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Political Wire logo Quote of the Day
RNC Video of Rioters In ‘Biden’s America’ Is Actually Spain
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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  The Trumpman Show, Night Two
      •  RNC Lagging DNC in Ratings
      •  Melania Trump's Kumbayah Moment May Soon Fade
      •  Today's Republican Endorsements for Biden
      •  Trump Taps Chad Wolf for Permanent DHS Post
      •  Today's Presidential Polls
      •  Today's Senate Polls

The Trumpman Show, Night Two

The graphic being used for commercial bumpers during the RNC, which also appears on one of the two podiums used by speakers who are not at the White House, reads "Trump 2020" and then, in considerably smaller letters below that, "The GOP Convention." The other podium has Trump/Pence/Make America Great Again, with the first line once again in the largest letters, the second in much smaller ones, and the third in tiny letters. Even someone who returned to the U.S. yesterday after being marooned on a desert island for 5 years with a volleyball, would know instantly that this is not really the "Republican" National Convention. Here are some impressions of the second night of Trumpman Show:

  • Melania Trump Speaks: The headliner for the evening was First Lady Melania Trump:

    Her speech is getting the best reviews of the evening, in large part because it conveyed some real empathy. That is the de facto job description of first ladies and besides, standing next to Donald Trump, even The Queen's Guard seems warm and fuzzy. Anyhow, the First Lady's address was not vetted by anyone in the West Wing, and it showed, as she acknowledged that (gasp!) there has been some suffering in America due to COVID-19, and (gasp!) that the country may just have a teensy, weensy problem with racism. These notions are certainly not the party line (more below).

    That said, Melania Trump's speech is certainly not above reproach. She made plenty of assertions that are well within the realm of baldfaced lies, like asserting that her husband always tells the truth or that he never considers politics when making decisions. Nobody on the planet believes either of those things. Some portions of the address were tone deaf, most obviously the evergreen tone deafness of rallying against cyberbullying while the cyberbully-in-chief sits 20 feet away. And the White House assembled an audience of about 70 for the speech, so the First Lady would have someone to look at while speaking. It produced immediate comment, of course, that few of the listeners were wearing masks, and none of them were socially distanced. Later, it came out that attendees were also not required to submit to COVID-19 screenings, which means the whole bit was extra risky, especially since the President, First Lady, Vice President and Second Lady were all present. That said, expect a repeat for Donald Trump's address on Thursday.

  • Two Other Trumps Speak, Too: Prime, and lengthy, speaking spots have been granted to all immediate members of the Trump family (excepting Barron). Tuesday, in addition to the First Lady, Tiffany and Eric also took their turns. Like Donald Jr., they both gave stump speeches, which is particularly odd for Tiffany, since she doesn't actually campaign for her father. So, nothing much to see here. Clearly, there is little interest in softening up the President by showing his human side.

  • Gimmickry: Over the weekend there was much talk of "gimmicks," personally engineered by Donald Trump, that would make the RNC more interesting than the DNC. It would seem we now know what that meant, as there were two obvious "gimmick" segments on Tuesday. The first featured Jon Ponder, a bank robber who got busted, went to prison, found Jesus, and then established a ministry called HOPE for Prisoners. He was accompanied by Richard Beasley, the FBI agent who arrested and later befriended him. All of this was ostensibly meant to highlight the President's commitment to criminal justice reform, though it's a bit unclear how this reflects on him or his policies personally, since Ponder got out of prison nearly a decade before Trump was elected. In any event, the gimmick was that Trump announced a full pardon for Ponder right there, on live, pre-recorded TV. He toddled over to a desk and signed the document. In other words: "You're fired! (from the ranks of convicted felons)."

    The other gimmick came a bit later, and was a video of a naturalization ceremony staged at the White House. One thing you will notice is that every time Trump appears, he needs to make an entrance. And so, the clip began with the five new citizens (carefully chosen to represent different groups the GOP wants to appeal to) and Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf (more on him below) in place, while the President strode into the room to the tune of "Hail to the Chief." Maybe the music was to hide the sound of Stephen Miller's teeth grinding. Wolf then performed the ceremony, including the oath-taking ceremony, making the quintet into bona fide U.S. citizens. Finally, Trump seized the podium, and proceeded to give a brief bio of each of the five. It is interesting that when these set pieces involve white people, the President generally asks them to tell their stories themselves. When they involve people of color or immigrants, he takes care of it.

