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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Ghislaine Maxwell Arrested in New Hampshire
      •  June Jobs Report Is Stellar...or Is It?
      •  Reasons for Trump to Be Optimistic...
      •  ...and Reasons for Him to Be Pessimistic
      •  When It Comes to Money, Trump Is Doing Great, but Biden Is Doing Better
      •  Trump's (Advertising) Achilles' Heel
      •  Nowhere to Hyde
      •  Texas, Florida Take Divergent Paths
      •  Today's Presidential Polls
      •  Today's Senate Polls

Ghislaine Maxwell Arrested in New Hampshire

If you are not into salacious news, better skip this item. Yesterday, the daughter of disgraced British publisher Robert Maxwell was arrested at her recently purchased secluded $1 million 156-acre estate in Bradford, NH, by the FBI. Robert Maxwell was extremely wealthy and knew everybody important in the U.K., up to and including the royal family. After Maxwell fell off his yacht and drowned in the Atlantic Ocean in 1991, the truth came out that he had been stealing large amounts of money from his company's pension funds, at which time his media empire collapsed. This background is needed to establish that the Maxwell family was no stranger to: (1) big money, (2) big crime, and (3) high society.

Maxwell's youngest child, Ghislaine, started out fine. She grew up in a 53-room mansion and attended Oxford. But after the death of her father, with whom she was very close, she moved to New York to reboot her life. There she met disgraced (that word seems to come up a lot in this story—sorry) pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, who was found dead in his jail cell on Aug. 10, 2019. Her relationship to Epstein could be described as part girlfriend, part assistant, part procurer, and part fixer. Epstein described her as his best friend.

At first, their relationship was mostly romantic, but later on it became more businesslike. Her job was to find young (often underage) girls to give Epstein nude "massages." She scoured the world for them and "groomed" them by getting undressed in their presence, having them undress in her presence, and talking about sex all the time, as if it were perfectly natural for a teenager to get undressed around strangers while talking about sex. When Maxwell felt they were ready for the big event, they were flown in Epstein's private jet to meet him. Epstein, whose fortune was estimated to be $500 million, had more houses than John McCain, including huge spreads in New Mexico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Palm Beach, FL, Paris, and the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

If the only part of this story was that Maxwell procured young girls for a creepy millionaire, we wouldn't cover it here. But there is more. Maxwell grew up in high society and knew high people. They included Queen Elizabeth's son, Prince Andrew, whom the British tabloids often refer to as "Randy Andy." Since Maxwell had plenty of underage girls to spare, she apparently "introduced" them to some of her friends, including the Prince. Here is a photo of him with the then-17-year-old Virginia Roberts (now Virginia Giuffre) and a smiling Maxwell:

Prince Andrew with Virginia Roberts + Ghislaine Maxwell

Notice where the Prince's left hand is. Maybe he should be known as "Handy Andy." A few years later, Giuffre accused the Prince of raping her. He has denied the allegation.

Prince Andrew wasn't the only person who traveled in the same circles as Epstein and Maxwell. Bill Clinton and Donald Trump did as well. Trump can try to deny ever having met Maxwell, but that won't work, as these photos show:

Trump + Ghislaine Maxwell

Snopes has verified that the photos are real.

Now the $64,000 question is: "Did Maxwell have a spare (underage) girl or two available for Clinton and Trump?" Both of them have reputations suggesting that, if someone made them an offer they couldn't refuse, well, they wouldn't refuse. But Trump is running for office and Clinton is not, so if there is more to this story than has come out yet (and you can bet your bottom dollar that there is), it could hurt Trump a lot more than Clinton.

Maybe it is a coincidence, but we still don't know why AG William Barr fired U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman in such a hurry last month. Could it be that Berman was working on the Maxwell case and Barr wanted that investigation stopped for some reason? Inquiring minds want to know. Some of those inquiring minds are in Congress, so Berman will testify before the House Judiciary Committee behind closed doors next week. It doesn't take a degree from the Harvard Law School to imagine some of the questions that the members will ask.

Maxwell is not in a good position now. If found guilty on all the charges she is facing, she will spend the rest of her days in an even bigger house than the one she grew up in. However, it is sometimes said that knowledge is power. The Boston Herald summed this up a bit more crudely with today's headline: "Will Ghislaine Maxwell turn from accused to rat?" Forbes has an article focused on Prince Andrew rather than Trump, but the headline starts with: "What If She Talks..." This thought is surely going to occur to others, probably including Audrey Strauss, who is now running the SDNY investigation of Maxwell. Suppose Maxwell decides to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth to federal investigators. And suppose that implicates some Important People. And suppose the AG doesn't want that to happen. To be continued. (V)

June Jobs Report Is Stellar...or Is It?

