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Axios: It's Harris or Rice

Axios is reporting that its staffers have talked to a dozen Biden insiders, and everyone tells them that Joe Biden's mini-short list has only two names on it: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Susan Rice. Allegedly, Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) blew it on Sunday when she tried to explain away her previous remarks about Fidel Castro and Scientology and didn't do a very convincing job. Now it is down to the two finalists according to all the sources. Of course, only Biden knows for sure and he's not talking.

For either one, if she doesn't get it, there is a possible consolation prize. If Harris gets the #2 slot, Rice is a very likely secretary of state in a Biden administration. If Rice gets it, then Harris is on track to become the AG. In a way, those are better deals than being veep, unless Biden dies in office. If Biden makes it to 2024 and decides not to run for a second term, there will be no coronation for the veep. It will be a free-for-all (again), and cabinet officers are eligible to join in.

Biden's closest advisers—Steve Ricchetti, Mike Donilon, and Ted Kaufman—are pushing for Harris. On the other hand, the Obamas want Rice. Supposedly, both Barack and Michelle would be even more enthusiastic supporters of the ticket with Rice on it. They acknowledge that Republicans will bring up Benghazi immediately (see below), but think Rice can get out in front of it by bringing it up herself and admitting that she made a mistake based on incomplete intelligence.

And again, keep in mind that this is still just scuttlebutt. Perhaps some will recall this front page from 2004:

New York Post front page with
headline 'Kerry's Choice: Dem picks Gephardt as VP candidate'

It's not quite "Dewey Defeats Truman," but it's not far off either (Kerry picked John Edwards). Point is, we don't really know anything until we hear it directly from the candidate's mouth. (V)

Democrats Prefer Harris; Republicans Want Rice

As you know, Democrats and Republicans don't agree on anything, so it's no surprise they disagree on whom they prefer as Joe Biden's running mate. That person has a better than average chance of becoming president some day, because Biden will be 82 at the end of his first term, assuming he makes it that far. One might hope that both parties would be focusing primarily on who was most prepared to sit down in the big chair on a moment's notice, should it come to that. However, one would be very naive to entertain such thoughts.

A new SurveyUSA poll asked 1,296 Democrats and independents whom they wanted as Biden's sidekick. But they did it in an interesting way: ranked-choice voting. Here are the results of the first round:

Democrat's choice for veep

The top two are Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), followed at a distance by Susan Rice. After the votes for Karen Bass, Rep. Val Demings (D-FL), Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Stacey Abrams were redistributed, it was still the same top three and in the same order. Finally, when Rice's votes were redistributed, Harris got 55% and Warren 45%. This indicates that both Harris and Warren are more broadly acceptable to Democrats than any of the others, with Harris having a slight edge. Rice is also reasonably acceptable and would probably be more so if she were as well known as the senators.

Republicans don't see it that way at all—at least, not Republican leaders. They are drooling at the prospect of running against Hillary, we mean Rice. A Trump campaign official told Politico: "She is absolutely our No. 1 draft pick."

So what's with Rice? She's easy to go after. They don't even have to hire oppo researchers; they have their conspiracy theories already to go. Republicans believe she revealed the identities of top Trump associates who the CIA said were in cahoots with the Russians. GOP pooh bahs believe that will really fire up their base. And then there is Benghazi. Soon after it was known that four Americans were killed there, and while the news was fragmentary and inconclusive, Rice said some things that later proved to be wrong. If the Trump campaign wants to rerun the 2016 election and paint Rice as a lethal combination of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, both of whom their base hate with a white-hot passion, they think that having Rice on the ticket would make that a no-brainer. They would attack her viciously as part of the "deep state" that wanted to help terrorists and spy on domestic opponents. It would be wonderful, in their eyes.

We are not so sure. Consider:

  • It's old: If Trump wants to base his campaign on a rerun of 2016, Biden is going to say: "They are stuck in the past. I want to go forward and deal with COVID-19 and the economy, not rehash old lies about 2016."

  • It's foreign policy: Elections are not often won or lost on who has the best foreign policy, certainly not with a pandemic raging and the economy in shambles. Even during the height of the Cold War, foreign policy wasn't the main concern of most voters. All the polls show that health care and the economy are the two top topics. Foreign policy isn't even on the list, and certainly not old foreign policy. If the Trump campaign tries to make foreign policy the big issue in the fall, it is not going to get any traction.

  • Black women: While Rice may excite the Republican base, she will also excite Black women. They are a pretty reliable Democratic group, but Rice (or any Black woman) is going to inspire Democrats to vote just as much as it will inspire Republicans. We suspect that Rice will not inspire fear and loathing among independents.

