Biden 388
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Ties 18
Trump 132
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Dem 51
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GOP 49
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  • Strongly Dem (213)
  • Likely Dem (90)
  • Barely Dem (85)
  • Exactly tied (18)
  • Barely GOP (12)
  • Likely GOP (39)
  • Strongly GOP (81)
270 Electoral votes needed to win This date in 2016 2012 2008
New polls: MA
Dem pickups vs. 2016: AZ FL GA MI NC PA TX WI
GOP pickups vs. 2016: (None)
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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

Saturday Q&A

As always, quite the smörgåsbord.

Q: Could the size of the lead in Florida for Joe Biden mean that the Sunshine State is called for him early? Could that impact turnout in Texas and potentially increase odds of that state turning blue, as Republicans stay home rather than voting if Donald Trump seems destined to lose? Are there any other states that could be impacted in a similar way? N.P., London, UK

A: Customarily, news networks and exit pollsters embargo all results until the polls have closed on the East Coast, and sometimes even later, specifically so as to avoid having this kind of influence. There has been no indication of a change in protocol this year. It is improbable that, at most, a couple of hours foreknowledge is likely to affect turnout in any state all that much, especially with so much early voting.

Q: What do you consider to be the bellwether races that we should watch on Election Night? Where should we be watching to see what kind of night (or week, or month) it's going to be for the two major parties? C.B., Lakeville, MN

A: We've already pointed to the U.S. Senate race in North Carolina; if Thom Tillis (R) really does lose by 5 points or so, it's a strong indicator that the swing-state polls, and in particular the Southern swing-state polls, were on the mark. We would also keep an eye on Maine, and on the congressional races in Florida. At the moment, the breakdown in the Sunshine State is 14 Republicans, 13 Democrats. If the Democrats seem to be leading in, say, 18 races, that's a bad sign for the GOP. If the Republicans seem to be leading in the same number, that's a bad sign for the Democrats.

This is just a brief list focusing on ET states, since those results are likely to come in first. Some day not long before the election, we'll have a more exhaustive list.

Q: You wrote that Black voters are "a group that's already 10% of the electorate." According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 13.4% of the US population is Black. Not everyone counted in that statistic is old enough to vote, of course, and the actual size of the underaged group relative to the total population might be different for Black people than for other groups. Still, one would expect that the total share of the actual electorate would be approximately proportional to population.

So, when you stated the 10% figure, were you just rounding or speaking in generalities, or is it true that over 25% of Black voters are disenfranchised?
R.M., Lomita, CA

A: In 2016, 6% of the electorate was made up of Black women, 4% was made up of Black men, for a total of 10%. The underrepresentation of that demographic, in part, is due to below-average turnout relative to other demographics (which, in turn, may be due to socioeconomic factors, cultural factors, voter suppression, etc.). In addition, one cannot help but be struck by the fact that 50% more Black women vote than Black men. And given the disproportionate rates of arrest and incarceration of Black men (some say that as many as 1 in 4 will end up in the criminal justice system at some point), one has to imagine that the disenfranchisement that comes from being in prison, or being an ex-con, is a big part of the story.

Q: Will the riots end Joe Biden's hopes of winning the White House? There have been a few pundits on social media saying that the riots have affected these polls, and I'm wondering if voters will be put off if they think Biden endorses what has been going on. B.S., Portsmouth, UK

Q: I am alarmed by the tightening polls in Minnesota. While Hillary Clinton barely won that state, Joe Biden's lead is slipping. I'm concerned the "law and order" message from the Republicans is working in Minnesota after the protests, and may work now in neighboring Wisconsin with their protests. Losing those two states could be crucial in a Trump reelection. E.S., St. Louis, MO

A: It is true that Minnesota appears to be tightening, though our guess is that is a product of populist appeals to folks in the Iron Range, which Team Trump has been pushing hard, and not some sort of whitelash.

