of human life when those lives aren't white and aren't likely to vote for him (see Puerto Rico).

  • Politics, Part I: If 500 or 1,000 or 2,000 more people die for want of medical supplies, then between them and their loved ones and relatives, that might be 50,000 voters who are affected, and who might end up looking for someone to blame at the ballot box. On the other hand, if there are shortages of food nationwide, that might be 500,000 or 5,000,000 or even 50,000,000 voters who are affected, and who might end up looking for someone to blame at the ballot box.

  • Politics, Part II: For all of these reasons (perhaps), Trump is getting a lot of pressure from Republican pooh-bahs in some key states where meatpacking and meat processing are big parts of the economy. Most obviously, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and the Iowa congressional delegation have been twisting Trump's arm very hard for the last couple of days.

We don't love to be cynical, and to assume some sort of less-than-noble (or less-than-Nobel) motivation from the President all the time. On the other hand, as Maya Angelou observed, "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time." Now we will all see if there are consequences, either in the form of more people at meat processing plants becoming ill, or defying Trump and refusing to work. (Z)

Trump Presses Onward and Upward

Continuing on the cynical theme, there is little question that Donald Trump will put hundreds or thousands of lives in danger in service of his own personal (and often trivial) ends. There were two very clear illustrations of that on Tuesday.

To start, there is the Republican National Convention. Given that the Party's nominee has been known since approximately January 21, 2017, there's no real need for the Party to have a convention at all. It's just a dog and pony show at this point, one that will reach relatively few viewers, and will persuade even fewer. Still, the President loves his pomp and circumstance, and he's a firm believer in the philosophy that there is no such thing as bad publicity. The city council of Charlotte, NC, has accepted $50 million in funding to help stage the convention, but is signalling that it really, really doubts that having the convention will be feasible. "We need to stop this charade right now," said one council member. Another warned that the city will become a "petri dish," while a third said he is "really, really concerned" about getting 50,000 people together in the same place. Still, the RNC (which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Donald J. Trump these days) has shown little interest in canceling or postponing, and continues to insist "full steam ahead." This could eventually get ugly, since power in the state is split between a Democratic governor and a Republican-dominated legislature.

The second example, meanwhile, involves folks who have considerably less room to push back against the President: the faculty and student body of West Point. After all, Trump is their commander-in-chief. He is scheduled to give the commencement address at this year's graduation, in part because West Point is one of the few institutions that is willing to have him speak (actually, more like compelled to allow him to speak). Virtually any other institution, with the exception of the occasional Bob Jones or Liberty University, would be inundated with protests if they asked Trump to speak at commencement, and would also have to be scared to death of what he might say or do (recall, for example, his speech at the Boy Scout Jamboree a couple of years back that went completely off the rails). Anyhow, in view of COVID-19, graduations and commencements across the country are pretty much universally canceled, postponed, or moved online.

So, no commencement speech for Trump this year, right? Not so much. He wants that platform. He wants those shots of thousands of uniformed soliders sitting at attention and hanging on his every word. So, the graduating class is being summoned back to West Point, where they will remain in quarantine for three weeks prior to the graduation ceremony. At best, they are going to use up lots of COVID-19 tests that might be better deployed in hospitals. At worst, there is going to be an outbreak of the disease among people the country has just spent four years and hundreds of millions of dollars training. All of this for what is, in the end, just a photo op.

When it comes to Trump's decision on meat processing (see above), it is at least possible that he looked at the different, conflicting imperatives (workers' health vs. citizens' need to eat) and decided the latter was simply more significant. Presidents make those sorts of lose-lose decisions all the time. We doubt that the President's personal needs played no role, though it's at least possible the decision was legitimate. But moving forward with the convention and, in particular, with the West Point commencement? Is there any positive good being done, besides lots of PR for Trump? Particularly the sort of positive good that justifies the significant risks? If it is there, we don't see it. (Z)

Don't Believe Anyone's Numbers

The U.S. death toll from (known) cases of COVID-19 is up to 59,266, which means that the Vietnam War is officially surpassed as of Tuesday. Good thing G.T.M. in Vancouver did not bet his rent or his lunch money. Of course, everyone understands that total is not accurate, since (either by design, or due to lack of supplies) there are victims who were never tested.

