• Trump "Rallies" in Arizona
• What Is Going on with Trump?
• Avoiding the Mere Appearance of Impropriety...
• ...as Compared to Outright, Hands-Down Improper Behavior
• Is Hickenlooper Blowing a Layup?
• Today's Presidential Polls
Voters headed to the polls (or the mailboxes) in New York, Kentucky, and a few other places on Tuesday night. That means that...some results are in. Here are the biggest storylines of the evening:
- Hurry up and wait: As noted, there is much that is not yet known, and won't be known for
several days (or longer). This is, of course, a product of all the voting-by-mail that is taking place. And with 51
states/districts all voting at once on Nov. 3, as well as the vastly greater turnout that a presidential election
generates, it's time for everyone to acclimate to the likelihood that the winner in Trump vs. Biden is probably not
going to be known on election night (unless it's a landslide). Yes, exit polls will be available as soon as the polls
close, but they will only be reflective of in-person voters. Absentee voters may be demographically (and politically)
different from in-person voters, so the exit polls may not be so valuable this year.
- Onward and Upward for McGrath?: With a little over half the in-person ballots
counted, the centrist Amy McGrath (D)
about an 8-point lead on progressive Charles Booker as they compete for the right to take on Senate Majority Leader
Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The general presumption is that the mail-in ballots, which will take days to count, are going to
favor McGrath. Supporting that presumption is the fact that Booker
tried, and failed
to get a judge to keep the polls open multiple hours beyond their scheduled close (a half-hour was added, but not the
three hours Booker wanted). On the other hand, Kentucky's two largest counties declined to report any results at all
until the mail-in ballots are counted, and the demographics in those counties appear to favor Booker. Add it up, and
McGrath appears to be more likely than not to move on, but we won't really know for about a week.
- No Meltdown in Kentucky: Thanks to lots of mail-in and early voting, things went fairly
in Kentucky. It seems clear that voters in that state have largely adapted to the idea that voting on Election Day is not
the most efficient option right now.
- New York State of Mind: In contrast to Kentucky, most of the interesting contests in
New York appear to be
(according to the AP, at least), with some wins for the moderate wing of the Democratic Party, and some for the
progressives. Let's start with the latter: In the biggest development of the night, the three-decade career of Rep.
Eliot Engel (D) came to an end in resounding fashion, as he was dispatched by progressive challenger Jamaal Bowman by 25
points (60.9% to 35.6%). For an incumbent to lose so badly speaks a little bit to the danger of drifting out of step
with one's district, and a lot to the danger of running your mouth when you incorrectly believe the microphones are off.
Bowman could hardly have asked for a bigger gift than Engel—an old, white man—inadvertently announcing that he only
cares about George Floyd because politics demands it.
There were other progressive successes as well. In NY-09, progressive congresswoman Yvette Clarke (D) easily fought off a challenger from (a little to) the left in Adem Bunkeddeko, and one from the right in Chaim Deutsch, taking more than 60% of the vote (to about 20% for Bunkeddeko and 10% for Deutsch). In NY-14, face of the progressive wing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D) swamped her centrist challenger, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, by more than 50 points (72.6% to 19.4%). And in NY-17, Mondaire Jones beat out a gaggle of challengers for the right to try to succeed retiring Rep. Nita Lowey (D). Since the district is D+7, he figures to win, and to become the first openly gay black man in Congress. And Jones is going to be joined by the first openly gay Latino in Congress, as Ritchie Torres won the Democratic primary to succeed the retiring Rep. José E. Serrano in NY-15. Since NY-15 is D+44, Torres is a shoo-in.
And now the moderates. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D) won renomination easily in NY-10, outpacing progressive Lindsey Boylan by 35 points. In NY-12, fourteen-term incumbent Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D) has a good chance to become a fifteen-term incumbent, as she leads Suraj Patel with 41.5% of the vote to his 40.0%, and the demographics of mail-in voters likely favor her.
- NY-27 Will Remain in Republican Hands: Chris Collins (R) had to give up this seat because he
is a crook. He will be replaced by Chris Jacobs (R), who beat Democrat Nate McMurray. McMurray has not actually conceded
yet, apparently thinking there is some way to overcome a 39-point gap (he lost the special election 68.7% to 29.5%). The
pair also won their respective primaries, so they will face off again in November. Since the district is R+11, and
apparently does not find McMurray to its liking, Jacobs figures to win the rematch.