We are dubious that the riots are going to singlehandedly bring Biden down. First of all, the George Floyd situation actually broke in the Democrats' favor, and there hasn't been enough polling yet to know how the Jacob Blake situation will break. Second, Team Biden is well aware of how Team Trump is trying to "brand" them, and is also aware that Hillary Clinton neglected the upper Midwest, to her eternal chagrin. There is zero chance the Biden ticket will carelessly overlook Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, and there is a 100% chance they will make sure to counter-program Trump's messaging. One can imagine Kamala Harris being deployed for a multi-state tour of speeches about "commonsense criminal justice reform."

Q: You have noted Melania Trump keeps her distance from The Donald, but is still willing to be a vocal member of Team Trump. I wonder if the (un)happy couple have agreed to divorce once The Donald has left office with Melania getting a generous settlement provided she offers unequivocal support until then, and much less generous if she distances herself from his policies. Your thoughts? C.L., Durham, UK

A: This is certainly possible. It's also possible that they will remain "married," for PR purposes, but otherwise unconnected. We may never know the truth. On the other hand, with Stephanie Winston Wolkoff's book apparently a real barnburner, maybe we will find out a whole lot when it comes out on Tuesday.

Q: Why isn't there more coverage over the death of Robert Trump? The obvious question is: "Was COVID-19 the cause of death?" Why don't reporters ask about the cause of death at every opportunity they get? I want to see the Trump family hounded on this. S.L.C., Arlington, VA

A: It seems pretty evident that he died of something that the President prefers remain secret. Lots of people have wondered about COVID-19, though the facts don't seem to support that. More probable is something like cirrhosis resulting from chronic alcohol abuse. In any event, pressing the members of the Trump family on this isn't going to yield an answer and, at the same time, would be rather tacky. So, don't expect any reporters to do it. That said, by law, a death certificate has to be filed within a month, and so the truth may be revealed then.

Q: As I was reading the Falwell Saga item, I noticed that the last paragraph had nothing directly to do with the Falwells, but instead was about David Pecker's leaving the National Enquirer and his love affair with blackmail stories. That got me to thinking about the Conways' sudden departure from both of their jobs. Do you think that they may also be involved with this in some or any fashion? G.C., South Pasadena, CA

A: No. By all indications, the Conways were motivated by their teenage daughter Claudia, who lashed out several times on social media, most notably claiming to be the victim of "years of childhood trauma and abuse."

Q: A lot has been written about the Republican Party now being the party of Trump, but what do you feel the odds are that he can complete the coup? Could he install enough people at the top of the party to ensure that one of his children becomes the nominee in 2024? I'm sure that's his plan. Do you think he can pull it off? J.S., Springboro, OH

A: If the people running the RNC (i.e., the chair) had the power to choose candidates for the Party, Donald Trump would never have been nominated in the first place.

If the President is going to maintain power over the Party, then, it will have to be due to his (or his family's) ability to command voters, either through Twitter, or rallies, or the creation of the T & A News Channel (Trump & America News Channel). And that's not just some voters; it's enough voters to sway elections, and to make GOP officeholders fearful of even a single critical remark from the Trumps.

Though this is not a universal view, we don't think the family can do it. First of all, the cracks are already showing, as many candidates for office this year are pointedly distancing themselves from the President. Second, the Trump Show has always tended to get old (see "The Apprentice" ratings), and we think the political version is already long in the tooth, just one term in. Third, if Joe Biden is elected and does well (say, with COVID-19), it could cause some to re-appraise Trump. The same is true if one or more Trumps ends up indicted and/or imprisoned.

Q: New Zealand has announced a 4-week postponement to their election because of an outbreak of less than 100 coronavirus cases. Doesn't that give perfect cover to Donald Trump doing something similar in view of the U.S.'s slightly larger number of cases? D.S., Edinburgh, NZ

A: No. First of all, the postponement of the election is entirely within the bounds of Kiwi law, whereas the postponement of an American election would not be. Second, we do not seem to recall past occasions where the U.S. looked to New Zealanders for their cue as to what to do about...anything.