This said, it is worth remembering that other nations' leaders also have motivation to fudge the numbers, and that some of them are undoubtedly doing so. There's China, of course, which has already been caught lying, distorting, and otherwise misleading the world about their COVID-19 mortality rate. Also on the list is Sweden, which has spent the last month or so showing off something of a libertarian bent (who knew?). While most other European countries were shutting down, the Swedes mostly kept on keepin' on, making sure that the world was not deprived of its supply of Volvo automobiles and flimsy IKEA furniture. That nation's government claims their approach worked out just peachy, but the numbers say differently. The land of lingonberries has lost at least 2,274 people to COVID-19, which is more than double the combined total of Denmark, Norway, and Finland. Even if we consider Sweden's higher population, they've had 22 (known) deaths per 100,000 people, compared to 7 per 100,000 for the Danes, and 4 per 100,000 for the Finns and the Norwegians. Uff da.

And then there's the Russians, who have made much noise about how little COVID-19 is affecting them. It is wise to be skeptical of Vlad Putin, especially whenever his lips are moving. In any event, that nation's official death total is 867, but nobody can seriously believe that's accurate. Meanwhile, for the second time in as many days on Tuesday, a Russian doctor who tried to sound the alarm suffered an unfortunate "accident" that involved falling from a high window of their hospital. That's an old KGB bit; one wonders if there might be a high-ranking former KGB officer somewhere in Russia who put the idea in his underlings' heads.

Presumably, once the pandemic is over, the scholars will crunch the numbers and we'll get something close to accurate totals for how many folks were sickened, and how many died, due to COVID-19. For now, however, the numbers are a rough draft, at best. (Z)

Hillary Clinton Endorses Biden

This barely counts as news, since it merely confirmed what everyone already knew. Anyhow, Hillary Clinton formally endorsed Joe Biden on Tuesday, while at the same time tearing into Donald Trump and his handling of the COVID-19 crisis. Inasmuch as Clinton and Biden are both longtime Democratic insiders, and given that she's a good soldier who knows that she has an endorsement debt from 2016 to repay, this development was inevitable.

The question this raises is: Will the endorsement affect Biden's campaign at all? And the answer is: Probably not much. Anyone who takes their cues from the Clinton family was already on board the S.S. Uncle Joe. Given her unpopularity, it's at least possible she could be a liability. And indeed, Trump 2020 is already using her endorsement to portray Biden as the ultimate Democratic establishment insider. But he was already the ultimate Democratic establishment insider before Clinton said her piece. Anyone who is bothered by that (Sanders supporters, Republican loyalists) is not suddenly going to be awakened to that fact.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this is the timing. Surely the Clinton endorsement has been in Biden's hip pocket ever since Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) suspended his campaign, and she only moved forward and made a public announcement when Biden 2020 told her to. Why this week? Why Tuesday? The obvious answer is that she is a woman, and the Democrats hope her declaration helps blunt the story below. That's definitely what we're going with, until presented with a compelling alternative explanation. (Z)

Reade Story Isn't Going Away

On Tuesday, Business Insider reported on two more folks they've located who are willing to corroborate Tara Reade's story that she was a victim of sexual misconduct on the part of Joe Biden. A former neighbor, Lynda LaCasse, says she remembers discussing an assault with Reade. Meanwhile, a former colleague, Lorraine Sanchez, says she remembers discussing sexual harassment on the part of Biden.

In view of the new evidence that has come to light, there are now lots of folks calling on Biden to address the allegations. Many of them are progressive-leaning sites that supported Bernie Sanders in 2016 and 2020. Some of them are not. At the moment, the Biden 2020 strategy is to effectively smother the story by having female campaign surrogates share their full-throated endorsements (see above) and/or their strongly held opinions that the former Veep and Senator is being truthful when he denies everything.

