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Political Wire logo Biden Holds Double-Digit Lead
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Trump Gives Credence to False, Racist Harris Conspiracy

TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  The Day After
      •  The Delicate Art of Character Assassination
      •  Is QAnon Becoming the New Litmus Test?
      •  Silicon Valley Is Prepping for Election Night
      •  Looks at Books, Part I: Bob Woodward
      •  Looks at Books, Part II: George W. Bush
      •  Today's Presidential Polls
      •  Today's Senate Polls

The Day After

On Tuesday, Joe Biden announced that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) would be his running mate. The news dominated Tuesday's news cycle, of course, and it also dominated Wednesday's. Here's a rundown of the major stories, as the world adjusted to the notion of Harris as aspiring VP:

  • The Debut: Biden formally introduced Harris as his running mate at an event near his home base in Delaware. Once the niceties were out of the way, they each gave speeches hammering Donald Trump over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Harris showed off her attack-dog skills, which will be getting a workout over the course of the next 80 days:
    The President's mismanagement of the pandemic has plunged us into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, and we're experiencing a moral reckoning with racism and systemic injustice that has brought a new coalition of conscience to the streets of our country demanding change. America is crying out for leadership. Yet we have a President who cares more about himself than the people who elected him. As someone who has presented my fair share of arguments in court, the case against Donald Trump and Mike Pence is open and shut.
    That latter bit is a nice turn of phrase; expect Harris to use that one or two more times over the course of the next couple of months. In fact, it would not be a surprise if the leitmotif of her convention speech is "the case against Donald Trump and Mike Pence."

  • Behind the Scenes: As would be expected, we learned a bit on Wednesday about Biden's process. He interviewed 11 contenders in 10 days, making use of Zoom due to the pandemic. Harris' interview was the first one, and the one where Biden felt the strongest personal connection, despite their occasionally contentious past. Put another way, the job was Harris' to lose throughout the process, and nothing happened to knock her out of the catbird seat.

  • Lots of Advice: Presumably, Harris was prepared for the fact that anyone and everyone would weigh in with their two cents about how to handle her VP campaign. And whether she was prepared or not, the advice is coming in waves, through every channel imaginable. Perhaps the most useful was from Harris ally and former U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, who said that Harris cannot run from her record as a prosecutor, and that she either has to own it if she still believes she did right, or apologize for it if she now believes she mis-stepped.

  • The $35-million-dollar Woman: In the 24 hours after Harris' name was announced, the Biden campaign took in $26 million, and Democratic fundraising site ActBlue took in about $30 million. Both of those are single-day records. There's some overlap between those totals, as some of the money the Biden campaign collected came through Act Blue, but a comparison to the average day in the week before Harris was selected suggests that she personally attracted about $35 million in donations in 24 hours. That strongly suggests general enthusiasm for the pick among Democratic voters. By contrast, the announcement of Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) as Hillary Clinton's running mate added just $600 and two packs of Necco Wafers to the Democratic coffers. (Ok, it was actually more like $10 million, which is not bad, but certainly isn't $35 million).

  • Women of Color Are Happy: Not all women of color are happy, of course. But the pick of Harris seems to have done a pretty good job of pleasing the constituency Biden was most trying to reach. There were op-eds all over the place saying as much on Wednesday. The one written by Donna F. Edwards, and headlined "I thought it didn't matter whether Joe Biden picked a Black woman. And then it happened," and the one written by Manisha Sinha, and headlined "Why Kamala Harris Matters to Me," are particularly interesting, offering a Black and an Indian-American perspective, respectively.