The latest jobs report is out, and it says that the United States added an impressive 4.8 million jobs in the month of June, dropping unemployment to 11.1%. That's the kind of thing Donald Trump is sure to crow about. Actually, he already has, declaring that "our economy is roaring back."

It is unlikely that Trump realizes that number is a partial mirage (though even if he did realize it, he would still brag about it). The main issues:

  • Low-Hanging Fruit: There were some jobs lost in the early days of COVID-19 that were going to be pretty easy to bring back, like restaurant staff, or cleaning crews for office buildings. However, most of those have now been restored. The jobs that have not been restored are mostly the ones that cannot easily be brought back, or that are gone forever. In other words, anyone looking at the 4% drop in unemployment, and thinking it should be no problem to shave 2% more per month off the total, such that the U.S. will be back to full employment by September or so, has another think coming.

  • Backward Looking: The jobs numbers reflect an economy that was as open as it's been in months. However, with a resurgence of COVID-19, and the imposition of new shutdown measures, the July report (which covers June 15 to July 15) is going to be worse than June. The only question is: How much worse?

  • Math Errors: Four months ago, the Bureau of Labor Statistics made an error that resulted in inaccurate numbers (they counted people who aren't working right now, but think they will get their jobs back eventually, as "employed"). To keep the figures consistent, month by month, BLS is now deliberately making that same miscalculation. If not for the (now-deliberate) error, the real unemployment figure would be around 12.3%.

  • Stimulus: The stimulus money lavished on the economy by Congress is still artificially propping up some sectors of the economy, as well as many jobless citizens. Most experts think that we will not have a true sense of how bad things really are until September or October.

In short, the economy is not roaring back, at least not at the rate that 4.8 million jobs might seem to suggest. And the odds are high it won't be "back" in any meaningful sense until next year. (Z)

Reasons for Trump to Be Optimistic...

Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale has written an op-ed for The Washington Post talking about how swimmingly the campaign is going, and how Donald Trump has Joe Biden just where he wants him. He's spinning so much he could be mistaken for a dreidel, but the piece nonetheless gives insight into what Team Trump is telling themselves, and is telling supporters (especially the donors). Here are the things Pascale is optimistic about:

  • Enthusiasm: Trump's base is very enthusiastic, and keeps showing up to primaries in record numbers, despite the President having no serious opposition.

  • Trump Has Outraised Biden, and He Set a Record for Fundraising in June: Trump's money haul has been very good, but this assertion is true but misleading (see below).

  • Trump Has an Excellent Data Operation: Parscale says he and his team have already made 45 million voter contacts. Presumably this is true, since data is Parscale's area of expertise.

  • Joe Biden Is a Career Politician, and People Don't Like Career Politicians: Parscale specifically mentions Biden's 47 years in office three different times.

Some of these arguments aren't bad—Trump is definitely going to get good turnout among his base, and the data operation is impressive. Some of the arguments aren't so good—running against Biden's experience, in particular his eight years as Barack Obama's VP, is not a winner with the majority of voters. Some of them still think it might be nice for a president to have some experience in politics before taking over the toughest job in the world. Still, you go with what you've got. (Z)

...and Reasons for Him to Be Pessimistic

And now, let's look at the other side of the coin. Here are things for Donald Trump to be worried about, courtesy of Slate's Jim Newell:

  • White-collar Voters: White, working-class voters fled the Democratic Party more rapidly than white professionals fled the Republican Party. But now the realignment is basically complete. Trump managed to win white-collar professionals by 4 points in 2016, now he trails in that demographic by 14.

  • Senior Citizens: Senior citizens haven't broken for a Democrat since Al Gore made the social security "lockbox" a centerpiece of his 2000 campaign. However, it appears they are going to break that streak, due primarily to Trump's mishandling of COVID-19.

  • The Trump Enthusiasm Illusion: It is true that Trump's base is very enthusiastic about him, as Brad Parscale notes (see above). It is also true that a rabidly enthusiastic minority of the voting population is still a minority. It is similarly true that in most years, the pollster question "how enthusiastic are you about your chosen candidate?" is very useful. However, this year "how enthusiastic are you about voting against the other party's candidate" would probably be more useful.