    Anyhow, beyond the two gimmick segments (both of them ultimately kind of ham-fisted and inauthentic), the stagecraft on Tuesday was much better than on Monday. The speeches were still too long, and it was still much more conventional than the DNC. However, the GOP relied much more on video montages and on "regular folks" comments, which meant things were considerably less sluggish. Whether this was a last-minute change due to near-universal criticism of the very dry first evening, or it was planned this way in advance, only a few people know, and they aren't saying.

  • Obliterated Lines: By committing to hold convention events at the White House, Donald Trump blurred some ethical lines, since the Hatch Act and other laws make most politicking on federal property, along with the use of government employees for political purposes, illegal. That said, under current circumstances, a little line-blurring may have been tolerable, since Trump has to be somewhere, and the White House is probably less legally and morally objectionable than "RNC 2020: Mar-a-Lago."

    Of course, Trump is never satisfied to blur lines when he can obliterate them. And that is precisely what he and his team did on Tuesday night (also on Monday, but much more obviously on Tuesday). It is one thing to use the White House as an incidental backdrop. It is another thing to make the building, its furnishings, its staff, and the trappings of the presidency, such an overt part of the presentation, including turning things like the pardon power into a political stunt. Ultimately, something close to half the evening's runtime was spent at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

    However, the most overt flouting of convention (and, very possibly, the law) came from many thousands of miles east of Washington, as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed the convention from Israel. Way back in the 1940s, Sen. Arthur H. Vandenberg (R-MI), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, cooperated closely with Democratic president Harry S. Truman to lay the groundwork for NATO. Even in those less partisan times, some were surprised, since it was possible Vandenberg and Truman would face off in the 1948 election. "Politics stops at the water's edge," Vandenberg observed curtly. Consistent with this, Secretaries of State generally try very hard to be above the fray. Like the AG, they need Americans to believe they're doing what's best, not what's politic. In particular, it is nearly unheard of for a sitting occupant of either of those offices to be part of a political convention.

    Pompeo and Trump clearly do not subscribe to this policy. Trump wanted a clear reminder of his Israel policy, and Pompeo wanted to launch his 2024 presidential campaign, and so the Secretary was gonna speak, law, ethics, and niceties be damned. He needn't have bothered. Pompeo's speech was godawful, probably the worst of the night, and certainly isn't going to generate any presidential buzz. Oh, and for his trouble, the Secretary is now being investigated by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX).

  • Theme 1: Track Record: Among the themes that the RNC was trying to communicate on Tuesday, "four years of accomplishment" was foremost. There was considerably less fearmongering than on Monday, and a fair bit less bashing of Joe Biden (not to say there was none of these things, just less of it). At various points, viewers were reminded of Trump's support for Native Americans, his regulation rollbacks, his trade deals, his success at job creation, his tax cuts, his support for farms, his support for small businesses, and, as noted, his Israel policy. Curiously absent was any discussion of the wall. Maybe that is coming in the next two nights.

    It is worth zooming in, for a moment, on the point about Native Americans. Early Tuesday, there was a clip featuring Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer talking about how much the President has done for his tribe. This is obvious counter-programming to the clip the Democrats ran last week featuring Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, who talked about how little Trump has done for his people, and how Joe Biden would be a major improvement. Most Native Americans are Democrats, like Nez is, so the Lizer clip was a bit of a Hail Mary. Still, some of the swingy states (Colorado, Nevada, Arizona) have large Native populations, so if they're close, and Team Trump can steal away a few Native votes from Team Biden, maybe it makes sense.

  • Theme 2: Opioids: One particular "success" that was highlighted on Tuesday night was the President's opioid policy, which was given a human face in a clip featuring Ryan Holets, a cop who busted an opioid-addicted pregnant woman, adopted her child when it was born, and now the toddler, adoptive parents, and now-drug-free birth mother are one big, happy, extended family. As with some of the other "exemplars" presented, it's not clear exactly how this was a byproduct of Trump's policies, nor how reproducible this particular solution is. In any case, opioid-related deaths are actually way up this year, and may break the 2017 record of 47,600, after only slight declines in 2018 and 2019. To us, that seems like "status quo" not "success."