  • The Indian Angle: Speaking of Indian-American voters, this is an element of the story that probably did not get enough attention early on, although Wednesday's coverage more than made up for that. On the whole, the nation's 1.6 million residents of Indian descent appear to be delighted to be represented on the Democratic ticket. Here, incidentally, is a list of all the American states whose population is at least 0.5% Indian-American:

    State Pct. Indian-American
    New Jersey 3.32%
    New York 1.62%
    Illinois 1.47%
    California 1.42%
    Maryland 1.37%
    Virginia 1.30%
    Connecticut 1.30%
    Delaware 1.27%
    Massachusetts 1.18%
    Georgia 0.99%
    Texas 0.98%
    Washington 0.91%
    Pennsylvania 0.81%
    Michigan 0.78%
    Florida 0.68%
    New Hampshire 0.63%
    North Carolina 0.60%
    Ohio 0.56%
    Arizona 0.56%
    Minnesota 0.52%

    We haven't the faintest idea how many votes might be won among this community now that Harris is on the ticket, but we bet the Biden campaign has done some polling on that question, and one cannot help noticing how many swing states appear on the list. The Trump campaign has tried to make inroads with Indian-American voters; it's fair to assume those efforts are now pretty much moot.

  • Progressives Divided?: As expected, some progressives were not happy with the pick, with some of them slamming Harris as yet another neoliberal (a word that, like "socialist," has been deployed so many times as a weapon that it has become almost meaningless). Still, it appears that many (and perhaps most) progressives are resigned to the pick, reasoning that in 2020, beating Donald Trump is the #1 imperative, and the revolution can wait until later. Further, environmentalists (a group that substantially overlaps with the progressives) are actually pleased with the pick, given Harris' record on green issues.

  • Republicans on the Attack: Republicans, with Donald Trump and Fox News taking the lead, threw everything they could at Harris to tear her down (more below). Trump called her "the kind of opponent everyone dreams of," and many of his acolytes agreed, though it was pretty easy to hear that as "Damn it. We really wanted Susan Rice." Already, incidentally, it has come to light that Trump once donated to Harris' AG campaign, as did his daughter Ivanka. That's likely to make a pretty good sound bite, even if more sophisticated politics-watchers know that business interests like the Trump Organization donate to everyone on both sides of the aisle who might win, just in case they have need of a favor down the road.

  • Cue the Senatorial Horse Race: Now that the veepstakes is over, there's a bit of a horse-race void in the world of politics. No problem, though, because now speculation can turn to the question of Harris' replacement in the Senate, should she have to resign to become VP. By California law, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) would get to pick someone to finish the rest of her term, which runs through 2022. Leading contenders include Reps. Karen Bass, Barbara Lee, Ro Khanna, and Adam Schiff (all D-CA); California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis (D), California AG Xavier Becerra (D), California Treasurer Fiona Ma (D), Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D), Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia (D), San Francisco Mayor London Breed (D), and Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis (D). It's also not impossible Newsom will appoint himself; he may decide he prefers a job that is not term-limited and that doesn't involve getting lots of blame for COVID-19 woes.

That's where things stand as of Wednesday. Harris will get most of the attention through the Sunday morning news shows, and then everyone's eyes will turn to the two conventions. (Z)

The Delicate Art of Character Assassination

Donald Trump wants to run the mud-slingingest campaign possible. First, because that is what his gut tells him to do. Second, because it worked in 2016 (albeit just barely). Third, because with the economy gone down the drain, it's really all he's got. Thus far, the President and his allies have had little success in tearing down Joe Biden, who is a fairly milquetoast old white guy, and who does not have the built-up reservoir of hatred that Hillary Clinton did. With time growing short, and Biden's polling lead growing long, turning Kamala Harris into an anchor around Biden's neck may be Trump's last, best chance. So, since being announced, she has been subjected to withering fire covering all the obvious angles, and some not-so-obvious ones:

  • Gender: Trump 2020 is in a curious position. On one hand, there is little question that latent sexism (or not-so-latent sexism) helped him defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016. On the other hand, he's desperately trying to retain as many suburban women voters as he possibly can. In order to thread that needle, the dog whistles will have to be crafted very carefully. Thus far, they haven't been. At least a dozen times since Harris was announced (press conferences, Twitter, etc.), Trump has described her as "nasty." Given that he uses that one so often, and that it's almost exclusively in reference to powerful women, everyone knows now that it's just code for "bitch." Since that is very offensive, and since it's so poorly encoded, using it appears to do Trump more harm than good these days.