- Eye, Meet Finger: When Mark Meadows resigned his seat representing NC-11 in order to
become White House Chief of Staff, he did everything he could to pave the way for his preferred successor, Lynda
Bennett, including timing his resignation to make it hard for additional challengers to file, and getting Donald Trump
involved with an endorsement and recorded robo-calls. We all know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and
Meadows, though, and arch-conservative Madison Cawthorn
Bennett by 30 points, 65.9% to 34.1%.
Cawthorn has a very interesting backstory; he was headed for a military career until a car accident left him paralyzed from the waist down. Thereafter he became an advocate for disability rights and healthcare reform (although he defines the latter as "getting rid of Obamacare"). He's also just 24 years old, and won't reach the minimum required age for service in the House until August. He's a definite candidate for "face of the Republican Party" post-Trump. One could see him as the yin to Ocasio-Cortez' yang for many years.
- Eye, Meet Finger, Part II: This isn't quite as big a rebuke of the President as what
happened in NC-11, but Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY)
his primary by 76 points (88% to 12%), despite Trump calling for Massie to be thrown out of the Republican Party.
In short, Trump continues to show zero ability to influence elections beyond the ones he is personally running in, something that Republicans running this year will surely note. Actually, they already have; he is noticeably absent from most Republican campaign ads these days.
- VA-05 in Play: In VA-05, which will be open because Republican primary voters cut loose Rep. Denver Riggleman (R) due to his having officiated at a gay wedding, the Democrats got a strong candidate. Cameron Webb, who is black, a physician, and a former White House fellow, easily won his party's nomination. He will now face Bob Good, who characterizes himself as a "Biblical" conservative. The district is R+6, and Good is pretty far right (and pretty damn white), so Webb has a real shot here.
That's where it stands as of the end of the evening on Tuesday. Obviously, everyone is going to keep an eye on that Kentucky Senate race to see if anything changes. (Z)
The seats were (mostly) full, the crowd was raucous and unmasked, the video footage looks good, and there were two, or perhaps even three, black guys in attendance. That is a winner, as far as Donald Trump is concerned. And so, it is no surprise that he was all over Twitter celebrating the success of Tuesday's "rally" in Phoenix, AZ:
A GREAT DAY IN ARIZONA! pic.twitter.com/jsohSb5QF6— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 24, 2020
The appearance, which followed a photo-op "inspection" of new fencing being built along the southern border, included the usual litany of Trump talking points, such as the thoughtful and nuanced observation that Democrats demand "absolute conformity," and that "they hate our history, they hate our values, and they hate everything we prize as Americans." As always, he came down squarely on the white, conservative side of the culture wars, suggesting that the penalty for defacing statues (like the one of Andrew Jackson near the White House, or any that honor Confederate leaders) should be 10 years in prison. He also said that anyone who burns an American flag should be prosecuted. (Actually, that is impossible because the preferred way to dispose of an old, tattered flag is to...burn it.)
The President also tried to rewrite the history of this weekend's rally in Tulsa, declaring it a great success because it got the highest ratings Fox has ever gotten on a Saturday night. Remarkably, that is a true statement, as the network got 7.7 million viewers, their record for Saturday primetime. That said, anyone who understands television ratings knows that number must be qualified with two observations. The first is that Saturday night is the deadest night of the week for TV. The second is that many of those 7.7 million were tuning in out of morbid curiosity, to see what the turnout was like, or to see if people were wearing masks. There is a reason that a car wreck on one side of the freeway always slows down traffic on the other side.
In any event, it is unlikely that Tuesday's event will be able to wipe away the bad optics of Saturday's event. First, as we've noted, Tuesday wasn't really a "rally," as it wasn't organized by the campaign and it only involved 3,000 attendees. Further, the event isn't getting all that much attention, because there is so much other news. There was, of course, the election results. And there was also a book release, which you may have heard about. In fact, in a move that is sure to infuriate the President, Fox News' programming while he was on stage was...an interview with John Bolton. Ouch.
