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Political Wire logo Trump Floats ‘Complete Decoupling’ From China
Cuomo Considers Quarantine on Those from Florida
Why Analysts Won’t Write Off Trump Yet
Florida Is New Epicenter for Coronavirus
Bolton Says Trump Effort to Stop Book Is Too Late
Early Data Show No Uptick In Outbreaks from Protests

Bolton's Book Is Already Leaking

If Donald Trump thinks he can shut up former NSA John Bolton by suing him, well good luck. The book is already leaking. The New York Times is reporting that Trump interfered in criminal investigations to help dictators he liked. Bolton wrote: "The pattern looked like obstruction of justice as a way of life, which we couldn't accept."

Bolton also wrote that Trump tied trade deals to his reelection campaign by asking Chinese President Xi Jinping to buy lots of agricultural products from states Trump needs to win in November. Merely asking a foreign national to contribute anything of value to a U.S. political campaign is a federal felony, even if the foreign national refuses. Not to mention that U.S. trade policy is not supposed to be part of a political campaign. If a future Biden administration wants to prosecute Trump, Bolton will be a key witness, assuming he can be bothered to show up (see below). But even if he is busy the day of the trial, the prosecutor can read from the book.

Bolton also points out Trump's ignorance about things that American high school students are supposed to know, for example, that Finland is not part of Russia. He also wrote that Trump's thinking is like an archipelago of dots (like individual real estate deals), leaving the rest of the administration guessing what the underlying policy might be (if any).

The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal also got copies of the book in advance. Some of the Post's bombshells include:

  • Trump was fine with Xi building concentration camps for Uighurs, an ethnic minority group that lives in China
  • Trump indeed blackmailed Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky, as Democrats have charged
  • Senior staffers were frequently gobsmacked at how erratic, ignorant, and incapable Trump is
  • Foreign leaders found it easy to manipulate Trump
  • Trump wanted to jail journalists and said they should be executed
  • U.S. sanctions against North Korea had to be waived because Trump wanted to give Kim Jong Un presents

The book won't be released until June 23, but it is already the #1 best seller on If Trump thinks he can bully Jeff Bezos into not selling millions of copies at $19.50 apiece next week, as we said above, good luck. (V)

Bolton Doesn't Exactly Come off Smelling Like a Rose Here

Roughly half the American people, give or take a few percentage points, loathe Donald Trump. And many of them will be pleased to have any new information that justifies that loathing, even if it comes from the pen of the not-much-more-popular-with-the-lefties John Bolton. For that reason, and also because Trump has roughly 0.0% credibility with anyone who is not the base, Bolton could write nearly anything in the book and people would be inclined to believe it.

It should be pointed out, however, that Bolton is a deeply problematic source, at best. Yes, he was a White House insider for 500 days or so, and was a witness to the sausage being made. On the other hand, as he sat and watched all the alleged problematic behavior he's now reporting on, he did not do a damn thing (except take prolific and detailed notes, as was his long-standing habit). No whistleblower reports, no resignations in protest, no meaningful public pushback whatsoever. And to anticipate an obvious question, there is no chance that he is "Anonymous," because Anonymous already wrote a book, and also because Bolton would now be bragging long and loudly if he was the author.

Perhaps it is understandable—albeit definitely not admirable—that Bolton did not rock the boat while he was in office. After all, that would take a lot of courage, a commodity that the former NSA has never demonstrated an abundance of. Further, power is difficult for people to give up, outside of the occasional Cincinnatus or George Washington, and if Bolton had gone rogue, he would have lost all of his power instantly.

However, even once Bolton was not in office, and courage and power were no longer issues, he still remained close-lipped. He, like everyone else in the nation, knew that the Democrats were looking into Ukrainepot Dome in particular, and into illegal behavior by the President in general. On November 7, 2019, he was scheduled to be deposed by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and his committee. Not only did Bolton not show up, he threatened lawsuits, and said he would not speak until it was cleared by a federal judge. Clearly, that was a straw man, as it's not like a federal judge has approved the release of Bolton's book.