Q: If the Biden-Harris ticket wins in November, but Joe Biden dies before January, does Harris automatically become President on Inauguration Day? G.Y., Ocean Springs, MS

A: We dealt with the other side of this last week (death before the election), so we might as well cover this side now. If Biden were to die before the electors meet in mid-December, they would be free agents. This happened once before, albeit with a losing candidate, when Horace Greeley died shortly after the election of 1872. It is probable that the Democratic Party would announce a preference that electors support Harris, and that the electors would follow suit, for fear of splitting their vote and throwing the election to the House.

If Biden died after the electors met, he would still be the duly elected president, and Harris would be the duly elected vice president. VPs are actually sworn in first, so Harris would be sworn in on January 20, shortly before noon, and would instantly become president. We have no idea if, knowing the situation, the decision would be made to swear Harris in as VP, and then immediately swear her in again as president, just to make sure all the niceties are observed, or if an agreement would be made to just skip right to the presidential swearing-in.

Q: Let's say Joe Biden wins the election and manages to take office despite Donald Trump's best efforts. Presumably the Biden Justice Department could bring charges against all the executive branch employees in attendance last Tuesday and Thursday nights in the Rose Garden, for violating the Hatch Act. It could also address the numerous other violations of, say, legally authorized Congressional subpoenas or the Federal Vacancies Reform Act committed by Trump administration officials. I know Biden isn't going to do this but my question is, should he? C.C., Los Angeles, CA

A: We would say he should, and even that he might do it. If rules for officeholders can be violated with impunity, then those rules might as well not exist. And if it is the province of the executive branch to enforce those rules, and the current one refuses to do it, then does the next one have any choice but to pick up the slack? Like impeachment, this goes beyond politics and speaks to higher principles, like a commitment to the rule of law.

That said, if Team Biden was going to do this, it would be wise for them to get some buy-in from prominent Republicans, if possible, so that it doesn't look like victors' justice.

Q: Since the new Congress takes office before the president takes office, is it possible for an incoming president to put forward some of their potential cabinet for confirmation hearings so they are able to assume their new jobs quicker? A.M., Bradford, UK

A: Yes, and that is often done. The nomination cannot be "official," but it's possible to do the hearings and the vetting and all of that so that the Senate can vote just as soon as the president is inaugurated.

For example, as you can imagine, it's pretty important that the Secretary of State hit the ground running. And so, Hillary Clinton was formally confirmed on Jan. 21, 2009, having undergone vetting and hearings the week before. Same thing with the Secretary of Defense, so Jim Mattis was formally confirmed on Jan. 20, 2017.

Further, folks who have already been confirmed do not need to be re-confirmed. And so, when Barack Obama announced that he planned to retain Robert Gates, that meant that he began his term with a Secretary of Defense already in place.

Q: You have noted that an AG can risk disbarment for certain actions. So, is being a member of the bar a requirement to be an Attorney General? Curious as to if we could ever see something like AG Ivanka Trump. R.M.S., Cleveland, OH

A: There are no Constitutional requirements for cabinet secretaries, beyond approval by the Senate. However, U.S. Code 28 lays out the job description of the AG, including that they "represent the United States in legal matters generally," and that they "furnish advice and opinions, formal and informal, on legal matters to the President." It is illegal to provide representation or legal advice without a law license, and so, ipso facto, you have to be a member of the bar in good standing to be AG. There will be no AG Ivanka Trump, then.

Q: FiveThirtyEight says "Biden is slightly favored to win the election." Here on, it looks like a landslide for Biden. Can you help me reconcile this disparity? S.D., Atlanta, GA

A: Let us start by noting that FiveThirtyEight's entire brand is that they forecast elections with great accuracy. That is how Nate Silver came to prominence in 2008, and that has been their brand ever since.