  • White suburban women: College-educated white women in the suburbs haven't imbibed the Kool-Aid and don't go for deep-state conspiracies. In Rice they will see a woman with a B.S. from Stanford and a Ph.D. from Oxford who has years of government experience as ambassador to the U.N. and as NSA and who championed womens' rights and LGBT rights as a global priority. She's also Black, which many white women are likely to see as a plus given the current push for racial justice. It's hard to imagine a better fit for college-educated suburban women, a group that Trump desperately needs. His attacks on her will only anger them.

  • The optics: The optics of old white men attacking a youngish (55) highly educated and experienced Black woman speak for themselves. They attacked Hillary with a passion last time, but Hillary was already widely unpopular. Rice is not so well known. A lot of minority voters are going to see this as "If such an intelligent and experienced upper middle class Black person is not acceptable to the Republicans, then who is?" In a way, Rice would help the ticket by provoking attacks in a way that, say, Keisha Lance Bottoms would not.

  • Her sharp tongue: Rice is famous for speaking her mind. Even without being explicitly told that her job is to get under Trump's skin and provoke him over and over, she is going to go after him mercilessly so Biden doesn't have to. How will Trump react if she compares him to a lobotomized weasel or a giant castrated hog? Or points out that no previous president was both a rapist and a draft dodger? The possibilities are endless and the more he tries to flay her, the more women he is going to antagonize. The only other potential veep who can attack as she can is Warren, but Warren wouldn't attack Trump personally (which is probably more effective). She would just go after his policies.

In short, the Trump campaign should be careful what they wish for. They might get it. On the other hand, this could be a false-flag operation with the campaign leaking their hopes for Rice to Politico in an attempt to trick Biden into not picking her, kind of like Br'er Rabbit pleading with the fox not to throw him in the briar patch, or the GOP muckety mucks talking about how frightened they are of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) as the Democratic presidential nominee.

One complication for Rice is ... her son, John David Rice-Cameron. He is a student at Stanford, as his mom was. So far so good. But around campus he has a reputation as a vociferous right-wing agitator. He is the president of the Stanford College Republicans and the author of a Facebook page entitled "Make Stanford Great Again" pitching an event on campus. The page contains this paragraph:

Trump is great. Build the wall. Deport criminal illegal immigrants. Guns save lives. There are only two genders. Abortion is murder. Defund sanctuary city San Francisco. Taxation is theft. Affirmative action is racist. White privilege is a lie.

Like his mom, he doesn't pull his punches. If Rice gets the veep slot (or the secretary of state job), will John be out there on family-friendly Fox News all the time, attacking his mom? We'll see. (V)

Acceptance Speeches Won't Be at the Conventions

Normally, the presidential candidates give acceptance speeches to roaring throngs at their respective conventions, followed by the big balloon drop. Not this year since the Democratic convention will be virtual and the Republican will be [TBD]. So what about the acceptance speeches? Will the candidates just send a text message to the chair of the RNC/DNC saying: "Yeah, I'll do it." and leave it at that?

On Wednesday, Joe Biden gave his answer to that question. He is not even going to go to Milwaukee, where the convention would have been held had there been a convention. Instead, the presumptive Democratic nominee will give his acceptance speech from Delaware. In its announcement, the DNC said that it didn't want to endanger the health of people in Milwaukee by holding an event there. It didn't mention it, but endangering the health of the 77-year-old nominee probably might have played a small role here, too. The precise location in Delaware wasn't specified. It could well be from Biden's basement at home since the DNC has installed a TV studio there. The convention is set to run from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. EDT from Aug. 17 to Aug. 20, (nearly) all of it as prerecorded videos.

What about Donald Trump? He has two cities (Charlotte and Jacksonville) in which he could give his speech. But apparently he is considering a third one: D.C. Specifically, the South Lawn of the White House. This would be a huge breach of protocol, as candidates are not supposed to use government resources for their campaigns. The Hatch Act does not cover the president, so giving an acceptance speech from the White House wouldn't technically be a felony, but it is certainly a violation of tradition and the intention of the Act.