With just one day's testimony, Bolton could have changed the entire complexion of the impeachment, giving more weight to the Ukraine matter, but also affording the Democrats cover to look into other areas. That might have removed a president whom Bolton supposedly now thinks is "unfit" from office, or at least might have clipped his wings a bit. Instead, the former NSA remained silent. And if that was not enough, he now has the temerity to accuse the Democrats of committing "impeachment malpractice."

All of this is to say that Bolton is disingenuously portraying himself, at the moment, as a dedicated public servant who felt the need to come forward with what he knows. His past behavior makes clear, however, that the whole act is a lie. It was not until he had books to peddle and money to make that he suddenly became interested in unburdening himself and in disregarding the alleged legal constraints he claimed he was operating under.

If (Z) were looking at this book as a historical source (which, of course, it is), he would tread very, very lightly. Again, it's certainly possible that some or all of the book is true. But given that profit is the primary motive (likely with a healthy dash of desire for revenge mixed in), there is every reason to be wary of misrepresentations, exaggerations, or outright falsehoods. Take everything you read (or hear) with at least one or two grains of salt.

On the other hand, John Dean could have blown the whistle on Richard Nixon a lot earlier than he did, but he didn't. But when he finally did, he probably told the truth. It could well be that Bolton is telling the truth about what Trump said and did but simply white washed his role in the events. After all, Bolton knows that there are other witnesses to Trump's words and acts, and their take on events may come out before long, especially since reporters will soon know what to ask about. It's also true that in trials of senior mobsters, the witnesses are often junior mobsters, because those are the people who witnessed the crimes. The fact that they are also mobsters means one should weigh their words carefully, but it doesn't mean they are necessarily making up stuff. This applies to Bolton as well. We suspect there will be a feeding frenzy next week, with reporters talking to lots of former (and maybe current) White House officials to try to figure out whether Amazon should classify Bolton's book as #1 in fiction or #1 in nonfiction. (Z)

COVID-19 Is Still Around, Despite What Pence Thinks

The coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, is four major news stories old. Since then we have had the economy, the death of George Floyd (et al.) and the ensuing nationwide protests, and Bostock. But the virus is still out there and spreading. Nine states—Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina and Texas—have broken daily or weekly records for new cases.

But if you read (and believed) Vice President Mike Pence's op-ed in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, you would think the problem has been solved. After all, Pence wrote: "In recent days, the media has taken to sounding the alarm bells over a 'second wave' of coronavirus infections. Such panic is overblown. Thanks to the leadership of President Trump and the courage and compassion of the American people, our public health system is far stronger than it was four months ago, and we are winning the fight against the invisible enemy." Not so much there about the nine states that are setting new records for infections.

Assuming Pence speaks for Donald Trump—and he generally does—the big rally in Tulsa on Saturday is still on, despite city officials pleading with Trump to postpone it (preferably forever). A group of local lawyers sued to stop the rally, but a judge denied their motion yesterday. The case will now head to the Oklahoma State Supreme Court. If that Court says "Nope, you can't hold it," it might end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

In a move that won't change a thing, the Trump campaign is looking for a second venue near the first one to hold part of the overflow crowd. Campaign officials would like the second venue to be outdoors, to reduce the spread of the virus, but there are no plans to move the entire event outdoors. There are several possibilities for the second venue, including a minor-league ballpark, a soccer stadium, and a couple of high-school fields. So far, no decision has been made.

Of course, if the indoor event is held, with or without a second outdoor event, the virus is going to propagate like crazy. It is already rampant in Tulsa, and with 20,000 people packed into an indoor hall, it is going to spread like wildfire. If 3 weeks after the rally, COVID-19 cases skyrocket in Oklahoma and all the ICUs in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Stillwater, and Norman are overflowing and people are dying, Democrats are going to be screaming: "Trump doesn't care about anyone else, not even his own supporters." Trump will then point out that he is making all attendees agree in advance that if they get sick or die, it's not his fault, so they knew in advance. We can imagine this whole incident showing up in a Biden campaign ad entitled "Heartless" later on. (V)

