• Trump Unleashes Twitter Barrage
• It Is Still All About the Base
• DNI John Ratcliffe Won't Brief Congress on Election Security Anymore
• A New Battleground: Yard-Sign Theft
• Meadows: We Are Not Going to Negotiate a Coronavirus Relief Bill
• Massachusetts Primary Is Tomorrow
• When Will the Election Be Called?
• Military Won't Get Involved in an Election Dispute
• Trump Keeps Putting Himself in Danger
• What Does 5 p.m. Mean, Actually?
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Joe Biden didn't get a bump from his convention, but Donald Trump may have gotten a small bump from his. A new Morning Consult poll conducted Friday shows Biden leading nationally by 50% to 44%, a narrower lead than before the Republican National Convention, when Biden was ahead 52% to 42%. On the other hand, these convention bumps tend to disappear in September when more people are paying attention and topics other than carefully stage-managed conventions dominate the news.
The convention cut Biden's lead with suburban voters from 14 points to 8 points. It also expanded Trump's lead with all white voters from 2 points to 8 points. However, Biden's lead with Black and Latino voters grew slightly. Trump hammered Biden during the convention, with the admitted goal of making himself the second most hated candidate running. It didn't have much of an effect, though. Biden's favorability rating went down just a shade, 51% to 49%.
Meanwhile, an ABC News/Ipsos poll among all American adults on candidate favorability gives a different picture. Ipsos found that before the Democratic National Convention Trump's favorability/unfavorability was 35%/58%. After the DNC it was 32%/60%, so the Democrats managed to ding him a bit. And after the RNC it was 31%/59%, so Trump wasn't able to undo the damage. In contrast, before the DNC Joe Biden was at 40%/43%. After the DNC he was at 45%/40%, a net gain of 8 points, so the DNC did what it was supposed to do: Make Biden more popular. After the RNC, Biden was at 46%/40%, so the Republicans were unable to put a dent in Biden, no matter how many names they called him. Also noteworthy is that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) went from +4 before the two conventions to +9 after them, so for her, the two conventions were a net plus. Finally, Trump's handling of COVID-19 is now at 35%/63%. Ipsos did not ask about the horse race.
Harry Enten at CNN looked at historical data since WW II. That contains some bad news for Trump: Elected incumbents tend not to gain after the conventions. In fact, six times out of eight, the incumbent did worse in the election than in the first polls following the conventions. Only Dwight Eisenhower in 1956 and George H.W. Bush in 1992 did better than their post-convention polling (and Bush lost anyway). The bottom line is that Trump needed a big bounce and didn't get it. He either got a small one, or no bounce at all. He'll get one more big shot at it at the first debate, in Cleveland on Sept. 29. If that doesn't work, then cheating in one form or another (e.g., shutting down the Postal Service on Oct. 15) is all that's left. (V)
In a period of just over 2 hours yesterday morning, Donald Trump shot off a barrage of 89 tweets (including many retweets). Many were inflammatory or supported fringe ideas, including one that claims the street protests all over the country are actually an organized coup d'état against him:
According to the mainstream media, the riots & extreme violence are completely unorganized. However, it appears this coup attempt is led by a well funded network of anarchists trying to take down the President.— One America News (@OANN) August 27, 2020
Tune in Saturday, August 29th at 10 p.m. EST / 7 p.m. PST! pic.twitter.com/UlbseVRInw
He also changed one of his popular themes from "lock her up" to "lock him up," addressing Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY). Needless to say, for a president to demand that a governor who was elected three times in massive landslides (63%, 54%, and 60% of the vote, respectively) and who is not even accused of a crime, be thrown in prison without a trial is (borderline) Fascism. Trump also threatened to send federal troops to attack protesters, which would be illegal.
Trump also sent out a retweet of a message claiming that the death toll from COVID-19 is only 9,000. It is actually over 185,000 and growing by over 1,000 a day. At this rate, it will hit a quarter million by Election Day. This was too big a falsehood for Twitter, so the company took it down. Here is the "source" of the "(dis)nformation," The Gateway Pundit, a site "known for publishing falsehoods and spreading hoaxes," per Wikipedia. Welcome to the Internet, where everyone can have his or her own alternative facts. The Gateway Pundit got 20 million visits in July. Take a look and think about that. (For comparison, we got 1.2 million in July). For those keeping score at home, it's Lies: 20, Truth: 1.
