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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Hickenlooper Advances...
      •  ...and So Does McGrath
      •  COVID-19 Looks to Be Headed from Bad to Worse in the United States
      •  Democrats Stake Out Their Positions
      •  Trump Campaign Recalibrates
      •  Anti-Trump Book Blocked, at Least Temporarily
      •  Some Gettysburg Distress for Trump
      •  Today's Presidential Polls
      •  Today's Senate Polls

Hickenlooper Advances...

The votes are largely in after voters in Oklahoma, Utah, and Colorado headed to the polls on Tuesday. There were rather more results of interest than one might have expected, given that two of those three are basically one-party states.

In the biggest race of the night, John Hickenlooper (D) survived a few gaffes and missteps and sent progressive Andrew Romanoff (D) packing, 59.6% to 40.4%. That means that Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) isn't going to get a semi-reprieve, and that he'll have to run the campaign of his life if he wants to save his job. And he'll probably have to do it without much help from the national party, which has many races where money is needed, and is likely to decide that Gardner's race is a lost cause.

Also in Colorado, there was a surprise upset in CO-03. Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO), who was gunning for his sixth term and was endorsed by Donald Trump, was sent packing by Lauren Boebert, who got 55% of the vote to the Congressman's 45%. That makes Tipton the fifth sitting representative to be defeated in a primary this cycle, joining Steve King (R-IA), Dan Lipinksi (D-IL), Eliot Engel (D-NY), and Denver Riggleman (R-VA).

Boebert is...quite far right; she openly traffics in conspiracy theories (especially QAnon), encourages employees at the restaurant she owns to carry guns while working (you want a side of hot lead with that?), and has hugged Trump even more closely than Tipton. Since CO-03 is only nominally red (R+6), the seat is now definitely in play. The Democratic candidate will be former state Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, who was also the party's nominee in 2018, losing a fairly close election to Tipton.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Utah, former governor Jon Huntsman (R) is in trouble, as he's trailing with 34.3% of the vote to Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox's (R) 37%. The final disposition of this one won't be known for a day or two because of mail-in ballots, but Huntsman definitely has an uphill battle. Meanwhile, in UT-04, the GOP will run former football player Burgess Owens, who defeated each of the other three Republicans running for the nomination by 20 points or more. He will try to unseat the Beehive State's only Democratic Representative, Ben McAdams, who rode the 2018 blue wave into office.

And finally, in ruby-red Oklahoma, the general Southern practice of requiring an outright majority to win an election means that we don't actually know who will try to reclaim the one Democratic-controlled House seat in that state's delegation. It will be a woman; either Terry Neese, who got 36.5% of the vote, or Stephanie Bice, who got 25.4%. The former has higher name recognition and a closer relationship with Donald Trump, the latter is younger and has more experience in elective office. Both are staunchly pro-business, pro-Jesus, and pro-gun. Rep. Kendra Horn (D-OK) will learn the identity of her opponent once the runoff is held on Aug. 25.

Although the one congressional race of interest in the Sooner State was somewhat anticlimactic, there was still some pretty big news there, however. By a narrow margin, 50.5% to 49.5%, voters supported an expansion of Medicaid, as allowed by the Affordable Care Act. If a majority of voters in ruby-red Oklahoma, a state that never gave a single county to Barack Obama, and that went for Donald Trump by 36 points, has embraced Obamacare, then that certainly sustains the supposition that being anti-Obamacare in the middle of a pandemic is a loser politically.

That's about it for Tuesday night. The result in the Utah Republican gubernatorial primary will be announced today or tomorrow, and then next up, on July 7, are Delaware and New Jersey. (Z)

...and So Does McGrath

It's been a week since Kentuckians went to the polls (and the mailboxes), and we now know who will be taking on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as he tries for a seventh term. As expected, it is retired fighter pilot Amy McGrath, who edged out progressive Charles Booker with 45.4% of the vote to 42.6%. There are still a few thousand ballots left to be counted, so those numbers might shift a little, but there aren't enough ballots out there to allow Booker to make up his more than 15,000-vote deficit.