As a sidebar, incidentally, the tradition of the candidate accepting the nomination in person did not emerge until the early 20th century. Before that, in fact, it was generally considered gauche for the candidate to even be at the convention. So, rather than being totally unprecedented, this year will be something of a throwback. (V)

Biden Announces a Massive Ad Buy

Joe Biden outraised Donald Trump in May and June (though Trump came out ahead in July), and he is starting to throw his money around. The Biden campaign just announced plans to spend $220 million on television ads and $60 million on digital ads across 15 swingy states in the fall. Ten of the states are ones that Trump carried in 2016, including the six that are generally seen as the swingiest: the three Rust Belt states (Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania) and the three hot Sun Belt states (Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina). Also getting ads are Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, and Texas. In addition, Biden is going to shore up five Clinton states: Colorado, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Virginia. So far, Trump has reserved only $145 million for television for the fall. His campaign hasn't said yet what it plans to do digitally.

Biden's campaign chair, Jen O'Malley Dillon, said: "This election is a clear referendum on Donald Trump and his failed leadership on COVID and also on the economy." That's a pretty simple message that everyone can understand. It's a lot clearer and more relevant to most people than talking about what Susan Rice said about Benghazi 8 years ago (see above).

In addition to the state targeting, the Biden campaign is also going to advertise nationally on news and sports events. Also on the agenda is ethnically targeted advertising on BET, TV One, Bounce, and OWN, all of which cater heavily to Black audiences. Univision and Telemundo were not specifically named, but surely they will get plenty of dollars as well. Country Music Television and Trinity Broadcasting Network? Maybe not so much. So while Biden himself may continue to hang out in his basement, his campaign will be running full blast without him out there shaking hands, kissing babies, and eating ethnic foods.

The Trump campaign hasn't released detailed plans for the fall yet, but we can guess its priorities by where it has spent money on ads since April. Florida tops the list of individual states with $17 million. Next come Pennsylvania ($10 million), North Carolina ($7 million), Arizona ($5 million), Michigan ($4 million), Ohio ($3 million), and Iowa ($2 million). Trump has more cash on hand than Biden, so the list may well be expanded going forward. (V)

Can an Election Be Held During a Pandemic?

Actually, we already know the answer to that, since 38 statewide elections have been held since March. FiveThirtyEight has a good rundown on how it went. Here are the (incomplete) data from those states that had an election after mid-March:

          Turnout as Pct. of VEP
State Election Procedure Absentee 2020 Change from 2016 2016 2020 Change
Alaska Apr 10 Mailed ballots 100% 100% 2% 4% 2%
Hawaii May 22 Mailed ballots 100% 0% 3% 3% 0%
Idaho Jun 02 Mailed ballot applications 100% 86% 15% 26% 11%
Kansas May 02 Mailed ballots 100% 100% 2% 7% 5%
Montana Jun 02 Mailed ballots 100% 30% 37% 46% 9%
Nevada Jun 09 Mailed ballots 100% 89% 12% 22% 10%
North Dakota Jun 09 Mailed ballot applications 100% 73% 24% 28% 4%
Oregon May 19 Mailed ballots 100% 0% 41% 42% 1%
Utah Jun 30 Mailed ballots 100% 0% 16% 27% 10%
Wyoming Apr 17 Mailed ballots 100% 100% 2% 4% 2%
Colorado Jun 30 Mailed ballots 99% 0% 16% 38% 21%
Ohio Apr 28 Mailed instructions for requesting ballot 99% 85% 38% 21% -17%
Maryland Jun 02 Mailed ballots 97% 93% 34% 32% -1%
Arizona Mar 17 Anyone could vote absentee 89% 8% 24% 12% -12%
Nebraska May 12 Mailed ballot applications 84% 63% 23% 36% 13%
Rhode Island Jun 02 Mailed ballot applications 83% 79% 24% 16% -8%
Iowa Jun 02 Mailed ballot applications 78% 59% 9% 23% 14%
Wisconsin Apr 07 Anyone could vote absentee 75% 65% 50% 35% -14%
Kentucky Jun 23 Mailed instructions for requesting ballot 73% 70% 21% 31% 10%
D.C. Jun 02 Mailed ballot applications 71% 64% 20% 22% 2%
New Mexico Jun 02 Mailed ballot applications 63% 56% 23% 28% 5%
South Dakota Jun 02 Mailed ballot applications 58% 44% 20% 24% 4%
Indiana Jun 02 Anyone could vote absentee 51% 35% 36% 22% -15%
Pennsylvania Jun 02 Mailed instructions for requesting ballot 51% 48% 34% 30% -4%
West Virginia Jun 09 Mailed ballot applications 50% 49% 34% 32% -2%
Georgia Jun 09 Mailed ballot applications 48% ? ? 30% ?
Florida Mar 17 Anyone could vote absentee 46% 16% 28% 20% -9%
Delaware Jul 07 Mailed ballot applications 45% 42% 24% 17% -6%
South Carolina Jun 09 Anyone could vote absentee 22% 10% 11% 20% 8%
Virginia Jun 23 Anyone could vote absentee 21% 20% 2% 9% 7%
Louisiana Jul 11 Excuse required 19% 16% 19% 16% -3%
Texas Jul 14 Excuse required 17% 3% 3% 10% 6%
Oklahoma Jun 30 Anyone could vote absentee 14% 10% 12% 24% 12%
Illinois Mar 17 Anyone could vote absentee 9% 6% 40% 25% -14%
Alabama Jul 14 Anyone could vote absentee 5% 5% 2% 17% 15%