In our opinion, in order to protect that brand, they have gotten a little weaselly over the years. In 2016, they had Donald Trump with about a 20% chance of winning the election, which of course he did. Silver has retconned that into "See! We told everyone Trump had a real shot at this thing, but nobody was listening!" That misrepresents how sanguine the site actually was about the candidate's chances.

Today, they do indeed say Biden is "slightly favored" to win. At the same time—literally, as part of the same graphic—they reveal that their simulations give Biden the win 69 times out of 100 as compared to 30 out of 100 for Trump (with a 1% chance of a tie). In sports, a team that is expected to win nearly 2-1/2 times more often is not a "slight" favorite, they are a massive favorite. So, we do not know what FiveThirtyEight means when they say "slightly," and we suspect it's more weasel words so that they can claim success no matter what happens.

Our approach is considerably less complicated than FiveThirtyEight's, mathematically, but we're all working with the same raw data (i.e., the polls). If the polls are systematically in error, then neither we nor FiveThirtyEight are going to be right. If the polls are on the mark, or close to it, then we'll both be right. Note also that our map is set up to make a "best guess" based on available data for every state, but that it's also clear which EVs are truly certain, and which are within the margin of error. You'll notice that we have Biden with 213 EVs in the bank right now, and Trump with 81, which certainly leaves open the possibility Trump could win this thing.

Q: BusinessWeek just reported a new online poll that said twice as many Trump supporters as Biden supporters refuse to answer poll questions. Haven't you already debunked this "shy Trump voter" hypothesis? M.G., Los Altos, CA

A: Let us make clear that the "shy Trump voter" hypothesis is that some Trump voters lie about their support for him, because they are embarrassed to admit they like him to another human. The extent of this is measured by comparing Trump's support in human-conducted polls as compared to robo-polls, since few people are too embarrassed to lie to a computer. This cycle, there is no meaningful difference between Trump's live poll results and his robo-poll results, implying strongly that there is no "shy Trump" effect.

Simply refusing to respond to polls is not germane to the shy Trump effect. In fact, it's not germane to anything. If a Trump voter refuses to talk to pollsters, then the pollsters move on until they find enough respondents who are willing to talk to them, and then they weight their results accordingly. The only thing that can skew the polls, on the respondent end, is if people agree to participate and then lie in their responses.

Q: You've written before that some people are concerned about the accuracy of polls because of supposed "shy" Trump voters. To the extent that exists, isn't it just as likely that there could be a shy Biden voter this time—people who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 but who aren't willing to admit that they won't be voting for him this election? Any evidence of this? A.R., Los Angeles, CA

A: As with the answer above, this would be revealed in discrepant results in robo-polls vs. human polls, with Biden doing better in the former than in the latter. We've seen nothing that indicates such a discrepancy, and thus no evidence of shy Biden voters.

Q: I am concerned the same polling mistakes are being made this time as were made in 2016. Your site does not poll for itself, of course it summarizes the polling in a readable way for us. My question is: What specifically is being done differently this year by the polling companies to avoid the fiasco we saw in 2016? If nothing specific is being done, I have to conclude your Electoral College map (and others) should be treated with extreme caution, I'm afraid. P.W., South Glastonbury, CT

A: The biggest difference, at the moment, is that pollsters are making sure to account for education level in their models. That was not necessary in the past, but proved to be an important signifier in 2016. The other big difference is that nobody is going to sleep on the upper Midwest states this time around. They were underpolled in the final weeks of 2016, and so a post-Comey-e-mail-announcement loss of support there for Hillary Clinton was largely overlooked.

Q: I believe the evangelicals and social conservatives are going to wake up from 2020 with a terrible hangover, and that the Republican brand has been badly damaged by Trumpism. I also believe the drumbeats against socialism are meant to drown out the realization that guaranteed health, education, and welfare might not be such a bad idea after all.