CNN's Chris Cillizza, among others, believes this strategy will not work long-term, and that Biden himself is going to have to do more to address the story. We're not so sure that's correct, though. Let us start with a list of assertions that, we would say, are all solid ground:

  • The most damning version of Reade's story, that she was assaulted, could possibly be true
  • The most exonerating version of Biden's story, that absolutely nothing happened, could possibly be true
  • Some version of events between those extremes could possibly be true
  • On that point, there is a wide gap between the witnesses' memories of "sexual assault" vs. "sexual harassment"
  • It is very possible, at this point, that both Biden and Reade believe they are speaking gospel truth
  • There is zero chance that Biden would be convicted in a court of law, even if the statute of limitations had not run. The inconsistencies in Reade's behavior, and the shaky nature of the corroborating evidence, would make it impossible to clear the bar of "beyond a reasonable doubt."

Since the exoneration of a court trial is not available (and is often not much of an exoneration in the court of public opinion, anyhow), it's not clear what options Biden has. He's already issued denials, and they haven't had much effect on those who believe or suspect the worst. He can't prove a negative, and the witnesses he has deployed to say "I knew/worked for Joe back then, and he wouldn't have done this" are dismissed by critics as irrelevant (though it's worth noting that character witnesses are allowed in court trials). Obviously, at this point, Biden isn't going to come out and admit to wrongdoing; wherever the truth might lie, he's too invested in "it never happened" at this point. And he can't pull a Donald Trump and engage in a campaign of character assassination against Reade; that would be icky and would surely turn off a lot of Democratic voters.

Note that this is not an assessment of how compelling Reade's claims are or are not; we've already done that. And Cillizza's point that #MeToo has been a game-changer in situations like these is well taken. Our point is that we just don't see how this story moves beyond its current state of stasis with the current facts at hand. Reade will stand by her assertions, aided perhaps by the discovery of the occasional bit of new evidence (although nothing close to a "smoking gun"). And Biden will stand by his, aided by the affirmations of a cadre of high-profile and mostly female Democrats. It's also worth pointing out that after Donald Trump's pu**y grabbing crisis in 2016, the then-candidate made his semi-apologetic public statement and that was it from him. How much did that story really evolve after that weekend in 2016?

The only real game-changer we can think of is if additional women come forward with credible stories of being assaulted by Biden. At that point, Biden 2020 and the DNC would have a crisis on their hands. Until that comes to pass, however, we think the current approach is the only viable one available to the Biden campaign, and the one you'll see until the cows come home.

It is a complete long shot, but if Biden knows he really did it and more evidence comes out, he could take one for the team, announce he is withdrawing, and let the DNC pick a new candidate. It would not be Bernie Sanders, that's certain. The DNC might pick Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY). But Biden really wants to be president. That's why he has run three times and it's now or never for him, so it would take a mountain of evidence (say, three separate videotapes of the incident) for Biden to give up the ghost. (Z)

An Old Path to Victory for Biden?

And we do mean old. The Democratic Party sees its future in trying to bring the young folks who like Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) into the tent, and also in making inroads in the Southwest (Latino voters) and coastal Southern states (adding the growing population of educated suburbanites to the Party's already solid base of black support). In 2020, however, that plan may need to be put on the back burner. Given a candidate who is elderly and very moderate, the correct path may be trying to get, well, elderly moderates back onto Team Blue.

This assessment is based on two assertions supported by a careful examination of the 2018 midterm data. The first is that older voters tend to show up to vote much more reliably than young voters. Of course, everyone already knew that, careful examination of the data or not. The second, which isn't nearly as well known, is that older voters were more likely to abandon Donald Trump than any other demographic in his base. For example, in Arizona's Maricopa County, the two precincts that shifted most aggressively from Trump to the Democrats between 2016 and 2018 were Sun City and Leisure World, which are both retirement communities.

Here is a map that shows how aged the populations of the 50 states are relative to one another; the darker the shade, the older the population is:

The darkest states are Florida,
Maine, West Virginia, Montana, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Oregon, and New Mexico, in roughly that order. The lightest are
Utah (by a mile), Colorado, Georgia, and Texas. The other 38 or so states are in the mushy middle.