  • The Economy: In most polls, despite the poor economy, Trump still leads Biden on that issue by a few points. But if it continues to stagnate, or it dips again, or if people are harder hit when the stimulus runs out, Trump could lose that edge. He can't afford to lose the few edges he has.

  • Honesty: For all the jokes that people make about politicians being two-faced, voters do tend to assess candidates' perceived honesty and to factor that into their choice. In 2016, the popular vote tracked perceived honesty pretty well, with Hillary Clinton's edge in "which candidate is more honest?" at about 3%, and her popular vote margin at about 2%. That also held at the state level in most states, including the Rust Belt. Biden's "honesty edge" over Trump is 14 points, not 3.

  • White Evangelicals: This is where Trump's edge is the biggest, and there's clearly nothing he can do to surrender it. He could announce today that he's actually always been a gay Muslim, and that he performs abortions in his spare time as a hobby, and this Sunday's sermon at evangelical churches across the nation would be about how Mark 10:22 and Romans 3:19 clearly indicate that Jesus was a big supporter of gay Muslim abortionists. However, it is possible Trump could lose some of his edge with this demographic. And as we pointed out last week, even a few points hurts a lot.

  • White Working-Class Women: Much has been made about Trump's inroads with working-class voters. He did very well with blue-collar women in 2016, winning them by nearly 30 points. But while he's holding blue-collar men pretty well, many of the blue-collar women have been slipping away. Now, his advantage among them is down to single digits in most polls.

This is a very good, evidence-based analysis, and we like it well enough that we wrote it up. That said, it might be much more simple than all of this. The key to Trump's campaign in 2016 was that his opponent was a woman, and one who is hated by many people. That was a perfect fit for the Donald. If there are two things he is good at as a politician, it's misogyny, and making people hate the things they already hated more intensely. In 2020, Joe Biden is not a woman, and he's pretty likable to most people. So, he's a pretty awful matchup for Trump's campaign style. (Z)

When It Comes to Money, Trump Is Doing Great, but Biden Is Doing Better

Money isn't everything, but watching the campaigns, you wouldn't know that. In 2016, Donald Trump and allied super PACs raised 667 MB, where MB in this context is megabucks (i.e., $667 million). Hillary Clinton, did even better, pulling in 1.2 GB. And yet, despite being 500 MB behind, Trump won. This development has had zero impact on the parties in 2020, though, as they continue to believe that more is better than less. So, both campaigns are furiously raising as much money as they can. Better to have the money and not need it, than to need it and not have it, we suppose.

The Trump campaign and RNC have now announced that in June their haul was $131 million. For the entire second quarter it was $266 million. Their cash on hand is $295 million. This means the campaign is hoarding its pennies (and megabucks) for future use rather than spending lots now.

Meanwhile, the Biden campaign has announced that it raised even more. In June, it pulled in $141 million. This is the second straight month in which Biden outraised Trump. For the second quarter, Biden's total was $282 million. The campaign got 2.6 million new donors and the average donation was $34. Small donors are important because if the campaign bugs them five times a day, they can send more money. Once donors hit $2,800, they can't give directly to the campaign anymore (although they can still give to super PACs). The Biden campaign didn't report its cash on hand, presumably because it has a much higher burn rate than the Trump campaign and doesn't want to appear out of money.

All dollars are equal except some dollars are more equal. By law, candidates can buy television time cheaper than super PACs, so a dollar in a campaign's bank account may be worth as much as $6 in a super PAC's bank account because the campaign dollar can buy more television time. For this reason, all campaigns try to raise as much money as they can directly. At the current pace, 2020 will be a record shattering year in terms of money raised and spent. If you have some spare change lying around, this would be a great time to buy some television stations in Arizona, Florida, and North Carolina. (V)

Trump's (Advertising) Achilles' Heel

As the Democrats figure out how to spend all that lucre they are bringing in, they believe they've cracked the code when it comes to anti-Trump ads. Hillary Clinton's approach, you may recall, was to run ads arguing that Trump is a horrible person who says terrible things about women, minorities, Muslims, handicapped people, veterans, and so forth. That didn't help so much, as you may recall due to events on Jan. 20, 2017, when she was not inaugurated as president. This time around, Democratic operatives think the key is to connect the unpleasant personal behaviors to specific, negative policy outcomes. For example, something like: "Donald Trump tried to slow down COVID-19 testing to make his 'numbers' look better, and people died as a result."