  • Theme 3: What Pandemic?: Tuesday continued Monday's theme of "addressing" the COVID-19 issue through lies, distortions, and denials. Outside of Melania Trump, every person who mentioned COVID-19 on Tuesday downplayed the pandemic, and spoke of it in past tense. Director of the United States National Economic Council Larry Kudlow, who is as hacky as it gets, was particularly outlandish. Not only did he have the pandemic in the rear-view mirror, he was positively ebullient about how great the economy is; you'd have the impression that the country is in the midst of a new Roaring 20's. If you would care to see for yourself, Kudlow's remarks were only a few minutes long:

    His assessment of the overall economy starts at 1:20. We suspect that the 20 million or so unemployed people, not to mention those who are about to be evicted from their residences, do not share Kudlow's rosy outlook.

    Incidentally, the lying was not limited to COVID-19, but turning this into a list of all the falsehoods uttered on Tuesday would make for very boring reading. Plus, others do it better than we can. If you want the rundown, you can review the fact checks from The New York Times, CNN, NBC News, FactCheck, Politifact, or the AP. The most common subject of lies, besides Donald Trump's record, is Joe Biden's campaign pledges, which are regularly distorted beyond all recognition. The Democrats, by contrast, rarely (if ever) feel a need to distort Donald Trump's campaign pledges. Whether the Democrats are merely above this sort of thing, or they don't need to distort because the truth is scary enough on it own, is an interesting question.

  • Theme 4: Diversity: On Tuesday, Team Trump managed to find more office-holding persons of color who are Republicans to pitch the notion that the GOP is the true party of diversity, and the one that can free nonwhites from the "plantation mentality." The best of these speakers, and probably the best speaker of the night overall, was Kentucky AG Daniel Cameron, who is regarded as a rising star. His address, during which he took Joe Biden to task for the Democratic nominee's ill-considered remarks about black voters:

    Cameron's very good, and is already being groomed as a U.S. Senate candidate as soon as Kentucky Republicans need a new one. That said, he's not so popular among Black voters right now, given not only his support for Trump, but also the perception that Cameron dragged his feet when it came to investigating the shooting of Breonna Taylor. One wonders how much these "diverse" speakers are actually meant to appeal to minority voters, and how much they are meant to reassure white Republican voters that the Party isn't racist.

  • Theme 5: Don't Trust the Media: Hating the media is a matter of orthodoxy for the Republican Party of Donald Trump, and so is going to be a part of each of the four days of the RNC. However, it was a particular point of emphasis on Tuesday, coming up in at least six or seven speeches. And it was the entirety of the speech by Nicholas Sandmann, who achieved either fame or infamy (depending on your perspective) when he was videoed face-to-face with a Native American elder, wearing a MAGA hat and smiling calmly (supporters' version) or smirking (opponents' version). While we would tend to lay off a minor, Sandmann is now a high school graduate, 18 years old, and accepted the speaking slot. So, we have no problem observing that his speech was just terrible, joining Pompeo's and one or two others at the bottom of the barrel.

  • Two Pence Sightings: One of these days, we will learn if Mike Pence was an important member of this administration, or mostly just a guy who called in each morning to check on the President's health and then went to play golf. Sometimes, he seems to be a complete outsider, and such was the case on Monday, when he was essentially invisible during the evening's proceedings. And sometimes, he seems to be in (or at least near) the inner circle. Such was the case on Tuesday, when he was given a long, rambling video segment that began at the Lincoln childhood site in Indiana (with authentic replica log cabin!), and wound through a wide variety of issues and locales. It was not bad, but was overlong, and it's not clear exactly what the central point was. Later, as noted, the Pences were both in attendance for the First Lady's address.

  • How Kooky Is Too Kooky?: It is no secret, at this point, that the current iteration of the Republican Party has plenty of room for "outside-the-box" thinkers, if we may speak euphemistically. These folks are particularly likely to be given a platform this year, as there is no risk of them being booed offstage by the audience. And so, we've already seen some pretty out there folks. Probably the nuttiest from Monday night was Rebecca Friedrichs, the school choice advocate, who has written many wild op-eds, like this one about how schools allegedly groom children for sexual predators like Jeffrey Epstein.