It appears that McGrath may have been saved, in a roundabout way, by COVID-19. There was a surge in support for Booker at the very end of the campaign, undoubtedly a response to the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent social unrest. If the great majority of Kentuckians had been voting in person on Election Day, that surge might have been enough to carry him over the finish line. However, the large number of mail-in ballots, necessitated by COVID-19, broke decisively in McGrath's favor. Undoubtedly, many of them were cast pre-Floyd, and thus pre-Booker-surge.

The question now is whether McGrath (and John Hickenlooper in Colorado) will be damaged by their tougher-than-expected primaries. On one hand, they undoubtedly expended money they would have preferred not to expend, and there will also be some disappointed progressives who may be tempted to stay home on Nov. 3. On the other hand, the challenge probably forced them to get some discipline as regards their messaging, earlier than might otherwise have been the case. Further, challenges from the left will confirm McGrath's and Hickenlooper's bona fides as centrists, which might assuage some voters who are on the fence. These races are going to be polled a lot, so we'll have a fair bit of clarity, presumably beginning very soon. (Z)

COVID-19 Looks to Be Headed from Bad to Worse in the United States

On Tuesday, the U.S. got a high-profile and rather embarrassing poke in the eye, courtesy of the E.U. The E.U. Parliament, looking to balance public health with the desire to revive summer tourism, declared that member nations would begin accepting visitors from 14 nations, including Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and China. Not welcome, on the other hand, are visitors from Russia, Brazil, and the United States, due to those nations' inability to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Put another way, the U.S. is now on an official sh**hole list, and with justification.

Domestically, the news is even more troublesome. CDC principal deputy director Dr. Anne Schuchat, in an interview with The Journal of the American Medical Association, said the virus is continuing to spread in the U.S., and that the country may be beyond the point where control with social distancing and other measures is possible. Dr. Anthony Fauci, who appeared before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Tuesday, seconded Schuchat's concern, observing that there are four states in particular that he is concerned about, and warning that the U.S. could be headed toward 100,000 new infections per day (up from roughly 40,000 per day right now). Fauci did not say which four states he was thinking of, but he didn't need to. It's Florida, Texas, Arizona, and California.

In two of those states, we now have a pretty clear indication of how responses are diverging, based on the political affiliation of the state's leaders. Nearly all states, but particularly the hotspot states, have concluded that proceeding with their re-opening plans is not a wise idea. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said that pushing the pause button is the beginning and the end of what he's willing to do, and that dialing things back and returning to more strict COVID-19-control measures is not in the cards. In California, by contrast, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has not only pushed the pause button, he's deciding exactly what restrictions to re-implement. Anyone who had beach plans for the Fourth of July holiday, for example, should probably get to work on alternate arrangements. Folks with restaurant reservations, too.

In view of all of this, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden concluded the time had come for him to speak up (again). And so, he emerged from his basement to deliver an address to a small, socially distanced, invitation-only crowd. He blasted Donald Trump, of course, declaring the president to be "in retreat" and wondering "What happened? Now it's almost July, and it seems like our wartime president has surrendered—waved the white flag and left the battlefield."

Biden's rhetoric is harsh, but it's also hard to argue against it. The list of specific things that Donald Trump has personally done to combat COVID-19, or to provide hope, or inspiration, or leadership on that front, is vanishingly small. Like, you could count with the fingers on one hand, and still have four or five fingers left over. And in response to all of the various bits of adverse news that presented themselves on Tuesday, the President didn't do anything to change the narrative. Instead, he tweeted this:

Every man is the hero of his own story, as they say. Of course, they also say that about every villain. (Z)

Democrats Stake Out Their Positions

There were many things that went wrong with Hillary Clinton's campaign in 2016 that were largely, or entirely, beyond her control. The sexism, for example, or James Comey's October e-mail surprise. There were also two very big missteps that were entirely on her and her campaign. The first was assuming that the "blue wall" in the upper Midwest was in the bag, and not spending enough time locking down those votes. And the second was not having a clear enough agenda. She largely ran against something (namely, Donald Trump) rather than for something. When she did stake out an agenda, it was cautious, and voters were largely expected to refer to her website full of wonky position papers for details. The problem is that most people don't read wonky position papers. And so, it is a rare voter indeed in 2016 who could have, for example, listed Clinton's three biggest priorities upon winning the White House. Infrastructure? Expanding healthcare? DACA? Fighting global warming? We write about politics every day, and even we aren't quite sure what she regarded as most important.