Lincoln Project Hits Trump Where it Hurts

The Lincoln Project is run by never-Trump Republicans who hate the President because they think he is a sheep in Republican's clothing (or was that a Republican in sheep's clothing?). Either way, they are out with another ad designed to drive him into a frenzy:

It's only 45 seconds, so you might as well watch it. It doesn't attack his views on any policy issues or his habit of grabbing women by the pu**y or anything like that. It declares that he is weak and implies he has lost at least some of his marbles. It starts with a female (!!!) narrator saying: "Something is wrong with Donald Trump. He is shaky, weak...trouble speaking...trouble walking," with corresponding video footage. Then it asks why the press isn't covering Trump's secret midnight run to Walter Reed Medical Center. It goes on like that, and ends with the hashtag #TrumpIsNotWell.

If the DNC were to produce an ad saying that Trump is a sick man and not fit to be president, congressional Republicans would blow a gasket and say the DNC was hitting below the belt. But the ad was produced by people who have been prominent Republicans for decades, so the pushback is going to be a wee bit trickier, especially since many Republicans in Congress actually agree with the ad and do think Trump is unfit for the office, but just don't dare say it out loud. On the first day out there, it has already been viewed over 5 million times on Twitter, along with over 900,000 times on YouTube.

This is the kind of ad that really gets under Trump's skin, because it calls him weak and shows images that make him look weak. For someone who has a great need to dominate everyone, the ultimate insult is that he is flaccid and over the hill.

The Lincoln Project is no doubt going to have another great fundraising day, just like it had in May when another of its ads brought in $1 million. No doubt most of the money is going to come from Democrats. The group is also running ads attacking Republicans who support Trump, like this one slamming Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) for not speaking up against the President. If their ads catch on big time—and they are all very well done, so they might—it may allow Joe Biden's campaign to take the high road and talk mostly about how he wants to create jobs, protect people's health care, and other things he will do if he wins and let the Lincoln Project throw the mud. (V)

Antonin Scalia Would Have Approved Bostock

The late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a staunch conservative, would have loved the Supreme Court's Bostock v. Clayton County decision, at least according to staunch conservative (but not Trump toady) George Conway. In another of his almost weekly op-eds in the Washington Post, Conway explains what the dead justice is thinking, wherever he may be.

According to Conway, the case is really about the misbegotten 1892 case Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, in which SCOTUS opined on an 1885 law intended to stop the influx of foreign labor. Immigrants! As they say in France, plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose (the more things change, the more things stay the same). The law in question banned foreigners coming to the U.S. to take American jobs except artists, actors, singers, and a few other categories. Clergy were not in the list of exempt occupations.

Holy Trinity Church in New York hired a British pastor, and the government claimed that violated the law. The Supreme Court didn't believe that Congress really meant to exclude clergy, even though the law didn't list pastors, priests, rabbis, or other clergy, so it found the church not guilty. Thus began the habit of the courts guessing what Congress meant and ruling accordingly. For decades, liberal justices made liberal use of this concept to extend protections not in the text of the law.

Just as it is clear that Congress did not intend to bar British pastors in 1885, it is clear that Congress did not mean to declare in 1964 that trans people form a protected class. Probably 95% of the members back then had no conception whatsoever of what trans people were, and if they did, probably would not have wanted to protect them. Conway says the Court has now made it clear that Trinity is finally reversed and the actual words in the Constitution or law are what matters, not what the authors of the document intended. This time the results are not what conservatives wanted, but the principle that the actual words are what matters has now been established. This principle guided Scalia his whole life: What matters is what they wrote down, not what we think they might have meant.

The problem with this approach is that cases often arise in which the words are ambiguous. The Fourth Amendment reads:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Fine. Those are the words. In 2003, a middle school principal had some suspicion that a 13-year-old girl might have brought legal prescription drugs with her to school but didn't give them to the school nurse to be administered, as the school required. So he ordered her to strip and be searched. Is that "reasonable" in the sense of the Fourth Amendment? Ultimately, The Supreme Court ruled that it was not "reasonable" but they sure couldn't base their decision on the actual words of the Fourth Amendment. Is the ACA's penalty for not buying health insurance a tax? John Roberts thought so, but Samuel Alito didn't. The bottom line is that textualism is fine and dandy in theory, but there is an endless supply of cases where the words in the law or Constitution don't clearly give guidance in the case at hand, so judges and justices are just going to continue to wing it, as they have always done, and Scalia will continue to roll over in his grave.