Although the Biden campaign has not yet run many anti-Trump ads (presumably saving them for later in the summer), it is clear the candidate is already implementing this strategy in his interviews and statements. For example, he gave a statement to The Washington Post that read, in part:

Because Trump can't do the most basic parts of his job, the United States is now viewed as posing a global health risk. Today, America is first in infections, first in deaths, and the EU has decided to bar Americans from traveling there as Europe reopens ... A president who started his term by writing hateful travel bans is responsible for getting the American people banned from traveling.

The rest of the statement isn't exactly sunshine and roses, either.

The Lincoln Project has also been running a masterful execution of this approach. Here's their latest, which has already racked up about 7 million views across the various platforms:

It's only 1:38, but if you don't care to watch it, the narrator, speaking entirely in Russian, against a backdrop of "motherland" music, says that the most important endorsement Trump got in 2016 was not from Paul Ryan or Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-KY), but from Vladimir Putin. The narrator then expresses contentment with all the things that have resulted from the cozy relationship between Trump and Putin, like a weaker American democracy, and says that Trump is Putin's candidate again in 2020. We don't know who's doing the creative for the Lincoln Project, but they're very good. (Z)

Nowhere to Hyde

The Hyde Amendment, as most politics-watchers know, is a 1976 law named for former representative Henry Hyde of Illinois that prohibits the use of federal funds to pay the costs of performing abortions, except in the cases of rape, incest, or when the mother's life is endangered. Progressives have wanted to get rid of the law ever since it passed, and there was talk that the Democratic-controlled House might pass a bill this year doing that. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and her leadership team have decided to put that on the back burner for now, since the Republicans control the Senate and aren't going to pass such a bill anyhow.

This story highlights two things. The first is the tricky politics of abortion policy. It is true that a majority of Americans are pro-choice (anywhere from 52% to 65%, depending on which poll you look at, and how the questions were phrased). However, it is also true that many anti-abortion voters are quite rabid about the issue, and will turn into single-issue voters if they think abortion rights are about to be liberalized. It is similarly true that for many folks who are pro-choice, there are significant limits to their tolerance. More specifically, a lot of people think abortion should be legal, but also think the government shouldn't be paying for the procedure. Add those individuals to the anti-abortion crowd and it means that even though pro-choice is a majority position, so too is pro-Hyde Amendment, roughly 55% to 40%. Pelosi & Co. obviously do not want to hand the Republicans a wedge issue on which they know they are in the minority.

At the same time, the lefty elements of the Democratic coalition were assuaged by the promise that if the Democrats get the trifecta (House, Senate, White House), then it would be an excellent time to talk about getting rid of Hyde. It's possible that's just talk, but we doubt it. And assuming that Team Pelosi is being truthful, it means they already see a viable path to control of the federal government, and are already strategizing for what they will do when and if they get to control all the levers. Of course, the blue team is not going to get to 60 Senators, and there are few Republicans, if any, who will vote to kill Hyde, so the Democrats may have also tipped their hand that they're thinking seriously about saying "bye-bye" to the filibuster. (Z)

Texas, Florida Take Divergent Paths

Everybody knows, at this point, that the hottest current hot spots for COVID-19 are California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida, with the latter two the hardest hit of all. Texas governor Greg Abbott (R) was initially willing to play along with Donald Trump's fantasy that it's all fake news, and there's nothing to see here. Not any more, it would seem. Abbott has gotten increasingly aggressive about taking steps to dial back Texas' grand reopening, and to combat the spread of the disease. In a move that would have been unthinkable a month ago for any of the red-state governors who are mini-Trumps, Abbott announced several new measures Thursday, most notably a rule that says face masks are required in public in any Texas county that has more than 20 COVID-19 cases. That covers 167 of Texas' 254 counties, and about 90% of the state's population.