    Another possible gendered line of attack is to go after Harris' sexual history. She famously dated the once-powerful California politician Willie Brown, and he helped her career out. Consequently, there have been persistent whispers that she slept her way to the top. The evidence for this is poor and, in the end, only two people know for sure what the truth is. More certain is that the underlying implication—i.e., a woman couldn't possibly rise to prominence on her own merits—is not going to please female voters. So, this is not likely to be a productive line of attack. That did not stop many Republicans from going there, however, and the hashtag #whorendous trended on Twitter for a while on Wednesday, in part because Eric Trump liked a tweet that included that phrase.

  • Race: Going after Harris' racial background is even trickier, because while there are clearly plenty of racists out there, overt racism is socially unacceptable to most Americans. This was the same problem the Republican Party had with Barack Obama. And, surprise surprise, Team Trump (and others) are running a near-identical playbook as in 2008. To start, as they did with Obama (who was smeared as "Barack HUSSEIN Obama" or "Barry Soetoro"), Republican pundits are making a point of emphasizing the foreignness of Harris' name. Tucker Carlson, discussing the pick on his program, deliberately mispronounced "Kamala" as "Kuh-mahl-a" as opposed to the correct "Comma-la." When the error was pointed out, Carlson laughed and continued with the wrong pronunciation. Carlson and Sean Hannity will undoubtedly move on to her middle name, Devi, sooner or later. We foresee "DeviL" jokes.

    Similarly, the allegation has already circled widely that Harris is not eligible to be president by virtue of her parents being immigrants. This notion achieved wide enough currency that all the major fact-checking sites have already published items debunking the claim. Harris was born in the United States, which makes her a natural born citizen—full stop. Anyone who thinks otherwise would do well to review the Supreme Court's finding in United States v. Wong Kim Ark. Given what happened with Obama, however, don't be surprised if this quickly evolves into "Harris was really born in [X]," followed by demands for her birth certificate.

    Yet another line of attack, one somewhat at odds with the previous two, was pursued by talker Mark Levin and windbag Dinesh D'Souza, among others. They questioned whether Kamala Harris is truly "Black" at all, since she is not descended from slaves (Levin's argument) and her ancestry is Jamaican (D'Souza's argument). Given that skin color was and is more than enough to be subjected to discrimination, and that Harris has a personal history of integrating a school while a young student, it is not likely that the Black voters at whom this is ostensibly aimed will be impressed by the opinions of two men who are, last we checked, decidedly not Black.

  • Politics: There are two possible directions that Trump & Co. could go here. They could paint Harris as an out-of-control, wild-eyed radical leftist, à la The Squad, or they could represent her as a flip-flopping person without any principles at all, à la John Kerry. So, which one did the Republicans choose? Both. One example of the former, among many:

    And one example of the latter, among many:

    At least one Fox News op-ed made both arguments simultaneously, seeing no apparent incongruity in representing Harris as an ideologue without principles.

  • Puppetmastery: Here, Team Trump was nearly as contradictory as with Harris' politics. On one hand, folks like Laura Ingraham—making what is, in effect, a backdoor attack on Biden—declared that Biden is utterly cowed by Harris, and that she will be running the show. On the other hand, many right-wing commentators—with The Daily Caller taking the lead—argued that Harris and Biden loathe each other, and misrepresented her remarks at the first Democratic debate as "evidence" that she called him a racist. Her exact words, if you check the transcript, were: "I do not believe you are a racist and I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground." Merely the opposite of what the right-wing commentariat is claiming.