If Trump 2020 wants to change the narrative, they are going to have to pull off a rally of the sort we saw in 2016, one run by the campaign itself, one where they don't get fooled by a bunch of TikTok-ers and K-Pop fans, and one where the arena is of substantial size and is actually full (or close to it). Can they pull off such an event? We remain skeptical. (Z)
The things that Donald Trump said at his rally on Tuesday would be massive news for any other president or presidential candidate, and would linger for months (if not forever). Recall all the outrage and clutching of pearls that took place when Hillary Clinton had the temerity to propose that some Trump voters (and she made clear she was referring to the racists and the bigots) were "deplorables." Meanwhile, Trump announces that every Democrat hates America and it's forgotten by noon the next day.
With that said, the President has been taking the outrageousness to a new level this week, with pronouncements that are eyebrow-raising, even by his standards. On Monday, he accused Barack Obama of treason, for having spied on Trump's 2016 campaign. Needless to say, the President gave no evidence in support of his charges, while also evincing absolutely no understanding of exactly what it takes to commit treason (hint: a war). Undoubtedly, every time Trump does this, Republicans in Congress reach for the aspirin and prepare for another round of "no comments," which is exactly what happened when they were asked about it on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the President is also flogging this conspiracy theory this week:
RIGGED 2020 ELECTION: MILLIONS OF MAIL-IN BALLOTS WILL BE PRINTED BY FOREIGN COUNTRIES, AND OTHERS. IT WILL BE THE SCANDAL OF OUR TIMES!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2020
As always, you know it's gotta be the truth when it's in ALL CAPS. Where does he get these ideas (or does he think them up himself)? Does he really believe this is possible, or is he just counting on his supporters' lack of critical thinking? Is he at all worried that there will come a time (say, the debates) when he could be called on to account for his claims, and he won't be able to just walk out and avoid answering? These are all good questions.
What, exactly, is going on here? That is also a good question. Every time Trump makes some outlandish new pronouncement, or pursues some new line of attack, the commentariat tries to figure out what it tells us about his reelection campaign. Here's a selection from the last few weeks:
- NBC News: Trump's risky new re-election strategy: Waging war with Obama
- The Washington Post: Trump opts for a 2016 disruption strategy
- Politico: Trump's 2020 strategy: A never-ending war with states
- CNN: President Trump's reelection strategy is taking shape
- Vanity Fair: Trump's 2020 Strategy: It'd Really Help if Fewer People Voted
- The Wall Street Journal: Trump Re-Election Strategy Shifts Focus to Crisis Leadership
- Politico: Trump's emerging turnaround strategy: Focus on voters' fears about crime, immigration and China
Not coincidentally, these analyses are just as much "all over the map" as Trump himself is.
And now we present the correct answer to the question "What is Trump's re-election strategy?" Here it is: He has no strategy. Just to make sure that is clear, we will present it Trump-tweet style: HE HAS NO STRATEGY. There is no doubt that people around Trump, like Brad Parscale or Ivanka Trump, would very much like him to have a strategy. There is also no doubt that campaign and RNC functionaries are implementing strategic initiatives that don't require presidential involvement (e.g., voter suppression, digital advertising). But Trump himself? Nothing.
It is remarkable that, four years into his political career, it still needs to be said: Trump is not playing 3-D chess, or 2-D chess, or even 1-D chess (if that is possible). He's not playing checkers, he's not playing tiddlywinks, he's not playing 52 pickup. What he does today is governed by one thing, and one thing only: His gut. And what his gut tells him today may be radically different from what it tells him tomorrow, or the next day. His gut is also subject to influence from myriad and conflicting sources, from his family, to Fox News, to OANN, to Twitter, to his various phone buddies.
Yes, there is a clear trend over the past few days, particularly since the Tulsa rally. It's not a strategy, though. It is Trump once again showing his innate tendency, when he feels angry or threatened, to grow more extreme. It is when things are at their worst that his behavior gets most outrageous, because that is what his gut tells him to do. And things are going as badly for him as they ever have, between COVID-19, the unrest in the streets, the Bolton book, the SCOTUS decisions, and the disastrous rally, among other setbacks. And this is before SCOTUS has ruled on whether Congress can have his tax returns. If the Court rules that Congress can have them, expect more fireworks than on the Fourth of July.
