• Poll: Trump's Approval for His Handling of the Coronavirus Is A Record Low
• Flynn Is In Like Flynn
• Zelinsky Testifies that the Justice Dept. Is Politicized
• Obama Raises Over $11 Million for Biden
• Trump's Hold on Republican Senators is Ebbing
• Second Presidential Debate Is Moved to Florida
• Is Trump Too Racist Even for Republicans?
• Jacksonville Voters Don't Want the Republican National Convention
• What If Trump Loses But Refuses to Concede?
• Lincoln Project Supports Bullock
• Trump's Brother Sues to Block Niece's Book
• Today's Presidential Polls
• Today's Senate Polls
Things are not going well for Donald Trump right now. The coronavirus, the economy, and the protests are certainly annoying him. But the Tulsa fiasco, and now a new Siena College national poll showing Joe Biden at 50% and Trump at 36%, surely have made him apoplectic, and made clear he has a very very big problem. Worse yet, that problem is not amenable to Trump's favorite tactics for dealing with problems, namely: intimidate, threaten, and sue.
The 14-point gap between candidates is the largest it has been all year. Here are the national polls taken in June:
|June 17-22||50%||36%||Biden +14||NY Times/Siena Coll.|
|June 17-18||56%||44%||Biden +12||Harvard-Harris|
|June 13-16||50%||38%||Biden +12||FOX News|
|June 11-15||49%||41%||Biden +8||Quinnipiac Univ.|
|June 14-16||50%||41%||Biden +9||Economist/YouGov|
|June 10-12||51%||41%||Biden +10||CNBC|
|June 7-9||49%||41%||Biden +8||Economist/YouGov|
|June 2-5||55%||41%||Biden +14||CNN|
|June 2-3||50%||43%||Biden +7||NPR/PBS/Marist|
|June 2-3||53%||47%||Biden +6||Emerson|
|June 1-4||47%||37%||Biden +10||The Hill/HarrisX|
If you want to see the context instead of the June polls, here is a graph of the RCP average all year:
The electoral vote is looking as bad, if not worse, for Trump. Here is the graph based on our data counting only the states where one of the candidates is ahead by at least 5 points:
As you can see in the electoral vote graph, Biden had a small but constant lead until mid-April, when a sudden tipping point was reached. By then, the coronavirus was running wild and the economy was in shambles. George Floyd was killed on May 25, so Trump was losing it long before the protests began.
If we look at the crosstabs of the Siena poll, the top 10 demographics where Biden leads are Democrats (+85), strong liberals (+83), black people (+74), somewhat liberals (+69), Latinos (+39), 18-34 year-olds (+34), moderates (+33), college whites (+28), 35-49 year-olds (+23), and women (+22). The top five demographics where Trump leads are Republicans (+85), strong conservatives (+73), somewhat conservatives (+32), noncollege whites (+19), and 50-64 year-olds (+1). But wait, you say, it's not fair. You listed 10 demographics where Biden is ahead and only 5 where Trump is ahead. Explanation: Those are the only demographics where Trump is ahead. He is even 2 points behind with men and 3 points behind with seniors, groups that he won big time in 2016.
The picture that emerges is that Biden is broadly acceptable to the entire country, although no one is keen on walking over broken glass barefoot to vote for him. Only 27% of the voters have a very unfavorable view of Biden, whereas 50% of the voters have a very unfavorable view of Trump. So Biden's strength is that he is a reasonably decent fellow running against a very unpopular incumbent. (V)
Part of the reason Donald Trump is polling so badly against Joe Biden is his handling of the coronavirus. A new Reuters/Ipsos poll shows that just 37% of Americans approve of how Trump is handling the virus. That 37% isn't so far off from the 36% who plan to vote for him. There might just be a connection here.
The reason that Trump is faring so poorly on this question is that the virus is far from subdued. New cases have jumped 25% nationally in the past week, led by two (maybe three) key swing states: Florida, Arizona, and Texas.
This poll also asked about the horse race. Ipsos has Biden ahead by 10 points, slightly worse than the Siena poll in which he is 14 points ahead. This difference is just statistical noise, though. Biden clearly has a double-digit lead right now. (V)
Former NSA Michael Flynn was about to go to the big house, but now he may go to the White House instead. It's a complicated story, but very briefly, during the presidential transition in 2017, Flynn (who was still just a private citizen), had two conversations with the Russian ambassador. The subject was most likely related to the Russian interference in the 2016 election and the resulting sanctions Barack Obama imposed on Russia. When the FBI wanted to know what kind of deal he made with the Russians and on whose orders, Flynn lied to protect Trump. When Special Counsel Robert Mueller found evidence of Flynn's lies, he indicted Flynn, who then pleaded guilty in court as part of a plea bargain.