  • D'oh!: There were also the assorted slams on Harris from out of left field. The clumsiest, at least in the judgment of social media users, came from Trump adviser Jenna Ellis, who compared Harris' voice to that of cartoon character Marge Simpson. Beyond the fact that Harris and Simpson do not sound alike, Marge is also the hero and moral center of that show, making this "insult" more of a compliment. What this really illustrates, once again, is that Republicans should stop trying to make pop culture references because they are terrible at it.

There is an old saying in football that a team that has two quarterbacks actually has none. In other words, either your team has a clear on-field leader or it doesn't. We would suggest that something similar might be said of political mud-slinging: If you have many lines of attack to pursue, you actually have none. That is to say, the fact that Trump & Co. threw everything but the kitchen sink at Harris, and that their messaging was often internally contradictory, is an indication that she doesn't have an obvious Achilles' heel to exploit.

It's possible that could change, and that the Party could find that the name game, or the claims Harris is a wild-eyed liberal, or something else actually lands with voters. If we were on Team Trump, however, we would not be optimistic about that. It does no good to persuade the base that Harris is un-American, socialist, a whore, etc.; the only thing that matters now is winning over that small fraction of the electorate that is still persuadable. The various lines of attack outlined here don't seem likely to do that. Even worse for Trump 2020, they could simultaneously give some voters (women, people of color) even more motivation to get to the polls to boot the President out of office. (Z)

Is QAnon Becoming the New Litmus Test?

It did not escape attention that on the same night the Democrats put the first woman of color on a major-party ticket, the nutty, anti-Semitic, racist, QAnon conspiracy theorist Marjorie Taylor Greene punched her ticket to become a member of the incoming Republican cohort in Congress. It's not too hard to see this as an indication of the direction in which each party is headed. After all, when Greene gets to Washington, she will be welcomed by at least a dozen other Republicans who believe in QAnon.

For those who are not familiar with the theory, the basic idea is that there is a high-ranking government official who, under the pseudonym "Q," publishes information to the 4Chan and 8Chan Internet message boards. And what Q is allegedly "in the know" about is a vast conspiracy of politicians, celebrities, globalists (a.k.a. Jews), and pedophiles that have been running the show from behind the scenes for decades, and is responsible for everything from the JFK assassination to the rise of ISIS.

There was actually a somewhat similar conspiracy theory a few years ago, one that claimed that a global conspiracy of "Star Whackers" was targeting its enemies for elimination, en route to world domination. The primary peddler of that one was the actor Randy Quaid, who was rightly shunned when he presumed to hold forth on the subject, and whose Hollywood career came to an end as a result.

There is one major difference between the "Star Whackers" and QAnon however. And that is that the hero of QAnon is...Donald Trump, who is allegedly one of the few business leaders who is not part of the deep state, and who was supposedly recruited by the U.S. military to overthrow the deep state, something that the President has (apparently) been very effective at doing. Trump loves conspiracy theories, and he loves stories where he's the hero even more. So, it seemed to be only a matter of time until he openly embraced QAnon.

It appears that time might have arrived on Wednesday. To start, Trump showered Greene with praise, describing her as a "future Republican Star" and "a real WINNER!" Further, after Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) criticized Greene and QAnon, White House Deputy Communications Director Matt Wolking went after Kinzinger on Twitter:

White House staffers were also displeased with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who said there is "no place in Congress for these conspiracies," and Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-VA), who described QAnon as "mental gonorrhea."

