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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Saturday Q&A
      •  Today's Presidential Polls
      •  Today's Senate Polls

Saturday Q&A

Lots of questions on a wide variety of topics today. A request: Try to keep your questions short and to the point. They have been growing longer and longer. The more succinct your question is, the more likely we are to answer it. Thanks.

Q: Like many readers of the site, I'm very concerned about what will happen in November. Even if Biden pulls out a win (which I think is seeming more and more remote by the day, given Trump's attacks on the USPS and other shenanigans), there are at least two scenarios that I haven't seen discussed.

1. Fox News calls the election for Trump on Election Day, even with millions of absentee ballots outstanding. The other networks might be more responsible, but I can't conceive of Fox passing up the chance to be the first to call the election and basically tell 40% of the country that it's over and Trump won a decisive victory. I know that this doesn't mean anything in a legal sense, but this would allow Trump to call a Biden win illegitimate and have some semblance of credibility. It would also destroy the already-slim chance that his voters might accept a Biden win.

2. Trump fires high-ranking members of the military/Secret Service and replaces them with people whose only loyalty is to him (he's done it in so many other departments; why not here?). Now he no longer has to worry about them escorting him out of the White House, refusing to support a coup attempt, etc.

What (if anything?) would prevent either of these scenarios from coming to pass?
D.M. Northampton, MA

A: We're not convinced that Trump is the favorite. Biden is leading in all the swing states by quite a bit, so it would take massive cheating to overcome that. As to scenario #1, it is possible, but if Fox News called the election on Nov. 3 for Trump but Biden won on Nov. 10, we'd be in "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN" territory and whatever credibility Fox has outside Trump's hardcore base would be shredded forever. The news staff (as opposed to the opinion staff) would put up quite a fight opposing such a premature call. Also note that Fox News gets 3.5 million viewers a day in prime time. That is 1% of the U.S. population, not 40%. Of course on Election Day that will zoom up, but probably not to 40%. And in any event, even Fox wouldn't call it until the wee hours of the morning, when many people will have already gone to bed.


As to #2, Trump would have to replace a large fraction of the Secret Service and the U.S. Marshalls. He couldn't do this secretly and there would be a huge uproar. As to Army generals, they require Senate confirmation and if Trump actually lost the election, even for Mitch McConnell, this would almost certainly be a bridge too far.

Q: I've heard a lot about Trump possibly being charged with tax fraud after leaving office depending on what may be found in his tax returns. However, could Trump be charged with criminal negligence, manslaughter, or treason for all the covid deaths he has indirectly caused? For months and months he has ignored health experts, spread misinformation, and allowed the disease to ravage the country. He could have easily prevented thousands of deaths by taking action, but has chosen not to. Have any government officials ever been convicted for not taking action and letting people die as a result? Could this happen to Trump? E.S., Sparta, NJ

A: Treason is out of the question as Art. III, Section 3 of the Constitution reads:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

Dealing with a pandemic is a policy decision. Making a decision that didn't work out so well is not a crime. In Sweden, there was a policy decision to do nothing and try to build up herd immunity quickly. De facto, Trump did the same thing, albeit by accident. It is extremely unlikely Trump could be convicted of a crime for making (or not making) a policy decision that turned out badly.

Q: The Washington Post wrote this article in May. I'd like to know how Trump & Melania get away with voting absentee (with their ballots sent to the club) in FL when according to this article Mar-a-Lago is NOT classified as a residence. Sounds like voter fraud to me! Love your blog, daily reader. C.O. Atlanta, GA

A: When the president does it, it's not illegal.

Q: I am a French citizen following the US campaign from Paris. I am quite amazed about the importance of this postal voting issue and have fears about the whole democratic process, as if the United States were Belarus. Two points seem important:

1. It seems that people of color will struggle more in order to vote, and also to have their ballots being accepted.

2. In swing states, Rust Belt but also Florida or Texas,the final result will depend on white women, especially working-class women, who are very connected to their spouses, families and churches. When the husband (or also father) is a Trump supporter, what will be the -psychological or physical- pressure on these women? Can a man vote by mail in place of his wife? Or prevent her from voting? Or course, this would be some kind of harassment, but this seems possible.