But Flynn still hasn't spilled the beans on what kind of a deal he made, so he has always remained in Trump's good graces. Rather than let his loyal soldier go to prison for lying to the FBI (even though Flynn admitted to it in court), Trump's personal lawyer, otherwise known as AG William Barr, had the Justice Dept. drop the case against Flynn. Unfortunately, the Justice Dept. had to get a judge to sign off on this. Since dropping the charges against someone who has pled guilty is a bit unusual, Judge Emmet Sullivan hired a former federal judge, John Gleeson, to look into the matter to try to find out what really was going on. Flynn didn't like that, so he appealed to the Court of Appeals for D.C. Yesterday, Judge Neomi Rao, who was appointed to the D.C. court by Trump, along with her colleague, George W. Bush appointee Karen Henderson, ruled that Sullivan had no business questioning the Justice Dept.'s motives. Obama appointee Robert Wilkins dissented.
According to Rao, if the Justice Dept. wants to drop the charges, it is not for judges to ask why. To say that her argument is specious hardly does it justice (no pun intended). One actually need ask only a single, simple question: "If judges have no discretion in these circumstances, then why is their input required at all?" The answer, of course, is that they do have discretion, specifically to make sure abuses do not occur. Rao is rapidly earning herself a reputation as the most nakedly partisan judge in the federal court system (non-Supreme Court division), outdoing even Reed O'Connor and Trevor McFadden. And unlike that duo, Rao sits on the circuit most responsible for dealing with government corruption, so she's in a position to do particular damage on those occasions where she decides to toss caution (and the law) to the wind. We would suggest that it's instructive that USA Today has an op-ed asserting that Rao's ruling is fine and dandy, written by...Jonathan Turley, the fellow who earned fame (infamy?) as a Trump apologist during the impeachment trial.
As things currently stand, Sullivan is ordered to drop the case. The Judge doesn't have to do that, however. He could ask the entire D.C. circuit to overrule the three-judge panel. He hasn't indicated what he plans to do, though given his efforts to push back against the Dept. of Justice, the general presumption is that he's going to ask for the en banc ruling. If Sullivan just gives in, then Flynn will be free and Trump will celebrate. There is even talk of Flynn getting a new job in the White House.
The messages here couldn't be clearer. First, if you work for Trump and protect him, including by breaking the law if need be, Trump will rescue you in the end—at least if you have damaging information that you could yet reveal. Second, the Justice Dept. under Barr is completely politicized and corrupted (see also next item). (V & Z)
Just to avoid any confusion, we're talking about Assistant U.S. Attorney in Maryland Aaron Zelinsky, not Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who could probably also tell tales about how the federal government has been politicized. Zelinsky was one of the prosecutors in the case of Roger Stone, an ally and friend of Donald Trump, who was convicted on seven charges of lying to Congress, obstruction of justice, and witness tampering.
Zelinsky testified by video yesterday before the House Judiciary Committee, and told the panel that there was heavy political pressure from the highest levels of the Justice Dept. to give Stone a light sentence. When a publication refers to the highest levels of a department, that is generally a euphemism for the head of it, in this case AG William Barr. If Zelinsky is telling the truth, then Barr has now interfered in two cases that were essentially finished (Flynn's and Stone's) to let a Trump crony off the hook. Two data points is not a lot but there appears to be a pattern here.
When Zelinsky saw that the Justice Dept. was exerting heavy pressure on the prosecutors to go for a light sentence (i.e., it threatened to fire them if they didn't comply) he withdrew from the case rather than give in to the pressure. Two of the other prosecutors did likewise. In his testimony, Zelinsky said that all U.S. attorneys are instructed never to let politics interfere with a case and yet that is precisely what the administration was doing and he knew that was wrong.
Barr was probably just following orders from the highest levels of government when he interfered in the Flynn and Stone cases. Certainly nothing bad will happen to him this year. But in a potential Biden administration, he could find himself fighting off charges of obstruction of justice.
Republicans on the Committee were unable to shake Zelinsky. All they could do was complain that Zelinksy didn't appear in person, but by video, something Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) had approved in advance because Zelinsky is father to a newborn baby and didn't want to risk picking up the coronavirus in the crowded hearing room.