In 2020, the Democrats have determined not to make the same error. They may win, and they may lose, but they will do it running on a very clear policy agenda. Last week, House Democrats adopted a D.C. statehood bill, on Monday it was an Obamacare expansion bill, and on Tuesday they published a broad, 547-page climate-change plan, outlining changes that can be made in all sectors of American life to try to meet the challenge. It's not as aggressive as the Green New Deal, but it's also not that far short of it. Whether any of these ideas can become law is an open question, of course, and would probably depend on whether or not Democrats are willing to kill the filibuster. However, anyone who says they have no idea what the blue team will try to do if they manage to capture the Senate (and the White House) hasn't been paying attention.

Joe Biden is a little more cautious than Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), for various reasons—some of them pragmatic, some of them due to his personal style—but he's also making sure to stand for something clear and tangible. In addition to his remarks on COVID-19 on Tuesday, and his promise to take the bull by the horns if he's elected president, he also said that his campaign is working on a list of black, female candidates he would consider nominating to the Supreme Court. SCOTUS has had women and men; Protestants, Catholics, and Jews; Latinos and Latinas; and black men. A black woman is one of the few barriers left to be shattered (so is an Asian of any sort, which would make potential candidate Kamala Harris a twofer). There is little question that Ruth Bader Ginsburg will step down pretty quickly once a Democratic president is elected, particularly if the Party also takes over the Senate. She will probably also vacate the seat at some point during Donald Trump's term if he is reelected. So, Biden is going to leverage that to appeal to both progressives and to black voters.

The Democrats may have a big day on Nov. 3, and they may have a bad day. If it's the latter, though, at least it won't be because they made the same mistakes as in 2016. (Z)

Trump Campaign Recalibrates

The Democrats aren't the only ones thinking hard about Nov. 3 (which is, after all, only 126 days away). Following the Tulsa debacle and a spate of really bad polls, the Trump campaign knows it's got trouble on its hands. And so, it is doing what it can to right the ship.

To start, the campaign has just announced a massive ad buy—$69 million in six key swing states: Arizona, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. We're not so sure this will move the needle at all, since Trump's ads are already airing constantly, are geared entirely toward his base, and are all pretty much the same. That said, money sitting in a bank account definitely doesn't win any votes, so they've gotta spend it somewhere. Note also that they are not yet investing in places like Texas, Georgia, and Iowa. Perhaps Team Trump is in denial about the adverse polls in those places. Or, perhaps they have concluded that it's best to leave places like Texas to their own devices, concluding that if the Lone Star State goes blue, the election is hopeless. If that is the case, it's probably good thinking.

Meanwhile, on the rally front, a head has now rolled. First Son-in-Law Jared Kushner took a break from bringing peace to the Middle East, solving the opioid crisis, reorganizing the federal government, and overseeing the construction of the border wall to cashier the campaign's chief operating officer, Michael Glassner. He will be replaced with Jeff DeWit, a Trump loyalist who filled that role back in 2016. That means that campaign manager Brad Parscale is least for now.

The good news for Parscale (and for any other staffers who are in danger of losing their jobs) is that there won't be any more rallies any time soon. The only other one on the schedule, which was supposed to take place in Alabama next week in an effort to hurt Jeff, to boost Tommy Tuberville, has now been canceled. Surely that is a tacit acknowledgment that the campaign is not currently able to resolve the issues that made the Tulsa rally a disaster.