Exactly what happens next is anyone's guess. Greene is certainly not going to quiet down, and her verbiage is sure to inspire her QAnon-believing future colleagues. Trump has thus far held QAnon at arm's length, undoubtedly because the people around him have told him it's loony, but maybe the temptation is too great and he'll become an open proponent who demands QAnon advocacy from other Republicans. That's particularly likely if he is reelected, and no longer has to worry about scaring off moderate voters. And even if Trump's not reelected, McCarthy, et al., are going to be stuck with a cadre of junior members who are not living in the real world, and who are an embarrassment to the Republican Party. It's not a fun time to be a professional GOP politician. (Z)

Silicon Valley Is Prepping for Election Night

Much attention has been paid to the possible shenanigans that Donald Trump and his team might pull on Election Night in a desperate attempt to keep him in the White House. Less attention has been paid to the forces that are being marshaled to prevent possible chicanery. Those hoping for a fair election will be pleased to hear that the pooh-bahs of Silicon Valley have formed an out-of-character-for-them alliance in order to help fight that particular fight.

Generally speaking, Twitter, Facebook, and Google—all of them members of this unusual consortium—do not like to work together. They also, to different extents, don't like to police political speech. However, they don't want to be instruments for the ruination of democracy as we know it. And so, they are "preparing for the worst" on election night, and figuring out what they need to do to fight back in various scenarios. They aren't saying too much about their plans, for obvious reasons, but their preparations do include being ready to shut down an anticipated massive, lighting-fast, election-night "the results are bogus" misinformation campaign.

Maybe these preparations won't be necessary. But, as always, it's better to have plans in place and not need them than it is to need plans in place and not have them. And it's a reminder that for all the forces being marshaled to potentially steal the election, there are considerable forces on the other side trying to make sure that things stay on the straight and narrow. (Z)

Looks at Books, Part I: Bob Woodward

Anyone who is in the business of selling political exposés is going to have no trouble paying for their kids' Christmas presents (or Hanukkah presents, or Kwanzaa presents, or Festivus dinner) this year. Jim Scuitto's scathing account of Donald Trump's foreign policy came out this week, former Trump fixer Michael Cohen has a book in the works, and on Wednesday, dean of American political reporters Bob Woodward revealed details of his latest, which will be called Rage and will be released on Sept. 15.

The book is a follow-up to Woodward's previous volume on Trump, Fear, and is reportedly even more hard-hitting. The journalist says he talked to people "inside the Oval Office" who were not accessible to him last time, which sounds an awful lot like John Kelly, Rex Tillerson, and Jim Mattis all spilled their guts. Woodward promises "explosive" revelations related to Trump's thinking on North Korea, COVID-19, Black Lives Matter, and national security. Woodward's publisher, Jonathan Karp, who also published the books from John Bolton and Mary Trump, says that the Woodward book is "the most important book" that will be published this year.

Some of that rhetoric, maybe most of it, is just good marketing. Still, Woodward is very good at what he does, so he may have come up with some juicy stuff. In any event, it's not usually a good thing for a politician to be the subject of tell-all books just weeks before an election. Especially if those books are bestsellers, which is pretty much a guarantee with anything Woodward writes.

Oh, and if you caught the reference in the headline, you are to be congratulated on your knowledge of late-night TV, dating back to the 1970s. (Z)

Looks at Books, Part II: George W. Bush

Bob Woodward isn't the only prominent person from the world of politics who has a book coming out. George W. Bush has one in the works, as well. It will be titled Out of Many, One, and will feature 43 portraits of immigrants painted by the 43rd president.

This is, of course, no exposé like the Woodward book. And, in fact, the Bush volume won't even be released until March of next year. However, the portraits in the book are being displayed at the George W. Bush Presidential Library right now, and the museum has made a big point of publicizing both the book and the exhibit. The 43rd president has not made, and says he will not make, an endorsement in this year's presidential contest. However, it's not hard to interpret this project as a backdoor endorsement of "not Trump." (Z)

Today's Presidential Polls

Breaking news: Donald Trump is going to lose Massachusetts, big-time. Who knew? Undoubtedly, MassINC was polling the increasingly close Democratic Senate primary between Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), and decided to toss a few presidential questions in for kicks.