Trump also attacked Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler (D) after a clash between pro- and anti-Trump groups in that city left one person dead, calling him a FOOL and ordering him to call up the National Guard. While he was at it, Trump also attacked D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.
None of this is accidental, of course. Trump knows that his base of non-college white men just lap this up like a kitten in front of a saucer of cream. They hate protesters and Black activists and liberal Democratic mayors, and having the president screaming at them doesn't erase the fact that they have lost their jobs, can't make next month's rent, or feed their family, but the psychological gratification of watching him go after people they hate makes them feel better. Who needs food when you can live off hate? (V)
Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report took a look at the 2016 validated vote survey and compared it to 2020. This survey was done after the 2016 election and used official voting records to verify which respondents actually voted in 2016. Only their answers were tabulated. Think of it as a very big exit poll. She then compared the results to a July-August 2020 survey of registered voters, so it is a little bit comparing apples to pineapples. Still, it has some value.
The main takeaway is that in almost every demographic category, Trump's vote share in 2020 mirrors what he got in 2016. For example, in 2016, Trump got 38% of white college-educated voters. He is still at exactly 38% with this group. However—and this is the big reveal—Biden is getting 61% of this group whereas Hillary Clinton got only 55%. Among non-college whites, Trump is now getting the same 64% he got in 2016, but Biden is getting 34% compared to Clinton's 28%.
So Trump is doing the same as in 2016, but Biden is beating Clinton. How does this work? Does Walter's calculator need a new battery? The answer is that most of the "I'm not voting for the lesser of two evils" voters, who voted for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson to send Clinton a message, have decided they would prefer the lesser of two evils to the greater of two evils. They are going for Biden this time. They have apparently learned their lesson the hard way. The total third-party vote in 2016 was nearly 6%. You might not think 6% is much, but the winner's margin of victory in 2016 was less than 6% in 13 states. Put differently, the "no-lesser-of-two-evils" voters likely cost Clinton the election.
Another way of looking at these data is that Trump hasn't lost any voters. Most likely, he could indeed shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and wouldn't lose any voters. The flip side of this is that he hasn't gained any voters, either. He has the same base as last time but Biden has all the Clinton voters and also the third-party voters. Clinton's margin in the popular vote was 2.1%. If we add in the 6% third-party vote, Biden gets to 8%, which is pretty much what the national polls are showing now.
However, there is another factor that could be in play this year: Non-voters. Not everyone voted in 2016. In fact, quite a few people didn't vote. Among 2016 white non-voters in Michigan, 60% do not have college degrees. In Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the figure is 64%. That means Trump has a large demographic to target. It is not likely he can get them by showcasing his achievements, since those are few and far between and the big one (a $2 trillion tax cut) wasn't for them. But this is a group that is likely to respond negatively to burning cities, especially in their own states. If Trump can campaign on a platform of "If elected, I'll send in the army to mow the rioters down with machine guns," he might get some of them to vote. If reporters ask him why he isn't doing that now, he might respond: "Because that is illegal and I am not going to do something obviously illegal just before the election." On the other hand, such an approach is not likely to play well with suburban women, so he would have to target the campaign carefully (e.g., mail flyers to NRA members who own a pick-up truck). (V)
The new Director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, is about to notify Congress not to expect any in-person briefings about election security before the election. He will send them letters about the subject from time to time, but solely at his discretion. His stated reason is that Congress leaks. Ratliffe is clearly using his knowledge (as a former representative from TX-04) that Members can't read, so they won't be able to leak if given a letter. Oh wait, they could just pass the letters themselves to reporters. Hmmm. Reporters can read so the plan might not work. Probably even more important is that in actual briefings, Members can ask questions. With a letters-only approach, there is no danger of being asked an embarrassing question.
Democrats are enraged. While the gutting of the Postal Service has gotten a lot of news lately, foreign intervention is also likely. And that is precisely the area Ratcliffe knows about and doesn't want to tell Congress about. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) said: "This is a shocking abdication of its lawful responsibility to keep the Congress currently informed, and a betrayal of the public's right to know how foreign powers are trying to subvert our democracy." On the other hand, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, excoriated people who leak classified information. Ranking Member Mark Warner (D-VA) called Ratcliffe's decision "outrageous" and an attempt to politicize foreign intervention in the election.