    Tuesday night speaker and anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson is even further outside the mainstream than Friedrichs is. During her address, she repeated the usual talking points about abortion and Planned Parenthood, some of them obvious falsehoods. Most obviously, the notion that Margaret Sanger founded the organization to weed Black people out of the gene pool has been repeatedly debunked. It is in her views on other issues that Johnson gets really outside-the-box, though. The father of her oldest child is Black, while her other children were born to a white father. She says that she thinks it is entirely appropriate that the elder child be racially profiled, because "statistically my brown son is more likely to commit a violent offense over my white sons." She also supports "head of household" voting, by which married women would yield their votes to their husbands.

    In short, clearly the tolerance for kookiness is very high this year. That said, there are limits. Mary Ann Mendoza, the mother of a police-officer son who was hit and killed by an undocumented-immigrant drunk driver, was supposed to speak last night. However, yesterday morning she went on an extended QAnon-themed retweeting jag of tweets that accused the Jews of plotting to enslave the world. That, apparently, was a bridge too far, and she was cancelled. After all, the Party is still hoping that Sheldon Adelson cuts them a nine-figure check.

  • Walking Both Sides of the Street: Monday night was full of red, red meat for the base. Tuesday seemed moderately more attuned to reaching voters beyond the base. In order to pull this off, it requires being on both sides of a lot of issues. The obvious example is immigration. In truth, Trump has been very hostile to immigrants, both documented and undocumented. And on Monday, that element of his record was on display, albeit as an undertone. On Tuesday, by contrast, especially during the naturalization bit, it was "Donald Trump, friend to immigrants." Can this really work? Are there pro-immigrant folks who watched on Tuesday, and found what they saw more persuasive than four years of high-profile anti-immigrant policy? And does this carry some risk of alienating people who are anti-immigrant, and who may become outraged at the sight of a naturalization ceremony held in the White House and presided over by the President? We wonder.

Two nights down, two nights to go. Wednesday's headliners are Lara Trump, Kellyanne Conway, and Mike Pence. (Z)

RNC Lagging DNC in Ratings

Donald Trump will not be happy to hear this. The ratings for both conventions have been pretty bad, but the ratings for the RNC have, through the first night at least, been worse than those for the DNC. Specifically, night one of the DNC drew 18.7 million viewers, while night one of the RNC drew 15.8 million. That means the GOP is trailing the Democrats thus far by about 15%.

In retrospect, it was probably unwise for the Republicans to go immediately after the Democrats. It's just too much; 10 hours of this stuff a week after 8 hours of this stuff. That said, the overall low numbers suggest that both conventions are attracting true believers, hardcore political wonks, and not too many others. So, maybe another week wouldn't have mattered too much. In the end, if the conventions move the needle at all (no certainty), it will probably be due to the narratives that emerge from them and achieve wide currency. For example, the most valuable thing that came from the DNC, most likely, were all the stories about how Joe Biden's speech clearly illustrates that he's not old and feeble. We'll see what the most powerful narratives to emerge from the RNC are. (Z)

Melania Trump's Kumbayah Moment May Soon Fade

Few people are sure about exactly how close Melania Trump and her husband are. On one hand, there is plenty of evidence that she keeps her distance, including largely living in Potomac, MD, with Barron and her parents and just showing up when she is needed. On the other hand, when she speaks up, it's often to be a vocal member of Team Trump. Such was the case with Tuesday's address, which the First Lady packed with praise for her husband.

The warm glow may not last, though. The next big anti-Trump book coming down the pike, even before Michael Cohen's is released on Sept. 8, is the volume from former friend and adviser to the First Lady Stephanie Winston Wolkoff. Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady is scheduled to be released on Sept. 1, just under a week from now. That means reviews and an excerpt or two are imminent, and it will be the talk of the Sunday news shows.

So, what might they be talking about? Originally, it was reported that Wolkoff's departure was cordial, and it was implied that her book would be basically positive. Not so, as the title suggests. And on Tuesday, it was reported that Wolkoff (apparently having picked up a trick or two from Omarosa Manigault Newman) was in the habit of recording private conversations, and that she has tapes of the First Lady badmouthing the President and his children.