What could the Democrats do in order to support these key voters? And if we send money from Europe, first only to buy and distribute 55c stamps, is it already a foreign interference?
X.S., Paris, France

A: The Democrats are well aware of the Postal Service issue. Realistically, all they can do is urge voters to cast their absentee ballots 3 weeks before Nov. 3. Once we are in the last 3 weeks of the election, they can urge voters to put their ballots in drop boxes rather than mailboxes. As to husbands pressuring their wives, that certainly is going to happen. There is nothing the Democrats can do about that except maybe run ads about how women got the vote 100 years ago and it would be shame to hand it over to your husband. If a man votes using his wife's absentee ballot, that is voter fraud and definitely a crime, but it is hard to enforce. As to Europeans sending over 55 ct stamps, that is definitely illegal. People who are not U.S. citizens may not contribute anything of value to a political campaign. What you can do is seek out American citizens in Paris and try to convince them to donate to a campaign. That is legal as long as it is the American's money. Giving an American 55 cts and asking her to buy a stamp to send off doesn't work. There is a large chapter of Democrats Abroad in France and they know what is legal and what is not.

Q: In a hypothetical scenario, say Trump is re-elected but the Senate flips to the Democrats. Could the Senate combat the rash of "acting" cabinet members by bringing up a vote on a candidate of their own choosing? R.L. (location not given)

A: No. If Trump names someone outside the legal order of succession, they could go to court and try to have the court rule that the acting person has no legal power. Congress could also pass a law governing acting appointments (such as saying that they could be for no more than 30 days), but he would surely veto such a bill and getting a 2/3 majority to override it would be nearly impossible. Of course, they could attach such a condition to a must-pass bill, such as the bill that funds the Department of Defense and dare Trump to veto it and cut off funds for the DoD and not have soldiers paid. He probably would lose the battle for public opinion.

Q: If NC is now tied, via the poll from East Carolina U, why does the map still list it as a red state? Y.T., Ireland

A: The map algorithm is to use the most recent poll and average it with any other polls within 7 days of it. If you mouse over a state, you can see which polls were used. In the case of North Carolina, there were four polls within 7 days of the East Carolina poll. There are four polls used on the day you sent in your question. Now there are two. This can change from day to day.

Q: Henry Olsen argues that higher turnout among Republicans in the Congressional primaries in Washington State presages a "hidden" Trump vote emerging from rural areas. I find this kind of analysis interesting, since it does get at information that polls could miss - but I wonder if the existence of a competitive race for nomination to run for Governor on the Republican ticket (whereas Jay Inslee is an essentially unopposed incumbent) might have driven higher turnout among Republicans than Democrats. Did you have any reaction to this piece? Any theories aside from the Governor's race? S.K., Bethesda, MD

Olsen is a diehard Republican who is grasping at straws. Unlike his Republican colleague at the Post, Jennifer Rubin, Olsen doesn't want to face reality and is still praying for a Trump win. We have addressed the topic of "shy Trump voters" several times, most recently here. Connecting one gubernatorial primary to a national election is nonsense.

Q: Several opinion writers have suggested that the single best thing that could happen to the Republican Party is to lose very badly this November, to prompt a rebuild. There has also been considerable speculation, (among the most recent) that key party figures, like White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, would like to see that happen as well, and are perhaps even working behind the scenes to accomplish it. I have a different theory:

Suppose Pres. Trump realizes he is going to lose, and has decided that throwing the election lock,stock and barrel is actually the best option-- not necessarily to help his party rebuild, but mainly to deny Vice-President Mike Pence any coattails. He probably regrets picking Pence in the first place, doesn't have much reason to trust him now, and might not mind going down hard if he can take one or more others down with him. Possible?
B.W.S., Pleasant Valley, NY

A: We doubt it. Trump doesn't care about the future of the Republican Party. He cares only about himself. He probably doesn't care about Pence one way or the other. And why would he want to sabotage Pence? He has been totally loyal to Trump and that is the only thing Trump asks of anyone. Trump knows that if he loses, he will likely be indicted by New York State, so we believe he would never, ever, throw in the towel and try to lose.

Q: What would happen if something really bad (God forbid) happened to Joe Biden between now and election day? Would Harris automatically become the nominee or would it be Bernie? Or someone else like Cuomo be chosen? Will fresh ballots have to be printed out then in the whole country? M.K. (location not given)

A: If Biden died or resigned from the ticket before Election Day, the DNC would pick a replacement. There is a 99.9% chance it would be Kamala Harris. Black voters would be furious if it were anyone else. There is 0.0% chance that it would be Sanders. If there were time to print new ballots, that could happen, but it is probably too late.