Justice Gorsuch, if you are reading this, here is a fun thing to think about. The Constitution gives the president the power of the pardon, with no exceptions. That's the text. Suppose the president were to cheat on his federal taxes, blatantly steal money from the treasury, order the assassination of his political opponents, and instruct federal officials to go to selected precincts on Election Day to seize and shred ballots, followed by pardons for all involved including a self-pardon. Would he be any different from a king? Check your copy of the Constitution. The issue of a self-pardon and the literal text of the Constitution might be on your plate sooner than you expected. Have a good day, your honor. (V)

Biden's Lead Is More Stable than Clinton's Was in 2016

A study by Emory University political science Prof. Alan Abramowitz, comparing the 2016 polling to the 2020 polling, shows that while both Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020 have led in the polls up until mid-June, Biden's lead has been more solid. Here is the key result:

Year No. polls Average D lead Pct. polls with D lead Pct. polls with R lead
2016 44 5.7% 84% 14%
2020 72 5.9% 94% 1%

The takeaway here is that Trump led in 14% of the polls through mid-June in 2016, but led in only 1% this year. The study also showed that Biden's lead was bigger than Clinton's in January, February, May, and June, so it is more consistent. Note also that while we aren't being funded by Emory University, we made the same basic observations a week ago. (V)

Why Is the Government Always Gridlocked?

When was the last time the government ever did anything important? If you are under 30, the answer is: "Not in my lifetime." A pretty good case can be made that except for a bill here and a bill there, the last time the federal government really tried to deal with what it saw as national problems was the Reagan administration. Whether you agree with him or not, Reagan had vision and it was: "In this present crisis, government isn't the solution, government is the problem." The "crisis" he was referring to in his first inaugural address was high inflation and high unemployment (almost 10%). That's small potatoes compared to where we are today, but then it was a big deal. Reagan's solution was to deregulate everything and let the private sector run the country. It was a major change of direction.

One can argue that before that, the last period of major change of direction for the government was the 1960s, when Lyndon Johnson aggressively pursued his "Great Society," including Medicare, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and more. Before Johnson and the abruptly ended Kennedy administration, we had Eisenhower, who played golf for 8 years and left the country on autopilot, except for the Interstate Highway System and sending federal troops to Little Rock, AR—at the request of the mayor—to integrate Central High School at the point of a gun. Plus some mucking around in the affairs of other countries, like Iran, and a little-known Southeast Asian country called Viet Nam. Before Eisenhower, the last period of government activism was the 1930s, with the New Deal.

So the country has seen periods when stuff happened. Why hasn't much happened for decades now? A case can be made that major social change comes about only when one party wins an election by a landslide, and can thus claim a huge mandate to carry out its program. Donald Trump's win in 2016, where he lost the popular vote by 3 million votes and won the Electoral College based on 77,000 votes in three Rust Belt states (out of 13 million votes in those states and out of 135 million votes nationwide) does not qualify. In fact, landslide presidential elections seem to have gone the way of the dodo. Here is a graph of the popular-vote margin in the presidential elections since 1920:

Popular vote margin in presidential elections since 1920

The first thing that stands out is how large the winner's margin often was from 1920 to 1956—usually more than 10%—versus how small it is now. Since 1988, it has never been above 10% and it has been below 5% in four of the past five elections. If you eke out a victory by a couple of percent (or, in 2000 and 2016, by losing the popular vote altogether), you can't claim a mandate and get big stuff done. Well, you can claim anything you want, but Congress and the country are not going to buy it. Historically, it was also common that a presidential landslide often delivered a Congressional majority and with a simple majority in both chambers, the president could carry out his program. Only recently has the Senate minority filibustered everything. Now it takes 60 votes to do anything beyond naming a Post office (well, and appointing a judge, which can't be filibustered anymore). Here are the number of cloture votes per Congress since 1917. As you can see, before 1970, there were virtually no filibusters and thus no cloture votes.