The top ten states on the list voted entirely by absentee ballot in 2020 (column 4). For Alaska, this was a 100% increase over 2016, but for Hawaii it was a 0% increase because Hawaii always votes by mail. At the bottom of the list (probably because data from Mississippi wasn't available) is Alabama, where only 5% voted absentee. Column 5 is the change from 2016. The last three columns are the turnout as a percentage of the voting eligible population (i.e., citizens over 18 who are not felons or otherwise disqualified from voting). The last column gives the increase in participation compared to 2016. Negative numbers indicate a decrease compared to 2016.

But there are a lot of caveats here. In some states, there was no primary in 2016 or 2020 or the primary was held after the nominee was already known, so there was little motivation to vote. Still, the data are worth something. In general, turnout was up in more states than it was down, and in the states where it was down, there was often a state-specific reason for that (e.g., Indiana had fiercely contested primaries for both parties in 2016 and not at all in 2020). These data don't say what is going to happen in November, but do suggest that voting during a pandemic is possible if the states do their best (but see below). (V)

Michigan Was a Mess

Michigan voted on Tuesday and the election went anything but smoothly. Many voters complained that they got their absentee ballots just before Election Day or not at all. Some residents of Detroit said they waited weeks to receive their ballots and were very worried about what this bodes for the fall.

On the one hand, election administrators faced the challenge of running a largely mail-in election for the first time without the resources and personnel need to do it. On the other hand, policy changes at the USPS instituted by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a major Trump donor, have resulted in days-long delays in delivering the mail. The combination is deadly and could potentially greatly affect the November election.

Voting in person is difficult or impossible for some people due to their age, frailty, or lack of transportation. For them, absentee voting is the only option and if the ballot doesn't arrive on time, they can't vote. For example, Michigan voter Claretha Doggan (70) requested her ballot at the beginning of July but she didn't get it until the day before the election. That's a month. Theoretically, she could have brought it to her polling place, but she had no transportation. Additionally, at 70, she is at high risk for getting COVID-19. Many other voters in multiple states had the same story to tell.

The USPS isn't even denying the problem. It sent the city of Detroit a notice that it could not deliver the mail-in ballots on time. One mail carrier who spoke to the Post anonymously said that his manager told him to leave mail at the post office rather than delivering it after his shift was over. He delivered it anyway, on his own time, but there is no guarantee that mail carriers will do that in November, especially if their managers specifically forbid them from doing it—most likely in heavily Democratic areas. When the Post asked the USPS spokesperson for Detroit to respond to the story, there was no reply.

Michigan isn't the only state where there were huge mail delays. In Missouri, there were cases of ballots taking 24 days to get back to the county election board. That means that people who requested an absentee ballot 6 weeks in advance of Election Day might not get the ballot for 2 or 3 weeks, in which case it would be too late for them to vote and have their ballot be counted.

One problem that occurs with absentee ballots that doesn't happen with in-person voting is signature mismatches. People sometimes change their name between the time they registered to vote (often years ago) and the time they cast their absentee ballot. With in-person voting, the voter can explain to the poll worker that she got married or divorced and at the very least get a provisional ballot. With absentee ballots, unless special provisions are made, a signature mismatch will invalidate the ballot. In St. Louis County, the League of Women Voters was deputized to track down voters whose ballots were rejected and give them the opportunity to fix the problem. But in nearly all other counties, mismatched signatures resulted in rejected ballot. And name changes aren't the only reason for signature mismatches. If a right-handed voter broke his right arm recently and tried to sign with his left hand, that is a near-certain mismatch. Also, if the voter registration form was filled out when the voter was 60 and is now 80 and has Parkinson's disease, that could affect the match. Or if someone changed their signature over time, as folks are sometimes wont to do. (Z) once had great difficulty closing down a bank account because the banker refused to accept that his signature had changed a bit between ages 15 and 35.