The story is surely true; information like this does not leak six days before publication by accident. The question is how bad the tapes are. If they're as rough as the recently released tapes of Maryanne Trump Barry trashing the Donald, a couple of narratives could take hold. The first is something like: "Even those closest to him hate him, and admit it freely when they don't think the cameras are on." The second is something like: "The First Lady's convention speech was as phony as a three-dollar-bill. How much of the rest of the convention was phony?" Trump could be the second Republican president in the last half-century to rue the day Thomas Edison invented recorded sound. (Z)

Today's Republican Endorsements for Biden

If you're a Republican of any stature, and you don't like Donald Trump, this is a good week to make that known. On Tuesday, Miles Taylor—the former chief of staff at the Department of Homeland Security, who actually endorsed Joe Biden last week—announced that he and and many of his Republican former colleagues at DHS and in other departments have formed The Republican Political Alliance for Integrity and Reform (REPAIR). All are past or current Trump administration officials (remember that career civil service employees are difficult to fire), and their purpose is to get The Donald out of the White House. Their website is

Meanwhile, another group of former Republican DOJ appointees also issued a Biden endorsement/Trump condemnation. That cadre includes Alan Charles Raul, who served in both Bush White Houses, Charles Fried, who was U.S. solicitor general in the Reagan administration, Peter Keisler, who was acting attorney general under George W. Bush, and J.W. Verret, who served as an ethics adviser to George W. Bush and was a member of Trump's transition team.

Most of these folks are probably speaking to (and for) the choir, but the Lincoln Project seemed like a lark when it started, and now it's a player, so you never know what might happen with REPAIR, RVAT, and some of the other never-Trump groups. (Z)

Trump Taps Chad Wolf for Permanent DHS Post

After 10 months as Acting DHS Secretary, a tenure that more than one judge has now deemed to be a violation of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998, Chad Wolf has now been nominated to fill the post permanently.

As a practical matter, the formal nomination is not especially meaningful. It does not "fix" the situation, legally. And Wolf is not likely to be confirmed before the election, in part because the Senate doesn't have time, and in part because he's somewhat unlikely to pass muster. Presumably, this was just a PR maneuver meant to partly blunt the "Trump is still flouting the law" stories that Wolf's appearance during the convention might otherwise have generated. (Z)

Today's Presidential Polls

What an unusual grouping of states. It surely cannot be a coincidence that PPP chose Joe Biden's home state, Donald Trump's "former" home state, and Trump's "current" home state. At the moment, it would appear the Democrat is in line for a sweep of the trio. (Z)

State Biden Trump Start End Pollster
Delaware 58% 37% Aug 21 Aug 22 PPP
Florida 48% 44% Aug 21 Aug 22 PPP
New York 63% 32% Aug 21 Aug 22 PPP

Today's Senate Polls

Like Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ), Cory Gardner needs an upswing quickly, or the NRSC is going to spend its dollars elsewhere. (Z)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Colorado John Hickenlooper 51% Cory Gardner* 42% Aug 18 Aug 19 PPP

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug25 Conventional
Aug25 Jacob Blake Shooting, Response Provide Backdrop for RNC
Aug25 FDA Grossly Misrepresented the Value of the Blood Plasma Treatment
Aug25 Many Republicans Endorse Biden
Aug25 No Convention Bounce for Biden
Aug25 Falwell Saga Grows More Sordid...Maybe a Lot More
Aug25 Trump Effectively Loses Pennsylvania Case
Aug25 Letitia James Is Not Happy with the Trump Organization
Aug25 Today's Presidential Polls
Aug25 Today's Senate Polls
Aug24 The Republican National Convention Begins Today
Aug24 Trump Enters His Convention in a Historically Weak Position
Aug24 Conways to Exit, Stage Left
Aug24 YouGov Poll: Biden 52%, Trump 42%
Aug24 Biden's Favorability Goes Up
Aug24 Trump Announces an Untested COVID-19 Treatment over Scientists' Objections
Aug24 House Approves $25 Billion for the Postal Service
Aug24 Trump's Sister Says Her Brother Has No Principles
Aug24 Republicans May Use Voter Intimidation
Aug24 Trump's Plan to Bypass Congress on the Economy Failed
Aug23 Sunday Mailbag
Aug22 Saturday Q&A
Aug22 Today's Presidential Polls
Aug22 Today's Senate Polls
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