Cloture votes by Congress

Why have elections become so close? One possible explanation is how elections were fought then and now. In the old days, each party had a platform and campaigned by trying to convince voters that its platform was better than the other guy's. We can assure you, that is not how Brad Parscale is going to run Donald Trump's campaign. He is going to microtarget pickup-truck-owning, gun-toting, abortion-hating, churchgoing conservatives and scare the daylights out of them by saying that Joe Biden is going to replace RBG with a clone, except 50 years younger.

Similarly, Biden's campaign manager, Jen O'Malley Dillon, is going to scare nervous Democrats witless by pointing out that in a second term, Donald Trump is going to make Benito Mussolini look like the poster child for democracy, fair elections, and honest government. The party platforms are not likely to play much of a role. In fact, the Republicans didn't even bother to write one this year. They just found an old one lying around on the shelf and said: "This one will do."

Karl Rove once pointed out that the ideal GOP candidate is the most conservative one who can get 50% + 1 vote. That's the modern reality. Each party moves as far as it can to the extreme while still hoping to get 50% +1. Parties don't try to win big. They just try to win. And technology helps enormously. Endless focus groups, polling, and voting data down to the precinct level allow each party to microtarget tiny slices of the electorate so the campaign can try to put together that 50% +1. The Republicans think: "If we get 58% of the vote, we blew it. We could have moved a lot farther to the right and still won." The Democrats tend to think the precise mirror image of that (though not always; see Clinton, Bill). The trouble is that winning with a bare majority probably means you don't have a mandate, can't get anything done, and disappoint the voters. So they switch sides in 4 or 8 years, at which time the cycle repeats.

Ironically, if current polling holds, Biden might actually win this year by a "massive" 6-8 points and the Democrats might get majorities in both chambers of Congress, in which case they will likely abolish or limit the Senate filibuster. So Biden could then be the next Ronald Reagan or Lyndon Johnson? It doesn't look that way (so far). He might use his "mandate" to fix the potholes in Eisenhower's 55-year-old highways, ban police chokeholds, and if Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) puts a knife to his throat, admit D.C. as a new state. But sweeping change was Bernie's thing, not his. On the other hand, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Lyndon B. Johnson were all elected to office as moderates, and see what happened. So, you never know for sure. (V)

McConnell is Not Planning to Step Down

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is possibly in for a tough reelection battle if Amy McGrath (D) wins the Democratic senatorial primary in Kentucky next week. She has outraised him and is fairly moderate, like other Democrats who have won statewide in Kentucky. McConnell is still the favorite, though winning his own race isn't the only thing he has to worry about. There is a decent chance that he will be reelected, but will suddenly find himself in the minority. Does he want to be the minority leader if it comes to that, or will he step down from a leadership role in the Senate?

Yesterday, he made it very clear that yes, if the Republicans are in the minority in January, then he wants to be the minority leader. No slinking off into the sunset for Mitch. The other members of his leadership team, Sens. John Thune (R-SD) and Roy Blunt (R-MO), have said that is fine with them (but if Senate Republicans are wiped out badly in November, they might have a change of heart).

Nationally, McConnell is toxic and Democrats plan to exploit this to the hilt by trying to force every Republican up for reelection to answer this simple question: "If you win, will you vote for Mitch McConnell to be your caucus leader?" Most of them would rather not answer, but the Democrats will keep the pressure up.

McConnell is already the longest-serving senator in Kentucky history and also the longest-serving Senate Republican leader in U.S. history. However, his 6 years as Republican leader doesn't even get him close to being the longest-serving Senate leader. That honor goes to Montana's Mike Mansfield (D), who succeeded Lyndon Johnson when Johnson became VP, and served until 1977, a total of 16 years.