Stone is still fighting his conviction and sentencing. If he loses, he can probably expect a pardon from Trump because he knows far too much about the 2016 election and the Russian role in it. Absent a pardon, he might just decide to spend his time in prison writing a book. Not Actually in the Room Where it Happened, but Claimed I Was? Is that taken? (V)
Joe Biden is starting to bring out the big guns, and the biggest gun of all is Barack Obama, who is still wildly popular with Democrats. In an online fundraiser, the duo raised $11 million, more than half of which came from 175,000 small donors. Small donors are better than big donors in the sense they can donate over and over, whereas once a large donor hits the $2,800 limit, that's it until 2024 (although they can donate to the party committees and super PACs). This was Biden's biggest fundraising event this cycle.
At the virtual fundraiser, Obama denounced the current administration for basically saying that facts don't matter, truth doesn't matter, science doesn't matter, and a deadly disease doesn't matter. He also attacked the administration for using the Justice Dept. as Donald Trump's personal law firm. He especially went after Trump (although not by name) for sowing hatred and division throughout the country.
Even with this haul and the $81 million Biden and the DNC raised in May, the Trump campaign and the RNC have far more cash on hand than Biden and the Democrats. That said, in 2016, Hillary Clinton had far more money than Trump, but it didn't do her a lot of good. At some point saturation is reached. Running an ad 20 times on some station in an evening probably doesn't work a lot better than running it just 10 times.
Another factor here is what happens when the conventional wisdom says that Biden is going to win. Individuals and groups that donate primarily to curry favor with the president so they can get government contracts and have their pet programs established are going to begin to wonder if money given to the RNC isn't money down the rathole. That could reduce the money flow to the Republicans going forward if donors begin to see the race as hopeless. (V)
A Washington Post story about human weather vane Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) begins with a gale, namely Dorothy Gale, the young heroine of the 1939 movie "The Wizard of Oz." Dorothy and her new friends were captured by the guards loyal to the Wicked Witch of the West. When said witch was about to set the scarecrow on fire, Dorothy grabbed a pail of water to put out the fire, missed, and melted the witch. To her surprise, the captain of the guards then said: "Hail to Dorothy!" The message is that when you rule by fear, the loyalty of your subjects is about a millimeter deep.
Now back to Graham, who was once best friends with the late senator John McCain and no fan of Donald Trump. Once Trump became president, Graham pivoted 180 degrees and signed up to become Chief Toady, ever fearful of the tweet of death. However, now that Trump's poll numbers are in free fall and Graham has won his primary, he has nothing to fear from Trump. Consequently, we are starting to see some signs of the old Graham, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. In particular, he was more than a bit miffed that Trump fired the head of the SDNY, Geoffrey Berman, without even consulting him. In revenge, he has announced that he is reinstating the blue-slip rule, meaning that the two Democratic senators from New York, Chuck Schumer and Kirstin Gillibrand, will be given a veto over Berman's replacement. In practice that means that the acting head of SDNY, Audrey Strauss, is safe until January at least and can continue to investigate Trump's friends and cronies.
Graham's sudden discovery that his spine was merely misplaced, not lost permanently, could be the canary in the coal mine. With Trump's reelection prospects looking increasingly dim, every Republican senator whose primary has passed is going to start thinking about what is good for his or her own reelection, not Trump's. If that means opposing Trump on various issues, so be it. Every senator knows that Trump is never going to announce support for the Democrat in a Senate general-election race, so he has been de facto de-clawed. Once the fear is gone, there's no telling what Republican senators up for reelection might do, but it could well involve finding out what is popular in their states and supporting it, no matter what Trump's view is. (V)
The second presidential debate was scheduled to be held at the University of Michigan, but the university has now said it doesn't want it for health reasons and because it has to prepare the campus for socially distanced classes in the fall. As a consequence, the Commission on Presidential Debates has announced this new schedule:
|Presidential||Sep. 29||Notre Dame, IN||University of Notre Dame|
|Vice Presidential||Oct. 7||Salt Lake City, UT||University of Utah|
|Presidential||Oct. 15||Miami, FL||Adrian Arsht Center|
|Presidential||Oct. 22||Nashville, TN||Belmont University|
One thing is immediately noticeable. First is that three of the four are in deep red states, none is in a deep blue state, and only one is in a swing state. One would have thought the Commission could have come up with a better mix, like one red state, one blue state, and two swing states, but it didn't. It matters at least somewhat because the partisan character of the audience (if any) at least somewhat reflects the partisan character of the surrounding area.