It appears that the issue that drove the older folks out of the Trump camp was his administration's efforts to gut Obamacare. Presumably those individuals will also be unhappy about the handling of COVID-19, and in particular the Republican talking point that sacrificing a few grannies is worth it to save the economy. If Biden and the Democratic Party run a geriatric-centered campaign, it could give them a leg up in some key swing states (AZ, FL, PA), while maybe also helping with several important Senate races (AZ, MT, ME). Giving reduced attention to the concerns of young voters will not help long-term, and it certainly won't thrill Bernie Sanders' supporters, but maybe that's a problem for another day (and another campaign).

If going after the older voters is the game plan, it could affect Biden's choice of a running mate. Are the old white folks in Florida, Pennsylvania, and Arizona just itching to see a young black woman on the ticket? We don't know because no pollster has asked (yet). But we have a hunch. They might just be quite happy with a 59-year-old white woman from the Midwest (extra points if she is a senator). Or maybe even a 48-year-old white stripling from the Midwest (extra points if she is a governor). But it is also possible that Biden thinks the elder vote is already in the bag, and he can risk having a minority woman on the ticket to try to unify the party better. Decisions. Decisions. (Z)

Democrats Tell McConnell to Shove It

The ink wasn't even dry on COVID Relief Bill v4.0 when the Democrats began talking about what needs to be in v5.0. For a few days, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) tried to tamp down such talk, but faced with a rebellion by Republican constituents, shifted on Monday to a position of "I'll support aid to states and cities, like Democrats want, but I want immunity from COVID-19-related lawsuits for business owners." Democratic leaders heard that opening bid and brushed it aside on Tuesday, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Speaker Nancy Pelosi appearing on pretty much any outlet that would have them to slam McConnell's proposal as "sad," "wrong," and "subterfuge." The Majority Leader, who's played this game once or twice before, countered by appearing on Fox News to declare that his demand is a "red line," and that there will be no deal without it.

In short, both sides have a firm grip on their edge of the Overton Window, and are trying mightily to pull it in their direction. On one hand, the relatively small percentage of the $3 trillion that's made its way into voters' pockets, and the resulting anger, means that the Democrats have the stronger hand to play here. On the other hand, McConnell is unusually capable of playing these games of chicken without blinking, particularly when it comes to spending bills. So, what COVID-19 relief bill v5.0 will look like is anyone's guess. The only thing that's certain is that there will be one, which is, in and of itself, something of a win for the blue team. (Z)

Amash Announces Exploratory Committee

Rep. Justin Amash (I-MI) is a man without a party. A tea party true believer who helped found the House Freedom Caucus, he is the only person elected to Congress as a Republican who seems to care that Trumpism has little to do with the party's pre-2016 platform and ideals. Anyhow, he jumped ship on the GOP about a year ago, effectively ending his congressional career. There has been much speculation about his mounting a third-party presidential campaign, however, and on Tuesday he made that (semi-)official, announcing the formation of an exploratory committee, complete with a spiffy website.

If Amash does jump into the race, he would be seeking the Libertarian Party's nomination. The good news for the Representative is that, in contrast to potential aspiring Green Party candidate Jesse Ventura, Amash really is a libertarian at heart, and the party's membership would likely be glad to have him as their standard-bearer. The bad news is that Amash would need to be nominated at the Party's convention, which is currently scheduled for late May, but is up in the air. The other bad news is that the LP has qualified for the ballot in only 36 states (plus D.C.) so far, and may struggle to pick up the rest, given the current challenges involved with collecting signatures.

In any case, Amash does not flatter himself that he could make a race of this. Nor does he foresee a career as a Fox News contributor. If he does join the campaign, his only goal, as the only non-Democrat to vote in favor of adopting articles of impeachment, would be to siphon votes from Donald Trump. So, that is what he will be studying as he explores a bid. Given the number of very close states in 2016, it is certainly possible Amash could be a difference-maker (and a king-maker). In particular, his home state of Michigan, where Trump won by just 10,704 votes, as well as Utah, where 21.6% of the vote went to a non-Trump conservative, stand out as places where the Representative might just matter. (Z)

Today's Presidential Polls

That's three polls in a row in NC that have given the nod to Biden, and the lead is widening, such that it's (just) outside the margin of error in this latest poll. The old slogan "As Maine goes, so goes the nation" is probably in need of an update. How about "As North Carolina goes, so goes the nation"? If Trump loses North Carolina, we can't see him winning the Electoral College. Not only are its 15 electoral votes important, but the Tar Heel State is a reddish-purplish state in the South, and if that kind of state is lost, bluer ones like the three key ones in the Midwest as well as Florida (and probably Arizona) are lost as well. North Carolina could well be the canary in the coal mine this year. Keep an eye on it. Since the pollster PPP is located in Raleigh, NC, no doubt it will be keeping an eye, too.