If the Democrats capture the Senate, it is widely expected that they will either abolish the filibuster or limit its use one way or another. If for example, they have 55 seats in the new Senate, they could reduce the number of votes needed for cloture to 55. Or they could amend the Senate rules to allow cloture to be invoked with a bare majority, but after it has been invoked, to give each senator one more hour to grandstand. If the Democrats abolish or restrict the filibuster, being minority leader will be no fun at all, so why does McConnell want to have the job if his party is in the minority? Does he expect to become majority leader again in 2022?

Probably not. The 2022 Senate map is not at all friendly to the GOP. Here are the states and senators up in 2 years.

2022 Senate map

Let's start with the bad news for the Democrats. Oh, wait. There is no bad news, so we're done with that. Not a single Democrat is in any danger (unless Gov. Chris Sununu, R-NH, challenges Maggie Hassan) and nearly all the states with Democratic senators up for reelection are deep blue. Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) will be 80 in 2022, so he might retire, but Vermont is so blue that some other Democrat will win in a romp. Vermont's only representative, Peter Welch (D), will be 75, so he might not be the one, but whoever gets the Democratic nomination is a shoo-in. All the other Democrats are completely safe. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) is scheduled to be up for reelection in 2022. However, she may have a new job by then. Nevertheless, there are probably a dozen high-profile Democrats in California who could easily replace her. And whoever occupies that seat is going to win big in the deep blue Golden State.

Now the bad news for the Republicans. To start with, at least two of them are retiring—Sens. Ron Johnson (WI) and Richard Burr (NC)—so two swing states will have open-seat elections. Next, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) will be 89 on Election Day in 2022. Even for the Senate, that is a bit long in the tooth, so that could be a third open seat in a swing state.

Next, Sens. Rob Portman (OH), Pat Toomey (PA), and Marco Rubio (FL) are all up in swing states and those seats will be vigorously contested. Finally, if Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) wins this year, she will have to try again in 2022 and that race will be competitive. If Mark Kelly (D) wins this year, he is probably a shoo-in to win as an incumbent in 2022. The winner of the Jon Ossoff (D)/David Perdue (R) race in Georgia gets a full 6-year term, but the winner of the Georgia special election this year to fill out the term of Johnny Isakson will have to run again in 2022. It could also be competitive.

The bottom line is that there will be zero Democratic seats in meaningful danger in 2022 and at least six and maybe up to eight Republican seats in danger in 2022. Consequently, if McConnell gets demoted to minority leader on Nov. 3, 2020, there is virtually no chance that he will be promoted to majority leader in 2022. Worse yet, the minority could lose up to eight seats.

Nevertheless, there is also some good news for the Republicans in 2022. Democratic turnout always drops in midterm elections and Republican turnout doesn't, at least not nearly as much. Also, if Donald Trump isn't there to kick around, many Democrats may not bother to vote, so easy-to-win seats may slip through their fingers. In addition, more times than not, the president's party loses senate seats in the first midterm. Here are the numbers:

Year President Result Inc. party lost seats?
2018 Donald Trump R+3 No
2010 Barack Obama R+6 Yes
2002 George W. Bush R+2 No
1994 Bill Clinton R+8 Yes
1990 George H.W. Bush D+1 Yes
1982 Ronald Reagan D+1 Yes
1978 Jimmy Carter R+3 Yes
1970 Richard Nixon R+1 No
1962 John Kennedy D+4 No
1954 Dwight Eisenhower D+2 Yes
1950 Harry Truman R+5 Yes

In other words, in 70% of the initial midterms since World War II, the incumbent party lost seats in the Senate. So despite the fact that the map greatly favors the Democrats in 2022, historical trends work against the blue team and they may not be able to capitalize on what should be a good year for them.