Q: Why doesn't FEC or some other federal institution run federal elections directly as in many other countries? Instead there are different implementations of voter registration, voter eligibility, voting methods and voting technology which create a big mess. There is no need for all this complexity. Everything can be organized and standardized federally for smooth and transparent elections. Now, imagine online voting in the current system. It is nearly impossible due to who knows how many separate local implementations that would be needed to be done. In a centrally managed system it would be infinitely easier to do. S.A., Cyprus

A: Art. I Sec. 1 of the Constitution starts:

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress:

Thus it is the state legislatures, not the FEC, that have the power to run elections. All of them have passed laws basically saying that the state's secretary of state shall run the election. Congress does have some power over elections, such as setting a national date, but it is doubtful that it could take the states out of the loop altogether unless the state legislature agreed. As to online voting, that is a dreadful idea. What would happen if Vladimir Putin thought it might be fun to watch what happened if 100% of the votes in Utah went to the Democrats and 100% of the votes in Hawaii went to the Republicans? Would Americans ever trust any election again?

Q: You have mentioned post convention bumps for as long as I have been reading your site and I was always a little confused by it. I understand the concept but surely it is just statistical noise. When one party has a convention the nominee often gets a 2 to 3 point bump in the polls, then a week or so later the other party has a convention which leads to the same outcome. Why does anyone bother worrying about this bump when it invariably balances itself out every election season? S.O.C., Mexico

A: No, it is not statistical noise. After hearing a party give its pitch, some number of people really are convinced and switch to the party that just convened. It is a real shift in public opinion. But when the other party has its convention, there are people (not necessarily the ones who switched after the first convention) who decide that they like the second one better. The bumps don't always cancel out, but in September, more stuff happens and dominates the news. For people only loosely tied to a party or not paying close attention to politics, that makes them forget the conventions, which is why the bumps die out.

Q: Trump's claim that he deserves a third term is probably just him trolling the libs to distract from their convention (but who knows what he really thinks). Still, my question is: what would happen if a majority of electors showed up on December 2024 and cast their votes for a third Trump term? Who would become President? B.J., Boston, MA

The electors would be throwing their electoral votes away. Come Jan. 20, 2025, at noon, the president elected this year (say Trump) would no longer be president. Trump would not be eligible, but Pence would be eligible for a third term as vice president, so he would be sworn in and immediately become president.

Q: Would you know if postal equipment was removed at random in various states or was there a plan to only remove it in blue states ? I am asking because three weeks ago three mailboxes were quietly removed in our highly Democratic neighborhood. I.D., Seattle

A: Every year the USPS removes old machines. This year more were removed than normally, but it doesn't appear that they are entirely targeted at swing states. Here is a map of the locations from which they were removed. The one suspicious state is Florida, but that could reduce the votes of elderly Republicans as well as Democrats. The decision of where to remove machines could be a mix of a legitimate operational decision flavored by some politics.

Q: How can DeJoy claim removing high speed sorting machines is a cost-saving measure? Or is there some other claimed justification? Is it only in urban (Democratic) areas that this has been done? R.P. (location not given)

A: Older machines have a high maintenance cost, so getting rid of them does save money, especially if their capacity isn't really needed. Also, they are very large. One of the arguments is that getting rid of big, old machines would free up more space in post offices for packages, one of the few areas the USPS makes money on. Of course, the real reason could be partisan and these are just the cover stories.

Q: Should I vote by mail or in person? T.B., Detroit, MI

It depends on how much health risk you can tolerate. The best choice might be to vote in person the first or second day in-person early voting is open, right when the polls open at 6 or 8 in the morning. That gives you a very high chance the ballot will be counted and a low chance of infection. If even that is too dangerous, then next best is absentee voting and bringing the ballot to a drop box or the elections office in person. Third choice is mailing it in at least 3 weeks before Nov. 3.

Q: I am struggling to understand why the Democrats are continuing to push vote by mail when it is clear Trump is going after the post office? I understand it is a pandemic, but if a lot of ballots mysteriously get lost or mailed in late that could lose Biden the election. Most people voting against Trump would stand in line all day to vote if needed if that was the message being articulated. I don't want to say voting in person and risking COVID-19 is good, but if it puts an end to President Trump it's worth it. Shouldn't the Biden Campaign and Democrats encourage in-person voting if it is at all possible and vote only by mail if absolutely necessary (except states that do solely mail voting obviously)? A.S. Indianapolis, IN

A: A lot of people are really scared of COVID-19. With 175,000 deaths already, it is hard to blame them. That holds double for people who are high risk or live with people who are high risk. Also, while 10% of the country is unemployed, 90% is employed and many of them can't afford to spend an entire day waiting in line to vote when using an absentee ballot is so much easier. What Biden is likely to start to emphasize in the fall is voting early at an odd hour, when it is not likely to be crowded, or using a drop box.