Please note that despite Biden's 5-point lead in this poll, the map shows North Carolina as barely Democratic. Remember that the map is based on the average of the most recent poll (below) and all other polls within a week of the most recent one. In this case that includes a PPP poll taken a few days before the SurveyUSA poll. The PPP poll showed Biden ahead by 3 points. Thus his average lead is only 4 points. You can view or download all the polls using the "Downloadable polling data" link in the upper right-hand corner. (V)

State Biden Trump Start End Pollster
North Carolina 50% 45% Apr 23 Apr 26 SurveyUSA

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr28 The Art of the Misdeal
Apr28 What Is the White House's Current Media Strategy? Your Guess Is as Good as Theirs
Apr28 Small Business Loan Program Is an Absolute Fiasco
Apr28 Overton Window on COVID-19 Relief Bill v5.0 Is Creeping Leftward
Apr28 SCOTUS Wants More Documents in Trump Tax Case
Apr28 New York Cancels Primary
Apr28 Ventura Says He's Considering Green Party Run
Apr28 Today's Presidential Polls
Apr27 Birx: Social Distancing Will Continue through the Summer
Apr27 Black and Progressive Activists Are Warning Biden Not to Pick Klobuchar
Apr27 Biden Thinks Trump Will Try to Delay the Election
Apr27 How Will Voting Take Place in November?
Apr27 Economy May Not Bounce Back Until Late 2021
Apr27 Deutsche Bank Won't Give Senators Information on Trump's Finances
Apr27 Straight-ticket Voting Has Implications for the Senate
Apr27 Is the Southwest Lost for the GOP?
Apr26 Sunday Mailbag
Apr25 Saturday Q&A
Apr25 Today's Presidential Polls
Apr24 Administration's COVID-19 Management Not too Bright
Apr24 Kemp Gets a View of Life from Under the Bus
Apr24 House Passes COVID-19 Relief Bill v4.0
Apr24 Trump Organization Would Like Bailout from Trump Administration
Apr24 Team Trump Flails around in Search for Biden's Achilles Heel
Apr24 About That Order to Shoot Down Iranian Gunboats...
Apr24 Lots of Bad COVID-19-related Demographic News for Trump
Apr24 It Could Be a While Before the 2020 Election Winner Is Known
Apr24 Today's Presidential Polls
Apr23 The General-Election Map Is Live Today
Apr23 The Pandemic Is Upending the November Map
Apr23 Poll: Few Americans Think the Social Distancing Has Gone Too Far
Apr23 Bomb, Bomb, Bomb...Bomb, Bomb Iran?
Apr23 Trump and Biden Will Battle over China
Apr23 A "W" Could Wipe Out Trump
Apr23 Milwaukee Will Send All Voters an Absentee Ballot Application
Apr23 Whitmer Has Not Spoken with Biden about Being His Running Mate
Apr23 McConnell Has Clear Priorities
Apr23 Postal Service Collapse Would Hit the Republican Base the Hardest
Apr23 Today's Presidential Polls
Apr22 Senate Has a Deal
Apr22 House Moves Toward Vote by Proxy
Apr22 Trump Immigration Ban Is Mostly a Paper Tiger
Apr22 Kemp Gets Much Blowback
Apr22 NFL Draft Starts Tomorrow
Apr22 Trump Lags Biden in National Polls
Apr22 Biden Campaign Arguing Over Leadership of Online Campaign
Apr21 Trump Says He Will Suspend Immigration
Apr21 Four States Get Ready to Reopen
Apr21 Incompetent or Corrupt?, Part I: Small Business Funding
Apr21 Incompetent or Corrupt?, Part II: Emergency Equipment Funding