In a modern system, when a ballot envelope arrives, a worker can scan a bar code on it to pull up a copy of the voter's registration form to compare signatures. Based on that, the worker can then either accept or reject the signature and the voter is automatically sent an e-mail or text message saying which it was and if it was rejected, explain how the problem can be fixed. But buying equipment that can do this, installing it in the next 2 months, and training tens of thousands of workers how to use it is not in the cards. If states and counties start now, 2024 might be doable. (V)

Trump Sues Nevada over Absentee Ballots

The lawsuits over the November election have already started and it's only August. Imagine what is going to happen in October or November. Specifically, the Nevada state legislature passed a law ordering the secretary of state to send every registered voter an absentee ballot, the same way Colorado, Utah, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii have been doing for years without any problems. So, Donald Trump sued. He claims Nevada voting by mail will cause inevitable fraud.

It is not clear why Trump filed the lawsuit. In court, the state of Nevada is surely going to say: "Please explain why we can't do what five other states have been doing for years." The correct answer is: "If you get away with this, then a dozen other states are going to do it and I am going to lose the election. That is unacceptable to me, so I want to nip this in the bud."

Another thing Trump didn't like is that the Nevada law allows ballots postmarked on or before Election Day, but received three days after Election Day, to count. It also allows ballots received without a postmark to count. And Nevada isn't the only state to accept ballots after Election Day. So does North Carolina, for example.

It is possible that Trump's real goal is to create so much doubt about the legality of absentee ballots that people won't know what to do and won't vote. The chances of the suit succeeding are close to zero since Nevada isn't doing anything that other states aren't doing as well, but it could take months to settle. (V)

Republicans Knocked on a Million Doors Last Week, Democrats on Zero

The Democrats and Republicans are taking polar opposite approaches to door-to-door canvassing this year. According to Donald Trump's campaign, volunteers knocked on a million doors last week. This sounds fishy to us, but even 100,000 or 10,000 would be infinitely more than the zero doors Democratic volunteers knocked on. Clearly there are competing bets on the value of face-to-face contacts during a pandemic.

Historically, face-to-face discussions between supporters of a candidate and voters have been very effective, but do voters really want to talk politics with strangers during a pandemic? Republicans think they do, while Democrats think they don't. Instead, Democrats are focusing on phone calls and text messages to voters, virtual meet-ups, and new forms of digital communication. Pandemics aside, these new forms may be especially in line with how younger voters communicate (but not at all what older voters do).

The RNC's national field director, Elliott Echols, said: "They [Democrats] don't have the enthusiasm or a strong field operation, so it is a convenient excuse." Republicans claim to have 1,500 full-time staffers on the ground in 23 states and plan on hiring another 1,000 by the end of September. So, if some political staffer or volunteer knocks on your door, count on it being a Republican. On the other hand, Democrats may be thinking that having a campaign representative show up now may antagonize voters, not convince them. Besides, paying people to knock on doors takes money away from TV and digital ads. (V)

McConnell Says That He Will Need Democratic Votes to Pass a COVID-19 Relief Bill

Republican obstruction in the Senate is counterproductive. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has basically admitted that he can't herd the cats and get all the Senate Republicans to get behind a new relief bill so he will need Democratic votes to get one through the Senate. This means he will have to seriously negotiate with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to get anything done. And once there is a Senate bill, the House will get a whack at it. The negotiations will be tough because Pelosi will say: "I already passed a bill. Now you pass one and we can go to conference to iron out the differences." Somewhat surprisingly for him, McConnell is trying to stay out of the loop this time and letting others handle the negotiating with the Democrats for the time being. His problem is that the senators up for reelection this year want a bill, fast, and don't care what it costs. The most conservative senators not up for reelection don't want to spend any more money, so McConnell is being torn in all directions.

The admission that he doesn't have the votes to get a bill through the Senate appreciably weakens his hand on all the sticking points. These include:

  • The size of the total spend: $1 trillion or $3 trillion
  • Whether people get $200 or $600 supplemental unemployment insurance
  • Whether states and cities get some money
  • The amount of money, if any, allocated to helping states run mail-in elections
  • Providing extra money so schools can hire extra teachers and buy supplies so they can reopen

Also a factor here is the role of the White House. Donald Trump doesn't actually understand any of this stuff, so he is not going to be involved. That's right, the president of the United States is not capable of taking part in complex negotiations with the leaders of Congress on what may be the most important bill of his presidency. Instead he sent chief of staff Mark Meadows and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin to do the work.