Q: I don't like donating to DSCC, DCCC, and DLCC before the primaries are over for fear that they will spend my donation backing centrists over my preferred squad wannabes. But once the candidates are all chosen, my goal is to turn everything blue, with particular attention to a US Senate majority (upon which the judiciary depends) and state house trifectas (upon which the future of the House of Representatives depends). Primary season has been grossly extended though. When is it over? D.A., Brooklyn, NY

A: The final primary is Sept. 15, in Delaware. But there is no reason to wait for it. If there is a particular Senate candidate you like who has already been officially nominated, you can donate to him or her right now. Likewise, if you want to flip a state legislature chamber and that state has already held its primary, you can look for a state Senate or state House candidate you like and donate now.

Q: Your site, not to mention many other blogs and commentators, make frequent reference to a campaign's "internal polls". Who conducts such polling? How does it differ from the regular polls us regular folks see? Why is it so important that they remain internal and under lock-and-key, particularly if they reflect positively on that candidate's campaign? P.S., Marion, IA

A: Every serious candidate hires one or more pollsters. There are hundreds of them out there who specialize in electing Republicans and hundreds who specialize in electing Democrats. They run polls just like SSRS (which works for CNN) or Quinnipiac University or SurveyUSA. A candidate might be interested in some specific demographic, say veterans, so the pollster would include a question like: "Are you a veteran?" Joe Biden's main pollster is John Anzalone, who has been at this for decades. Donald Trump has used John McLaughlin, but he might have others as well. Generally, campaigns, which have paid good money for a poll, don't see any reason to give it to the other guys for free. It might tip them off on something they don't already know.

Q: I just received a solicitation from the "Republican Presidential Task Force" (checks to be made out to the "RNC"). I have been racking my brain trying to think of some reason that the RNC would think it was worth a stamp to send this solicitation to ME. I'm a liberal Democrat. I have been a card carrying member of the ACLU since 1988. I occasionally donate money to Democrats. And I have NEVER donated to a Republican. Is it possible that the RNC has so much money that they will send out solicitations to, literally, everyone? Or is it more likely that there is something in my lifestyle that has made me a target? S.G., Bainbridge Island, WA

A: One of us (V) constantly gets email in Spanish although he doesn't speak Spanish and has never visited a Spanish-language Website. Almost every day he gets an ad from a different random company in China offering bulk shipping services for calibrated apricots and other items. Marketeers, including political ones, often buy all kinds of (email) lists that they expect will have a fair number of people interested in what they are selling. They know (and don't care) that some people have no interest in what they are selling. Maybe you subscribe to a magazine about gardening or dogs and their studies have shown that 55% of gardeners and 53% of dog owners are Republicans. It's probably worth buying the lists and spamming everyone.

Q: What are the most likely damaging revelations about Trump we might expect before the election? Scandals from his tax returns, resurrections of his sex assault cases, revelations of his connections to Putin and other Russians, news of financial crimes, Trump Organization scandals, etc.? There are now dozens of books alleging all sorts of crimes and misdeeds, is there any solid evidence that will cause serious harm to him? D.K. (location not given)

A: We're better at the known unknowns than at the unknown unknowns. It is unlikely that his tax returns will come out before the election. Cyrus Vance will probably get them, but he won't leak them. News that Trump sexually assaulted four more women won't matter. After all, the first 25 didn't, so why should a few more matter? If we had to guess at what might be most damaging it would be Michael Cohen's book. Cohen probably knows a lot of dirt and probably many crimes Trump has committed. But in three months, many things could happen that are not at all on the radar now.

On Thursday you wrote, "Is it Trump's party or Reagan's party going forward?" I had thought that the one benefit from Trump was that Reagan was finally in the ground and the lid shut tight. Do you really think that there is any chance that whatever emerges after Trump will have any resemblance to a Reagan party or even a conservative party (whatever that is now days)? D.D., Hollywood, FL

A: If the Republicans are slaughtered, meaning 400 EVs for Biden, and a loss of 10 seats in the Senate and 30 in the House, the RNC is going to commission another autopsy report. And this time they will actually read it. The report will tell them that what they are doing now is not sustainable and if they want to avoid going the way of the Whigs, they will have to do something different. Reagan was the last Republican to win really big (489 EVs in 1980 and 525 EVs in 1984). There will certainly be voices in the party calling for a new Reagan.