On the other hand, in the other state at the top of the hard-hit list, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is sticking firm to the administration's playbook. He did slow down the state's reopening, but that's a pretty limited measure. Meanwhile, VP Mike Pence visited on Thursday, and he and the Governor spent their press briefings congratulating each other on how great a job they've done combating COVID-19. This on the same day that Florida set a record with more than 10,000 new COVID-19 cases. That is more than the Sunshine State has reported on any other day. Only one state has ever reported more, and that was the 12,847 new infections New York reported on April 10, back when they were ground zero for COVID-19. Now, thanks to strong preventative measures, they've dropped back to the middle of the pack. Will DeSantis take note of the lesson there? Or will he continue to fiddle while Florida burns? After all, you can't spell 'Nero' without R-o-n. (Z)

Today's Presidential Polls

You will notice that there are some red states where Donald Trump is running well ahead of the Republican Senate candidate (like Kentucky) and some where he's running well behind (like Texas, where Sen. John Cornyn is behind Trump's overall number, but enjoys a much larger lead). The crosstabs of polls almost always break things down by party, and they sometimes break things down by ethnicity, but they rarely break things down by party and ethnicity at the same time. That means we can't test this, but we do wonder if the key factor is the presence (or absence) of conservative Latinos, who would prefer a Republican senator, but for whom Trump is a bridge too far? (Z)

State Biden Trump Start End Pollster
Texas 44% 48% Jun 19 Jun 29 YouGov
Texas 48% 46% Jun 24 Jun 25 PPP

Today's Senate Polls

The good news for MJ Hegar is that undecideds tend to break for the challenger in Senate races. The bad news is that she needs almost all of them, if current numbers hold, which is a very tall order. (Z)

State Democrat D % Republican R % Start End Pollster
Texas Mary "MJ" Hegar 35% John Cornyn* 42% Jun 24 Jun 25 PPP

* Denotes incumbent

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jul02 Eighty percent of Evangelicals Will Vote for Trump
Jul02 Trump's Approval Drops Below 40%
Jul02 Hundreds of Bush Officials Support Biden
Jul02 Trump Will Be Intensely Jealous Today
Jul02 Massive Wave of Bankruptcies Is Expected
Jul02 Cheney Criticizes Trump
Jul02 Eleventh Circuit Will Take Up Florida Felon Reenfranchisement Case En Banc
Jul02 Well, That Was Fast
Jul02 Do the Democrats Have Their Own Tea Party?
Jul02 Trump May Be Meddling with the Census Again
Jul02 Today's Presidential Polls
Jul02 Today's Senate Polls
Jul01 Hickenlooper Advances...
Jul01 ...and So Does McGrath
Jul01 COVID-19 Looks to Be Headed from Bad to Worse in the United States
Jul01 Democrats Stake Out Their Positions
Jul01 Trump Campaign Recalibrates
Jul01 Anti-Trump Book Blocked, at Least Temporarily
Jul01 Some Gettysburg Distress for Trump
Jul01 Today's Presidential Polls
Jul01 Today's Senate Polls
Jun30 Russian Chicanery Gives Trump Another Self-Made Disaster
Jun30 Donald Trump, Threat to National Security
Jun30 SCOTUS Gives Pro-Choice Forces an Apparent Victory
Jun30 Social Media Ain't Switzerland
Jun30 House Passes Obamacare Update
Jun30 Jacksonville (Un)Masked?
Jun30 Three More States' Voters Head to the Polls Today
Jun30 Today's Presidential Polls
Jun29 COVID-19 Hits Grim Milestones
Jun29 Trump's Next Problem: Superspreading Superchurches
Jun29 Fox News Kept Millions in the Dark about COVID-19
Jun29 Republican State Legislatures Are Trying to Reduce Absentee Voting during a Pandemic
Jun29 GRU Paid Taliban Bounties for Killing American Soldiers
Jun29 Trump Retweets "White Power" Video
Jun29 Can Trump Beat the Florida Convention Jinx?
Jun29 Another Take on 2024
Jun29 The 2020 Census Will Change the Distribution of Electoral Votes for 2024
Jun29 Don't Forget What Is Going on Downballot
Jun28 Sunday Mailbag
Jun27 Saturday Q&A
Jun26 Time for a COVID-180?
Jun26 Legal Matters, Part I: Obamacare
Jun26 Legal Matters, Part II: A Win for Trump
Jun26 Legal Matters, Part III: A Loss for Trump
Jun26 A Tale of Two Conventions, Part I: the Republicans
Jun26 A Tale of Two Conventions, Part II: the Democrats
Jun26 Democrats Are Liking Biden's Bunker Strategy
Jun26 Kooky Candidate Watch: Winnie Heartstrong
Jun26 COVID-19 Diaries, Friday Edition