I know a bit about history and it seems like these people would appreciate the tenets of the short-lived Whig Party. Please elaborate on general Whig principles and what a modern iteration of that party might look like?
M.S., New York, NY

A: Well, we don't have to guess. There already is a modern Whig Party, and their platform is here. Among the key elements:

  • Voting reform, including a right-to-vote amendment and an end to gerrymandering
  • Heavy investment in public education
  • 26 weeks of maternity leave
  • More reliance on block grants, so governors can decide how best to spend federal money
  • Development of alternate energy sources and green technology
  • Heavy investment in infrastructure
  • Universal health insurance
  • Strict limits on deficit spending (legal only in times of crisis or war)

This is fairly well in line with the philosophy of the original Whig Party, with the obvious caveat that the issues of the 19th and 21st centuries are pretty different. At the same time, it also embodies the thing that wrecked the original Party, which was really a hodgepodge of often-competing interests whose only true commonality was "we're not Jacksonian Democrats." Ultimately, it was an inability to agree on slavery that doomed the 19th century version. For the 21st century version you will observe, for example, a commitment to budget austerity, and yet a desire to invest in a whole bunch of expensive stuff, like education and infrastructure. Similarly, you can see a commitment to local governance, and yet a desire to accomplish things that require centralized management, like committing to green technology. So, we don't see a lot of potential for the New Whigs.

Q: If the U.S. is such an "exceptional" country with an "exceptional" form of government, why didn't the U.S. impose its constitutional system (balance of power with an executive, two legislative bodies and a Supreme Court) in the restoration of Germany and Japan post World War II? It seems, of late, that our system of government is showing some cracks, and some wise people in the 1940s must have sensed this. S.T., Glen Rock, NJ

A: Well, the United States did write the constitution of Japan (with limited input from Japanese legal scholars), and it did have significant input into the constitution of Germany. That said, the desires of the parliamentary-system-favoring British had to be accommodated, and further, the Americans' foremost goal was not to replicate their system, per se; it was to prevent the rise of future absolutist rulers like Adolf Hitler and Hideki Tōjō.

So, if you want to read the events of the post-World War II world as a repudiation of the American system by wise American men, we would say that's not fair. If you want to read those events as evidence that those wise men foresaw that a parliamentary system was less subject to executive overreach and abuse of power than a congressional system, that would appear to be right on the mark.

Q: Has the United States ever elected a president more ignorant, more corrupt, less empathetic, more self-centered, or with a higher estimation of his own mental faculties than Donald Trump, and, if so, for each of the five "honors," who? S.K., Chappaqua, NY

A: We shall leave comparisons to the current holder of the office for each reader to make for themselves. In terms of the 43 men who served prior to Trump:

  • The most ignorant president was surely Andrew Johnson, who didn't even learn to read until he was in his late teens, who shared the anti-education attitudes of Southerners of his era, and who disliked "elites" of any sort, finding them snooty and pretentious.

  • The most corrupt president was Richard Nixon. For most presidents who led corrupt administrations, it was really their underlings, and the president was uninvolved, or only nominally so. Nixon not only set a clear tone for his underlings, he was unquestionably personally involved in the Watergate coverup, in using the IRS to harass his enemies, in the illegal bombing of Cambodia, and in all sorts of other malfeasance.

  • Herbert Hoover was the least empathetic president, in our view. He largely turned a blind eye to the privations of the Great Depression and also ordered an attack on veterans of the U.S. Army who were in desperate straits and just wanted the money they had been promised.

  • The most self-centered president was Theodore Roosevelt. We do not believe any past president regularly put his own needs above those of the country, so there's nobody who is self-centered in that way. But TR sure did love to promote his own brand, and he insisted on being the center of attention wherever he went. We have quoted his daughter Alice before: "My father always wanted to be the corpse at every funeral, the bride at every wedding and the baby at every christening."

  • The president most impressed with his own intelligence was Woodrow Wilson. Not without reason; he actually was brilliant. However, his certainty that he knew better than anyone else really grated on the leaders of Congress, and then on David Lloyd George, Georges Clemenceau, and Vittorio Orlando at Versailles. If Wilson had been a little less full of himself, he might have gotten a better result there.