Given the role that COVID-19 fears played in that situation, and given the expected acceleration of the disease in the next few weeks (see above), one wonders if the rallies will return. The President may have to cool his jets, and content himself with daydreaming about the Republican National Convention in Jacksonville, which is being organized by the Republican Party and not the Trump campaign. Of course, if COVID-19 cases in Florida continue to spike and/or if the city's newly imposed mask policy remains in place, the convention might have to be scrapped (or virtualized), too. If so, we shudder to think of what Trump's Twitter feed will look like in September. (Z)

Anti-Trump Book Blocked, at Least Temporarily

Things may not be going well on the campaign front for Donald Trump, but at least he got a small victory on the legal front on Tuesday, as New York Supreme Court Justice Hal Greenwald imposed a temporary restraining order halting the release of Mary Trump's scathing memoir about her presidential uncle. Greenwald wants to have adequate time to consider the issues raised by parties on both sides.

It is not at all clear what questions Greenwald thinks are worthy of consideration, how likely he is to try to bar publication of the book, or what his legal basis for doing so might be. However, we do know that Team Trump hasn't even seen the book. Usually "we're guessing this probably violates the NDA" or "we suspect this might be defamatory" is not the strongest basis for a legal case. Further, as we learned with the John Bolton book, there are a lot of different ways that a book can find its way out into the wild. There are also multiple levels of appeal in the New York court system (oddly, the Supreme Courts are not at the top of the pyramid). All it takes is for one of them to agree the book should be published. Add it up, and we think the book is certain to see the light of day. Indeed, the only thing this lawsuit is likely to do is push that day closer to Election Day (while also giving the book vast amounts of free publicity). (Z)

Some Gettysburg Distress for Trump

Abraham Lincoln called for "malice toward none." The Lincoln Project, by contrast, has rather significant malice toward one, and they are doing a heck of a job of putting that into video form these days. They've unveiled a couple of really brutal ads in the last few days, including this one, which argues that "The Greatest Generation" sacrificed enough during World War II, and that we shouldn't be asking them to suffer and/or die during the COVID-19 epidemic:

And then there is this one, in which politically conservative former U.S. Navy Seal Dr. Dan Barkhuff takes Donald Trump to task for the Russian bounties, wondering if the President is a coward who won't challenge Vladimir Putin, or a collaborator who is aiding and abetting the Russian:

As far as attack ads go, these are very effective.

Of course, the question is whether the ads might actually influence any voters. That is a hard question to answer with cold, hard data, but our guess is that they will. It is abundantly clear that the Lincoln Project is developing a brand and a following; their ads now collect hundreds of thousands of views within 24 hours of being posted, and over a million within a few days. The more followers they have, the more their ads get shared on platforms like Facebook. The more money they can raise, too.

Beyond that, we are generally skeptical about the efficacy of political advertising in general, and of attack ads in particular, these days. However, because these folks are Republicans, they have a certain credibility, and may have the ability to grant "permission" to other Republicans to vote Democratic, just this once. Further, they know exactly what buttons to push in order to get a response out of right-leaning voters. If the Lincoln Project persuades one Republican in a hundred to abandon the S.S. Trump, that would be enough to swing at least a couple of states relative to 2016. (Z)

Today's Presidential Polls

There have been 16 polls of the presidential race in North Carolina this year, and Joe Biden has come out ahead in 12 of them. We're actually surprised to see it this close, given that Donald Trump is doing worse in considerably redder states.

Siena is only polling New York because that is where they happen to be located. And so they have confirmed what we already knew, namely that Donald Trump is going to lose his "former" home state big-time. (Z)

State Biden Trump Start End Pollster
North Carolina 45% 44% Jun 22 Jun 25 East Carolina U.
New York 57% 32% Jun 23 Jun 25 Siena Coll.

Today's Senate Polls

It is very likely that the Senate race and presidential race in North Carolina will both go for the same party. The presidential race is a must-have for Donald Trump, and the Senate seat is close to a must-have for the Democrats if they want to retake the Senate. So, it's a good time to be in the business of selling advertising in the Tar Heel State. (Z)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
North Carolina Cal Cunningham 41% Thom Tillis* 41% Jun 22 Jun 25 East Carolina U.

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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