All of the previous 100 or so major-party presidential candidates, if they saw that their election hopes were slipping away, would either have stayed the course, or would have tacked to the center. Growing even more extreme has never been a winner in national politics, and we don't believe that Trump—destroyer of conventional wisdom though he is—will change that. And since most of the things aggravating him don't appear likely to disappear before November, it looks like we're going to find out if we're right about that. (Z)
Joe Biden knows full well that Donald Trump's best (and possibly only) hope is a repeat of the 2016 election dynamic, with a "lesser of two evils" kind of choice. And consistent with that, Team Trump is going to slur Biden six ways to Sunday, trying to find anything and everything that might just stick to him. In particular, they are going to try to connect Biden and his team to one or more foreign powers, implying or outright declaring that the former Veep is secretly doing the bidding of Xi Jinping or Vlad Putin or some other leader. The irony that Trump, of all people, should make that particular argument is thick.
In any event, to forestall those lines of attack as much as is possible, and also to send a message to the voting public, the Biden campaign has announced that it will have no contact with officials from foreign governments until after the election. This will set up a sound bite, sure to pop up during the debates, along the lines of this: "While the Trump campaign was, and is, in bed with just about every foreign dictator, the Biden campaign is not talking to any of them, and won't do so until after the election."
Will this attempt to set up an obvious contrast impress a few voters? It could, particularly with John Bolton running around and spilling dirt about Trump's game of patty cake with Xi. And there's relatively little cost; Biden is a foreign-policy veteran and his staff has numerous foreign-policy veterans. So, Team Biden knows where all of the leaders of the world stand, and all the leaders of the world know where Team Biden stands. Further, it is not like Biden & Co. need to learn how to deal with other governments on the fly, like Trump, Kushner, & Co. did. So, this decision makes sense. (Z)
Whatever the reasons are (and undoubtedly they could fill many books), Democrats tend to be held to a higher standard of ethical behavior these days than their Republican counterparts (particularly at the presidential level). In the last half-century, only one of three Democrats was not as clean as a hound's tooth, and that one (Bill Clinton) probably cost his party the White House in 2000. Meanwhile, only one of six Republicans (Gerald Ford) did not have some serious corruption on his watch, and few (or none) of the remaining five suffered any serious damage at the polls as a result. For the two non-Ford Republicans who surrendered the White House to the Democrats during that time, the primary issue was the economy, not corrupt behavior.
This bifurcation (which did not exist before 1970 or so) means that it's no surprise that one day after Joe Biden bent over backward to avoid the mere appearance of impropriety, the House Judiciary Committee will hear about behavior from the Trump administration that is more than corrupt enough to be impeachable. Specifically, Aaron Zelinsky, one of four prosecutors who quit the Roger Stone case when AG Bill Barr intervened to try to secure a lighter sentence for the convicted felon, will talk about how much pressure was brought to bear on behalf of a lighter sentence (or no sentence) for Stone because of his relationship with Donald Trump. Obviously, the pressure did not work, which is why Barr had to get involved in the actual sentencing process.
In the short term, of course, nothing is going to happen here. There is nobody in the executive branch who is interested in holding Barr to account for his misdeeds, and there aren't 51 interested folks in the Senate, either. However, at this point, the AG has lied (publicly and repeatedly) about the Mueller Report, tried to bury the Report, pulled strings to help two convicted felons connected to the President (Stone and Michael Flynn), helped cashier four inspectors general, and canned two U.S. Attorneys (Washington, D.C., and Southern District of New York) to try to turn down the heat on members of Team Trump. And this is the second chapter of his Justice Dept. career; in the first chapter he managed to make the Iran-Contra Scandal go away. Barr is going to go down as the most corrupt Cabinet member in U.S. history, and it's hard to see who might even be vaguely in competition for that "honor." Some of the Cabinet officers who notoriously abused their offices—Albert Fall, John Mitchell, etc.—eventually paid a price for their crimes. Others—Caspar Weinberger, Edwin Meese, Schuyler Colfax—did not. We shall see which list Barr ends up on, although we already have a pretty good idea. (Z)
Former Colorado governor and Democratic presidential candidate John Hickenlooper should have a pretty easy time claiming the Democrats' nomination for the U.S. Senate. He's got huge name recognition, a solid record to run on, establishment support (and money), and his brand of folksy centrism is a pretty good fit for the state.
Apparently, Hickenlooper doesn't like it easy, because he's been making a lot of mistakes. He neglected to appear before the Colorado Independent Ethics Commission, as commanded, and eventually paid a fine for bad behaviors dating back to his time as governor. He's also made some injudicious remarks when it comes to race and racism. Some video from 2014 emerged, in which he compared political schedulers to "slave masters with whips." Another video from 2019 shows him discussing how "articulate" some black ministers are. Those are really bad, but perhaps even worse is that when asked about Black Lives Matter, he gave the one and only answer you do not give if you are a Democrat: "All lives matter." Oof.