Q: What are the most controversial issues among U.S. historians? F.S., Cologne, Germany

A: A hundred years ago, when the profession was much smaller, we might have been able to give you an answer more along the lines of what we suspect you're looking for. In the 1920s, for example, the major divide was between historians who felt that historical change was driven by great figures, and those who felt it was driven by underlying economic forces.

Today, the profession is so balkanized that there aren't really broad debates like that. The things that women's historians are talking about are different from the things that Civil War historians are talking about. Those are different from the things that colonial historians are talking about, which are different from the things that American West historians are talking about. Most PhDs take a historiography course or two in the first year of grad school and then spend the rest of their career basically ignoring any area beyond their area of specialty.

The biggest debates today—the ones that span different kinds of U.S. historians—therefore tend to be professional or methodological. In the former category, for example, there is much discussion about whether programs should admit far more PhD students than there are jobs for. In the latter, there is some amount of tension about whether historians should be using only traditional historians' tools (i.e. archives, written texts) or if they should be borrowing from the toolkits of other disciplines (i.e., psychology, sociology, performance studies, computer science).

Q: Recent rumors circulating the internet sound uncomfortably like stories told during the Middle Ages that Jews were killing Christian babies to use their blood in making matzoh. Would it be fair to describe QAnon as a modern-day "Protocols of the Elders of Zion"? B.B., St. Louis, MO

A: We would say QAnon is a kitchen-sink conspiracy theory that has managed to absorb elements of just about every other big conspiracy theory from the last century-plus, from JFK assassination conspiracies to the Trilateral commission to backwards masking in heavy metal lyrics. The "Protocols," being one of the biggies, is definitely a big part of the mix, though it's not the whole mix.

Today's Presidential Polls

In case you are wondering why anyone would bother to poll Massachusetts, it is because of the Democratic U.S. Senate primary, where Sen. Ed Markey is consistently leading Rep. Joe Kennedy III by 8-12 points. As to the presidential race, it's hard to imagine what Joe Biden could do to lose the Bay State. Maybe declare that the only "real" clam chowder is Manhattan-style clam chowder. (Z)

State Biden Trump Start End Pollster
Massachusetts 69% 31% Aug 25 Aug 27 Emerson Coll.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug28 And That's a Wrap
Aug28 In Kenosha, Trump Sees Opportunity
Aug28 Team Biden Finally Does Some Counter-programming
Aug28 This White House May Not Be Transparent, but Its Motives Are
Aug28 U.S. Chamber of Commerce Breaks Left
Aug28 Japanese PM Is Out
Aug28 COVID-19 Diaries: Stasis
Aug28 Today's Presidential Polls
Aug27 Conventional, Night Three
Aug27 No Convention Bounce for Biden
Aug27 Trump Goes Dark
Aug27 What Do Trump Supporters Care About?
Aug27 "Suburban Housewives" Aren't Buying What Trump Is Selling
Aug27 LeBron James Is Launching a Multimillion-Dollar Campaign to Recruit Poll Workers
Aug27 Hundreds of Thousands of Seniors in Nursing Homes May Not Be Able to Vote
Aug27 Michigan May Mail Absentee Ballot Application to All Registered Voters
Aug27 Kanye West Failed to Qualify for the November Ballot in Missouri
Aug27 Green Party Will Not Be on the Montana Ballot
Aug27 Stephanie Bice Will Face Kendra Horn in OK-05
Aug27 Elections Were Not Always Close
Aug27 Today's Presidential Polls
Aug27 Today's Senate Polls
Aug26 The Trumpman Show, Night Two
Aug26 RNC Lagging DNC in Ratings
Aug26 Melania Trump's Kumbayah Moment May Soon Fade
Aug26 Today's Republican Endorsements for Biden
Aug26 Trump Taps Chad Wolf for Permanent DHS Post
Aug26 Today's Presidential Polls
Aug26 Today's Senate Polls
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