Another thing that is not visible yet, but could be at the debates, is the presence or absence of an audience. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez has said that although the second presidential debate is welcome in Miami, if the coronavirus is still rampant in October, it will have to be done without an audience. This could be a problem for Donald Trump, who gets energy from live audiences. While the other debate hosts haven't commented yet on whether an audience will be allowed, that subject is bound to come up in the fall.
If Trump fails to get his audience, he could boycott the debates in a fit of pique. Politically this could be suicidal since he is far behind Biden and needs a way to shake things up. A strong debate performance by him or weak one by Biden could be just the ticket. Not showing up would make him look afraid and weak and he can't tolerate that. Yet with Trump, often his gut and Brad Parscale are not on the same page, and when that happens, his gut always wins. (V)
Unlike nearly all previous presidential candidates, Donald Trump is not tacking to the center in the general election. He is doubling down on motivating his white base to vote for him and is doing it using a racist strategy that would have embarrassed even Richard Nixon. Whereas Nixon used dog whistles and talked about states' rights and the silent majority, Trump is simply portraying black people as dangerous and lawless. When he defends Confederate generals who committed treason by levying war against the United States, he is only one or two steps away from defending the peculiar institution as an honorable part of American history, and making a "Gone With the Wind"-style argument that white folks only embraced the institution because they wanted to help black folks.
It looks very much like Trump is going to run his 2016 campaign all over again, which was openly racist, calling for a ban on Muslims entering the country, saying that Mexicans are rapists, and talking about American carnage in cities with large black populations. Back then, some people dismissed what he said as just campaign talk, but now everyone knows he meant it and followed through. The racists will still vote for him, but people who abhor racism and didn't take him seriously then may do so now.
Unfortunately for Trump, overt racism may not be a winning strategy. Many Republican leaders are worried that it won't get Trump to 270 electoral votes and may cost the Republicans the Senate. However, Trump thinks he knows more than all the experts, including his own campaign staff. He thinks that being racist won last time, so clearly it is the way to go. What he doesn't realize or doesn't care about is the damage he is doing downticket. Whenever he says something racist, other Republican candidates are asked if they agree. They're damned if they do and they're damned if they don't, but Trump doesn't worry about that. (V)
A poll by the University of North Florida shows that 58% of Jacksonville voters do not want the Republican Convention in Jacksonville, for two reasons. First, 71% were concerned about the spread of the coronavirus, which is surging in Florida now. Second, 65% were concerned about the protests and social unrest that is sure to accompany the convention.
Not surprisingly, the breakdown is highly partisan, with 81% of Republicans applauding the idea of having the convention in town and about 90% of Democrats opposed. Independents were also opposed, although not as strongly as Democrats, with 62% not wanting it.
Trump carried Duval County, which is almost coterminous with Jacksonville, by 1.4 points in 2016, but is now 7 points behind Joe Biden. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) lost the county by 4.3 points in 2018. (V)
The key hallmark of a democracy is that the loser of an election concedes defeat and there is a peaceful transition of power. The U.S. has been sorely tested a few times, most notably in the election of 1876, when Samuel Tilden (D) won a majority of the popular vote over Rutherford B. Hayes (R) but the electoral votes were disputed. After a complicated series of events, a commission created by Congress to resolve the disputed electoral votes voted 8-7 along party lines to hand Hayes the presidency. Tilden eventually conceded on June 13, 1877.
Now many people are beginning to wonder what would happen if Joe Biden wins in November and Donald Trump refuses to concede, claiming that millions of undocumented immigrants voted, millions of fraudulent absentee ballots were cast, and more nonsense, without providing a shred of evidence. The problem could start with election-night tallies showing Trump ahead, but when the absentee ballots (which come largely from cities, not rural areas) are counted a week later, Biden pulls ahead. During that week, Trump could claim victory and demand that the counting stop and he be crowned.
In the end, what might matter the most is how the Republican Party reacts to a Trump loss. If Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) were to get on television and state unambiguously "I checked the results very carefully and Joe Biden won Florida. Period," that would take some of the wind out of Trump's sails. Similarly, if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) were to state that he has talked to governors and secretaries of state all over the country and there is no doubt that Biden won, most people (other than Trump) would probably be convinced. Nevertheless, in a last-ditch effort, Trump could appeal to the Supreme Court to save his neck. There is no telling what might happen then.