Today's Presidential Polls

Lots of polls today, some of them far apart. Is Biden ahead by 3 points in Michigan or 12? It can't be both. There is sampling error, of course, but also modeling error. Each pollster has a model of how many young veterans, older Black women, rich Latinos, college-educated suburban men, and a boatload of other categories will vote this year and the models differ. This is why we average a week's worth of polls, to smooth this out. All in all, except for North Carolina, none of this is good news for Donald Trump. (V)

State Biden Trump Start End Pollster
Arizona 47% 38% Aug 16 Aug 18 Redfield and Wilton Strategies
Florida 49% 41% Aug 16 Aug 16 Redfield and Wilton Strategies
Michigan 49% 46% Aug 13 Aug 17 Civiqs
Michigan 50% 38% Aug 16 Aug 18 Redfield and Wilton Strategies
North Carolina 44% 46% Aug 16 Aug 17 Redfield and Wilton Strategies
New Jersey 52% 33% Aug 05 Aug 13 DKC Analytics
Ohio 47% 47% Aug 13 Aug 17 Civiqs
Pennsylvania 48% 41% Aug 16 Aug 17 Redfield and Wilton Strategies
Pennsylvania 51% 44% Aug 13 Aug 17 Civiqs
Wisconsin 49% 39% Aug 16 Aug 19 Redfield and Wilton Strategies
Wisconsin 51% 45% Aug 13 Aug 17 Civiqs

Today's Senate Polls

If the NRSC's internal polls of Arizona also show that Mark Kelly is flying higher than when he was an astronaut, they are going to drop Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) in the middle of the desert with a bottle of water and wish her good luck. They are going to need every penny to save Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), who is consistently running behind Trump in North Carolina. If Biden is smart, he will help Cal Cunningham and hang onto his coattails. (V)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Arizona Mark Kelly 53% Martha McSally* 34% Aug 16 Aug 18 Redfield and Wilton Strategies
Michigan Gary Peters* 48% John James 39% Aug 16 Aug 18 Redfield and Wilton Strategies
North Carolina Cal Cunningham 47% Thom Tillis* 38% Aug 16 Aug 17 Redfield and Wilton Strategies

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug21 That's a Wrap
Aug21 Biden is Doing Better than Clinton Was Preconvention
Aug21 Biden Leads with 2016 Nonvoters and Third-Party Voters
Aug21 Trump Must Give His Tax Returns to Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance
Aug21 Not All Republicans Are against Mail-in Voting
Aug21 Stephen Bannon Has Been Indicted for Fraud and Money Laundering
Aug21 In a Biden Administration, It Will Be America First
Aug21 Howard Could Help Biden
Aug21 Downballot Democrats Are Seeing Green
Aug20 Unconventional, Night Three
Aug20 Democrats Are Rethinking Their Absentee-Ballot Strategy
Aug20 Trump Sues Iowa Counties for Helping Voters
Aug20 Latinos Haven't Heard from Either Campaign
Aug20 Biden's Agenda Could Depend on an Obscure House Primary
Aug20 COVID-19 Deaths in Florida Pass 10,000
Aug20 The Republican Convention Is the Start of the 2024 GOP Primary
Aug20 Sports Teams Are Getting Involved in Politics
Aug20 Harris Is Famous All the Way to India
Aug20 States Differ Greatly on Voting by Mail
Aug19 Unconventional, Night Two
Aug19 Trump's Goat Is Officially Gotten
Aug19 More Voters Head to the Polls
Aug19 Bipartisan Senate Committee Issues Damning Report on Trump Campaign and Russia
Aug19 DeJoy Backs Down
Aug19 House Democrats Want More Stimulus Votes
Aug19 Many Businesses Won't Participate in Trump's Payroll Tax Plan
Aug19 Today's Senate Polls
Aug18 Unconventional
Aug18 Three Polls Tell Two Stories
Aug18 Biden Gets One or Two High-Profile Anti-Trump Endorsements
Aug18 Democrats Will Push the Envelope
Aug18 Trump Goes 0-for-2 in Court on Monday
Aug18 UNC Pushes the 'Eject' Button
Aug18 COVID-19 Diaries: The Land Down Under
Aug18 Today's Presidential Polls
Aug18 Today's Senate Polls
Aug17 Democratic National Convention Begins Tonight
Aug17 National Poll: Biden 50%, Trump 41%
Aug17 Are There Shy Trump Voters?
Aug17 How Harris Can Help Biden
Aug17 Absentee Voting Is Still a Hot Topic
Aug17 Democratic Super PACs Will Coordinate--with Each Other
Aug17 Three States Will Hold Primaries Tomorrow
Aug17 Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf Is Not Really the Acting Secretary
Aug17 Trump Has a New Medical Adviser
Aug17 Today's Presidential Polls
Aug17 Today's Senate Polls
Aug16 Sunday Mailbag
Aug16 Today's Presidential Polls
Aug15 Postal Service Warns that Voters May Be Disenfranchised by Mail Delays