Donald Trump backed Ratcliffe and blamed House Democrats for leaking classified information. He specifically named Schiff as potential leaker without giving any evidence that was the case. Joe Biden said: "There can be only one conclusion: President Trump is hoping Vladimir Putin will once more boost his candidacy." (V)
Many people in suburban and rural areas like to support their favorite candidate(s) by putting campaign signs in their yards. If people driving by see a sea of signs for some candidate, it gives the impression that everyone likes him or her. So what would a true partisan do if he sees a bunch of signs he doesn't like? Steal them, of course. In Pennsylvania, Biden signs are being stolen left and right. Most of the thefts occur in the dark of night, but some brave (?) Trump supporters even dare to steal them in broad daylight. In some cases, entire streets are stripped bare of Biden signs. Trump signs are also disappearing, but there hasn't been the same level of public outcry.
Campaign staffers don't see a huge amount of value in these signs, but for people cooped up at home and unable to go to rallies, having their only outward sign of approval for Biden stolen feels like a violation. Social media is full of advice telling people how to protect their signs or at least deter thieves. This ranges from coating them with clear hair gel and pesky glitter (which is hard to get rid of) to putting them in a metal frame connected to a car battery. Another tactic is attaching them to your house high up so a ladder is needed to get to them. Propping a ladder against someone's house in the middle of the night will probably get a negative response from the owner, especially if the owner has a gun.
Other people have suggested pointing a motion-activated camera at the sign and having it turn on lights or an alarm when it detects motion at night. One woman suggested stapling the sign to a porch railing. Still another put it in a patch of poison ivy. Other people have suggested coating the sign with ground pepper or some other material that irritates the skin. Some have suggested writing items for local newspapers and social media saying that the thieves have no respect for the rule of law. These folks feel the pen is mightier than the poison ivy, obviously.
In 2016, rural Pennsylvania was covered with Trump yard signs, an early warning that he would win the state. One possible downside of stealing Biden signs is that doing so is sure to rile up the owners and virtually guarantee that they vote. (V)
White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows yesterday reiterated his position that the Democrats can either take the $1.3 trillion relief bill that the Republicans want or they can choose no bill at all. He made it clear that he is not going to compromise with Nancy Pelosi, who originally had the House pass a $3 trillion relief bill back in May, but has since agreed to cut it to $2.2 trillion. Meadows basically said it's my way or the highway.
This may or may not be a negotiating tactic. In any event, it puts Pelosi on the spot. On the one hand, she knows that a lot of people (especially minorities) are hurting badly and she wants to do something for them. On the other hand, if she caves, that will tell Meadows that going forward he owns her and can count on her caving to everything he says henceforth if he simply refuses to budge. She doesn't want to send that signal. To deal with this, she is going to have to use her political instincts to guess which party gets most of the blame if there is no bill. Democrats will be able to say that they actually passed a bill that Republicans ignored for 3 months, then announced that they were not willing to negotiate about it. Is that something she wants the Democrats to run on or would it be better to accept the crumbs Meadows is offering and on his terms?
Of course, Meadows could simply be bluffing and secretly worried that if there is no bill, people will continue to hurt, and when people are hurting, they generally blame the president, not the House speaker. So the game of chicken goes on for the moment. (V)
There is only one primary tomorrow, but it's a dilly. Under normal conditions, Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), would be renominated with no opposition. But this year Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA), Bobby's grandson, decided to challenge Markey, a popular progressive who has represented (part of) Massachusetts in Congress for 44 years. Kennedy could have gambled that Joe Biden will be elected president and appoint Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to the cabinet, and then run for her seat, but he didn't. As a consequence, Massachusetts voters have to choose between two popular progressives, one with decades of experience and one named Kennedy.
Markey has a string of endorsements from popular progressives, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and a massive list of other progressive politicians. He also has the backing of MoveOn, Our Revolution, the Sierra Club, NARAL, Daily Kos, the Working Families Party, the Boston Globe, and dozens more. Kennedy's list of endorsements is much thinner, but includes Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), about two dozen representatives (mostly moderates), a number of unions, and a handful of small-town mayors. There is no question that if Kennedy were named "Jones" instead of "Kennedy," Markey could skip campaigning and still get 90% of the vote because he is very progressive and very well known in Massachusetts. A lot of people feel that while Kennedy has a future in Democratic politics, he is a bit too big for his britches, taking on a popular senator who is a good fit for his state just because he wants a promotion quickly. Kennedys do that, though. Jack was a mediocre young senator when he ran for president and Teddy's only "qualification" for the Senate when he was first elected in 1962 was that his brother was president.