Meadows' position on everything is basically "no." In the House he excelled at saying "no," but never actually did anything constructive. In practice this means Mnuchin, who understands money very well—especially large amounts of it—is Trump's man in this fight. Mnuchin certainly understands that if he also says "no" to everything, there will be no bill and Trump will get the blame. He can't have that. If McConnell and Schumer agree to a bill that Trump doesn't want and Mnuchin says that Trump will veto it, Schumer can say: "OK, let him veto it and explain his veto to the tens of millions of people who are unemployed." The Democrats clearly have the upper hand here and McConnell and Mnuchin know it.

In an attempt to scare the Democrats, late yesterday Meadows said: "I've become extremely doubtful that we will be able to make a deal if it goes well beyond Friday." Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) was also blunt: "If there's not a deal by Friday, there won't be a deal." Suppose Friday comes and goes and there is no deal. Then Nancy Pelosi will say: "Sorry, tens of millions of people with no job and no money. The Republicans don't want to talk about a deal any more. I'm willing to talk, but they are not." Guess who will get the blame. It is not clear who thought up the threat. Maybe it was Trump himself. Mnuchin and Blunt are smart enough to know that Pelosi has more cojones than everyone else in the room combined and giving her ultimatums isn't going to work. So probably the order came from higher up. And there is only one person higher than the Treasury Secretary.

Trump also told Fox News yesterday that he was going to suspend the payroll tax by executive order. That wouldn't help the tens of millions of people who aren't on a payroll now, but it would save the Trump Organization millions of dollars. The only fly in the ointment is that Trump has no such authority to suspend taxes levied by Congress. If the Trump Organization actually stopped remitting payroll taxes to the federal and state governments, he would be committing tax evasion and once he is out of office could be prosecuted for that. No doubt his lawyers will try to point this out to him ever so gently. (V)

If Trump Loses, Republicans Will Have a Leadership Battle

When any party becomes a cult of personality, there is always a succession problem. If Donald Trump loses in November, who will lead the Republican Party? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is an unlikely successor. He prefers writing tax-cut bills in a back room and confirming judges to getting on television all the time and philosophizing about the principles Republicans stand for, especially since he personally has no principles. So, the maneuvering and backbiting has already begun.

Politico talked to a dozen Republican insiders to see what might happen in the aftermath of a Trump defeat. One top Republican in Congress candidly put it this way: "If Trump loses, there's gonna be a mad scramble if we're in the minority. There's people seeing this as an opportunity. I think it's gonna be a real fight."

The entire House votes for its speaker, which means that if only 215 of the 232 (current) Democrats were to vote for Nancy Pelosi, she would lose her job. So, 20 or so defections would be absolutely fatal. However, only Republicans get to vote for minority leader. So, if the Republicans had 200 seats in the new House, a potential leader would win a 101 to 99 vote. The current top House Republicans are: (1) Kevin McCarthy (CA), (2) Steve Scalise (LA), and (3) Liz Cheney (WY). The infighting has already begun, with Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) calling for Cheney to buzz off. Gaetz doesn't feel Cheney is Trumpy enough. He said: "I always knew Liz to support 'forever wars,' but I hope she doesn't want a forever war with her own conference." Them's fightin' words. Besides, he is confusing Liz with her dad, Dick Cheney. Actually, they are easy to tell apart. Liz has lots of blonde hair and Dick has hardly any hair at all, and what is there is all white.

Another point of contention is that Liz is a strong supporter of Anthony Fauci and wears masks in public. She doesn't see any contradiction between being a conservative and trying to save lives. But not following the Dear Leader on everything (as McCarthy and Scalise do) is seen as a grievous sin by many Republicans. On the other hand, if Trump goes down in flames and the Republicans lose the Senate and more House seats, the remaining Republicans may decide "more of the same" is not what they are looking for and may see Cheney as a better public face of the party than either McCarthy or Scalise. Especially if they think some suburban women might be brought back into the tent once The Donald has departed it. And if they are angry and looking for a couple of scapegoats, McCarthy and Scalise are the obvious targets due to their high degree of Trumpiness. However, the House Republicans most likely to lose are the remaining moderates, so a smaller Republican caucus would also be a more conservative and Trumpy one, and it might prefer McCarthy or Scalise.