Unlike some cases (like Trump's tax returns), which go on seemingly forever, there are hard deadlines involved in a presidential election. The electors must meet in their respective state capitals and cast their electoral votes on Dec. 14, 2020. Congress opens the sealed electoral votes and counts them in a joint session on Jan. 6, 2021. The term of the current president and vice president end at noon on Jan. 20, 2021. These are all hard deadlines written into law that Trump cannot change. So he could refuse to concede but he cannot change the calendar.
Still, if Trump refuses to concede even after Joe Biden recites the oath of office, and sends out 50 tweets a day urging his supporters to gather at the state capitals with their M15s, AR15s, AK47s, Uzis, and other such equipment, the country could be torn apart. It could get very messy. (V)
The Lincoln Project, which started out attacking Donald Trump and then moved on to attacking his enablers, like Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), has moved another step further to the left now. It is now actively supporting a Democrat running for the Senate against an incumbent Republican who isn't even that Trumpy. Here is the ad:
Steve Bullock represents the best of America’s ideals. He cares about his constituents and works every day to make sure their lives are better.— The Lincoln Project (@ProjectLincoln) June 24, 2020
We are proud to support @stevebullockmt and usher in a new era of decent, fair, and honest leadership. pic.twitter.com/aQPPANuL2x
It is also on YouTube. Unlike the previous ads, which had a female narrator, this one has a male narrator with an accent that sounds vaguely Montanan. It features clips of bison romping and wild horses galloping and talks about the Big Sky Country. You were maybe expecting tea at 4 with a small cookie served on fine china? Will the ad move the needle much? Probably not, but the mere idea that a bunch of conservative Republicans are now running an ad actively promoting a Democrat shows that at least parts of the Republican Party think it is beyond repair and cannot be fixed. It must be burned to the ground before a new center-right party can emerge from the ashes. (V)
When the Trump family has a problem, their first reaction is to sue someone. The Donald has been involved in over 4,000 lawsuits in his lifetime, although many were initiated by vendors he stiffed. Now his brother is carrying out the family tradition. He has sued his niece, Mary Trump, to prevent her from publishing her tell-all book Too Much and Never Enough next month. The publisher has claimed it is full of juicy details about the Trump family. Trump brother Robert is suing on grounds of an NDA, recognizing that suing on the grounds of revealing national security secrets won't work here because Mary never worked for the government.
The NDA was a result of a fierce battle over the wills of the brothers' parents, Fred and Mary, who died in 1999 and 2000. Among other things, the NDA states that no party will "directly or indirectly publish or cause to be published any diary, memoir, letter, story, photograph, interview, article, essay, account or description or depiction of any kind whatsoever" about their relationships. The problem here is that the courts are very hesitant to ban books in advance. Even John Bolton's book, which might have contained national security secrets, failed the test and was published on Tuesday. It seems very unlikely that a book not related to national security would be banned. The normal procedure would be for the book to be published and then the aggrieved party to sue for damages. Trump's lawyers know this, of course. What they may be trying to do is delay publication until after the election. If a lower court rules that the book can be published, then Trump will appeal and appeal, hoping that the publisher won't dare to publish it anyway.
Mary is the daughter of the late Fred Trump Jr., the eldest of the Trump brothers. She is a professional psychologist, which could lend some credence to claims that Uncle Donald is—to use the professional term—a nut case. Here is the cover:
We must confess that we do not understand why they have cropped the cover photo in such a distracting manner. That is a well-known image of the President during his military school days, and the original actually does include his chin. Perhaps they did not want to show his cadet rank and give (uninformed) people the idea that the Donald once served in the military. (V)
Looks like North Carolina and Ohio are both in play, but Wisconsin increasingly less so. (V)
|North Carolina||48%||46%||Jun 22||Jun 23||PPP|
|Ohio||46%||45%||Jun 18||Jun 22||Quinnipiac U.|
|Wisconsin||51%||42%||Jun 14||Jun 18||Marquette Law School|
In fact, both the presidential race and Senate race are likely to be nail biters in North Carolina. (V)
|State||Democrat||D %||Republican||R %||Start||End||Pollster|
|North Carolina||Cal Cunningham||44%||Thom Tillis*||40%||Jun 22||Jun 23||PPP|
* Denotes incumbent
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun24 Trump "Rallies" in Arizona
Jun24 What Is Going on with Trump?
Jun24 Avoiding the Mere Appearance of Impropriety...
Jun24 ...as Compared to Outright, Hands-Down Improper Behavior
Jun24 Is Hickenlooper Blowing a Layup?
Jun24 Today's Presidential Polls
Jun23 Berman Firing Isn't Going Away
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