Kennedy's supporters argue that their man is just as progressive as Markey, but now is the time for generational change. Kennedy is 39 and Markey is 74. So why not trade an old progressive for a young one?
Early polls had Kennedy in the lead, but more recent ones show Markey ahead. Next week we have Rhode Island and New Hampshire, which is first in the presidential primaries and next to last in the state primaries. (V)
Many people are used to the idea of knowing who the president-elect is before they go to bed on Election Night. Barring a landslide, that is unlikely this year simply because many people will vote by absentee ballot, and the rules for when they are due and when they are counted vary from state to state. Almost every state requires absentee ballots to be postmarked on or before Election Day. Among other things, this allows the Postal Service to invalidate millions of ballots by not postmarking them at all, nominally to speed up their delivery. But even if the Supreme Court doesn't fall for that one, few, if any, states allow the ballots to be counted before Election Day. Some states even allow someone who cast an absentee ballot to show up and vote in person on Election Day, meaning their absentee ballot must later be found and discarded. Obviously that can't be done until the polls close, so in those states, the absentee ballots remain unopened in their envelopes until the polls close.
States also differ on the date (and sometimes the time) when absentee ballots must arrive to be counted. In North Dakota, for example, absentee ballots must arrive by 4:30 p.m. the day before Election Day (that is, on Nov. 2). On the other hand, Illinois ballots postmarked by Election Day have until Nov. 17 to arrive. Below is a table taken from vote.org giving the date (and, in some cases, the time) by which an absentee ballot must arrive to be counted. In states that don't have a time listed, for ballots arriving after the polls have closed, most likely the courts would reject them.
In any case, 18 states explicitly allow for ballots that arrive after Election Day to be counted, provided they are postmarked on or before Election Day. Needless to say, those states won't be called until the deadline has passed—unless the winner's lead on Election Day is greater than the number of absentee ballots sent out but not yet counted.
While most of the states that allow late-arriving ballots are safe states for one of the parties, a few are not. Iowa, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, and conceivably Texas, might have surprises, so the president-elect might not be known for a week if neither candidate has 270 electoral votes in the other states. And then there is the matter of court challenges, which are almost certain to occur, and which could drag on for weeks. Below are the deadlines for ballots to arrive, sorted inversely chronologically:
|California||Nov. 20 (recently extended from Nov. 6)|
|New York||Nov. 10|
|West Virginia||Nov. 9|
|Virginia||Noon Nov. 6|
|North Carolina||Nov. 6|
|New Jersey||Nov. 5|
|Alabama||Noon Nov. 3|
|Arizona||7 p.m. Nov. 3|
|Arkansas||7:30 p.m. Nov. 3|
|Colorado||7 p.m. Nov. 3|
|Florida||7 p.m. Nov. 3|
|Hawaii||7 p.m. Nov. 3|
|Idaho||8 p.m. Nov. 3|
|Indiana||Noon Nov. 3|
|Kentucky||6 p.m. Nov. 3|
|Missouri||7 p.m. Nov. 3|
|Montana||8 p.m. Nov. 3|
|Nevada||[Postmarked by Nov. 3]|
|New Hampshire||5 p.m. Nov. 3|
|New Mexico||7 p.m. Nov. 3|
|Oklahoma||7 p.m. Nov. 3|
|Oregon||8 p.m. Nov. 3|
|Pennsylvania||8 p.m. Nov. 3|
|Rhode Island||8 p.m. Nov. 3|
|South Carolina||7 p.m. Nov. 3|
|South Dakota||Nov. 3|
|Wisconsin||8 p.m. Nov. 3|
|Wyoming||7 p.m. Nov. 3|
|Louisiana||4:30 p.m. Nov. 2|
|North Dakota||[Postmarked by Nov. 2]|
|Mississippi||5 p.m. Nov. 2|
To make it even more exciting, Iowa and North Carolina have Senate races that will probably be close, so we may not know which party controls the Senate for a week or more after Election Day. (V)
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley has told Congress that the military will not get involved in a contested election. Milley wrote: "The Constitution and laws of the U.S. and the states establish procedures for carrying out elections, and for resolving disputes over the outcome of elections ... I do not see the U.S. military as part of this process." Milley was replying to questions from Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) and Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), members of the House Armed Services Committee.