It's also possible that McCarthy and Scalise might not even try to fight being deposed. One member said: "Not sure McCarthy and Scalise are prepared to be in the minority and with a Dem President." House rules differ from Senate rules in that the House minority has zero power. If the speaker wants to change the colors in the American flag to mauve, chartreuse, and beige, and add a picture of John Lewis, and her caucus is with her, there is absolutely nothing the minority can do to stop it or even delay it. If Joe Biden wins and the Democrats control both chambers of Congress, Nancy Pelosi will be pumping out bill after bill without even consulting the minority leader. It will be a thankless job and the Republicans might be happy if somebody wants it. Of course, if Trump wins and the Republicans take back the House, Cheney is a dead woman walking. (V)

Rashida Tlaib Wins

First-term Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) defeated Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones in the MI-13 primary held Tuesday. Tlaib got 66% of the vote to Jones' 34%. Tlaib is a member of "The Squad" of progressive Democratic women of color in the House. Her win was easier than expected; some observers thought she might be in trouble because Jones is Black and the district, which covers the western half of Detroit, is majority Black and was represented by Black members of Congress for years, including Jones herself (whom Tlaib unseated) and John Conyers.

Two years ago, Tlaib beat Jones and four others in a six-way primary. This year it was one-on-one against Jones. The race pitted two overlapping Democratic constituencies against each other: progressives (Tlaib) and Blacks (Jones). Tlaib is better known than Jones these days, and was no doubt aided by Nancy Pelosi's endorsement. Pelosi wasn't really picking sides, though. Her practice is always to support her members against challengers, no matter who has what ideology. (V)

VP Candidate Profile: Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH)

We got them all in, just under the wire. Here are all the candidates we profiled prior to today:

  1. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) [Score: 27.5]
  2. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) [Score: 26]
  3. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) [Score: 20]
  4. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) [Score: 17]
  5. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) [Score: 27]
  6. Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) [Score: 13]
  7. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D-Atlanta) [Score: 24]
  8. Former State Representative Stacey Abrams (D-GA) [Score: 25]
  9. Former NSA Susan Rice [Score: 31]
  10. Rep. Val Demings (D-FL) [Score: 19]
  11. Gov. Gina Raimondo (D-RI) [Score: 7]
  12. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH)

Hassan is not likely to be the pick (see above), but again, it's not over until it's over.

As a reminder, we're awarding up to 10 points across five different areas of concern: How ready the candidate is to assume the presidency, if needed; what kind of coattails the candidate might have in terms of helping the Democratic ticket in their state/region; what the candidate brings to the table in terms of "nuts and bolts" political skills like fundraising and debating; the depth of the candidate's relationship with Biden (to the extent that information is publicly known); and how well the candidate balances out Biden. So, the perfect running mate would score a 50, while Curtis LeMay would score a 0.

Maggie Hassan
  • Full Name: Margaret Coldwell Hassan

  • Age on January 20, 2021: 62

  • Background: Hassan was born in Boston to schoolteacher Margaret Wood and political scientist Robert Coldwell Wood. Her father had a very distinguished career, serving as professor and administrator at MIT and the University of Massachusetts. He was also an advisor to, and occasional speechwriter for, John F. Kennedy, and served in a number of appointed positions in the administrations of both Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. During that time, he helped create the Department of Housing and Urban Development, serving as its first undersecretary for several years and, briefly, as its second secretary.

    Thanks to this, Hassan spent several of her formative years in Washington, D.C., and was exposed to the intricacies of policy-making from an early age. In contrast to, say, Susan Rice, that did not automatically direct her toward a career in politics, however. She earned a B.A. in history from Brown, followed by a J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law in 1985, and commenced a successful private practice career with a number of large firms. It was actually her son Ben who led her down a path that led to politics.

  • Political Experience: Ben Hassan has cerebral palsy, and while his mind is sharp, he cannot walk, talk, or use his hands. Because of her experience raising him, Hassan's legal career began to move in the direction of advocacy for healthcare and for educational access. During this portion of her career, her legal work brought her to the attention of then-governor of New Hampshire Jeanne Shaheen (D), who appointed Hassan to the state's Advisory Committee to the Adequacy in Education and Finance Commission in 1999.

    After a couple of years of work in an appointed role, Hassan decided to take her chances at an elected job, and in 2002 ran for the New Hampshire state senate. She lost by 8 points to incumbent Russell Prescott (R), but returned for a rematch in 2004 and beat him by four. She twice won reelection by large margins, and served at various times as assistant Democratic whip, president pro tempore, and majority leader of the New Hampshire Senate. In 2012, she decided that a move to the governor's mansion would be a swell idea, and with strong backing from the Democratic establishment, including in-person campaigning from the Clintons, she easily defeated Republican Ovide M. Lamontagne, who sounds like the villain in a Dickens novel.