As a result of this, Hickenlooper's opponents sense blood in the water, and are dropping big bucks to try to cut him off at the knees. Progressive challenger Andrew Romanoff has launched a series of attack ads focusing on both the ethics and the insensitive comments. Republican Super PACs are also hitting Hickenlooper hard, in hopes of replacing him with the less electable Romanoff, or at least damaging him heading into the general.
There hasn't been much polling of the race, but what polling there has been suggests it is tightening up. Earlier polls had the former governor up on Romanoff by 50 points, while a poll released last week has him up by just 12. Various Democratic organs are now going to spend several million dollars on pro-Hickenlooper ads leading up to the June 30 primary, while the Party is also lining up as many high-profile endorsements as is possible. He's still the favorite, and will likely advance to the general election, though he's going to be a fair bit poorer and at least somewhat damaged. And if Romanoff pulls off the upset, which would have been inconceivable a month ago, then Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) will get a new lease on (his political) life. (Z)
Another poll of Texas that has the gap between candidates small enough to be within the margin of error (which makes it a de facto tie). Trump still leads pretty consistently, and we still think he's going to win the Lone Star State when all is said and done. However, he and his campaign are going to have no choice but to spend time and money making sure that is the result, which means less time and money in other places they are sorely needed. (Z)
|Texas||46%||48%||Jun 18||Jun 19||PPP|
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun23 China Trade Deal Is Definitely Off, Unless It's Not
Jun23 Trump Extends Immigration Restrictions
Jun23 Trump Will "Rally" In Phoenix Today
Jun23 Bolton Book Drops Today
Jun23 Trump Sticks His Foot Where the Sun Does Shine
Jun23 Today's Presidential Polls
Jun23 Today's Senate Polls
Jun22 The Economy Is Back--and So Is COVID-19
Jun22 The Butt of the Joke
Jun22 Biden Outraises Trump in May
Jun22 Biden Is Nibbling Away at Trump's Evangelical Base
Jun22 Kentucky Primary May Be Chaotic
Jun22 New York City Area Also Has Competitive House Primaries Tomorrow
Jun22 Green Party Is Set to Nominate Hawkins
Jun22 Democratic Unity Is Fraying Already
Jun22 Sanders Got a Revolution--Just Not His
Jun22 Next Up: Faithless Electors
Jun22 Will the 2020 Polls Be Deja Vu All over Again?
Jun21 Trump Rallies...
Jun21 ...and Berman Yields
Jun21 COVID-19 Diaries, Sunday Edition
Jun21 Sunday Mailbag
Jun20 Barr Tries to Fire U.S. Attorney Investigating Giuliani
Jun20 Saturday Q&A
Jun19 SCOTUS Smacks POTUS...
Jun19 ...and So Too Do Social Media Platforms
Jun19 Trump Campaign Has No Safety Plan for Tulsa
Jun19 Trump Wants an Extra Debate
Jun19 House May Not Be Done with Bolton Yet
Jun19 Vote-by-Mail News
Jun19 Should Pence Go Rogue?
Jun19 Klobuchar Exits the Veepstakes
Jun19 Thanks, but No Thanks
Jun19 COVID-19 Diaries, Friday Edition
Jun19 Today's Presidential Polls
Jun19 Today's Senate Polls
Jun18 Bolton's Book Is Already Leaking
Jun18 Bolton Doesn't Exactly Come off Smelling Like a Rose Here
Jun18 COVID-19 Is Still Around, Despite What Pence Thinks
Jun18 Lincoln Project Hits Trump Where it Hurts
Jun18 Antonin Scalia Would Have Approved Bostock
Jun18 Biden's Lead Is More Stable than Clinton's Was in 2016
Jun18 Why Is the Government Always Gridlocked?
Jun18 McConnell is Not Planning to Step Down
Jun18 Progressive Democrats Have a Shot at Knocking Off Another Establishment Democrat
Jun18 Los Angeles Has Finally Figured Out Why There Were Massive Lines at Its Primary
Jun17 The Fallout Commences
Jun17 Next Up, Trans Voting Rights
Jun17 About that Nobel Prize...