Probably he is right in the sense that if Joe Biden wins and Donald Trump refuses to leave the White House, Biden will ask the Secret Service to remove him. If Trump has stacked the Secret Service with toadies, then the next step is to ask the U.S. marshals to do the job. The military, which Trump can't fill with toadies because generals require Senate confirmation, is the last resort.
Of course, if it comes to that, Milley can't stay out of politics, much as he wants to. Imagine a worst case scenario. Biden is sworn in by Chief Justice John Roberts on Jan. 20. This is broadcast on CNN. However, simultaneously, Donald Trump is sworn in on the White House lawn by some random judge or maybe even by Ivanka Trump. After all, Calvin Coolidge was sworn in by his father at his family home in Vermont after Warren Harding suddenly died. Then he went to bed. Trump's swearing-in would probably be broadcast live by Fox News and OANN. The Constitution doesn't even require a swearing in ceremony, let alone specify who takes part in it. It merely requires the president-elect to recite the oath of office.
At that point Biden calls Milley and says: "As commander in chief I hereby order you to remove Donald Trump from the White House." A few seconds later, Trump calls Milley and says: "As commander in chief I hereby order you to go to your office in the Pentagon immediately and stay there and do nothing until I give you further orders." Now what? Milley has to decide who the commander in chief is. He can't avoid it. Thankfully, it is very unlikely to get that far. (V)
The main job of the Secret Service is to protect the president. Since John Kennedy discovered the hard way that taking unnecessary risks is a bad idea (his staff wanted him to use a bulletproof bubble on the car on the fateful day), most presidents have cooperated with the Secret Service to get maximum protection. Not so Donald Trump, and his disregard for his (and their) safety is causing the Service great difficulty. In particular, Trump's constant desire to address large, approving groups has put agents at risk so much that finding enough agents to cover big events is now a serious issue.
Already, many agents who have gone to Trump events to protect him have tested positive for COVID-19, meaning that they have to self quarantine for 14 days and are not available for work. This has already led to a shortage of agents available for duty. In some cases, agents have had to take extraordinary measures to protect themselves in order to protect Trump. For example, agents who have been assigned to check out venues before he arrives there have been forced to drive long distances to avoid going there on a commercial flight and thus potentially being exposed to the coronavirus. The shortage of agents is so severe that when Trump spoke at Mt. Rushmore, one agent from the Texas office had to drive to South Dakota to be part of the protection team there.
This summer, some agents have complained that they were given inadequate protective equipment and test supplies. Agents live by a code that states they are ready to take a bullet to save the president. It does not state that they have to be prepared to get a possibly fatal disease merely because the president doesn't care about their safety (or his own).
In one case already, the staffing issues at the Service have affected the campaign. In June, Mike Pence was scheduled to go to Arizona, but due to so many agents getting COVID-19 or being quarantined, they told him they could not protect him and he had to cancel the trip.
Trump doesn't seem to care and doesn't want his plans interrupted. Last month he visited Tampa to speak to supporters and go to a fundraiser. The day he visited, 257 people died of COVID-19 in Florida, but he didn't care. (V)
Kanye West filed his application to get on the Wisconsin ballot 14 seconds after the deadline. Needless to say, this is not very professional, but it is what he did. The state of Wisconsin rejected the application because it was too late. Then, the Wisconsin Elections Commission upheld the rejection. West's lawyers went to court claiming that 5:00:14 rounds to 5:00 and thus was "on time." Judge John Zakowski in Brown County now has it on his plate. The court hasn't said when to expect a ruling.
Donald Trump won Wisconsin by only 0.7% in 2016, so if West takes 1% away from Joe Biden (probably mostly from voters who like West's music and have no idea how close the election was in 2016), it could just be enough to keep the state in Trump's column. In an interview last month, West said that he understood that he could damage Biden and was OK with that. So either he is running to help Trump, sell more albums, or possibly both. If he was running to win the election, he would surely have had some serious pros on his staff and not have waited until 14 seconds after the deadline to file to get on the ballot. In any event, we will know more when the judge rules. (V)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Aug29 Saturday Q&A
Aug29 Today's Presidential Polls
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 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