    Hassan served two terms as governor before deciding that it was kind of annoying having to run for reelection every two years, and also having to deal with the rather powerful Executive Council of New Hampshire, which can veto many gubernatorial actions. So, she decided to follow Shaheen's lead, and trade the governor's mansion for the U.S. Senate. It was the closest Senate race of 2016, but she managed to knock off then-senator Kelly Ayotte (R), aided a bit by Hillary Clinton's coattails. Hassan and Shaheen are the only two women in American history to be elected as both a governor and a U.S. Senator.

  • Signature Issue(s): Healthcare. There is her personal stake in the issue, as noted. During her time as governor, she expanded Medicaid, and also pushed hard for legislation to combat the opioid crisis.

  • Instructive Quote: "I don't think I would have run for office if I hadn't been Ben's mother. Our family was able to thrive because of all the people who fought to bring people like Ben in from the margins. That inspired me to advocate for others." (Feb. 9, 2016).

  • Recent News: The Democrats have certain goals for the next round of COVID-19 funding (see above), among them a chunk of money for schools. To nobody's surprise, Hassan has been the upper chamber's most assertive advocate for additional school funding.

  • Ready for the Big Chair?: She may not be as ready as every candidate on the list above, but she does have a pretty long résumé at this point, and good breadth of experience (state/federal, legislative/executive). (5/10)

  • Coattails: Outside of one EV in Maine (maybe), New England is squarely in Joe Biden's pocket. Hassan has no coattails. (0/10)

  • Nuts and Bolts Skills: She knows how to get bills passed, and is an above-average public speaker. However, she's not a great fundraiser (and has run afoul of the rules in the past), she has almost no national profile, and she's not much of a networker. (3/10)

  • Relationship with Biden: They've been acquaintances for a long time, but that's it. (2/10)

  • Balance: She's a bit younger than he, and a shade bit more progressive. Not a lot of balance here. (1/10)

  • Betting Odds: She's getting 100/1 pretty much everywhere. Call us crazy, but that sounds like a 1% chance from where we sit.

  • Completely Trivial Fact: Hassan's last name is almost always mispronounced, including once on "Jeopardy!" by Alex Trebek. Though it may look like it rhymes with the first two syllables in "croissant," it actually rhymes with "fasten." The seemingly Arabic origin of her name has led to attacks from far-right groups like One Nation, which claimed that Hassan is a "radical Islamist" and a terrorism enabler. In fact, her name is of Celtic origin, and descends from the name Ó hOsáin, which translates roughly as "descended from deer."

  • The Bottom Line: We've got her at 11/50, which leaves her lagging the competition. Beyond that, however, are two rather serious problems. The first is that Elizabeth Warren brings everything Hassan brings, plus a bunch more beyond that. It's inconceivable that Hassan would leapfrog the Massachusetts Senator. The second is that if Hassan resigns her U.S. Senate seat, it would be filled by a Republican governor, and the new appointee would serve until late 2022. It's even more inconceivable that Biden would toss away a Senate seat like that, given how close the Democrats are to claiming a majority. It is true that Warren's replacement would also be chosen by a Republican, but that replacement would only serve a few months before an election, not close to two years. In short, Hassan is the longest shot on the list, by a fair margin.

There you go, 12 possible VPs. This little project isn't quite over yet, though. Stay tuned. (Z)

Today's Presidential Polls

Zogby did a lot of polling back in 2004 then moved on to other things. Apparently it is back now. It appears to be rather rusty though. An exact tie in Florida and a statistical tie in Pennsylvania is way out of line with other pollsters. It is not a partisan outfit though, so we have no reason to reject its polls a priori. (V)

State Biden Trump Start End Pollster
Florida 43% 43% Jul 21 Jul 23 Zogby Analytics
Iowa 46% 48% Jul 30 Aug 03 Monmouth U.
Indiana 38% 55% Jul 24 Aug 02 Morning Consult
North Carolina 44% 40% Jul 21 Jul 23 Zogby Analytics
Ohio 43% 41% Jul 21 Jul 23 Zogby Analytics
Pennsylvania 44% 43% Jul 21 Jul 23 Zogby Analytics

Today's Senate Polls

Both the presidential and Senate races in Iowa are going to be real barnburners. It could be close and the races could ultimately be decided on which absentee ballots get delivered by the deadline and which don't.

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Iowa Theresa Greenfield 47% Joni Ernst* 48% Jul 30 Aug 03 Monmouth U.

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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