It's interesting that Kansas is that close, though it's not like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are going to spend any time campaigning there, even if they are tempted to do so to be able to partake of some of the nation's best BBQ. It is also interesting that there is so much variance in polls of Wisconsin, though they all agree Biden is the favorite.

Yesterday Critical Insights had a register voter poll of Maine. Today we have their likely voters poll. Did it take them a day to figure out who was a likely voter? We're not sure, but we replace the old poll with the new one. (Z)

State Biden Trump Start End Pollster
Kansas 41% 48% Aug 05 Aug 09 SurveyUSA
Massachusetts 63% 27% Aug 06 Aug 09 MassINC
Maine 45% 38% Jul 28 Aug 09 Critical Insights
Wisconsin 55% 43% Aug 05 Aug 06 Pulse Opinion Research

Today's Senate Polls

Two polls since the nominees were picked, and two polls that have it neck-and-neck. Maybe getting rid of Kris Kobach was not the curative that Republicans thought it was. In particular, one wonders what Kobach loyalists will do, knowing the GOP establishment worked hard to derail their candidate. They could stay home, skip that line on the ballot, or possibly even convince themselves to vote for Bollier, who was a Republican until 2018. (Z)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Kansas Barbara Bollier 44% Roger Marshall 46% Aug 05 Aug 09 SurveyUSA

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug12 It's Kamala Harris
Aug12 More Voters Head to the Polls
Aug12 Democrats Appear to Prefer Vote-by-Mail
Aug12 Are You Ready for Some Football?
Aug12 The Vaccine War Is Well Underway
Aug12 COVID-19 Diaries: Research Notes
Aug12 Today's Presidential Polls
Aug12 Today's Senate Polls
Aug11 New National Poll: Biden 53%, Trump 40%
Aug11 Republicans Have a Strategy for November
Aug11 Democrats Will Feature Ordinary Voters in Their Virtual Convention
Aug11 How Biden Can Win and How Biden Can Lose
Aug11 Can the FDA Handle the Pressure?
Aug11 Democrats' House Prospects Are Looking Good
Aug11 Florida Democrats Failed to Register a Million New Voters
Aug11 Willie Brown: Harris Should Decline Veep Offer and Hold Out for Attorney General
Aug11 Today's Presidential Polls
Aug11 Today's Senate Polls
Aug10 More on Trump's Saturday "Executive Orders"
Aug10 COVID-19 Cases in the U.S. Hit 5 Million
Aug10 It's Official: The Election Is Russia vs. China
Aug10 Five States Vote Tomorrow
Aug10 Are Mail-in Ballots Bad and Absentee Ballots Good?
Aug10 DeJoy Reorganizes the Postal Service
Aug10 Trump Chews Out Adelson
Aug10 Trumpworld Is Divided on Transphobia
Aug10 What about the Exit Polls?
Aug10 Today's Presidential Polls
Aug09 Trump Signs Four Executive Orders on the Economy
Aug09 Sunday Mailbag
Aug08 Saturday Q&A
Aug08 Today's Presidential Polls
Aug08 Today's Senate Polls
Aug07 Tennesseans Waltz to the Polls
Aug07 Trump Announces Plans to Cut TikTok, WeChat off at the Knees
Aug07 What's Going on with Trump and Facebook?
Aug07 Here Comes Another Trump Book
Aug07 CPD: Debate Schedule Not Open to Debate
Aug07 Biden Opens Mouth, Inserts Foot
Aug07 Letitia James Goes After the NRA
Aug07 Young Sues Trump
Aug07 Today's Presidential Polls
Aug07 Today's Senate Polls
Aug06 Axios: It's Harris or Rice
Aug06 Democrats Prefer Harris; Republicans Want Rice
Aug06 Acceptance Speeches Won't Be at the Conventions
Aug06 Biden Announces a Massive Ad Buy
Aug06 Can an Election Be Held During a Pandemic?
Aug06 Michigan Was a Mess
Aug06 Trump Sues Nevada over Absentee Ballots