Why does the president's party usually lose seats in the Senate in the first midterm, incidentally? Every election is different, but what is common to all of them is that a lot of the president's supporters are disappointed that he didn't do all the things he promised. No president can. But there are always many supporters who were naive enough to believe that their guy could perform a miracle and unify his party and beat Congress into submission. Even when Congress is controlled by the president's party, that is hard to do, but many voters have unrealistic expectations and don't vote when it turns out the president is more Clark Kent and less Superman. Still, 2022 is far, far away, so making predictions now would be foolish indeed. (V)

Progressive Democrats Have a Shot at Knocking Off Another Establishment Democrat

In 2018, a political earthquake occurred in New York when, in the Democratic primary, a former bartender with no political experience knocked off 10-term incumbent House Democrat Joe Crowley in NY-14 (which covers parts of the Bronx and Queens). Instantly, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) became a star among progressive Democrats, and she coasted to an easy general-election victory in November. Also that November, a bit further north in NY-19 (which covers all or part of 10 counties south and west of Albany), another upset took place. Antonio Delgado (D), a progressive young black man with no political experience defeated an incumbent Republican, John Faso.

Next week, progressive Democrats are trying for their third win in the same general area of New York State. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) is a 16-term congressman who represents NY-16. The district covers the northern Bronx and part of lower Westchester County. He is being challenged in next week's primary by a progressive young black man who, like AOC and Delgado, also has never before run for public office. Jamaal Bowman, a teacher and middle school principal, has been endorsed by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and by AOC herself, among others. Establishment Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC), Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY), and Hillary Clinton all back Engel, but they are scared that Bowman could win. A poll from Data for Progress has Bowman ahead 41% to 31%, but that group is a strongly progressive group that wants Bowman to win, so their number should be taken with a pail of salt.

It isn't that Engel is a conservative Democrat, like Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL), who was beaten in a primary earlier this year. He is the 88th most progressive House Democrat (of 236), which puts him clearly in the top half. But he is an old white man who has been in Congress since Methuselah was in short pants and some Democrats think it's time for fresh blood. The district is D+24, so the only election that matters is the primary. If Bowman wins, it will be another shock to the Democratic establishment, and will make an increasingly progressive House Democratic caucus even more so. A representative Bowman will undoubtedly become an instant star, like AOC. He is 44, so he can run for president in 2024, possibly against AOC, who will celebrate her 35th birthday 3 weeks before the 2024 election. (V)

Los Angeles Has Finally Figured Out Why There Were Massive Lines at Its Primary

California held its primary on March 3, before COVID-19 stopped the country in its tracks. Nevertheless, in some places, especially Los Angeles, it was a gigantic mess, with many voters, including (Z), standing on line for hours before they could vote. Three months later, the County has finally determined what the problem was. It was the iPad-like electronic poll books, which allow the poll workers to see if the voter is indeed a registered voter in the County. After the voter has checked in, that is noted in the system's county-wide database, to prevent the voter from voting a second time in another precinct.

The problem was a software bug. Poll workers were supposed to be able to look up voters by name and address, but the address part didn't work. They could only do name searches. For a name like, say, Eric Garcetti, there probably weren't a lot of false positives, but for a name like Anna Jones, there could have been a dozen. Finding the right one could take many minutes. These Poll Pads were also used in the disastrous Georgia election 2 weeks ago. Pro tip for election administrators: Try testing all your equipment before Election Day.

Another technology problem related to the County's new $300 million batch of voting machines. They printed out a paper ballot that could be optically scanned and audited if need be. Excellent. L.A. gets an A+ for that. However, they only printed the paper ballot if the printer didn't jam. Unfortunately, 1,297 of the printers did jam and the poll workers didn't know to fix the jams. Another pro tip for election administrators: Train the poll workers to resolve paper jams. It's not very hard.

After the election, inspectors checked out the 31,000 voting machines. 14,346 had defective printers. It is a near miracle they didn't all jam. A third pro tip for election administrators: A 46% failure rate in an ICT system is not considered top notch.

Finally, 17,000 voters didn't get the absentee ballots they had requested because a list of eligible voters was incomplete. A final pro tip for election administrators: See if you can keep the voter rolls up to date and accurate.

None of this bodes well for the general election, especially since there is likely to be a vast increase in absentee voting, something with which many counties have only a small amount of experience. But even for in-person voting, a number of states and counties are using new equipment that hasn't been debugged and procedures that the poll workers don't know. All in all, this could lead to a suboptimal voting experience. (V)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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